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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   14 [August 1855]1



My dear Hooker

I have received enclosed this morning.2 I am very unwell & must write briefly, for I am & have been suffering from an immense Boil or almost abscess.—

I never cease begging favours. Will you lend me the copy, which I had before, of A. Gray’s Manual, (if, as I suppose, that was the last edition).3 Asa Gray sends me some references & I do not think it worth buying for that alone. I see by his letter it is all right about the marked sheets; they have not & will not be sent, for he sends me M.S. instead.—4

You could render me one very great service if you go to Erfurt in Prussia or know any Botanist there: I have had seeds of Stocks, Larkspur, China Aster, & Hollyock from there: & it is really marvellous how true they come to even slightest shades of colour. The best grower is Mss C. Platz & Son; the 2d best, Fred. Adolp. Haagr (?) Junr. & 3d best, Charles Appelius.5 Now if you could get any Botanist there to enquire for me (stating that it is scientific & not mercantile enquiry) whether they take much pains, (& what pains) to separate the plants whence they get the seeds of these sub-varieties? and secondly whether they find that the trueness of any new shade of colour increases in any marked degree after a few generations of selection, or whether they come true at first?— I know it is a bare chance whether you can help me, but if you can without much trouble I know you will.—

I have almost finished Flora Indica, & am astonished at labour bestowed on Berberis,6 Aquilegia7 &c &c. (it is like going over some of my own Barnacle work).8 I have picked out some very valuable facts for me9

Will you send A. Gray by Post & I will repay postage.

Goodbye my dear Hooker I am full of pain & hate almost everybody, except you & a very few. May your tour prosper adios.— I have had a good deal of grief at having missed Lindley’s:10 & I shd. very much have liked to have met Miss Henslow.11

Adios | C. Darwin


Dated by the reference to Hooker’s departure on his European tour (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 10 August [1855], n. 4).
A note for Hooker from Asa Gray, enclosed with Gray’s letter to CD. See letter to Asa Gray, 24 August [1855].
A. Gray 1848. See letters to J. D. Hooker, 13 April [1855], and to Asa Gray, 25 April [1855].
See letter to Asa Gray, 8 June [1855], and letter from Asa Gray, 30 June 1855. The letter here referred to has not been found, but Gray’s four-page manuscript list of ‘close species’ copied from A. Gray 1848 is in DAR 165: 92–3.
See letter from John Cattell, 13 August 1855. CD’s notes on the plants raised are in DAR 46.2: 16–24.
The genus Berberis is described in J. D. Hooker and Thomson 1855, pp. 215–29; its species are said to be ‘so singularly sportive in habit and all characters, that it is impossible to form any accurate estimate of its extent’ (p. 217). The systematic descriptions are preceded by a long account of the difficulties of defining species. CD marked several sections in his copy, now in the Darwin Library–CUL.
Aquilegia is described in J. D.Hooker and Thomson 1855, pp. 43–7. For CD’s previous interest in Hooker’s work on this genus, see letter from J. D. Hooker, 5 December [1854].
In Natural selection, p. 101, CD wrote: For example look at the case of Aquilegia vulgaris, as worked out by Dr. Hooker in his Flora Indica, who devoted weeks to the examination of specimens from all parts of Asia & Europe, & who ends in writing about 16 species of other authors into one. I may state, as I know that similar cases have occurred with others, that in Lepas anatifera & Balanus tintinnabulum I at first wrote out full descriptions of several supposed species; then after getting more specimens from various parts of the world, I thought that I ought to run them all into one, & tore up my separate descriptions: after an interval of some months I looked over my specimens & could not persuade myself to call such different forms one species & rewrote separate descriptions; but lastly having got still more specimens, I had again to tear up those & finally concluded that it was impossible to separate them!
CD’s copy of J. D. Hooker and Thomson 1855 is extensively annotated on the inside back cover. CD frequently used information from it in Natural selection.


Gray, Asa. 1848. A manual of the botany of the northern United States, from New England to Wisconsin and south to Ohio and Pennsylvania inclusive. Boston and Cambridge: James Monroe and Company. London: John Chapman.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.


When JDH goes to Germany, will he ask seed men if their marvellous true breeding lines are the result of selection.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 145
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1741,” accessed on 17 May 2022,

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