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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   11 May [1860]1

Down Bromley Kent

May 11th

My dear Hooker

I hope I shall not bore you with my infinitesimally small facts.— I have just opened indusium of 8 flowers (& some before) of the Leschenaultia & in 7 abundance of pollen within, but in no one case was there any pollen where you indicate in your nice drawing the stigmatic surfaces to lie.2 Therefore I believe insect agency to be necessary for self impregnation. My Greenhouse is too cold for the Plants, but I will try. But will you get one of your men with fine camel-hair pencil-brush to poke into indusium, so as to force pollen to the bottom & then mark the flowers operated & watch whether they set seed or whether they even commence to set seed, or show other signs of fertilisation.—

Do not hate me my dear fellow, | your affect | C. Darwin

I have examined other primroses & cowslips & find what I said as yet universal.3 I shall be very curious to note which plants produce seed.—

I suppose Mrs Hooker’s time is drawing near. I most heartily wish you through it well.—4

Etty has perspired & we are in good spirits, the more so as Doctor has looked little grave these two days—says it is a form of Typhus fever—an ugly word.—5

Has Lechenaultia ever produced seed at Kew?


The endorsement is confirmed by the reference to Frances Harriet Hooker’s pregnancy.
The Hookers’ fifth child, Brian Harvey Hodgson Hooker, was born on 27 May 1860.
Typhus fever, a highly contagious disease, is characterised by great prostration and a specific form of skin eruption. The course of the disease is marked by a ‘crisis’ in which patients perspire freely as the feverish high temperature falls. It is possible, however, that Henrietta Emma Darwin was suffering from typhoid fever, at the time thought to be a variety or derivative of typhus. In Emma Darwin (1915) 2: 176, Henrietta Litchfield referred to this illness as follows: ‘In 1860 my poor mother’s thoughts and time were engrossed with the care of me in a long illness (probably typhoid fever) lasting with relapses from May, 1860, till Midsummer, 1861.’ The difference between typhoid fever and typhus had been definitively shown by the work of William Jenner at the London Fever Hospital, 1849–51. CD’s description of Etty having passed a crisis in the disease marked by slight perspiration fits more with the course of typhus than with typhoid, although she apparently also suffered from abdominal inflammation characteristic of typhoid.


Emma Darwin (1915): Emma Darwin: a century of family letters, 1792–1896. Edited by Henrietta Litchfield. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1915.


Dissection of Leschenaultia convinces CD insect agency necessary for self-fertilisation in this case.

Primroses and cowslips seem universally to occur in two forms. Very curious to see which plants set seed.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 53
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2795,” accessed on 13 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8