From J. D. Hooker [12 October 1862]1
There is an article in Bull. Bot. Soc. France VIII. 519 by A. de Lassus on irritability of leaves of Aldrovanda a kinsman of Drosera.2
Thanks for your long letter on Linum &c &c.3 I sent you last Thursday a box with two good species of Impatiens flowers, & can send a third if you care for it. I shall be most curious to know what you make of the Floral whorls & their vasc. bundles4
Cassia is another genus that has different anthers in same flower. I have also thought of some Comelyneæ but am not sure.5 Oliver6 has brought in a Tray of Drosera rotundifolia, but I doubt either of us having time to look at it.
My wife went to Cambridge & enjoyed it— I stayed at home! (& enjoyed it) working away at Welwitschia every day & almost every night—7 I entirely agree with you by the way, that after long working at a subject, & after making something out of it, one invariably finds that it all seems dull flat stale and unprofitable—8 this feeling however you will observe only comes (most mercifully) after you really have made out something worth knowing— I feel as if every body must know more of Welwitchia than I do, & yet I cannot but believe I have (ill or well) expounded & faithfully recorded a heap of the most curious facts regarding a simple plant that have been brought to light for many years.
The whole thing is however a dry record of singular structures, & sinks down to the level of the dullest descriptive account of dead matter, beside your jolly dancing facts anent orchid life & bee-life. I have looked at an Orchid or two since reading the Orchid book & feel that I never should have made out one of your points, even had I limitless leisure zeal & material— I am a dull dog, a very dull dog.— I may content myself with the per contra reflection that you could not (be dull enough to) write a “Genera plantarum”, which is just about what I am best fitted for.—9 I feel I have a call that way, & you the other.
The dismal fact you quote of hybrid transitions between Verb. Thapsus & nigra (or whichever two it was) & its bearing on my practice of lumping species through intermediate specimens, is a very horrible one; & would open my eyes to my own blindness if nothing else could.10 I have long been prepared for such a case, though I once wrote much against its probability—11 I feel tolerably sure I must have encountered many such, but have not the tact to discern them, when under my nose: & I hence feel as if all my vast experience in the field has been thrown away. Your Orchid book has pretty well convinced me that such cases must be abundant,12 & they only tend further to disturb our ideas of physiological versus structural species.13 Perhaps my intermediates between Habenaria chlorantha & bifolia (of which I retain a lively recollection) were of this hybrid nature.14 Certain it is that I had only to look for Hybrid orchids at the in Switzerland to find two different sorts. & numerous specimens of one of them.15
Huxley seems to have made short work of Owen at Cambridge.16 the latter H. says “trailed his coat”—!17 Otherwise the meeting seems to me to have been dull enough, but cheery & friendly as far as sociability goes
Ever Yours affec | J D Hooker
I don’t think it can be worth while returning the Melastomas but will enquire.18
Has sent two Impatiens flowers; curious to know what CD makes of the floral whorls and their vascular bundles.
Cassia is another genus that has different [coloured] anthers in same flower.
Continues to work on Welwitschia.
Feels as CD does about his work, which after a time seems flat and stale. He could never have done what CD did in his Orchids.
CD’s facts about Verbascum have horrible bearing on JDH’s practice of lumping species together.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3757,” accessed on 24 August 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-3757