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Darwin Correspondence Project

From R. T. Clarke   6 February [1878]1

Welton Place | near Daventry

Febr 6th

Dear Mr Darwin

I enclose a pod from an old kind of garden pea called “Woodford’s Marrow.” The colour of the normal seed is of a very peculiar and invariable blue. This pod was fertilized by the pollen of an equally constant white kind, to wit, “Dickson’s favorite” a selection from the Auvergne.2

You will see that it contains two pure white peas, a thing which the old Woodford never was guilty of in its life.— With the exception of my Matthiola this is the only instance I have yet met with, but I doubt not but that we used our eyes more would turn up.3 Please return the specimen soon, as I shd like to produce it before our scientific committee4

Has anything of the kind been noticed in the analogue eggs.? I had the satisfaction last summer of smashing a genus which I never believed in, viz: Elisena which I crossed with Ismene. Flower exactly intermediate.—5

What is Species, and what is Genus?

and Echo answers

What is Truth?6

yrs very truly | R Trevor Clarke


The year is established by the reference to Elisena and Ismene; see n. 5, below.
The pea varieties ‘Woodford’s marrow’ and ‘Dickson’s favorite’ are described in Burr 1863, pp. 551–2 and 531–2. Auvergne is a province in south-central France.
Clarke had published on colour variation in seeds of Matthiola (see R. T. Clarke 1866, Correspondence vol. 14, letter from R. T. Clarke, 6 November [1866], and Variation 1: 398–9). Matthiola is the genus of stocks.
Clarke had helped establish the scientific committee of the Royal Horticultural Society in 1868 (see Correspondence vol. 16, letter from M. T. Masters, 4 April 1868, and letter from R. T. Clarke, 14 [April 1868]).
Gardeners’ Chronicle, 21 July 1877, p. 86, reported that Clarke exhibited flowers of a hybrid between two ‘so-called genera’, Ismene and Elisena, to the scientific committee of Royal Horticultural Society. Ismene, the Peruvian daffodil, is a genus in the family Amaryllidaceae; the former genus Elisena is subsumed within it.
An allusion to George Gordon Noel Byron’s poem The bride of Abydos, canto 2, stanza 27.


Burr, Fearing. 1863. The field and garden vegetables of America; containing full descriptions of nearly eleven hundred species and varieties; with directions for propagation, culture, and use. Boston: Crosby and Nichols.

Clarke, Richard Trevor. 1866. On a certain phenomenon of hybridism observed in the genus Matthiola. International Horticultural Exhibition 1866, pp. 142–4.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Sends curious, coloured pea seeds.

Letter details

Letter no.
Richard Trevor Clarke
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 161: 169
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10832,” accessed on 18 September 2021,