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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Farrer   29 October [1868]1

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

Oct 29th

My dear Mr Farrer

I had seen your paper in the Annals & was proud of my share in getting you to publish it, but I am obliged for the copy which you have sent me.2 I know pretty well the structure of the common Violet, but have never seen V. cornuta, so do not understand what part is degraded in the common species.—3 You might work this up into another paper, & let it be accompanied by a wood cut.

My vanity was much pleased at the very elegant German compliment which you paid me in your introductory remarks.4 By the way, as we are in the same boat, I may mention that Prof. Asa Gray (a first-rate Botanist) who used formerly often to throw difficulties about crossing in my way, now spontaneously declares, he hardly ever looks at a flower without feeling convinced that its whole structure is adapted for a cross with another individual.5

Pangenesis has very few friends, so let me beg you not to give it up lightly.6 It may be foolish parental affection, but it has thrown a flood of light on my mind in regard a great series of complex phenomena.—

Pray believe me | Dear Farrer | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

I am delighted that you have joined Linn. Socy.—7


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from T. H. Farrer, 26 October 1868.
See letter from T. H. Farrer, 26 October 1868. There is an annotated copy of Farrer 1868 in CD’s collection of unbound journals in the Darwin Library–CUL; no separate offprint has been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL.
See the letter from T. H. Farrer, 26 October 1868, for his comments on violets. CD had observed violets for some time, and was particularly interested in the cleistogamic flowers; see, for example, Correspondence vol. 11, letter to Daniel Oliver, 28 [November 1863] and n. 5.
Farrer ended his introduction to Farrer 1868 by complimenting CD’s writings, which he believed well illustrated ‘the axiom of the great German poet and observer— “Was fruchtbar ist, allein ist wahr’” (What is fruitful, that alone is true). The quotation is from the sixth verse of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s poem ‘Vermächtnis’ (Legacy; Goethe 1964, 1: 370).
Asa and Jane Loring Gray had been staying at Down House since 24 October (see letter to John Tyndall, 20 October 1868 and n. 1). For an example of Gray’s earlier differences with CD on the role of crossing, see Correspondence vol. 6, letter from Asa Gray, 7 July 1857.


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

Farrer, Thomas Henry. 1868. On the manner of fertilization of the scarlet runner and blue lobelia. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 4th ser. 2: 255–63.

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. 1964. Goethes Werke. Hamburg edition, edited by Erich Trunz. 7th edition. 14 vols. and index. Hamburg: Christian Wegner.


Suggests THF write a paper on violets. Asa Gray, once a sceptic, now declares he is convinced whole structure of a flower is adapted for a cross with another individual.

Urges THF not to give up Pangenesis lightly. "It has thrown light on my mind in regard [to] a great series of complex phenomena."

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Farrer, 1st Baron Farrer
Sent from
Source of text
Linnean Society of London (LS Ms 299/9)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6435,” accessed on 6 December 2021,

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