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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Farrer   26 November 1868

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Nov 26. 1868

My dear Mr Farrer

I feel sure that the points to which you refer wd interest any one who looks at botany under a philosophical point of view; but I am not at all sure that Editors & Societies wd not think them too minute & superfluous.1

In my opinion the best plan is to go on working & making copious notes without much thought of publication, & then if the results turn out striking publish them. It is my impression, but I do not feel sure that I am right, that the best & most novel plan wd be, instead of describing the means of fertilization in particular plants, to investigate the part which certain structures play with all plants or throughout certain orders; for instance, the brush of hairs on the style, or the Diadelphous condition of the stamens in the Leguminosæ, or the hairs within the corolla &c &c.

Looking to yr note I think that this is perhaps the plan which you suggest.

It is well to remember that naturalists value observations far more than reasoning; therefore yr conclusions shd be as often as possible fortified by noticing how insects actually do the work.

Your description of the structure of Chorozema is quite new to me.2

My son misunderstood the message about Decaisne’s great work, but I hope you will receive it soon & after looking over it can return it to him at Trinity Coll.3

Pray believe me my dear Mr Farrer | yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


In his letter of 21 November 1868, Farrer had enumerated several points concerning flower structure that he associated with adaptation to insect agency in fertilisation.
Farrer evidently asked whether he could borrow Traité générale de botanique descriptive et analytique (Le Maout and Decaisne 1868). George Howard Darwin had recently been elected a fellow of Trinity College, which had a copy of the book (see letter from Adam Sedgwick, 11 October 1868).


Advises THF that best plan is to investigate the part certain structures play with all plants or orders, instead of describing means of fertilisation in particular plants. Naturalists value observations far more than reasoning.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Farrer, 1st baronet and 1st Baron Farrer
Sent from
Source of text
Linnean Society of London (LS Ms 299/7)
Physical description
LS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6475,” accessed on 8 December 2022,

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