RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1955. [Letters to Alphonse de Candolle, 1859-81]. In Baehni, C., Correspondance de Charles Darwin et d'Alphonse de Candolle. Gesnerus, 12 (3-4): 109-56.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe 5.2022. RN1

NOTE: See record in the Freeman Bibliographical Database, enter its Identifier here. Copy in: CUL-DAR258.2039.  

"Candolle, Alphonse Louis Pierre Pyramus de, 1806-93. French botanist of Swiss origin. ED in 1839 May 27, recorded Mr Henslow, Uncle Baugh and "M. de Candolle". 1840 C dined at 12 Upper Gower Street to meet the Sismondis. 1841-50 Prof. Natural History Geneva, succeeding his father, Augustin Pyramus de Candolle (1778-1841). 1855 C's Géographie botanique raissonée, 2 vols., Paris, was very important to CD in his study of cultivated plants. 1859 CD sent 1st edn of Origin. 1869 Foreign Member Royal Society. 1873 Histoire des sciences et des savants depuis deux siècles, Geneva. C used the same portfolio method of note reference as CD, independently evolved. LL 3: 333. 1880 Autumn C visited Down House. Recollection of the visit in: 1882 Darwin considéré au point de vue des causes de son succès, Geneva. In English: Bettany, 1887, pp. 148-150 (F2095), in Darwin Online. 1889 Linnean Medal Linnean Society." (Paul van Helvert & John van Wyhe, Darwin: A Companion, 2021)

 For complete letters with important editorial notes see:

11 November (1859), in LL 2: 216.

17 June (1862), in Correspondence vol. 7, p. 255.

14 January (1863), in ML 1: 233-4.

31 January (1863), in Correspondence vol. 11, p. 101.

4 August (1863), in Correspondence vol. 11, p. 580

6 July 1868, in LL 3: 98

20 July (1868), in Correspondence vol. 16, p. 634.

11 October, 1869, in Correspondence vol. 17, pp. 426-7.

2 November (1872), in Correspondence vol. 20, pp. 476-7.

11 December 1872, in LL 3: 169-71.

18 January (1873), in LL 1: 348.

3 August 1877, in LL 1: 368-9.

10 October 1877, in Correspondance vol. 25, p. 406.

15 August 1878, in Correspondance vol. 26, pp. 352-3.

28 May 1880, in LL 3: 332-3.

24 January 1881, in ML 2: 429-30.

6 July [1881], in Correspondance vol. 29.

[page] 117


Darwin à Candolle

June 17th (1862)

My dear Sir,

I am extremely much obliged for your kind and very interesting letter. I am pleased that you are interested by the Primula case. Your questions and remarks show that you have gone to the root of the matter. I am now trying various analogous experiments on several plants and on the seedlings raised from the so-called heteromorphic and homomorphic unions; and the results (as far as I have yet seen; for the capsules are gathered, but not yet examined) are interesting. Whenever I publish, I will do myself the pleasure of sending you a copy. I am particularly obliged for your information on Alkanna. I have examined the small imperfect flowers of Viola and Oxalis; the case is very different both functionally and structurally from that of Primula. You kindly enquire about my larger work; it does make progress, but very slowly owing to my own weak health and ill-health in my family. I have, also, been induced to publish a small work on the Fertilisation of Orchids, which has taken up nearly ten months. As Mr Bentham and Asa Gray think well of this Book, I have sent by this post a copy for you. One main object has been to show how wonderfully perfect the structure of plants is; another regards close breeding in and in, to which I see you have attended. I am not at all surprised that you are

9 On the various contrivances by which British and Foreign orchids are fertilized by insects and on the good effects of intercrossing, J. Murray, London 1862.

