RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1884. [Letter to James Torbitt, 1876]. Belfast News-Letter (8 February): 4.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed and edited by Christine Chua and John van Wyhe 12.2019. RN1

NOTE: The letter was published in Gardeners Chronicle & New Horticulturist, 1884. p. 159.

See Darwin, C. R. 1876. [Letters to J. Torbitt on potato propagation]. In Torbitt, James, Cras credemus. A treatise on the cultivation of the potato from the seed, having for proposed results the extinction of the disease, and a yield of thirty, forty or more tons of tubers per statute acre. Belfast: Alexander Mayne. F1978.


[page] 4


Subject to trial and approval, CROSS-BRED POTATO SEEDS, Each Seed being the starting point of life of a new variety.

ADVERTISER BEGS LEAVE TO STATE that, during the last eight years, he has been growing each year 5,000 new Varieties of the Plant, selecting the best, and cross-breeding them under instructions from


From whom he has received upwards of thirty letters on the subject, under various dates from January 26, 1876, to January 10, 1882, some extracts from which are subjoined: -

"Down, Beckenham, Kent.


"…I cannot but think that the principle on which you are acting (cross-fertilisation and selection) is right… The more I reflect on your scheme the more I believe it to be the one plan for succeeding in obtaining sound varieties…. I admire your indomitable spirit; if anyone ever deserved to succeed you do so…In my opinion, it would be a national calamity if your crossed seeds were lost… I am delighted to hear so excellent a report on so immense a scale, and I am glad to find that we agree upon the principles of the work so completely… You can use my name or not, just as you think fit, in any application to Government…With my best wishes that you may have the satisfaction of conferring a great benefit on the world.

"I remain, my dear sir, very faithfully yours,




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