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Darwin Correspondence Project


From J. D. Hooker   [19 January 1862]1



Dr D.

I was getting anxious to hear from you & now that I have am all the more to know again how you are all progressing   my poor man, I can quite sympathize with you, a sick house is a dreadful thing—1 We have been wonderfully well this winter considering the aggravating weather. my wife is laid up now with Neuralgia, which will I hope be better tomorrow, when the Lyells come.2 I had Lubbock & Bates to dinner yesterday3   the latter has done 13 of his book: he is very earnest & I have no doubt will make a capital book as you say.—4

Huxley writes to me in Exuberat spirito at the reception of his lecture in “Saintly Edinburgh”—5 he quite forgets there are sinners enough in a population of 180,000 to make him an applauding audience. I do not think H. has the smallest idea in how small a circle he makes a noise.

I dined the other day with Benthams sister—6a very intelligent & accomplished person who moves in the “best society” & dotes on her brother— — she did not know of what Society he was President!!! & cared not to know—7

Ten million thanks for Grays letter which is very interesting & very sad.8 I was amazed with his insouciant national Egotism at the outset.— The only allusion I had then made to the war was to the effect that it would clear off the mass of scum under which I considered his nation groaned— this I intended as the only conceivable good that could come out of such a fratricidal contest.—& by George he took me for a sympathizer! not seeing that mine was the sympathy of contempt— You & I have always differed a good deal about America. I never could like but 12 a dozen of all the Americans I had seen—but always thought that there was an element of Grays &c &c &c very strong in Boston &c, who, in any emergency would rise superior to the occasion, & by the might of a dignified line of conduct, gradually become the centre of a better state of things & of feelings.—

From the first of this affair I have looked for some expression of sense moderation & magnanimity from this boasted Boston party— & what do I see? Lowell in the chair at the Boston dinner to Wilkes9 & Gray’s rabid letters— after all why should we expect better things from a nation of upstarts— Our Aristocracy may have been (& has been) a great draw back to civilization—but on the other hand it has had its advantages—has kept in check the uneducated & unreflecting—& has forced those who have intellect enough to rise to their own level, to use it all in the struggle— There is a deal in breeding & I do not think that any but high bred gentlemen are safe guides in Emergencies such as these.

The moral effect of Lord Russell’s despatches on the English mind has been quite astounding—10& I do not think you can point out a dozen men in public life—but of less breeding & culture (I do not mean by this aristocratic training as a specific thing) who would have been safe to have behaved with equal prudence dignity & consideration, & yet Gray calls this the pressure of a mob! If there is any thing at all in force of circumstances & Natural Selection it must arrive that the best trained, bred & ablest man will be found in the higher walks of life—true he will be rare, but then he will be obvious & easily selected by a discriminating public— When got to, he is removed above a multitude of temptations & conditions that prove the ruin of 910 of the rising statesmen of a lower class of life— Your “Origin” has done more to enhance the value of the aristocracy in my eyes than any social political or other argument.

Now I never allude to politics in writing to Gray— it is useless I know, & furthermore whenever we did agree, it would perhaps most often be on totally different grounds—and this leads to endless misunderstandings. What puzzles me is, how are you to answer his letter? after your recent avowal that they are “unmitigated Blackguards” an opinion I heartily Echo.11 Do tell me what you will say to him—it passes my guess-power. Have you read Spences “American Union” & what do you think of it?12 I still like the tone of the London Review best of all the papers.13

I always forget to tell you that we can send you Lythrum plants whenever you want them.14 Old Borrer died last week, & my Father went to the funeral.15

I gave Haast’s book to Hector who has sailed for survey of Otago—16 his glacial deposits was a mere mention without detail.— Hector is quite up to importance of subject.

I brought my remarkable plant before L. Soc. last Thursday with some effect—17 it was thought quite as curious as I represented   I have applied to R.S. grant for £50 to illustrate it—& of course expect to get it— I cannot afford to spend so much on my Barnacles as I used.18 Genera Plantarum is passing through press i.e. 2d Sheet is printing— the first part will contain DCs. Thalamifloræ & contain about 1000 genera—19 it is an awfully laborious work.— still it is the great desideratum in Botany & must be done as well as we possibly can do it.— I have now Heers & Pengellys paper on Bovey Tracey to report on & Binney’s on coal fossils:—so I am very busy.20

By the way Bates asked me last night to advise him about what was to be done about the plates for his paper for Linn: Soc:—was your offer of £10 accepted?—21 of course the L.S. will gladly pay the engraving & coloring—but not the original drawing—but if this is done on stone at once it will save expense to all parties.

Ev yrs affec | J D Hooker

I will send Carrier on Thursday for Catasetum to Nagshead22

Dr. Weddell. Poitiers. France23

CD annotations

Top of first page: ‘Glossodia’ pencil, circled pencil; ‘[with flowers]pencil
Margin of first page: ‘[Lebours]added pencil


