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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Kemp   9 October [1843]1

Down. near Bromley Kent

October 9th

Dear Sir

I write a line to inform you that your paper has reached me safely.— I will consult with Mr Lyell, (who has taken much interest in your discovery) what will be the best place of publishing it.—2

I am flattered by the compliment you make me in addressing your communication in a letter to me.—

I think it wd be a thousand pities to publish the Paper before Prof Henslow has definitely made out whether the Atriplex is the A. hastata of France or not.— I will write by today’s post to urge him to complete his examination.—3

Will you inform me, soon about how many feet the layer with the seeds was above the present level of the nearest part of the present river.— I think this had better be clearly introduced, & I do not quite understand your description in reference to this point.—4

As you permit me to shorten some parts of your paper, I will do so— I assure you the retrenchment of redundancies, is a reform that I every month learn to value more & more in my own writings—

Your letter must have a heading & the account of Henslow’s conclusions introduced.— No species, of Atriplex, can properly be considered, I believe, as a climbing plant, at most they can be called only trailing plants.— I will make the alterations which appear to me adviseable & then send you a copy for your approval.— But we must wait for Henslow’s decisi〈on〉 as the whole force of the Paper turns on this.5 Yours very truly | C. Darwin

P.S. | Can you not inform me (& I wd incorporate it with your paper) what relation the bed of sand bears to the period of the dispersal of boulders whether by floating ice or glaciers— Are there any large or angular boulders of foreign rocks on top of sand or embedded in it, or in the gravel beneath it? Are the rocks scored, polished, or hummocked beneath it— Do endeavour to throw some light on these points, as they wd be very interesting.—6

I will enquire from Prof. Lindley how he raised the seeds, whether in open 〈 12 line missing〉 or in the Green house.7

I think your speculation about the former dampness of climate too bold— What reason have you for supposing that there were more lakes then than now? Is it not also doubtful, how far a few more or less lakes, wd affect the surrounding climate?—8

What a pity that no fresh-water shells were in the sand.—


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from William Kemp, 2 October 1843 (Correspondence vol. 2).
CD refers to the letter from William Kemp, 2 October 1843 (Correspondence vol. 2). No correspondence on the subject has been found. On the publication of Kemp 1844, based on Kemp’s letters to CD, see Correspondence vol. 2, Appendix VI.
No letter from CD to John Stevens Henslow has been found written on 9 October 1943, but see Correspondence vol. 2, letter from J. S. Henslow, 9 October 1843, in which Henslow said he inclined to believe that what had been thought to be Atriplex hastata was in fact a variety of A. patula, a common wasteland plant.
Kemp had sent CD a description of the location of the seeds in his letter of 2 October 1843, but omitted the depth at which the sands were buried. CD was preparing an account of the discovery for Annals and Magazine of Natural History which he constructed mostly of excerpts from Kemp’s letters. See Correspondence vol. 2, Appendix VI, and Kemp 1844.
The plant identifications from Henslow, John Lindley, and Charles Cardale Babington were introduced at the beginning of the paper CD compiled from his correspondence with Kemp. See Appendix VI, Correspondence vol. 2, and Kemp 1844.
CD and Kemp believed that identification of the seeds could be considered along with geological arguments to demonstrate that the valley where they were found had been an ancient sea beach (see this volume, Supplement, letter to William Kemp 1[8] May [1840] and n. 5).
CD had sent some of Kemp’s seeds to John Lindley for identification. See Correspondence vol. 2, letter from John Lindley, [before 2 September 1843] and n. 3. CD’s letter to Lindley has not been found.
In his previous letter Kemp had argued that the comparative health of the plants grown from his seeds in the damp garden over those grown in the dry house demonstrated that the sandpit they were retrieved from must once also have been wet (Correspondence vol. 2, letter from William Kemp, 2 October 1843).


WK’s paper has reached him safely.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Kemp
Sent from
Source of text
Ruth Cramond and David Cramond (private collection)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 701F,” accessed on 10 April 2020,

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