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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. J. Romanes   [after 23 September 1876]1

I write to thank you for the slip about graft hybrids, and to say that as yet I have obtained no results myself. This place is too far north to admit of the seeds ripening properly after the plants have been thrown back several weeks by the operation.2 This applies especially to onions, so next year—the neck of Medusæ having now been broken—3 I intend to wait in London till all the grafting and planting out is finished. I do not think you will regret my not having followed such a course this year when you come to read the paper I am now writing. I never did such a successful four months’ work, and if as many years suffice to answer all the burning questions that are raised by it, I think they will require to be years well spent.

And this makes me remember that I have to apologise for the inordinate time I have kept your copy of Professor Häckel’s essay on Perigenesis.4 Since you sent it I have scarcely had any time for reading, and as you said there was no hurry about returning it, I have let it stand over till this paper is off my hands.

Lankester seems to have doubled up Slade in fine style. I suppose the latter has always trusted to his customers not liking to resort to violent methods.5 His defence in the ‘Times’ about the locked slates was unusually weak.6 ‘Once a thief always a thief’ applies, I suppose, to his case; but it is hard to understand how Wallace could not have seen him inverting the table on his head.7 In this we have another of those perplexing contradictions with which the whole subject appears to be teeming. I do hope next winter to settle for myself the simple issue between Ghost versus Goose.

Very sincerely and most respectfully yours, | Geo J. Romanes.


The date is established by the references to details of the Slade case (see nn. 5 and 6, below).
Romanes was experimenting with graft-hybrids from roots and tuberous plants in order to test CD’s hypothesis of pangenesis (see letter from G. J. Romanes, 1 June 1876 and n. 10). He spent part of the year at Dunskaith House, Nigg, Scotland, and was carrying out zoological research nearby at Cromarty Firth (E. D. Romanes 1896, p. 14; G. J. Romanes 1877, p. 659).
Romanes was preparing several papers on medusae (the sexual form of individuals of the phylum Cnidaria). His study of some species of Cnidaria native to Scotland was read at the Linnean Society on 18 January 1877 (G. J. Romanes 1876–7), and a longer paper on their locomotor system was presented at the Royal Society of London on 11 January 1877 (G. J. Romanes 1877).
CD had sent Romanes a copy of Ernst Haeckel’s work on perigenesis (Haeckel 1876b; see letter from G. J. Romanes, 11 June [1876]).
Edwin Ray Lankester attended several séances at the London home of Henry Slade, a psychic medium, at which spirits allegedly communicated by writing on slate tablets. In a letter to The Times, 16 September 1876, p. 7, Lankester claimed that Slade’s hands moved as if he were writing, and that when the slate was seized before it was placed under the table for the spirits to write on, words were already on it. Lankester later brought charges against Slade for conspiracy to obtain money by false pretences (The Times, 3 October 1876, p. 9, and 11 October 1876, p. 12). Slade was convicted under the Vagrancy Act and sentenced to three months imprisonment with hard labour (The Times, 1 November 1876, p. 9); however, he appealed against the judgement, and left Britain before another trial was held. See Doyle 1926, 1: 289–97.
Slade’s reply to Lankester’s letter appeared in The Times, 21 September 1876, p. 3. In another letter, he explained his refusal to use locked slates or slates sealed in a box: ‘I shall continue to object to all such worthless appliances whenever they are proposed ... when the investigator comes in the spirit of a seeker for truth, instead of trying to prove me an imposter, I shall be most happy to unite with him in the further pursuit of these experiments’ (The Times, 23 September 1876, p. 9).
Alfred Russel Wallace attended séances at Slade’s house in August and October 1876. He wrote in defense of Slade in a letter in The Times, 19 September 1876, p. 4, and gave testimony at Slade’s trial (The Times, 30 October 1876, p. 11).


Doyle, Arthur Conan. 1926. The history of spiritualism. 2 vols. London: Cassell.

Romanes, Ethel Duncan. 1896. The life and letters of George John Romanes M.A., LL.D., F.R.S. London, New York, and Bombay: Longmans, Green, and Co.

Romanes, George John. 1876–7. An account of some new species, varieties, and monstrous forms of medusæ. [Read 6 April 1876 and 18 January 1877.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Zoology) 12 (1876): 524–31; 13 (1878): 190–4.


No results yet with graft-hybrids.

Has been writing a paper.

"Lankester seems to have doubled up [H.] Slade [the medium] in fine style".

Letter details

Letter no.
George John Romanes
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
E. D. Romanes 1896, p. 45

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10584,” accessed on 18 September 2021,

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