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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [10–]12 November [1862]1

Down Bromley Kent

Nov 12th.

My dear Hooker

What a long & interesting letter you have sent me, & you so hard-worked.—2

So you did write the Review in Gardeners Chrone: Once or twice I doubted whether it was Lindley;3 but when I came to a little slap at R. Brown,4 I doubted no longer. You arch-rogue!— I do not wonder you have deceived others also. Perhaps I am a conceited dog; but if so, you have much to answer for: I never received so much praise, & coming from you I value it, much more than from any other.—

I am extremely sorry to hear about Lindley, & I am glad you told me, for I was going to have written to him to ask him about any odd Potatoes in Hort. Gardens.5 I have thought of late that Gardeners’ Chronicle has been rather flat. It is wonderful for my purposes, what a lot of matter the Gardeners’ Chron. has contained during last 20 years.—6

I return by this Post Dawson’s lecture, which seems to me interesting, but with nothing new.7 I think he must be rather conceited with his “If Dr. Hooker had known this & that, he would have said so & so”.— It seems to me absurd in Dawson assuming that N. America was under sea during whole Glacial period.—8 Certainly Greenland is a most curious & difficult problem. But as for the Leguminosæ, the case, my dear fellow, is as plain as a pikestaff, as the seeds are so very quickly killed by sea water.9 Seriously it would be a curious experiment to try vitality in salt-water of the plants which ought to be in Green-land:10 I forget, however, that it would be impossible, I suppose, to get hardly any except the Caltha,11 & if ever I stumble on that plant in seed I will try it.

I wish to Heaven some one would examine the rocks near sea-level at south point of Greenland & see if they are well scored; that would tell something;12 but then subsidence might have brought down higher rocks to present sea-level. I am much more willing to admit your Norwego-Greenland connecting land than most other cases, from the nature of rocks in Spitzbergen & Bear Isld.—13 You have broached & thrown a lot of light on a splendid problem, which some day will be solved. It rejoices me to think that when a boy I was shown an erratic boulder in Shrewsbury & was told by a clever old gentleman, that till the world’s end no one would ever guess how it came there.—14 It makes me laugh to think of Dr. Dawson’s indignation at your sentence about “obliquity of vision”:15 by Jove he will try & pitch into you some day.—

Good Night for the present.—16

I am particularly obliged for sentence about Sikhim people in Famines, & I find nearly same in your Journal: it is a little point which interests me, & I shall quote it.17

(To return for a moment to Glacial period, you might have asked Dawson whether Ibex, Marmot &c &c were carried from mountain to mountain in Europe on floating ice; & whether musk ox got to England on iceberg; yet England has subsided, if we trust to good evidence alone of shells more during glacial period, than America is known to have done.)18

Hearty thanks about seeds; I thought it useless to send my list to seedsman first, for besides 2 or 3 I shd. think there was no chance of getting them. Add, if you can, seeds of any Stylidium (for excitable column) of easy greenhouse culture.—19 You write “say the word when you wish for Oxalis sensitiva”.20 Do you mean you could let me have some plants now? if so I shd. be delighted for I can try little experiments at odds & ends of time; but could I keep plant sensitive now in greenhouse & study? If so send them to G. Snow Nag’s Head, Boro’, by midday on any Thursday.21

Some day I will amuse myself by sending diagram with explanation on Lythrum, which you can study or burn as you like—22 Good Heaven how your friends work you with M.S. (we will say nothing about another friend on seeds, plants, facts &c &c) For Heaven sake instill a word of caution into Tyndalls ears; I saw extract that valleys of Switzerland were wholly due to Glaciers.23 He cannot have reflected on valleys in Tropical countries. The grandest valleys I ever saw were in Tahiti. Again if I understand, he supposes that Glaciers wear down whole mountain ranges, thus lower their height, decrease the temperature & decrease the glaciers themselves. Does he suppose whole of Scotland has been thus worn down? Surely he must forget oscillation of level would be more potent one way or another during such enormous lapses of time. It would be hard to believe any mountain range has been so long stationary.—

I suppose Lyell’s book will soon be out:24 I was very glad to see in News Paper that Murray sold 4000; what a sale!25

To recur to Orchids, I hear that D. of Argyle has been praising my book in Edinburgh R. which is a good joke, as you told me he could not understand it.—26

I am now working on cultivated plants & rather like my work;27 but I am horribly afraid I make the rashest remarks on value of differences; I trust to a sort of instinct, & God knows can seldom give any reason for my remarks. Lord in what a medley the origin of cultivated plants is in.— I have been reading on Strawberries & I can find hardly two Botanists agree what are the wild forms; but I pick out of horticultural books here & there queer cases of variation inheritance &c. &c.—

What a long letter I have scribbled; but you must forgive me, for it a great pleasure thus talking to you.—

Farewell | Ever yours | C. Darwin

Did you ever hear of “Condy’s Ozonised Water”? I have been trying it with, I think extraordinary advantage to comfort at least,—a tea-spoon in water 3 or 4 times. a day.— If you meet any poor dyspeptic devil like me suggest it.—28


