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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   26 [March 1862]1

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Hooker.

Thanks about Calanthe: it must be the old Vaucher, so I am answered.—2 Thanks, also, for the aristocratic note about the four Bs.3 Also for your own & Bates’ letter, now returned.4 They are both excellent; you have, I think said all that can be said against direct effect of conditions & capitally put. But I still stick to my own & Bates’ side. Nevertheless I am pleased to attribute little to conditions; & I wish I had done, what you suggest, started on the fundamental principle of variation being an innate principle; & afterwards made a few remarks, showing that hereafter perhaps this principle would be explicable.— Whenever my Book on poultry, pigeons, Ducks & Rabbits is published, with all the measurements & weighings of bones, I think you will see that “use & disuse” at least have some effect.—5 I do not believe in perfect reversion.—6

I rather demur to your doctrine of “centrifugal variation”;7 I suppose you do not agree with, or do not remember my doctrine of the good of diversification; this seems to me amply to account for variation being centrifugal— if you forget it, look at this discussion (p. 117 of 3d edit); it was the last point, which, according to my notions, I made out, & it has always pleased me.—8 It is really curiously satisfactory to me to see so able a man as Bates (& yourself) believing more fully in nat. selection, than I think I even do myself. By the way I always boast to you, & so I think owen will be wrong that my Book will be forgotten in 10 years,9 for a French Edit is now going through the press10 & a 2nd German Edit. wanted.—11 Your long letter to Bates has set my head working & makes me repent of the nine months spent on Orchids;12 though I know not why I should not have amused myself on them, as well as slaving on bones of Ducks & pigeons &c. The Orchids have been splendid sport, though at present I am fearfully sick of them.

I enclose a waste copy of woodcut of Mormodes ignea; I wish you had a plant at Kew; for I am sure its wonderful mechanism & structure would amuse you. Is it not curious the way the labellum sits on the top of the column; here insects alight & are beautifully shot, when they touch a certain sensitive point, by the pollinia.—13 How kindly you have helped me in my work. Farewell my dear old fellow.—

We have been miserably anxious about Horace, but he has been a little better for two days.14 One day I expected every minute he would go into convulsions or become insane.

Farewell | C. Darwin


The date is established by the relationship to the letter to J. D. Hooker, 22 [March 1862] (see n. 2, below).
CD refers to Hooker’s letter to Henry Walter Bates, 2 February 1862 (enclosed with the letter from J. D. Hooker, [23 March 1862]), and probably to the letter from Bates to Hooker, 5 March [1862] (enclosed with the letter from J. D. Hooker, [10 March 1862]).
Variation was published in 1868. One of the chapters on the laws of variation included a section entitled ‘On the effects of the increased use and disuse of organs’ (Variation 2: 295–303).
CD discussed the difficulty in establishing the validity of the commonly held view that domestic varieties ‘when run wild’ would gradually revert to an ancestral form in Origin, pp. 14–15, 160–2.
See enclosure to the letter from J. D. Hooker, [23 March 1862] and n. 19.
CD discussed his ‘principle of divergence’ in Origin 3d ed., pp. 117–32. See also Correspondence vol. 6, letter to J. D. Hooker, 22 August [1857], and letter to Asa Gray, 5 September [1857]. For discussions of CD’s formulation of the principle of divergence, see Browne 1980 and 1983 and Ospovat 1981.
The occasion on which Richard Owen made this remark has not been identified. CD first mentioned Owen’s comment in March 1860 (see Correspondence vol. 8, letter to J. D. Hooker, 3 March [1860]).
The first edition of Clémence Auguste Royer’s French translation of Origin (Royer trans. 1862) was published on 31 May 1862 (Journal Générale de l’Imprimerie et de la Librairie 2d ser. 6 (pt 3): 341).
CD worked on Orchids from July 1861 until the end of April 1862 (see Correspondence vol. 9, ‘Journal’ (Correspondence, vol. 10, Appendix II), and this volume, ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II)).
Mormodes ignea is described in Orchids, pp. 249–65; a woodcut of the flower is printed on p. 250.
Horace Darwin had been ill since January, but, according to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), showed a slight improvement towards the end of March.


Browne, Janet. 1980. Darwin’s botanical arithmetic and the ‘principle of divergence’, 1854–1858. Journal of the History of Biology 13: 53–89.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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 3d ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 3d edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1861.

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.

Ospovat, Dov. 1981. The development of Darwin’s theory. Natural history, natural theology, and natural selection, 1838–1859. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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


Both JDH’s and Bates’s letters are excellent. JDH has said all that can be said against direct effect of conditions, but CD still sticks to his own and Bates’s side. CD should have done what JDH suggests (since naturally he is pleased to attribute little to conditions) – viz., started on the fundamental principle that variation is innate and stated that afterwards, perhaps, this principle would be made explicable. Variation will show that "use and disuse" have some effect. Does not believe in perfect reversion. Demurs at JDH’s "centrifugal variation"; the doctrine of the good of diversification amply accounts for variation being centrifugal.

The wonderful mechanism of Mormodes ignea.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 147
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3484,” accessed on 27 November 2021,

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