See letter to J. D. Hooker, 16 January [1862].
Hooker refers to Charles and Mary Elizabeth Lyell and Frances Harriet Hooker.
John Lubbock and Henry Walter Bates.
Bates 1863. CD had read the first two chapters of Bates’s account of his experiences in the Amazon region (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to H. W. Bates, 15 December [1861], and this volume, letter to H. W. Bates, 13 January [1862]), and told Hooker of his high expectations for the work (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to J. D. Hooker, 18 [December 1861]).
Thomas Henry Huxley had written to CD in the same spirit (see letter from T. H. Huxley, 13 January 1862).
George Bentham had two surviving sisters, Mary Louisa de Chesnel and Sarah Jane Le Blanc (Jackson 1906).
Bentham was president of the Linnean Society of London.
See Correspondence vol. 9, letter from Asa Gray, 31 December 1861. CD sent the letter to Hooker via Francis Boott (see letter from Francis Boott, 27 January 1862).
Hooker probably refers to the Boston businessman, John Amory Lowell. According to the Boston Post, 27 November 1861, p. 2, a dinner in honour of Charles Wilkes, captain of the San Jacinto and the man responsible for setting off the ‘Trent affair’, was held by the citizens of Boston on 26 November 1861. The report does not mention Lowell and states that John Wiley Edmands presided at the dinner.
John Russell, first Earl Russell, was secretary of state at the British Foreign Office. Extracts from the diplomatic dispatches were published in the national press.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 16 January [1862].
Spence 1861.
The London Review and Weekly Journal of Politics, Literature, Art and Society began publication in July 1860, edited by Charles Mackay. Hooker had recommended this publication to CD in the previous year (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to J. D. Hooker, 27 [March 1861] and n. 7).
CD was interested by ‘a magnificent case’ of trimorphism in the genus Lythrum that was mentioned in Lecoq 1854–8, 6: 154–9, and had asked Hooker whether he could provide him with seeds or plants for investigation (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to J. D. Hooker, 18 [December 1861] and n. 15).
William Borrer died on 10 January 1862 (DNB). CD had asked Hooker about the possibility of approaching Borrer for plant specimens (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to J. D. Hooker, 18 [December 1861], and this volume, letter from J. D. Hooker, [1 January 1862]). Borrer had been a friend of Hooker’s father, William Jackson Hooker.
J. F. J. von Haast 1861. James Hector was appointed geologist to the provincial government of Otago, New Zealand, in 1861. CD was interested in evidence of glaciation in Australia and New Zealand, which would support his view that there had been a worldwide glacial period (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter from J. D. Hooker, [29 December 1861]). Both Hector and Julius von Haast are cited in the fourth edition of Origin on evidence of glaciation in New Zealand (Origin 4th ed., p. 433). See also letter from W. B. Clarke, 16 January 1862, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 16 January [1862].
Hooker had begun work on a monograph on Welwitschia mirabilis (J. D. Hooker 1863a); he gave an account of the plant before the Linnean Society of London on 16 January 1862 (Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society 6: lix). He wrote to Huxley of his excitement about Welwitschia (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 2: 25): though neither Dicot, Monocot, nor Gymnosperm in flower or Exogen or Endogen in structure of axis, wood or bark …, it is still undoubtedly a member of the family Gnetaceae amongst Gymnosperms, as the structure of the ovule and development of the seed and embryo clearly show. It is … the most wonderful plant ever brought to this country—and the very ugliest. It re-opens the whole question of Gymnosperms as a class See also Correspondence vol. 9, letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 October [1861] and n. 4.
Hooker’s investigations on Welwitschia mirabilis, like CD’s study of barnacles, required prolonged and laborious examinations. CD had apparently remarked in a now missing letter to Hooker, ‘I expect it is going to be your Barnacles’ (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 2: 24).
The reference is to the first part of volume 1 of Bentham and Hooker 1862–83, which covered the two botanical ‘series’ Thalamiflorae and Disciflorae. George Bentham had given to the printers the manuscript as far as the Resedaceae (i.e., pp. 1–112 of volume 1 of the printed work) on 2 December 1861 (see Stearn 1956, p. 129). The term ‘Thalamiflorae’ was first introduced by Augustin Pyramus de Candolle (Candolle and Candolle 1824–73, 1), whose name is commonly abbreviated in botanical literature to ‘DC’.
Heer 1862, Pengelly 1862, and Binney 1862. Hooker refers to his reviewing the papers for publication in the relevant societies’ journals (see, for example, ‘Papers read’, Geological Society of London, archives, COM P3/1).
Bates’s paper on the Amazonian Heliconidae, a family of largely tropical New World butterflies (Bates 1862a), was read to the Linnean Society of London on 21 November 1861 and published in the Transactions of the Linnean Society 23 (1862): 495–566. In the paper, Bates invoked the theory of natural selection to account for mimetic resemblances between butterflies, arguing that the ‘selecting agents’ were insectivorous animals that destroyed those varieties of edible species that did not sufficiently resemble the inedible analogical form to deceive predators (pp. 511–12). CD offered financial assistance with the cost of coloured plates to accompany the paper (see Correspondence vol. 9, letters to J. D. Hooker, 25 November [1861] and 1 December [1861], and letter to H. W. Bates, 3 December [1861]).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 16 January [1862] and n. 4.
This is the address of Hugh Algernon Weddell whose work on hybrids of Aceras (Weddell 1852) is cited in Orchids, p. 19. CD included Weddell’s name on his presentation list for the volume (see Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix III).

Letter details

Letter no.
Hooker, J. D.
Darwin, C. R.
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 8–11
Physical description
8pp †


JDH castigates the Americans after the Trent affair. The value of an aristocracy. How will CD answer Asa Gray’s letter?

His "remarkable plant" [Welwitschia mirabilis] exhibited at Linnean Society.

Genera plantarum is in press.

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3395,” accessed on 14 February 2016,