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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   28 [December 1859]

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Hooker

Thanks for curious account of Asa Gray. One likes a man who bubbles up unreasonably, if he afterwards repents. Not knowing anything of this I feared that you must have repeated something strong from my note. I thank you much for your caution, for I shd have been very sorry to have hurt so good a man, who has been so very kind to me.1

Fortunately I have already despatched just such a letter as I shd. have written had I known of his previous warmth. I said that I did not presume to put myself in competition with Dana; but giving my reasons firmly, why I could not attach much weight to his arguments. Without the subsequent warm period can be proved true, it injuriously complicates the subject.—2

My object in writing now is to say that I have clearest remembrance of A. de C. stating in his Book that he thought it probable that a great many reputed species of plants are not true species.3 I think it related to insular plants; but as this did not much concern me I fear I have not marked passage & know not where to find it. I had A. de C. & Wollaston in my mind, when I wrote passage in my final chapter on this subject.—4 I very seldom dare trust my memory, but in this instance I dare.—

Ever yours | C. Darwin

Have you seen the splendid Essay & Notice of my Book in the Times?5 I cannot avoid strong suspicion that it is by Huxley; but I never heard that he wrote in Times. It will do grand service, especially as so nobly soaring above religious prejudices.—

I shall grow as arrogant as Whewell, perhaps even as Owen!


CD was worried that Asa Gray had been offended by his criticisms, privately expressed to Hooker, of the geological discussion in A. Gray 1858–9. See letters to Asa Gray, 24 December [1859] and n. 6, and to J. D. Hooker, 26 [December 1859].
Hooker seems to have asked CD for the source of his remark in Origin, p. 482, which reads: Several eminent naturalists have of late published their belief that a multitude of reputed species in each genus are not real species; but that other species are real, that is, have been independently created. This seems to me a strange conclusion to arrive at… . They admit variation as a vera causa in one case, they arbitrarily reject it in another, without assigning any distinction in the two cases. CD refers to A. de Candolle 1855, 2: 1334. The passage is marked in CD’s copy of this work (Darwin Library–CUL).
Wollaston 1856. There is a copy of the work in the Darwin Library–CUL.
The Times, 26 December 1859, p. 8. CD was correct in believing that the anonymous review had been written by Thomas Henry Huxley. Huxley’s account of how Origin came to him for review is given in LL 2: 255. See also letter to T. H. Huxley, 28 December [1859].


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.

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.

LL: The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter. Edited by Francis Darwin. 3 vols. London: John Murray. 1887–8.

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.

Wollaston, Thomas Vernon. 1856. On the variation of species with especial reference to the Insecta; followed by an inquiry into the nature of genera. London: John van Voorst.


CD has written to Asa Gray criticising J. D. Dana’s arguments for a warm period subsequent to glacial period.

Remembers it is Alphonse de Candolle who states that many species are not true species.

Did Huxley write the excellent review in the Times?

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 30
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2610,” accessed on 13 September 2023,

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