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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Darwin   [22 August 1873]

Friday 9. AM

My dear Father,

I am extremely glad you got home so magnificently, it is a good omen for the future.1

Last night at 7 PM. the mimosa in the pantry looked so deathly, that I took him out, & gave him water and put him in the glass case. This morning he is nearly recovered, but decidedly torpid, it was thirst no doubt, but the 2 leaflets that were immersed look still very dead, they have a crumpled look, and the little leaves are stuck together in places, there is no difference in colour and they do slowly move on being touched but slower than rest of plant, & I think they do not become as oblique.2 I will see how they are tomorrow, I am sorry now I did not give it water & leave it in pantry.

The mimosa in glass case seems all right, and is expanded beneath water, & is not discoloured, I can see the leaves have a coating of air in places. The berries have now just made the water a shade less clear, as I can see by holding pure water alongside— they are not more immersed and one is sunk as before.3

I hope you are not the worse for the journey or mother either

I enjoyed your visit so very much & wish you could have stayed longer.

Your affect son | W. E Darwin

Thank mother for her line

CD annotations

1.1 I … future. 1.2] crossed blue crayon
2.1 Last … 7 PM.] ‘ie 21st of Augt.’ added blue crayon and ink
3.2 have now] after ‘of Mahonia’ interl ink
3.3 just] after ‘(i.e. 22d 7o P.M.)’ interl ink
4.1 I hope … longer. 5.1] crossed ink
7.1 Thank … line] crossed blue crayon
Top of letter: ‘On Mimosa & Mahonia’ ink


CD visited William in Bassett, Southampton, from 9 to 21 August 1873 (see ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)). In a letter to Leonard Darwin of [22 August 1873] (DAR 239.23: 1.13), Emma Darwin described the train journey. We came home yesterday most luxuriously in a composite carriage thro’ to Orpington; why in the world they are willing to take all that trouble for the ordinary payment I can’t think. They evidently thought we were Dukes at least when the engine came on purpose from Charing X to Waterloo & carried us off & fixed us to the train. It made the journey very easy—.
In a note dated 19 August 1873, CD described the effects of submersion in water on leaves of Mimosa (DAR 209.2: 44). For more on the experiments CD made on Mimosa during his visit to Southampton, see the letter to Francis Darwin, 15 August [1873] and n. 10. CD continued to make observations on the movement of Mimosa leaves at Down (notes made between 23 and 28 August 1873 are in DAR 209.2: 45–7).
In a note dated 19 August 1873, CD described an experiment in which he immersed Mahonia berries, with the bloom (waxy or pruinose covering on fruit or leaves) left on, in water for twenty-one hours at varying temperatures with no apparent effect. He compared this result with a similar experiment made with eight other kinds of berries that had their bloom removed before immersion (DAR 66: 8).


Experiments with Mimosa.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 162: 106
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9022,” accessed on 20 April 2019,

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