[page] 118

not willing to admit natural selection; the subject hardly admits of direct proof or evidence. It will be believed in only by those who think that it connects and partly explains several large classes of plants; in the same way opticians admit the undulatory theory of light, though no one can prove the existence of ether or its undulations, I hope you will publish on Quercus, and I shall be most grateful for a copy; the genus has long appeared to me preeminently interesting under the point of view to which you refer. I am, also, rejoiced to hear that you have the intention of again returning to Geographical Distribution. I believe few, or no one, can have read your truly great work with more care than I have, and no one can feel more respect and admiration for it and its author. Pray believe me, my dear Sir,

 Yours sincerely and respectfully, Ch. Darwin


10 On trouve déjà cette même comparisons en 1860 dans une lettre de Darwin à Asa Gray (Life and letters 2, 285): "Your distinction between an hypothesis and theory seems to be very ingenious; but I do not think it is ever followed. Every one now speaks of the undulatory theory of light; yet the ether is itself hypothetical, and the undulations are inferred only from explaining the phenomena of light."


[page] 121


Darwin à Candolle

Jan. 31 (1863)

My dear Sir,

I thank you for so kindly writing to me; and many parts of your letter have interested me much. I take a keen interest in progress of species-question, and

[page] 122

am delighted to hear of the Count Saporta's views. I really think that I believe in as much migration as even you believe in, and as shown in your admirable great work; only I do not believe nearly so much in continental extensions and I believe more (not very much more, I begin to suspect, and it pleases me greatly) than you do in modification in form. That is good remark on melons, and I shall probably use it, in conjunction with improvement of the pear. Also many thanks about oranges: I confess that I thought you rather too sceptical about Macfayden's statement in W. Indies; I must change my tone.

What you say about antiquity of man, has occurred to me; it must make considerable difference in our views on domesticated animals and plants. How very interesting the Swiss discoveries of the old Lake habitations have been; but I know only Rütimeyer's admirable essay, in which there is some little on Plants by Dr Christ; I am very much obliged for your hint and must enquire; but I find German very slow reading and it wastes much time. I received a few days ago an address from New Zealand, and traces of Prehistoric man have been found there!

I thank you for your Photograph, which I am glad to add to some others. I have never had a proper "carte photographique" taken of myself; but I enclose one done 2 or 3 years ago by my son, if worth your acceptance.


[page] 123

I am almost tired of my present big book (though a mere trifle to yours) on Variation under Domestication; for I have not sufficient knowledge to treat the plant-part well, but I have done so much that I will finish it.

Pray believe me, my dear Sir, with my best thanks and sincere respect.

Yours very faithfully, Ch. Darwin


Darwin à Candolle

Aug. 4th (1863)

My dear Sir

Will you permit me to beg you to interest any young Botanist at Geneva to observe one point for me. But the possibility rests on Lythrum Thymifolia or Hyssipifolia growing near you and being still in flower. Vaucher says (Hist. Phys. Tom. 2. p. 371) that these two species are dimorphic like Primula. I have examined several dried specimens of L. hyssipifolia and can see no trace of this fact. If either species present any difference in length of pistil and stamens, it is most likely that three forms should be presented. Could you get this point looked at for me; and if possible a few flowers of the two or three forms sent me in a letter. I may add that in some species of Lythrum two of the forms have the pistil hidden within the calyx.

I have been trying most laborious experiments on L. salicaria, and am extremely anxious to hear about and see if possible, L. thymifolia.

I trust to your kindness to forgive me for troubling you and remain, my dear Sir, with sincere respect,

Yours very faithfully, Ch. Darwin

[page] 130

Darwin à Candolle

Freshwater, Isle of Wight, July 20 (1868)

My dear Sir

I write a line merely to thank you for your kindness in telling me of your accidental error about the thorns, which I might have quoted and should probably have never observed the error.

