skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [31 January – 8 February 1862]1

Dear Darwin

I wrote you a frightful screed the other day about the development of an Aristocracy being the necessary consequence of Natural Selection—& then burnt it—so you must take the will for the deed & be thankful!2 If ever we meet again we will talk it over—

I have a capital letter from Bates who is the only man I know that is “thinking out” your doctrines to any purpose— he tells me he is drawing the butterflies himself,   I am glad of it— I did not want you to write to offer him again, but only to tell me whether he had arranged any thing with you as we shall be glad to get the drawings in hand. & engraved early.3 We have got the L.S. up to a very decent pitch of prosperity & hope to keep it so.— I think I have driven Bates back to Nat. Selection as the only way of solving his difficulties.—4 I do not know when I have met a more interesting thing than his mimetic butterflies— I wish I had time to do the same thing with plants, which is quite feasable to a very considerable degree.

What the deuce can keep you so irritable about Owen:5 how I wish I could soothe you, I suppose it is the effect of your isolated life, & yet I dare say I am as insane upon some far less worthy score. My only care is to avoid owen— I can see that he hates me now with an intense hate— he fell foul of me at the Linnæan the other night in a most contemptible manner,6 & in so foolish a one that in half a dozen words of answer I set the whole society laughing at him. My God what an eye he fixed on me— Won’t I catch it— of course I shall, but no worse than if I had not— what do I care

On the back of this you will find the case of dimorphous Stellaria flowers7

Huxley has got into a most contemptible squabble with the Edinburgh newspapers, I really am astonished that he should notice such rubbish as they fulminate—8 the beauty of it is that no one in Edinburgh who reads either side sees the other & no one out of Edinburgh reads either! It is not like a Times controversy which every one reads

Ever Yrs | J D Hooker

Stellaria bulbifera9 a Siberian form of this has the apparently fertile flowers at upper part of plant (as in other Stellarias)   these are said by Maximowitch never to ripen seeds.—10 At base of plant are flowers apetalous, or with very short petals, and barren stamens or 0, a succulent ovary with 1 instead of 3 styles, & very numerous ripe seeds.

CD annotations

0.1 Dear … Hooker 6.1] crossed ink !alignleft!7.1 Stellaria … seeds. 7.5] ‘very doubtfully [Cleistogamic]11 red crayon
Top of letter: ‘Heterocentron mexicanum | Bletia or [Arethusa]12 pencil


Dated by the relationship to the letters to J. D. Hooker, 30 January [1862] (see n. 9, below) and 9 February [1862].
Hooker and CD had light-heartedly discussed the relationship between natural selection and the system of hereditary aristocracy (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [19 January 1862], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 25 [and 26] January [1862]).
CD had offered Henry Walter Bates financial assistance with the cost of coloured plates to accompany his account of South American mimetic butterflies (Bates 1862a; see Correspondence vol. 9, letters to H. W. Bates, 25 November [1861] and 3 December [1861]). The Linnean Society of London was willing to pay for the engraving and colouring but not for the original drawing (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [19 January 1862]). The plates published with Bates 1862a were drawn and lithographed by Edward W. Robinson (Transactions of the Linnean Society of London 23 (1862): tabs. 55 and 56).
Hooker and Bates initiated a flourishing correspondence in 1862, which is partly reproduced in Edward Clodd’s memoir of Bates (Bates 1892, pp. xvii–lxxxix). Hooker wrote to Bates at length about natural selection on 2 February 1862 (see ibid., pp. l–liii, and the enclosure to the letter from J. D. Hooker, [23 March 1862]). Many of the extant letters between Bates and Hooker are now in the Archives of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
In his letter to J. D. Hooker, 25 [and 26] January [1862], CD confessed shame at the ‘demoniacal’ nature of his feelings towards Richard Owen.
There were meetings of the Linnean Society of London on 16 January and 6 February 1862 (Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society 6 (1862): lvii, lix).
See n. 9, below.
This note is on the verso of the last page of the letter. In his letter to J. D. Hooker, 30 January [1862], CD requested information concerning a case of dimorphism in the Caryophyllaceae that Hooker had mentioned; the genus Stellaria belongs to the Caryophyllaceae. CD thanked Hooker for his information on Stellaria in the letter to J. D. Hooker, 9 February [1862]. Stellaria bulbifera is a synoym of Pseudostellaria europaea.
Maximowicz 1859, p. 58; see also Bentham 1862a, p. 67.
This annotation was apparently added at a later date, since the word ‘cleistogamic’ was not in use before 1867 (see Forms of flowers, p. 310, and OED).


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.

Bates, Henry Walter. 1892. 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. With a memoir of the author by Edward Clodd. Reprint of the first edition. London: John Murray.

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.

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.


Wrote a "frightful screed" about aristocracy’s being a necessary consequence of natural selection, and then burnt it.

H. W. Bates is the only man "thinking out" natural selection to any purpose. "I think I have driven Bates back to Nat. Sel. as the only way of solving his difficulties."

HWB’s mimetic butterflies.

JDH wishes he had time to do the same thing with plants.

Owen and Huxley involved in a "contemptible" squabble in the Edinburgh newspapers.

Maximovitch reports Stellaria bulbifera is a Siberian form which never ripens its seeds.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 14; DAR 111: 93
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3430,” accessed on 29 May 2023,

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