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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   10 April [1858]1

Down Bromley Kent

Ap. 10th

My dear Hooker

I was pleased to get your Dublin note with all your vivid recollections of Oxford.2 How I shd. have liked to have heard with you that anthem out of the Messiah!

I return A. Grays capital, first-rate criticism on Buckle, whom I have not nearly finished: I am sorry to say it is not my copy but Mudies:3 if I had known how much I shd. have been interested in it, I would have bought it.— I also send a note from A. Gray to me, which you need not return; as I shd. like you to see what he says on our disputed point.—4 But do not think I shall lay too much stress on it. I have almost finished my discussion; but it will take some little time to have have it copied; & as my health has been lately wretched, I start in 9 days for a fortnight of Hydropathy & rest.5 On my return I will send it, & most grateful I am to you being willing to take the trouble to read it. I enclose a memorandum on way which I want you to consider my M.S. which please keep & read, when I send the M.S.—6 By the way you will see in A. Gray’s note, how preciously too high he estimates the probable value of my work.

I am extremely interested at what you say about the Cape animals being the same with European species during Glacial epoch: it is just like what I fancy has happened in case of Brazil in regard to Cordillera mammals.— The more I think of Glacial epoch, the more inclined I am to view it as an immense geological epoch, which we vastly underrate because our northern species in migrating in a body N. to S. & then S. to N. did not become changed, whereas, the very same species & other bodies of species, where placed amidst interlopers did become modified.7 I suspect the rate of organic change in any one country, will prove a very poor measure of time.

Livingstones work is very interesting in regard to the Cape, I think, as showing that it is separated from N. Africa by no very high land.8 The whole must have been continuous land from before the glacial epoch, (allowing animals during that epoch to migrate) for the sea shells are so different on E & W. coasts. But before the Cape region was united to N. Africa, the Cape must have been, I shd. think a large group of islands, with no mammifers; for otherwise, they would not have had such a N. hemisphere character.— Why I go on speculating this way I know not. So farewell.—

Thank God I have nearly done my odious & wearisome discussion on big & small genera, which has almost killed me.

Adios | Yours Most truly | C. Darwin

I shall not be in London in time enough to see Falconer;9 though I shall be there for an hour or two on the 15th to meet Miller to get wisdom on the geometry of Bees cells,—a subject which has interested me intensely, as the most difficult of all instincts to comprehend by my theory.10


Is the whole worth publishing? I do not promise to be guided by your judgement, but it will have great weight when in some months time I reconsider subject.—

Have I fairly stated the more important objections in abstract: to have given all in full would have made my now tedious discussion intolerably tedious.

I shd. be very glad to hear any criticisms in detail; & you & Watson have done me an enormous service in drawing my attention to & enumerating the numerous objections; but what I want you to do now is, in as candid a frame as you can, to balance all the vague probabilities on both sides of question.—

Remember that my book is written for geologists & zoologists, so that on some points I daresay my remarks may appear to you trivial.

I have discussed some extra hypothetical points chiefly for sake, here & in other places, to show what points ought to be considered in theory of the descent of species, rather than in hopes of throwing light on the many points of present inextricable confusion.—


The year is given by the relationship to the letter to J. D. Hooker, 31 March [1858], and by CD’s reference to leaving for Moor Park (see n. 5, below).
Hooker had visited his friend William Henry Harvey, recently elected professor of botany at Trinity College, Dublin (see L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 392). The ‘recollections of Oxford’ refers to the week CD had spent at the Oxford meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1847, in the company of Hooker and the Henslow family. It was a ‘white week’ in CD’s memory (see Correspondence vol. 4, letter to J. S. Henslow, [1 April 1848]).
Charles Edward Mudie was the proprietor of a circulating library.
CD left for Moor Park hydropathic establishment on 20 April 1858 (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
The memorandum is transcribed following the letter. CD refers to a section in the manuscript of his species book relating to large and small genera (Natural selection , pp. 134–71). Both the original manuscript and the fair copy sent to Hooker are in DAR 15.1. See also letter to J. D. Hooker,6 May [1858].
CD’s views on the effects of a former cold period on the geographical distribution of animals and plants are given in Natural selection, pp. 534–66. CD had consulted Hooker frequently on the topics covered in the chapter on geographical distribution (see Correspondence vols. 4, 5, and 6), and Hooker had read a fair copy of CD’s manuscript on the subject in the autumn of 1856 (see Correspondence vol. 6).
Hugh Falconer was preparing to visit a number of provincial museums to examine specimens of the teeth of fossil rhinoceroses (see C. Murchison ed. 1868, 2: 349).
William Hallowes Miller was professor of mineralogy at Cambridge University (see memorandum to W. H. Miller, [15 April 1858]).
The memorandum is in DAR 15.1 (ser. 2): 0. It was returned to CD with a note by Hooker on the verso of the manuscript (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 13–15 July 1858).


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

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.

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.


Asa Gray’s criticism of Buckle and his comments on large and small genera.

CD suspects glacial epoch immensely long. Rates of organic change too variable to make them a good measure of geological time.

Bees’ cells are a difficulty for theory.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 231
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2254,” accessed on 25 February 2024,

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