I will be cautious in regard to the muscles of the scalp, and will put the alternative of persistence. As these muscles are so highly variable, and are known in other to be apparently liable to reversion, this view seemed to me the most probable in the very curious case which you have given me. My health has failed again in the usual manner, and I have been ordered to do no work, and so have come here for some weeks entire idleness, which I find very hard work. My wife is pleased to receive your kind remembrances. I do not think I expressed myself strongly enough, how much I was interested and pleased by your last long and very remarkable letter. Pray believe me with most sincere respect and thanks,

Yours very faithfully, Ch. Darwin


[page] 131

Darwin à Candolle

Oct. 11, 1869

My dear Sir,

I am very much obliged for your extremely interesting letter. Your experiment strikes me as a very valuable and simple one,—so simple that now that it has been once suggested, I am surprized that no one ever thought of trying it before. Nägeli, indeed, in one of his recent essays complains that no one has made this experiment with Alpine and lowland forms of the same species. I forwarded your letter to Dr Hooker, who seems very glad to have the opportunity of making the trial. As I shall have many experiments in progress next spring, which cannot be deferred, and as I have little strength to spare, I believe it would be the wisest plan to send all the seeds to Kew. But I will open some of the packets and see how many seeds there are, so that if numerous I will try a few myself.

I will not however sow them till the spring, for I have lately had some experience in raising during the winter hardy annuals in my greenhouses, and I find that they become much drawn up.

With my best thanks for your kindness and the most sincere respect, I remain, my dear Sir, Yours very faithfully, Charles Darwin


[page] 135

Darwin à Candolle

Nov. 2 (1872)

My dear Sir

I am much obliged for your great kindness in having sent me your "Histoire des Sciences et des Savants". From what I see of the contents I look forward with real eagerness to read it; but I shall not be able to begin for a week or two. I have just published a small book on Expression, which I did not suppose you would care to see; but from the nature of your recent studies, parts may possibly interest you, so I have told my Publisher to send you a copy. My health keeps very weak and I dread the exertion of grappling with the fearful subject of variation; so I am now employed in working up some observations in Botanical physiology made twelve years ago, which I intend publishing with some other new matters and some of my old papers on Climbing Plants, Dimorphism (etc? petit mot illisible) in one volume.

With cordial thanks and sincere respect, pray believe me

Yours very faithfully, Charles Darwin


[page] 150

Darwin à Candolle

Oct. 10, 1877

My dear Sir,

I thank you cordially for your two letters on bloom which will be very useful to us as showing how much or how little is known about the distribution of plants thus provided. Your remarks seem very just with respect to evaporation and absorption. On the latter head we have made very few experiments as yet


[page] 151

the investigation has been a tedious and difficult one, but I hope that we shall be able to throw some little light on the subject. Again accept my thanks for your great kindness, and I remain, with much respect,

My dear Sir, Yours sincerely, Charles Darwin


[page] 152

Darwin à Candolle

Aug. 15, 1878

My dear Sir

I thank you cordially for your most kind letter, which has told me much that was new and has interested me much. I cannot pretend that I care greatly about my election to the Institut, but I do care very greatly for the kind sympathy of my friends, and for none more than for yours.

I have been away from home for a fortnight and shall not return for another week; and when there I shall no doubt find the book which you have been so kind as to order to be sent me, and will look to Smilax and any other generalities.

I am always sorry to hear about the insecurity of the identification of fossile leaves; but Hooker has frequently made with vehemence nearly the same remarks as yours.

With the greatest respect, believe me

Yours truly obliged Ch. Darwin

[page] 153

P.S. If your son is with you pray tell him that I hear that Du Barry has cultivated Utricularia with and without aquatic animals, and that the former or fed plant have flourished in a stupendous manner.

[page] 155


Darwin à Candolle

July 6th (81)

I have just received a grand volume (Vol. Tertium) of the Podromus, which I suppose that I owe to you or your sons great kindness, and for which I am much obliged. If, however, I owe the volume to any one of the authors of the several monographs, I daresay you will have before long some communication with him and will you then be so good as to express my acknowledgements. I have just returned from a 5 weeks holidays at our English Lakes, which are so beautiful that I think they must almost vie with the Swiss Lakes. As a consequence of my holidays I have a pile of letters to answer.

Pray believe me, Yours very sincerely, Charles Darwin


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