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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [2 December 1857]1



Dear Darwin

I arrived last Monday, having left my wife at Hitcham—2 all were well & cheerful there—when I left— Old Henslow was very much cut up, though being wondrous stolid he did not show it much & he, in common with all the family, occupied themselves throughout industriously. Poor Mrs. H went off as peacefully as possible,—without a struggle, having had no pain for the last 12 hours.— She was a very gentle lady, who I had become very deeply attached to of late years. She inherited the calm self-possession of the Jenyns to the full;3 had long known that any severe attack would certainly carry her off, & had led that kind of life which regarded death as going out of one room into another—happy soul!

Henslow was most sincerely pleased with the letters of his friends on the occasion, & I need not say with your’s as much as any— all spoke lovingly of her, as you did. too, & the old gentleman was always repeating that.

I took down the most difficult genus of Indian plants I could think of to work at.—viz Impatiens of which there are just 100 Indian species! I have made the first rough draft of a monograph of them.4 & was interested at the result as bearing on one of your problems, The genus is an extremely local one, there being both very few extra-Indian species, & the Indian species being extremely local! & you will be glad to know that they do not run into marked varieties at all, nor the species badly into one another. though somewhat.

I have still some of your questions to send you answers to & others I cannot answer I am sorry to find.5

Have you read Livingstone? he says that the proximity of wild bitter cucumbers to cultivated ditto, makes the fruit of the latter bitter too!6

With best regards | Ever yours | J D Hooker

Lindley was received at R.S. with great applause 7

CD annotations

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Harriet Henslow had died in her home in Hitcham, Suffolk, on 20 November 1857 (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 21 November [1857]).
Harriet Henslow was the daughter of George Leonard Jenyns of Bottisham Hall, Cambridgeshire, and the sister of Leonard Jenyns.
In J. D. Hooker and Thomson 1859, p. 106, Hooker wrote of Impatiens that ‘it would be difficult to indicate another genus in the vegetable kingdom, presenting amongst its species so many and such different modifications of structure, and of which the species are so universally and so excessively prone to vary.’
The crossing of sweet and bitter cucumbers and melons was reported in Livingstone 1857, pp. 48–9. Hooker identified the botanical specimens described in the work.
John Lindley was awarded one of the Royal Society’s Royal Medals at the society’s anniversary meeting on 30 November 1857 (Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 9 (1857–9): 39–40).


Livingstone, David. 1857. Missionary travels and researches in South Africa; including a sketch of sixteen years’ residence in the interior of Africa, and a journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Loanda on the west coast; thence across the Continent, down the river Zambesi, to the Eastern Ocean. London: John Murray.


News of Mrs Henslow’s death.

Studying Impatiens, which bears on CD’s problems. Though genus is endemic to India, with over 100 species, CD will be glad to know they do not run into one another.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 104: 178–9
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2178,” accessed on 22 September 2023,

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