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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Ogle   16 December [1878]1

Down, Beckenham, Kent. S.E.

Dec. 16th.

My dear Ogle,

I am heartily obliged to you for your wise advice and kind assistance to my son Horace. We are in awesome perplexity about our confounded well, which is so deep that I thought it must be safe.2

I have now read Kerner’s book which is better even than I anticipated.3 The translation seems to me as clear as daylight and written in forcible and good familiar English. I am rather afraid that it is too good for the English public, which seems to like very washy food, unless it be administered by some one whose name is well known and then I suspect a good deal of the unintelligible is very pleasing to them. I hope to Heaven that I may be wrong. Anyhow you and Mrs Ogle have done a right good service for Botanical Science.4

Yours very Sincerely. | Ch. Darwin.

P. S. You have done me much honour in your prefaratory Remarks.5


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and letter to William Ogle, 17 August 1878.
No letter from Ogle mentioning Horace Darwin or the well at Down has been found. In a letter to Henrietta Emma Litchfield of [10 December 1878] (DAR 219.9: 185), Emma Darwin wrote that there were nitrates in the well at Down; she added that Horace was to undertake the job professionally and to follow Ogle’s advice. High levels of nitrate in well water often result from improper well construction, especially if the well is shallow.
Ogle had produced an English edition of Anton Kerner’s ‘Die Schutzmittel der Blüthen gegen unberufene Gäste’ (The protective measures of flowers against uninvited guests; Kerner 1876); it appeared as Flowers and their unbidden guests (Ogle trans. 1878) and part of the title page reads: ‘The translation revised and edited by W. Ogle, M.A., M.D.’ CD had received a copy (see letter to William Ogle, [after 27 November 1878]) but it has not been found in the Darwin Library–CUL or Down; it is listed in CD’s Library catalogue (DAR 240).
Parthenia Ogle had evidently assisted Ogle with the translation, although her name does not appear in print.
In his Editor’s preface, Ogle praised both CD’s work and CD’s kindness in assisting him (Ogle trans. 1878, pp. vii–xiv).


Kerner, Anton. 1876. Die Schutzmittel der Blüthen gegen unberufene Gäste. In Festschrift der K. K. Zoologisch-Botanischen Gesellschaft in Wien. Vienna: K. K. Zoologisch-Botanische Gesellschaft; Braumüller.


Thanks WO for advice and assistance for his son, Horace.

Has read Kerner’s book [see 11666]; finds the translation "as clear as daylight" but fears it is too good for the English public who like "very washy food".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Ogle
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 147: 203
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11797,” accessed on 18 September 2021,