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Letter 804

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

30 Dec 1844
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Higher resolution and downloadable images available from Cambridge Digital Library

    Summary Add

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    Thanks for CD's comments on "sketch".

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    Lengthy discussion of geographical distribution and island floras.

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    Has been "delighted with" [Robert Chambers'] Vestiges [of creation (1844)].

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    Galapagos flora work goes on well.

Transcription

West Park Kew

Decr. 30. 1844.

My dear Darwin

When I sent you my crude notes I had no idea of imposing, by my importunity, the task you have so kindly performed, I do not know whether I was more ashamed at my own conduct, or pleased with its consequence, when I read your kind letter. I do indeed thank you very much for your hints, most of which must I plainly see be acted up to & I do not doubt all, when I have time to do something more to the subject. Botanizing in narrow Geog. limits does give one very narrow views, which I shall hope to get over as I proceed to the other floras' of the South. The material approximation of S. New Zeald & Ant. Amer. amounts of course to a nonentity, but when once carried away with the discovery of their being a certain Botanical similarity between the two, I fancied what did not exist. Nothing was further from my intentions than to have written any thing which would lead one to suppose that genera common to two places indicate a similarity in the external circumstances under which they are developed, though I see I have given you excellent grounds for supposing that such were my opinions: it will puzzle you to see how, but that identical sentence was more intended to express the very contrary, I will set it right before I do any thing more to that subject, which cannot be before I get the cryptogamic part of Ld Aucklands & Campbells Isld. finished.

I am not in the least in want of the books you have, nor shall be for a month, so pray do not hurry with them. I do hope you did not order the numbers of L.J.B. because I sent you uncut ones, as the cutting can make no difference in the world, we have not a wholly uncut copy in the house of any duplicate part. Bailliere is a shark, I am going to Paris if possible in Feby, & will enquire about the Annales. I asked Brown about Flinders' & he has put me on the scent of a copy of his part for 10/ or 15/ which I shall buy at any rate & send to Colenso if you do not think it worth that to you. I wd certainly not give over 20/ for the whole work or 30/ at the outside.

The paucity of peculiar Azorean species is very strange & more particularly the want of W. Ind. or N. Am. forms, though the current washes up canoes (if all be true) on their shores. I have written to ask Watson. I doubt if Madeira abounds with peculiarities; Plants have such wide ranges, especially over some Islds. that we are forced to look on a few peculiar species (proportionally to the whole) as constituting a peculiar flora, in many instances. I have been greivously at a loss to get any thing about the J. Fernandez flora, without going through the Herb. Hook.!— I am not inclined to believe Pœppig & Bertero. As to Bory I should think on looking over my list of St Helena plants that they were remarkably non polymorphous.— ?did he know any other flora's at all or even that he argues from. a nucleus

I have seen your little stone at Brown's, he thought too much of it he says, it is certainly not organic, it appears to me a nucleus covered with a thick cracked coat of similar substance, & the cracks are filled up with also similar substance, which projects at the lips of the cracks, forming the anastomozing ridges: cavities, as at (a), occur between the nucleus & its coat, not filled up with the deposition which filled the cracks & there are small chrystals, it is nearly homogenous & all chalcedony.

Brown seems to haul out of the V. D L. fossils being Eucalypti, but will give no opinion. I have taken one lump to the polishers to cut the apparent petiole of a leaf, which sticks out of the specimen. My Kerg. wood is coniferous, not of Araucaroid structure however. The V. D L. wood is imbedded in solid basalt & Streletski says the trees were imbedded in fluid lava in that & other cases. He believes that similar geological formations, of the same era, have similar floras, & instances Illawarra, two other very remote spots of Australia & a spot in V. D. L. all isolated, all of greenstone, (which he knows for many reasons to have been erupted on the same day) as containing precisely the same plants. The said rocks are the same by chemical analysis, but though other rocks are also the same in composition they have not the same flora because not erupted at the same time. If true this would argue that each geol. era was peopled per se & of course that the same species was planted in two places at once: but I doubt Streletskis means of judging of the floras.— I think I quote him properly, his book appears in February—

