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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   30 August [1861]

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

Aug. 30th

My dear Hooker

I was thinking of writing to you today, when your note with the Orchids came.1 What frightful trouble you have taken about Vanilla:2 you really must not take an atom more; for the orchids are more play than real work. I have been much interested by Epidendrum & have worked all morning at them (for Heaven sake do not corrupt me by any more); & as far as I can make out, in the bud the rostellum has througout nearly the same structure as the exterior & next to exterior surface of the stigma.— Can you tell me the names of 3 of the 4 sent; or at least of the first in enclosed list & specimens:3 The first alone much signifies; but even that is not worth much trouble. When at Torquay I made out well, what I never could understand, how the pollinia in early bud become permanently attached to the rostellum or so-called sticky gland.4 But I won’t run on.—

I wish to God you could give a better account of Mrs. Hooker; I heartily sympathise with you; it must be most depressing to you, my dear old friend.5

Etty has returned much stronger: I declare she did the first day’s journey to Salisbury better than I did:6 I was so knocked up that I gave up Manchester:7 I cannot stand such fatigue & am in fact a man of seventy years old.— How I should enjoy to have one more Oxford time with you.—8 If ever you can find time to run down here for a few days do, I beg you, propose it. Perhaps later in Autumn Mrs. Hooker would come with you. This is just the house for invalids

My dear Hooker | Ever yours | C. Darwin

P.S. | I suppose I ought to read what Lindley says on structure of orchids: so if you will send me the part with Introduction of his work;9 I shd be greatly obliged: I enclose address for safest channel.

I should like sometime to hear how Oliver is?10 What is the matter with him?


Hooker’s letter has not been found, but see the letter to J. D. Hooker, [11 August 1861].
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 [August 1861]. CD had repeatedly asked Hooker to help him procure a specimen of Vanilla, a genus belonging to a tribe of orchids CD had not yet examined.
The enclosure has not been found.
CD examined the young flower-buds of Epidendrum cochleatum (a synonym of Prosthechea cochleata, the clamshell orchid) and E. floribundum (a synonym of E. paniculatum). In Orchids, pp. 310–11, he described the structure of the external cells of the rostellum and stigma of Epidendrum.
Frances Harriet Hooker was recuperating slowly from the loss of her father, John Stevens Henslow, in May 1861.
The Darwins left Torquay on 26 August 1861 and spent one night in transit in Salisbury, before returning to Down on 27 August. They had spent eight weeks at the seaside in the hope of improving Henrietta Emma Darwin’s poor health.
The British Association for the Advancement of Science was to meet in Manchester from 4 to 11 September 1861.
CD and Hooker had attended the British Association meeting in Oxford together in 1847. See Correspondence vol. 4.
CD had asked to borrow Bauer 1830–8 from Hooker. The work included notes and prefatory remarks on the structure of orchids by John Lindley.
Daniel Oliver, Hooker’s assistant in the herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, had been ill for some time. Before his illness, Oliver had been assisting CD with his botanical researches.


Bauer, Franz Andreas. 1830–8. Illustrations of orchidaceous plants … with notes and prefatory remarks by John Lindley. London.

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

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.


Orchid anatomy. Requests Lindley’s work on orchids [The genera and species of orchidaceous plants (1830–40)].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 111
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3238,” accessed on 10 December 2022,

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