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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   19 June [1861]1

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

June 19th.

My dear Hooker

I send by this post Journal of Hort. on account of strange little fact about position of flower causing variability, with my comment on it, which Editor has placed foolishly conspicuous.—2 Please return the Paper.—

I suppose you have hardly yet got up your arrears of work; but in a week or two screw out time & let me hear a little news about yourself & your doing & about poor dear Henslow’s family.—3 I hope & suppose that Jenyns keeps his intention of Biograph. notice.—4 The notices in G. Chronicle on Henslow have been, I think, very well done & bring out capitally his noble character & doings.—5 By the way how frightfully dull the old Chronicle has become: I really think I must give it up.— Your suggestion of London Review has answered admirably: several of the scientific articles have been capital: & I gloat over not having that extra stupid Athenæum to read.—6 I have been indexing for self Linn. Journal & I foresee great trouble in the complex arrangement of Bot. & Zoology & in those Supplements. Why on earth cannot they be worked into regular series?— What confounded wrong references will arise!7 I am glad to see that Bentham is new President.—8

Etty has been going on very well, though just at present having a drawback.— Some gain of strength has certainly been coincident with rubbing in the oil, which my wife has steadily continued since February.9

In about a fortnight we go to sea, to Devonshire, & when there I will tell you my address. We shd. have started more than a week ago; but have been delayed owing to troublesome business, viz offer of partnership in a small country Bank for William, which I now think will be arranged & will be a small, but pretty safe provision for him.— It was started by John Lubbock.10 I have leaned for him to accept partly for leisure for other occupations.— He is getting very fond of Botany & of dissecting plants;11 but I am dreadfully puzzled what to recommend him to do or what Books to get.— I hope that your & Bentham’s book will give characters of Families & Synopsis of Families.—12 Can you give me any suggestions for Willy? I have told him to get Lindleys Vegetable Kingdom & dissect plants of as many orders as he can get.13

I have, owing to many interruptions, not been going on much with my regular work (though I have done the very heavy jobs of variation of Pigeons, Fowls, Ducks, Rabbits Dogs &c) but have been amusing myself with miscellaneous work.—14 I have been very lucky & have now examined almost every British Orchid fresh, & when at sea-side shall draw up rather long paper on the means of their fertilisation for Linn. Socy & I cannot fancy anything more perfect than the many curious contrivances.—15 I shall never rest till I see a Catasetum eject pollen-masses,16 & a Mormodes twist its column.17 Can you tell me what would be best nursery to apply to for a plant just coming into flower; & secondly in summer do you think they would travel in safe state for me to examine?— Please answer this, if you can. For I am got intensely interested on subject & think I understand pretty well all the British species.—18

Farewell my dear old friend | Your affect | C. Darwin

I daresay you never had time to glance at flies caught by Saxifrages:19 I must some time get a set of species to examine; for I find that the hairs of S. rotundifolia have much prompter power of absorption of C. of Ammonia, than those of S. umbrosa.—


The endorsement is confirmed by the reference to the death of John Stevens Henslow on 16 May 1861.
See letter to Journal of Horticulture, [before 18 June 1861]. CD’s letter appeared as the first item on the front page of the issue of 18 June 1861. The editors of the journal were George William Johnson and Robert Hogg.
Hooker and his wife, Frances Harriet Hooker, stayed at the home of Frances’s father, J. S. Henslow, during his final illness.
Leonard Jenyns published a memoir of Henslow, his brother-in-law, in 1862, to which CD contributed a short piece (Jenyns ed. 1862, pp. 51–5; Collected papers 2: 72–4). See letters to J. D. Hooker, 24–5 May [1861] and 30 May [1861], and Correspondence vol. 9, Appendix X.
A three-part obituary of Henslow appeared in the Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 1 June, 8 June, and 15 June 1861.
Hooker had suggested that CD might like to subscribe to the London Review and Weekly Journal of Politics, Art and Society (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 27 [March 1861] and n. 6).
The Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London began publication in 1856. Each year separate numbers for botanical and zoological papers were issued, the two sections being independently paginated; occasionally supplementary numbers were also published that were intended to form supplementary volumes. See Gage 1938, pp. 120–1. CD’s copies of most of the numbers from volumes 1 to 8 (1856–64) are in the Darwin Library–CUL. His index to the journal is in DAR 75: 38–46.
George Bentham was elected president of the Linnean Society at the anniversary meeting of 24 May 1861 (Jackson 1906, p. 188).
Henrietta Emma Darwin had been ill for over a year. To help her recuperate, Hooker had recommended that she be rubbed with cod-liver oil (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 [February 1861]).
John Lubbock was acting as intermediary in negotiations between CD and a Southampton banker, George Atherley, to arrange a partnership for William Erasmus Darwin in the Southampton and Hampshire Bank. See letters to W. E. Darwin, [25 May 1861] and 6 [June 1861].
William Darwin had developed an interest in botany while he was being tutored before entering Cambridge University (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to WE. Darwin, [3 May 1858]).
CD refers to the Genera plantarum that Hooker and Bentham were preparing (Bentham and Hooker 1862–83). The work contains, in addition to a description of the diagnostic characters distinguishing each genus, a conspectus of the striking characters of each natural order (see Green 1914, pp. 500–2).
The third edition of John Lindley’s Vegetable kingdom was published in 1853.
CD refers to his preparation of chapters for inclusion in Variation.
CD recorded in his journal for 1861: ‘During stay at Torquay did paper on Orchids.’ The Darwins visited Torquay from 1 July to 27 August 1861. See ‘Journal’ (Appendix II).
CD mentioned his not yet having examined the lizard orchis, Catasetum saccatum, in the letter to B. S. Malden, 15–16 June [1861]. Not until October was he able to obtain specimens of Catasetum and Mormodes and observe their peculiar adaptations for promoting cross-pollination (see letters to J. D. Hooker, 11 October [1861] and 13 October [1861]).
Like Catasetum, the species of the orchid genus Mormodes possess a mechanism for ejecting the pollinia. As CD described in Orchids, the flower parts of Mormodes act in a coordinated way such that when the column or pedicel to which the pollinium is attached is touched, the piece bends entirely backwards releasing the pollinium like a pendulum, and ‘the whole body is projected perpendicularly up in the air’ (Orchids, p. 257).
Hooker wrote in the margin: ‘Parker & Williams | Holloway’. The reference is to the nursery of Robert Parker and Benjamin Samuel Williams on Seven Sisters Road in Holloway. Williams was a specialist on orchids (R. Desmond 1977).


Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

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

Desmond, Ray. 1977. Dictionary of British and Irish botanists and horticulturists, including plant collectors and botanical artists. 3d ed. London: Taylor and Francis.

Gage, Andrew Thomas. 1938. A history of the Linnean Society of London. London: Linnean Society of London.

Green, J. Reynolds. 1914. A history of botany in the United Kingdom from the earliest times to the end of the 19th century. London and Toronto: J. M. Dent & Sons. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co.

Jackson, Benjamin Daydon. 1906. George Bentham. London: J. M. Dent. New York: E. P. Dutton.

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.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


CD’s changing taste in periodical literature.

William Darwin’s partnership in bank.

Work: variation and orchids.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 103
Physical description
ALS 10pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3190,” accessed on 9 June 2023,

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