From J. D. Hooker [26 or 27 April 1864]1
Royal Gardens Kew
Dear Old Darwin
It is indeed “dew in the desert” to see a letter written by you in ink—& in a much improved hand, I am glad to observe, & pat you on the back accordingly!—2 It is a pity that some of your friends do not take ill too, you will say, if that is to be the result.—
No doubt I am hard on Scott—3 I do not know him, & I can only judge from Balfour’s & his own letter.4 I shall not cease to wish I could help him: but the only thing for him is an easy gentlemans place—where he should make up his mind to do the drudgery cheerfully & like a man: & occupy the rest of his time with Science.
If the Hort. Soc. wanted an impregnator & experimenter he would be just the man.5 All our posts want useful public men. God knows, that like Scott, I would rather do pure science on half my income, but if I am given health tact & method to do good public service, & the opportunity withall, I should be morally guilty to refuse my services to the public as such.
This lofty exordium will prepare you for the answer to your question “what are you chiefly doing in Science”—“just nothing at all”. I am plodding away at the manual of N. Zealand Flora,6—such another work as Benthams Handbook of Brit. Flora,—7 I am groaning over a dreadful Nat Order, Melastomaceæ for Gen. Plant,—8 I am eyeing askance a bottle with beautiful young plants in spirits of Welwitschia;9—& I am ruminating over an Essay on N.Z. Flora.10 The visible results are that the said N.Z. Flora is printed as far as the Phænogams, that I yawn portentously over the Melastomaceæ;—that I see no prospect of cutting up my Welwitschias & that the N.Z. Essay has developed no new ideas as yet.
I should think that Leersia would grow in a pot set in a good deep pan of water.11
It would be curious to make out more concerning the rationale of action of pollen— thus—do the pollen grains of Auricula burst soonest on their own stigma or on that of Cowslip.—& sooner on the Cowslip than the cowslips own pollen grains do.—12 Do the pollen tubes develop quicker— is it that they beat the cowslip tubes in the race to the ovules—or do they reach afterwards but prevail at the micropyle. What in short is the rationale of prepotence.13 The fact that mechanical irritation of the stigma causes swelling of the ovary seems to me very surprizing & suggests the possibility of prepotence being due to a rapid production of p. tubes, & the irritation thereupon consequent.
I have certainly some curious facts connected with the variation of species in N. Zealand & the number of variable genera & species is astounding but I do not see my way yet to connecting this fact with your recent workings.14 I hope to do so yet,—I observe many of the species of some of the Genera rarely seed, & can fancy that the absence of insect life ergo of impregnation will account for much; but I have had no time to think the matter out, & my brains are getting very woolly. I hope I shall make something of the subject what is full of interest & novelty I am sure.
We go to Barlaston15 on the 7th.—then to York to see Backhouses Nurseries,16 then to Riply Castle, a Mrs Ingilbys,17 & perhaps to Teesdale18 for a few days before returning.
Will you kindly ask Henrietta19 if she will kindly tell us who there are of the Wedgwood family, at Barlaston—& who is who— Mr. W. writes one son is in Paris, another in Berlin, 2 in Russia!—20 Godfrey21 is the only one I know, & I like him immensely.
J. Smith of Sion house is our new Curator to be;22 they have pensioned our old Smith handsomely.—£183 pr annum—for life— he had only £160 & a house—23
Ever affec | J D Hooker
JDH on John Scott.
Curious about the rationale of pollen prepotence.
Working on variation in New Zealand flora.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4472,” accessed on 17 January 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-4472