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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Francis Darwin   [30 September 1873]1

6 QA

F D begs to inform the nobility & gentry that he has removed to Pantlludw during the alterations2

I am going tonight by the mail getting there by 7 in the morning   Uncle Ras3 wants me to waken Amy with a morningade on the flute— I shall be back at Down on Sunday— Please tell Father that none of the Droseras would contract a bit; at least in one there occurred on violent deflection after we had put saliva on, but the normal current i e the current before contraction is so wonderfully variable that it might possibly have been that.4 We have found out a curious thing in Dionaeas which we are very glad to find as it corrects some of our old results—it has no analogue in muscle or nerve. Sanderson says Benzoic acid being so poisonous is not at all explained by animal phys.5 He says Marsha⁠⟨⁠l⁠⟩⁠l is a good book but not for digestion6

Dalton’s Human Phys American is good but has some queer ideas—7 he says much the best is Schiff’s Lectures (French)8 or Bernard’s Les phenomènes de la Vie—9 he says Schiff isnt big

I have ordered a French transln of Wundt’s Lehrbuch der Physiologie— he recommened it for electrical dodges, but I expect it is good all through; it is 3rd edition 72 or 73—10

I shall rather astound the people at Pantlludw as they expect me on Thursday.

Yrs affec | FD

CD annotations

1.1 F D … nerve. 2.8] crossed blue crayon
2.8 Sanderson] after opening square bracket blue crayon
3.2 Schiff’s Lectures (French)] underl blue crayon


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to J. S. Burdon Sanderson, 1 October [1873], which mentions Francis’s news about the ‘perverse’ behaviour of Drosera, and by Francis’s intention of arriving at Pantlludw early in the morning before Thursday, which would have entailed his setting out on Tuesday evening or earlier. In 1873, 30 September was a Tuesday. On 3 October 1873 (a Friday letter dated by a postmark), Emma Darwin wrote to Horace Darwin that Francis was at Pantlludw, and that she expected him back in Down shortly (DAR 258: 583). See also letter from G. H. Darwin, [1 October 1873].
Pantlludw, Wales, was the home of Lawrence and Mary Anne Ruck, the parents of Francis’s fiancée, Amy Ruck.
Francis was staying at Erasmus Alvey Darwin’s house (6 Queen Anne Street, London; see F. Darwin 1920, p. 68 n. 1).
Francis was evidently working with John Scott Burdon Sanderson on insectivorous plants. CD had suggested electrical experiments and had supplied Sanderson with plants (see letters to J. S. Burdon Sanderson, 15 August 1873 and 9 September [1873]). In Insectivorous plants, pp. 36–7, CD reported that needles charged with electrical current caused the tentacles of Drosera (sundew) to curve inward.
In Insectivorous plants, p. 197, CD noted his surprise that a weak solution of benzoic acid was highly poisonous to Drosera: ‘for I am informed that it produces no marked effect on the animal kingdom’. CD concluded that this and other ‘innocuous acids’ must act on elements of the plant that were ‘in no way analogous to the nerve-cells of animals’ (ibid., p. 223). See also letter to Edward Frankland, 21 September [1873].
A fifth edition of John Call Dalton’s A treatise on human physiology was published in 1871 (Dalton 1871).
Moritz Schiff’s Leçons sur la physiologie de la digestion (Schiff 1867) is cited extensively in Insectivorous plants. CD’s heavily annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 740–3).
Francis refers to Claude Bernard and Bernard 1872–3.
A French translation of Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt’s Lehrbuch der Physiologie des Menschen (Wundt 1865) was published in 1872 (Wundt 1872); a copy of Wundt 1872, with annotations presumed to be by Francis, is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 882).


Bernard, Claude. 1872–3. Cours de physiology générale au Muséum d’histoire naturelle: des phénomènes de la vie communs aux animaux et aux végétaux. Revue scientifique 2d ser. 3: 170–81, 204–13, 302–9, 370–80, 401–5, 443–52.

Dalton, John Call. 1871. A treatise on human physiology; designed for the use of students and practitioners of medicine. 5th edition. Philadelphia: H. C. Lea.

Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Marshall, John. 1867. Outlines of physiology: human and comparative 2 vols. London: Longmans, Green.

Schiff, Moritz. 1867. Leçons sur la physiologie de la digestion, faites au Muséum d’histoire naturelle de Florence. 2 vols. Florence: Hermann Loescher.

Wundt, Wilhelm Max. 1865. Lehrbuch der Physiologie des Menschen. Erlangen: Ferdinand Enke.

Wundt, Wilhelm Max. 1872. Nouveaux éléments de physiologie humaine. Translated and annotated by Abel Bouchard. Paris: Savy.


He is travelling overnight by train from London to Pantlludw and will wake A. R. Ruck with a morningade on his flute.

Letter details

Letter no.
Francis Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
6 Queen Anne St, London
Source of text
DAR 274.1: 27
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8942F,” accessed on 29 May 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21