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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   22 November 1856

Nov 22/56 Saty

Dear Darwin

Thanks for your letter & its enclosure from A. Gray1 which contains nil Botanices & is a reminder that I owe a collector of his for plants purchased by Thomson at Calcutta—2 I do expect a Botanical letter ere long & will send it you if it contains any interest.

Your arguments have certainly some force, but the interferences of space, time & temperature are becoming so complicated, that really it makes me almost giddy. There is one point that appears to me a fundamental one, which is, that in transporting the Sub Arctic sp. across the tropics you expose them to more extreme conditions than any other plants can ever be subjected to— they suffer more change of climate, & of association than any others, & they ought to be proportionally the most altered; I must confess that however much you may modify the effects of such operations, I do not see how you can subvert the first obvious deduction from such facts. I would almost rather allow them an expansive power, a sort of absolute amount of specific character that however much masked & so to speak latent in the tropical part of their course, becomes apparent again in them as they reach subantarctic regions— this is horrible I know to you. Much depends however upon preliminary points not yet settled— What are your causes alone efficient?—

You cannot but allow of Time + altered conditions + altered associations—& that all these are more or less convertible terms.— You know that I think there are species now existing in all regions from subarctic to subantarctic, but where Trop. specimens are not recognized as identical specifically with the subarctic & subantarctic—which latter are recognized as identical.

Do send your notice (if only 2 lines) of owl seed germinating to Linnæan— the L. Journal should be the deposit for all such isolated facts.3

Thanks for A Gray’s letter. I do rub my hands & chuckle (like Lyell) at the happy idea of my being caught in a Paradox— 4 I know the human soul loves paradox, even to miracle, & that this love of it is one of the curses of science, but Lord bless you my dear Darwin it is the greatest paradox in the world to think of Conifers as any thing but very high in the Vegetable Kingdom.— Like5

The Seeds you sent were Raspberry.— 6

CD annotations

crossed pencil
2.3 There] after ‘[’ added pencil
double scored pencil
2.12 I know] del pencil; ‘I know’ added pencil
3.2 all these … terms.—] scored pencil; ‘No’ added pencil
crossed pencil; ‘I agree about D. C. not having given you credit.—’ added pencil


Thomas Thomson was superintendent of the botanical garden in Calcutta.
See letter from Asa Gray, 4 November 1856, which CD had sent to Hooker to read.
The remainder of the letter is missing. The concluding sentence about raspberry seeds was written above the salutation.
CD recorded an experiment in his Experimental book, p. 15 (DAR 157a), in which he planted the seeds found in birds’ dung. The seeds were identified by CD as ‘plenty of Thorn, *(Briony I am almost sure) [interl] Yew, Laurel, & 3 other kinds.’ Above ‘3 other kinds’ he has added the comment: ‘Raspberry’.


Continued debate on formation of species as a result of retreat from glaciers.

JDH suggests internal powers of species modification, which he knows CD abhors.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 100: 111–12
Physical description
inc †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1995,” accessed on 20 May 2024,

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