I have been delighted with Vestiges, from the multiplicity of facts he brings together, though I do [not] agree with his conclusions at all, he must be a funny fellow: somehow the books looks more like a 9 days wonder than a lasting work: it certainly is “filling at the price”.— I mean the price its reading costs, for it is dear enough otherwise; he has lots of errors. Have you read “MaCullochs proofs & attributes”? After all what is the great difference between Vestiges & Lamarck, whom he laughs at. In one places he implies that species are made by the will of the mother, under which I wonder he does not quote a subject I have lately been struck with, & that is, the real or apparent effect that a mental emotion of the mother may have on her unborn offspring.— I thought till lately that all these nursery stories were laid upon the shelf; but have lately heard some staggering circumstances related. All Sealers have told me that the young, taken out of the clubbed mother, bear similar club marks on their heads & this they swear to. If you care to hear any thing on the subject I will go on at some future time. Do not think I am arguing this for the developement of species!—

I have drawn up the Sandwich Isld & Society Isld lists, they are woefully imperfect, the representative species are very few, there is a certain similarity between them, from both containing, in common with other Pacific Islds, many plants apparently derived from the E. Indies i.e. from Asia. The Sandwich Isld Flora is by far the most peculiar & the least tropical, perhaps the most allied to the American. Its situation under the influence, I suppose) of the cold winds of the two continents, combined with its own high snow clad Mts must make its climate different from that of Tahiti. As far as materials go, the several Islds of the Sandwich present numerous instances of representative species, nothing in this respect is known of the Society. Shall I send you the lists?— The Sandwich is certainly a very peculiar flora. I am reading up the Pacific, to the end of investigating its flora & that of the coral & other Islds.: more particularly to know what plants are best fitted for transportation, whose names I am getting together. I often come across bits I think you might want to know of, if you would tell me any subjects you particularly want information on I can just as easily as not note them, premising I shall do it highly ignorantly, such as occurrence of coral blocks high above water mark. These books do make me earnestly long to go to those Islds Colenso sent some more Dinornis bones, I took them to Owen who found they were proofs of two of his species (which were dubious) being good, there was no head. I have written to my “plains of India” friend about angular (sharp), boulders, can I ask him any thing else: he is son of Dr Thomson prof of Chemistry & a good Naturalist. I am getting confused in considering the multiplicity of ways that have been proposed for peopling our globe with plants, as it now appears. McCulloch argues for a developement continued up to the present moment! & double creation of the same species ad libitum, which is taking a very sharp knife to the Gordian knot.

Galapago flora goes on well, I have stuck at a highly curious new genus, amongst the supplements. I had occasion to grub up some Cape de Verd's & thought, when at it, I would name one Nat. Ord. took Malvaceae, one of the largest, found 10 species almost all common not only to Africa but also to W. Indies & so gave up in disgust, feeling I had made a fool of myself in ever supposing them any way peculiar: what difference there is between the Islds must depend on local causes.

I shall not forget your Alpine Floras but have nothing to add at present

Many many happy returns of the season, I hope that each may find you more fully restored to perfect health. | Ever your's most truly | Jos D Hooker.

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 804.f1
    The London Journal of Botany.
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    f2 804.f2
    Hewett Cottrell Watson.
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    f3 804.f3
    The combined collections of William Jackson Hooker and Joseph Dalton Hooker, the most extensive herbarium in Britain at that time.
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    f4 804.f4
    This was referred to in the letter from J. D. Hooker, 12 December 1844; agate is a form of chalcedony.
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    f5 804.f5
    New South Wales.
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    f6 804.f6
    Strzelecki 1845.
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    f7 804.f7
    [Chambers] 1844.
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    f8 804.f8
    MacCulloch 1837. For CD's notes on MacCulloch see Gruber and Barrett 1974, pp. 414–22.
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    f9 804.f9
    [Chambers] 1844, p. 231.
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    f10 804.f10
    [Chambers] 1844, pp. 218–9.
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    f11 804.f11
    The Sandwich Islands, now called the Hawaiian Islands; the Society Islands include Tahiti.
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    f12 804.f12
    Coral reefs, pp. 131–4, where CD explained exposed coral rocks as the result of elevation.
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    f13 804.f13
    Colenso 1843. Dinornis, an extinct New Zealand bird, was first described by Richard Owen in 1839 from a single bone. A more complete description based on additional specimens was given in R. Owen 1843b. William Colenso's specimens may be those listed in Flower 1879–91, 3: 430, as metatarsal bones having been presented by ‘J. Colenso Esq.’ The skull of Dinornis, an important classificatory feature, was not described until R. Owen 1846a.
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    f14 804.f14
    Thomas Thomson.
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