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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   11 September [1857]1


Sept. 11th

My dear Hooker

The magnificent & awful Box of Books arrived quite safely this morning, & I thank you heartily for so valuable assistance.2

I shall not, of course, try to do all, but will invest a handsome sum with our Schoolmaster,3 & will see that the Books are covered & are taken scrupulous care of. But it is slow work, & if I keep the Books too long you must order them home. I have not yet fixed what to begin with. I will, hereafter, do the Indian Flora, as I had intended;4 I understood that you had tabulated it for same end, but I suppose I quite misunderstood you, & was at the time surprised that you thought it worth so much of your valuable time.

I have to thank you & Dr. Seeman (& please give him my particular thanks) for the honour of being elected a member of the Soc. Cæs. Leopold &c. &c.:5 I confess that I know nothing of this Socy. but no doubt it is an honour.

I have just finished Asa Gray’s Lessons in Botany:6 how wonderfully clear they are: so clear & simple that I infer that he must have passed over all difficulties: at least my very ancient remembrance of similar works tells me that Botany was formerly much more complicated.

I will see how the present Books work out about varieties before I think of De Candolle:7 I am not at all sure that I see my way theoretically when the whole range of a plant is taken in, for then come in geographical representatives, which may perhaps form a somewhat different case from a species in the same country splitting up into varieties.

I enclose questions for Anderson, & if he can help me, it will be valuable assistance.—8

I have just been writing an audacious little discussion, to show that organic beings are not perfect, only perfect enough to struggle with their competitors; & I have been giving the pollen-case of Coniferæ, which we talked over; & Drone Bees give a good parallel in animals—viz 2000 to fertilise 2 or 3 Queens, & the act causing the inevitable death of the Male!9

I am so very sorry that you cannot come soon here.

Farewell | My dear Hooker | C. Darwin

If you can remember, will you ask Henslow to enquire whether Water-Fowl have ever been seen in Ransome’s great tank, when shells reappear.—10

P.S. Speaking of tank & water-fowl reminds me to mention as bearing on water-waders transporting seeds, that in some mud, got on Feb. 10 from 3 or 4 spots under water on edge of small pond (& therefore no one nest of seeds)—that out of this mud, which when stiff filled break-fast cup & when dried at ordinary heat, weighed 634 oz, I have picked out, during last six months 537 plants! many different kinds of plants appeared.—11


Dun or Mouse-coloured Horses are said to be common in Norway.

Have they invariably a dark line along the spine? How generally have they the transverse Stripe on the shoulder like that on ass; & how generally transverse zebra-like stripes on legs?

Is this colour (with or without the stripes) particularly inheritable? Must both parents be dun to produce a foal of this colour? Does this colour ever appear in the offspring, when both parents are of a different colour?

Especially I want to know, whether the stripes, such as those on the legs, are plainer on the foal, before it has shed its first coat of Hair.— If such be the case, do the leg- or shoulder-stripes ever quite disappear when the horse grows old?

Any other information on Horses of this colour would be very valuable to me.—

C. Darwin Down Bromley Kent | Sept. 11th.—


Dated by the reference to CD’s election to the German Academy of Naturalists (see letter to the Secretary, Academia Caesarea Leopoldino-Carolina Naturae Curiosorum, 8 September [1857], and n. 5, below).
See letters to J. D. Hooker, 1 August [1857], 22 August [1857], and 6 September [1857].
Ebenezer Norman made extensive tabulations from the books sent by Hooker during the last quarter of 1857. The tabulations are in DAR 15.2, 16.1, and 16.2.
CD’s calculations on data in J. D. Hooker and Thomson 1855 are in DAR 16.2: 230. For the final figures, see Natural selection, p. 151.
Berthold Carl Seemann and his brother Wilhelm E. G. Seemann edited Bonplandia, the botanical journal of the Academia Caesarea Leopoldino-Carolina Naturae Curiosorum. Berthold Seemann, who worked at Kew, was elected an adjunct member of the academy in 1857.
A. Gray 1857a.
Candolle and Candolle 1824–73.
CD was preparing chapter 8 of Natural selection. For the passage referred to, see Natural selection, pp. 381–2, and Origin, pp. 202–3.
The ‘great tank’ was probably part of James and Robert Ransome’s agricultural works in Ipswich.
The case is reported in CD’s Experimental book, pp. 20–1 (DAR 157a).


Representative species may complicate tabulation of varieties.

Questions for Mr Anderson about horse colouring in Norway.

Has been writing an "audacious little discussion" to show that "organic beings are not perfect, only perfect enough to struggle with their competitors".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Physical description
7pp encl 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2140,” accessed on 28 June 2017,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6