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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   26 [December 1859]

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Hooker

I have just read with intense interest as far as p. xxvi. ie to where you treat of Australian Flora itself; & the latter part I remember thinking most of in the proof-sheets.1 Either you have altered a good deal, or I did not see all or was purblind, for I have been much more interested, with all the first part than I was before, not that I did not like it at first. All seems to me very clearly written & I have been baulked at only one sentence.2

I think on whole I like the Geological or rather palæontological discussion best; it seems to me excellent, & admirably cautious: I agree with all that you say as far as my want of special knowledge allows me to judge.

I have no criticisms of any importance. But I shd have liked more facts in one or two places, which I shall ask about.— I rather demur to the fairness of your comparison of rising & sinking areas; as in Indian ocean you compare volcanic land with exclusively coral islands—& these latter are very small in area & have very peculiar soil, & during their formation are likely to have been utterly submerged, perhaps many times & restocked with existing plants.3 In the Pacific, ignorance of Marianne & Caroline & other chief islands almost prevents comparison: & is it right to include American isld like Juan Fernandez & Galapagos?—4 In such lofty & probably ancient isld as Sandwich & Tahiti, it cannot make much difference in flora, whether they have sunk or risen a few thousand feet of late ages.—5 Gambier Isl wd be interesting case.

I wish you could work in your notion of certain parts of Tropics having kept hot, whilst other parts were cooled; I tried this scheme in my mind, & it seemed to fail.— On the whole I like very much all that I have read of your Introduction, & I cannot doubt that it will have great weight in converting other Botanists from the doctrine of immutable creation.— What a lot of matter there is one of your pages!

Ever yours affecy | C. Darwin

(There are many points I wish much to discuss with you.—)

How I wish you could work out Pacific Floras; I remember ages ago reading some of your M.S. In Paris there must be I shd think materials from French Voyages. But of all places in world I shd like to see good Flora of Sandwich Isld.— I wd. subscribe £50 to any collector to go there & work all the Islands. Would it not pay for collector to go there? especially if aided by any subscription. It would be a fair occasion to ask for aid from Government grant from Royal Socy.— I think it is the most isolated group in world, & the islds. themselves well isolated from each other.

PS.6 | With respect to Asa Gray (to whom I have written long letter, but I have not yet read Essay, a copy of which I found in London for me) I am not at all convinced about the warm period subsequent to Glacial period.—7 I shd. not be at all sorry to see its truth proved; but until it be well established, I think its introduction complicates the subject & does mischief.— This warmer period, subsequent to Glacial, will not do for the introduction from old to new worlds (or conversely) of the many forms which now exist as distinct but representative species.— I hope you did not repeat to him anything ill-natured from my old letter:8 he seems rather vexed on subject.— He seems to be a real noble man.—

I was so busy that I did not notice your remarks on Greenland Flora in a former note.—9 They seem to me to work well in; but we must talk over this when we meet.—

You know Marten’s paper on gradual decrease in number of European species in going Westward from Europe toward America.—10


Hooker 1859. See letters to J. D. Hooker, 7 April [1859], 2 July [1859], and 28 [July 1859].
CD’s copy of Hooker 1859 (Darwin Library–CUL) is heavily annotated. It is not clear to which sentence CD refers: several sentences on pp. viii and ix have been queried by CD. See letter to Charles Lyell, 27 [December 1859], in which CD discussed several of his criticisms of the essay.
Hooker stated that he considered sinking islands to have fewer species and fewer peculiar genera than rising islands, citing CD’s Coral reefs as his authority (Hooker 1859, p. xv). In his copy, CD marked the passage and wrote in pencil: ‘As coral-islands themselves are included, they will generally have subsided, at intervals & been stocked by sea-borne plants & coral-soil very peculiar.— In Indian Ocean comparison not valuable.’
CD made the same point in his copy of Hooker 1859, p. xvi: ‘Hardly facts enough known— some islands rather near continents included.— Marianne & Caroline Isd s. ought to be included.— & Gambier Isld.’
CD wrote in his copy of Hooker 1859, p. xvi: ‘An isld so lofty & ancient as Tahiti, whether rising or sinking must have been long peopled.’ In the opposite margin he wrote: ‘I doubt whole case.’
The postscript was written on a separate sheet of paper and bound with a different letter in DAR 15.1: 30. However, the context suggests that it belongs with this letter.
CD had criticised Asa Gray’s view that there had been a post-glacial warm period, as expressed in A. Gray 1858–9, in letter to J. D. Hooker, 11 May [1859].
Martins 1849, which CD recorded in his reading notebook (see Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, 119: facing inside front cover).


Coral reefs: The structure and distribution of coral reefs. Being the first part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1842.

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

Gray, Asa. 1858–9. Diagnostic characters of new species of phænogamous plants, collected in Japan by Charles Wright, botanist of the US North Pacific Exploring Expedition … With observations upon the relations of the Japanese flora to that of North America, and of other parts of the northern temperate zone. [Read 14 December 1858 and 11 January 1859.] Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences n.s. 6: 377–452.

Martins, Charles. 1849. On the vegetable colonisation of the British Islands, Shetland, Feroe, and Iceland. Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal 46: 40–52. [Vols. 6,7]


High, detailed praise for introductory essay to Flora Tasmaniae [reprinted as On the flora of Australia (1859)]. CD expects it to convert botanists from doctrine of immutable creation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 33, 30a
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2606,” accessed on 29 January 2023,

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