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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Kemp   [14 October 1843]1

Down near Bromley | Kent [Shrewsbury]2


Dear Sir

I have heard from Prof. Henslow, who expresses a doubt, whether some of the seeds may not have been contained in the soil, in which you planted the seeds from the sand-pit.—3 In the case of the Atriplex, I think, the circumstance of the same strange form having come up from the seeds planted by you & at the Hort. Soc. shows that there could have been no mistake in this case.4 But will you be so good, as to inform me, whether you took any precaution against this source of error.—

I am very sorry to say that Prof. Henslow, now suspects that the Atriplex is merely a variety of the common A. patula. 5   in this case, I fear, no editor would wish to insert more than a brief notice of the germination of seeds buried at the depth &c &c under which you found them. But we had better pause and hear what the Botanists determine. I will send a specimen to Mr Babington, who is an accurate discriminator of British species & hear what he says.6

Believe me | Yours very faithfully | C. Darwin


The date is established by the postmark. In 1843, the Saturday before 15 October was 14 October.
On 12 October 1843 CD went to Shrewsbury for twelve days (Correspondence vol. 2, Appendix II).
One of the seeds sent to John Lindley turned out to be an Atriplex, as well as one of the plants grown by Kemp. See Correspondence vol. 2, letter from John Lindley, [before 2 September 1843], and letter from J. S. Henslow, 9 October 1843.
CD’s letter to Charles Cardale Babington has not been found. See Correspondence vol. 2, letter from C. C. Babington, 26 October 1843. Babington identified the sample as Atriplex angustifolia (now A. patula, the common orach).


J. S. Henslow expresses his doubts about WK’s seeds.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Kemp
Sent from
Shrewsbury OC 15 1843
Source of text
Cambridge University Library (MS Add. 10252/16) (gift of Ruth Cramond and David Cramond)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 705F,” accessed on 17 May 2022,

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