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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   16 [March 1858]1

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Hooker

Many thanks for Ledebour & still more for your letter, with its admirable resume of all your objections.2 It is really most kind of you to take so very much trouble, about what seems to you, & probably is, mere vagaries.—

I will earnestly try & be cautious: I will write out my tables & conclusions, & (when well copied out) I hope you will be so kind as to read it. I will then put it by & after some months look at it with fresh eyes.— I will briefly work in all your objections & Watson’s.—3 I labour under a great difficulty from feeling sure that with what very little systematic work I have done, that small genera were more interesting & therefore more attracted my attention.

One of your remarks I do not see the bearing of under your point of view, namely that in monotypic genera, “the variations & variability” are “much more frequently noticed”, than in polytypic genera.— I hardly like to ask, but this is the only one of your arguments, of which I do not see the Bearing; & I certainly shd. be very glad to know.— See P.S.4 I believe I am the slowest, (perhaps the worst) thinker in England; & I now consequently fully admit the full hostility of Urticaceæ,—which I will give in my tables.—5

I will make no remarks on your objections, as I do hope you will read my M.S, which will not cost you much trouble, when fairly copied out.—

From my own experience, I can hardly believe the most sagacious observers, without counting could have predicted whether there were more or fewer recorded varieties in large or small genera: for I found when actually making list, I could never strike a balance in my mind;—a good many varieties occuring together in small or in large genera, always threw me off the balance.—

But no more, except my repeated thanks. | Ever yours | C. Darwin

Ledebour shall be returned soon.—

P.S | I have just thought that your remark about the much variation of monotypic genera was to show me that even in these, the smallest genera, there was much variability.— If this be so, then do not answer; & I will so understand it.—

I strongly suspect that I have never yet sufficiently explained my notions, & that you do not quite understand me; but I will anyhow try to make myself clear in my M.S.—


Dated by the relationship to the preceding and following letters.
CD refers to Ledebour 1842–53 and to the preceding letter.
See letters from H. C. Watson, 3 January 1858 and 23 February [1858]. CD discussed Hooker’s and Hewett Cottrell Watson’s comments on his calculations in Natural selection, pp. 159–61.
‘See P.S.’ was written in pencil in the margin (see Manuscript alterations and comments).
CD gave Hooker’s calculations, drawn from Weddell 1856, in a table in Natural selection, p. 153.


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.

Weddell, Hugh Algernon. 1856. Monographie de la famille des Urticés. Paris.


Thanks JDH for his objections; will respond by sending fair copy of MS when written.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 229
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2242,” accessed on 18 May 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7