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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   24–5 November [1858]1

Down Bromley Kent

Nov. 24th

My dear Hooker

I am not a fair critic for your Australian Introduct;2 for I have never read any of your papers, which have not greatly interested me. Subject to this weakness(!) in simple truth I think the whole admirably good. It contains a wonderful amount of condensed thought & an equal amount, as far as my knowledge goes, of original remarks & reflexions. Such as your comparison of the relative numbers of the genera to the orders & species to the genera—widely diffused groups being common to Australia & the world; & the times or seasons of flowering of some of the great orders &c &c. But I have been astounded at what you say that SE & SW Australia differ as much as Australia from world. Are you sure that you have not momentarily forgotten your own clever remark that it is easier to be struck with differences than with similarities?3 Think what a shocking anomaly compared with all other known instances & with Australia itself compared in different directions with other quarters of the world. I hope to God you will not have to stick to this,—you do not of course refer to mere proportions of of different species,—you include the more important difference of general form.—4

Several years ago I asked you about the relation of S.W. Australia & the Cape & whether the relation was not merely analogical; & you then greatly relieved me by saying that you thought that the relation was carried all round northward of the Indian Ocean.5 I fear that you do not now think so, otherwise the statement of any direct relation between that side of Australia & the Cape is deceptive.— I am anxious about this case, because I dare not extend to this case the hypothesis, given in the Glacial chapter which you read, of the now ice-covered Antarctic islands having supported before the Glacial period a very peculiar Flora, & having by means of ice-carriage tinted the southern coasts of America & Australia. I am much inclined to believe that this is true hypothesis; I was looking the other day at a physical Atlas of S. Pole with line of drift ice marked & almost certainly during glacial epoch that line must have reached these shores.6

When you discuss the alpine Australian Floras you will have to enter on this subject, & how you will avoid “going the whole hog & giving up the representative species, I cannot see.—7

I have nothing more to say except that to the best of my judgment your Introduction is quite admirable.—

I will keep the lists for a week, till copied; I have not yet thought about them.—8

It is a shame that I did not at first offer to do Lyell’s eloge; but I was too selfish.—

Farewell | My dear Hooker | Ever yours | C. Darwin

I have had long letter from Sir RMurchison about the Memorial; but as it is marked “private” perhaps I ought not even to mention it & please do not you.—9 He seems, I may say, hurt at the Memorial not being mentioned to him before it was sent in; & I do think that this was a great pity, & I am sorry for it. It gives the affair an underhand look. I have told him I signed only because I had reason to suppose that the Government would move; & this being the case I thought it good for Naturalists to move early; & that I highly approved of substance of scheme of Memorial.

P.S. Thursday morning | I have twice read carefully over your eloge & I think will do very well. I have made a few pencil marks & notes for your consideration, which can easily be erased or worked in.10

Henslow comes this evening.11

De Vrieses letter, certainly is not much to the point, but I am glad to have it.—12


The year is given by CD’s reference to John Stevens Henslow’s visit (see n. 11, below).
Hooker was preparing an introductory essay (Hooker 1859) for his flora of Tasmania (see letters from J. D. Hooker, 12 November 1858 and [20 November 1858]).
It is possible that Hooker made this remark in connection with CD’s study of the number of varieties and species in large and small genera. See Correspondence vol. 6, letter from J. D. Hooker, [6 December 1857].
Hooker persisted in this opinion. In his introductory essay, he wrote: ‘there is a greater specific difference between two quarters of Australia (south-eastern and south-western) than between Australia and the rest of the globe’ (Hooker 1859, p. xxviii).
CD had discussed this question with Hooker late in 1844 (see Correspondence vol. 3, Appendix III,p. 400). See also Correspondence vol. 5, letters from J. D. Hooker, [before 7 March 1855] and [8 July 1855].
CD remained puzzled by the botanical relationship between south-west Australia and the Cape Colony. He wrote: ‘The affinity, which, though feeble, I am assured by Dr. Hooker is real, between the flora of the south-western corner of Australia and of the Cape of Good Hope, … is at present inexplicable: but this affinity is confined to the plants, and will, I do not doubt, be some day explained.’ (Origin, p. 399).
Hooker discussed the alpine species of Australia, and CD’s hypothesis that they had migrated to the area across high ground during a former cold period, in his introductory essay (Hooker 1859,pp. xvii–xix and cii–civ). Hooker postulated the previous existence of meridional continents that would have enabled plants to cross the equator from the far north to Australia. CD marked and annotated these pages in his copy of Hooker 1859 (Darwin Library–CUL).
Roderick Impey Murchison’s letter has not been found. Murchison, a member of the sub-committee of the British Museum set up to deliberate on the possibility of moving the natural history collections, had previously circulated a memorial among naturalists petitioning the government to keep these collections in the British Museum (see letters to RI. Murchison, 19 June [1858] and 24 [June 1858], and Appendix VI). CD had signed Murchison’s memorial, but further information in November persuaded him to sign a second petition, circulated by Thomas Henry Huxley, to encourage the government to establish the natural history collections in two or more large subject-based museums (see letters to T. H. Huxley, 23 October [1858] and 3 November [1858], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 2 November [1858]).
CD refers to the speech to be made at the presentation of the Royal Society’s Copley Medal to Charles Lyell at the anniversary meeting on 30 November 1858 (Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 9 (1857–9): 511–14). Some brief notes in DAR 114.4: 249a are probably a remnant of CD’s comments on the citation prepared by Hooker: p. 3. “These doctrines” applies only to climate, the rest of the sentence is more general as it ought to be p. 5. Anyone would think there were volcanos in Scandinavia & Canada—why not say from the old volcanos of the Rhine & Auvergne, or throw *in more [del] of Madeira, to those still in action in the Italian peninsula—if you bring in Scandinavia & Canada it must be, I think, in relation to Glacial action.
Henslow visited Down from 25 to 27 November 1858 (Emma Darwin’s diary).
The letter from W. H. de Vriese to J. D. Hooker, 21 September 1858, was enclosed with the letter from J. D. Hooker, [20 November 1858].


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

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.


Praises JDH’s Australian introduction.

Disputes JDH’s emphasis on SE. and SW. Australian flora.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 255
Physical description
ALS 9pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2371,” accessed on 4 October 2023,

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