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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Thomas Rivers   15 January [1863]1

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

Jan. 15th

My dear Sir

You not only give me information of much value, but you give it in the kindest manner possible.2 All that you say about peaches is particularly interesting, as the case struck me much in many respects. I have alluded in my M.S. from Gard. Chronicle to the Double-flowering peaches of China, though I have never seen them.3 The case struck me as good in showing what man can do by continued selection in two different lines on the same species, viz flowers & fruits—4

You are so kind as to offer me two trees of the Double peach; but would they flower & fruit if transplanted this time of year? if so & you would give me them, I shd. be delighted: otherwise I would not rob you & would remind you to give me one or two fruit for engraving stones.5 I am so ignorant that I do not know whether the almond fruits in England; if you keep any almond trees & would send me one, instead of one of the two peaches it would be even a more valuable present.— If you do send either please address them, thus

C. Darwin Es

care of Down Postman

Per Rail. Bromley


I have a greenhouse (& am going immediately to build small hot-house for experimental purposes)6   please have label tied to tree, if sent, saying whether I had better put trees in large pots & keep in greenhouse for fruiting.—

I can only thank you for all your kindness.— It seems almost childish to ask you whether you would like to have any book published by me, my Journal, or the Origin of Species, or Book on Orchids.—7 I do not offer my geological or pure Zoological books, as you would not care for them.—8

Believe me | Yours gratefully | Ch. Darwin

There is a very curious account in Gard. Chronicle 1860 p. 672 of a rose-shoot intermediate in character between white Banksian & R. Devoniensis, springing from junction when the latter had been budded on former. It is there said that Banksian often affects roses budded on it.—9


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to Thomas Rivers, 11 January [1863].
The letter from Rivers, a reply to CD’s letter to Rivers of 11 January [1863], has not been found.
See letter to Thomas Rivers, 11 January [1863]. A discussion of the double-flowering Chinese peach in Variation 1: 338–9, mentions Rivers; CD also referred to a description of these ornamental trees on page 216 of the 28 March 1857 issue of the Gardeners’ Chronicle (see Variation 1: 343–4).
In the chapter on bud-variation in Variation, which CD started writing in December 1862 (see Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II), he described the double-flowered Chinese peaches that had been propagated for ornamental value (Variation 1: 343–4). In a later chapter (Variation 2: 217–18), CD noted: The power of long-continued selection, whether methodical or unconscious, or both combined, is well shown in a general way, namely, by the comparison of the differences between the varieties of distinct species, which are valued for different parts. … The Chinese double-flowering peaches … show that varieties of this tree have been formed, which differ more in the flower than in fruit. If, as is highly probable, the peach is the modified descendant of the almond, a surprising amount of change has been effected in the same species, in the fleshy covering of the former and in the kernels of the latter.
In his letter to Rivers of 11 January [1863], CD asked for the fruit of some of the peaches Rivers had raised, which CD wanted to use for illustrations in Variation. Engravings of peach and almond stones appeared in Variation 1: 337. CD noted that he was indebted to Rivers for some of the specimens figured (Variation 1: 338).
CD had resolved to build a hothouse at the end of 1862 (see letter to Asa Gray, 2 January [1863] and n. 24).
CD refers to Journal of researches, the third edition of Origin, and Orchids.
The references are to Zoology, Geology of the ‘Beagle’, Fossil Cirripedia (1851 and 1854), and Living Cirripedia (1851 and 1854).
CD refers to a letter in the Gardeners’ Chronicle, 21 July 1860, p. 672. In Variation 1: 396, CD described this case as the ‘most reliable instance’ that he knew of the ‘formation of a graft-hybrid’; he likened it to reports of Cytisus adami (Adam’s laburnum), a graft-hybid resulting from a C. purpureus scion being budded to a stock of C. laburnum (Variation 1: 387–91, 396).


Particularly interested in TR’s information about peaches. Accepts offer of double-flowering peach-trees.

Will build a small hothouse for experiments.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Rivers
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 185: 83
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3918,” accessed on 15 September 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11