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Darwin Correspondence Project

From T. H. Farrer   24 September 1868

Eashing Park

24 Sept/68

My dear Mr Darwin

The printers of the Annals of Natural History have sent me proofs at once; and I am not a little astonished at seeing my own name in print to a paper on such a subject—which after all is a good deal more interesting than “Tonnage” &c1   Many thanks to you for all your kindness.2

It is wonderful how every flower one looks at is explained by & throws light on the fertilizing process. The anthers & hollow stigma & spur of Viola: the tails of anthers in Erica: the difference of times of maturity of stamens & pistil in Mallow Achimenes &c &c—and above all the wonderful Co relation of variety of similar structure in flowers nearly related—e.g. in Kidney Bean: Broad Bean: Pea: & Furze—afford endless entertainment and illustration of what is I hope something more than Entertainment.3 It is pleasant to see what interest this has given to my little girl with whom I sometimes pick flowers to pieces— She says with truth that botany—however interesting is too much dead work— This is living.4

I cannot help sending you from memory what I dare say you know well—a great favorite of mine among Goethes scattered bits of wisdom—which I think would make a capital motto for your book.5

Pray dont answer this— It is only thanks

Sincerely yours | T H Farrer


See letter to T. H. Farrer, 24 September [1868] and n. 2. Farrer refers to his employment as secretary of the Board of Trade.
Farrer refers to dichogamy in Malva (mallow) and Achimenes, and to similar reproductive structures in several papilionaceous plants, including Phaseolus vulgaris (the kidney bean), and Ulex europaeus (furze).
Emma Cecilia Farrer was then thirteen or fourteen.
Farrer refers to Variation. Farrer’s transcription of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s poem ‘Parabase’ following his signature, differs slightly from the the original in the first, second, and fifth lines; the poem is one of a collection called ‘Gott und Welt’ from 1827 (see Goethe 1988, p. 495). For a verse translation of the original poem, see Goethe 1983, p. 70. For a translation of Farrer’s version, see n. 6, below.
Farrer’s version of Goethe’s poem (see n. 5, above) may be translated as follows: Always thus many years ago the mind was keenly striving to investigate, to find out how nature lives in creating: and it is the single one that reveals itself many ways; the great is small, the small great, each according to its own kind: always changing, holding fast; near and far and far and near, forming and transforming itself— I am here to marvel at it!


Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. 1983. Goethe. Poems and epigrams. Selected, translated, and with an introduction by Michael Hamburger. London: Anvil Press.

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. 1988. Gedichte 1800–32. Edited by Karl Eibl. Frankfurt am Main: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag.


Wonderful how every flower one looks at is explained by, and throws light on, the fertilising process.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Henry Farrer, 1st Baron Farrer
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Eashing Park, Godalming
Source of text
DAR 164: 46
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6391,” accessed on 21 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16