skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [18 April 1847]



My dear Hooker

I return with many thanks Watson’s letter which I have had copied:1 it is a capital one & I am extremely obliged to you for obtaining me such valuable information: Surely he is rather in a hurry when he says intermediate varieties must almost be necessarily rare, otherwise they would be taken as the types of the species; for he overlooks numerical frequency as an element. Surely if A. B C were three varieties & if A were a good deal the commonest (therefore, also, first known) it would be taken as the type, without regarding whether B was quite intermediate or not, or whether it was rare or not.— What capital essays W. would write, but I suppose he has written a good deal in the Phytologist;2 you ought to encourage him to publish on variation; it is a shame that such facts as those in his letter shd. remain unpublished; I must get you to introduce me to him Would he be a good & sociable man for Dropmore?3 though if he comes Forbes must not, (& I think you talked of inviting Forbes) or we shall have a glorious battle.4 I shd. like to see sometime the war-correspondence: have you the Phytologist & cd. you sometime spare it; I wd go through it quickly.—5 I have not heard from Murray;6 I am rather sorry to hear about Dr. Holland being probably the reviewer:7 he does not know enough of Nat. Hist. & between ourselves he is so dreadfully conceited & vain that he never wd. condescend to learn, or to think enough of the labours of others.— I have read your 5 last numbers,8 & as usual been much interested in several points; especially with your discussions on the beach & potato; I see you have introduced several sentences against us transmutationists.9

I have also been looking through the latter vols. of the Annals. of Nat. Hist, & have read two such soulless pompous papers of Hinds,10 quite worthy of the Author of the Regions of Vegetation.11 The contrast of the papers in the Annals with those in the Annales 12 is rather humiliating; so many papers in the former, with short descriptions of species, without one word on their affinities, internal structure, range, or habits.— I am now reading Royle13 & I have picked out some things which have interested me; but he strikes me as rather dullish & with all his Materia Medica smells of the Doctor’s shop. I shall ever hate the name of Materia Medica, since hearing Duncan’s lectures at 8 oclock in a winter’s morning—a whole, cold, breakfastless hour on the properties of rhubarb!14

I hope your journey will be very prosperous—15 believe me my dear Hooker | Ever yours C. Darwin.

I think I have only made one new acquainta⁠⟨⁠nce⁠⟩⁠ of late, that is R. Chambers,16 and I have just received a presentation copy of the 6th Edit of the Vestiges: somehow I now feel perfectly convinced he is the Author.17 He is in France & has written to me thence.—


