To J. D. Hooker 26 [March 1863]
My dear Hooker
Is it worth while to send the Medallion by Railway? say the word & it shall be sent.—1
I consulted the great Mr Startin for my Eczema;2 & the enclosed local applications are certainly to me very soothing. The muddy stuff must be shaken, a little poured out & smeared on part with broad camel-brush, & then mopped nearly dry with a bit of rag.— Startin said particularly go to Waugh 177 Regent St.—3 Please return prescription.4
I hope & think that you are too severe on Lyell’s early chapters: though so condensed & not well arranged, they seemed to me to convey with uncommon force the antiquity of Man, & that was his object. It did not occur to me, but I fear there is some truth in your criticism that nothing is to be trusted until he Lyell had observed it.—5
I am glad to see you stirred up about Tropical plants during Glacial period. Remember that I have many times sworn to you that they coexisted, so my dear fellow you must make them coexist.6 I do not think greater coolness in a disturbed condition of things would be required than that zone of Himalaya in which you describe some Tropical & temperate forms commingling;7 & as in lower part of Cameroons, & as Seemann describes on low mountains of Panama—8 It is, as you say, absurd to suppose that such a genus as Dipterocarpea could have been developed since glacial era;9 but do you feel so sure, as to oppose a large body of consideration on other side, that this genus could not have been slowly accustomed to a cooler climate. I see Lindley says it has not been brought to England10 & so could not have been tried in greenhouse. Have you materials to know to what little height it ever ascends mountains of Java or Sumatra. It makes a mighty difference the whole area being cooled; & the area perhaps not being in all respects, such as dampness &c &c fitted for such temperate plants as could get in. But anyhow I am ready to swear again that Dipetrocarpea & any other genus you like to name did survive during a cooler period!
About Reversion you express just what I mean:11 I somehow blundered & mentally took literally that the child inherited from his grandfather: this view of latency collects a lot of facts—both secondary sexual character in each individual—tendency of latent character to appear temporarily in youth—effect of crossing in educing latent character &c.— When one thinks of a latent character being handed down hidden for a thousand or ten-thousand generations & then suddenly appearing, one is quite bewildered at the host of characters written in invisible ink on the germ.— I have no evidence of the reversion of all characters in a variety.— I quite agree to what you say about genius; I told Lyell that passage made me groan.—12
What a pity about Falconer; how singular & how lamentable.—13
I am tired, so farewell | Ever my dear Hooker | Yours affectly | C. Darwin
Remember Orchid pods.— I have a passion to grow the seeds (& other motives):14 I have not a fact to go on, but have a notion (no, I have firm conviction!) that they are parasites in early youth on cryptogams!! Here is a fool’s notion; I have some planted on sphagnum.—15 Do any tropical lichens or mosses or European withstand heat grow on any trees in Hothouse at Kew; if so for love of Heaven favour my madness & have some scraped off & sent me. I am like a gambler, & love a wild experiment. It gives me great pleasure to fancy that I see radicles of orchis-seed penetrating the sphagnum; I know I shall not, & therefore shall not be disappointed.
CD’s opinion of Lyell’s Antiquity of man.
Geographical distribution during and between glacial periods.
Latent characters and reversion.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4061,” accessed on 3 December 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-4061