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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Withers   23 February 1874


Feb 23/74


I was present on Thursday evening last at The Westerham Amateurs & Gardeners Society (of which I am a member)1   I was much delighted to hear the Librarian announce the presentation by yourself of that wonderfull work “Origin of Species” also “The Voyage of the Beagle”2 ’tis a great honour to our Society and very kind of you. The “Origin” was once lent to me, and I experienced such an amount of wonder and pleasure that ever since I have wanted to tender you a tribute of thanks and gratitude for your incessant labours and wondrous observation—and which you have so fearlessly and courageously given to the world

I have spent many hours (chiefly at night and early morning, being occupied with a small business during the day)3 endeavouring to grasp the idea of Selection in its varied forms, I found the study difficult, it requires such close and thoughtfull reading—but that which I could comprehend made difficulties a delight, and work a pleasure, through your kindness to us I shall now have an opportunity that has not offered before. A Gentleman in the neighbourhood has presented me with “Fertilisation of Orchids”4 a family of Plants that I have for some time paid a little attention to— I am reading it with great pleasure, it is full of wonders and interest.

I send you by this post a flower of Cyclamen Persicum, a dimorphism that sometimes occurs in Persicum— I grow C. Persicum & C. Coum   I have noticed it several times in Persicum but never in Coum. Would the severe Hybridisation that Persicum has been put to render any explanation?

I thought the Flower might amuse you.

The circumstance of presenting us with the Books—I thought offered an opportunity to thank you and to offer you very humbly my love and gratitude that I feel for your stupendous work, your most keen and laborious observation, and acute thought.

I am a stranger to you (except in spirit) and I have felt very diffident in addressing you, please to pardon me for trespassing on your time, and forgive my presumption

With much respect and gratitude I am Sir | Your humble Servant | Wm Withers.

To Chas Darwin Esqe.

P.S. I believe the Secretary will forward you the thanks of the Society which was most cordially voted— my few lines are distinct from that.


Westerham and Brasted are both about five miles from Down, CD’s own village.
Presumably CD sent the society copies of Origin 6th ed. and Journal of researches 2d ed.
Withers was a grocer.


Journal of researches 2d ed.: Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of HMS Beagle round the world, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN. 2d edition, corrected, with additions. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1845.

Origin 6th ed.: The origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 6th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.


Thanks CD for presenting books to a gardeners’ society.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Withers
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 181: 133
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9312,” accessed on 19 January 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22