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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   7 March [1862]1

Down Bromley Kent

March 7th

My dear Hooker.

I have thought you would like to see enclosed from Gray: without having seen mine, you will not perceive what nice little sneers it contains; & there is a slap at you.2 I heartily wish I cd. sympathise more with so excellent a man. Some time, return the note to me.—

I will soon prepare & modify some extracts for Linn. Soc about the three Orchid forms; why I wrote again was because I did not think that you understood they would be chiefly mere extracts from my book.3

You will be disappointed in my little book: I have got to hate it, though the subject has fairly delighted me: I am an ass & always fancy at the time that others will care for what I care about: I am convinced its publication will be bad job for Murray. Well it won’t be a big concern.—4

Your last note will be very useful when I come to reconsider your Arctic paper5 (by the way I will never believe that naturalists are so dull, as not sooner or later to appreciate this paper); your notion of a preglacial centre of dispersal far north, seems good. I have often speculated that during eocene period, there could hardly have been any strictly Arctic Flora & Fauna; & consequently their curious poverty, from want of time for great modification in strictly Arctic genera.— Greenland is indeed very curious; I do not feel quite so sure as you (considering direction of currents of sea, & greater proximity of land far north) that chance migration would have brought to there temperate forms. I am more willing, considering Geolog. nature of Spitzbergen & Bear Isd. to admit a recent continental extension there than almost anywhere else.—6

“Link   Die Urwelt & das Alterthum &c 1821. p. 102”,—on Alpine plants & change of climate.—7

I have had a most obliging letter from Mr. Crocker;8 who offers & wishes to experiment, so I have given him some things to do;9 it will be grand if he will work.— I am at work on Dimorphism; in Primula & am finding out some very odd & perplexing facts; including a third form in the Chinese Primrose;10 & I am nearly sure that daylight is coming with respect to the melastomas.— Can you tell me whether anything is better than Spirits & Water to preserve flowers in, as I have to preserve all, as I cannot draw.—

Have you read Buckle’s 2d. Vol: it has interested me greatly; I do not care whether his views are right or wrong; but I shd. think they contained much truth.11 There is a noble love of advancement & truth throughout; & to my taste he is the very best writer of the English Language that ever lived, let the other be who he may.—

Yours affect | C. Darwin


The year is provided by the reference to CD’s paper on the Linnean Society’s trimorphic orchid specimen (see n. 3, below).
CD’s letter has not been found, but see the letter from J. D. Hooker, 3 March 1862. CD’s paper, ‘Three sexual forms of Catasetum tridentatum, was read before the Linnean Society of London on 3 April 1862.
CD’s publisher, John Murray, issued 1500 copies of the first edition of Orchids on 15 May 1862. Although favourably reviewed, the book sold slowly. See letter to John Murray, 9 April [1862], and Freeman 1977, p. 112.
J. D. Hooker 1861a. See letter from J. D. Hooker, 3 March 1862.
CD’s letter has not been found. The letters from C. W. Crocker, [before 13 March 1862] and 13 March 1862 give an indication of the experiments Crocker agreed to carry out for CD.
CD had carried out crossing experiments with the Chinese primrose, Primula sinensis, in 1861 (‘Dimorphic condition in Primula, pp. 87–8; see also Collected papers 2: 54–6), and had subsequently raised plants from the resulting seeds. With this second generation of plants CD carried out a second series of crosses in late January and February 1862, some of the results of which were later given in ‘Illegitimate offspring of dimorphic and trimorphic plants’, pp. 410–18 (see also the experimental notes in DAR 108: 15–18, 26–8, 34–9). The experiments were designed to investigate further the connection between dimorphism and sterility (see ‘Illegitimate offspring of dimorphic and trimorphic plants’, pp. 431–7, letter to T. H. Huxley, 14 [January 1862] and n. 9, and Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix VI). See also letter to Alphonse de Candolle, 17 June [1862] and n. 2, letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 June [1862] and n. 4, and letter to John Scott, 11 December [1862]. In ‘Illegitimate offspring of dimorphic and trimorphic plants’, p. 414, CD reported that his attention was first drawn to the equal-styled variety of Primula sinensis in 1862 by observing some anomalous flowers in a long-styled plant derived from a self-fertilised long-styled parent. As a result, he reported (p. 415), he had examined the plants ‘in several small collections’, and had discovered that ‘the equal-styled variety is not rare’. CD’s notes from these observations and experiments, dated 27 February – 30 March, 24 April 1862, and 30 May 1862, are in DAR 108: 38 v., 56–66.
CD had read and greatly admired the first volume of Henry Thomas Buckle’s History of civilization in England (Buckle 1857–61) in 1858 (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 February [1858]). In the second volume, published in 1861, Buckle used the examples of Spain and Scotland to defend his four leading propositions concerning the history of civilisation: first, that human progress depends on the prosecution and diffusion of science; second, that scientific investigation requires a prior ‘spirit of scepticism’, itself subsequently fostered by science; third, that the discoveries thus made increase the influence of intellectual as compared with moral truths; and, finally, that the ‘great enemy’ of such progress, and thus of civilisation, is ‘the protective spirit’ found in the constant interference of church and state in human affairs (Buckle 1857–61, 2: 1).


Buckle, Henry Thomas. 1857–61. History of civilization in England. 2 vols. London: John W. Parker & Son.

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–.

‘Dimorphic condition in Primula’: On the two forms, or dimorphic condition, in the species of Primula, and on their remarkable sexual relations. By Charles Darwin. [Read 21 November 1861.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 6 (1862): 77–96. [Collected papers 2: 45–63.]

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.

‘Illegitimate offspring of dimorphic and trimorphic plants’: On the character and hybrid-like nature of the offspring from the illegitimate unions of dimorphic and trimorphic plants. By Charles Darwin. [Read 20 February 1868.] Journal of the Linnean Society of London (Botany) 10 (1869): 393–437.

Link, Heinrich Friedrich. 1821. Die Urwelt und das Alterthum, erläutert durch die Naturkunde. Berlin. [Vols. 8,10]

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.

‘Three sexual forms of Catasetum tridentatum’: On the three remarkable sexual forms of Catasetum tridentatum, an orchid in the possession of the Linnean Society. By Charles Darwin. [Read 3 April 1862.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 6 (1862): 151–7. [Collected papers 2: 63–70.]


CD wishes he could sympathise with Asa Gray’s politics.

Orchids to appear soon.

Pre-glacial Arctic distribution.

Work on floral dimorphism.

High opinion of Buckle as a writer.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 185
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3468,” accessed on 19 May 2024,

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