skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   7 November 1862

Royal Gardens Kew

Nov 7/62

Dear Old Darwin

I assure you it was not my fault! I worried Lindly over & over again to notice your Orchid: book in Chronicle, by the very broadest hints man could give. At last he said, “really I cannot, you must do it. for me,” & so I did—volontiers—1 Lindley felt that he ought to have done it himself, & my main effort was to write it “a la Lindley” & in this alone I have succeeded—that people all think it is exactly Lindley’s style!!! which diverts me vastly. The fact is between ourselves I fear that poor L. is breaking up— he said that he could not fix his mind on your book.2 Miss L.3 told my wife4 the other day, that he had twice lately lost all consciousness of outer world, once in a shop. He works himself beyond his mental or physical powers.—5 His left arm is nearly disabled by an affection of the thumb (ligaments?) & the right is grumbling—all this entre nous. And now my dear Darwin, I may as well make a clean breast of it, & tell you that I wrote the Nat. Hist. Review notice too—6to me a very difficult task, & one I fancied I failed in, comparatively. of this you are no judge & can be none, you told me to tell Oliver it pleased you, & so I am content & happy.7

I am greatly relieved by your letter this morning about my Arctic Essay,8 for I had been conjuring up some egregious blunder (like the granitic plains of Patagonia)—9 Certes after what you have told me of Dawson, he will not like the letter I wrote to him days ago in which I told him that it was impossible to entertain a strong opinion against Darwinian hypothesis without its giving rise to a mental twist when viewing matters in which that hypothesis was or might be involved—10 I told him I felt that this was so with me when I opposed you, & that all minds are subject to such obliquities!— the Lord help me, & this to an L.L.D & Principal of a College!—11 I proceeded to discuss his Geology with the effrontery of a novice; &, thank God, I urged the very argument of your letter about evidence of subsidence, viz, not all submerged at once, & glacial action being subærial & not oceanic— Your letter hence was a relief, for I felt I was hardly strong enough to have launched out as I did to a professed Geologist.

The main part of Dawsons criticism is I suppose in the sup to pamphlet herewith sent,12 but A Gray tells me to expect a blast from Canada this winter.13

I quite see, & feel the force of your impression that Greenland may have been repeopled from Scandinavia; but if so I should think not by oceanic currents,—14 I have speculated on the probability of there having been a post glacial arctic Norwego-Greenlandian connection, which would account for the strong fact, that temperate Greenland is as Arctic as Arctic Greenland is, a fact, to me, of astounding force.— I do confess, that such a Northern migration would thus fill Greenland as it is filled, in so far as the whole Flora (temperate & arctic) would be Arctic—but then the same plants should have gone to the other polar Islands, & above all, so many common Arctic Scandinavian plants should not be absent in Greenland. still less should whole Nat Ords be absent, & above all the Arctic Leguminosæ.— It is difficult (as I have told Dawson) to conceive of the force with which arguments drawn from the absence of certain familiar ubiquitous plants strike the Botanists.— I would not throw overboard altogether Sea-transport & water transport, but I cannot realize their giving rise to such anomalies, in the distribution, as Greenland presents.

So too I have always felt the force of your objection, that Greenland should have been depopulated in the Glacial period,15 but then reflected that vegetation now ascends I forget how high (above 1000 ft) in Disco16 in 70o. & that even in a glacial ocean there may always have been lurking places for the few hundred plants Greenland now possesses

Supposing Greenland were re-peopled from Scandinavia over ocean way, why should Carices be the chief things brought? why should there have been no Leguminosæ brought, no plants but high arctic— why no Caltha palustris—which gilds the marshes of Norway & paints the house tops of Iceland. In short to my eyes the trans oceanic migration would no more make such an assemblage than special creations will account for representative species.— & no “ingenious wriggling 17 ever satisfied me that it would!— there there.—

Say the word when you wish for Oxalis sensitiva.18

We have a Cyprid. hirsutiss. wh. we hope will flower in spring.19

I dined with Henry Christy last night who has just returned from celt hunting with Lartet, amongst Basques— they are Pyreneans.20 Lubbock was there & told me that my previous speculation was one of Von Bærs,21 & that the Finns are supposed to have made the Kœkken middens22

I read Max Muller a year ago—& quite agree, first part is excellent, last on origin of language fatuous & feeble, as a Scientific argument23


