skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [23 October 1859]1

Wells Terrace | Ilkley | Otley, Yorkshire


My dear Hooker

I congratulate you on your Introduction being in fact finished; I am sure, from what I read of it (& deeply I shall be interested in reading it straight through) that it must have cost you a prodigious amount of labour & thought.2 I shall like very much to see the sheet, which you wish me to look at. Now I am so completely a gentleman, that I have sometimes a little difficulty to pass the day; but it is astonishing how idle a three weeks I have passed. If it is any comfort to you, pray delude yourself by saying that you intend “sticking to humdrum science”. But I believe it, just as much as if a plant were to say that “I have been growing all my life, & by Jove I will stop growing”. You cannot help yourself; you are not clever enough for that.— You could not even remain idle as I have done for 3 weeks!

What you say about Lyell, pleases me exceedingly: I had not at all inferred from his letters that he had come so much round. I remember thinking above a year ago; that if ever I lived to see Lyell, yourself & Huxley come round, partly by my Book & partly by their own reflexions, I shd. feel that the subject was safe; & all the world might rail, but that ultimately the theory of Natural Selection (though no doubt imperfect in its present condition, & embracing many errors) would pre-vail. Nothing will ever convince me that three such men, with so much diversified knowledge, & so well accustomed to search for truth, could err greatly. I have spoken of you here as a convert made by me, but I know well how much larger the share has been of your own self-thought. I am intensely curious to hear Huxley’s opinion of my Book: I fear my long discussion on classification will disgust him; for it is much opposed to what he once said to me.—3

But how I am running on; you see how idle I am. But I have so enjoyed your letter, that you must forgive me.—4

With respect to migration during Glacial period, I think Lyell quite comprehends, for he has given me a supporting fact.5 But perhaps he unconsciously hates (do not say so to him) the view, as slightly staggering him on his favourite theory of all changes of climate being due to changes in relative position of land & water.—

I will send copies of my Book to all the men, specified by you; but as I do not know Pamphlin, & shall send through Williams & Norgate,6 would you be so kind as to add title, as Doctor or Profesor. or Monsieur or Von & initials (when wanted) & address to names on enclosed list,7 & let me have it pretty soon, as towards close of this week Murray says copies to go abroad will be ready.

I am anxious to get view generally known; & not I hope & think from mere personal conceit.—

I shd. like sometime to know what special view you allude to in your Review of A. De C.—8 I fear I did not read it with any care; as I had only just read very carefully the original;9 & I expected to find only an account of the work itself; I must read it again: Lyell some time ago told me it had produced a great effect on his mind.

I believe that your sneers at the geography of Silurian Permian periods &c, are perfectly well founded.10

Farewell. I pity you for the state of your house; which I thought must have been finished long ago; farewell. The Doctor11 has brought out by wet bandages such an eruption & inflammation on my legs, that I cannot move; but it has done my stomach truly wonderful good. | C. D.


The endorsement is confirmed by CD’s reference to having been at Ilkley for three weeks. He left Down on 2 October 1859 (‘Journal’; Correspondence vol. 7, Appendix II).
CD read the proof-sheets of Hooker 1859 at intervals during the summer.
See letter to T. H. Huxley, 15 October [1859]. For CD’s and Huxley’s previous correspondence on classification, see Correspondence vol. 6, letters to T. H. Huxley, 26 September [1857] and 3 October [1857], and letter from T. H. Huxley, [before 3 October 1857].
Hooker’s letter has not been found; it was probably a reply to CD’s letter of 15 October [1859].
CD intended to forward copies of Origin to foreign naturalists through the firm of Williams and Norgate, booksellers in London who specialised in foreign literature. William Pamplin was a botanical bookseller in Frith Street, Soho, who obviously offered the same service.
The list of naturalists to whom CD intended to give a presentation copy of Origin is not with the letter, but see letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 October [1859], for two of his suggestions.
[Hooker] 1856. The ‘special view’ to which CD refers may be Hooker’s concluding remarks, in opposition to Alphonse de Candolle’s hypothesis of the multiple creation of species, in favour of transmutation of species ([Hooker] 1856, pp. 254–6). CD’s annotated copy of the separately paginated offprint is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
CD had read A. de Candolle 1855 soon after its publication (see Correspondence vol. 5). His annotated copy of the work is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
In his letter, Hooker evidently referred to those parts of his essay that dealt with the fossil flora of Australia (Hooker 1859, pp. c–cvi). See also letter to J. D. Hooker, [27 October or 3 November 1859].
Edmund Smith was the medical practitioner and proprietor of the Ilkley Wells hydropathic establishment.


Candolle, Alphonse de. 1855. Géographie botanique raisonnée ou exposition des faits principaux et des lois concernant la distribution géographique des plantes de l’époque actuelle. 2 vols. Paris: Victor Mason. Geneva: J. Kessmann.

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.


Congratulates JDH on finishing his introductory essay [to Flora Tasmaniae].

Lyell’s position on mutability appears more positive in his letters to JDH than in those to CD. Considers JDH a convert.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 24
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2509,” accessed on 17 September 2023,

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