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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   19 [July 1860]1

at Miss Wedgwoods | Hartfield | Tonbridge Wells

Thursday 19th

My dear Hooker

I am very sorry to hear about your Baby & that Mrs Hooker is prevented going as yet to sea-side; for it would have done her good. Milk disagreed with one of our Babs; but it ultimately got strong.—

Many thanks for Review: it is by Asa Gray:2 I have sent for copy to America.: it was intended to be strictly anonymous; but publisher let name escape to A. Gray’s vexation. Hence he wrote in the no-care-devil style; but it is very clever & pleasant. What a first-rate man he is.—

It is a real good joke my discussing homologies of Orchids with you, after examining only 3 or 4 genera: & this very fact makes me feel positive I am right!! I do not quite understand some of your terms; but sometime I must get to explain the homologies; for I am intensely interested on subject, just as at a game of chess.—3 I must look to your description of the viscid fluid.— Practically it may be said then pollen-masses are never retained on the rostellum except by accident.

I have been comparing parts of fructification again of the Habenaria chlorantha & bifolia: I do not know whether you compared minutely; but there is vast difference in stalk of pollen-mass—in the important junction (cause of movement) of footstalk & sticky surface—in size of pollen-grains, & shape of stigmatic surface. By Jove if all this is variation it is wonderful case: the difference is fully as great as between Bee & Fly Ophrys.—4

I have seen Temple’s sermon & like first part very much;5 in latter part there are, I think, some terrific assumptions & illogical remarks.—

Ever yours affect.— | C. Darwin

I could write on lots more subjects & shd. enjoy it, but refrain out of simple virtue to save your time.—

I am very glad that you have ordered Lechenaultia to be fertilised.—6


The endorsement is confirmed by CD’s visit to Elizabeth Wedgwood in Hartfield and by the reference to [Gray] 1860b.
CD refers to the first part of Asa Gray’s unsigned review of Origin, published in three parts in the July, August, and October 1860 issues of the Atlantic Monthly ([Gray] 1860b). Annotated copies of all three parts are in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. CD noted in pencil on the first part: ‘Nothing in the 1st Article’.
CD discussed the homologies of orchids in Orchids, pp. 286–307. Hooker’s advice about how to trace the homologies of the spiral vessels was mentioned by CD several times in Orchids, pp. 290–301.
CD repeated these remarks in Orchids, p. 89, explaining that the structural differences between the two species of Habenaria were greater than those usually found among members of the same genus. Habenaria bifolia is a synonym of Platanthera bifolia, the lessser butterfly orchid; Habenaria chlorantha is a synonym of Platanthera chlorantha, the greater butterfly orchid.
Possibly Temple 1860, a sermon on the relation between science and religion. Frederick Temple was headmaster of Rugby School.


Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.

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.


Asa Gray’s anonymous review.

"Intensely interested" in orchid homologies; like a "game of chess".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Wedgwood, S. E. (b) Hartfield
Source of text
DAR 115: 68
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2871,” accessed on 23 February 2024,

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