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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [3 November 1854]1

from him pæans of praise till I struck him down with a criticism on Ungers2 letter to him, & I believe caused the cancelling of sundry pages of Siluria—3 I will find his letter & shew it you— I was bound to keep the thing a profound secret till Siluria appeared: in fact Murchy is always exciting my contempt—it is very wrong of me I dare say, & indeed I believe all you say in his praise as a truly great geologist, but I beg permission to believe it as a superstition received from you & hope not to have the articles of my creed enquired into.

I was mistaken about the Greenland Flora; there is none but I have just received all Lyalls Arctic collections4 & am going to draw up a Geograph: Bot: account of the Greenland & Polar sea plants

Three of the Marianne Islds were visited by Freycinet,5 & a rather long acct of them is in Gaudichauds account of the Botany of the Voyage6

I have not yet reworked the question of aberrant genera,7 but have not lost sight of it.

I have a glorious fact for you— A tropical species of Cyperus (polystachyus) & a tropical Fern, Pteris longifolia, grow in the hot soil of the volcano of Ischia & no where else in Europe or the Mediterr: see Hookers Jour. Bot for Nov 1854. p. 351.8 (it is on Athenæum table—)9 now I can wriggle out of the Fern case by allowing ubiquitous meteroric dispersion of Fern spores, but the Cyperus is a disgusting & detestable fact, that disquiets my soul within me. I must however have a bite at you if I can & so will ask why if the Cyperus & Pteris got there no other migrators did?—

Can you come to Linn. Soc.10 on Tuesday evening at 8 for a few minutes: it is the first meeting & would please Bell amazingly.11

We had a superb drive to the C. Palace & never enjoyed anything more than the scenery & foliage. The C. P. too was paradisaical & thoroughly enjoyable. We both of us said we had not spent 5 happier days since our marriage.12

Ever yours | J D Hooker

CD annotations

1.1 from him … into. 1.7] crossed pencil
2.1 I was … see plants 2.3] crossed pencil
4.1 I have not … it. 4.2] crossed pencil
6.1 Can you … Hooker 8.1] crossed pencil


Dated on the assumption that this is the letter referred to in the next letter. In his edition of Hooker’s letters, Leonard Huxley incorrectly joined the final half of this letter with some paragraphs from the letter from J. D. Hooker, [8 July 1855] (see L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 446–7).
Franz Unger, botanist and palaeobotanist.
Murchison 1854. Unger’s work on the fossil flora of Europe (Unger 1852) is cited on pp. 280 n. and 358. Roderick Impey Murchison had taken a tour through Europe in 1853 before completing his book. It is possible that Hooker’s allusion refers to Murchison’s recognition that the section dealing with the geology of Germany in the new edition could be improved (Geikie ed. 1875, 2: 169–70). Unger had presented a reconstruction of the botanical features of former landscapes in Unger 1852, which may have been the subject under discussion with Murchison. See Thackray 1981 for an account of the publication of Murchison 1854.
David Lyall had been assistant surgeon in H.M.S. Terror when Hooker was assistant surgeon in H.M.S. Erebus during the Antarctic expedition led by James Clark Ross (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 77, n. 2). In 1852 he accompanied Sir Edward Belcher in H.M.S. Assistance in search of the lost Franklin expedition. Hooker published a description of the Arctic plants collected by Lyall and others in J. D. Hooker 1857 and discussed their distribution in J. D. Hooker 1862.
Louis Claude Desaulses de Freycinet.
Charles Beaupré-Gaudichaud, botanist on the voyage commanded by Freycinet. Hooker’s reference is to Gaudichaud 1826, pp. 64–83.
During Hooker’s visit to Down at the end of October 1854 (see n. 12, below), CD had evidently asked Hooker to consider the question of aberrant genera in relation to the number of species contained in each genus and their geographical range and to question George Bentham on the same topic (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [15 November 1854]). A note in DAR 114.4: 222a may be the text of one of CD’s specific questions, for it has on the verso a pencil list of aberrant genera of plants, with the order to which they belonged, in Hooker’s handwriting. CD’s note reads: An aberrant genus (ie such a genus that [interl in pencil] in a Family has some little claim to form another Family,—or a Family with a single genus); I do not mean necessarily [interl] an aberrant species, [‘but’ del] so that the genus may have either one or a dozen species.— For the purpose of CD’s query, see letter from G. R. Waterhouse, 11 November 1854, n. 2.
J. D. Hooker 1854b. Pteris longifolia is longleaf brake.
Hooker had been elected to the Athenæum Club in 1851 after a long delay (see Correspondence vol. 3, letter from J. D. Hooker, 14 November 1844, n. 2).
CD had been elected a fellow on 7 March 1854 and admitted on 2 May 1854 (Gage 1938, p. 52).
Thomas Bell had been elected president of the society in 1853, and some of the council, including Hooker, were hoping that his presidency would revive the society (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 408).
The Hookers had visited the Darwins at Down for several days at the end of October 1854. They visited the Crystal Palace at Sydenham on the return journey.


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

Gage, Andrew Thomas. 1938. A history of the Linnean Society of London. London: Linnean Society of London.

Gaudichaud, Charles Beaupré-. 1826. Botanique. Vol. 4 of Freycinet, L. C. D. de, Voyage autour du monde, entrepris par ordre du Roi … exécuté sur les corvettes de S. M. l’Uranie et la Physicienne, pendant les années 1817, 1818, 1819 et 1820. 9 vols. Paris. 1824–44.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1854d. On some species of Amomum, collected in western tropical Africa by Dr Daniell, staff surgeon. Hooker’s Journal of Botany and Kew Garden Miscellany 6: 289–97.

Murchison, Roderick Impey. 1854. Siluria; the history of the oldest known rocks containing organic remains, with a brief sketch of the distribution of gold over the earth. London.

Thackray, John C. 1981. R. I. Murchison’s Siluria (1854 and later). Archives of Natural History 10: 37–43.

Unger, Franz. 1852. Versuch einer Geschichte der Pflanzenwelt. Vienna: Wilhelm Braumüller.


JDH’s contempt for R. I. Murchison.

There is a Cyperus species and a Pteris species endemic to hot volcanoes of Ischia. Why are there no other migrators?

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 104: 214–15
Physical description
ALS 4pp inc †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1629,” accessed on 4 June 2023,

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