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Letter 7272

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

10 July 1870


Sends seeds from R. L. Playfair in Algiers.

F. Delpino writes asking where M. A. Curtis has published physiological observations on Dionaea ["Enumeration of plants growing spontaneously around Wilmington, North Carolina", Boston J. Nat. Hist. 1 (1834–7): 82–140; see Insectivorous plants, p. 301 n.].

Talk with Duke of Argyll on CD’s and Wallace’s views on man.


Royal Gardens Kew

July 10/70

Dear Darwin

Enclosed seeds & note just arrived from Playfair of Algiers,I do not quite understand it. as I asked only for what you told me.& here are a whole lot of others seeds— all were in duplicate parcels,so I have kept one set; assuming that he means one for us & onefor youf1

Delpino writes asking me where a Mr Curtis has publishedphysiological observations on Dionea, I cannot guess, do you know.f2I have an obscure recollection of some leaf observations byW. Curtis in his introduction to Botany, a book I have not— Haveyou any reference to any such observations on Dionaea Cephalotus orNepenthes?f3

Very many thanks for the Orchid papers which I will return when donewith.f4

I had a talk with the D. of Argyll last night, with whom I dined,about origin of man, & found him in a “cleft stick” about Wallace,believing him to be right in the fact about man; but allowing thathe must be wrong in his argument! (he had not read that paper ofWallaces)—f5 What a clever little beggar it is!— but I cannot followhis views about man; or quite see what he would have us to believe—His chief quarrell with the “Origin” is that you do not state thatthe order of evolution is preordained though he believes that youwould admit this.— I told him that I did not think this was anybusiness of your’s—that you did not pretend to go into theorigin of life, only into it’s phenomena. I could not, before hiswife & children especially,f6 go into this matter, & avow my own(& I suppose your) belief that all speculations on preordination areutterly idle in the absence of better materials than theologies &cosmogonies supply us with—that in fact the whole subject is beyondthe range of our conceptions:

Thanks for telling me of Sach’s Lehrbuch which I will order.f7

Ever yr affec | J D Hooker

DAR 103: 53–4; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (DC 17a: 117)



See the enclosure from Robert Lambert Playfair. The seeds have notbeen found but see the memorandum to J. D. Hooker, [13 June 1870?]. CD hadasked for seeds of Iberis amara, I. umbellata, Nolana prostrata(now N. humifusa), Hibiscus africanus (now H. trionum), Cannawarszewiczii (now C. indica), and Mimulus luteus.The Inwards Book (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) records the receipt ofseeds of Lathyrus tingitanus from Playfair on 4 July 1870. No otherseeds were recorded.
The references are to Federico Delpino and Moses AshleyCurtis. Curtis had published a description of Dionaea muscipula inM. A. Curtis 1834. In Insectivorous plants, p. 301 n., CD noted thatCurtis was the first person to describe the secretion of the glands inDionaea and cited M. A. Curtis 1834.
Hooker refers to William Curtis and probably to Curtis’s Lectureson botany (W. Curtis 1805).
See letters to J. D. Hooker, 2 July [1870] and nn. 3 and 4, and 8 July [1870].
George Douglas Campbell evidently agreed with the view expressed byAlfred Russel Wallace in an essay, ‘The limits of natural selection asapplied to man’, that humans were not subject to natural selection tothe same extent as other organisms (see Wallace 1870a,pp. 332–71).
Campbell’s wife was Elizabeth Georgiana Campbell. They had twelvechildren (ODNB s.v. Campbell, George Douglas).
Hooker refers to Julius Sachs and to Sachs 1870. CD’s annotatedpresentation copy of Sachs 1870 is in the Darwin Library–CUL (seeMarginalia 1: 727).
Hooker’s letter has not been found; the enclosure may have beenthe memorandum to J. D. Hooker, [13 June 1870?]. Iberis umbellata is globe candytuft.
Playfair refers to Gaetano Durando. See letter to J. D. Hooker, [29 June 1870] andn. 2. In Cross and self fertilisation, p. 105, CD mentions receivingseeds of Iberis umbellata sent from Algiers by Durando.
Playfair’s eldest son has not been identified. The daughterreferred to was probably Agnes Mary Playfair. The meeting of theBritish Association took place in Liverpool from 14 to 21 September1870 (Report of the fortieth meeting of the British Association forthe Advancement of Science, held at Liverpool, p. lxxii).
Lyon Playfair.
The president of the ‘Cour Imperiale’ has not been identified.
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