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Darwin Correspondence Project

To James Torbitt   21 April 1876


Apr. 21, 1876.


My dear Sir

I have received your various communications.1 I very much dislike my letters being published as advertisements, but I would perhaps submit to this, though extremely disagreeable to me, if I could believe that it would do any good. I hope that you will permit me to speak frankly. It seems to me quite useless to advertise any intended plans, until crowned with success. I am convinced that any one reading your advertisement would consider you a fanatic; and supposing that you succeeded in obtaining a good variety of the plant, which resisted the disease, it would be incomparably more difficult to persuade the public of your success if people thought you a fanatic and consequently would not trust your statements. Whatever weight my name may have you could use to persuade persons privately, to raise seedlings, and this would be amply sufficient. Under these circumstances I return you the MS. and draft; for I am unwilling to aid in what I believe will be a step injurious to your success.2

With respect to the specimens and seeds which you inform me you have dispatched. I am sorry to say that I am so much out of health and overworked that I cannot undertake the crossing experiments and all the care and difficulty of raising new varieties. I wish I had known of the plan some years ago. Shall I return the specimens to you?3

There is not the least difficulty in crossing varieties; it is not necessary to remove the anthers of the seed-bearing plant, as the pollen from another variety, if not put on the stigma very late, and especially if applied more than once, has a prepotent influence over the plant’s own pollen.4

In haste | I remain, dear Sir | Yours faithfully | Charles Darwin

James Torbitt, Esqre | Belfast


See letters from James Torbitt, 18 April 1876 and 19 April 1876.
The draft of an advertisement for the suppression of potato disease that was enclosed with the letter from James Torbitt, 19 April 1876, has not been found. It probably quoted the letter to James Torbitt, 14 April 1876.
Torbitt had sent CD seedling potato plants, tubers, and seeds in the hope that CD would perform crossing experiments; see letters from James Torbitt, 18 April 1876 and 19 April 1876.


Does not think that publishing his letters as advertisement [for potato experiments] would help JT’s cause, so CD cannot give permission.

Regrets that he has neither the time nor health to undertake crossing experiments with JT’s specimens. Discusses crossing varieties.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
James Torbitt
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 148: 94
Physical description
2pp & AdraftS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10463,” accessed on 25 November 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24