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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [14 December 1862]1



Dr Darwin

I always like to see what A Gray says, though I must say it is sadly unsatisfactory to me.2 When writing to him the other day, I broke the Ice, in so far as to say, that I avoided alluding to the War, because I never knew any one to be right in his ideas or prognostications of a war in progress, & no belligerent ever knew what he was bringing about. Events alone can justify a war, motives may excuse, but never justify however good— the whole thing is as much an anomaly in civilization as duelling. Of course (I added) we both deplore it, but we are not children, & have something better to do than to hold pocket handkerchiefs to one anothers eyes across the Atlantic.

I read Max Muller, liked some parts, thought the last eminently unphilosophical, & concluded that it contained as little grist for your mill as could well be, considering how fertile the subject might be made3

Mann of W. Africa is sending you bees & honey comb as I requested.4

I will see to the Begonia &c toute de suite 5

Think again over your assumption of long-beaked pigeons being or not being in any degree sterile with short.6 They must be one or the other— there is no such thing as Equality.. it is inconceivable,—hence there is no such thing as Chance; & Nat. Seln. is the Sword of Damocles hanging over your own head, if you make a slip in your premisses

I have read, with delight, the note on Lythrum, you sent me some weeks ago—7 its consequences are of the most prolific order to your doctrine

I know nothing of Dutrochet & Cohns works, & am becoming a miserable ignoramus.—8 I once asked about John Scott for you & was told he was a very smart fellow—nothing more was known—or said.9

We have not wild Gooseberry nor do I know where to get it in this country, but will write to St Petersburgh— it is a Scandinavian plant.10

Ever yours affec— | J D Hooker

Dear Willy comes home on Thursday, he keeps at the very bottom of his school poor boy.11

CD annotations

5.2 there is … sent me 6.1] scored brown crayon
8.1 We … plant. 8.2] scored brown crayon
End of letter: ‘Not Worth’12 brown crayon; ‘(Teucrium | campanulatum)’13 ink, del ink; ‘(Huxley Lectures)’14 ink


Dated by the relationship to the letter to J. D. Hooker, 12 [December 1862], and the letter from J. D. Hooker, [21 December 1862]; the intervening Sunday was 14 December.
CD apparently enclosed Asa Gray’s letter of 24 November 1862 with his letter to J. D. Hooker, 12 [December 1862]. Hooker and Gray held radically different views on the American Civil War, and had tacitly agreed not to discuss the matter in their letters (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [19 January 1862], and letter from Asa Gray, 18 February 1862).
Max Müller 1861. See letter from Asa Gray, 24 November 1862 and nn. 2 and 3.
Gustav Mann. See letter from J. D. Hooker, 20 August 1862 and nn. 8 and 9.
See letters to J. D. Hooker, [after 26] November [1862] and 12 [December 1862].
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 12 [December 1862]. The references are to Cohn 1860 and Dutrochet 1837.
In his letter to Hooker of 12 [December 1862], CD inquired about John Scott, who was foreman of the propagating department at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. He had previously made inquiries in his letter to Hooker of 18 [November 1862].
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 12 [December 1862] and n. 18. According to his ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II), CD finished writing a draft of the section of Variation dealing with ‘Facts of variation of Plants’ (Variation 1: 305–72) on 11 December 1862; the gooseberry is discussed on pp. 354–6. See also letter to Journal of Horticulture, [before 2 December 1862].
Hooker’s oldest son, William Henslow Hooker, was 9 years old.
CD discussed the incidence of peloric flowers in Teucrium campanulatum in Variation 2: 345, citing Moquin-Tandon 1841, p. 192; there is an annotated copy of this work in the Darwin Library–CUL.


On Asa Gray’s letter; has written why he avoids alluding to the war.

Has read Max Müller [see 3752] – last part unphilosophical.

On CD’s pigeon example, long-beaked and short-beaked pigeons must be either sterile or not inter se. There is "no such thing as Equality – hence no such thing as chance and Nat. Sel. is the sword of Damocles hanging over your head if you make a slip in your premisses."

Has read note on Lythrum sent several weeks ago. Its consequences are of most prolific order to CD’s doctrine.

Kew has no wild gooseberries.

JDH praises the Saturday Review reply [14 (1862): 589] to the Duke of Argyll’s bitter review of Orchids ["The supernatural", Edinburgh Rev. 116 (1862): 378–97].

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 83–4
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3846,” accessed on 18 August 2017,

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