Watson wrote numerous articles for the Phytologist. His theoretical pieces were concerned with his efforts to demonstrate progressive development in species from the geographical relationships and distribution of plants (see Egerton 1979).
The expedition to Dropmore that Hooker and CD were planning during the week of the 1847 British Association meeting in Oxford (‘Journal’; Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix I). See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 12 October 1849, in which CD recalled ‘that Heavenly day at Dropmore’.
Watson believed that Edward Forbes had appropriated his scheme of subdividing the British flora into five ‘elements’ based on the countries from which the plants originally came. He published several bitter attacks on Forbes during 1846 (Correspondence vol. 3, letter from J. D. Hooker, [before 3 September 1846]). Both men corresponded with Hooker, whom they considered an intermediary (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Archives).
CD recorded in his reading notebook on 13 July 1847 that he had read volumes one and two of the Phytologist ‘to p. 860’ (DAR 119; Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV).
John Murray, publisher of CD’s Journal of researches 2d ed. and founder and publisher of the Quarterly Review.
CD probably refers to a review of his Coral reefs by Henry Holland in a forthcoming number of the Quarterly Review (no. 81, September 1847, pp. 468–500); but it is possible that he may be discussing a review of Ross 1847 and W. J. Hooker 1843, in which J. D. Hooker’s work on Antarctic plants was mentioned (Quarterly Review, no. 81, June 1847, pp. 166–87). The author of the latter is given as Francis Egerton in Wellesley Index 1: 730.
J. D. Hooker 1844–7 was issued in 25 numbers; by April 1847 the publishers had issued 23 of these (Wiltshear 1913, p. 357).
CD refers to Hooker’s discussion of the Antarctic beech Fagus antarctica (a synonym of Nothofagus antarctica) and the wild potato Solanum tuberosum (J. D. Hooker 1844–7, pp. 345–9 and pp. 329–32). One sentence against transmutationists is the following on p. 347: ‘Surely so strongly marked a difference between otherwise very nearly allied species, growing side by side under perfectly similar conditions, is a strong argument in favour of their being originally separate creations.’
The reference is probably to Richard Brinsley Hinds’s paper, ‘Memoirs on geographic botany’, which appeared in two parts in the Annals and Magazine of Natural History (Hinds 1845).
Hinds 1843. See Correspondence vol. 3, letter to J. D. Hooker, 19 March [1845], for CD’s comments on this work.
Annales des Sciences Naturelles. CD read the three series of this journal from December 1846 to April 1847 (DAR 119; Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV). His notes on various papers from the Annales are in DAR 72 and DAR 74.
On 20 April 1847, CD recorded reading John Forbes Royle’s ‘Illust. of Botany of Himalaya’ (Royle 1839) (DAR 119; Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV).
Andrew Duncan, professor of materia medica at Edinburgh University, 1821–32, whose lectures CD attended. See Correspondence vol. 1, letter to Caroline Darwin, 6 January 1826, and Autobiography, p. 47.
Hooker set out on 17 April for a two-week visit to Cambridge. CD’s letter, addressed to Kew, was redirected to Hooker, ‘care of C. C. Babington, Esqr e. | St. John’s College | Cambridge’.
Robert Chambers’s authorship of Vestiges of the natural history of creation ([Chambers] 1844) was a carefully guarded secret, although several of CD’s contemporaries believed the book was indeed by Chambers.


Autobiography: The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882. With original omissions restored. Edited with appendix and notes by Nora Barlow. London: Collins. 1958.

[Chambers, Robert.] 1844. Vestiges of the natural history of creation. London: John Churchill.

Coral reefs: The structure and distribution of coral reefs. Being the first part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1842.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Egerton, Frank N. 1979. Hewett C. Watson, Great Britain’s first phytogeographer. Huntia 3: 87–102.

Hinds, Richard Brinsley. 1843. The regions of vegetation; being an analysis of the distribution of vegetable forms over the surface of the globe in connexion with climate and physical agents. Appendix to vol. 2 of Belcher, Edward, Narrative of a voyage round the world, performed in HMS Sulphur, 1836–42. 2 vols. London.

Hinds, Richard Brinsley. 1845. Memoirs on geographic botany. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 15: 11–30, 89–104.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1844–7. Flora Antarctica. 1 vol. and 1 vol. of plates. Pt 1 of The botany of the Antarctic voyage of HM discovery ships Erebus and Terror in the years 1839–1843, under the command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross. London: Reeve Brothers.

Hooker, William Jackson. 1843. Notes on the botany of HM Discovery Ships, Erebus and Terror in the Antarctic voyage; with some account of the Tussac grass of the Falkland Islands. London Journal of Botany 2: 247–329.

Journal of researches 2d ed.: Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of HMS Beagle round the world, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN. 2d edition, corrected, with additions. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1845.

Ross, James Clark. 1847. A voyage of discovery and research in the southern and Antarctic regions, during the years 1839–43. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

Royle, John Forbes. 1839. Illustrations of the botany and other branches of the natural history of the Himalayan Mountains, and of the flora of Cashmere. 2 vols. London. [Vols. 5,7,8]

Wiltshear, F. G. 1913. The botany of the Antarctic voyage. Journal of Botany: British and Foreign 51: 355–8. [Vols. 6,7,8]


Thanks for H. C. Watson’s interesting letter. Disagrees with him on intermediate varieties.

CD has read latest numbers of JDH’s The botany of the Antarctic voyage [pt I, Flora Antarctica (1844–7)]; notes several sentences against "us Transmutationists".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 86
Physical description
ALS 4pp & C

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1082,” accessed on 23 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 4