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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   17 December [1878]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.

Dec 17th

My dear Hooker

Your most kind, affectionate letter has more than pleased me, has charmed me.— Your splendid poetry has given us a good laugh.— What a plucky man you are to attack those awful beings, the Lords of the Treasury & to have conquered them.2 It is grand. I rejoice over your ex-presidentship, for I have long thought that you were working much too hard.—3

Very many thanks for seeds & plants, but I hope the latter will not be despatched until this horrid frost is over, which interferes terribly with our work—4

Pray thank Dyer5 very much for all his aid.— I have Dutrochet’s collected works in 3 or 4 big volumes, & I daresay we shall find there his paper about Viscum.6 As soon as ever frost goes & we can get good temperature in the house, we shall begin on the seeds, & we think we see our way to some interesting results— But God knows whether they will prove so; for according to my experience, everything generally happens exactly contrary to what might rationally have been expected.

I cannot help hoping that you take too low a view about the Government Grant: anyhow that to Parker has been a right good & just one.—7

Ever yours affectionately | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, 14 December 1878.
Hooker had written a limerick referring to a bequest to CD from Anthony Rich. Hooker also finally managed to obtain a grant from the Treasury to repair a house for the use of the herbarium assistant at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 14 December 1878 and nn. 3, 4, and 9).
Hooker’s term as president of the Royal Society of London had finished and he had delivered his final presidential address (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 14 December 1878 and nn. 5 and 6).
Plants of Mutisia clematis, Smilax aspera var. maculata (rough bindweed), and Pistia stratiotes (water lettuce or tropical duckweed), as well as six packets of herbaceous seeds had been sent on 16 December 1878 (Outwards book, p. 486, Archives, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew). The winter of 1878–9 was one of the coldest on record for England (Manley 1974, p. 396); Emma Darwin’s diary for this period records long spells of below-freezing temperatures (DAR 242).
In his book on the anatomy and physiology of animals and plants, René Joachim Henri Dutrochet had discussed Viscum album (mistletoe) and observed that its radicle was strongly negatively heliotropic (Dutrochet 1824, p. 118). CD had a copy of Dutrochet 1837, which consisted of two text volumes plus an atlas (CD’s Library catalogue (DAR 240)); Dutrochet’s observation on the radicle of mistletoe is summarised in ibid., 2: 62.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, 14 December 1878 and n. 8. William Kitchen Parker had received, through the Royal Society, many payments from the Government Grant Fund for the Encouragement of Scientific Research (ODNB). In 1877 and 1878, Parker received £300 from the new government grant for research on the morphology of the vertebrate skeleton (Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 26 (1877): 459, and 28 (1878–9): 78).


Dutrochet, Henri. 1824. Recherches anatomiques et physiologiques sur la structure intime des animaux et les végétaux, et sur leur motilité. Paris: J. B. Baillière.

Dutrochet, Henri. 1837. Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire anatomique et physiologique des végétaux et des animaux. 2 vols. and atlas. Paris: J.-B. Baillière.

Manley, Gordon. 1974. Central England temperatures: monthly means 1659 to 1973. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society 100: 389–405.

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.


Waiting for frost to go so experiments can start again.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 95: 479–80
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11798,” accessed on 5 October 2022,