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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   26[–7] March [1864]1

Down Bromley Kent

Mar 26

My dear Hooker

Since receiving your pleasant letter of Feb. 9. I have daily been wishing to scribble to you in pencil, but have been unable from having had a good deal more sickness.2 We have had Dr Jenner down to see me, who feels sure there is no organic mischief & thinks I shall some day get over the sickness.3 The last lot of plants are doing well & I am very much obliged for them.4 They are a great amusemt to me & I have one or 2 of them in my bedroom at a time; not that the subject is worth all the trouble I give it.

You once said that you thot Veitch was a mere tradesman.5 Lately I ordered between 2 & 3£ worth of climbing plants from him. I told him that they were for observation as I begged him to choose growing plants. In answer he sent me more than I ordered & absolutely declined any payment, was not this very handsome, tho’ in one sense rather a bore?6 I am so magnificent that I am thinking of building a large greenhouse & turning the present green house into a cool Stove.7 Do look how Nepenthes climbs? to which you alluded—8 You did not answer me about Vanilla but I suppose it climbs by rootlets & if so I do not care—9

Sunday morning

Hurrah! I have been 52 hours without vomiting!!10 I have had a capital letter from John Scott, but I grieve to hear that he has left Bot. Garden & says nothing about the cause or the future.11 I hope he has not quarrelled.— Pray tell me whether any steps have been taken about his Associateship. Linn: Socy.12 I earnestly hope it will not be forgotten— Have you settled for the Duke of Northd. Man?13 It must have been a fearful responsibility.—

Àpropos to what Frankland quotes I shd be very much obliged if you wd ask Tyndall when you next see him whether he supposes if only 12 the present amount of snow fell on the Alps, that the climate of Europe fell to that of Greenland, whether the glaciers wd not greatly advance?14 I see the importance of the fall of snow, but does not Frankland exaggerate its importance. F. ought to look into my journal for the extraordinary flexure in the snow line in S. Chile.15 What superb work Tyndall seems to be doing as I see in the Reader16   Blessings on the Ed.   he gives me a weekly treat.17

What a pity it is that Huxley & Falconer shd make their attacks & squabbles so public!18 Jukes has risen greatly in my opinion from the matter & more especially from the spirit of his letter.19

I have 1 or 2 little questions   Is E. Blyth settled in Dublin?20 Is Owen’s lecture at Exeter Hall published?21

Please tell me to what order Siphomeris lingua belongs as I can nowhere find it?22 I enclose A. Gray’s letter tho’ remarkable for nothing but its niceness23

