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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Darwin   17 and 20 May [1863]1

1 Carlton Terrace

May 17

My Dear Father,

I am alarmed to hear that you saw nothing of same kind in Corydalis Lutea; as it makes me think that I must be making some fine blunder.2 Whether I am right or wrong I am sure you ought to look at it as there is something in it unless I begin dreaming whenever I look at Corydal. Claviculata   I found today in the New Forrest a fine large bed of Buckbean so that if you want any or seeds I can get you some.3 It is an odd chance but after looking, just stooping down and not gathering, at 40 or 50 plants I could not find a single short pistilled one. I suppose it is impossible for them to be dimorphic in one place and not in another. Or perhaps it is necessary to gather the flower and look at Stamens to see whether it is long or short-pistilled plant


This ought to have gone on Sunday but I forgot it.

I will get you some seed of Corydalis Claviculata and when I come I shall bring my sketches of it.

I went to the Microscopical Society the other night, it was rather stupid, as no paper was read, only some specimens exhibited, but I am glad to belong as it is only 7/6 yearly subscription.4

have you seen a very amusing thing in “public opinion” a quarrel among old bonemen Huxley Owen &c in which they are taken up for foul language & calling each other hippocampus minor   I will send it if you have not5

Your affect son | WED


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to W. E. Darwin, [10 May 1863] (Correspondence vol. 11).
See Correspondence vol. 11, letter to W. E. Darwin, [10 May 1863] and n. 4. For William’s description of what he had observed, see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from W. E. Darwin, 8 May [1863]. Corydalis lutea is a synonym of Pseudofumaria lutea (yellow corydalis); Corydalis claviculata is a synonym of Ceratocapnos claviculata (climbing corydalis).
Buckbean or marsh trefoil is Menyanthes trifoliata.
The Southampton Microscopical Society, founded in 1861, held monthly meetings when, contrary to William’s experience, a paper was usually read, illustrated by specimens; it also held an annual soirée (Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science n.s. 3 (1863): 148).
CD had already seen the squib satirising recent scientific controversies (Anon. 1863), part of which appeared in Public Opinion 3 (1863): 497–8 (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from J. D. Hooker, [7 May 1863] and n. 3). The full version of the squib in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL was published in Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix VIII. Thomas Henry Huxley and Richard Owen disagreed about human and simian brain anatomy; Owen held that the hippocampus minor was present only in human brains, but Huxley maintained that there were no essential differences between the brains of humans and those of the higher apes. See Correspondence vol. 11, letter to Charles Lyell, 4 [February 1863] and n. 4.


Alarmed that CD did not see what WED saw in Corydalis lutea. Has found buckbean in the New Forest. Will get seeds of Corydalis claviculata.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
1 Carlton Terrace [Southampton]
Source of text
Cornford Family Papers (DAR 275: 16)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4168F,” accessed on 17 September 2021,

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