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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   20 August 1862


Aug. 20/62

My dear Darwin

I can well appreciate your frightful suspense— There is nothing my wife dreads so much, or I for her, as an attack of scarlet fever.1 You know perhaps that Belladonna is a prophylactic in opinion of good medical men—a drop or 2 of tincture in water, 3 times a day. Poor little Lenny, I did not know he had been ill— I thought it was Horace alone—who had made you uneasy lately.2

We are all pretty well, my wife remarkably so, though she has a little palpitation & short breath occasionally—3 her aunt (Miss Henslow) is here now suffering much from it, so it is completely hereditary,4 & I recognize a tendency to it in one of my boys. I have had a great deal to do since my return with Examinations—all over now,5 & had some very hard work with this Welwitschia & its pollen tubes, corpuscula, Embryo-sacs, & all that horrid complexity of Gymnospermous Embryology.6 I have sat 5 hours together at microscope at least 6 times lately, besides all the odd days & hours I have spent over it, & am very far from finished yet. Every part is so curious, how the pollen gets to nucleus of ovule is absolutely unintelligiable— dozens of pollen grains, get down a microscopic tube nearly 12 inch long & settle on top of nucleus— they must get in before tube elongates, but if so the development of ovule is very difft from other plants. By good luck just as I am at work on it, I receive 5 splendid specimens from a Mr Monteiro of Luando,7 to whom I wrote 5 months ago asking him to send down the Coast to Cape Negro for it, & like a trump he has done so! I have just written to thank him, sent him a few books, & asked him for Honey comb & bees.8 I will also ask Mann for these—to whom I am writing—9

We (wife Willy10 & self) go to Scotland on Saturday, & shall be back 15th. Sept.

Lindley11 sent me yesterday two totally difft. flowers from one spike of Vanda Lowei12 I have sent them to be drawn & bottled.

What do you think of Ramsay’s glacial Lake origin?13 I like it in print, but did not on hearsay—but am not mechanic enough to rely on my own opinion— We are quite overrun with visitors, & never a day alone.

Ever Yrs affec | J D Hooker

Huxley is about to publish a [curious] amusing as well as clever book on Monkey Man14   it will be a great success. I am hugely pleased with A Grays Review of my Arctic Essay15

CD annotations

Top of first page: ‘Coloured pollen | (Your microscope) | Lythrum | (Lindley) | Lythrum’ ink


According to her diary (DAR 242), Emma Darwin became ill with scarlet fever on 13 August 1862. Hooker refers to Frances Harriet Hooker, who had been ill in June and July (see letters from J. D. Hooker, 9 June 1862, 19 [June 1862], 28 June 1862, and 2 July 1862).
Horace Darwin had been ill during the spring of 1862 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II)). Leonard Darwin had been suffering from scarlet fever since June (see letters to W. E. Darwin, 13 [June 1862] and 9 July [1862], and letter to A. R. Wallace, 20 August [1862]).
The Hookers had travelled to Switzerland in July so that Frances might recover her health (see letters from J. D. Hooker, 28 June 1862, 2 July 1862, 10 July 1862, and [24 July 1862]).
Frances Hooker’s late father, John Stevens Henslow, was survived by four sisters (Jenyns 1862, p. 5); the reference is probably to the eldest, Anne Frances Henslow, who died unmarried on 30 August 1863 (Gentleman’s Magazine n.s. 15 (1863): 520); see also letter from J. D. Hooker, 25 October 1862.
Hooker had recently been involved in examinations at the University of London, where he was examiner in botany (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [24 July 1862]). He was also examiner for the Society of Apothecaries’ prize in botany, and a botanical examiner for medical officers in the armed services and the East India Company (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 385–7 and 537).
The reference is to the plant Welwitschia mirabilis, from Angola, which Hooker described as the ‘most wonderful’ and the ‘very ugliest’ plant ever brought to Britain (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 2: 24–5). Hooker read his account of Welwitschia before the Linnean Society of London on 16 January and 18 December 1862 (J. D. Hooker 1862d).
The reference is to the mining engineer and zoologist, Joachim John Monteiro, who resided in Loanda, Angola (see J. D. Hooker 1863a, p. 4, and Monteiro 1875, 2: 228–31).
CD was writing up the chapter of Variation on ‘Silk-worms Geese &c’ (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II)), which included a section on hive-bees (Variation 1: 297–9). He intended to compare specimens of Apis mellifica from different localities, in order to investigate whether differences in climate produced any effect on their form (see letters to the Journal of Horticulture, [before 10 June 1862] and [before 15 July 1862]). See also letter from T. W. Woodbury, 9 August 1862.
Gustav Mann was botanical collector for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, on the Niger expedition led by William Balfour Baikie (see R. Desmond 1995, p. 433). See also letter from T. W. Woodbury, 9 August 1862.
In Vanda Lowei, the flowers at the base of each spike are different in both colour and form from the rest of the flowers. A note in DAR 70: 156 states: ‘Vanda Loweii— lowest flowers different from others   Gardeners Chronicle 1862. p. 791. Specimen in Spirits at Kew’. The article, published in the 23 August 1862 issue, described a specimen belonging to Sigismund Rucker. CD’s annotated copy of this number of the Gardeners’ Chronicle, now at the Cory Library, Cambridge Botanic Garden, was kept separately by him (see the ‘List of the numbers of special interest to Darwin and kept by him in separate parcels’ in DAR 222). See also letter to Daniel Oliver, 24 July [1862] and n. 9.
Ramsay 1862. Andrew Crombie Ramsay read his controversial paper on the glacial origin of various lake basins before the Geological Society of London on 5 March 1862. For an account of the controversy initiated by Ramsay’s paper, see Davies 1969, pp. 303–9.
T. H. Huxley 1863a.
CD had sent Hooker a copy of A. Gray 1862d, which was a review of J. D. Hooker 1861a (see letter to Asa Gray, 28 July [1862] and n. 11).


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

Desmond, Ray. 1995. Kew: the history of the Royal Botanic Gardens. London: Harvill Press with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1862d. On Welwitschia, a new genus of Gnetaceæ. [Read 16 January and 18 December 1862.] Transactions of the Linnean Society of London 24 (1863–4): 1–48.

Jenyns, Leonard. 1862. Memoir of the Rev. John Stevens Henslow, late rector of Hitcham, and professor of botany in the University of Cambridge. London: John Van Voorst.

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


Observations on Welwitschia.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 52–3
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3690,” accessed on 3 February 2023,

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