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Letter 884

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

[mid-July 1845]
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    Summary Add

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    The translation of Humboldt's Kosmos [Cosmos (1846–58)] is delayed.

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    Gives instances of peculiar genera with several good species in very small islands. Scarcity of insects on islands.

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    JDH cannot prove that there is much hybridising, but does not see why there should not be. "Bother variation, development & all such subjects, it is reasoning in a circle I believe after all."

Transcription

[Edinburgh]

offshoot from it such as I have attempted to portray— I suppose there can be no doubt that the population of some of the Islands lately discovered was fast disappearing from sensuality &c: it is equally evident that under such circumstances it did not attain its maximum: If the accession of civilization is a miracle so must the decline of it be also, for the protracted miracle would become a 2d nature.——

I have heard nothing about Kosmos, Bailliers I suppose to be a species of Piracy. Humboldt had agreed, that Murray should have the publishing of the translation & passed me the compliment of asking who would be the best translator (for I cannot suppose he intended me the high honor of asking for information) I said Mrs Sabine as translator of Wrangel, & he commissioned me to tell her how much he wished she would take a part in it—, consequently, with Murray's sanction, (who wished Mrs Austin to have it, which H. did not like at all) I told Mrs S. & Col. S. wrote to Baron H. about it: this is all I know, I hope Murray's is Mrs Sabine's translation, I will ask when I come up to London. I feared for Strzlecki's book, I am very glad he did not send me the Bot. mss as he promised:, he is a nice fellow— Bronn's Gesichte I know nothing of. Bother variation, developement & all such subjects,! it is reasoning in a circle I believe after all. As a Botanist I must be content to take species as they appear to be not as they are, & still less as they were or ought to be. You see I am amazed at my own incapacity to fathom or follow the subject to any good purpose (open confession is good for the soul).

I think I can give you plenty of instances of peculiar genera with several good species in very small Island. E.G. diag St Helena. Commidendron (arb. Compos.) 5 reported species, certainly 3 good.

Lachanodes (arb. Compos.) 2 good species.— Juan Fernandez.

Dendroseris (arb. Compos.) 7 species I do not know all, but suppose them all good.—

Robinsonia (arb. Compos.) 4 species, I do not know them well. Madeira

Sinapodendron, 3 species—a peculiar genus of Cruciferæ. Sandwich Islands.

Schiedia (Caryophylleæ) 3 species

Peteria 3 species

Kadua 9 species I think both these genera are quite peculiar very nearly so at any rate Rubiaceae

Dubautia (Compos) 2 species

Microchæta (Do) 4 species

Clermontea 5 species

Delissea— 7 species Lobeliaceæ I am not sure that the genera are all peculiar, but nearly so.

Rollandia 2 species

Phyllostegia 5 spec in Owhyhee, 2 in Oahu Labiatæ. I think both are peculiar

Stenogyne— 4 sp in Owhyheeramme

These Sandwich Islander's are not positive evidence, as I do not know how far some of the genera may not have solitary representative species in seperate Islets.

Of confined genera there are many examples of solitary Islands having more than one well marked species & still more of Islets having well marked species which together form a group of a mundane genus,

I have always felt opposed to Bory's (who is a great Gascon! but not altogether to be despised) views of the variableness of Insular species

I certainly have no good evidence in favor of the loose statement I made & which corresponded with a vague idea I held, of Insects being scarce on Islands: yet 13 species is surely very few for Keeling if size is to be regarded, how often may you not find 13 on your own window?— Kerguelens Land has only 3.. New Zealand & V. D. L. are certainly poor—in Trinidad (of Brazils) I saw only 3, I think, a Hemerobius & the House-flie & cockroach, introduced from a wreck: Canaries & Madeira are poor, I think: Cape de Verds are too dependent on the W. coast of Africa to judge from— nothing struck me as so marvellous as the appearance of 4 Insecta & many Arachnida you mention as on St Pauls rocks.— Still I agree with you on the main point that such few as there are, wd be enough for impregnation, if they only went to work about it..

I cannot prove that there is much hybridizing in nature, but do not see why there should not be, as we do not doubt that species require the pollen of other individuals exactly as in the higher animals you must not breed in (I think the term is.—

I cannot hook my Kerguelens tree or climate on to the vacillating temperature of S. America, many thanks for the information though.

Do you connect the union of Conchogeographic districts at the Galapagos with the currents?—

Every young Irish yew bears berries, there is a sort of Irish yew in Ayrshire which I believe like the goddess Diana of the Ephesians dropped down from heaven & picked itself up in a garden, when I hear whether it bears berries I will tell you if she be equally chaste If the yew had been Italian & bows made it wd have been dedicated to Diana.

After class I go to old Chas. Lyells at Kinnordy, & shall not be home till middle of August, I hope we may meet in October, I often think of our two meetings, & long for another.

And now to bother you for the last time, The reappearance of plants in certain situations is a curious phenomena of which instances are multiplying daily in this neighbourhood: there are doubtless series of seeds in some grounds lying dormant but not dead: what a curious principle life must be & what an uncomfortable abode it must often have. Cutting open rail-ways causes a change of vegetation in two ways, by turning up buried live seeds, & by affording space & protection for the growth of transported seeds: so that it is often very difficult to determine to which cause the appearance or superabundance of a plant is attributable The Dutch Clover case is constantly quoted but the Stirling castle one is more curious. The Kings Park was dug up in about 1650? during the 1st rebellion, wherever the cuts were made for encampments, the broom appeared, but in a year or two disappeared.. In rebellion of 1745, it was again encamped upon & again Broom came up & & disappeared: it was afterwards ploughed & immediately became covered with Broom, which has all for the 3d time vanished.

I am still talking over the Students. Every Saturday I take them on excursion & walk them 20 miles gathering plants, about 20 or 30 generally go of the class. I have thoughts of taking them into the Grampians of Forfarshire for a week or 10 days, if enough would or will come forward. I wish you could be induced to come down & join us.

To conclude, (I have been reading Scotch Sermons) how curious that water plants should be so widely diffused, water must have been a mighty agent in dissemination not only though are these diffused, but diffuseable. Aponogeton, a Cape plant, not native of cold regions bears a freezing every winter in our ponds: no one would have dreamt of it

Ever your's | Jos D Hooker.

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 884.f1
    Dated on the assumption that this letter falls between letter from J. D. Hooker, [after 12 July 1845], and letter to J. D. Hooker, [22 July – 19 August 1845].
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    f2 884.f2
    Humboldt 1845–8 was an unauthorised translation by Augustin Prichard, published by Hippolyte Baillière.
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    f3 884.f3
    Wrangel 1840, translated by Elizabeth Juliana Sabine, wife of Colonel Edward Sabine.
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    f4 884.f4
    Sarah Austin.
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    f5 884.f5
    Murray's translation (Humboldt 1846–8) is by E. J. Sabine. Sarah Austin had declined John Murray's proposal that she take on the work (correspondence in John Murray Archive).
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    f6 884.f6
    Strzelecki 1845.
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    f7 884.f7
    Bronn 1841–9.
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    f8 884.f8
    Hawaii.
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    f9 884.f9
    Artemis of Ephesus, subsequently identified with the Hellenic goddess of the same name and the Roman Diana, was associated with trees, agriculture, the hunt, and chastity. Diana was armed with a bow and arrow; yew is the wood from which the English long-bow was made.
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    f10 884.f10
    Charles Lyell Sr of Kinnordy, a friend of the Hooker family since their residence in Glasgow.
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