To J. D. Hooker [29 April 1857]1
Moor Park | Farnham | Surrey
My dear Hooker.
Your letter has been forwarded to me here, where I am undergoing Hydropathy for a fortnight, having been here for a week, & having already received an amount of good, which is quite incredible to myself & quite unaccountable.— I can walk & eat like a hearty Christian; & even my nights are good.— I cannot in the least understand how hydropathy can act as it certainly does on me. It dulls one’s brain splendidly, I have not thought about a single species of any kind, since leaving home.
Your note has taken me aback; I thought the hairiness &c of alpine species was generally admitted; I am sure I have seen it alluded to a score of times.2 Falconer was haranging on it the other day to me.3 Meyen or Gay or some such fellow (whom you would despise) I remember makes same remark on Chilian Cordillera plants.—4 Wimmer has written a little Book on same line, & on varieties being so characterised in Alps.—5 But after writing to you, I confess I was staggered by finding one man (Moquin Tandon I think) saying that alpine flowers are strongly inclined to be white;6 & Linnæus saying that cold makes plants apelatous; even the same species!7 Are arctic plants often apetalous?
My general belief from my compiling work, is quite to agree with what you say about little direct influence of climate; & I have just alluded to the hairiness of alpine plants as an exception. The odoriferousness would be a good case for me, if I knew of varieties being more odoriferous in dry habitats.—
I fear that I have looked at hairiness of Alpine plants as so generally acknowledged that I have not marked passages, so as at all to see what kind of evidence authors advance.— I must confess the other day, when I asked Falconer, whether he knew of individual plant losing or acquiring hairiness when transported, he did not.— But now this second, my memory flashes on me & I am certain I have somewhere got marked case of hairy plants from Pyrenees, losing hairs when cultivated at Montpellier.—8
Shall you think me very impudent if I tell you, that I have sometimes thought that (quite independently of the present case) you are a little too hard on bad observers—that a remark made by a bad observer cannot be right—an observer who deserves to be damned, you would utterly damn— I feel entire deference to any remark you make out of your own head; but when in opposition to some poor devil, I somehow involuntarily feel not quite so much, but yet much deference for your opinion.
I do not know in the least whether there is any truth in this my criticism against you, but I have often thought I would tell you it.—
I am really very much obliged for your letter, for though I intended to put only one sentence & that vaguely, I shd. probably have put that much too strongly.
Ever, my dear Hooker | Your most truly | C. Darwin
This note, as you will see, has not anything requiring an answer.—
The distribution of F.W. Molluscs, has been a horrid incubus to me, but I think I know way now; when first hatched they are very active, & I have had 30 or 40 crawl on a dead Duck’s foot; & they cannot be jerked off, & will live 15 & even 24 hours out of water.—9
Curative power of hydropathy.
General hairiness of alpine plants questioned: direct environmental effect.
CD has long felt JDH is too hard on bad observers.