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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [9 October 1853]1


My dear Hooker

I have no remarks at all worth sending you; nor indeed was it likely that I shd., considering how perfect & elaborated an essay it is. As far as my judgment goes, it is the most important discussion on the points in question, ever published. I can say no more.— I agree with almost everything you say; but I require much time to digest an essay of such quality. It almost made me gloomy, partly from feeling I could not answer some points which theoretically I shd. have liked to have been different; & partly from seeing so far better done than I could have done, discussions on some points which I had intended to have taken up.

Now for a few mere details,— diag p. 30. Bory St Vincent Voyage dans les quatre principales iles des mers d’Afrique (1801. 1802).—2 p. 31. Lindley quite lately stated that the sexual structure of Ferns as just discovered, showed that hybridising was very possible.—3 p. 33. “such a view”, I think this expression wants expanding p. 37. “from whence” I hate this expletive; is not whence enough? p. 41. in case of the Edwardsia & Oxalis, when you speak of the current being opposed to their distribution, does this not imply that you suppose they have started from one or the other end ie E. or W? or does it refer to the Polar current flowing north-ward?4 p. 42 this page, I think, rather less clear than elsewhere, though I can hardly tell why. p. 43 About fewness of the species in the same genus in islands: are there are not some strongish exceptions to this; I have vague memory of your having given me some cases of an opposite tendency; but I presume my memory errs.

How striking, & well you put the case of absent Eucalyptis in N.Z.5 at p. 71, where you speak of the 5 compositæ, the expressions of “occurring in so many parts of the world” & “in having met in that most isolated spot”, struck me as rather contradictory; but I presume I do not quite see your bearing.6 Could you add to your discussion by stating which of the Europæan plants are absent in the districts between Europe & N. Zealand? p. 72. sentence with X for a moment puzzled me. What a noble tribute you pay to Lyell & Forbes:7 they will I shd. think, be very much gratified.—ramme

I much enjoyed the slaps you have given to the provincial species-mongers.—8 I wish I could have been of the slightest use: I have been deeply interested by the whole essay; & congratulate you on having produced a memoir which I believe will be memorable.— I was deep in it, when your most considerate note arrived, begging me not to hurry: I thank Mrs. Hooker & yourself most sincerely for your wish to see me: I will not let another summer pass without seeing you at Kew, for indeed I shd. enjoy it much. I grieve & rejoice at the probable news, about Forbes & Edinburgh.—9

By the way the discussion about Forbes & Watson must have been rather ticklish work.10 You do me really more honour than I have any claim to, putting me in after Lyell on ups & downs.11 In a year or two’s time, when I shall be at my species book, (if I do not break down) I shall gnash my teeth & abuse you for having put so many hostile facts so confoundedly well.

Ever your’s affectionly | C. Darwin


Dated on the basis that this is the letter that accompanied the books mentioned in the letter to J. D. Hooker, 10 [October 1853], and which would have been written on 9 October in order to be sent via the 8 AM coach on 10 October.
CD refers to the page numbers of a manuscript sent to him by Hooker (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 25 September [1853]). In J. D. Hooker 1853–5, 1: xiv, Hooker discussed Bory de Saint-Vincent’s views. CD’s bibliographical reference was added to Hooker’s text in a note.
See the Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, no. 34, 20 August 1853, p. 531, in which the possibility of hybrid ferns was discussed: ‘Ferns … have their spores and antherozoids. Therefore, they may be expected to intermix and produce hybrids. It has been, indeed, long since asserted that true hybrid Ferns exist in the case of Gymnogrammas. This, although doubted by almost every body, now seems to be quite possible, and if so, we may expect other Ferns of hybrid origin to be in time produced, if they do not already exist.’ Although Hooker referred to hybrid ferns in J. D. Hooker 1853–5, 1: xv n., there is no mention of John Lindley or the Gardeners’ Chronicle, which Lindley edited.
This argument does not appear in Hooker’s discussion of the distribution of Edwardsia grandiflora and Oxalis magellanica (J. D. Hooker 1853–5, 1: xix); instead he emphasised that the ‘idea of transportation by aerial or oceanic currents cannot be entertained, as the seeds of neither could stand exposure to the salt water, and they are too heavy to be borne in the air.’
Discussed in J. D. Hooker 1853–5, 1: xxxi.
Hooker kept these expressions in Hooker 1853–5, 1: xxxii.
See Hooker 1853–5, 1: xxii.
See Hooker 1853–5, 1: xiii–xiv.
At the beginning of October 1853, Robert Jameson’s resignation as professor of natural history at Edinburgh University was conditionally announced. A deputy was appointed until Jameson’s death on 19 April 1854. However, Edward Forbes, who had long wished for the Edinburgh chair, was considered to be the best candidate for the position from the time of the initial announcement, and he was elected to the professorship in May 1854 (Wilson and Geikie 1861, pp. 523–33).
Hooker 1853–5, 1: xxiii. Hewett Cottrell Watson had accused Forbes of using the system Watson had devised for describing the geographical distribution of British plants without proper acknowledgment (see Correspondence vol. 3, letter from J. D. Hooker, [before 3 September 1846]).
Hooker acknowledged CD’s work in his remarks on elevation and subsidence in J. D. Hooker 1853–5, 1: xxi–xxii n.: I am indebted to the invaluable labours of Lyell and Darwin, for the facts that could alone have given countenance to such an hypothesis; the one showing that the necessary time and elevations and depressions of land need not be denied; and the other, that such risings and sinkings are in active progress over large portions of the continents and islands of the southern hemisphere.


Detailed response to MS of introductory essay to [The botany of the Antarctic voyage, pt II] Flora Novae-Zelandiae [1853–5]. CD will curse JDH when, in a year or two, he is at his species book, for "having put so many hostile facts so confoundedly well".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 149
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1529,” accessed on 19 March 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 5