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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   12 October 1849

Down Farnborough Kent

Oct 12. 49

My dear Hooker

I was heartily glad to get your last letter;1 but on my life your thanks for my very few & very dull letters quite scalded me— I have been very indolent & selfish in not having oftener written to you & kept my ears open for news which wd. have interested you; but I have not forgotten you. Two days after receiving your letter, there was a short leading notice about you, in Gardener’s Chrone; in which it is said that you have discovered a noble crimson rose & 30 Rhododendrons:2 I most heartily congratulate you on these discoveries, which will interest the Public; & I have no doubt that you will have made plenty of most interesting botanical observations.— This last letter shall be put with all your others which are now safe together.—

I am very glad that you have got minute details about the terraces in the valleys;3 your description sounds curiously like the terraces in the Cordillera of Chile; these latter, however, are single in each valley; but you will hereafter see a description of these terraces in my Geolog. of S. America.—4 At the end of your letter you speak about giving up Geology, but you must not think of it; I am sure your observations will be very interesting.—

Your account of the great dam in the Y….. valley is most curious & quite full; I find that I did not at all understand its wonderful structure in your former letter.— Your notion of glacier pushing detritus into deep fiords (, & ice floating fragments on these channels,) is in many respects new to me; but I cannot help believing your dam is a lateral moraine: I can hardly persuade myself that the remains of floating ice action, at a period so immensely remote as when the Himalaya stood at a low level in the sea, would now be distinguishable. Your not having found scored boulders & solid rocks is an objection both to glaciers & floating ice; for it is certain that both produce such. I believe no rocks escape scoring, polishing & mamillation in the Alps, though some lose it easily when exposed. Are you familiar with appearance of ice-action?—

If I understand rightly you object to the great dam having been produced by a glacier, owing to dryness of the lateral valley & general infrequency of glaciers in Himalaya; but pray observe that we may fairly (from what we see in Europe) assume that the climate was formerly colder in India, & when the land stood at a lower height, more snow might have fallen.— Oddly enough, I am now inclined to believe that I saw a gigantic moraine crossing a valley, & formerly causing a lake above it in one of the great valleys, (valle del Yeso) of the Cordillera: it is a mountain of detritus, which has always puzzled me.—5 If you have any further opportunities do look for scores on steep faces of rock; & here & there remove turf or matted plants to have a look.— Again I beg, do not give up geology:— I wish you had Agassizs work & Plates on Glaciers—6

I am extremely sorry that the Rajah, ill-luck to him, has prevented you crossing to Thibet; but you seem to have seen most interesting country; one is astonished to hear of Fuegian climate in India.— I heard from the Sabines that you were thinking of giving up Borneo;7 I hope that this report may prove true: By the way one of the pleasantest parts of the Brit. Assoc. was my journey down to Birmingham with Mrs Sabine, Mrs Leave8 & the Col.; also Col. Sykes & Porter:9 Mrs. Sabine & myself agreed wonderfully on many points & in none more sincerely than about you.— We spoke about your letters from the Erebus; & she quite agreed with me, that you & the author of the description of the Cattle Hunting in the Falklands, wd. have made a capital Book together!10 A very nice woman she is; & so is her sharp & sagacious mother:—I have not seen her new Translation yet.—11 Birmingham was very flat compared to Oxford, though I had my wife with me.— We saw a good deal of Lyells & Horners & Robinsons (the President)12 but the place was dismal, & I was prevented by being unwell from going to Warwick, though that, ie the party by all accounts, was wonderfully inferior to Blenheim, not to say anything of that Heavenly day at Dropmore.— One gets weary of all the spouting: I was quite sick of Sir H. Delabeche’s harsh loud voice & empty noisy speeches.—13 You ask about my Cold Water Cure; I am going on very well & am certainly a little better every month; my nights mend much slower than my days.— I have built a douche & am to go on through all the winter, frost or no frost— My treatment now is lamp 5 times per week & shallow bath for 5 minutes afterwards; douche daily for 5 minutes & dripping sheet daily. The treatment is wonderfully tonic, & I have had more better consecutive days this month, than on any previous ones.—14 The vomiting I consider absolutely cured. I am allowed to work now 212 hours daily, & I find it as much as I can do; for the cold-water cure, together with 3 short walks is curiously exhausting; & I am actually forced always to go to bed at 8 oclock completely tired.— I steadily gain in weight & eat immensely & am never oppressed with my food. I have lost the involuntary twitching of the muscles & all the fainting feelings &c black spots before eyes &c &c Dr Gully thinks he shall quite cure me in 6 or 9 months more.—

The greatest bore, which I find in the Water Cure, is the having been compelled to give up all reading, except the newspapers; for my daily 212 hours at the Barnacles is fully as much as I can do of anything which occupies the mind: I am consequently terribly behind in all Scientific books.—

