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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. C. Tait   17 July [1869]1

Caerdeon, Barmouth | N. Wales

July 17

My dear Sir

Your obliging letter of the 11th has been forwarded to me here.2 The case of the Geranium is not new; there are many plants, often called Dichogamous, in which the anthers shed their pollen before the stigma is ready, and a few converse cases in which the stigma is mature before the pollen is ready. All these dichogams absolutely require cross-fertilisation. When I left home a month ago one alone of the Drosophyllums was still healthy.3 Dr Hooker4 begins to have some doubts whether Drosophyllum is so closely allied to Drosera. Pray do not give yourself any more trouble about the development of the Horns in Sheep. I have acquired some facts from Saxony which must suffice.5

I am not intending at present to publish on Instinct, though I have much MS. almost ready for press;6 and I doubt whether my strength will last out to publish much more on any subject. We have taken this house for 8 weeks for change of air, but it has done me very little good, and I hope to be at home again by the end of this month.

Pray believe me, | My dear Sir, | Yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin


P.S. 2d [Asks whether Tait saw CD’s] little Book on the Fertilisation of Orchids by Insect Agency [and offers to send him a copy.]7


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from W. C. Tait, 11 July 1869.
Tait had sent CD several specimens of Drosophyllum lusitanicum, but they arrived in poor condition (see letter to W. C. Tait, 12 and 16 March 1869).
Joseph Dalton Hooker.
See letters from W. C. Tait, 10 May 1869 and 11 July 1869. CD had received information on Saxon merino sheep from his German translator, Julius Victor Carus (see letters from J. V. Carus, 22 January 1869 and 2 February 1869).
CD refers to Descent.
The reference is to Orchids. The second postscript is from the sale catalogue. The rest of the letter is transcribed from a copy in DAR 147 which does not include the postscripts.


Discusses need for cross-fertilisation in Geranium.

Hooker begins to doubt whether Drosophyllum so closely allied to Drosera.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Chester Tait
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 147: 545; Sotheby’s (dealers) (19 July 1990)
Physical description
C ALS 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6833,” accessed on 24 January 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17