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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Richard Strachey   25 August 1873

Stowey House, | Clapham Common. | S. W.

25 Aug/73

Dear Mr. Darwin

I have just heard from my Sister in law who was a Cape of Good Hope lady that it was a recognized fact there that rain at the time of the vintage was liable to be very mischievous—& that Grapes with any little imperfection in them caused by birds or insects, or the bloom on which was injured were much more susceptible to injury by rain than others. In fact that such damaged fruits were in a few hours destroyed or rendered useless while the perfect fruit which retained its bloom intact received no harm.1

I have thought that this experience of a grape growing country narrated by a lady who is very observant of such matters & had proved her position & bringing up the means of becoming practically acquainted with them would be of interest in connexion with your present enquiry & I therefore write it down as I have heard it.

I may add that in Northern India where the grapes commonly ripen about the end of June, which is the time the rain begins, it is notorious that the grapes are frequently quite destroyed by rain, showing that there is a special reason at all events for giving them protection from its effects.2

My sister adds that it was a common saying, if rain occurred about the time of the vintage, that the wine would be bad, and that the goodness of the wine depended greatly on the grapes not being affected by rain—

Believe me | Yours truly | R Strachey

P.S. Your sons Glo〈b〉e has come & I will write to him about it.3

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘(Bloom on | Grapes)’ pencil
End of letter: ‘George says Blackberries are greatly spoiled by rain, & so are Strawberries’ pencil


Johanna Catherine Strachey was married to Strachey’s brother, Henry Strachey. CD had been experimenting on the effect of water on the leaves and fruit of plants, and had investigated the protective effect of bloom (see letter from W. E. Darwin, [22 August 1873] and n. 3). Strachey had visited CD on 23 August 1873 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
Strachey had carried out scientific expeditions in the Himalayas and made botanical collections in Tibet between 1848 and 1850 (ODNB).
Strachey refers to the globe for George Howard Darwin’s presentation ‘On a portable globe, and on some maps of the world’, which was made to the Geographical Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (Report of the 43d Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1873), Transactions of the sections, p. 167).


ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


Reports that grapes are spoiled by rain at vintage time and that damaged grapes, whose "bloom" is not intact, are particularly susceptible.

Letter details

Letter no.
Richard Strachey
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Clapham Common
Source of text
DAR 177: 264
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9026,” accessed on 22 January 2021,

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