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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   12 July [1870]1

Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

July 12th

My dear Hooker

Two of the kinds of seeds will be very useful to me; but why the others were sent by Col. Playfair, I know not, except from the abundance of his kindness.—2

I am sure I never heard of Curtis’ observations on Dioneæa; nor have I met with anything more than general statements about this plant or about Nepenthes catching insects &c—3

I have always thought the D. of Argyll wonderfully clever; but as for calling him “a little beggar” my inherited, instinctive feelings wd. declare it was a sin thus to speak of a real old Duke.—4

Your conclusion that all speculation about preordination is idle waste of time is the only wise one: but how difficult it is not to speculate. My theology is a simple muddle: I cannot look at the Universe as the result of blind chance, yet I can see no evidence of beneficent design, or indeed of design of any kind in the details.— As for each variation that has ever occurred having been preordained for a special end, I can no believe in it, than that the spot on which each drop of rain falls has been specially ordained.—

Spontaneous generations seems almost as great a puzzle as preordination; I cannot persuade myself that such a multiplicity of organisms can have been produced, like crystals, in Bastian’s solutions of the same kind.—5 I am astonished that as yet I have met with no allusion to Wyman’s positive statement that if the solutions are boiled for 5 hours, no organisms appear; yet, if my memory serves me, the solutions when opened to air, immediately became stocked.6 Against all evidence I cannot avoid suspecting that organic particles (my gemmules from the separate cells of the lower creatures!) will keep alive & afterwards multiply under proper conditions.7 What an interesting problem it is.—

Your affect | C. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, 10 July 1870.
The reference is to Robert Lambert Playfair. See letter from J. D. Hooker, 10 July 1870 and n. 1.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, 10 July 1870 and nn. 2 and 3. Moses Ashley Curtis, not William Curtis, had made observations on Dionaea.
CD refers to George Douglas Campbell. See letter from J. D. Hooker, 10 July 1870.
CD refers to experiments conducted by Henry Charlton Bastian (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 July [1870] and n. 9).
CD refers to experiments performed by Jeffries Wyman (see Wyman 1867).
According to CD’s hypothesis of heredity, pangenesis, gemmules were minute particles thrown off by individual cells, and capable of generating new cells when needed (see Variation 2: 357–404).


Has not heard of Curtis on Dionaea.

Duke of Argyll is clever, but it is a sin to speak of a real old Duke as a "little beggar".

"My theology is a simple muddle: I cannot look at the Universe as the result of blind chance, yet I can see no evidence of beneficent Design."

On spontaneous generation and Bastian.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 94: 179–180
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7273,” accessed on 26 June 2017,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18