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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   4 October 1878

Royal Gardens Kew

Oct 4/78

Dear Old Darwin

Your Oxalis is O. Valdiviensis, Gay. of Chili—1

I am glad you are getting on with your movement of Cotyledon’s researches—2

My Address for Royal is nowhere   I have not thought of a word for it, & every time I try it makes my head & heart ache— One’s last address ought to be good.3 I have this last 12 hour (moved thereto by your letter) maundered over the matter & written to De La Rue for some information relative to Electric discharges apropos of Spottiswoodes researches.4 Hitherto I have not, (like my predecessors) sponged on my Fellows for matter for my addresses   Now I must, if, as I am advised, I am to give a resumè of some of the advances in Physical & Biological Sciences that have rendered the Societys labors noteworthy during my Presidentship.5 Would Frank give me some crude data in reference to your & his labors? & as to what they point to? I would work them up.6 Pray do not allude to it to him if you think better not. I should like to give a short analysis of the question of biogenesis—& so forth, but it makes me giddy to think of it. I shall consult the Godlike Huxley on this.7 I must keep off controversial questions.

I am very busy at Grays & my joint paper on the Botany of Colorado in relation to the rest of America & the Universe I suppose. It has I find curious relations with Altai which I hope to shew are not shared by the Floras of either Eastern or Western America. but these comparisons are very laborious.8

Balls & my Marocco Journals are nearly out, they await a brief Essay from me on the comparison of the Floras of Maroccoo & the Canaries— the differences are marvellous & quite unexpected.9 There are no Islands in the world so near the main land with such a difference in their vegetation— they beat the Galapagos in certain respects, but then the separate Islands do not differ much.

I must clear the American & Marocco works off before I begin my Address: happily the matter of these is in my head— then I must go to Paris on the 18th. to be present at the Prize Giving of the Exhibition—which is to be my only duty as a Royal Commissioner!10 I have shirked every other without exception & cannot have the impudence to decline this—though I do hate it.—

I am still looking out for a country cottage within easy distance of Kew to retire to on Sundays & perhaps in the end for weeks—months—years of Sundays;11 for between you & me I am getting giddy with Science in all shapes—& with the worry of Social, Scientific & official life, & I long for rest & nothing but the Library & Herbarium to busy myself with—

This is the best & most sensible growl you have had from me for a long time—

Ever yrs affec | J. D. Hooker.


See letter to J. D. Hooker, 3 October [1878] and n. 2. Oxalis valdiviensis is Chilean yellow-sorrel. Throughout Movement in plants, CD referred to the species as Oxalis valdiviana.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 3 October [1878] and n. 3. CD began to study movement in cotyledons or seed-leaves in the late summer of 1877 (see Correspondence vol. 25, Appendix II).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 3 October [1878] and n. 4. Hooker was preparing his final presidential address to the Royal Society of London; he was president of the society from 1873 to 1878 (ODNB).
In his presidential address, Hooker referred to the experimental work of Warren De la Rue, Hugo Müller, and William Spottiswoode on electrical discharge in a gas (Hooker 1878b, p. 49–50).
See Hooker 1878b, pp. 48–63.
In his presidential address, Hooker mentioned Francis Darwin’s work on the protoplasmic filaments in teasel and nutrition in Drosera (sundew) (Hooker 1878b, p. 58; see also F. Darwin 1877b and 1878a). CD’s work on botanical topics is summarised in Hooker 1878b, pp. 58–9.
No correspondence between Hooker and Thomas Henry Huxley on the subject of spontaneous generation has been identified. Hooker wrote that the discovery of bacteria afforded a morphological argument against the doctrine of spontaneous generation (Hooker 1878b, p. 61).
Hooker and Asa Gray’s paper, ‘The vegetation of the Rocky Mountain region and a comparison with that of other parts of the world’, was published in 1880 (Hooker and Gray 1880). The Altai is a mountain range in central Asia, largely in Russia and Kazakhstan, extending into Mongolia.
Hooker’s essay comparing the floras of Marocco (Morocco) and the Canary Islands is Appendix E in Journal of a tour in Marocco and the Great Atlas (Hooker and Ball 1878). The book was based on the journals kept by Hooker and John Ball during their 1871 trip (ibid., p. vi).
Hooker was a Royal Commissioner of the British section of the Paris Universal International Exhibition of 1878 (Paris Exhibition 1878, British section 1: vi). The exhibition was held from 20 May until 1 November 1878. A partial list of prizes awarded appeared in The Times, 19 October 1878, p. 10.
Hooker bought land in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in 1881; he built a house, later known as ‘The Camp’, in 1882 (Allan 1967, p. 238).


Allan, Mea. 1967. The Hookers of Kew, 1785–1911. London: Michael Joseph.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Movement in plants: The power of movement in plants. By Charles Darwin. Assisted by Francis Darwin. London: John Murray. 1880.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.

Paris Exhibition 1878, British section: Paris Universal International Exhibition, 1878. Official catalogue of the British section. 2d edition. London: HMSO. 1878.


Frank asked to summarise work with CD for use in JDH’s Royal Society address.

Work with A. Gray shows Colorado plants closer to Altai than to E. or W. America.

Work with J. Ball shows Moroccan plants very distinct from nearby Canaries.

JDH on Royal Commission to Paris Exhibition.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 104: 115–17
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11714,” accessed on 17 April 2021,