skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   28 September [1861]


Sept. 28th

My dear Hooker

What a good soul you are not to sneer at me, but to pat me on the back. I have greatest doubt whether I am not going to do in publishing my paper, a most ridiculous thing. It would annoy me much, but only for Murray’s sake, if the publication were a dead failure.1 I hate to hear you so falsely abuse yourself & say that you are only fit for descriptive work.2 For years & years you have been my Public & my judge, & I care more for your opinion in Nat. History, than for all the rest of the world. So do not vilify yourself;—though by Jove you cannot alter my opinion of you.—

Many thanks for list of Australian trees;3 I am so glad that you are stirring up people in this most important subject. It makes the case wonderfully odd of the S. species not having naturally spread northward.—4

It is, I believe, true that Glen Roy shelves (I remember your Indian Letters) were formed by Glacial lakes.5 I persuaded Mr Jamieson an excellent observer to go & observe them; & this is his result.—6 There are some great difficulties to be explained; but I presume this will ultimately be proved the truth. Speaking of the Australian trees reminds me that Mr Bates (who wrote so well against spreading of Lepidoptera during Glacial period)7 is going to publish his Travels with Natural Hist. notes. I heard from him a few days ago, & was so much pleased to find that he who has specially attended to the castes of neuter ants, is quite satisfied with my discussion & explanation of this most difficult case.—8 Owen sneered bitterly at what I wrote on this subject.—9

I am going to beg for help, & I will explain why I want it.—

You offer Cypripedium; I shd. be very glad of a specimen; & of any good sized Vandeæ, or indeed any Orchid; for this reason; I never thought of publishing separately & therefore did not keep specimens in spirits, & now I shd. be very glad of a few woodcuts to illustrate my few remarks on Exotic orchids.— If you can send me any, send them by Post in tin-cannister on middle of day of Saturday Oct 5th; for Sowerby will be here.—10

Secondly: have you any white & yellow vars. of Verbascum, which you could give me or propagate for me or lend me for a year. I have resolved to try Gärtners wonderfull & repeated statement, that pollen of white & yellow vars, whether used on the varieties or on distinct species has different potency.11 I do not think any experiment can be more important on Origin of species; for if he is correct, we certainly have what Huxley calls new physiological species arising.12 I shd require several species of Verbascum besides the white & yellow varieties of the same species.— It will be tiresome work, but if I can anyhow get the plants it shall be tried.

Thirdly, can you give me seeds of any Rubiaceæ of the suborder Cinchoneæ, as Spermacoce, Diodia, Mitchella, Oldenlandia.— Asa Gray says they present two forms like Primula.—13 I am sure that this subject is well worth working out. I have just almost proved a very curious case in Linum grandiflorum which presents 2 forms A & B.— Pollen of (A) is perfectly fertile on stigma of A.—


But pollen of (B) is absolutely barren on its own stigma; you might as well put, so much flower on it; it astounded me to see the stigma of (B) purple with its own pollen; & then put a few grains of similarly looking pollen of (A) on them; & the germens immediately & always swelled; those not thus treated never swelling.14

Thirdly; can you give me any very hairy Saxifraga.—(for their function)

I send a resumè of my requests to save you trouble.— Nor would I ask for so much aid, if I did not think all these points well worth trying to investigate—

My dear old friend, a letter from you always does me a world of good.— And the Lord have mercy on me what I return I make—

