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Letter 4061

Darwin, C. R. to Hooker, J. D.

26 [Mar 1863]

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    Summary Add

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    CD's opinion of Lyell's Antiquity of man.

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    Geographical distribution during and between glacial periods.

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    Latent characters and reversion.




My dear Hooker

Is it worth while to send the Medallion by Railway? say the word & it shall be sent.—

I consulted the great Mr Startin for my Eczema; & the enclosed local applications are certainly to me very soothing. The muddy stuff must be shaken, a little poured out & smeared on part with broad camel-brush, & then mopped nearly dry with a bit of rag.— Startin said particularly go to Waugh 177 Regent St.— Please return prescription.

I hope & think that you are too severe on Lyell's early chapters: though so condensed & not well arranged, they seemed to me to convey with uncommon force the antiquity of Man, & that was his object. It did not occur to me, but I fear there is some truth in your criticism that nothing is to be trusted until he Lyell had observed it.—

I am glad to see you stirred up about Tropical plants during Glacial period. Remember that I have many times sworn to you that they coexisted, so my dear fellow you must make them coexist. I do not think greater coolness in a disturbed condition of things would be required than that zone of Himalaya in which you describe some Tropical & temperate forms commingling; & as in lower part of Cameroons, & as Seemann describes on low mountains of Panama— It is, as you say, absurd to suppose that such a genus as Dipterocarpea could have been developed since glacial era; but do you feel so sure, as to oppose a large body of consideration on other side, that this genus could not have been slowly accustomed to a cooler climate. I see Lindley says it has not been brought to England & so could not have been tried in greenhouse. Have you materials to know to what little height it ever ascends mountains of Java or Sumatra. It makes a mighty difference the whole area being cooled; & the area perhaps not being in all respects, such as dampness &c &c fitted for such temperate plants as could get in. But anyhow I am ready to swear again that Dipetrocarpea & any other genus you like to name did survive during a cooler period!

About Reversion you express just what I mean: I somehow blundered & mentally took literally that the child inherited from his grandfather: this view of latency collects a lot of facts—both secondary sexual character in each individual—tendency of latent character to appear temporarily in youth—effect of crossing in educing latent character &c.— When one thinks of a latent character being handed down hidden for a thousand or ten-thousand generations & then suddenly appearing, one is quite bewildered at the host of characters written in invisible ink on the germ.— I have no evidence of the reversion of all characters in a variety.— I quite agree to what you say about genius; I told Lyell that passage made me groan.—

What a pity about Falconer; how singular & how lamentable.—

I am tired, so farewell | Ever my dear Hooker | Yours affectly | C. Darwin

Remember Orchid pods.— I have a passion to grow the seeds (& other motives): I have not a fact to go on, but have a notion (no, I have firm conviction!) that they are parasites in early youth on cryptogams!! Here is a fool's notion; I have some planted on sphagnum.— Do any tropical lichens or mosses or European withstand heat grow on any trees in Hothouse at Kew; if so for love of Heaven favour my madness & have some scraped off & sent me. I am like a gambler, & love a wild experiment. It gives me great pleasure to fancy that I see radicles of orchis-seed penetrating the sphagnum; I know I shall not, & therefore shall not be disappointed.

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 4061.f1
    In his letter to CD of [24 March 1863], Hooker asked if he could borrow a Wedgwood medallion of Erasmus Darwin so that a copy could be made for the museum at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
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    f2 4061.f2
    James Startin was a leading skin specialist in London; he was the senior surgeon at the Hospital for Diseases of the Skin, Blackfriars, and ran a private consultancy at 3 Savile Row, Piccadilly (Medical directory 1863). An entry in CD's Classed account book (Down House MS) dated 24 August 1862 records payment of £1 7s. under the heading `Mr. Startin & Physic'; CD probably consulted Startin while in London in May 1862 (see Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 30 [June 1862]). In his letter to CD of [24 March 1863], Hooker inquired about treatments for eczema, from which his father, William Jackson Hooker, also suffered.
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    f3 4061.f3
    The reference is to the chemists George Waugh & Co. There is an entry in CD's Classed account book (Down House MS) under the classification `Medical attendance', which records payment of £1 3s. to `Waugh' on 11 January 1863.
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    f4 4061.f4
    The enclosure has not been found.
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    f5 4061.f5
    C. Lyell 1863a. See letter from J. D. Hooker, [24 March 1863].
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    f6 4061.f6
    See letter to J. D. Hooker, 17 March [1863] and n. 17, and letter from J. D. Hooker, [24 March 1863].
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    f7 4061.f7
    CD marked several passages in his copy of Hooker's Himalayan journals in which Hooker described the mixing of temperate and tropical plants in Himalayan localities (J. D. Hooker 1854b, 1: 109--10, 2: 18--19 and 319); CD's annotated copy of this work is in the Darwin Library--CUL (see Marginalia 1: 392--3).
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    f8 4061.f8
    Seemann 1852--7, p. 67.
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    f9 4061.f9
    Hooker referred to the `Order … Dipterocarpeæ' (which approximates to the modern family Dipterocarpaceae) in his letter to CD of [24 March 1863]; in his letter of [28 March 1863], Hooker corrected CD's assumption that he had referred only to the genus Dipterocarpus.
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    f10 4061.f10
    The reference is apparently to John Lindley's statement in Lindley 1853, p. 393, that trees of this order were `apparently unknown in Europe in a living state'.
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    f11 4061.f11
    See letter from J. D. Hooker, [24 March 1863].
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    f12 4061.f12
    See letter from J. D. Hooker, [24 March 1863] and n. 5. See also letter to Charles Lyell, 6 March [1863] and n. 43.
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    f13 4061.f13
    Hugh Falconer. See letter from J. D. Hooker, [24 March 1863] and n. 8.
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    f14 4061.f14
    CD probably refers to the seed-capsules of the orchid genus Vanda that he had been promised while on a visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in February 1863; CD wished to compare a capsule produced artificially by John Scott from Acropera loddigesii with capsules from others of the Vandeae (see letter to John Scott, 16 February [1863] and n. 15).
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    f15 4061.f15
    CD probably refers to some of the seeds from Scott's capsule of Acropera loddigesii; Scott's own attempts to germinate the seeds had so far proved ineffectual (see letter from John Scott, 21 March [1863]).
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