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Darwin Correspondence Project


From J. D. Hooker   17 March 1862


March 17/62

Dear Darwin

The Saxifragas &c shall go on Wednesday for your carrier to take on on Thursday.— just look at the Saxifrages & let me know at once if they will suit,— as if not I will send others1

As regards my photograph, I believe I have very little expression2   I have often remarked that I am not recognized except by those who know me tolerably well; that I have often to introduce myself—added to which all my photographs & portraits make me look either silly or stupid or affected— artists find nothing salient, nothing to idealize upon— Poor Richmond who generally knocks off his chalk heads in 2 sittings gave me 8 I think & grumbled all the time, & has turned me out a very lackadaisaical young gentleman.3

I am so glad you have asked for my letter to Bates,4 to tell the truth he has roused my curiosity to see it myself, I have not the slightest recollection of what I can have said that has so much impressed him— When I write I shall ask him to send it. I have done nothing more that I know of than ram you down his throat.— probably like some others he did not realize your views until I enforced them by pointing out their applicability to his cases.—

I am greatly puzzled just now in my mind by a very prevalent difference between animals & vegetables—in as much as the individual animal is certainly changed materially by external conditions, the latter (I think) never except in such a coarse way as stunting or enlarging—& this is because in animals there is a direct relation between stimulated function & consequent change in organs concerned in that function—Eg. no increase of cold on the spot, or change of individual plant from hot to cold, will induce said individual plant to get more woolly covering.— but I suppose that a series of cold seasons would bring about such a change in an individual quadruped: just as rowing will harden hands, &c. The cases are not parallel because the parts of plants that could be so changed are annually lost—& the only conceivable parallel is afforded by Bark;—would a cycle of cold seasons cause the bark of a tree to thicken more than it otherwise would?5

I cannot suppose that the buds of the individual would get thicker, or more scales, or more resinous scales; or that its successive leaves can become annually more hairy: except indeed we assume the annual death of a large proportion of the buds, & that those alone are preserved that have most woolly leaves—when no doubt the woolly tendency would be inherited by the successive phytons of that bud as by successive generations from seeds.

Be all this as it may, in neither plant or animal would the induced character be of necessity inherited by the offspring by seed of the individual to any greater extent than if it had not been changed— At least so far as the animal is concerned; though with regard to the plant it might be, the seed being that of the phyton, not of the whole tree, or average tree— Thus a wild complication is introduced into the whole subject that perplexes me greatly.

Berkeleys article on acclimatization is very unclear I think (see last Saturdays Gard. Chronicle).—6

I cannot conceive what you say, that climate could have effected even such a single character as a hooked seed. You know I have a morbid horror of 2 laws in nature for obtaining the same end. hence I incline to attribute the smallest variation to the inherent tendency to vary; a principle wholly independent of physical conditions—but where effects on the race are absolutely dependent on physical conditions—for their conservation—

Huxley is rather disposed to think you have overlooked “saltus”—7but I am not sure that he is right. Saltus quod individuals, is not saltus quod species—as I pointed out in the Begonia case.8 though perhaps that was rather special-pleading in the present state of science.

I hear Falconer is indignant at the base idea of abolishing a tertiary Atlantis—9 what a queer mixture he is of dogma & fancy.— What do you think of 3 of Heers Madeira fossils referred to Ulmus, Corylus & Leguminosæ, all turning out to be the leaflets of one Bramble,10 & this the commonest plant in Europe, & found in Madeira too—! I must confess it rather turns my stomach, for I was beginning to waive many of my objections against Bot. Palæontology in favor of O. Heer.11 I wrote to Lyell about it 10 days ago, but he does not answer my letter!—12 I suppose he is what is called flabbergasted

Do you know anything of Earl Powis— he is a Shropshire man I know—13 I have to make out a visit to him this week, having been asked so often that I cannot refuse without appearing churlish   I do hate such visits, feeling generally thoroughly out of my element. Walcot Hall Shropshire is the place— I go from Thursday till Saturday or Monday, so please direct there if you have anything to say—or whether or no— His brother lives next house to us here14 & I like what I have seen of the Earl; but really know nothing about him.

Many thanks to Mrs Darwin for her kind thoughts of my wifes going to Down with me:15 but I am sure she will not get away, & as to the children it is out of the question, even if you could have taken them in. 2 of my children are equal to a round dozen of another mans. The baby is just the same “nunquam otiosus”—16 Except Charlie17 there is not one that can sit still one moment & he is never idle. Yet I should like my children to know your’s one day.

