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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   14 May [1861]

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

May 14th

My dear Hooker

I have been putting off writing from day to day, as I did not wish to trouble you, till my wish for a little news will not let me rest. Unless by a prodigy poor dear Henslow is recovering, good God what a time his sufferings have been prolonged. But from your last note, I hope, I need not say sufferings, but only life.1 What a miserable time you must have had.—

I am alone at present, as Emma has taken Etty to Dentist in London; & their stay in London, I hope, has done both good.2 I shd. have gone up, but I have been rather extra ailing of late. I have no news to tell you, for I have had no interesting letters for some time & have not seen a soul.—

I have been going through Cottage Gardener of last year, on account chiefly of Beaton’s articles:3 he strikes me as a clever, but d—d cock-sure man (as L. Melbourne said)4 & I have some doubt whether to be much trusted. I suspect he has never recorded his experiments at the time with care. He has made me indignant by the way he speaks of Gärtner, evidently knowing nothing of his work.—5 I mean to try & pump him in Cot. Gard. & shall perhaps defend Gartner.—6 He alludes to me occasionally & I cannot tell with what spirit. He speaks of “this Mr. Darwin”, in one place, as if I were a very noxious animal.7

Let me have a line about poor Henslow pretty soon.

Farewell my dear Friend | Ever yours | C. Darwin

I fear there is something seriously amiss with Lyell.—8


John Stevens Henslow, Hooker’s father-in-law, died after a long illness on 16 May 1861.
Emma and Henrietta Emma Darwin went to London on 8 May 1861 and returned to Down on 17 May (Emma Darwin’s diary). See letter to W. E. Darwin, 9 May [1861] and n. 3.
Donald Beaton contributed a weekly column to the Cottage Gardener. He was well known to both Hooker and his father, William Jackson Hooker, director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (see Cottage Gardener, 4 September 1860, p. 337).
William Lamb, Lord Melbourne, had a reputation for having unconventional manners and speech ‘interlarded with oaths’ (DNB).
CD had studied closely the hybridisation experiments carried out by the German botanist, Karl Friedrich von Gärtner. CD cited results from Gärtner’s systematic crossing of various hybrids in Natural selection and in Origin.
See letter to the Journal of Horticulture, [17 May 1861]. CD did not challenge Beaton’s criticism of Gärtner’s work until 1863, in a letter written to the Journal of Horticulture, [3 February 1863] (see Calendar no. 3966; Correspondence vol. 11).
Beaton briefly mentioned CD’s views on species in several of his regular articles in the Cottage Gardener (Journal of Horticulture). CD’s reference is to Beaton’s statement in ‘Kew Arboretum and pleasure-grounds’ (Cottage Gardener, 11 September 1860, pp. 352–3): For, you see, this Mr. Darwin has made a wonderful impression by his notions of how plants came first into being, and how such beings could hold on for so many ages … They have laws, reason, and logic for all this, and for ten times as much; and ten to one if some of us be not drawn from our own conclusions by that logic—and the logic of facts is the hardest of all to bear up against.


Calendar: A calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882. With supplement. 2d edition. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994.

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

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

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.


Henslow’s long suffering.

Donald Beaton’s articles in Cottage Gardener clever but not to be trusted.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 99
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3149,” accessed on 13 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9