CD initially dated the letter ‘10th’, but later deleted the date and wrote ‘12th’; the text of the letter confirms that it was written over more than one day (see n. 16, below).
In his letter to CD of 7 November 1862, Hooker admitted having written the anonymous review of Orchids that had appeared in the Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette ([J. D. Hooker] 1862c), and which CD had assumed to be by the magazine’s principal editor, John Lindley.
Lindley and Robert Brown had quarrelled in the late 1820s and early 1830s, since which time Lindley had been extremely critical of Brown’s work (Mabberley 1985).
In his letter of 7 November 1862, Hooker told CD that he feared Lindley was ‘breaking up’. CD was preparing a draft of the part of Variation dealing with ‘Facts of variation of Plants’ (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II)), and had unsuccessfully sought ‘odd varieties’ of potato from Hooker, with the intention of growing a few plants of each for comparison (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 27 [October 1862], and letter from J. D. Hooker, 2 November 1862). Lindley was secretary of the Horticultural Society of London (Fletcher 1969).
Lindley was principal editor of the Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette (DNB); CD’s annotated copy of the magazine from 1841 to 1871 is in the Cory Library, Cambridge Botanic Garden. In DAR 222 there is a ‘List of the numbers of special interest to Darwin and kept by him in separate parcels’, and CD’s abstracts of the journal are in DAR 75: 1–12.
Dawson 1862a. See letter from J. D. Hooker, 7 November 1862 and n. 12.
Between 1855 and 1857, CD had carried out a number of experiments in order to establish the means by which the transoceanic dispersal of plants might occur; he immersed seeds in salt water for periods of time, and then tested their ability to germinate (see Correspondence vols. 5 and 6).
CD refers to glacial striations, the occurrence of which at the southernmost part of Greenland would provide strong support for his view that there must have been ‘almost entire extinction in Greenland’ during the Pleistocene glacial period as a result of the extreme cold (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 4 November [1862]).
In his letter to CD of 7 November 1862, Hooker mentioned having considered ‘the probability of there having been a post glacial arctic Norwego-Greenlandian connection’. Unlike Hooker, CD was generally opposed to the invocation of former land-bridges to account for the present geographical distribution of plants and animals, on the grounds that there was insufficient geological evidence in most cases. See letter to J. D. Hooker, 4 November [1862] and n. 6.
The reference is to the Shrewsbury naturalist, Richard Cotton (Autobiography, p. 52).
See n. 1, above.
In his letter of 4 November [1862], CD asked Hooker for a reference to Australian aborigines preparing and eating poisonous plants during times of famine. Hooker’s reply of 7 November 1862 is incomplete; however, the missing portion of Hooker’s letter evidently contained information regarding starving inhabitants of a Sikkim village eating arum roots, after pounding and fermenting them to reduce their poisonous effects (see Variation 1: 307). A similar account appears in Hooker’s Himalayan journals (J. D. Hooker 1854b, p. 49).
See n. 8, above.
CD enclosed with his letter to Hooker of 3 November [1862] a list of species of which he required seed; the list has not been found. CD had recently begun to experiment on plant sensitivity and movement (see letters to J. D. Hooker, 26 September [1862], 27 [October 1862], and 3 November [1862], and letter from J. D. Hooker, 25 October 1862).
George Snow operated a carrier service between Down and London every Thursday (Freeman 1978).
The extract from Tyndall 1862 has not been identified.
Charles Lyell’s book, Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863a), was not published until 6 February 1863 (C. Lyell 1863b, p. [vii]).
The trade sale referred to was held on 4 November 1862 (Athenæum, 8 November 1862, p. 595).
See n. 5, above.
This disinfectant liquid was recommended to CD for bathing and drinking by George Chichester Oxenden (see letters from G. C. Oxenden, 21 June 1862 and 17 September [1862]).


Autobiography: The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882. With original omissions restored. Edited with appendix and notes by Nora Barlow. London: Collins. 1958.

[Campbell, George Douglas.] 1862. [Review of Orchids and other works.] Edinburgh Review 116: 378–97.

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.

Fletcher, Harold R. 1969. The story of the Royal Horticultural Society 1804–1968. London: Oxford University Press for the Royal Horticultural Society.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1978. Charles Darwin: a companion. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Mabberley, David J. 1985. Jupiter botanicus. Robert Brown of the British Museum. Brunswick, Germany: J. Cramer. London: British Museum (Natural History).

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.

Tyndall, John. 1862. On the conformation of the Alps. The London, Edinburgh, and Dublin Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science. 4th ser. 24: 169–73.

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


So JDH did write the Gardeners’ Chronicle review [of Orchids]! CD guessed it from the little slap at R. Brown.

Dawson’s lecture has nothing new. Absurd to assume Greenland under water during whole of glacial period. Suggests absence of certain plants in Greenland due to seeds not surviving in sea-water. Suggests an experiment on vitality in sea-water of plants that might be in Greenland. Is more willing to admit a Norway–Greenland land connection than most other cases.

Urges JDH to warn Tyndall on his glacial theory of valleys in Switzerland.

Is working on cultivated plants.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 169
Physical description
ALS 10pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3801,” accessed on 28 May 2024,

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