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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. W. Baxter   4 September 1873

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Sep 4. 1873

Dear Sir

I want to beg some assistance from you.

I procured a few grains of an immense number of salts of all the alkalis & earths from Messrs Hopkin & Williams, & they charged me at such an extremely low rate, that I am ashamed to ask them to supply me again.1

Would you oblige me by procuring from any trustworthy source the salts in the enclosed list?2 I am much out of health, & if you wd make solutions of these salts in doubly distilled water, at the rate of two grains to two ounces of water, weighing the salts & measuring the water with great care, & charging me for all the unusual care, this wd be a great assistance to me.

I specify doubly distilled water because the plant on which I am experimenting, is certainly acted on by less than one millionth of a grain of phosphate of ammonia.

I enclose a list of the salts & 2 acids. I shd like all the salts to be formed by the same acid, if as I believe, the nitrates of all are soluble. Chlorides wd do, or indeed any other salt.

I hope my request will not be too troublesome & I remain dear Sir | yours faithfully | Ch. Darwin


Hopkin & Williams were manufacturers of fine laboratory and photographic chemicals, with offices at 10 Cavendish Street, London, and a factory in Wandsworth, Surrey (Post Office London directory 1872). CD’s Classed account books (Down House MS) record that he paid Hopkin and Williams £1 2s. on 14 August 1873.
The enclosure has not been found. It was probably a list of some of the chemicals CD used when he was experimenting on what substances caused the inflection of Drosera (sundew) leaves (see Insectivorous plants, pp. 174–6). See also letter to Francis Darwin, [4 September 1873].


Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

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.


Orders list of chemical salts. Ashamed to order from Hopkins and Williams because they charge him such an extremely low rate.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Walmisley Baxter
Sent from
Source of text
John Wilson (dealer) (August 2015)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9042,” accessed on 16 September 2021,

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