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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   25 August 1854


Aug 25th/54.

Dear Darwin

I have just returned from Northamptonshire where I have been spending a week with The Revd M. J. Berkeley our Cryoptogamist, as we call him.1 I cannot say I did much work but we had many pleasant & profitable Botanical chats & enjoyed the sun, apricots greengages & a sight of Burleigh house & its pictures.2 I got a funny fact for you but I believe not a new one. Two varieties of Garden Peas planted side by side caused crossing & the effect of the pollen of one var. produced at once a hybrid pea in the capsule of the other var.

Lindley tells me that the Aegilops in his garden is already identical to appearance with wheat.3 I think I told you that I opened a dozen Meconopsis flowers at Hitcham, 10–12 days before they expanded, cut away the stigmas & laid open the ovaries fully— the result was the fertilization of many ovules & ripening of several seeds— this I think very fair evidence of impregnation through direct application of the pollen to the ovules,—considering that it is only a rude experiment & a first one. The pollen at the time I cut away the stigmata was was not formed in the anthers, & the stigmas themselves wholly unfit for impregnation. Supposing this observation to be confirmed it appears to me to diminish the value of the character afforded by Gymnosperms in both a systematic & physiological point of view. 4

I have been reading a capital paper at Berkeley’s on classification of vegetables, by poor Adrien de Jussieu in the Dict. Nouv. des Sc. Nat.—5 it is I suppose Js. last work. Brongnart has also a good paper in it on Fossil vegetables.6

I spent a day at Manchester with Binney at Fossil plants,7 a study I hate & despise & am always sneaking after all the same. I think we have proof positive now that all Calamites are mere casts of piths! I am glad of it for the Survey people used always to laugh at us for maintaining that we did not know that Calamites was an identifiable vegetable form— The fact is that the striæ are the impressions of the interspaces between the medullary rays, & the scars are points at which bundles go from a pseudo-medullary sheath through the woody wedges to the bark I believe they are all allied to Lycopodiacæ, as are Sigillariæ & Lepidodendrons, Anabathra, Halonia &c.8 I do not consider that these are at all allied to Phænogams though in the regular disposition of the vascular bundles they shew a great analogy with Exogens. They are in fact essentially Cryptogamic plants in fruitifn. as well as in the developement of their stems & their vasc. tissue; but, so far as our ideas of high & low go these things are in every respect higher than any now existing. I can conceive their being developed indefinitely higher still & yet be no nearer Phænogams, for they would not approach the nearer to the phænogamic type. In fact I think them deadly enemies of progression; you will however I suppose allow retrocession in time as well as progression upon Zoological evidence as well as upon Botanical.9 — I forget whether I told you that they are finding Insects in the Coal abundantly & that some of the Neuropterides & other Ferns are insects wings!10 Lyell tells me that the Stonesfield slate marsupials are being found out to be placental & other species are being added to them.11

I have just read Braun upon Rejuvenescence12 & am glad to hear what you think of it! I have not seen Meneghini13 either & I am very sick of German phantasies, but should be glad of the loan of both these. I have been getting an insight into his essay upon what is an individual in plants,14 & he has come to the conclusion that each branch or bud is an individual, for my part I do not see how one is to draw the line between a cell a bud & a branch. A seed I regard as an individual & the only defineable individual except the cell—a seed is one & indivisable; a plant is not so, one or many of its cells may become a new individual & there is no law by which one can limit the number of cells required to carry on independent life nor mention any part of a vegetable from the leaf to the root (inclusive) that may not become or give birth to a new individual, in some one or more species.

