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Darwin Correspondence Project

To F. P. Cobbe    20 August [1870]1

Bassett | Southampton

Aug 20th

My dear Miss Cobbe

My wife is rather poorly & so I write for her.2 We are both quite delighted with your admirable & most just article. You editors have more power with your strong right arms than the Knights of old, in righting the oppressed.— Will you be so kind as to put my name down for 1£, or—(whichever you think best) my name for 10s & my wife for 10s.3

(Charles Darwin of Down Beckenham Kent)

You & Miss Lloyd4 need not have your faith in inheritance shaken, with respect to Tropæolum, until you have prevented for 6 or 7 generations any crossing between the vars in same garden. I have lately proved that every shade of colour is transmitted by the most fluctuating garden var. if the flowers are carefully self-fertilised during 6 or 7 generations.—5

Thank you for telling me about the articles in Fraser, of which I should not probably have heard.6

Pray give my very kind compliments to Miss Lloyd: I hope the dear old white cob in Wales is well.—7 Pray believe me Yours very sincerely obliged | Ch. Darwin

I forgot to say that I wrote as J.P: for Kent to Home Secretary, calling his attention to Holder’s case.—8


The year is established by the reference to the case of Stephen Holder. On 14 August 1870, Holder was sentenced to two months’ hard labour by Bromley magistrates’ court for taking part in an illegal gambling game of pitch and toss on Sunday 13 August (Bromley Telegraph, 20 August 1870; Randal Keynes and Richard Milner, personal communication.)
There is no reference to illness in Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242).
Cobbe had published a leading article in the Echo on 18 August 1870 denouncing the sentence given to Holder. On 25 August, the Echo published a letter purporting to be from CD: Sir,– | I have read your admirable and most just article on “Even-handed Justice,” and beg to say that if anyone who sympathises with the case be disposed to open a subscription for the benefit of Stephen Holder, I should be happy to contribute to it £1.– | I am, Sir, yours &c. | Charles Darwin | Down, Beckenham, Kent. Emma Darwin wrote to Henrietta Emma Darwin that CD thought the publication of the letter ‘unjustifiable’ and had been depressed to discover that Holder had been in prison before (DAR 219.9: 91). Henrietta later wrote that this was Cobbe’s own reworking of CD’s letter to her, published in this form without his consent (Emma Darwin (1915), 2: 302). The original article did not announce the setting up of a subscription fund; Cobbe may have suggested one in a missing letter to CD.
CD published his observations on the relative effect on colour of cross and self-fertilisation in a number of plant species in Cross and self fertilisation, pp. 307–11. Although primarily interested in the relative effects on size and health, he had made notes on the colour of the seventh generation of self-fertilised plants of Ipomæa purpurea in 1869 (DAR 78: 89).
CD refers to the literary journal Fraser’s Magazine. The articles have not been identified.
Lloyd had lent CD a pony when she, Cobbe, and the Darwins had been staying near one another in Caerdeon, Wales, in July 1869 (see Correspondence vol. 17, letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 July [1869] and n. 3).
No letter from CD to the home secretary, Henry Austin Bruce, has been found. Only one letter on the Holder case is noted in the Register of papers received by the Home Office; this was received on 19 August 1870 but is no longer extant. CD was active as a magistrate in Bromley between 1859 and 1862. (Randal Keynes and Richard Milner, personal communication.)


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Cross and self fertilisation: The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1876.

Emma Darwin (1915): Emma Darwin: a century of family letters, 1792–1896. Edited by Henrietta Litchfield. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1915.


CD writes for Emma, who is ill.

Delighted with FPC’s "most just" article [in Echo?]. Sends £1 subscription.

Thanks for telling CD about the Fraser’s Magazine article [F. W. Farrar, "Hereditary genius (by F. Galton)", n.s. 2 (1870): 251–65].

CD wrote as Justice of Peace for Kent to the Home Secretary about Holder’s case.

Tropaeolum transmits every shade of colour if self-fertilised for six or seven generations.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Frances Power Cobbe
Sent from
Source of text
The Huntington Library (CB 385)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7306,” accessed on 22 September 2023,

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