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Darwin Correspondence Project

To ?   31 [May 1875]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.

Ap 31

My dear Sir

I received one of your letters dated the 27th this morning, the other one yesterday.2 As I seldom go to London, I had not heard any news of you for several years, & have been glad to receive your letters. I used in former days always to admire your energy & taste for Natural Science; & it appears by your letters that you retain these same powers— I quite agree with you that time by itself can do nothing in the modification of species.3 You refer to the Papaveraceæ; I am aware that they are self fertile; but this does not preclude their being occasionally crossed, tho’ I cannot remember that I have any evidence that the seedling profit by a cross—4 I have lately been working very hard in getting a book ready for the press on Insectivorous Plants, & am much out of health & shall leave home in a very few days so that I am sure you will excuse brevity5

Hoping that your health will soon be established & you will be a free man, I remain

Yours faithfully | Charles Darwin


The addressee has not been identified: the postmark is from Montrose in Scotland. The amanuensis evidently wrote ‘Ap’ (April) in error.
The letters have not been found.
In Origin 6th ed., p. 82, CD had written, ‘The mere lapse of time by itself does nothing, either for or against natural selection’.
In 1867, CD had performed experiments with seeds of Papaver vagum, P. depressum, P. lecoqii, and P. pinnatifidum (Mediterranean poppy) sent to him from France by Edouard Bornet (see Correspondence vol. 15, letter to Edouard Bornet, 20 August [1867]). In Cross and self fertilisation, pp. 108–9, CD reported the results of his experiments with P. vagum. Papaver vagum, P. depressum, and P. lecoqii are now considered to be varieties of P. dubium, the long-headed poppy.
Insectivorous plants was published on 2 July 1875 (Freeman 1977). CD stayed at Abinger Hall, the home of Thomas Henry Farrer, from 3 June to 5 July 1875 (see CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 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.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

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

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.


Agrees that time alone can do nothing to modify species.

Is aware that the Papaveraceae are self-fertile but feels this does not preclude an occasional cross.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
JU 2 75
Source of text
University of Virginia Library, Special Collections (3314 1: 59)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9960,” accessed on 22 June 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23