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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   15 [May 1860]1

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Hooker

I have not the least doubt that Lyell was de facto the originator of the importance of geological changes of level with respect to distribution.2 No doubt he had precursors such as those who speculated on England & France having been joined from presence of Wolf & other Noxious animals in England.—   I have passages on subject in my Journal, viz on introduction of old world mammals by Behren’s Sts. & former more intimate connection of N. & S. America but nothing of consequence, that I can remember & I do remember in one case beginning by saying that the facts were good illustrations of Lyell’s doctrines.—3

No doubt Forbes de facto originated the doctrine of distribution during glacial period.4 But Link in his “Urwelt” 1821 speculates on changed climate from greater former height of mountains as explaining identity of alpine & northern plants.—5 With respect to passages in Asa Gray I wrote to him to say that I had no claim for position in which he places me.—6 I have no doubt the reason was that he used (slightly modifying it) the view which I sent him of migration from old to new (or conversely) worlds during former warmer periods by present land;7 & that instead of expressly acknowledging this he gave me undue general credit. I do not say this invidiously, for I have not least doubt, he did it without thought & perhaps because he was bothered, in as much as he had slightly altered my view he could not well acknowledge it.— Of course you will not say anything of this to him.—   I may just add that I gave my views at his request, & seeing how he introduced them I naturally thought that he had arrived at analogous view before hearing from me. But he subsequently said in answer to my letter in which I said I had no claim to position assigned me.—he had not; & stated that he had mentioned my name in the way he does as an acknowledgement.—   But I have told a very long story about a very small affair.

I most entirely agree to what you say about Müller,8 I was disgusted. One ought not to judge without hearing all that can be said about Candidates.— But I was disgusted at the list; & fancied I saw the effects of a great Surgeon-President.—9 Spence Bate & Sir E. Tennent ought to have been elected long before R. Palmer & Baring M.P..10 It seems to me monstrous.— I will write to Drummond about Leschenaultia;11 but I am pretty easy now, as I am sure intercrossing is at least possible. Would it bother you to make mere outline of flower for me for woodcut of this size & like this? & then perhaps I would give it & your section of indusium.—


How paltry it is in such men as Balfour, Arnott & Co. not reading your Essay.12 It is incredibly paltry.—   They may all attack me to their hearts’ content. I am got case-hardened. As for the old fogies in Cambridge it really signifies nothing.13 I look at their attacks, as a proof that our work is worth the doing. It makes me resolve to buckle on my armour.—   I see plainly that it will be a long uphill fight.—   But think of Lyell’s progress with geology.—   One thing I see most plainly that without Lyell, yours, Huxley & Carpenter’s aid my book would have been a mere flash in the pan.—   But if we all stick to it, we shall surely gain the day. And I now see that the battle is worth fighting. I deeply hope that you think so.—   Does Bentham progress at all?14

I do not know what to say about Oxford.15 I shd like it much with you; but it must depend on health.—

Etty goes on the same.16 The Doctor to day said “well I feel easy about her now”—which shows me that he was more uneasy than he ever expressed.—

Yours most affect | C. Darwin


The endorsement is confirmed by CD’s reference to James Drummond. CD wrote to Drummond on 16 May 1860.
CD refers to Charles Lyell’s Principles of geology, which discusses the geographical distribution of animals and plants (C. Lyell 1830–3).
Journal of researches, pp. 151–4.
Heinrich Friedrich Link had discussed the relationship between alpine and Arctic plants in Link 1821. A copy of the first volume of this work is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
See Correspondence vol. 7, letter to Asa Gray, 24 December [1859]. CD refers to a passage in A. Gray 1858–9 in which Asa Gray implied that CD had been the first naturalist to provide an explanation of the geographical distribution of Arctic and alpine plants (A. Gray 1858–9, p. 446): ‘considerations which Mr. Darwin first brought to bear upon such questions, and which have been systematically developed and applied by the late Edward Forbes, by Dr. Hooker, and by Alphonse de Candolle.’
Hooker apparently proposed Ferdinand Jakob Heinrich von Mueller for election to the Royal Society as a foreign member, but the recommendation was not approved by the council. Mueller was elected to the society in 1861. The new foreign members were announced at a meeting of the Royal Society on 24 May 1860 (Athenæum, 2 June 1860, p. 759).
The surgeon Benjamin Collins Brodie was president of the Royal Society from 1858 to 1861.
CD refers to the annual election of fifteen new fellows of the Royal Society. The list of nominees was decided at a council meeting in May and announced on 7 June 1860. Charles Spence Bate and James Emerson Tennent were not elected members until 1861 and 1862, respectively. CD considered Bate a ‘rising’ authority on Crustacea (see Correspondence vol. 5, letter to J. D. Dana, 6 December [1853]). He had read Tennent’s book on Ceylon (Tennent 1859) in 1859 (see Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, 128: 155). Roundell Palmer was a lawyer and politician who had botanical interests, and Thomas Baring was a financier and MP for Huntingdon. The results of the election were announced in the Athenæum, 9 June 1860, p. 792.
The ‘essay’ was Hooker 1859. CD refers to the anti-transmutationist views of the botanists John Hutton Balfour and George Arnott Walker Arnott. See letter to J. D. Hooker, 18 [April 1860]. In a letter written at about this time to Thomas Anderson in Edinburgh, Hooker remarked: ‘I hope you have read Owen’s review in the Edinburgh. I should think it must add gall to the Balfourians’ bitterness of spirit, for not content with snubbing me and spitefully entreating Darwin and Huxley, the cool fish hedges for a transmutation view of his own!‘ (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 515). The reference is to [R. Owen] 1860a.
CD refers to a meeting of the Cambridge Philosophical Society on 7 May 1860 at which Adam Sedgwick and William Clark criticised CD’s views. See letter from J. S. Henslow to J. D. Hooker, 10 May 1860.
George Bentham. See letters to J. D. Hooker, 3 March [1860] and 12 March [1860].
The 1860 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science was to be held in June in Oxford. CD and Hooker had both attended the 1847 meeting in Oxford (see Correspondence vol. 4).


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

Forbes, Edward. 1846. On the connexion between the distribution of the existing fauna and flora of the British Isles, and the geological changes which have affected their area, especially during the epoch of the Northern Drift. Memoirs of the Geological Survey of Great Britain, and of the Museum of Economic Geology in London 1: 336–432.

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.

Journal of researches: Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, RN, from 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.

Link, Heinrich Friedrich. 1821. Die Urwelt und das Alterthum, erläutert durch die Naturkunde. Berlin. [Vols. 8,10]

Lyell, Charles. 1830–3. Principles of geology, being an attempt to explain the former changes of the earth’s surface, by reference to causes now in operation. 3 vols. London: John Murray.

Tennent, James Emerson. 1859. Ceylon, an account of the island, physical, historical, and topographical, with notices of its natural history, antiquities and productions. 3d edition. 2 vols. London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts.


Lyell, de facto, first to stress importance of geological changes for geographical distribution.

Asa Gray has given CD too much credit for theories of geographical distribution.

Reaction to hostile criticism

and debt to Lyell, Huxley, JDH, and W. B. Carpenter.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 56
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2802,” accessed on 29 September 2023,

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