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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   11 September [1862]

Cliff Cottage Bournemouth

Sept 11.

My dear Hooker

You once told me that cruciferous flowers were anomalous in alternation of parts & had given rise to some theory of dedoublement.1 Having nothing on earth to do here I have dissected all spiral vessels in a flower, & instead of burning my diagrams, I send them to you, you miserable man. But mind I do not want you to send me a discussion, but just some time to say whether my notions are rubbish & then burn the diagrams. It seems to me that all parts alternate beautifully by fours (!) on the hypothesis that two short stamens of outer whorl are aborted; & this view is perhaps supported by there being so few, only two, sub-bundles in the two lateral main bundles, where I imagine two short stamens have aborted; but I suppose there is some valid objection against this notion. The course of the side vessels, (not of the midrib) in the sepals is curious just like my difficulty in Habenaria.2 I am surprised at the 4 vessels in the ovarium. Can this indicate 4 confluent pistils? anyhow they are in right alternating position. The nectary within the base of the shorter stamens seems to cause the end sepals apparently, but not really, to arise beneath the lateral sepals.—

I think you will understand my diagrams in five minutes, so forgive me for bothering you. My writing this to you, reminds me of a letter which I received yesterday from Claparède, who helped the French Translatress of the Origin, & he tells me he had difficulty in preventing her (who never looked at a bee-cell) from altering my whole description, because she affirmed that an hexagonal prism must have an hexagonal base!3 Almost everywhere in Origin, when I express great doubt, she appends a note explaining the difficulty or saying that there is none whatever!! It is really curious to know what conceited people there are in the world, (people for instance after looking at one cruciferous flower, explain their homologies!!!).—

This is a nice, but most barren country & I can find nothing to look at.4 Even the brooks & ponds produce nothing— The country is like Patagonia.— My wife is almost well, thank God, & Leonard is wonderfully improved:5 his kidneys excrete less blood & the albumen decreases. Good God what an illness scarlet-fever is. The Doctor feared rheumatic fever for my wife; but she does not know her risk. It is now all over. I do not know whether you have returned; so I have marked this “not to be forwarded”.—6 I saw in paper the marriage of your niece.7 I heartily hope that you have enjoyed yourself, & that it has done Mrs. Hooker good,8 & that you will return to your work refreshed. Thanks for your note from Scotland, with address of Mann &c &c.—9

I was delighted to see by Lindley’s review that your 1st. vol. of Genera is out.10 I have ordered a copy, for I daresay it will be useful even to me.11 The more I potter over flowers, the more I get delighted with them. I expect we shall return home in 3 weeks.12 | Farewell my dear old friend— | Yours affecy | C. Darwin


The little circles represent the bundles of spiral vessels, actually seen (except the two with X) in their proper position, except that they are all crowded to centre.

Longitudinal section of flower of Crucifer, laid flat open, showing by dotted lines the course of spiral vessels in all the organs.13 Sepals & petals shown on one side alone, with the stamens on one side above, with course of vessels indicated, but not prolonged. Near side of pistil with one spiral vessel cut away.



The reference has not been traced.
CD discussed the ‘anomalous’ course of the spiral vessels in Habenaria and in the allied genus Bonatea in Orchids, pp. 297 and 302–5. See also Correspondence vol. 9, letters to J. D. Hooker, 10 November [1861] and 14 November [1861].
See letter from Edouard Claparède, 6 September 1862 and n. 7. The reference is to Clémence Auguste Royer, who translated and edited the first French edition of Origin (Royer trans. 1862).
The Darwins spent September 1862 on holiday in Bournemouth (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II)).
Emma and Leonard Darwin were recovering from scarlet fever (see letter to John Lubbock, 2 September [1862] and n. 4).
The Hookers left London for Scotland on 23 August 1862, and returned on 16 September 1862 (see letters from J. D. Hooker, [26–31 August 1862] and 16 September 1862).
Hooker had attended the wedding of his niece, Willielma Hooker, to James Campbell, which took place in Glasgow on 4 September 1862 (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [26–31 August 1862] and n. 7). CD probably refers to The Times, to which he subscribed at this time (see letter to Asa Gray, 10–20 June [1862], and CD’s Classed account book (Down House MS)), and which carried an announcement of the wedding in the issue of 9 September 1862.
Frances Harriet Hooker had been ill for several months (see letters from J. D. Hooker, 9 June 1862 and 20 August 1862 and n. 3).
Letter from J. D. Hooker, [26–31 August 1862]. The reference is to the botanical collector, Gustav Mann.
[Lindley] 1862b. The first part of the first volume of Genera Plantarum, which Hooker co-authored with George Bentham (Bentham and Hooker 1862–83), was published on 7 August 1862 (Stearn 1956, p. 130).
There is a lightly annotated copy of Bentham and Hooker 1862–83 in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 52–3).
CD returned to Down on 30 September 1862 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II)).
The diagram has been reduced to 50% of its original size.


Has passed the time by dissecting flowers of Cruciferae. Sends results, with diagrams, to JDH.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 162
Physical description
4pp, 2 diags

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3721,” accessed on 29 April 2017,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10