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Darwin Correspondence Project

From L. A. Errera1   10 October 1877

6A, Rue Royale | Bruxelles

10 Oct. 1877

Monsieur

Je ne puis assez vous témoigner ma gratitude pour la bonté et l’empressement que vous avez mis à me répondre et pour les paroles bienveillantes contenues dans votre lettre.2 J’avais déjà résolu d’expérimenter plus tard sur les “inconspicuous flowers” et votre conseil me fait un devoir de mettre à exécution mon projet, aussitôt que mes autres études m’en laisseront le temps.3

Vous voulez bien me faire observer que vous n’avez pas dit que l’autogamie fût, en règle générale, supérieure à la gitonogamie. Toutefois il m’a paru que telle était la signification des passages que j’ai cités, extraits de votre beau livre “The effects of Cross & Self-fertilisation”, (pp. VII, 61, 352, 386, etc);— vous y émettez l’avis que l’autogamie est “apparently in some respects beneficial, independently of the assured production of seeds”—4 Ces avantages, l’autogamie ne peut—semble-t-il—les montrer qu’en donnant des produits supérieurs à ceux d’une forme d’allogamie: et comme elle est certes, en général, inférieure à la xénogamie, elle ne peut accuser cette supériorité que vis-à-vis des plantes gitonogamiques.5 S’il n’en est pas ainsi, je ne parviens malheureusement pas bien à comprendre la nature des avantages de l’autogamie; puis qu’il est évident que ces avantages ne peuvent apparaître que par comparaison avec un autre mode de fécondation.

Quoiqu’il en soit, j’ai cru bien faire, à la suite de votre lettre, en soulignant dans notre manuscrit les mots “if this be really the case” pour bien indiquer que vous-même ne croyez pas la question suffisamment résolue.6

Vous voudrez bien m’excuser d’avoir formulé les quelques remarques que je viens de me permettre et recevoir, avec mes remercîments réitérés, l’expression de mon plus profond respect. | Léo Errera

Footnotes

For a translation of this letter, see Appendix I.
See letter to L. A. Errera, 4 October 1877 and n. 5. Errera was a doctoral student at the Free University in Brussels.
CD used this phrase in a chapter summary that appeared in Cross and self fertilisation, pp. vii and 312. On p. 61, he mentioned that self-fertilisation was more advantageous than crossing unless the cross brought with it some decided or preponderant advantage; on p. 352, he gave experimental results showing the superior weight of seeds from self-fertilised plants; and on p. 386, he noted that some species had increased their capacity for self-fertilisation.
Errera had explained these terms in his letter of 30 September 1877.
See letter to L. A. Errera, 4 October 1877. CD had commented on part of a study on heterostyled plants that Errera had carried out with Gustave Gevaert.

Bibliography

Cross and self fertilisation: The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1876.

Translation

From L. A. Errera1   10 October 1877

6A, Rue Royale | Brussels

10 Oct. 1877

Sir

I cannot adequately express to you my gratitude for the generosity and promptness with which you have answered me and for the kind words in your letter.2 I had already resolved to experiment later on “inconspicuous flowers” and your advice convinces me to put my plan into action, as soon as my other studies allow me time.3

You quite rightly pointed out that you have not said that autogamy would, as a general rule, be superior to geitonogamy. Even so it seemed to me that was the meaning of the passages that I cited, extracts from your fine book “The effects of Cross & Self-fertilisation”, (pp. VII, 61, 352, 386, etc);— you expressed the opinion that autogamy is “apparently in some respects beneficial, independently of the assured production of seeds”—4 These advantages, autogamy cannot—it seems—demonstrate except by giving superior products to those of some form of allogamy: and since it is certainly, in general, inferior to xenogamy, it can only show this superiority in comparison to geitonogamic plants.5 If this is not the case, unfortunately I cannot easily understand the advantages of autogamy; since it is evident that these advantages could not appear other than by comparison with another manner of fertilisation.

However this may be, I believed I did well, following your letter, to underline in our manuscript the words “if this be really the case” to emphasise that you yourself do not believe the question is adequately resolved.6

Please forgive me for having taken the liberty of making these comments and accept, with my repeated thanks, the assurance of my very deep respect. | Léo Errera

Footnotes

For a transcription of this letter in its original French, see pp. QQQQ
See letter to L. A. Errera, 4 October 1877 and n. 5. Errera was a doctoral student at the Free University in Brussels.
CD used this phrase in a chapter summary that appeared in Cross and self fertilisation, pp. vii and 312. On p. 61, he mentioned that self-fertilisation was more advantageous than crossing unless the cross brought with it some decided or preponderant advantage; on p. 352, he gave experimental results showing the superior weight of seeds from self-fertilised plants; and on p. 386, he noted that some species had increased their capacity for self-fertilisation.
Errera had explained these terms in his letter of 30 September 1877.
See letter to L. A. Errera, 4 October 1877. CD had commented on part of a study on heterostyled plants that Errera had carried out with Gustave Gevaert.

Bibliography

Cross and self fertilisation: The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1876.

Summary

CD has made clear that in Cross and self-fertilisation he had not intended to suggest that autogamie (fertilisation of a flower by its own pollen) is superior to gitonogamie (fertilisation of a flower by one on the same plant).

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-11177
From
Léo Abram Errera
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Brussels
Source of text
DAR 163: 28
Physical description
3pp (French) & AdraftS 2pp (French)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11177,” accessed on 2 December 2020, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-11177.xml

letter