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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [12 December 1859]1



Dr. Darwin

You have I know been drenched with letters since the publication of your book & I have hence forborne to add my mite— I hope now that you are well through Ed. II. & I have heard that you were flourishing in London. I have not yet got 12 through the book, not from want of will, but of time—for it is the very hardest book to read to full profit that I ever tried—it is so cram full of matter & reasoning— I am all the more glad that you have published in this form—for the 3 vols—unprefaced by this would have choked any Naturalist of the 19th. Century & certainly have softened my brain in the operation of assimilating their contents.2 I am perfectly tired of marvelling at the wonderful amount of facts you have brought to bear & your skill in marshalling them & throwing them on the enemy—it is also extremely clear as far as I have gone, but very hard to fully appreciate. Somehow it reads very different from the mss. & I often fancy that I must have been very stupid not to have more fully followed it in mss.3

Lyell told me of his criticisms I did not appreciate them all, & there are many little matters I hope one day to talk over with you— I saw a highly flattering notice in the “English Churchman”—short & not at all entering into discussion but praising you & your book & talking patronizingly of the Doctrine!4

My mother who is still bedridden with inflammation in the cavity of the Tibia—has been reading it with much pleasure. Bentham & Henslow will still shake their heads I fancy, & Babington I hear does not think much of it!5

My Essay will be out this week I believe—the printers have delayed it disgracefully.6

I have no news that would interest you— We are all back in our house at Kew at last7 —& I am at my usual routine of Garden work half the day, Herbarium the other half, & the evenings for scientific work. I have again taken up the Arctic Flora, & am now interested in some curious points, particularly the absence on the whole Greenland coast, of a good many of the commonest plants of the W. side of Baffins bay, including species that are found all over Siberia, N. Europe Lapland, & Arctic N. America. I cannot comprehend this, for the struggle of Arctic plants is with the Elements much more than with one another & the Greenland climate ought to be peculiarly suitable to these absentees. That Greenland contains many species not found to the Westward of it is well known, & these being European forms is explicable. But why Ice bergs should not have carried certain common Arctic American plants to Greenland is an important consideration. The question has to be worked from several points of view & I will let you know the result.8

I was glad to meet Miss Darwin9 the other night & hear a fair account of you all

Ever Yrs afft | Jos D Hooker

P.S. I expect to think that I would rather be author of your book than of any other in Nat. Hist. Science.


Dated by the reference to CD ‘flourishing in London’. CD had broken his journey from Ilkley to Down in London, staying at Erasmus Alvey Darwin’s house from 7 to 9 December 1859 (‘Journal’; Appendix II). The Monday after CD’s visit was 12 December.
CD still intended to publish his ‘big book’ on species.
Hooker had read and commented on several chapters of CD’s species manuscript (see Correspondence vol. 6) as well as the equivalent material prepared for Origin (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 2 March [1859]).
English Churchman, 1 December 1859, p. 1152.
Hooker 1859.
The Hookers were repainting their house, during which time Frances Harrriet Hooker and the children stayed with her father, J. S. Henslow, in Hitcham (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 428 n. 1).
Hooker read a paper on Arctic plants at a meeting of the Linnean Society on 21 June 1860. In it he applied CD’s theory of plant migrations during a former cold period to explain existing distribution patterns. The paper was published in 1862 (Hooker 1862).
Henrietta Emma Darwin was staying in London at the home of her aunt and uncle, Frances Mackintosh and Hensleigh Wedgwood (Emma Darwin’s diary).


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.


JDH half through Origin. High praise for facts and reasoning.

Lyell told JDH his criticisms: small matters JDH did not appreciate.

Reactions of G. Bentham, J. S. Henslow, and C. C. Babington.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 100: 137–8
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2579,” accessed on 23 June 2024,

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