RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1878. Prefatory letter. In Kerner, A., Flowers and their unbidden guests. With a prefatory letter by Charles Darwin, M.A., F.R.S. The translation revised and edited by W. Ogle, M.A., M.D. London: C. Kegan Paul, pp. v-vi.

REVISION HISTORY: Scanned, transcribed and edited by John van Wyhe 2002-8. RN3

NOTE: This letter precedes the English translation of Anton Kerner, Die Schützmittel der Blüthen gegen unberufene Gäste, Innsbruck, 1876.

The editors of the Darwin correspondence noted "A draft of this letter in DAR 202: 74 contains the following additional sentence at this point: 'As you have attended to the allied subject of the fertilisation of flowers through the agency of insects, I hope that you may induced to append some notes to this fine work'." Correspondence vol. 26, p. 361.

A German translation of this letter appeared in advertisements for Kerner's original work in German, see for example F3443.

[page v]


MY DEAR DR. OGLE,1—I am extremely glad to hear that you have undertaken to edit Kerner's work on Flowers and their Unbidden Guests;2 for it opens out a highly original and curious field of research. It is possible that some of Kerner's generalisations may hereafter require to be slightly modified; but I feel sure that every remark which he has made well deserves careful consideration. The beauty and poetry of flowers will not be at all lessened to the general observer, by his being led through Kerner's investigation to notice various small, and apparently quite unimportant, details of structure,—such as the presence of differently directed hairs, viscid glands, etc., which prevent the access of certain insects, and not of others. He will, I believe, come to the conclusion that flowers are not only delightful from their beauty and fragrance,

[page] vi

but display most wonderful adaptations for various purposes. I cordially wish that your translation may find many readers, not so much for your sake as for theirs.

Believe me very faithfully yours,



August 17, 1878.

1 William Ogle (1827-1912), physician, naturalist and superintendent of Statistics to the Registrar-General.

2 Anton Kerner von Marilaun (1831-1898), Austrian botanist. Kerner 1876. See Darwin's annotated copy in CUL-DAR139.15.1.

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Citation: John van Wyhe, ed. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (

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