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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [24 July 1862]1

University of London, | Burlington House, W.


Dr Darwin

We arrived last night at 7pm. Having left Zurich on the previous morning only at 10 am. stopping 3 hours at Basle & as many at Paris. The journey has done my wife a wonderful deal of good. The day before leaving Zurich she mounted 6 times in the day to her room in the Hotel 83 steps up each time without the slightest palpitation or loss of breath. she enjoyed our 8 days in the Enghadien valley immensely & walked about a great deal there.2 I suppose there must be some Hygienic effect in a diminished atmospheric pressure— there ought to be at any rate. Before leaving I found another hybrid orchid— between Gymnadenia odoratissima & Nigritella— the former one was between G. Conopsea & the same Nigritella:— I have brought some plants of the latter hybrid & have left them at Kew this morning for Fitch to draw—3 (I am here at L.U. Examinations).4

I was delighted with Heer & went over all his collections which are grand & good, they serve to convince me that the Miocene vegetation was Himalayan not American as H. supposed.5 Heers error was very natural, for no one knows from any published works what the real nature of the Himalayan vegetation is.6 Heers works on Insects seem excellent too7 & I should hope from what I heard & saw that Zurich will become a good Nat Hist. School: besides a good staff of Professors they have good paid Curators of Botanical, Zoological, Entomological & Geological Cabinets, which will all be united in the new Polytechnicon, Except the Herbaria which will all go to the Bot. Garden. They have also good departmental libraries.

There is a capital review of the “Nat. Hist. Review” in the Parthenon, I wonder who wrote it, it expresses my opinion exactly.8 The last number of the Review is a sad falling off & the last page is disgraceful for errors & misprints: poor Oliver is quite down-hearted about it—9 they all seem afraid of Huxley who has undertaken sole responsibility of Editorship, which he is not up to & has not time for.10

I saw Oliver for a moment this morning when rushing up here & he told me you are again in trouble about your boy,11 my dear old friend I do grieve to hear it. I have nothing more to say till I am settled again | Ever Yrs affec | J D Hooker


Dated by the reference to the Hookers’ holiday in Switzerland; the Hookers were abroad from 4 to 23 July 1862 (see letters from J. D. Hooker, 2 July 1862 and 10 July 1862). The letter was written on a Thursday; 24 July 1862 fell on a Thursday.
Hooker had taken his wife, Frances Harriet Hooker, to Switzerland in the hope that she might recover her health (see letters from J. D. Hooker, 28 June 1862, 2 July 1862, and 10 July 1862).
Walter Hood Fitch was a botanical artist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Hooker was an examiner in botany at the University of London until 1864 (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 537; Medical directory (1862): 200). University College London was one of several organisations to have its offices at Burlington House, Piccadilly (Post Office London directory 1861).
The Hookers spent some of their holiday in Switzerland as guests of Oswald Heer (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 10 July 1862, and L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 401–2). In attempting to explain the resemblance between the Tertiary flora of Europe and Madeira, and the present flora of Atlantic North America, Heer had argued that, during the Miocene era, there must have existed an Atlantic land-bridge between Europe and North America, which was subsequently submerged, with the exception of the various Atlantic islands (Heer 1857 and 1860). CD had long been critical of attempts to explain geographical distribution by postulating former land-bridges (see, especially, Correspondence vol. 6, letters to Charles Lyell, 16 [June 1856] and 25 June [1856]).
Hooker had gained an extensive first-hand knowledge of Himalayan botany during his travels in the region in the period 1847–50.
In addition to his work in palaeobotany, Heer had published extensively on both recent and fossil insects; he studied the latter in Miocene deposits in Germany and Croatia, Oligocene deposits in France, and Liassic deposits in Switzerland (DSB).
Hooker refers to the review of the first volume of the new series of the Natural History Review in the Parthenon 1 (1862): 373–5. The reviewer welcomed the journal as partially meeting a long-felt need for ‘a serial devoted to the advancement of natural science’, but was critical of the editorial arrangements, arguing that, while the name of any of the eleven editors might seem ‘sufficient warranty’ for the quality of the contents, the review suffered from the ‘absence of a directing mind’. He continued: It is as though every author and reviewer had edited his own production, and that the printer had been left to do the remainder. It follows that there are numerous faults of style and endless obscurities, which would have been avoided by a more perfect unity of supervision, and an independent critical reading of manuscript matter. Thus, while many of the articles were ‘of supreme interest to men of science’, the journal was of no use to ‘the great world, which requires earnestly to be instructed’.
The Natural History Review was published quarterly; Hooker refers to the number for July 1862. Daniel Oliver was one of the botanical editors of the review.
In July 1860, Edward Perceval Wright, one of the then editors of the Natural History Review had offered Thomas Henry Huxley ‘effectual control’ of the new series of the journal, due to start publication in January 1861, if he would become one of the editors. Huxley had organised a ‘commissariat’ comprising eleven co-editors, but by June 1861 he was increasingly taking the responsibility of editing on himself, writing: ‘It is no use letting other people look after the journal. I find unless I revise every page of it, it goes wrong’ (see L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 209–10).
Leonard Darwin’s recovery from scarlet fever had been interrupted by a recurrence of symptoms in July (see Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242); see also letter to W. E. Darwin, [24 July 1862], letters to W. E. Darwin, 4 [July 1862], 9 July [1862], and [after 14 July 1862], and letters to Asa Gray, 14 July [1862] and 23[–4] July [1862]).


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

DSB: Dictionary of scientific biography. Edited by Charles Coulston Gillispie and Frederic L. Holmes. 18 vols. including index and supplements. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1970–90.

Medical directory: The London medical directory … every physician, surgeon, and general practitioner resident in London. London: C. Mitchell. 1845. The London and provincial medical directory. London: John Churchill. 1848–60. The London & provincial medical directory, inclusive of the medical directory for Scotland, and the medical directory for Ireland, and general medical register. London: John Churchill. 1861–9. The medical directory … including the London and provincial medical directory, the medical directory for Scotland, the medical directory for Ireland. London: J. & A. Churchill. 1870–1905.

Post Office London directory: Post-Office annual directory. … A list of the principal merchants, traders of eminence, &c. in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent … general and special information relating to the Post Office. Post Office London directory. London: His Majesty’s Postmaster-General [and others]. 1802–1967.


Wife’s health improved by trip.

Heer’s collections convince JDH that Miocene vegetation was Himalayan, not American, as Heer supposed.

Zurich promises to be a good natural history school.

Review of Natural History Review in Parthenon [1 (1862): 373–5].

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
University of London, Burlington House
Source of text
DAR 70: 171, DAR 101: 48–9
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3665,” accessed on 5 February 2023,

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