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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   10 June [1864]


June 10th.

My dear old Hooker

I cannot help again thanking you most heartily about Scott, though your good deed has been done for him & not for me.—1 How very kind of Dr. Thomson to write about him.2 I have not heard from Scott since returning his testimonials.—3

What a fearful mess you describe the Gardens to be in, & what a horrid loss of plants.4 You must bless your stars that you have now got so energetic a man, as the new John Smith.—5 I fear that I have been selfish about climbing plants & have added to your troubles.—6 I am really pleased when you do not plague yourself by writing to me. I have now read two German books & all, I believe, that has been written on climbers, & it has stirred me up to find that I have a good deal of new matter.7 It is strange, but I really think no one has explained simple twining plants. These books have stirred me up & made me wish for plants specified in them. I shall be very glad of those you mention.8 I have written to Veitch9 for young Nepenthes & Vanilla (which I believe will turn out a grand case, though a root-creeper) & if I cannot buy young Vanilla, I will ask you.—10 I have ordered a leaf-climbing fern Lygodium; but Veitch has not Ophioglossum Japonicum.—11 All this work about climbers would hurt my conscience, did I think I could do harder work.—

When you go to Dublin,12 if you can remember it, ask Harvey13 to show you a strange Dandelion, with achenia generically different & which shows, he says, a great jump in variation;14 I do not know enough to appreciate case.— I have sent in my Lythrum paper to Linn. Socy.15 & shall at some future time like to hear, whether you think that I have exaggerated the strangeness of the case: please give Oliver the enclosed note16 which is to beg him to draw at Linn. Soc. a diagram with chalk.—

The only thing which I have done lately, which could at all interest you, is that I have proved the common oxlip to be a hybrid, excessively sterile inter se, both heteromorphically & homomorphically; but very much more fertile when crossed with either cowslip or primrose;17 I shd. think there was no other case on record of a hybrid naturally produced in such abundance.—

You seem fearfully overworked; but whenever you have time & inclination to come here for a Sunday, we should be delighted to see you here; of course there will be always great risk of its turning out one of my bad days & on my best days I could be with you very little; but it would be a great pleasure to me to see you even for a short time: but do not think of coming till affairs at Kew are a little smooth.

Farewell | My dear old friend | C. Darwin

P.S. I enclose my venerable photograph done by William—18 Since writing I have heard from Scott & I send beneath an extract.19 He is quite bewildered what to do about getting out to India, & I am sure I can’t advise him; but I have sent him money & advised him to go to Edinburgh, & there make enquiries.20 I shd suppose he wd have to come to London whichever way he goes.

Extract “I am glad to find that Dr Hooker is likewise satisfied with the testimonials. I only wish & shall make it more & more my endeavour to personally merit such kindness. I do feel deeply thankful to Dr Hooker for all that he is doing for me. It will be indeed a favor if you will express to him my thankfulness for this as I am quite at a loss how to do so.

In reference to yr P.S. I shall be glad indeed to go via the Cape so as to look after the case which he then proposes to send. In this however & in other points I would that you decide as it is entirely thro’ you that I can entertain any prospects of getting out at all—


CD began writing this letter before receiving the letter from John Scott, 8 June 1864.
Hooker supplied many specimens and answered numerous queries to assist CD in his research on climbing plants (see, for example, letters to J. D. Hooker, 31 [May 1864] and 2 June [1864]).
CD refers to Mohl 1827 and Palm 1827 (see letter from Daniel Oliver, [1 April 1864] and nn. 2–9, and letter to Daniel Oliver, 15 June [1864]). Annotated copies of both works are in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 590–4, 662–3). They are discussed extensively in ‘Climbing plants’.
CD refers to James Veitch (1815–69), who owned a nursery in King’s Road, Chelsea, London (Post Office London directory 1864).
For CD’s interest in Nepenthes, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, 9 [March] 1864 and n. 22; for Vanilla, see the letter to J. D. Hooker, 26[–7] March [1864] and n. 9.
CD reported his observations of Lygodium scandens and L. articulata in ‘Climbing plants’, p. 14. His notes on the two species are in DAR 157.1: 19–20. CD’s description of the fern Ophioglossum japonicum in ‘Climbing plants’, p. 45, is taken from Mohl 1827, p. 39.
William Henry Harvey.
See letter from W. H. Harvey, 19 May 1864 and n. 4. In 1860, Hooker had replied in print to another case, a monstrous form of Begonia, that Harvey had adduced as evidence that species could arise through abrupt changes, or per saltum. See Hooker’s letter to the Gardeners’ Chronicle, 25 February 1860, pp. 170–1, and Correspondence vol. 8, letters to J. D. Hooker, [20 February 1860] and 26 [February 1860].
According to his ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 12, Appendix II), CD finished his paper ‘Three forms of Lythrum salicaria’ about 25 May 1864. See also letter to A. R. Wallace, 28 [May 1864] and n. 2. The paper was read at the Linnean Society on 16 June 1864.
See letter to Daniel Oliver, [c. 10 June 1864].
CD had embarked in 1862 on crossing experiments to investigate whether the primrose, Primula vulgaris, and the cowslip, P. veris, were distinct species or, as some botanists believed, two varieties of the same species (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to John Scott, 3 December [1862] and nn. 13–15, and Correspondence vol. 11, letter to John Scott, 25 and 28 May [1863] and n. 11). CD initially thought that they were varieties descended from a common parent (see Origin, pp. 49–50, and Natural selection, pp. 128–33). However, his experiments demonstrated that P. vulgaris and P. veris, when crossed, produced common oxlips intermediate in character between the two, and that although the oxlips were more or less sterile hybrids, they could be pollinated by either of the presumed parent forms. The occurrence of this natural hybrid was evidence that P. vulgaris and P. veris were distinct species. See letter from John Scott, 7 January [1864] and nn. 15–16, letter to J. T. Moggridge, 1[7] July [1864], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 October [1864]. CD presented the results of crosses between the two dimorphic forms of common oxlip, and between the two forms of primroses and cowslips, in ‘Specific difference in Primula’, pp. 443–7, and Forms of flowers, pp. 55–75. His notes on these experiments, dated between 1862 and 1867, are in DAR 157a: 75–7 and DAR 108.
CD refers to the photograph taken in 1864 by his eldest son, William Erasmus (see letter from W. E. Darwin, [19 May 1864] and n. 8), and reproduced as the frontispiece to this volume.
CD’s Account book–cash account (Down House MS) records a gift of £25 to Scott on 10 June 1864. CD enclosed the cheque in a letter to Scott that has not been found. See second letter from John Scott, 10 June [1864].


CD has proved common oxlip to be a hybrid of cowslip and primrose.

Reviewing literature on climbing plants, CD finds he has much new material.

W. H. Harvey claims evidence of saltation in a dandelion.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 238a–c
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4525,” accessed on 20 March 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 12