Yours affecty. | C. Darwin


The reference is to CD’s intention to publish the results of his study of orchid pollination as a book rather than an article. See letter to J. D. Hooker, 24 September [1861]; see also letter to John Murray, 21 September [1861], and letter from John Murray, 23 September 1861.
Hooker and George Bentham were preparing the first part of the first volume of Genera plantarum, which was intended to be a systematic compilation of all known plant genera (Bentham and Hooker 1862–83). CD had been encouraging Hooker to write a general work on philosophical botany (see Correspondence vol. 8, especially letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 February [1860]).
CD referred to this difficulty in Origin in the chapter on geographical distribution of plants and animals during the glacial period (Origin, pp. 379–81).
CD refers to the letters Hooker sent him during his expedition to the Himalayas, 1848–50. In a letter of 1849, Hooker described the geology of Sikkim, particularly noting the phenomenon of terraced hillsides, which he explained as resulting from former glacier lakes (see Correspondence vol. 4, letter from JD. Hooker, 3 February 1849).
See letters from T. F. Jamieson, 13 June 1861 and 3 September 1861. See also letter to Robert Chambers, 30 April [1861]. Thomas Francis Jamieson published the results of his examination of the geology of Glen Roy in 1863 (Jamieson 1863). See also Correspondence vol. 9, Appendix IX.
In Origin, pp. 365–79, CD put forward the view that a refrigeration of equatorial regions during the glacial period had allowed migration of temperate species from one hemisphere to the other, with tropical species suffering a certain amount of extinction. Bates disputed this view in Bates 1861, pp. 352–3: having found that among the butterflies of the Amazon region there were many endemic species with restricted ranges, he concluded that no significant degree of extinction could have occurred. See also letters from H. W. Bates, 18 March 1861 and 28 March 1861.
Letter from H. W. Bates, [before 25 September 1861]. This letter is damaged and largely illegible, but see the letter to H. W. Bates, 25 September [1861]. Bates had studied Brazilian ants; some of his observations were published in Bates and Smith 1855.
[R. Owen] 1860b, pp. 524–6. For CD’s response to Richard Owen’s ‘malignant’ review of Origin, see Correspondence vol. 8, letters to T. H. Huxley, 9 April [1860], to Charles Lyell, 10 April [1860], and to Asa Gray, 25 April [1860].
According to Emma Darwin’s diary, George Brettingham Sowerby Jr arrived at Down on 7 October 1861. An entry in CD’s Account book (Down House MS) records a payment to Sowerby for ten days of work in preparing the woodcuts for Orchids.
Many of Karl Friedrich von Gärtner’s hybridisation experiments on Verbascum, the results of which are tabulated in Gärtner 1849, pp. 724–8, consisted of crossing differently coloured species with each other or crossing white- and yellow-flowered varieties of both V. lychnitis and V. blattaria with other Verbascum species. Gärtner also referred to his results in ibid., pp. 92 and 180–1, though his use of the terms species and varieties is confusing, a point noted by CD (see Marginalia, p. 260). Gärtner had also mentioned his Verbascum experiments in Gärtner 1844, pp. 137–8. There are annotated copies of both volumes in the Darwin Library–CUL. CD discussed Gärtner’s work on this aspect of Verbascum hybridisation in Variation 2: 105–6, but made no mention of his own experiments on the genus. Instead, he cited experiments conducted by John Scott to show that ‘in the genus Verbascum, the similarly and dissimilarly-coloured varieties of the same species behave, when crossed, like closely allied but distinct species’ (Variation 2: 107).
In his review of Origin, Huxley distinguished between what he termed ‘morphological’ species, ‘distinctly definable from all others, by certain constant … morphological peculiarities’ ([T. H. Huxley] 1860, p. 543), and ‘physiological’ species. He stated that the best way to distinguish between two true physiological species and two varieties was to attempt to hybridise the two: true species would either be infertile inter se or produce infertile offspring, whereas two varieties would give rise to fertile progeny (ibid., pp. 552–3). He went on to state that ‘as the evidence now stands, it is not absolutely proven that a group of animals, having all the characters exhibited by species in nature, has ever been originated by selection, whether artificial or natural.’ (ibid., p. 567).
CD gave an account of the experiments he carried out in 1861 on Linum grandiflorum in a paper on dimorphism in Primula read to the Linnean Society of London on 21 November 1861 (see Collected papers 2: 62–3) and in a paper he eventually published on dimorphism in species of Linum (‘On the existence of two forms, and on their reciprocal sexual relation, in several species of the genus Linum’, Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 7 (1864): 69–83; Collected papers 2: 93–105). See also Forms of flowers.


Bates, Henry Walter. 1861. Contributions to an insect fauna of the Amazon valley. Lepidoptera: Heliconidæ. [Read 21 November 1861.] Transactions of the Linnean Society of London 23 (1860–2): 495–566.

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–.

Forms of flowers: The different forms of flowers on plants of the same species. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1877.

Gärtner, Karl Friedrich von. 1844. Versuche und Beobachtungen über die Befruchtungsorgane der vollkommeneren Gewächse und über die natürliche und künstliche Befruchtung durch den eigenen Pollen. Pt 1 of Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Befruchtung der vollkommeneren Gewächse. Stuttgart: E. Schweizerbart.

Gärtner, Karl Friedrich von. 1849. Versuche und Beobachtungen über die Bastarderzeugung im Pflanzenreich. Mit Hinweisung auf die ähnlichen Erscheinungen im Thierreiche, ganz umgearbeitete und sehr vermehrte Ausgabe der von der Königlich holländischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Stuttgart: E. Schweizerbart.

[Huxley, Thomas Henry.] 1860a. Darwin on the origin of species. Westminster Review n.s. 17: 541–70.

Jamieson, Thomas Francis. 1863. On the parallel roads of Glen Roy, and their place in the history of the glacial period. [Read 21 January 1863.] Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London 19: 235–59.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

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.

Smith, Frederick. 1855. Catalogue of British Hymenoptera in the collection of the British Museum. Pt 1. Apidæ–bees. Edited by John Edward Gray. London.

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


Bates agrees with CD on neuter ants.


Repeating experiment of C. F. v. Gärtner to study Huxley’s idea of physiological species.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 114
Physical description
ALS 7pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3268,” accessed on 4 March 2024,

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