I have of late been at work at mere species describing, which is much more difficult than I expected & has much the same sort of interest as a puzzle has; but I confess I often feel wearied with the work & cannot help sometimes asking myself what is the good of spending a week or fortnight in ascertaining that certain just perceptible differences blend together & constitute varieties & not species. As long as I am on anatomy I never feel myself in that disgusting, horrid cui bono inquiring humour. What miserable work, again, it is searching for priority of names; I have just finished two species which possess seven generic & 24 specific names! My chief comfort is, that the work must be sometime done, & I may as well do it, as anyone else.— I have given up my agitation against mihi & nobis; my paper is too long to send to you, so you must see it, if you care to do so, on your return.15 By the way, you say in your letter that you care more for my species work than for the Barnacles; now this is too bad of you, for I declare your decided approval of my plain Barnacle work over theoretic species work, had very great influence in deciding me to go on with former & defer my species-paper.—

I see in your letter you refer to the gneiss question: no one, I believe, can distinguish strata in gneiss; it is even often difficult in clay-slate; my doctrine of the lamination of gneiss is not admitted by Lyell. You are quite right that in gneiss the lamination has always been hitherto considered as stratification: I feel, however, sure that in many cases they are very distinct.—16 Talking of Lyell, he & Lady L. come here in a day or two:—17 It is an age, since I have seen Henslow; he was to have come to Birmingham, & I was much disappointed that he did not: I heard there, that Miss Henslow had been very ill during the summer, but of this I never knew anything at the time. I have not heard for a very long time anything of your sister. My wife desires to be most kindly remembered to you: she will be confined of our nor 7 in January; is this not a dreadful number? all the six are well & lively.— I never knew anything so incomprehensible as Falconer’s conduct; I am too much astonished to be indignant— it is like insanity—but it is quite dishonest about your plants: how painfully vexatious for you.—

Farewell my dear Hooker with every good wish. | Yours affectionately | C. Darwin

Since I wrote the first sheet, I have seen the Athenæum with your account of Thibet:18 I am heartily glad that you have succeeded in gaining your point— I sincerely congratulate you.— Your letter strikes me as capital— Adios.—


‘His collections will prove of the highest interest. Among other things, his Rhododendrons amounted to at least 30 species, many of which are much finer than those already published; no botanist had previously ventured to attempt the examination of the Rhododendron region east of Kamaon, an operation surounded with most serious difficulties, for these plants can only be studied during the rains. He had also found a magnificent Rose, with scarlet flowers larger than the palm of a man’s hand, and crowds of other remarkable species.’ (Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, no. 40, 6 October 1849, p. 628).
The Yangma River valley. See letter from J. D. Hooker, 24 June 1849.
South America, pp. 62–7.
The formations of the valley of the river Yeso are described in South America, pp. 177–9.
Agassiz 1840a.
The Admiralty plan to send Hooker to Borneo was abandoned early in 1850 following the death of Lord Auckland; instead, Hooker stayed on in India for a third year (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 329).
Mrs Leeves, Elizabeth Juliana Sabine’s mother.
William Henry Sykes and George Richardson Porter, both members of the council of the British Association and vice-presidents of section F (statistics).
W. J. Hooker 1843, in which extracts from Hooker’s letters were printed. CD’s playful allusion is to an anonymous section in Ross 1847 about cattle hunting. CD knew that the author was Hooker, see the second letter from J. D. Hooker, 3 February 1849.
Elizabeth Juliana Sabine, who had translated the first two volumes of Alexander von Humboldt’s Kosmos (1846–8), had recently published a translation of his Ansichten der Natur (A. von Humboldt 1849). CD did not read it until February 1852 (DAR 128; Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV).
Thomas Romney Robinson, astronomer and mathematical physicist, was president of the British Association, 1849–50.
Henry Thomas De la Beche did not deliver a paper at the meeting but was both a member of the council of the British Association and a vice-president of section C (geology and physical geography).
According to Emma Darwin’s diary, Charles and Mary Lyell stayed at Down House from 15 to 18 October.
Athenæum, no. 1146, 13 October 1849, p. 1039, ‘The Table-land of Thibet’.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Hooker, William Jackson. 1843. Notes on the botany of HM Discovery Ships, Erebus and Terror in the Antarctic voyage; with some account of the Tussac grass of the Falkland Islands. London Journal of Botany 2: 247–329.

Humboldt, Alexander von. 1849. Aspects of nature, in different lands and different climates; with scientific elucidations. Translated by Mrs [Elizabeth Juliana] Sabine. 2 vols. London.

Ross, James Clark. 1847. A voyage of discovery and research in the southern and Antarctic regions, during the years 1839–43. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

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.


CD thinks great dam across Yangma valley is a lateral glacial moraine.

Reports on Birmingham BAAS meeting.

Details of water-cure.

Barnacles becoming tedious; careful description shows slight differences constitute varieties, not species.

Lamination of gneiss.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 116
Physical description
ALS 7pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1260,” accessed on 19 May 2024,

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