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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   16 January [1862]1


Jan 16th

My dear Hooker

I shd. have thanked you before for valuable specimens & 3 notes,2 but we have been in a lamentable state; with 3 or 4 or even 6 in bed at a time with virulent influenza. I have been very bad & am much shaken & have done nothing for nearly 3 weeks. The Catasetum has dropped its flowers, alas & alas; & I want to return both plants & the Bolbophyllum.—3 Our carrier will be in London on Thursday morning;4 please give me address of the Kew Carrier in a few days’ time: I fear that the plants are not very healthy, though my neighbour’s gardener can grow Orchids well, yet he says he cannot manage these Catasetums:5 I hope to God they are not much injured.—

Sometime give me reference to Haast(??) Survey of Middle Isd of New Zealand??— about Glacial deposits, which interests me much.—6

Asa Gray is evidently sore about England: he does not say much; nor do I; but I have hitherto been able to write with some sympathy; now I must be silent; for I look at the people as a nation of unmitigated blackguards.—7

I have been interested by what you say about your Willy:8 I should expect he would become all right, with all the excellent characters you specify, under advancing years. A child from such ancestry must lose the too great volatility, which seems the sole failing. I was struck years ago by what Archbp Whately9 told me of a son of very able parents, who was thought for years a dunce & who remained so till full manhood, when he stumbled on his vocation, viz an Australian settler; & then, as W. remarked, he exhibited his inherited genius, for he became Supereminent in this line of life.—

With respect to colours of flowers; I think such an investigation as you propose would certainly be very interesting; though whether worth the labour, I cannot say.—10 I have been excessively perplexed by opposite statements with respect to shells in deep water;11 & now comes Bates’ case to astound me.12 He refers truly to my observations on this head at Galapagos Arch. I saw (but had forgotten) that something more than heat is required for development of colour.13 Certainly it is an important consideration, (perhaps hardly anything more important,) to try to discover how much of any character stands in direct relation to external conditions; so that assuredly I hope you may undertake this investigation.—

Farewell— I am out of Spirits with all the illness in this house; & our youngest Boy has just failed in miserable degree, like five of our other children, with intermittent pulse.—14

What misery there is in this life.— God Bless you my dear old friend—

C. Darwin

Do not forget Kew Carrier.—

P.S. The letter with curious address forwarded by Mrs Hooker15 was from a German Homœopathic Doctor—an ardent admirer of the Origin—had himself published nearly the same sort of book, but goes much deeper—explains the origin of plants & animals on the principles of Homœopathy or by the Law of Spirality— Book fell dead in Germany— Therefore would I translate it & publish it in England &c &c?!16


The year is established by the reference to the incidence of influenza in the Darwin household (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)) and by the relationship to the letter from J. D. Hooker, [29 December 1861] (Correspondence vol. 9).
CD probably refers to the letters from J. D. Hooker, [29 December 1861] (Correspondence vol. 9), [1 January 1862], and [30 December 1861 or 6 January 1862] (this volume).
Hooker had lent CD specimens of these two genera of orchids from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. See Correspondence vol. 9, letter to J. D. Hooker, 1 December [1861] and nn. 1 and 2.
George Snow, the village coal dealer, ran a carrier service to and from London every Thursday (Post Office directory of the six home counties 1862).
John Horwood, gardener to CD’s neighbour George Henry Turnbull, is thanked for his assistance in Orchids, p. 158.
Hooker had been reading J. F. J. von Haast 1861, and told CD of Julius von Haast’s allusion to glacial deposits in New Zealand in his letter of [29 December 1861] (Correspondence vol. 9). In the fourth edition of Origin, CD modified his reference to glacial action in New Zealand to read: ‘we now know, from the excellent researches of Dr. J. Haast and Dr. Hector that enormous glaciers formerly descended to a low level in New Zealand’ (Origin 4th ed., pp. 442–3).
The reference is to the aftermath of the so-called Trent affair (see letter from J. B. Innes, 2 January [1862] and n. 5), about which CD and Asa Gray had corresponded (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to Asa Gray, 11 December [1861], and letter from Asa Gray, 31 December 1861).
Hooker had mentioned his concern that his eldest child, William Henslow Hooker, was ‘singularly backward & childish of his years’ in his letter to CD of [29 December 1861] (Correspondence vol. 9).
Richard Whately, archbishop of Dublin.
Hooker had offered to look over his lists of Arctic plants, making a note of their colours in order to help CD determine whether there was a correlation between flower colour and latitude (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [30 December 1861 or 6 January 1862] and n. 5).
CD mentioned in Origin, p. 133, the general observation that species of shells inhabiting deep seas tended to exhibit less colour than those inhabiting shallow seas (see also Natural selection, p. 282). He was citing Forbes 1850, p. 254.
In Bates 1863, 1: 21, Henry Walter Bates drew on his knowledge of tropical insects to argue that, contrary to the generally held view, climate had ‘little or no direct influence’ on the size or coloration of animals. See also letter from H. W. Bates, 6 January 1862, and letter to H. W. Bates, 13 January [1862].
Horace Darwin, the Darwins’ youngest son, was 10 years old.
The German homeopathic doctor has not been identified. He was seemingly an adherent of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s law of spiral growth of plants. Goethe claimed in his paper, ‘Über die Spiral-Tendenz der Vegetation’: ‘es walte in der Vegetation eine allgemeine Spiraltendenz, wodurch, in Verbindung mit dem verticalen Streben, aller Bau, jede Bildung der Pflanzen nach dem Gesetze der Metamorphose vollbracht wird.’ [there is in plants a general spiral tendency, through which, in connection with a vertical tendency, every construction, every form of plant following the law of metamorphoses is achieved] (Goethes Werke pt 2, 7: 49). For CD’s negative views on homeopathy, see Correspondence vol. 4, letter to W. D. Fox, 4 September [1850].


Bates, Henry Walter. 1863. The naturalist on the River Amazons. A record of adventures, habits of animals, sketches of Brazilian and Indian life, and aspects of nature under the equator, during eleven years of travel. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

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

Goethes Werke: Goethes Werke. Herausgegeben im Auftrage der Großherzogin Sophie von Sachsen. 4 pts in 142 vols. Weimar. 1887–1912.

Haast, John Francis Julius von. 1861. Report of a topographical and geological exploration of the western districts of the Nelson Province, New Zealand. Nelson, New Zealand: Nelson provincial government.

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.

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 4th ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 4th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1866.

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.

Post Office directory of the six home counties: Post Office directory of the six home counties, viz., Essex, Herts, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex. London: W. Kelly & Co. 1845–78.


Entire family down with influenza. Has done nothing for three weeks.

Asks for Haast reference on New Zealand glacial deposits.

CD’s view of the North since Trent case. Can no longer write with sympathy to Asa Gray.

Encourages JDH about his son, Willy.

Problem of relation of colour to external conditions. Hopes JDH will undertake the investigation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 140
Physical description
ALS 7pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3391,” accessed on 14 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10