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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. S. Henslow   [4 November 1843]

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Henslow

I sent that weariful Atriplex to Babington, as I said I would, & he tells me that he has reared a fac-simile by sowing the seeds of A. angustifolia (I see Hooker1 considers the angustifolia is a variety of A. patula[)] in rich soil.— He says he knows the A. hastata & that it is very different.— Until your last note I had not heard that Mr Kemp’s seeds had produced 2 Polygonums. He informs me he saw each plant bring up the husk of the individual seed which he planted— I believe myself in his accuracy, but I have written to advise him not to publish, for as he collected only two kinds of seed—& from them 2. Polygonum, 2. spec. or var. of Atriplex & a Rumex have come up, anyone wd say (as you suggested) that more probably all the seeds were in the soil, than that seeds, which must have been buried for tens of thousands of years, shd retain their vitality— If the Atriplex had turned out new, the evidence would indeed, have been good.—2 I regret this result of poor Mr Kemps seeds, especially as I believe from his statements & the appearance of the seeds, that they did germinate & I further have no doubt that their antiquity must be immense.— I am sorry also for the trouble you have had—

I heard the other day through a circuitous course, how you are astonishing all the clod-hoppers in your whole part of the country & far more wonderful, as it was remarked to me, that you had not in doing this aroused the envy of all the good surrounding sleeping parsons— What good you must do to the present & all succeeding generations—

Farewell, my dear patron | C. D.


W. J. Hooker 1838, 1: 379. CD’s copy of volume one is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
CD changed his mind about publication of the results (see letters from William Kemp, 10 November 1843 and 24 November 1843, and Appendix VI). See Correspondence vol. 18, Supplement, letter to William Kemp, 22 November [1843].


Hooker, William Jackson. 1838. The British flora; in two volumes. Vol. 1, comprising the phænogamous, or flowering plants, and the ferns. 4th ed. London.


Babington has reared a facsimile [of W. Kemp’s Atriplex] by sowing seeds of A. angustifolia. CD has advised Kemp not to publish since anyone would say it was more probable that the seeds of his specimens were in the soil, than that the ones he found had retained vitality. CD regrets this, as he has no doubt of the antiquity of the seeds.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Stevens Henslow
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 93: A13–14
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 712,” accessed on 28 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 2