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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   25 [and 26] January [1862]1

Down Bromley Kent

Jan. 25th

My dear Hooker.

Many thanks for your last Sunday’s letter, which was one of the pleasantest I ever received in my life.2 We are all pretty well redivivus, & I am at work again. I thought it best to make a clean breast to Asa Gray & told him that the Boston dinner &c &c had quite turned my stomach,—that I almost thought it would be good for peace of world if U. States were split up: on other hand I said that I groaned to think of the Slaveholders being triumphant, & that the difficulties of making a line of separation were fearful. I wonder what he will say: I shall never have love sent me again from Mrs. Gray.—3

Your notion of the aristocrats being ken-speckle,4 & the best men of a good lot being thus easily selected is new to me & striking.5 The Origin having made you, in fact, a jolly old Tory, made us all laugh heartily. I have sometimes speculated on this subject: primogeniture is dreadfully opposed to selection,—suppose the first-born Bull was necessarily made by each farmer the begetter of his stock! On other hand, as you say, ablest men are continually raised to peerage & get crossed with the older Lord-breeds—& the Lords continually select the most beautiful & charming women out of the lower ranks; so that a good deal of indirect selection improves the Lords. Certainly I agree with you, the present American row has a very toryfying influence on us all.—

I am very glad to hear you are beginning to print the “Genera”:6 it is a wonderful satisfaction to be thus brought to bed,—indeed it is one’s chief satisfaction, I think, though one knows that another bantling will soon be developing. I feel infinite satisfaction in knowing that in 2 or 3 weeks I shall be correcting press of my little orchid Book: whether this book is worth printing I have no more idea than the man in the moon—7

It is very true what you say about Huxley having no idea how little science is generally regarded;8 & he deceives himself in wonderful manner about writing down that beggar Owen.9 By the way Huxley tells me that Owen goes in for progressive development in 2d Edit. of his Palæontology, pooh-poohing natural selection.—10 Those Dutchmen in N. Hist. Review give Owen a good setting down.—11 I am quite ashamed how demoniacal my feelings are towards Owen.— I had the other day the feeblest letter from Balfour against Huxley’s conclusion on man & monkeys;12 & he says that H. was very cautious in affirming that they were codescendants.—

I have read your interesting paper on Cedars.—13 what a good case of doubtful species & of broken distribution.

With respect to Bates I repeated by letter the offer of assistance for any scientific requirement;14 & it would look presumptuous in me to say anything more; so he must apply if he wants aid.— I wish I could have seen the specimens which he exhibited at Linn. Socy.—15

I am so glad to hear that you can give me Lythrum:16 a little later in Spring, I will send list of my desiderata.17 A bad job poor old Mr. Borrer’s death.—18

Farewell | Ever yours affectly | C. Darwin

P.S.19 I shall be very glad indeed to see an Arethusa20 & then I must stop. I have just received such a Box full from Mr Bateman with the astounding Angræcum sesquipedalia with a nectary a foot long—21 Good Heavens what insect can suck it— I will write about Dimorphism.—22


The year is established by the reference to Schroeder van der Kolk and Vrolik 1862 (see n. 11, below). The postscript was probably written on the day following the rest of the letter (see n. 19, below).
See letter to Asa Gray, 22 January [1862] and nn. 8 and 9. The reference is to Jane Loring Gray.
Kenspeckle: ‘easily recognisable; conspicuous’ (OED).
See letter from J. D. Hooker, [19 January 1862]. The first part of volume 1 of Genera plantarum (Bentham and Hooker 1862–83) was published on 7 August 1862 (Stearn 1956, p. 130).
Orchids was published in May 1862 (Freeman 1977, p. 112).
In his letter of [19 January 1862], Hooker, commenting on Huxley’s delight at the reception accorded to lectures he had recently given in Edinburgh, stated: ‘I do not think H. has the smallest idea in how small a circle he makes a noise’.
CD refers to Schroeder van der Kolk and Vrolik 1862. See also letter to T. H. Huxley, 14 [January 1862] and n. 5.
J. D. Hooker 1862a appeared in the January issue of the Natural History Review. CD annotated the article in his copy of this issue (Darwin Library–CUL).
Hooker had inquired whether or not Henry Walter Bates had accepted CD’s offer to pay towards the cost of plates for Bates 1862a (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [19 January 1862] and n. 22). The paper was published with two coloured plates.
Bates exhibited specimens of ‘Lepidopterous Insects’ from South America at a meeting of the Linnean Society of London on 16 January 1862 (Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society 6: lviii).
William Borrer died on 10 January 1862 (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [19 January 1862]). CD had hoped to obtain plants and seeds from him.
This postscript, which is on a separate sheet, was written in response to the letter from J. D. Hooker, [25 January 1862], and was thus probably added on 26 January.
CD thanked James Bateman for his assistance in supplying plants in Orchids, pp. 114 n. and 158 n.; he discussed Angraecum sesquipedale on pp. 197–203. See also letter from Robert Bateman, [28 January 1862] and Kritsky 1991.
See the letter from J. D. Hooker, [25 January 1862], in which Hooker provided CD with a list of dimorphic plant families and offered to procure specimens for him. CD responded to Hooker in his letter of 30 January [1862].


Bates, Henry Walter. 1862. Contributions to an insect fauna of the Amazon valley. Coleoptera: Longicornes. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 3d ser. 9: 117–24, 396–405, 446–58.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Kritsky, Gene. 1991. Darwin’s Madagascan hawk moth prediction. American Entomologist 37: 206–9.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

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.

Stearn, William T. 1956. Bentham and Hooker’s Genera plantarum: its history and dates of publication. Journal of the Society for the Bibliography of Natural History 3 (1953–60): 127–32.


His answer to Asa Gray.

On JDH’s view of aristocracy. Primogeniture is dreadfully opposed to selection.

Orchid book proofs ready soon – has no idea whether it is worth publishing.

Huxley on Owen.

Feeble letter from J. H. Balfour against Huxley’s lectures ["Relation of man to lower animals", pt 2 of Man’s place in nature (1863)].

Has received the "astounding" Angraecum sesquipedale with nectary 1ft long: "what insect could suck it?"

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 141
Physical description
ALS 7pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3411,” accessed on 23 July 2024,

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