Regarding your little Lennies ears15 I should think you could not do better than go to Bowman,16 who would I am sure advise you where to go supposing he thought others could give better advice than himself. he is a first rate man. I am sorry to hear such indifferent news of your brother.17

I shall be really glad of the Balanidae book.—18 I have Part I. I often look at systematic Zoolog. books to see how matters & subjects are treated & I should have a real interest in the Balanidae besides

I am doing nothing satisfactory about my future prospects—no answer yet to my memorial & no prospect of one.19 meanwhile I am trying hard for a house at Kew,—one of the old uninhabited ones,—as if I cannot get one I must leave Kew in October & go to Richmond or ewhere.20 My chances are small, but I am attacking the Prince now through Sir J. Clarke 21

CD annotations

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2.1 Aegilops in his garden] ‘was this Ægilops red’ added pencil
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3.2 Dict. Nouv. des Sc.] underl pencil
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4.10 shew a great analogy 4.11] ‘Calamites &c’ added pencil
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5.6 between … branch.] scored pencil
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Top of first page: ‘22’brown crayon


Miles Joseph Berkeley, who lived at King’s Cliffe, Northamptonshire. Though not officially connected with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, all the exotic fungi received there passed through his hands. He had also described the fungi specimens that CD collected on the Beagle voyage. See Correspondence vol. 2, letter to M. J. Berkeley, [March 1841].
The collection of the Marquis of Exeter at Burghley House, near Stamford. In 1831, CD expressed his wish ‘to see the Pictures at Stamford’ (Correspondence vol. 1, letter to W. D. Fox, [11 May 1831]).
Aegilops, a genus of wild grass found in southern and eastern Europe and western Asia, was thought by some to be the ancestor of cultivated wheat, Triticum. For John Lindley’s belief in the transmutation of oats into rye, see Correspondence vol. 3, letter from J. D. Hooker, [late February 1845] and n. 5.
The gymnosperms were, at this time, thought to be the only group of plants that could be impregnated by the pollen acting directly on a naked ovule rather than on the plant’s stigma. Hooker’s experiments on Meconopsis, an angiosperm, indicated that it could be fertilised in the same manner as gymnosperms.
Adrien Henri Laurent de Jussieu’s article on taxonomy first appeared in the Dictionnaire universel d’histoire naturelle (Jussieu 1848). Hooker confused the title of this dictionary with those of the Dictionnaire des sciences naturelles (1816–45) and the Nouveau dictionnaire d’histoire naturelle (new ed. 1816–45). Jussieu had died on 29 June 1853.
Edward William Binney, who resided in Manchester, was an expert on the fossil plants of the coal seams of the Midlands. See Correspondence vol. 4, letter to J. D. Hooker, [1 May 1847]. Binney and Hooker were preparing a paper on the fossil plants in limestone nodules found in the Lancashire coalfield (Binney and Hooker 1855). It was read on 14 December 1854 at the Royal Society.
In their paper, Binney and Hooker noted that specimens of Calamites, one of the most typical of coal plant genera, were absent from the limestone nodules they examined. They concluded that this absence confirmed the belief ‘that some species of this genus represent the casts of the hollow or cellular axis of Sigillaria and Calamodendron, and perhaps of many other genera’ (Binney and Hooker 1855, p. 151).
See letter from J. D. Hooker, [29 June 1854], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 7 July [1854], concerning the subject of ‘high and low’ development in the living world.
John Obadiah Westwood had read a paper on fossil insects at a meeting of the Geological Society on 10 May 1854 in which he noted the difficulty in distinguishing insect fossils from some fossils of vegetable origin (Westwood 1854, pp. 382, 386–7).
The nature of certain fossils found in the Stonesfield Oolitic beds had long been a matter of debate (see Correspondence vol. 2, letter to Charles Lyell, [14] September [1838], n. 20) before Richard Owen settled the question of their mammalian affinities in R. Owen 1842. Owen had recently read a paper (R. Owen 1854) describing Spalacotherium, a new mammalian genus from the Purbeck beds and the first mammal to be identified from strata lying between the Stonesfield beds and the Tertiary deposits. Owen believed Spalacotherium was related to one of the Stonesfield mammals and that both were closer to the placental than the marsupial type. Charles Lyell opposed theories of progressive development of organic forms through time and welcomed any evidence that suggested an increased antiquity for mammals. See L. Wilson ed. 1970, pp. xxv–xxvi and 209 n. 28.
For Hooker’s critical response to Alexander Carl Heinrich Braun’s writings, particularly Braun 1853b, see L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 425–6. Braun was professor of botany and director of the botanical garden in Berlin (DSB).
Meneghini 1853. CD’s copy of Henfrey ed. 1853, which contains both Braun’s and Giuseppi Meneghini’s works, is in the Darwin Library–CUL and contains annotations, primarily on Braun’s essay. Braun’s theory of ‘rejuvenescence’ (Verjüngung) was based on the idea that ‘youthful’ and sometimes even embryonic features of an individual persist in the adult form. Braun also used the term to describe the process of reproduction, in which an adult cannot replicate itself directly but must produce a simpler (embryonic) form first (Braun 1853b, pp. 2–3).
Braun 1853a.
Leonard Darwin, born 15 January 1850.
William Bowman was professor of physiology at King’s College, London and a noted anatomist and ophthalmic surgeon. Like Hooker and CD, Bowman was a member of the Philosophical Club of the Royal Society (Bonney 1919, p. 6).
Living Cirripedia (1854), available for distribution in early September (letter to T. H. Huxley, 2 September [1854]).
Possibly a reference to Hooker’s application to the East India Company for funds to reimburse the expenses of compiling J. D. Hooker and Thomson 1855 (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 355–8) or to his application to join the examination board of the East India Company (see n. 21, below). It was only later in the year that William Jackson Hooker made an official application for an assistant director at Kew, a post that Joseph Dalton Hooker eventually secured.
Hooker failed to find a house at Kew and took one in Richmond in December. The following summer, when he was appointed assistant to the director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, he found a house near the gates of the gardens (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 352).
Sir James Clark (not Clarke). In the autumn of 1854, through Sir James’s influence, Hooker was appointed examiner in botany of the candidates for medical service in the East India Company (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 385).