yours affectionately | Ch Darwin | (a forgery—)24

82 plants have now come up from the earth round the partridge’s leg25


In 1864, 26 March fell on a Saturday; the second half of the letter was written on Sunday.
Most of the letter is in Emma Darwin’s hand; CD or Emma retained Hooker’s error in writing February rather than March on his letter of 9 [March] 1864. For an earlier report on CD’s health, see the letter from Emma Darwin to J. D. Hooker, 12 March [1864] and n. 4.
William Jenner visited CD on 20 March 1864 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
No written comment by Hooker to CD has been found. James Veitch (1815–69) owned a nursery in Chelsea, London, and had been in partnership with his father, James Veitch (1792–1863), until his father’s death (R. Desmond 1994). The Veitches had supplied CD with many specimens, including orchids (see Correspondence vols. 9 and 10, and Orchids, pp. 158 n., 214 n.).
In ‘Climbing plants’, p. 14 n., CD thanked Veitch ‘for having generously given me a large collection of fine specimens of climbing plants’.
CD’s Classed account book (Down House MS) indicates that this work was completed by August 1864; he spent at least £126 10s. on the new greenhouse and on adapting the old one into an enclosed greenhouse or ‘cool stove’, which was kept at a high humidity but cooler than the hothouse. See Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix VI. For information on greenhouse and hothouse construction, see Loudon 1841; CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 504–6).
Hooker had recently asked CD about the climbing of Nepenthes (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 9 [March] 1864 and n. 22).
CD’s query about the climbing of the orchid Vanilla has not been found. His primary interest regarding climbing plants was in twining and tendril-bearing plants and not in those that climbed with hooks or rootlets (‘Climbing plants’, p. 2); however, he briefly discussed the root-climber Vanilla in ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 107 and 117. CD had already observed Vanilla in regard to its flower morphology and pollination; notes on Vanilla plants that Hooker sent from Kew, made after Orchids was sent to the publisher, are in DAR 70: 94–5 (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, [29 May 1862] and n. 2).
Emma Darwin did not report any sickness in her diary (DAR 242) for 25 and 26 March, and recorded only ‘slight sick in night’ on 24 March.
CD refers to Scott’s letter of 19 March 1864, in which he discussed botanical subjects; Scott reported that he had left his employment at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, in his letter of 10 March 1864.
Hooker had inquired about the suitability of John Scott as a replacement for the curator who was leaving the post at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; Hooker was also considering the gardener of Algernon Percy, the fourth duke of Northumberland, for the post (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 16 February 1864 and nn. 20 and 22, and letter to J. D. Hooker, [20–]22 February [1864] and n. 5).
CD’s question relates to Edward Frankland’s argument in Frankland 1864a (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 16 February 1864 and n. 10, and letter to J. D. Hooker, [20–]22 February [1864] and nn. 10 and 11); Frankland’s hypothesis about the causes of the glacial epoch was based partly on the authority of John Tyndall’s experimental research (Frankland 1864a, pp. 168–9).
CD apparently thought that Frankland was exaggerating the importance of snowfall as a cause of the glacial epoch while not taking into account the influence of temperature fluctuations; his observations on the level of the snowline made on the Beagle voyage, and published in the second edition of his Journal of researches, were included in the section ‘On the height of the snow-line, and on the descent of the glaciers, in South America’ (ibid., pp. 244–8). He wrote that the snowline, or ‘plane of perpetual snow’, underwent the ‘remarkable flexure’ of 9000 ft in 90 of latitude from central Chile to Chiloe in southern Chile (ibid., pp. 244–5). See also the first edition of Journal of researches, pp. 279–80. See Herbert 1999 for CD’s early view of the effects of glaciers and icebergs based on his observations in South America.
CD refers to the article ‘Professor Tyndall’s contributions to molecular physics’, on pp. 395–6 in the 26 March 1864 issue of the Reader. This was a report of Tyndall’s lectures to the Royal Society on 17 March 1864, and to the Royal Institution on 18 March 1864 (Tyndall 1864a and 1864b).
In March 1864, the editor-in-chief of the Reader was William Fraser Rae. During its publication from 1863 until 1867, the Reader, a weekly review of literature, science, and the arts, tended to be liberal in its politics and neutral in matters of religion, presenting open discussion of scientific and religious subjects (see Sullivan ed. 1984, pp. 346–7, 351, and Ellegard 1990). In the last months of 1864, the editorial control of the Reader was increasingly in the hands of Thomas Henry Huxley, Joseph Norman Lockyer, and other scientific practitioners (Sullivan ed. 1984, p. 347; North 1997, pp. 4066–8; and Barton 1998, pp. 439–40).
For Huxley’s arguments with James Hunt and Charles Carter Blake, both members of the Anthropological Society, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, 9 [March] 1864 and n. 23. Huxley had responded in the issue of the Reader for 12 March 1864, pp. 334–5, to Hunt’s and Blake’s letters in the 5 March issue; CD also refers to Hugh Falconer’s correspondence with Joseph Beete Jukes, also in the Reader, concerning the glacial theory of lake formation (see n. 19, below).
Jukes had supported Andrew Crombie Ramsay’s theory of lake formation in opposition to the argument that Falconer presented at a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society on 27 January 1864 (see letters from J. D. Hooker, 16 February 1864 and n. 11, and 9 [March] 1864 and n. 14). Jukes’s two most recent letters, both in a column headed ‘Formation of lakes.— Glacier-erosion hypothesis’, appeared in the 12 March 1864 issue of the Reader, pp. 332–4.
In his letter of 21 September 1863 (Correspondence vol. 11), Edward Blyth had told CD that he hoped to settle in Kew, near the Royal Botanic Gardens; Blyth had returned from India earlier in 1863 (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from Edward Blyth, 27 March 1863 and n. 2). A note of CD’s on remarks made by Blyth and others at the Dublin Natural History Society’s meeting on 15 January 1864 indicates that he read a report of the meeting in the 5 March 1864 issue of the Reader, p. 307 (see DAR 205.3: 8). For Blyth’s lecture tour of Ireland and Scotland during 1864, see Brandon-Jones 1997, pp. 171–2. Blyth settled in England, writing to CD in 1866 from Regent’s Park, London (Blyth 1875, p. xiii, and letter from Edward Blyth, 13 January 1866 (Calendar no. 4975)).
Richard Owen delivered the lecture ‘Instances of the power of God as manifested in his animal creation’ in November 1863 to the Young Men’s Christian Association at Exeter Hall (R. Owen 1864). The YMCA publications committee was at first reluctant to publish the lecture, evidently because they thought it undermined the authenticity of the book of Genesis (Gunther 1975, pp. 200–1, and Rupke 1994, pp. 336–7). Owen also published a version to which he added approximately fifteen pages (see Rupke 1994, p. 336).
CD refers to Siphomeris in ‘Climbing plants’, p. 18, as a member of the Cinchonaceae. In his letter of 29 March 1864, Hooker replied that Siphomeris was a synonym for Lecontea, a member of the Rubiaceae. Lindley 1853 placed Siphomeris in the Cinchonaceae, which he defined as containing most of the genera of the Rubiaceae. A copy of Lindley 1853 is listed in CD’s Library catalogue (DAR 240), but it has not been found in the Darwin Library–Down or the Darwin Library–CUL. CD also refers to Siphomeris in ‘Climbing plants’, p. 8. His observational notes on an unnamed species of Siphomeris are in DAR 157.1: 50.
Letter from Asa Gray, 16 February 1864.
Most of the letter is in the hand of Emma Darwin; only the paragraph headed ‘Sunday morning—’ was written by CD; it is in pencil.
In November 1863, Alfred Newton made available to CD the foot of a red-legged partridge (Caccabis rufa) with a ball of earth attached containing seeds (see Correspondence vol. 11, letters from Alfred Newton, 21 March 1863 and n. 5, and 31 October 1863). Newton exhibited the foot at a meeting of the Zoological Society of London on 21 April 1863 ‘as a singular illustration of the manner in which birds may occasionally aid in the dispersion of seeds’ (Newton 1863, p. 129; see also Origin, pp. 362–3). With his letter of 31 October 1863, Newton sent CD a copy of Newton 1863, part of which is in DAR 205.9: 366 and is annotated in CD’s hand. CD examined the foot and planted the seeds on 13 November 1863 (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 [December 1863], and letter from Emma Darwin to J. D. Hooker, [7 December 1863], and this volume, letter to Alfred Newton, 29 March [1864] and n. 3).


John Scott has left Edinburgh Botanic Garden.

Asks JDH to ask Tyndall whether Frankland exaggerates the effect of snowfall on advance of European glaciers.

Huxley and Falconer squabble too much in public.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 225
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4436,” accessed on 20 January 2018,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 12