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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   8 [November 1855]



My dear Hooker

Thank you for the seed, & am sorry you shd. have had the trouble of sending it. I suppose, (but have forgotten) that I directed it to be sent direct to you to be planted immediately, when I was full of rather foolish zeal. I presume you do not think it worth planting, or know by the rattling of its contents that it is dead.—1

I shall write & desire no more to be sent of this kind.—

I write now to know whether you can lend me, Miquel “Disquisitio Geograph. Bot. de plantanarum Regni Batavi Distributione 1837.”2 for a short time, for I want to calculate some of Decandolles results in another way,3 & Decandolle’s book, thanks to you for telling me of it, interests me extremely.

If you have the above will you send it per post, for I suppose it cannot be very heavy & I will repay the 6d or 1s postage. (By the way this shows me that I ought to repay you the heavy sum of 4d for the seeds, which like an honest man I do)

How I shd like to talk over some of the points in Decandolle with you. What an advantage a Botanist has over all other naturalists, for in what other line could any one have written such a Book as Decandolle has?

Will you tell me what sized Book “Boreau Flore du centre de la France” is?4

Adios | C. Darwin

I am getting on with my Pigeon Fancy & have now pairs of nine very distinct varieties, & I love them to that extent that I cannot bear to kill & skeletonise them.

P.S. | Very many thanks for your note just received with the names of the seeds.5

If I do not receive in a weeks time the pamplet or Book asked for I shall understand that you have it not, so do not write.—

I am very glad to hear what you are about: I hope heartily you may succeed in your Indian Flora Scheme,6 for I suppose it is best for the science; but for my own particular taste I wish your work was going to be more diunified.7

Oh for a Flora of the Pacific Islands!

Farewell my good dear man | C. D.

I am not at all sure that I understand myself!! my objection to Decaisne & I believe it is only to his not boldly calling his sous-especes either vars. or species.8


The seed has not been identified.
Miquel 1837, which was cited by Alphonse de Candolle in Candolle 1855, 1: 466–7. CD had expressed his interest in Candolle 1855 in letter to J. D. Hooker, 10 October [1855].
Candolle had given tables, calculated from figures listed in Miquel 1837, Boreau 1840, and others, that referred to the frequency of individual plants over the area in which the species was said to be found, or, as CD wrote in the margin of his copy of Candolle 1855, 1: 465: ‘These tables refer to species being very generally dispersed within their own region of habitation.—’ Alongside Candolle’s discussion of these ‘common’ species belonging to families that have a great number of species, CD wrote: ‘It wd. be very curious to see what result wd follow from genera calculated in this manner or by averages.—’ (p. 465). He also wondered whether families were too large a group to be considered in this way: ‘Can Families include too great a range of adaptation to answer for such calculations?? The resemblance in Families may be due to parentage?’ (p. 465). Against Candolle’s tables extracted from Miquel 1837, CD wrote: ‘Here again it is clear that largest Families do not have greatest number of common species’ (p. 466). On the contrary, Candolle’s calculations seemed to indicate that the common species in Holland were most often found in families that had only a few species. To Candolle’s remarks, CD added: ‘the very small families have more [below del ’less‘] than average!! quite opposed to my views.—’ (p. 467).
Boreau 1840, cited in Candolle 1855, 1: 464–6.
The Flora Indica (J. D. Hooker and Thomson 1855) was originally planned to be a multi-volume work but was suspended after the publication of the first volume. In 1870, encouraged by the India Council, Hooker resumed work on the flora. The result was a seven-volume Flora of British India (1872–97). See L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 358–60.
Hooker had grumbled in private about his collaboration with Thomas Thomson on the Flora Indica (see L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 356–8). Thomson returned to India in 1855, making it unlikely that work would proceed quickly.


Boreau, Alexandre. 1840. Flore du centre de la France; ou description des plantes qui croissent spontanément dans la région centrale de la France, et de celles qui y sont cultivées en grand, avec l’analyse des genres et des espèces. 2 vols. in 1. Paris: Roret.

Candolle, Alphonse de. 1855. Géographie botanique raisonnée ou exposition des faits principaux et des lois concernant la distribution géographique des plantes de l’époque actuelle. 2 vols. Paris: Victor Mason. Geneva: J. Kessmann.

Miquel, Frederich Anton Wilhelm. 1837. Disquisitio geographicobotanica de plantarum Regni Batavi distributione. Leiden. [Vols. 6,7]


Very impressed by Candolle’s book [Géographie botanique raisonnée (1855)]. Wants to recalculate his results.

CD’s pigeon fancy is getting on.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 154
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1774,” accessed on 30 June 2022,

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