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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Kemp   1 December [1843]1

Down Bromley Kent

Nov. 31.

Dear Sir

You will be weary of my interminable letters.— Conversing yesterday with Mr. R. Brown (the great Botanist) I found him very skeptical, & to my great surprise he threw some shadow of doubt on the Agyptian Wheat case, & the doubt rested (& likewise in the case of the Raspberry seed) on the evidence not being clear that Sir G. Wilkinson did really get the seed himself or personally knew the person who with his own hands got the seed out of the Mummy Case.2 Will you, therefore, please to inform me, whether you yourself extracted any of the seeds.—or whether Mr — Bell (please inform me of his Christian name) actually saw the seeds disinterred?3 or whether any other middle aged inhabitent (giving 〈1 line missing〉 witnesses.— Were 〈th〉ere many work-people present who were witnesses? Could any of them have buried the seed in hopes of being rewarded for the discovery (it has been suspected that this was the case with the Raspberry seeds & known to be the case with some Mummy Wheat).—

Will you please to give me a brief & correct account of this part of the evidence.4

& believe me | dear Sir | Yours very faithfully | C. Darwin

Is Mr Bell of Melrose the actual land-owner of the Sand-pit? or does he rent it?


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from William Kemp, 4 December 1843 (Correspondence vol. 2). CD evidently wrote ‘Nov. 31.’ in error.
Robert Brown had been consulted about Kemp’s seeds, but had not previously given any opinion on them (see letter to William Kemp, [2 September – 1 October 1843] and n. 5. CD refers to John Gardner Wilkinson’s attempt to grow wheat grains found in an Egyptian tomb (see Correspondence vol. 2, letter from J. S. Henslow, 2 November 1840 and nn. 3 and 4; see also this volume, Supplement, letter to William Kemp, 22 November [1843] and n. 2). CD also refers to John Lindley’s interest in raspberry seeds found in Dorsetshire in a coffin estimated to be sixteen or seventeen hundred years old (Correspondence vol. 2, letter to John Lindley, 8 [April 1843] and n. 3, and Lindley 1840, p. 185).
John Bell owned the sandpit in which Kemp’s seeds had been collected by Thomas Welsh and was present when they were unearthed. See Correspondence vol. 2, letter from William Kemp, 24 November 1843 and n. 2.
For Kemp’s description of the discoverer and witness, see Correspondence vol. 2, letter from William Kemp, 4 December 1843.


Robert Brown has cast much doubt on the integrity of the seed-planting experiment.

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. 716F,” accessed on 6 December 2019,

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