To J. D. Hooker 21 May 
My dear Hooker
I know that you have been overworking yourself, & that makes you think that you are doing nothing in science. If this is the case (which I do not believe) your intellect has all run to letter-writing, for I never in all my life received a pleasanter one than your last.— It greatly amused us all.1
How dreadfully severe you are on the little Duke;—I really think too severe; but then I am no fair judge, for a Duke in my eyes is no common mortal, & not to be judged by common rules!2 I pity you from the bottom of my soul about the Address—3 it makes my flesh creep; but when I pitied you to Huxley, he wd not join at all, & would only say that you did & delivered your Insular-Flora-Lecture so admirably in every way that he would not bestow any pity on you.— He felt certain that you would keep your head high up.—4 Nevertheless I wish to God it was all over for your sake.— I think from several long talks that Huxley will give an excellent & original Lecture on Geograph. Distrib. of Birds.5 I have been working very hard, too hard, of late on Sexual Selection, which turns out a gigantic subject, & almost every day new subjects turn up, requiring investigation & leading to endless letters & searches through books.6 I am bothered, also, with heaps of foolish letters on all sorts of subjects. But I am much interested in my subject & sometimes see gleams of light.— All my other letters have prevented me indulging myself in writing to you; but I suddenly found the Locust-grass yesterday in flower & had to despatch it at once. I suppose some of your assistants will be able to make the genus out, without great trouble.7 I have done little in experiments of late; but I find that mignonette is absolutely sterile with pollen from same plant.8 Anyone who saw stamen after stamen bending upwards & shedding pollen over the stigmas of the same flower would declare that the structure was an admirable contrivance for self-fertilisation.— How utterly mysterious it is that there shd be some difference in ovules & contents of pollen-grains (for the tubes penetrate own stigma) causing fertilisation when these are taken from any two distinct plants, & invariably leading to impotence when taken from the same plant! By Jove even Pan. won’t explain this. It is a comfort to me to think that you will be surely haunted on your death-bed for not honouring the great God Pan.—9 I am quite delighted at what you say about my book & about Bentham.10 When writing it, I was much interested in some parts, but latterly I thought quite as poorly of it, as even the Athenæum.11 It ought to be read abroad for the sake of the booksellers; for five editions have come or are coming out abroad!—12 I am ashamed to say that I have read only the organic part of Lyell, & I admire all that I have read as much as you.13 It is a comfort to know that possibly when one is 70 years old one’s brain may be good for work.
It drives me mad & I know it does you too, that one has no time for reading anything beyond what must be read: my room is encumbered with unread books.—
I agree about Wallace’s wonderful cleverness; but he is not cautious enough in my opinion.14 I find I must (& I always distrust myself when I differ from him) separate rather widely from him all about Bird’s nests & protection; he is riding that hobby to death.—15 I never read anything so miserable as Andrew Murray’s criticism on Wallace in the last nor of his Journal: I believe this Journal will die & I shall not cry: what a contrast with the old Nat. Hist. Review.—16 I am very sorry to hear how uncomfortable Mrs Hooker is.—17 poor women— good Lord how wretched my wife used to be18
Farewell— it has done me good scrawling to you— Your’s affectionately | C. Darwin
JDH too severe on Duke of Argyll.
Pities JDH on [BAAS] address [see 6099]; Huxley feels JDH will do well and will not pity him.
Thinks Huxley will give an excellent and original lecture on geographical distribution of birds.
Has been working hard on sexual selection and correspondence about it.
Mignonette is sterile with its own pollen but any two distinct plants are fertile together. It is utterly mysterious and not even Pangenesis will explain it.
On Lyell’s book [Principles, 10th ed.].
Wallace’s wonderful cleverness, but he is not cautious enough. CD differs from Wallace on birds’ nests and protection.
A. Murray’s miserable criticism of Wallace [J. Travel & Nat. Hist. 1 (1868): 137–45].
- creationism, religion
- fertilisation and generation
- fertility and/or sterility
- geographical distribution
- negative attitude/assessment
- negative criticism of correspondent
- nesting and other home-making or web-making behaviour
- positive attitude/assessment
- sexual selection
- theory (including philosophy)
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6196,” accessed on 24 August 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-6196