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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   1 June [1856]1

Down Bromley Kent

June 1st.—

My dear Hooker

I read in your note as far as “unutterable mortification” & was in despair, for I came instantly to the conclusion that probably Government had determined to give up Kew Gardens!! & you may imagine how I laughed when I came to the real Cause of your mortification.2 It is the funniest thing in the world that you do not rejoice; for you have (& I never have) put in print that you do not believe in multiple creation, & therefore you surely shd. rejoice at every conceivable means of dispersal. Well, I & my wife have enjoyed a jolly laugh, & all the more from fully believing for a second that some great calamity had befallen you.— If you publish a note on the seed, please be sure state that the seeds “were procured by the kind intervention of H. M. Consul Mr T. Carew Hunt”. Unfortunately I have not been able to read the name of the man who actually sent them; I fancy he is acting consul & the name looks like Ives

The leaf from Old Red Sandstone is a grand fact.—3

Adios my dear Hooker | Yours hatefully triumphant | C. D.

The Handkerchief is Mrs. Hooker.

I am very sorry to hear about Sharpe.—4

I really cannot get up steam for London so soon again: I was horribly knocked up by the Fireworks.—5

I shall be particularly glad to see your Review of Decandolle whenever I can.6


Dated by the references to the death of Daniel Sharpe and to CD’s recent London trip (see nn. 4 and 5, below).
A reference to seeds sent to CD by Thomas Carew Hunt and evidently passed on to Hooker to be planted in Kew Gardens. The seeds had been washed up on the Azores Islands (see Correspondence vol. 5, letter from T. C. Hunt, 2 July 1855). Hooker’s ‘mortification’ stemmed from his belief that sea-water would mostly kill plant seeds.
Probably a reference to the discovery of fossil plants in Kiltorcan, Co. Kilkenny, in deposits considered the same age as the Old Red Sandstone. The fossils, the earliest plant remains known at that time, were sent to Adolphe Théodore Brongniart in Paris and subsequently announced in R. Griffith 1857. They were identified as belonging to a new genus, Cyclostigma, by Samuel Haughton, who gave a full description of the specimens in Haughton 1859 (originally intended to be read in conjunction with R. Griffith 1857).
Daniel Sharpe died on 31 May 1856 following a riding accident, only a few months after being elected president of the Geological Society.
CD had gone to London on 29 May 1856 (Emma Darwin’s diary) and attended a council meeting of the Royal Society on 30 May (Royal Society council minutes). On the evening of 29 May, as part of the celebration of the peace treaty concluding the Crimean War, there was a great pyrotechnic display organised by Ralph Fenwick at four localities in London (Annual Register (1856), Chronicle, p. 116) The final display consisted of five illuminated fixed pieces, the last bearing the words ‘God save the Queen’, and the simultaneous firing of 10,000 rockets in red, blue, green, and yellow from each of the four stations.
Hooker’s review of Alphonse de Candolle’s Géographie botanique raisonnée (A. de Candolle 1855) appeared in Hooker’s Journal of Botany and Kew Garden Miscellany in seven parts in 1856 ([J. D. Hooker] 1856). An annotated copy is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.


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.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Griffith, Richard. 1857. On the remains of fossil plants discovered in the Yellow Sandstone strata, situate at the base of the Carboniferous limestone series of Ireland, in connexion with a communication on that subject from M. Adolphe Brongniart. Journal of the Royal Dublin Society 1 (1856–7): 313–25.


CD (and Emma) had a good laugh over JDH’s mortified response to a misinterpretation (in print) concerning his position on multiple creation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 164
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1885,” accessed on 23 May 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6