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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   10 April [1846]

Down Bromley Kent

April 10th

My dear Hooker

I was much pleased to see & sign your certificate for the Geolog.1 we shall thus occasionally, I hope, meet.— I have been an ungrateful dog not to have thanked you before this for the cake & books. The children & their betters pronounced the former excellent, & Annie wanted to know, whether it was the gentleman “what played with us so”.— I wish we were at a more reasonable distance that Emma & myself cd have called on Lady Hooker with our congratulations on this occasion.—2 It was very good of you to put in both numbers of the Hort. Journ: I think Dr. Herbert’s article well worth reading.3 I have been so extravagant as to order M. Tandon, for though I have not found as yet, anything particularly novel or striking, yet I found that I wished to score a good many passages so as to reread them at some future time, & hence have ordered the book.4 Consequently I hope soon to send back your books.— —I have sent off the Ascension plants through Bunsen to Ehrenberg.—

There was much in your last long letter which interested me much; & I am particularly glad that you are going to attend to polymorphism in our last & incorrect sense in your works; I see that it must be most difficult, to take any sort of constant limit for the amount of possible variation. How heartily I do wish that all your works were out & complete; so that I could quietly think over them; I fear the Pacific islands must be far distant in futurity.— I fear indeed that Forbes is going rather too quickly ahead; but we shall soon see all his grounds, as I hear he is now correcting the press on this subject;5 he has plenty of people who attack him; I see Falconer never loses a chance & it is wonderful how well Forbes stands it.

What a very striking fact is the Bot. relation between Africa & Java; as you now state it, I am pleased rather than disgusted, for it accords capitally with the distribution of the mammifers: only that I judge from your letter that the Cape differs even more markedly, than I had thought, from the rest of Africa & much more than the mammifers do: I am surprised to find how well mammifers & plants seem to accord in their general distribution.—

With respect to my strong objection to Aug. St. Hilaire’s language on affaiblissement, it is perhaps hardly rational, & yet he confesses that some of the most vigorous plants in nature have some of their organs struck with this weakness— he does not pretend, of course, that they were ever otherwise in former generations—or that a more vigorously growing plant produces organs less weakened & thus fails in producing its typical structure.— In a plant in a state of nature, does cutting off the sap, tend to produce flower buds? I know it does in trees in orchards.—

Owen has been doing some grand work in morphology of the vertebrata: your arm & hand are parts of your head or rather the processes (ie modified ribs) of the occcipital vertebra!6 He gave me a grand lecture on a cod’s Head.—7 By the way would it not strike you as monstrous, if in speaking of the minute & lessening jaws, palpi &c of an insect or crustacean, anyone were to say they were produced by the affaiblissement of the less important but larger organs of locomotion.— I see from your letter (though I do not suppose it is worth referring to the subject) that I could not have expressed what I meant when I allowed you to infer that Owens rule of single organs being of a higher order than multiple organs, applied only to locomotive, &c; it applies to even the most important organ: I do not doubt that he would say the placentata having single wombs, whilst the marsupiata have double ones, is an instance of this law. I believe, however, in most instances where one organ, as a nervous centre or heart, takes places of several, it rises in complexity; but it strikes me as really odd, seeing in this instance eminent Bot: & Zoolog.: starting from reverse grounds.—

Pray kindly bear in mind about impregnation in bud: I have never (for some years having been on the look out) heard of an instance: I have long wished to know how it was in Subularia or some such name which grows on bottoms of Scotch lakes, & likewise in a grassy plant, which lives in brackish water I quite forget name near Thames, which elder Botanists doubted whether it was a Phanerogam.— When we meet I will tell you why I doubt this bud-impregnation—

We are at present in a state of utmost confusion, as we have pulled all our Offices down & are going to rebuild & alter them— I am personally in a state of utmost confusion also, for my cruel wife has persuaded me to leave off snuff for a month & I am most lethargic, stupid & melancholy in consequence. We have just lately had a death in our family, namely my wifes mother: she has, however, long been in such a state of health, that her death was a great relief to herself, & her age was great.—8

Farewell | My dear Hooker. | Ever yours | C. Darwin

I know nothing about Henslow’s Storm Man.—9

NB. You generally spell Henslow, Henslowe

Shd. you ever chance to hear that Dr. Herbert has come to town will you kindly inform me.—


Hooker was elected a fellow of the Geological Society on 6 May 1846. CD probably received the certificate by post, as he refers to it again in letter to J. D. Hooker, [16 April 1846].
Maria Hooker, whose daughter Maria was married on 24 March, see letter from J. D. Hooker, 2 [March] 1846.
W. Herbert 1846. After asking Hooker to lend him the first number of the Journal of the Horticultural Society of London in February (see letter to J. D. Hooker, [8? February 1846]) CD apparently managed to borrow a copy from Robert Hutton, see letter to Robert Hutton, [April 1846].
Moquin-Tandon 1841. CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
E. Forbes 1846.
R. Owen 1846b.
R. Owen 1846d, lecture V, pp. 84–129.
Elizabeth (Bessy) Wedgwood died on 31 March 1846 at the age of 82.
In a letter to Hooker, dated 9 March 1846, John Stevens Henslow wrote: ‘I have been recommending Darwin to read a most interesting book by Thom— on the cause of Storms’ (collection of R. A. Hooker). The reference is to Thom 1845.


Is pleased JDH will attend to polymorphism and also with the botanical relation, as stated by JDH, between Africa and Java.

Would welcome any information on impregnation in the bud.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 59
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 973,” accessed on 26 March 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 3