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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Benjamin Clarke1   1 November [1870]2

November 1st.

I wrote the foregoing letter before I received yours of Oct. 20 containing the Post Office Order for 10s.3 & I have now only to add that if the Zoological part of the work appears to you of any value you will be receiving back a part of that which you gave when you subscribed to the Relief Fund of the Royal Society.4

I enclose to you a few seeds of a plant of Indian Corn which was 3-stemmed without a trace of a male flower, the central stem terminating in a soft slightly hooked spine & one if not both the lateral terminating in cobs. It was artificially fertilised & ripened 10 cobs growing in somewhat unfavourable circumstances being shaded & sparingly watered.5 It belongs to the continental 6-weeks variety procured by Messrs Gibbs & Co.6 & was raised from seed produced last year by cutting off the entire of the male flowers of one plant about a week before flowering & fertilising the plant with the flowers of another. This was done with a view of producing varieties by pruning or mutilation as it may be called & it appears that the extreme effect can be produced in one year on some of the plants although on a very few; while some of the progeny show no diminution of male flowers;—in these latter there was apparently increased vigour of growth. I will only add that if you grow this seed you will I expect have an opportunity of witnessing this phenomenon & by repeating the experiment increase the number of female plants in the progeny.

You will observe at the back of the title page that science does not in any degree diminish my faith in the bible & that in fact science & the New Testament are according to my views quite in harmony—7 My reason for placing Man in the system of the Mammalia is given at page 44.8


The correspondent is identified from the handwriting, and from the relationship between this letter and the letter from Benjamin Clarke, 12 March 1867 (Correspondence vol. 15).
The year is established by the reference to the Post Office order (see n. 3, below).
The letters have not been found. CD recorded a payment in his Account books–cash account (Down House MS) of 10s. under the heading ‘B. Clarke. Syst. Bot. & Zooly.’ for 20 October 1870.
Clarke refers to his On systematic botany and zoology (Clarke 1870). The botanical part of the work had already been published as A new arrangement of phanerogamous plants (Clarke 1866); the zoological part was ready for the press in early 1867 (see Correspondence vol. 15, letter from Benjamin Clarke, 12 March 1867) but not published until 1870 (Clarke 1870). CD’s donation to the Relief Fund of the Royal Society of London is referred to in the letter from Benjamin Clarke, 25 March 1867 (Correspondence vol. 15). For a brief history of the Royal Society’s Scientific Relief Fund, see Record of the Royal Society of London, p. 111.
In his letter of 25 March 1867 (Correspondence vol. 15), Clarke had outlined a procedure for breeding a predominantly female variety of maize by emasculating the breeding stock repeatedly for several years.
Thomas Gibbs and Company were seedsmen; they had premises on the corner of Piccadilly and Halfmoon Street, London (Post Office London directory 1870).
On the verso of the title page of Clarke 1866 is a poem on the splendour of God as manifest in tropical vegetation. A further poem referring to the ‘power of God’ was added to the 1870 publication. Both poems were signed B.C.
Clarke qualified his classification of humans among the Mammalia as follows (Clarke 1870, p. 44): By including Bimana in this classification it is not intended to say that man was derived from Quadrumana as the other orders of Mammalia it is understood were derived from the Orders below them; Jeremiah, Chap. I, v. 5, is clearly opposed to such a supposition; the angelic host would, if incarnate, of course be classed with Bimana.


Clarke, Benjamin. 1870. On systematic botany and zoology, including a new arrangement of phanerogamous plants, with especial reference to relative position, and their relations with the cryptogamous; and a new arrangement of the classes of zoology. London: n.p.

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

Post Office London directory: Post-Office annual directory. … A list of the principal merchants, traders of eminence, &c. in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent … general and special information relating to the Post Office. Post Office London directory. London: His Majesty’s Postmaster-General [and others]. 1802–1967.

Record of the Royal Society of London: The record of the Royal Society of London for the promotion of natural knowledge. 4th edition. London: Royal Society. 1940.


Sends CD some Indian corn seeds to demonstrate the extreme effect sometimes producible on progeny by the mutilation of a parent.

Writes of a recent book.

Letter details

Letter no.
Benjamin Clarke
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 261.11: 26 (EH 88206077)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5662,” accessed on 19 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18