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Darwin Correspondence Project

From A. W. Bennett   8 May 1873

6, Park Village East, | Regent’s Park, | N.W.

May 8th. 1873.

My dear Sir

I am much obliged by your kindness in calling my attention to Müller’s book on Fertilisation, which I had already procured. & partially read, being indeed engaged to review it both for the “Academy” & the “Gardeners Chronicle”.1 It seems a most careful & valuable compilation; the part on the structure of the mouth of Insects has especially interested me; being in accordance with my own observations (though opposed to the statements of almost all entomologists) as far as Eristalis & other Syrphidæ are concerned.2 I tried about two years ago, but without success, to induce the Ray Society to entrust to me the editing of a similar compilation of all that is known up to the present time on the Fertilisation of flowers; possibly in a little while they may now be induced to take it up. I fear such a work would not be remunerative for any English publisher to undertake as a speculation on his own account.3

In an early no. of “Nature” you will see a note of mine on the Fertilisation of Viola arvensis.4

Believe me | very truly yrs Alfred W Bennett

C. Darwin Esq. F.R.S.


See letter to A. W. Bennett, 5 May [1873] and n. 1. Bennett’s reviews of H. Müller 1873 appeared in Academy, 15 August 1873, pp. 307–9, and Gardeners’ Chronicle, 17 May 1873, p. 685.
In his review in Gardeners’ Chronicle, 17 May 1873, p. 685, Bennett noted that most naturalists held that the Syrphidae (hoverflies) and other Diptera (flies and midges) simply carried pollen away, but Müller’s detailed investigation of the proboscis of Eristalis (a genus of hoverflies) confirmed that the pollen was consumed. Müller had earlier sent CD drawings of the mouthparts of Syrphidae (see Correspondence vol. 15, letter from Hermann Müller, 23 October 1867) and his paper on flower-visiting insects (H. Müller 1869).
The Ray Society was founded in order to publish commercially unviable natural history monographs; it did not publish a monograph by Bennett. See Platt and Heppell 1994, pp. 10–16.
Bennett’s article on the fertilisation of the wild pansy (Viola arvensis; Bennett 1873a) was published in Nature, 15 May 1873, pp. 49–50. CD referred to Bennett 1873 in Cross and self fertilisation, p. 123 n.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Cross and self fertilisation: The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1876.

Müller, Hermann. 1869. Die Anwendung der Darwin’schen Lehre auf Blumen und blumen-besuchende Insekten. [Read 18 May 1869.] Verhandlungen des naturhistorischen Vereines der preussischen Rheinlande und Westphalens (Botanik, Correspondenzblatt) 26: 43–66.

Müller, Hermann. 1873. Die Befruchtung der Blumen durch Insekten und die gegenseitigen Anpassungen beider. Ein Beitrag zur Erkenntniss des ursächlichen Zusammenhanges in der organischen Natur. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann.


Thanks for reference to Hermann Müller on fertilisation [Die Befruchtung der Blumen (1873)].

Publication plans.

Letter details

Letter no.
Alfred William Bennett
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Park Village East, 6
Source of text
DAR 160: 140
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8905,” accessed on 3 July 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21