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Darwin Correspondence Project

To C. G. B. Daubeny   1 August [1860]1

(Down Bromley Kent)

Aug 1

My dear Sir

I thank you sincerely for your present of your interesting pamphlet & more especially for the extremely kind & liberal manner in which you allude to my work.—2 I can wish & hope for nothing better.— Permit me to add that I am convinced from my own mental experience, that he who goes as far as you, if he keeps the subject in mind, will ultimately go much further.3

I quite agree with your view of the importance of sexual generation, as far more freely admitting variation, than gemmation;4 but I cannot avoid the suspicion that some more important or at least some other final cause lies hidden.— When an animal is propagated by any process analogous to gemmation, (ie not by sexual generation) I doubt whether it even passes through embryological metamorphoses. On other hand we have reason to suspect that there is always metamorphosis (often concealed) in case of sexual generation.5

But this is a mere loose & crude speculation, which I have sometimes thought of following up.— I daresay it wd. break down.—

With respect to varieties never being infertile together pray look to my abstract of Verbascum & Tobacco cases.—6

At p. 30 you give some grand facts, some of which are unknown to me & will aid me capitally.— 7

With many thanks personally for myself, & for subject-sake, as it is a grand thing for a man in your position deliberately to consider it. I remain | My dear Sir | Yours truly obliged | Charles Darwin


The year is established by the reference to Daubeny 1860a (see n. 2, below).
An annotated and inscribed copy of Daubeny 1860a is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL (see also this volume, Supplement, letter to C. G. B. Daubeny, 16 July [1860] and n. 3). The paper contains information from CD’s letter to Daubeny of 16 July [1860] about variation in plants derived from vegetative reproduction (see Daubeny 1860a, p. 23 n.). Daubeny also deprecated the interference of theologians in questions of science and referred to CD’s transmutation theory as ‘the principle so ingeniously put forward in Mr. Darwin’s work’ (Daubeny 1860a, pp. 26 n., 29). Daubeny 1860a is summarised in Daubeny 1860b.
CD probably alludes to Daubeny’s reservations about the Darwinian hypothesis; Daubeny thought that it failed to explain the origins of the imagination, moral sense, and mental powers of humans (Daubeny 1860a, pp. 23–6).
See Daubeny 1860a, pp. 20–1, and this volume, Supplement, letter to C. G. B. Daubeny, 16 July [1860] and nn. 7, 8, and 10.
CD wrote ‘Embryology’ in the margin of his copy of Daubeny 1860a, p. 6, where Daubeny questions the distinction between vegetative multiplication and sexual reproduction. CD considered the significance of metamorphosis in reproduction, and questioned the origin of sexual reproduction, in Variation 2: 361–3. This, and other unresolved questions, provided the impetus for CD’s provisional hypothesis of pangenesis (Variation 2: 357–404).
Daubeny and others objected that CD’s theory could not be considered proven until a new species arose under domestication (Daubeny 1860a, pp. 28–9; see also T. H. Huxley 1860a, [T. H. Huxley] 1860b, and Correspondence vol. 10, including Appendix VI). CD refers Daubeny to the examples of partial infertility in the progenies of Karl Friedrich von Gärtner’s crosses in Verbascum and Joseph Gottlieb Kölreuter’s crosses in tobacco (see Origin, pp. 270–1).
On the back cover of his copy of Daubeny 1860a, CD wrote, ‘p 30 excellent facts new to me’. On page 30, Daubeny gave examples of monstrous plants that, in their abnormal state, resembled plants of quite different genera. These examples, with references to Alphonse de Candolle, Maxwell Tylden Masters, and Alfred Moquin-Tandon, were marked by CD (Daubeny 1860a, p. 30). CD did not subsequently cite any of the facts given in Daubeny 1860a, but did cite other examples of monstrosities from the botanical work of Candolle, Masters, and Moquin-Tandon in Variation 1: 365–6 and nn., and 2: 58 and n., 59 n., 61 n., 245–7, and 254 n.


His thanks for the pamphlet ["Remarks on the final causes of the sexuality of plants" (1860)] and the extremely kind and liberal manner in which Daubeny alludes to CD’s work.

Further discussion of sexual generation and CD’s suspicion that its most important function remains hidden.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Giles Bridle Daubeny
Sent from
Source of text
Magdalen College, Oxford (MC:F26/C1/119)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2887A,” accessed on 18 April 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13 (Supplement)