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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [2 June 1847]

Down Farnborough Kent


My dear Hooker

I have written you so many letters, that I fear you will hate the sight of my hand-writing— I now write to ask a favour, but I ask it in the full belief that you will not do it if anyways disagreeable.— Did you not say that you had some relation in Oxford, who wd. take lodgings in Oxford for my wife & self— She does not of course come, but I found at Southampton1 that it made so great a difference in fatigue lodging at some distance from the meeting rooms, that I am anxious to secure lodgings as near as easily possible to the meeting-rooms of the Geolog. & Zoolog. sections. I shd. want a bed-room & sitting room in some quiet & small house. where I cd. get dinner . Now if you can assist me, this wd. be a favour, for I know of no one to whom to apply; but I beg you not to think of it, without you have some relation there, to whom you can without scruple apply.

I send you a tuft of the quasi-hybrid Laburnum, with two kinds of flowers on same stalk,2 & with what strikes as very curious (though I know it has been observed before) namely a flower bilaterally different: one other I observe has half its calyx purple. Is this not very curious & opposed to the morphological idea that a flower is a condensed continuous spire of leaves.3 Does it not look, as if flowers were normally bilateral; just in the same way as we now know that the radiating star-fish &c are bilateral? The case reminds me of those insects with exactly half having secondary male characters & the other half female.4

I received your letter the other day, full of curious facts, almost all new to me, on the coal-question:5 I will bring your note to Oxford & then we will talk it over: I feel pretty sure that some of your purely geological difficulties are easily solvable, & I can, I think, throw a very little light on the shell difficulty.—6 Pray put no stress in your mind about the alternate, neatly divided, strata of sandstone & shale &c &c— I feel the same sort of interest in the coal-question, as a man does watching two good players at play; he knowing little or nothing of the game.— I confess your last letter, (& this you will think very strange) has almost raised Binney’s notion (an old, growing hobby horse of mine) to the dignity of an hypothesis; though very far yet below the promotion of being properly called a theory.—7

I will bring the remainder of my species sketch to Oxford to go over your remarks.—8 I have lately been getting a good many rich facts.

I saw the poor old Dean of Manchester9 on Friday & he received me very kindly: he looked dreadfully ill & about an hour afterward died! I am most sincerely sorry for it.

Ever yours | C. Darwin

Do not trouble yourself to write.—


CD had attended the meeting of the British Association in Southampton in September 1846.
Laburnocytisus adamii, previously called Cytisus adami. CD described it at length in Variation 1: 387–90, as a hybrid that originated from grafting. The bush carries three sorts of flowers—one of hybrid origin and one of each of the two parents. See also ML 2: 248 n. 2.
An idea based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s ‘science of morphology’ in which all flower parts and other plant organs were held to be modified leaves.
See Westwood 1831, in which John Obadiah Westwood described several examples of freak insects that possessed male characteristics on one side and female characteristics on the other. CD referred to this phenomenon in Notebook D, p. 159 (Notebooks).
The letter has not been found.
CD may be referring to his view (South America, p. 61) that the absence of shells is not necessarily an argument against the marine origin of particular formations, since under certain conditions shells decay and disappear and in some formations the conditions are ‘eminently unfavourable for the embedment of such remains’.
Edward William Binney’s argument for the marine deposition of coal put forward in Binney 1847.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 7 April [1847], in which CD stated that he and Hooker must meet to finish going over his species essay.
William Herbert, who died suddenly at 1 PM on Friday, 28 May 1847.


ML: More letters of Charles Darwin: a record of his work in a series of hitherto unpublished letters. Edited by Francis Darwin and Albert Charles Seward. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1903.

Notebooks: Charles Darwin’s notebooks, 1836–1844. Geology, transmutation of species, metaphysical enquiries. Transcribed and edited by Paul H. Barrett et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press for the British Museum (Natural History). 1987.

South America: Geological observations on South America. Being the third 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. 1846.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.

Westwood, John Obadiah. 1831. Hermaphrodite insects. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 4: 434–5.


Encloses quasi-hybrid Laburnum.

Suggests a new view of symmetry of flowers.

Will discuss coal and species sketch at Oxford [BAAS meeting (1847)].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 93
Physical description
ALS 3pp encl & C

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1094,” accessed on 9 June 2023,

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