Ever Yours affec | J D Hooker

CD annotations

4.2 in as … conditions, 4.3] scored brown crayon
8.1 I cannot … end. 8.3] scored brown crayon
8.3 smallest … conditions— 8.6] scored brown crayon
9.1 but I … case. 9.3] scored brown crayon
10.2 of 3 … Bramble, 10.4] scored brown crayon
11.1 Do … churlish 11.3] scored brown crayon
12.2 but I … in. 12.3] double scored brown crayon


See letter to J. D. Hooker, 14 March [1862] and n. 13. The carrier service between Down and London was provided by George Snow.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 14 March [1862].
George Richmond made a portrait in chalk of Hooker in 1855 (see Lister 1981, p. 162). The portrait is reproduced as the frontispiece to the first volume of L. Huxley ed. 1918.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 14 March [1862] and nn. 5 and 6. The reference is to Henry Walter Bates.
The possibility of species being modified by the direct action of external conditions, as well as by natural selection, formed part of the discussion contained in the recent correspondence between Hooker and Bates (see enclosure to the letter from J. D. Hooker, [23 March 1862], and enclosure to the letter from J. D. Hooker, [10 March 1862]).
Miles Joseph Berkeley wrote a short article on acclimatisation of plants that appeared in the Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 15 March 1862, pp. 235–6. CD annotated this article in his copy of the magazine, which is at the Cory Library, Cambridge Botanic Garden. The number of the magazine in which the article appears is also listed on the ‘List of the numbers of special interest to Darwin and kept by him in separate parcels’ (DAR 222).
One of Thomas Henry Huxley’s earliest criticisms of Origin was that by advocating gradual change through the selection of small variations and by adhering ‘so unreservedly’ to the principle that ‘Natura non facit saltum’, CD had burdened himself with an unnecessary difficulty (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter from T. H. Huxley, 23 November 1859). Huxley repeated this criticism in his review of Origin ([T. H. Huxley] 1860, p. 569).
The reference is to Hooker’s article in the Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 25 February 1860, pp. 170–1, entitled ‘The monstrous Begonia frigida at Kew, in relation to Mr. Darwin’s theory of natural selection’. The article was a response to a piece by William Henry Harvey (ibid., pp. 145–6), which argued that the plant was an illustration of the abrupt formation of a new species. Hooker’s response stated that, on the contrary, the plant demonstrated how ‘slow and partial’ was change effected by natural selection: ‘We cannot indeed conceive the new form replacing the old till after the lapse of many generations, and a long course of … operation of natural selection’. See Correspondence vol. 8, letter to Charles Lyell, 18 [and 19 February 1860], and letters to J. D. Hooker, [20 February 1860] and 26 [February 1860].
The reference is to Hugh Falconer. Daniel Oliver had delivered a lecture at the Royal Institution of Great Britain on 7 March 1862 questioning the assertion made by Oswald Heer and Franz Unger, that the geographical distribution of plants provided evidence for the existence of a land link between Europe and America during the Tertiary period (Oliver 1862a). Oliver was about to have a paper on the subject published in the Natural History Review (Oliver 1862b). See also letter from J. D. Hooker, [10 March 1862] and n. 10.
In his Manual flora of Madeira (Lowe 1857–68, pp. 249, 251), Richard Thomas Lowe had challenged Heer’s identification (in Heer 1857) of several fossil plants found in Madeira. Oliver noted Lowe’s challenge in Oliver 1862b, p. 170.
Hooker was able to view Heer’s botanical collections himself during a visit to Zürich later in the year (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [24 July 1862]).
Charles Lyell invited Heer, whom he considered ‘the best botanist in Europe for fossil tertiary plants’, to England in 1861 to study the fossil plants found at Bovey Tracey in Devon (K. M. Lyell ed. 1881, 2: 346). Lyell subsequently communicated Heer’s paper on the fossils (Heer 1862) to the Royal Society of London (see Proceedings of the Royal Society of London (1861): 449–55). CD mentioned Lowe’s doubts about Heer’s work on the fossil plants of Madeira in the letter to Charles Lyell, [15 September 1861] (Correspondence vol. 9).
Hooker refers to Edward James Herbert, third earl of Powis. The family was known to the Darwins (see Correspondence vol. 2, letter to Susan Darwin, [26 April 1838]). CD’s father, Robert Waring Darwin, lent substantial sums of money to Edward Clive, first earl of Powis and his son Edward Herbert, Viscount Clive (see R. W. Darwin’s Account book (Down House MS) and Brent 1981, p. 17).
Hooker refers to Percy Egerton Herbert, deputy quartermaster-general at the Horse Guards (DNB, Post Office directory of the six home counties 1862).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 14 March [1862]. The references are to Emma Darwin and Frances Harriet Hooker.
The Latin designation indicates that the baby, Brian Harvey Hodgson Hooker, then nearly 2 years old, was ‘never inactive’.
Charles Paget Hooker.


JDH has probably influenced Bates by pointing out applicability of CD’s views to his cases.

Is greatly puzzled by difference in effect of external conditions on individual animals and plants. Cannot conceive that climate could affect even such a single character as a hooked seed.

Does not think Huxley is right about "saltus".

Letter details

Letter no.
Hooker, J. D.
Darwin, C. R.
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 23–6
Physical description
8pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3474,” accessed on 29 July 2016,