skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   23 June [1862]1

Down Bromley Kent

June 23d

My dear Hooker

Thank you for telling me about Mrs Hooker & yourself, which was just what I wanted to hear.2 How hard-worked you are; do not stretch the string too much; I most cordially hope you may soon get a holiday right away from Kew.— I am sure I have lately agreed with you that it is a weary world: we have had lots of sickness (thank God the Scarlet F. did not turn out bad)3 & I have been extra bad with violent skin inflammation— I have done hardly anything lately, except just to attend to my experiments.— I have tried over again Primula crosses & former results most fully verifyed & some very curious facts on the sterility of the homomorphic seedlings.4 Did you see the review of my Orchis Book in London R. By Jove it was too strong & made me feel modest & that was a wonderful feeling. I wonder who wrote it.5 I have had several letters from Asa Gray, who seems about as much infatuated over orchids, as I have been.—6

I asked Emma about a cook; but she knew no one whom she could recommend. I do hope your household will soon be comfortable; but I long to hear of your starting somewhere.—7

This is a very dull letter; but my hands are burning as if dipped in hell-fire.—

Good Night my dear old fellow.— | C. Darwin

William enjoyed his visit to you.—8


The year is established by reference to the publication and reception of Orchids (see n. 5, below).
The apparently terminal illness of his eight-year-old niece, Anne McGilvray, had caused Hooker to declare, in his letter of 19 [June 1862]: ‘this is a weary life’. Leonard Darwin had been sent home from school on 12 June 1862 suffering from scarlet fever (see letter to W. E. Darwin, 13 [June 1862]).
CD apparently refers to repeating the crossing experiments with Primula sinensis and P. veris that he had carried out in 1860 and 1861 while preparing ‘Dimorphic condition in Primula. In January and February 1862, he carried out similar crossing experiments on plants of P. sinensis raised from the seed of the earlier experiments. He crossed the offspring of the homomorphic crosses (i.e., those in which long- or short-styled parents were impregnated with own-form pollen) in order to investigate the extent of their sterility (see Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix VI), and he crossed the offspring of the heteromorphic crosses (i.e., those in which the parents were impregnated with different-form pollen) ‘for comparison … as these would of course be fully fertile’. He noted also that the latter experiments would serve to test the previous year’s experiments (DAR 108: 35; see also letter to J. D. Hooker, 7 March [1862] and n. 10). CD’s results from the crosses with homomorphic plants are given in ‘Illegitimate offspring of dimorphic and trimorphic plants’, pp. 410–18 (CD came to use the word ‘illegitimate’ in place of ‘homomorphic’). CD repeated his crosses with P. veris on 1 May 1862; his notes on these experiments are in DAR 157a: 77 and DAR 108: 70, and the results were later published in Cross and self fertilisation, p. 28. See also letter to Alphonse de Candolle, 17 June [1862] and n. 2, and letter to John Scott, 11 December [1862].
The review of Orchids published in the London Review and Weekly Journal of Politics, Arts, and Science 4 (1862): 553–4 was written by Miles Joseph Berkeley (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 28 June 1862).
William Erasmus Darwin visited Hooker at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, on 20 June 1862 (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 19 [June 1862]).


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

Cross and self fertilisation: The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1876.

‘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.]

‘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.

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.


Has been ill (violent skin inflammation).

Has done hardly anything except tend to his experiments. Repeating Primula work has verified former results and very curious facts on sterility of homomorphic seedlings.

Wonders who reviewed Orchids for London Review & Wkly J. Polit..

Asa Gray also infatuated with Orchids.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 156
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3620,” accessed on 19 May 2024,

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