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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   22 August [1857]1

Down Bromley Kent

Aug. 22d.

My dear Hooker

Your hand-writing always rejoices the cockles of my heart; though you have no reason to be “overwhelmed with shame”, as I did not expect to hear.— We heartily rejoice that the birth is all safe over.—2

I write now chiefly to know whether you can tell me how to write to Hermann Schlagenheit (is this spelt right?) for I believe he is returned to England,3 & he has Poultry skins for me from W. Elliot of Madras.4

I am very glad to hear that you have been tabulating some Floras about varieties. Will you just tell me roughly the result?— Do you not find it takes much time? I am employing a laboriously careful Schoolmaster, who does the tabulating & dividing part into two great cohorts more carefully than I can.5 This being so I shd. be very glad some time to have Koch6 —Webb’s Canaries7 —& Ledebour,8 & Grisebach, but I do not know even where Rumelia is.9 I shall work British Flora with 3 separate Floras; & I intend dividing the varieties into 2 classes as Asa Gray & Henslow gives the materials,10 & further A. Gray & H. C. Watson have marked for me the forms, which they consider real species, but yet are very close to others;11 & it will be curious to compare results. If it will all hold good it is very important for me; for it explains, as I think, all classification, ie the quasi-branching & sub-branching of forms, as if from one root, big genera increasing & splitting up &c &c, as you will perceive.— But then comes, also, in what I call a principle of divergence, which I think I can explain, but which is too long & perhaps you would not care to hear.— As you have been on this subject, you might like to hear what very little is complete (for my schoolmaster has had 3 weeks holidays): only 3 cases as yet, I see. diag Babington British Flora12 593 species in genera 593 (odd chance equal) of 5 & upwards have in genera of 3 & in a thousand species downwards have in a presenting vars. thousand presenting vars 1341000 971000

Hooker New Zealand13 genera with 4 sp. & with 3 species & upwards downwards 1501000 1141000

Godron. Centre France14 5 species & upwards 3 species & downward 1601000 1051000 ramme

I do not enter in details on omitting introduced plants & very varying genera as Rubus, Salix Rosa. &c.—which wd. make result more in favour.—

I enjoyed seeing Henslow extremely, though I was a good way from well at the time.15

Farewell, my dear Hooker do not forget your visit here sometime.—

Ever yours | C. Darwin

What sort of man is Swede Anderson?16 Does he care for generalities & other branches of Nat. History.— Is there any chance that he wd. investigate a little point on colouring of Horses in Norway for me, about Zebra-like stripes on them.?17 If there was I wd. write out questions, but it depends on nature of man.—


The year is given by the reference to the birth of the Hookers’ child (see n. 2, below) and by CD’s wish to write to Hermann Schlagintweit (see n. 3, below).
Marie Elizabeth Hooker was born on 10 August 1857.
Hermann Rudolph Alfred Schlagintweit and his brother Robert had recently returned to England after a three-year scientific expedition to India and Tibet. See letter from Robert Schlagintweit, 25 September 1857.
CD had asked Walter Elliot, a member of the council of the governor of Madras, to send him specimens of pigeons and poultry of India. A consignment had reached CD in November 1856 (letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 3 November [1856]). A payment for the arrival of a second consignment was recorded on 6 September 1857 in CD’s Account book (Down House MS).
Ebenezer Norman, the schoolmaster of the national school in Down, was CD’s copyist for many years (LL 1: 153). The first payment for copying by Norman was recorded by CD in his Account book (Down House MS) on 17 August 1856. There are numerous subsequent entries.
Webb and Berthelot 1836–50.
Grisebach 1843–4 is a catalogue of the flora of Rumelia, a Turkish possession in the Balkans that includes present-day Bulgaria.
A. Gray 1856a and Henslow 1835.
Babington 1851. CD’s calculations are in DAR 16.1: 143, 160 and DAR 16.2: 231a–7.
J. D. Hooker 1853–5. CD’s calculations are in DAR 16.1: 148 and DAR 16.2: 239a–46.
CD made a mistake in this citation: Alexandre Boreau, not Dominique Alexandre Godron, was the author of Flore du centre de la France (Boreau 1840). CD’s calculations are in DAR 16.1: 137a, 199–203 and DAR 16.2: 204–6. For CD’s later use of these calculations, with some revisions, see the tables in Natural selection, pp. 149–52.
The Swedish botanist Nils Johan Andersson was then working at Kew (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 11 September [1857]).
For CD’s interest in the dun-coloured ponies of Norway, see letter to Gardeners’ Chronicle, [before 13 June 1857].


Babington, Charles Cardale. 1851. Manual of British botany, containing the flowering plants and ferns arranged according to the natural orders. 3d edition. London: John van Voorst.

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.

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

Grisebach, August Heinrich Rudolph. 1843–4. Spicilegium florae Rumelicae et Bithynicae exhibens synopsin plantarum quas aest. 1839 legit. 2 vols. Brunswick: F. Vieweg.

Henslow, John Stevens. 1835. A catalogue of British plants, arranged according to the natural system, with the synonyms of De Candolle, Smith, Lindley, and Hooker. 2d ed. Cambridge.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1853–5. Flora Novæ-Zelandiæ. 2 vols. Pt 2 of The botany of the Antarctic voyage of HM discovery ships Erebus and Terror, in the years 1839–1843, under the command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross. London: Lovell Reeve.

Koch, Wilhelm Daniel Joseph. 1843–4. Synopsis florae Germanicae et Helveticae, exhibens stirpes phanerogamas rite cognitas, praemissa generum dispositione secundum classes et ordines systematis Linnaeani conscripta. 2d edition. 2 vols. Frankfurt: Fridericus Wilmans. Leipzig: Gebhardt & Reisland.

Ledebour, Karl Friedrich von. 1842–53. Flora Rossica sive enumeratio plantarum in totius imperii Rossici provinciis Europaeis, Asiaticis et Americanis hucusque observatarum. 4 vols. Stuttgart. [Vols. 6,7]

LL: The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter. Edited by Francis Darwin. 3 vols. London: John Murray. 1887–8.

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.


Tabulation of varieties goes on; very important as it shows the branching of forms. Mentions his principle of divergence.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 208
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2134,” accessed on 15 April 2024,

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