skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Alice Bonham-Carter to Emma Darwin   25 January [1870]1

Ravensbourne, | Beckenham, Kent.

Jany 25

Dear Mrs Darwin—

I enclose two sentences with my translation of them by Henrietta’s desire, she having sent them to me this morning,—& perhaps you may find something of news in her letter2

We are much obliged for the loan of yours & Bessies, & Elinor will send them tomorrow—if not tonight3   She is just back from her campaign in search of her Committee, & has many letters to write tonight   I have been to see the Smedley party—& on Thursday I go to Cumberland Pl. to see Julia before her departure to Hitchin—4 I have got the “Climbing Plants” back from Roberts & will bring it over.5


It is only with (on) these premisses that we could account satisfactorily for the true morphological significance of the floral organs of the Merantaceæ in spite of the extreme perturbation to which they were exposed6


This edge (lip) embraces the anther of the upper stamen (filament) which remains thus held subtended (stretched) towards the lower part, in a forced position—7

Hoping that Bessie got home quite comfortably

Believe me | yrs afftly | Alice B C.


The year is established by the source of the translated sentences (see n. 6, below).
The reference is to Henrietta Emma Darwin.
Bonham-Carter refers to Elizabeth Darwin and Elinor Mary Bonham-Carter.
One Cumberland Place, London, was the home of Hensleigh Wedgwood. Since his daughter Frances Julia Wedgwood was usually called Snow, the reference may be to Julia Smith, Bonham-Carter’s aunt.
The reference is to Climbing plants. Roberts has not been identified.
The translated sentence is from a paper by Federico Delpino (Delpino 1869b, p. 296). A translation of the paper appeared in two parts in Scientific Opinion in the issues dated 2 and 9 February 1870 (Delpino 1870b). See also letter from Federico Delpino, 28 February 1870. CD’s copy of the original paper is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL; the first few pages have been translated in pencil in the margin.
The description relates to the floral mechanism in Marantaceae (Delpino 1869b, p. 298). During the bud stage, pollen is shed onto the back of the style behind the stigma. When the flower opens (anthesis), a cucullate staminode encloses the style, which is held under tension. The staminode possesses a lateral appendage that acts as a trigger when depressed, releasing the style, which then springs forward bringing the stigma into contact with pollen on the pollinator and then depositing fresh pollen on the same spot. CD later described the feature in Thalia dealbata (letter to G. H. Darwin, 11 [July 1878] (Calendar no. 11601)).


Calendar: A calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882. With supplement. 2d edition. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994.

Delpino, Federico. 1870b. Brief remarks on the biology and genealogy of the Marantaceæ. Scientific Opinion 3: 111–12, 135–7.


Sends a translation of two sentences [on floral structure] as requested by Henrietta Darwin.

Letter details

Letter no.
Alice Bonham-Carter
Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 160: 240
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6576,” accessed on 4 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18