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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   13 July [1856]1


July 13th

My dear Hooker

Your letter, as usual, has been most valuable to me. I am delighted at what you say about Huxley’s answer & I agree most entirely: it is excellent & most clear; I thought from the first that he was right, but was not able to put it clearly to myself.— By the way do you remember Huxley’s entry of “Darwin, an absolute & eternal hermaphrodite”:2 he can find no certain case, nor have I ever been able. Apropos to my asking him whether the ciliograde acalephes could not take in spermatozoa by the mouth,3 which takes in so much water, he gives me a sentence like our case of pollen, in which nature seems to us so clumsy & wasteful. He says “The indecency of the process is to a certain extent in favour of its probability, nature becoming very low in all senses amongst these creatures”. What a book a Devil’s chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low & horridly cruel works of nature! With respect to crossing, from one sentence in your letter I think you misunderstand me:4 I am very far from believing in hybrids; only in crossing of same species or of close varieties. These two or 3 last days, I have been observing wheat & have convinced myself that L. Deslongchamps is in error about impregnation taking place in closed flower;5 ie of course I can judge only from external appearances. By the way R. Brown6 once told me that the use of brush on stigma of grasses was unknown: do you know its use?

You once asked me whether I had your Lemann’s list of Madeira plants,7 I see in Forbes Memoir in note,8 that you lent it him, as he says; probably he never returned it—

I enclose old note of yours about Lyallia; it may refresh your memory: as for this plant & the Pringlea, I shd. think the Vestiges’ theory that they were converted algæ, was as good as any!9 Confound & exterminate them.—

Very many thanks for the answers about Chile & New Zealand plants.

You say most truly about multiple creations & my notions; if any one case could be proved, I shd. be smashed: but as I am writing my Book, I try to take as much pains as possible to give the strongest cases opposed to me, & offer such conjectures as occur to me: I have been working your Books as richest (& vilest) mine against me: & what hard work I have had to get up your New Zealand Flora! As I have to quote you so often, I shd. like to refer to Mullers case of Australian Alps:—where is it published? Is it a Book? a correct reference would be enough for me, though it is wrong ever to quote without looking oneself.— I shd. like to see very much Forbes sheets, which you refer to; but I must confess (I hardly know why) I have got rather to mistrust poor dear Forbes.—

There is wonderful ill logic in his famous & admirable memoir on distribution,10 as it appears to me, now that I have got it up so as to give the Heads in a page.— Depend on it, my saying is a true one, viz that a compiler is a great man, & an original man a common-place man. Any fool can generalise & speculate; but oh my Heavens to get up at second hand a New Zealand Flora, that is work.—

I am so glad to hear about Henslow & wheat: I do hope there was no wheat-field near: he ought to state distance & whether flowering coincides with that of wheat.—

And now I am going to beg almost as great a favour, as a man can beg of another: and I ask some 5 or 6 weeks before I want favour done, that it may appear less horrid: it is to read, but well copied out, my pages (about 40!!) on alpine floras & faunas arctic & antarctic floras & faunas & the supposed cold mundane period.—11 It wd be really an enormous advantage to me; as I am sure otherwise to make Botanical blunders. I would specify the few points on which I most want your advice. But it is quite likely that you may object on ground that you might be publishing before me (I hope to publish in a year at furthest) so that it would hamper & bother you; & secondly you may object to loss of time; for I daresay it would take hour & half to read.— It certainly would be immense advantage to me; but of course you must not think of doing it, if it would interfere with your own work.—

My dear Hooker | Ever yours | C. Darwin

I do not consider this request in futuro, as breaking my promise to give no more trouble for some time.

From Lyell’s letters he is coming round at a Railway pace on the mutability of species, & authorises me to put some sentences on this head in my preface.12

I shall meet Lyell on Wednesday at Ld. Stanhopes & will ask him to forward my letter to you;13 though as my arguments have not struck him; they cannot have force, & my head must be crotchety on subject; but the crotchets keep firmly there.— I have given your opinion on continuous land, I see, too strongly.


Dated by the relationship to the letter from J. D. Hooker, 10 July 1856.
See the final paragraph of the letter from J. D. Hooker. 10 July 1856.
Loiseleur Deslongchamps 1842–3. CD recorded having read this work on 5 April 1856 (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, 128: 18). There is a copy of the first part in the Darwin Library–CUL.
Robert Brown.
A reference to the manuscript flora of Madeira drawn up by Charles Morgan Lemann before his death in 1852. The list had evidently accompanied his herbarium, which was deposited at Kew (R. Desmond 1977).
E. Forbes 1846, p. 401 n.
A joke between CD and Hooker relating to an article about the Kerguelen Land cabbage (Pringlea antiscorbutica) printed in Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal n.s. 5 (1846): 76–7. See Correspondence vol. 3, letter from J. D. Hooker, 1 February 1846, and Correspondence vol. 5, letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 June [1855].
A reference to the manuscript pages of what CD called ‘the before part of Geograph Distr.’ that eventually formed the bulk of chapter 11, on geographical distribution, of his species book (see Natural selection, pp. 531, 534–66).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 July [1856]. CD had previously met Philip Henry Stanhope at Stanhope’s family seat in Chevening, Kent, and on several occasions he went to Stanhope’s London house to join ‘one of his parties of historians and other literary men’ (Autobiography, p. 111).


Autobiography: The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882. With original omissions restored. Edited with appendix and notes by Nora Barlow. London: Collins. 1958.

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

Desmond, Ray. 1977. Dictionary of British and Irish botanists and horticulturists, including plant collectors and botanical artists. 3d ed. London: Taylor and Francis.

Forbes, Edward. 1846. On the connexion between the distribution of the existing fauna and flora of the British Isles, and the geological changes which have affected their area, especially during the epoch of the Northern Drift. Memoirs of the Geological Survey of Great Britain, and of the Museum of Economic Geology in London 1: 336–432.

Loiseleur Deslongchamps, Jean Louis Auguste. 1842–3. Considérations sur les céréales et principalement sur les froments. 2 pts. Paris. [Vols. 6,9]

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.


Has found no case of Huxley’s eternal hermaphrodites.

Cruelty and waste in nature.

CD does not believe in hybrids.

One proven case of multiple creations would smash CD’s theory.

Asks JDH to read MS on alpine and Arctic distribution.

Lyell’s "conversion" to mutability.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 169
Physical description
ALS 12pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1924,” accessed on 1 March 2024,

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