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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   10 July 1862

Samaden Enghedien Valley

July 10th. 62.

Dr Darwin

We arrived here last night after a fairly prosperous Journey & having got into a quiet clean little German Hotel we propose remaining en pension for a week & exploring the neighbourhood.1 My wife has been pretty well on the whole. At Dover she did not sleep & she had a bad palpitation &c on ascending the Louvre Stairs.— At Paris we staid a night (good) & took the following night-express to Basle, where we walked about & proceeded the same afternoon to Zurich by rail without fatigue— There we spent 112 days quietly enough with O. Heer,2 an old friend of mine, whose name you know & he recommended us to come here for the rest of our Swiss stay, because of the purity of the air & beauty & interest of the scenery— We accordingly took Rail to Chur (Coir) a most magnificent route, by the Wallen See, & then up the Rhine— At Chur she had no sleep & unfortunately we had to leave by Diligence at 5 next morning for this place, a 15 hours drive.— The first part of the day was intensely hot, the latter, crossing a pass, at 7000 ft,—was as cold & a violent fit of Neuralgia was the consequence— We arrived at 8 last night & this morning she is all right again—& will I hope continue so.

The views yesterday were as grand as any thing I have any where seen & except for the little piece called via Mala on the Splugen, this route beats that hollow,—it is only a few miles East of the Splugen route, of which I caught a glimpse— this, the valley of the Inn, appears to me to combine the beauty of the Tyrol with the savage grandeur of Switzerland in a remarkable degree— In Science I have seen little but Heer’s fossils, he showed me a leaf apparently Dicotyledonous from the Lower Lias in Jura—which please tell Lyell of.3 He has a wonderful collection of fossil insects & crustacea from the same, beside which the fossil plants are as nothing, in point of absolute value of characters for systematic determination— I am as always impressed with the identity of physical features & wonderful analogy of biological, between Alps & Himalaya, the former we can suppose we understand, because physical causes are the same every where & the sequence of these is probably the same in Alps & India— The representation of allied species too we can now (thanks to you) account for largely, but the repetition of forms in plants & animals in no way allied is always a puzzle—especially when accompanied by startling contrasts between allied forms. These latter can best no doubt be accounted for by the indirect action of physical causes, i.e. Nat. selection & I think there are already many reliable facts to be quoted in illustration of this & that after the course of alternatives you have administered, I could write a suggestive chapter, comparing the vegetation of Alps Andes & Himalaya, my (never to be begun) book on Plants.4

I cannot yet give up my dream of meeting you in Switzerland one day;—if you ever did come here, & I could see you for 5 minutes a day, I should be the happiest man alive. These rocks plants & insects teem with thoughts of you & reminiscences of your writing.

Your Orchid book which I have not read through has suggested to me that Insects &c may have had a wonderful deal more to do with checking migration than climate or geographics, & that the absence of whole genera may thus one day be accounted for by absence of genera of Insects: in short that the Cat; & Clover story is capable of immediate expansion by any one having sufficient knowledge of Plants Insects & Geography—5 I shall be home on 23d. so do not write to me. I have seen & heard 0 of Lubbock, Huxley & Tyndall—6

With united regards to you & yours | Ever yr affec | J. D. Hooker.


The Hookers had travelled to Switzerland in the hope that Frances Harriet Hooker might recover her health (see letters from J. D. Hooker, 19 [June 1862], 28 June 1862, and 2 July 1862).
Hooker refers to the Swiss botanist, Oswald Heer.
No angiosperms had ever been found in rocks older than the Cretaceous system (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter from Charles Lyell, [16 January 1857]); the Lower Lias is the oldest formation of the Jurassic system. As a long-standing opponent of what he called the ‘Theory of progressive development of organic life at successive geological periods’ (C. Lyell 1853, p. 130), Lyell had rejected the suggestion that the dicotyledonous angiosperms, widely considered to be the most advanced plants, were necessarily absent from the older rocks. While noting the ‘remarkable’ fact that no such fossils had yet been found in the Carboniferous system, he emphasised the great paucity of plant fossils generally from that era. Likewise with the older Secondary rocks he argued that the data were ‘too scanty as yet to affirm whether the vegetation of this second epoch was or was not on the whole of a simpler organization than that of our own times’, and he pointed to ‘the important fact of the co-existence of a large number of angiosperms with cycadeæ’ in the Lower Cretaceous formation (pp. 132–3). However, in noting the absence ‘as yet’ of all signs of dicotyledonous angiosperms from the Jurassic rocks in the fifth edition of A manual of elementary geology (Lyell 1855, p. 329), Lyell conceded that: The leaves of such plants are frequent in tertiary strata, and occur in Cretaceous, though less plentifully … The angiosperms seem, therefore, to have been at the least comparatively rare in these older secondary periods, when more space was occupied by the Cycads and Conifers. On Lyell’s non-progressivist views, see Bartholomew 1973.
In 1860, CD and others, including the publisher John Murray, encouraged Hooker to write what he called a ‘Darwinian book on Botany’ (see Correspondence vol. 8, letters to J. D. Hooker, 8 February [1860] and 18 [March 1860], and L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 535).
In Origin, CD discussed the ‘web of complex relations’ that binds plants and animals together; he continued (pp. 73–4): ‘the presence of a feline animal in large numbers in a district might determine, through the intervention first of mice and then of bees, the frequency of certain flowers in that district!’
Thomas Henry Huxley and John Tyndall had been on holiday in Switzerland since early July, exploring the glacier at Grindelwald (L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 234, and Eve and Creasy 1945, p. 92). John Lubbock met up with them on 13 July, on their way to the Rhône glacier, and stayed with them for a week before travelling to examine the remains of prehistoric lake-dwellings, the recent discovery and examination of which he had described in a paper for the January number of the Natural History Review (Lubbock 1862b; see Hutchinson 1914, 1: 56, John Lubbock’s diary (British Museum, Add. Ms. 62679: 64 r.), and letter from John Lubbock, 23 August 1862).


JDH’s trip to Switzerland with his wife.

Has seen Oswald Heer’s fossils, including a leaf, apparently dicotyledonous, from the Lower Lias in Jura.

Value of insect and crustacean fossils for systematic determination.

JDH "impressed with identity of physical features and what wonderful analogy of biological [features] between Alps and Himalayas".

Letter details

Letter no.
Hooker, J. D.
Darwin, C. R.
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 46–7
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3651,” accessed on 18 January 2017,