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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   2 March 1878

Royal Gardens Kew

March 2/78

Dear Darwin

I am distressed to hear of your illness— you were looking so well when we were at Down, that I do earnestly hope that this is only temporary—1

Anent Mr Torbitt I will gladly do whatever you wish, being satisfied that the direction is the right one—2 I have always myself been urging on the Coffee & Tea planters not to stake their all on one variety, because it is the most prolific, but which is all knocked over by one disease; & to have several varieties selected for their power of resistance, & to reserve some ground for these always.— The Liberian Coffee that we have now introduced into all the Colonies resists some of the Coffee diseases as no other kind has hitherto.3

Dyer has an idea that Mr Torbitt sent a foolish paper to the Belfasts meeting B.A. which was sat upon incontinently!.—4 nevertheless “Experiment on” should be the motto. It would be monstrous if the Govt. allowed you to spend £100 on such an object, after it had been brought before it.5

Ever yr affec | J D Hooker

CD annotations

2.1 Anent … variety, 2.3] double scored pencil
2.5 The Liberian … hitherto. 2.7] double scored pencil


CD had mentioned his poor health in his letter to Hooker of 28 [February 1878]. Hooker had visited Down from 9 to 12 February; his wife Hyacinth had stayed for a fortnight (letter from H. E. Litchfield to Ida Farrer, 4 February 1878 (DAR 258: 1635); Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
CD had asked Hooker to support James Torbitt’s experiments on the breeding of blight-resistant potatoes (see letters to J. D. Hooker, 28 [February 1878] and [1 March 1878]).
On the introduction of Liberian coffee to British colonies in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Dominica and elsewhere, see R. Desmond 1995, pp. 252–3, Report on the progress and condition of the royal gardens at Kew, during the year 1876 (London: HMSO), and Nature, 26 July 1877, p. 246.
William Turner Thiselton-Dyer. Torbitt’s paper on potato disease was presented at the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Belfast in 1874; a brief notice of the paper was published in Report of the 44th meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, held at Belfast (1874), Transactions of the sections, p. 134. No report of the discussion following the paper survives.
CD had pledged £100 to enable Torbitt to continue his experiments for another season if he was unable to obtain a grant from the government (see letter to J. D. Hooker, [1 March 1878]).


Desmond, Ray. 1995. Kew: the history of the Royal Botanic Gardens. London: Harvill Press with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.


Supports Torbitt. Keenly aware of danger of growing crops from a single variety. Torbitt’s paper to Belfast BAAS meeting ["On the potato-disease", Rep. BAAS 44 (1874): 134] was sat upon.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 104: 103–4
Physical description
ALS 3pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11391,” accessed on 31 January 2023,