Bonney, T. G. 1919. Annals of the Philosophical Club of the Royal Society written from its minute books. London: Macmillan.

Brongniart, Adolphe Théodore. 1849. Végétaux. In vol. 13 of Dictionnaire universel d’histoire naturelle, edited by Alcide Charles Victors Dessalines d’Orbigny. 13 vols. and 3 atlases. Paris: Au bureau principal des editeurs. 1841–9.

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

DSB: Dictionary of scientific biography. Edited by Charles Coulston Gillispie and Frederic L. Holmes. 18 vols. including index and supplements. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1970–90.

Jussieu, Adrien Henri Laurent de. 1848. Taxonomie. Coup d’oeil sur l’histoire et les principes des classifications botaniques. Paris.

Living Cirripedia (1854): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Balanidæ (or sessile cirripedes); the Verrucidæ, etc. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1854.

Meneghini, Giuseppi. 1853. On the animal nature of the Diatomeæ, with an organographical revision of the genera established by Kützing. Translated by Christopher Johnson. In Henfrey, Arthur, ed., Botanical and physiological memoirs. London.

Owen, Richard. 1842. Description of the skeleton of an extinct gigantic sloth, Mylodon robustus, Owen, with observations on the osteology, natural affinities, and probable habits of the Megatheroid quadrupeds in general. London: Royal College of Surgeons.

Owen, Richard. 1854. On some fossil reptilian and mammalian remains from the Purbecks. [Read 7 June 1854.] Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London 10: 420–33.

Westwood, John Obadiah. 1854. Contributions to fossil entomology. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London 10: 378–96.


JDH and F. W. Binney identify Calamites specimens as pith casts. They are cryptogams related to, but higher than, Lycopodiaceae and contradict progression.

Insects found in coal.

Lyell says Stonesfield slate marsupials are actually placentals.

JDH reading Alexander Braun on individuality ["Das Individuum der Pflanze in seinem Verhältniss zur Species", Abh. K. Akad. Wiss. Berlin (Phys. Kl.) (1853): 19–122].

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 205.9: 384
Physical description
inc †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1581,” accessed on 25 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 5