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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   30 [June 1862]1



My dear old friend.

You speak of my “warming the cockles of your heart”, but you will never know how often you have warmed mine.2 It is not your approbation of my scientific work (though I care for that more than for any one’s); it is something deeper. To this day I remember keenly a letter you wrote to me from Oxford, when I was at the water-cure, & how it cheered me, when I was utterly weary of life.—3 Well my orchis-book is a success (but I do not know whether it sells) after cursing my folly in writing it. I saw that the London R. was not written by a common Reviewer; but by Jove I must now read it again.—4 I am better today than I have been for 3 weeks: the doctors told me it was eczema that I have had; so Sir William & I are fellow sufferers; & suffering it is.—5

I am grieved at the poor account of Mrs. Hooker. I shd. think it could be a great rest to get the children away; but there certainly is a strange influence in change of place for a patient. It is folly in me to have an opinion; but is not Switzerland too great an exertion? Does not Mrs. Hooker rely too much on it having done her good formerly? it seems to me a frightful thing to go so far as Switzerland.6

How marvellous it is about the European forms in Fernando Po!—7 Do try & have some rest after you have printed 1st. vol. of Genera.—8 No one can stand such wear & tear as you.— I hear Huxley is failing.9 Why on earth should Brain-work take so much out of every man? I had a note from Naudin yesterday; he is going to publish a Book this autumn on Hybridity.10 From some of his paper I have much fear that he has underrated the distribution of pollen by insects.11

Your Melastomatous plants are setting pods splendidly, & if I can make out the meaning of the two sets of anthers, I have every chance.12 You may remember about complexion & Tropical diseases, & your & Busks aid; well, they are printed & gone to all quarters of world, through Dr. Parkes kindness—13

I long to hear of your schemes being settled & of Mrs. Hooker being stronger.—

Yours affet. | C. Darwin

P.S. | Could you not give H. Gower a memorandum about Masdevallia, to let me know when near flowering & I could write to him how to send it.—14 It would be off your mind & mine.— I am more curious about it than any other Orchis. Have you Bonatea speciosa— I cannot buy it at Veitchs.15 When I have seen these two, I will not be seduced to look into more.— By the way my son George has been doing splendid work in watching Orchids. The case of Herminium beats in close adaptation almost every other orchid: in 24 insects the pollinia were attached to one point on one limb!—16


