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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   9 December [1857]1

Down Bromley Kent

Dec. 9th

My dear Hooker

I am infinitely obliged for your opinion on the results from D. C. If you can spare 2 or 3 more vols. of D. C. & can send them by enclosed address on 16th, I will most gladly have them worked out: please choose whatever vols. you think best to try the result.2

But I cannot agree with you for my object, that general monographs are best: (1st) I presume the varieties wd. be best known in small country like ours; 2d. a very large genus might have very few species in many separate countries & then according to my doctrine, on average it wd not be a numerically increasing or varying genus. Again a genus, though small for its order in a monograph, might be large in any one country, & then it ought to be there on average an increasing or varying genus. For such & other reasons, I rely more on local floras, but I am very anxious to see how rule goes in whole orders. Generally perhaps universally I shd have expected, owing to great diffusion of plants, that same rule would hold in all cases, viz in local & mundane flora.—

I will see how Labiatæ are in Ledebour, Asa Gray & Koch;3 & I will divide the species in D. C. into two more equal bodies.—

I quite see that this case is a great blow to me; but please, observe, I now rest on pretty large induction. Britain by 3 separate & very different men (I long to try Bentham),4 France Germany. N. Italy, Roumelia, Ledebour (tried by separate volumes, & as whole) United States Canary Isd., India,, & N. Zealand.— All tell one story.—

Please thank Mr Bentham about Silene,5 & thanks for all other points in your letter.—

I have written to Müller & Moore.—6

You speak of my having “so few aids”; why you yourself for years & years have aided me in innumerable ways, lending me books, giving me endless facts, giving me your invaluable opinion & advise on all sorts of subjects, & more than all, your kindest sympathy.

My dear Hooker | Yours affectionately | C. Darwin


CD eventually used six volumes of Candolle and Candolle 1824–73 for his calculations. They covered the orders Leguminosae, Rosaceae, Borragineae, Scrophulariaceae, Acanthaceae, Verbenaceae, Labiatae, Solanaceae, Proteaceae, and Polygonaceae (Natural selection, pp. 153–4).
Ledebour 1842–53, A. Gray 1856a, and Koch 1843–4.
CD was not able to incorporate data from Bentham 1858 into his table on the number of species and varieties in large and small genera (see Natural selection, pp. 149, 152). By the time Bentham 1858 was published, CD was busy writing Origin.
See letter to Ferdinand Jakob Heinrich von Mueller, 8 December [1857]. CD’s letter to Charles Moore, director of the botanic gardens at Sydney, Australia, has not been located.


Bentham, George. 1858. Handbook of the British flora; a description of the flowering plants and ferns indigenous to, or naturalized in, the British Isles. London: Lovell Reeve.

Candolle, Augustin Pyramus de and Candolle, Alphonse de. 1824–73. Prodromus systematis naturalis regni vegetabilis, sive enumeratio contracta ordinum generum specierumque plantarum huc usque cognitarum, juxta methodi naturalis normas digesta. 19 vols. Paris: Treuttel & Würtz [and others].

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]

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.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


Survey of species with well-marked varieties: JDH’s Labiatae case a "great blow", but result is very generally consistent.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 217
Physical description
ALS 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2182,” accessed on 16 July 2024,

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