skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To G. J. Romanes   16 December 1874


Dec 16th 1874

Dear Mr Romanes

I am much obliged for the present of your book. Messrs Macmillan were so kind as to send me a copy, of which I have read some parts, & as a duplicate may be of some use to you I return it by tomorrow’s post, keeping your presentation copy—1 Your diagram is excellent, and I can see no error in your reasoning, but I shall n⁠⟨⁠ot⁠⟩⁠ feel convinced until thinking over the subject for some weeks & that I cannot do at present.2 It seems to me very desirable first to show the advantage of longevity, & how that is acquired. Your diagram may apply to the sterility of distinct species, tho’ as I have elsewhere argued the higher grades of intersterility must have been incidentally acquired, & so probably have the lower or incipient grades.3

I am very glad that you are taking up Pangenesis so earnestly. My memory has partially come back. It was a Vine with deeply-cut or digitate leaves which I thought would be good for getting graft-hybrids.4 Possibly such a var. may be purchased, but I have asked Mr Farrer to ask his gardener to raise a plant.5 In my Varn under Domn6 vol I p 395 you will find an abstract about the vines. The facts there given are from Gaertner’s “Bastarderzeugung” (I find that I have not Tuschorne’s or Ritters book) but there is a muddle in his references which would have to be traced out from the beginng of his chapter.7 The Horticultural Soc: used to have a very good Library; Royal & Linnean are the two next best for out-of the way books connected with Scientific Horticulture. I think plants are more likely to serve you than animals. I cut Hyacinths longitudinally; but possibly transverse sections might be worth trying. I once thought of tubers of Dahlias, & Crocuses both of which have different & fixed vars. Such tubers or those of the potato or Beet &c &c, offer I think the best chance of cutting a bud in two. All buds or eyes except the bisected one ought to be cut out. But really I have not knowledge enough to advise you abt buds or seeds. You know Mrs Hooker is lately dead & that he is much overworked, otherwise I would have given you an introduction to Dr Hooker.8 If you desire it I will ask him if there is any one at Kew who has been accustomed to budding & grafting & who has a suggestive mind, & you could run down & have a talk with him.

I hope that you are prepared to meet with endless disappointments, as your first experiments will merely serve to teach you what ultimately must be done.

Pray believe me yours | very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

I think I have seen some account of success in grafting 2 coloured Beets.9

It wd. be very difficult to get people to see vast importance of graft-hybrids, as throwing light on sexual generation.


CD refers to Romanes’s Christian prayer and general laws (Romanes 1874d); no copy has been found in the Darwin Libraries at CUL and Down.
Romanes’s diagram has not been found.
See Origin 6th ed., pp. 245–7.
CD and Romanes may have discussed graft hybrids when they met in London (letter to G. J. Romanes, [7 December 1874]).
CD’s letter to Thomas Henry Farrer has not been found. Farrer’s gardener was George Payne (see Correspondence vol. 21, letter from T. H. Farrer, 12 August 1873).
Variation of animals and plants under domestication (Variation).
In Variation 1: 395, CD cited Gärtner 1849, p. 619. On this page, Karl Friedrich von Gärtner cited Georg Heinrich Ritter’s book on viticulture (Ritter 1817) with the note anchor 44; however, in the notes section, Ritter 1817 appeared at note 45. Bastarderzeugung: production of hybrids (German). CD also cited Herr Adorne de Tscharner, who has not been identified; CD’s source for Adorne de Tscharner’s experiments was Gärtner 1849, pp. 620–1, where they are described in an extensive quotation, but since the footnotes are muddled it is not clear where the quotation is from. Romanes was interested in testing CD’s theory of pangenesis (see Variation 2: 357–404) by producing graft hybrids (letter to J. D. Hooker, 20 December 1874).
Frances Harriet Hooker, Joseph Dalton Hooker’s wife, died on 13 November 1874 (Allan 1967, p. 225).
It had long been observed that different coloured beetroots grafted together could be made to adhere satisfactorily, but never blended their colours (see, for example, Masters 1871, p. 154). By contrast, colour blending in carrots was possible (ibid., pp. 144, 154).


Allan, Mea. 1967. The Hookers of Kew, 1785–1911. London: Michael Joseph.

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

Gärtner, Karl Friedrich von. 1849. Versuche und Beobachtungen über die Bastarderzeugung im Pflanzenreich. Mit Hinweisung auf die ähnlichen Erscheinungen im Thierreiche, ganz umgearbeitete und sehr vermehrte Ausgabe der von der Königlich holländischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Stuttgart: E. Schweizerbart.

Masters, Maxwell Tylden. 1871. Grafting: its consequences and effects. Popular Science Review 10: 141–54.

Origin 6th ed.: The origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 6th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

Ritter, Georg Heinrich. 1817. Die Weinlere; oder, Grundzüge des Weinbau’s: mit einer Würdigung der Schrift: Über den Wein von Löbenstein Löbel. Mainz: Zabern.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Thanks GJR for copy of his book [Christian prayer and general laws (1874)].

Discusses breeding and sterility.

Discusses experiments to test Pangenesis. Cites useful references.

Suggests GJR visit Kew gardens.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
George John Romanes
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.455)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9762,” accessed on 4 December 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22