skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Thomas Laxton   3 November [1866]1

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

Nov 3.—

Dear Sir

I have spent some hours during the last few days in examining with the greatest possible interest your Peas.2 After all, I could not resist your very kind offer, & have kept one pea out of the packets marked 7. 10. 11. 12. 13. & the purple pea No. 14. I never saw anything more curious than the lots 12 & 13. Will you have the kindness to look at the pod of No. 13, & you will see that the rim close to the suture is red; pray tell me whether you think this has been caused by the pollen of the purple pod.—3 These two cases & that of the purple pea are truly wonderful; the others are less striking   But I observe in lot 1 (except one pea) & in a lesser degree in 2, & in 3. 5. 6. & 8 that the crossed peas are smooth like the paternal stock, & not wrinkled & cubical like the mother pea— Can this loss of wrinkling be due to mere variation, or to the effect of some peculiar culture, or is it the direct result of the pollen of the father? I should be grateful for an answer on this head— I know I am rather unreasonable, but I should be very much obliged if you would write a single word in answer to 3 queries on the enclosed paper.4

You ask me to return some peas next season; but I had intended planting them at once as I want now to observe some points in their growth; I should keep them in the greenhouse, but whether they would seed there I do not know. Hence if you are anxious about the product I must delay my observations & I will not sow till I hear again from you, I will take care that no one gets any seed if my plants seed.—5 I shall send a servant to London on Wed mg. & he shall that day book & pay carriage for the box to Stamford—6 I will enclose your list in it— Pray accept my cordial thanks for your very great kindness—

Dear Sir | Yours faithfully & obliged | Charles Darwin

P.S. Many thanks for your answer about the Gooseberry.7


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to Thomas Laxton, 31 October [1866].
CD was looking for evidence of direct action of the male parent on the female parent in crossing experiments to support his hypothesis of pangenesis (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 2 October [1866] and nn. 7 and 9).
The enclosure has not been found.
Laxton’s own experiments crossing different varieties of peas were made in order to develop new varieties for sale.
Laxton’s home address was St Mary Hill, Stamford, Lincolnshire (Post Office directory of Lincolnshire 1868).
CD and Laxton’s correspondence on the gooseberry has not been found, but see Variation 1: 376.


Post Office directory of Lincolnshire: Post Office directory of Lincolnshire. Kelly’s directory of Lincolnshire. London: Kelly and Co. 1849–1937.

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


Has examined TL’s crossed peas. Observes that in several lots crossed peas are smooth, like paternal stock, not wrinkled like maternal stock. Is this a result of mere variation, peculiar culture, or pollen of the father?

Encloses queries [missing].

Intends planting peas at once if TL approves.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Laxton
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 146: 36
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5267,” accessed on 18 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14