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Darwin Correspondence Project

From John Price   5 March 1868

38 Watergate St Chester

Mar 5 1868

My dear “Charlie”

I have been at Delamere,1 enjoying your new book hugely, & have a specimen to send you which I think you will enjoy, in a measure. As the plant is a double variety it will be interesting to watch, “if we be spared” whether the plants thus issuing from the folicles 2 will retain this peculiarity. Should these fail (not likely, in your hands, I forget all such cares) Fox3 has lots more, in his garden. I have watched this habit in Card. pratensis for many years, & published repeated “articles”;4 but I am very inept at getting my facts & notions before the right people, & so they “fall as the leaves do”.

I never was so mad on any subject (nor were you, even at the Orms Heads! “New plant”!!)5 as on the striped horses, of wh. I have seen splendid specimens, & have often thought of sending you a skin; but the beasts wd. not die and “I never cd. abide to give ’em pizen”. (O. P’s Remains)6 My experience of them wd make a story, in 3 stories; lower occupied by asses; middle by mules; upper by horses!

I saw a very fine animal yesterday, of wh. I enclose a very rough acct., to be returned some day.7 I mean to go again.

If I understand your Pangenesis, every part contributes its contingent atom, or atoms, towards the future organism.8 And what wd. constitute a part? Would the skin & mucous linings be a single part, or two? Wd. all the glands be taken as a unit? or as several, according to their functions?

Should the secretions be considered merely as products of the organs? or must there be a bile gemmule as well as a gall gemmule?9 & so on.

You do me good by setting me a thinking, anyhow. Last year, I overworked myself, gave way to despondency, & for months lost my interest in every thing. After trying most things, including Hydropathy, I set myself, one night, to reflect upon God’s *mercies, seriatim, from infancy; which broke the spell, helped me to lay hold again of that blessed hope, Christ, (“He is our hope”)10 & I have been cheerful & active ever since thank God.

I am not sure I understand your 2 last pages where you confess you are out of your latitude.11 I once wrote Savans, savans, pour quoi vanter? Savez-vous vous orienter? this was to Bob Whiston lost in the wood.—12

I expect to understand “free will & predestn.” (both equally revealed truths) hereafter, with the origin of evil, & other mysterious subjects.13 As for “species”, I believe God created a very large no., (of which about 8 pluralities seem so clearly stated in Genesis i); & I know that the question between some of them & the “varieties” arisen out of them is often a difficult one, worth fighting pro, or con.—

Best wishes to your circle | Dear Darwin | yours very truly | J. Price

If I did not congrate. you on your son’s success, I meant to do.14 What of the girls?15 See the report of Commission in Pall Mall   They must prick up their ears & start, like Jerboas.16

*You remember one of these, about 1828, at Bodnant.17


Delamere is a village in Cheshire, about ten miles north-east of Chester (Bartholomew 1943).
‘Folicle’: follicle. Price evidently uses the word in its former sense; that is, any kind of capsular fruit (OED).
William Darwin Fox was the rector of Delamere (Crockford’s clerical directory).
Price refers to Cardamine pratensis. There are a number of articles on botanical topics, including references to C. pratensis, in Price 1863–4, pp. 202–6, 249–52, 296–8, 346–50, 401–3 (the first two articles touch on double-headed flowers).
Great Orme and Little Orme are headlands with carboniferous limestone cliffs, situated on either side of the coastal resort of Llandudno in North Wales. Darwin made several trips to North Wales as a boy (see Correspondence vol. 1, Appendix I) and Price, who was at school with him in Shropshire, knew the area well. Price mentioned the unique flora of the area in Price 1863–4, pp. 395–400. The ‘New plant’ was probably Asperugo procumbens, German mugwort or madwort, an introduced species (see Peter Lucas 2002b, p. 363).
The reference is to Price’s miscellaneous work, Old Price’s remains (Price 1863–4), published in monthly parts between April 1863 and March 1864. CD’s unbound copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL. The passage is from a poem, ‘Neck and crop, or the Shropshire maare from Illsmer faar’ (ibid., pp. 500–3). Her gives us trouble, and her will, all thro’ her live-long days. I never could abide to give her poison; but, do you know, If I’d a lived in them oud times, with Jupiter and Juno, I’d have made bould to ax them there to take her up aloft, And keep her grazing in the sky, instead of in our croft.
The enclosure has not been found.
Price refers to CD’s theory of heredity, discussed in Variation 2: 357–404.
In Variation 2: 358, CD writes that his hypothesis of pangenesis involves the supposition that ‘every separate atom or unit, reproduces itself’. For more on CD’s concept of gemmules, see Correspondence vol. 14, letter to J. D. Hooker, 4 April [1866].
See Timothy 1:1.
In Variation 2: 431–2, CD discussed the view, favoured by Asa Gray and others, that variations were pre-ordained by an omnipotent creator; he concluded that this would render the principle of natural selection superfluous. He prefaced these remarks with the statement, ‘I am aware that I am travelling beyond my proper province.’
‘Savans, savans, pour quoi vanter? Savez-vous vous orienter?’: Price probably intended ‘Scholars, scholars, why boast? Do you know where you’re going?’ but his spelling and grammar are defective. ‘Bob Whiston’ is a reference to Robert Whiston, headmaster of the Cathedral School, Rochester, who was involved in a famous dispute with the dean and Chapter of Rochester (for an account of the case, see Arnold 1961).
The last sentence of Variation (2: 432) reads, ‘Thus we are brought face to face with a difficulty as insoluble as is that of free will and predestination.’
George Howard Darwin was second wrangler at Cambridge in 1868 (see letter to G. H. Darwin, 24 January [1868] and n. 2).
Price refers to CD’s daughters, Henrietta Emma Darwin and Elizabeth Darwin.
The reference is to an article, ‘The school commissioners’ report on the education of girls’, in the 3 March 1868 issue of the Pall Mall Gazette (7: 858–9). The report criticised girls schools as lacking in thoroughness and highlighted defects in the curriculum. It also strongly favoured the establishment of higher colleges for women (see Roach 1986, pp. 302–3).
CD probably visited Price at his family home in Bodnant, near Conwy, North Wales, in 1826 and 1827 (Peter Lucas 2002b, p. 367). The ‘mercy’ may refer to Price’s recovery from serious illness (ibid.).


Arnold, Ralph Crispian Marshall. 1961. The Whiston matter. The Reverend Robert Whiston versus the Dean and Chapter of Rochester. London: Rupert Hart-Davis.

Bartholomew, John. 1943. The survey gazetteer of the British Isles: including summary of 1931 census and reference atlas. 9th edition. Edinburgh: John Bartholomew & Son.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Crockford’s clerical directory: The clerical directory, a biographical and statistical book of reference for facts relating to the clergy and the church. Crockford’s clerical directory etc. London: John Crockford [and others]. 1858–1900.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

Price, John. 1863–4. Old Price’s remains; præhumous, or during life. 12 pts. London: Virtue, Brothers & Co.

Roach, John. 1986. A history of secondary education in England, 1800–1870. London: Longman.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Visiting W. D. Fox.

Sends specimen of Cardamine pratensis,

and an account of a striped horse.

Discusses Pangenesis.

Has returned to religion and has been reflecting on God’s mercies, one of which CD should remember from about 1828 at Bodnant.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Price
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 174: 74
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5982,” accessed on 4 March 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16