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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Charles and Emma Darwin to J. D. Hooker   [10 July 1865]1



My dear Hooker

I do not know whether you are at Kew. When you can find time I shd. much like to hear how Teesdale suited you & Mrs. H.2 I have had a very bad time, with incessant vomiting, but have been better for last 4 days— The ice to spine did nothing.3 I fear I am much too weak to risk seeing you, even if gooseberries could tempt you.4

We are reading aloud on your recommendation Tylor & are deeply interested by it: what a clever man— do you know who & what he is?—5

Have you read last nor of H. Spencers Biology:6 I shd very much like to hear what you think of it, especially about the umbellifers.7 When writing the Origin I consulted you & you did not think that the compactness of the head accounted for the difference of the outer flowers; but then I do not think we took into account the difference between a globular & flat corymb.8 I am not satisfied by his views on irregular flowers; the peloric Gloxinia being upright seems a good argument; but then the peloric Snap dragon I find forms the same angle with the stem as does the very irregular common flower.9

The last number of the Nat. Hist review seems to me very good. That on H. Spencer I suppose is by Masters.10 Let me have a short note from you whenever you can spare time.

All scientific work has been stopped with me for the last 212 months.11

yours affectionately | Ch Darwin

Remind Oliver to have the kindness to let me hear if there are any articles in German periodicals concerning my subjects.12 what is Oliver doing? Dear Dr Hooker13

I do hope Charles is making a little progress in spite of frequent returns of the sickness but there is a degree of vigour about him on the well days which makes me hope that his constitution is making a struggle. If he conquers this sickness I do hope you will be able to come & see him before long & I am sure there is nobody in the world he cares so much to see. He had one terribly bad week. We liked Dr Chapman so very much we were quite sorry the ice failed for his sake as well as ours.14

Will you give my love to Mrs Hooker. I trust she is stronger15


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, 13 July 1865. The Monday before 13 July 1865 was 10 July.
Joseph Dalton and Frances Harriet Hooker and George and Sarah Bentham travelled to York on 26 or 27 June 1865, and then to Middleton-in-Teesdale, County Durham (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [15 June 1865], and Jackson 1906, p. 202).
CD had been following John Chapman’s ice treatment since 20 May (see letter to J. D. Hooker, [17 June 1865] and n. 11). Emma Darwin recorded in her diary (DAR 242) that CD suffered several bouts of vomiting and flatulence throughout May and June, but indicated that his health was good on 6, 9, and 10 July 1865 and good for part of 7 and 8 July, though with some sickness.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, [after 17 June 1865] and n. 6.
Hooker first recommended Tylor 1865 to CD in May (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [26 May 1865] and n. 13) but ill health had prevented CD from reading it earlier. CD made several references to Tylor 1865 in Descent and cited the second edition, Tylor 1870, three times in Expression. There are annotated copies of Tylor 1865 and 1870 in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 810–11). For more on the career of Edward Burnett Tylor and the relation of his work in anthropology to Darwinism, see Leopold 1980 and Stocking 1987.
The most recent instalment of Herbert Spencer’s Principles of biology, part 14, was published in June 1865 (see Spencer 1864–7, 1: Preface). Spencer’s list of subscribers included CD and Hooker (Spencer 1904, 2: 484). CD’s instalments of Spencer 1864–7 are in the Darwin Library–CUL as a bound volume (see also Marginalia 1: 769–73).
The inflorescences of the Umbelliferae (also referred to as the Apiaciae in Lindley 1853) are discussed in Spencer 1864–7, 2: 156–7.
No correspondence between CD and Hooker on this subject has been found; however, in Origin, p. 145, CD wrote, ‘in the case of the corolla of the Umbelliferae, it is by no means, as Dr. Hooker informs me, in species with the densest heads that the inner and outer flowers most frequently differ’. He prefaced this by stating (p. 144): I know of no case better adapted to show the importance of the laws of correlation in modifying important structures, independently of utility and, therefore, of natural selection, than that of the difference between the outer and inner flowers in some Compositous and Umbelliferous plants. Spencer 1864–7, 2: 156–7, gives several examples of Umbelliferae species, some with flat inflorescences and differently shaped inner and outer flowers (when the flowers are crowded together), and others with globular inflorescences that do not have differently shaped flowers. Moreover, he argues that in species where the umbellules themselves are clustered, the tendency towards greater irregularity of outer flowers is increased as one moves to the periphery of the cluster. Spencer thus attempts to show that a causal relationship exists between the shape of the inflorescence and the shape of individual flowers within it and concludes (ibid., p. 157): Considering how obviously these various forms are related to the various conditions, we should be scarcely able, even in the absence of all other facts, to resist the conclusion that the differences in the conditions are the causes of the differences in the forms. The above passage was scored by CD in his copy of part 14. He also wrote on the back cover, ‘Hooker disagrees about Umbellifers’ (see Marginalia 1: 770). CD’s statements in Origin were not substantially changed in later editions.
Spencer suggested that the shape of the flower of Gloxinia erecta was related to the angle it formed relative to the stem. The peloric regular flower, which was radially symmetrical, was associated with an upright attitude, while the normal irregular flower, which was bilaterally symmetrical, inclined at an acute angle from the stem (Spencer 1864–7, 2: 151–2). CD had kept Hooker informed about his recent crossing experiments on peloric and common Antirrhinum majus as well as sending him flower specimens (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 1 June [1865]).
CD refers to Maxwell Tylden Masters. The article on Spencer’s Principles of biology in the issue of Natural History Review for July 1865, pp. 373–85, was unsigned. The review focused on aspects of plant teratology, a subject that Masters had studied extensively (see Masters 1869, and letter from M. T. Masters, 7 February 1865). CD’s unbound copy of the July 1865 issue of Natural History Review is in the Darwin Library–CUL. The article is lightly annotated with an additional note written by CD on a separate sheet at the back of the issue.
CD recorded in his Journal that he had been ill since 22 April 1865 (see Correspondence vol.13, Appendix II; see also n. 3, above). By ‘scientific work’ CD usually meant writing (see letter to T. H. Huxley, 12 July [1865]); he was still making botanical experiments (see, for example, letter to J. D. Hooker, 1 June [1865], where he mentions his work on snapdragons).
Daniel Oliver was an editor of phanerogamic botany for the Natural History Review. He often referred German and French language publications on botanical topics to CD (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 12, letter from Daniel Oliver, 14 June 1864).
Emma Darwin added her own note to Hooker on the back page of CD’s letter.
See n. 3, above. For CD’s comments on the effects of the ice treatment, see the letter to John Chapman, 7 June 1865, and the letter to J. D. Hooker, [17 June 1865].
Frances Harriet Hooker had suffered a miscarriage (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [2 June 1865]).


Health very bad. All scientific work stopped for 2½ months.

E. B. Tylor’s Early history of mankind [1865] impresses him.

Would like JDH’s opinion of last number of Spencer’s [Principles of] Biology [vol. 1 (1864)], especially on umbellifers. CD not satisfied with Spencer’s views on irregular flowers.

ED reports on CD’s health.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin ; Emma Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 272
Physical description
) 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4868,” accessed on 23 May 2017,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13