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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   6 November [1855]

Down Bromley Kent

Nov. 6th

My dear Hooker

I return by this post the Journal of Horticulture with very particular thanks, for I have been especially glad to see Decaisne review of Van Mons,—a book I know well.1 I did doubt Van Mons to a certain extent, but I never shd. have suspected such carelessness as he seems to have been guilty of.— What a splendid thing it is that such a Botanist as Decaisne shd. take up all the fruit-trees. His theory, or rather Naudin’s,2 of wild sub-species descending from a single wild stock seems to me to add only to the existing confusion, without indeed it could be proved true; for I do not see how the mere statement will alter anyone’s views,—those who believe in variation will believe in it, & those who do not, will call the “sous-especes,” species. It is giving a new name for no object that I can see.—

How capitally your Flora Indica is noticed in last Gardeners’ Chronicle:3 Lindley & Berkeley seem to go the whole hog in cutting down species.—4

Will you be so kind as to let me have the names of the two seeds,5 (distinguishing them as the smaller & larger) as soon as you can, for the sender will think me either very ungrateful or that his seeds have never come to hand.—

I hope that you are completely settled, & that all Mrs. Hooker’s work is nearly over in the furnishing line.—6

Very truly yours | C. Darwin


Joseph Decaisne reviewed Mons 1835–6 in Decaisne 1855. CD recorded that he read the review (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, *128: 169). He had read Mons 1835–6 on 21 June 1847 (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, 119: 19a). CD’s annotated copy of Mons 1835–6 is in the Darwin Library–CUL and his notes on the work are in DAR 116.
Charles Victor Naudin’s paper on species and varieties (Naudin 1852) had been read by CD (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, *128: 115).
Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, no. 44, 3 November 1855, p. 723.
The unsigned review of J. D. Hooker and Thomson 1855 was apparently known to have been written by either John Lindley or Miles Joseph Berkeley. It appeared in the editorial columns of the Gardeners’ Chronicle and provided an opportunity for criticism of the East India Company’s unwillingness to finance the publication of the book. The reviewer agreed with the book’s introductory essay, in which Hooker and Thomas Thomson decried the current practice of making many species out of groups that they believed were more properly considered as a single species. The passage in the review to which CD refers reads: ‘The loose notions, again, which prevail on the limits of species, and the reckless way in which multitudes of useless names are daily inflicted on science, from imperfect materials, or from an inability to perceive that differences do not necessarily indicate distinctions, is matter of regret to every intelligent naturalist’ (Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, no. 44, 3 November 1855, p. 723).
The seeds were those found washed ashore in Norway and sent to CD by Matthias Numsen Blytt through the consul-general at Oslo (see letter from J. R. Crowe, 27 September 1855). CD forwarded the seeds to Hooker for identification. At the head of this letter Hooker wrote ‘Entada Gigalobium DC | frequently met with along sea shore | Mucuna urens DC’. See letter to J. R. Crowe, 9 November 1855.


Naudin’s theory, in J. Decaisne’s review of Flora Indica, of subspecies descended from a single stock only adds to the confusion. John Lindley and M. J. Berkeley cut down species.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 153
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1773,” accessed on 26 March 2019,

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