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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Dorothy Fanny Nevill   12 November [1861]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Nov. 12th


Dr. Lindley has told me that he thought that your Ladyship would be willing, if in your power, to assist me.—2 I am preparing for publication a small work “on the various contrivances by which Orchids are fertilised.” I much wish to examine a few more exotic forms, & if you happen to have those which I wish to see, possibly your Ladyship would be so generous as to send me two or three flowers. I am aware that it would be a remote chance that your Ladyship should possess or spare these flowers. I chiefly want any member of the great Tribe of Arethuseæ, which includes the Limodoridæ, Vanillidæ &c.

Mormodes & Cycnoches are especial desiderata, though they would be most difficult to send, as the pollen-masses move or explode when the end of the column is touched. I, also, want much Bonatea, Masdevallia & any Bolbophyllum with its lower lip or Labellum irritable. Indeed any genus with any remarkable peculiarity would be most gratefully received.—

I have much reason to apologise for thus intruding on your Ladyship; & I am far from expecting that your Ladyship will reply to this note, if you cannot assist me.—3 I will only add that for a parcel too large for the post, my quickest address is “C. Darwin care of the Down Postman Bromley Kent”. I find that orchids travel safest in tin boxes or cannisters with a little damp paper.—

With many apologies, I have the honour to remain | Your Ladyships | Obedient servant | Charles Darwin


The year is given by the reference to CD’s preparing the manuscript for Orchids, which was published in May 1862.
See letter to John Lindley, 25 October [1861]. Dorothy Fanny Nevill had a notable garden at Dangstein near Midhurst, Sussex. She specialised in the cultivation of orchids, nepenthes, and other tropical plants (R. Desmond 1977).


Desmond, Ray. 1977. Dictionary of British and Irish botanists and horticulturists, including plant collectors and botanical artists. 3d ed. London: Taylor and Francis.

Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.


Writes at Lindley’s suggestion to ask whether DN can send several orchid specimens. Describes his work in preparation for Orchids.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Dorothy Fanny Walpole/Dorothy Fanny Nevill
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.270)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3316,” accessed on 18 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9