In his letter of 3 November [1862], CD asked Hooker whether he was the author of the three-part review of Orchids that appeared in the Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette in August and September 1862 ([J. D. Hooker] 1862c). John Lindley, who was the principal editor of the magazine (DNB), was a leading orchid specialist.
During the last few years before his death in 1865, Lindley reportedly suffered from ‘gradual softening of the brain’ (DNB).
The reference is probably to Lindley’s unmarried daughter, Barbara.
As a young man, Lindley had assumed responsibility for his father’s heavy debts, and, partly as a result of financial necessity, he undertook ‘ever more tasks and duties without relinquishing those he already had’ (DSB).
[J. D. Hooker] 1862d.
CD had initially believed the review ([J. D. Hooker] 1862d) to have been written by Daniel Oliver (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 6 October [1862] and n. 10, and letter to Daniel Oliver, 13 October [1862]).
Hooker refers to an error in J. D. Hooker 1844–7, p. 212, where he wrote of ‘the granitic formation of Patagonia’. Although no correspondence between CD and Hooker on this point has been found, CD’s copy of the work, which is in the Darwin Library–CUL, has the word ‘granitic’ underlined, and ‘ ’ marked in the margin (see Marginalia 1: 388–92).
Dawson was principal of McGill University, Montreal.
Hooker refers to Dawson’s pamphlet Alpine and Arctic plants (Dawson 1862a). No copy of the pamphlet has been located that includes a supplementary critique of J. D. Hooker 1861a. Hooker probably refers to Dawson’s review of the work in the Canadian Naturalist and Geologist for October 1862 (Dawson 1862b); a version of this review may also have been issued with some copies of Dawson 1862a.
Dawson discussed Hooker’s views on palaeogeography in a letter to Asa Gray of 19 September 1862 that is at the Gray Herbarium of Harvard University (see Sheets-Pyenson 1992, p. 15). Gray had apparently forwarded this letter to Hooker with his own letter of 15 October 1862 (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Asa Gray letters: 308), warning him: ‘Expect a severe blast from Canada this winter.’
Disko Island and Disko Bay are on the west coast of Greenland.
Hooker had light-heartedly accused CD of having a very ‘elastic’ theory as early as 1854 (see Correspondence vol. 5, letter to J. D. Hooker, 7 July [1854]), and his ability to ‘wriggle out’ of theoretical difficulties had become a joke between the two friends (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 6, letter from J. D. Hooker, [16 November 1856], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 18 November [1856], Correspondence vol. 8, letter to J. D. Hooker, 7 May [1860], and Correspondence vol. 9, letters to J. D. Hooker, 27 [March 1861] and 7 November [1861]).
The reference is to the orchid Cypripedium hirsutissimum (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 4 November [1862]).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 4 November [1862] and n. 7. Henry Christy and Edouard Amant Isidore Hippolyte Lartet excavated together at a number of prehistoric sites in Europe in the early 1860s, most notably at the Vézère valley caves in the Dordogne (DNB). Their 1862 itinerary has not been identified.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, 2 November 1862. The references are to John Lubbock and Karl Ernst von Baer; the work by Baer has not been identified.
Lubbock had given an account of the prehistoric ‘Kjökkenmöddings’, or kitchen middens of Denmark, in Lubbock 1861.


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

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

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.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1844–7. Flora Antarctica. 1 vol. and 1 vol. of plates. Pt 1 of The botany of the Antarctic voyage of HM discovery ships Erebus and Terror in the years 1839–1843, under the command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross. London: Reeve Brothers.

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.

Max Müller, Friedrich. 1861. Lectures on the science of language delivered at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in April, May, and June, 1861. London: Longman, Green, Longman & Roberts.

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.

Sheets-Pyenson, Susan. 1992. Index to the scientific correspondence of John William Dawson. Stanford in the Vale, Oxfordshire: British Society for the History of Science.


JDH admits he wrote Gardeners’ Chronicle and Natural History Review articles on orchids [Gard. Chron. (1862): 789–90, 863, 910; Nat. Hist. Rev. n.s. 2 (1862): 371–6].

JDH’s objections to CD’s idea of how Greenland was repopulated. Temperate Greenland has as Arctic a flora as Arctic Greenland – a fact of astounding force. Why should certain Scandinavian species be absent? Migration by sea-currents can no more account for the present distribution in Greenland than can special creation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 68–9, 73–4
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3797,” accessed on 28 May 2024,

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