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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   29 November 1879

Royal Gardens Kew

Nov 29/79.

Dear Darwin.

I have not yet thanked you for the Life of your Grandfather;1 which is not only very instructive but “great fun”, without a trace of buffoonery.— I was rather disappointed with Krause’s part, by contrast no doubt; for it shows a remarkable appreciation of Erasmus’s work, & this in many ways— altogether it is a very valuable little contribution to the History of Science in England.2

We are “toiling & moiling”3 on here as usual, & overwhelmed with drudgery—

We had a horrid scare 10 days ago, in the form of a Telegram from “Nature” to Dyer to the effect that A Gray was dead,4 & asking for a biograph. notice. I could not but feel sure that one of his colleagues would have telegraphed to me, & yet was most anxious till 2 days ago, when I got a letter from him in excellent spirits. We still are thinking over our conjoint work on the Geograph distrib: of American Flora.5 I have sent him a comparison between the Rocky Mt Flora & that of Altai, which present many curious points of affinity: as in variety or absence of Oaks, Nuts, & other Cupulifera which abound all round both areas.6 He now wants my Lecture to R. I. in a modified form, & a comparison of the European & Asiatic Floras, which might be very interesting in reference to America.7 I have a notion that the E Asiatic & W. European temperate & subtropical Floras are very distinct, but not so distinct as both are from the intermediate area—& that the Himalaya is the bridge between them, crossing the intermediate area.

Further the Himalaya contains a mingling of European types with others typical of both Eastern & Western America.

I commenced this intending to confine it to thanks for your book & the information that we have no cotton seeds—8 Shall I write to Egypt for some?.

Ever affy yrs | J D Hooker.


Hooker’s name is on CD’s presentation list for Erasmus Darwin (Appendix IV).
CD had written the preliminary notice, a biographical sketch of his grandfather, for Erasmus Darwin; the second part of the book was an essay by Ernst Krause, ‘The scientific works of Erasmus Darwin’ (ibid., pp. 131–216).
Toiling and moiling: to labour in the mire.
Hooker had travelled with Gray in July and August 1877, studying North American plant distribution (see Correspondence vol. 25, letter from J. D. Hooker, 19 October 1877, and L. Huxley ed. 1918, 2: 205–15). The results of their investigations were published in Hooker and Gray 1880.
The Altai mountains are in central Asia. The family Cupuliferae is roughly equivalent to the modern families Fagaceae and Betulaceae (see Bentham and Hooker 1862–83, 3: 402–3).
Hooker’s lecture on the distribution of North American flora was given at the Royal Institution of Great Britain on 12 April 1878 (Hooker 1878b).
In his letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 20 November 1879, CD had requested seeds of ‘Nankin cotton’ (an alternative spelling for Nankeen cotton, Gossypium nanking; a synonym of G. arboreum, tree cotton).


Bentham, George and Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1862–83. Genera plantarum. Ad exemplaria imprimis in herbariis Kewensibus servata definita. 3 vols. in 7. London: A. Black [and others].

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1878b. The distribution of the North American flora. [Read 12 April 1878.] Proceedings of the Royal Institution of Great Britain 8 (1875–8): 568–80.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton and Gray, Asa. 1880. The vegetation of the Rocky Mountain region and a comparison with that of other parts of the world. Bulletin of the United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories 6 (1880): 1–77.

Huxley, Leonard, ed. 1918. Life and letters of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, OM, GCSI. Based on materials collected and arranged by Lady Hooker. 2 vols. London: John Murray.


Congratulations on Erasmus Darwin; likes CD’s part better than Ernst Krause’s.

Received false notice of Asa Gray’s death.

Gray and JDH engaged in comparing widely separated but floristically similar regions.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 104: 134–5
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12336,” accessed on 8 June 2023,