Dated by the relationship to the letter from J. D. Hooker, 28 June 1862.
CD refers to the letter in which Hooker reported on the proceedings at the 1860 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held in Oxford from 26 June to 3 July 1860 (see Correspondence vol. 8, letter from J. D. Hooker, 2 July 1860). CD had been undergoing treatment at Edward Wickstead Lane’s hydropathic establishment at Sudbrook Park in Richmond, Surrey.
The reference is to Miles Joseph Berkeley’s review of Orchids in the London Review and Weekly Journal of Politics, Arts, and Science ([Berkeley] 1862). Hooker identified Berkeley as the author in the letter from J. D. Hooker, 28 June 1862.
Hooker planned to take Frances Harriet Hooker to Switzerland for a period of rest and recuperation (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 28 June 1862; see also Allen 1967, p. 208). Switzerland had been the Hookers’ favoured holiday destination over a number of years (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 2: 431).
The first part of Genera plantarum (Bentham and Hooker 1862–83) was published on 7 August 1862 (Stearn 1956, p. 130).
Thomas Henry Huxley was ‘crippled by neuralgic rheumatism’ in his arm and shoulder. Accompanied by John Tyndall, he left for a holiday in Switzerland on 1 July 1862 (L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 234). See also letter from T. H. Huxley, 6 May 1862.
In the account of some of Naudin’s hybridisation experiments given in Naudin 1858 (of which there is an annotated copy in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL), the author sought to forestall objections to one of his experiments on the grounds that he had not guarded sufficiently against the experimental plant, Datura stramonium, being pollinated by the same species, instead of by D. ceratocaula. He reported that he had provided for this eventuality by removing the stamens from the experimental flowers, and that, on another occasion, having left stamenless flowers open to the air and observing that they set no seed he had assured himself that they could not be accidentally pollinated by the agency of wind or insects, or by any other conceivable cause. In his copy of the paper, CD wrote in the margin at this point (ibid., p. 6) ‘But this was done at different date [i.e., from the hybridising experiment], perhaps no insect abroad—’. On the previous page, where Naudin described the very close resemblance of his supposed hybrids between D. stramonium and D. ceratocaula to the former species, CD wrote in the margin ‘I do not believe were hybrids.— plants not protected.—’ (ibid., p. 5). See also CD’s comments on this point in his copy of Quatrefages de Bréau 1861, p. 161 (the annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL; see Marginalia 1: 693–4).
At the end of May, Hooker had complied with CD’s request to send him specimens of Melastomataceae that were about to flower (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [29 May 1862], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 30 May [1862]). CD’s notes from crossing experiments with specimens of the melastomaceous plants Rhexia glandulosa (a synonym of Monochaetum floribundum) (dated 1 June – 2 July) and Centradenia floribunda (dated 31 May – July), sent from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, are in DAR 205.8: 14 v.–15, and 19–20.
William Hugh Gower was a foreman at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. CD refers to the orchid Masdevallia fenestrata (a synonym of Zootrophion atropurpureum); in his study of orchid pollination CD conceded that he had ‘failed to understand’ this species. M. fenestrata is discussed in Orchids, pp. 168–9.
CD refers to the Chelsea nursery run by James Veitch and his son James Veitch Jr. In his study of orchid pollination, CD examined only one specimen of Bonatea speciosa. In this species, the course of the so-called spiral vessels represented an anomaly for CD’s account of the homologies of orchids (see Orchids, pp. 302–5; see also Correspondence vol. 9, letters to J. D. Hooker, 10 November [1861] and 14 November [1861]).
George Howard Darwin’s observations on the insects visiting the orchid species Orchis maculata (a synonym of Dactylorhiza maculata, the heath spotted orchid), Gymnadenia conopsea, and Herminium monorchis are detailed in a series of notes made between 20 and 27 June 1862; these notes are in DAR 70: 13–14, 30, and 32–6. CD incorporated the observations in the German translation of Orchids (Bronn trans. 1862, pp. 22 n., 47–8 n., and 52 n.; see the second enclosure to the letter to H. G. Bronn, 30 June [1862]). He later published them in ‘Fertilization of orchids’, pp. 142, 145–7 (Collected papers 2: 139, 142–4).


[Berkeley, Miles Joseph.] 1862. Fertilization of orchids. London Review and Weekly Journal of Politics, Arts and Sciences 4: 553–4.

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–.

‘Fertilization of orchids’: Notes on the fertilization of orchids. By Charles Darwin. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 4th ser. 4 (1869): 141–59. [Collected papers 2: 138–56.]

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Naudin, Charles Victor. 1858. Observations concernant quelques plantes hybrides qui ont été cultivées au Muséum. Annales des Sciences Naturelles (Botanique) 4th ser. 9: 257–78.

Naudin, Charles Victor. 1863. Nouvelles recherches sur l’hybridité dans les végétaux. Annales des Sciences Naturelles (Botanique) 4th ser. 19: 180–203.

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.

Quatrefages de Bréau, Jean Louis Armand de. 1861. Unité de l’espèce humaine. Paris: J. Claye. [Vols. 7,9,10,11]

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.


Remembers JDH’s encouragement when he was "utterly weary of life".

Marvellous about European forms in Fernando Po.

C. V. Naudin will publish a book on hybridity ["Nouvelles recherches sur l’hybridité dans les végétaux", Nouv. Arch. Mus. Hist. Nat. Paris 1 (1865): 25–176; part also in Ann. Sci. Nat. (Bot.) (1863)].

CD fears Naudin has underestimated distribution of pollen by insects.

Melastomatous plants are ready for his work on meaning of two sets of anthers.

Very curious about Masdevallia.

George [Darwin] observing orchids.

Adaptation of Herminium beats almost every other orchid.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 157
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3628,” accessed on 15 April 2024,

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