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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   24 December [1858]1

Down Bromley Kent

Dec. 24

My dear Hooker

Your news about you unsollicited Salary & House is jolly & creditable to the government.— My room (28 x 19) with divided room above with all fixtures (& painted) not furniture & plaistered outside cost about £500.—2 I am heartily glad of this news.—

Your facts about distribution are indeed very striking. I remember well that none of your many wonderful facts in your several works perplexed me for years more than the migration having been mainly from N. to S & not in the reverse direction. I have now at last satisfied myself (but that is very different from satisfying others) on this head; but it wd. take a little volume to fully explain myself.—3 I did not for long see the bearing of a conclusion, at which I had arrived, with respect to this subject. It is that species inhabiting a very large area, & therefore existing in large numbers & which have been subjected to the severest competition with many other forms, will have arrived through natural selection, at a higher stage of perfection than the inhabitants of a small area.— Thus I explain the fact of so many anomalous or what may be called “living fossils” inhabiting now only fresh-water, having been beaten out & exterminated in the sea by more improved forms; thus all existing Ganoid fishes are fresh-water as is Lepidosiren & Ornithorhynchus &c.— The plants of Europe with Asia as being largest territory I look at as the most “improved”, & therefore as being able to withstand the less perfected Australian plants; though these could not resist the Indian.— See how all the productions of N. Zealand yield to those of Europe.—

I daresay you will think all is utter bosh; but I believe it to be solid truth!4 You will, I think, admit that Australian plants flourishing so in India is no argument that they could hold their own against the ten thousand natural contingencies of other plants, insects, animals &c &c.— With respect to S.W Australia & the Cape, I am shut up, & can only d—n the whole case.—5

I do not see that your Indian migration & the Glacial need have any con-nection; I shd think (??) the Indian prior during a pliocene age, when from evidence from Mammals, no doubt there was continuous land connecting Malay Sumatra, Java, Borneo as far probably as Timor or even further, but not actually continuous with Australia. Perhaps land remained continuous to Glacial epoch; if so Mammals become changed quickly?? You say you shd like to see my M.S. but you did read & approved of my long Glacial chapter, & I have not yet written my abstract on whole geographical Distribution, nor shall begin it for 2 or 3 weeks. But either abstract or the old M.S, I shd be delighted to send you especially the Abstract chapter But I have not in the old M.S. discussed migration from N. to S. & not reversely.6

I cannot answer about Australia palæozoic plants; I have seen long lists of coal plants, but I shd quite doubt the identifications: I believe that there are wide geological gaps in Australia. Nor can I answer about Chobham sands: I cannot remember what precise stage they occupy in lower Eocenes; I had not heard of Banksian wood, how very curious!!

When you write next please tell me, whether I understand in your list rightly, that all the Fuegian plants which are common to Europe are likewise common to N. America; for years I have been curious to know this.7 Also can you guess, what plant Audubon means by “our great Water Lily in the Southern U. States” & what sized seeds it has? He found its seeds in stomach of Heron. [reverse question mark] from digested Fish.?-?.?-?.8

I have now written 330 folio pages of my abstract & it will require another 150–200; so that it will make a printed volume of 400 pages, & must be printed

separately, which I think will be better in many respects. The subject really seems to me too large for discussion at any Society, & I believe Religion would be brought in by men, whom I know.—

I am thinking of a 12mo volume, like Lyells 4th or 5th Edition of Principles.—9

I have had nice friendly note from A. Gray: he approves of my crossing notions in regard to Leguminosæ.10 Did you think that my facts upheld my notions?—

I have written you a scandalously long note. So good Bye | My dear Hooker | Ever yours | C. Darwin

I was so sorry not to meet you at Phil. Club.—11

The connection of Floras of Timor & Mauritius, according to Decaisne, has always struck me as particularly perplexing.12 I often look at Maldiva atolls & fancy a long chain of islands. Your connexion of India & N. Australia seems to bear on this.—

P.S. I have found my little Review of Waterhouse in Annals of Nat. Hist. Vol. 19 1847 p. 53.13 I have never till just now looked at it since I wrote it. I doubt whether it is worth your glancing at,—S. Australia seems to have very little peculiar.— I have no idea when Jukes wrote on subject. I am surprised that I did not quote him, for I now remember having read something on subject.— But perhaps I wrote before he did.—14

what an important datum, it would be if one knew average comparative rate of specific change in Mammals & plants.—


Dated by the relationship to the letter from J. D. Hooker, 22 December 1858.
The new addition was begun in September 1857 and completed early in 1858.
CD discussed the problem briefly in Origin, pp. 379–80.
Hooker cites CD’s views on this topic in Hooker 1859, p. cii.
The sense of this sentence has been confused by the many alterations and deletions made by CD (see Manuscript alterations and comments). CD may have intended to say that he had discussed only the migration from north to south in his ‘old M.S.’ (Natural selection, pp. 534–54). In fact, he had briefly mentioned the possible migration of southern forms to the north (ibid., pp. 558–60).
Hooker probably answered CD’s question in the section of his reply that is now missing (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [26 December 1858]). In Origin, p. 378, CD wrote: ‘it is a striking fact, lately communicated to me by Dr. Hooker, that all the flowering plants, about forty-six in number, common to Tierra del Fuego and to Europe still exist in North America, which must have lain on the line of march.’
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 31 December [1858] and n. 10. CD refers to Audubon 1831–9, 3: 92. A copy of this work is in the Darwin Library–CUL, and notes on it are in DAR 71: 192–214. Next to a note about digested fish, CD wrote: ‘Hooker says no doubt’ and gave additional information (DAR 71: 204 and 204v.). CD recorded having read the work on 29 December 1858 (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, 128: 22).
Charles Lyell’s fifth and sixth editions of Principles of geology (1837 and 1840) are in the Darwin Library–CUL. These editions of the work were the only ones to be printed in the duodecimo (‘12m o’) format. When Origin came to be printed, it also was sewn in twelves, although the size was closer to that of an octavo volume. See Freeman 1977, p. 76.
Asa Gray’s letter has not been found. It was probably a reply to the letter to Asa Gray, 18 November [1858].
The Philosophical Club of the Royal Society met on 16 December 1858. CD had attended the meeting (Philosophical Club minutes, Royal Society).
Joseph Decaisne.
CD’s copy of the Annals and Magazine of Natural History in which his review of Waterhouse 1846–8 appeared is in the Darwin Library–CUL. See also Collected papers 1: 214–17.
CD refers to Jukes 1850.


Wide-ranging species more "improved" than relics in small areas because they exist in large numbers and thus are subject to intense competition.

His abstract is 330 folio pages long so far.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 257
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2384,” accessed on 24 January 2018,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7