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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   18 [November 1862]

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Hooker

Very many thanks for Bonafous, which has been very useful to me; but I greatly fear will not be worth your Library having so magnificently purchased.1 Thanks, also, for information about Haughton, on which I was simply curious; he must have, as you say, “a many-horse power of brains”.—2 what a shame about Mann & Burton; it will be a horrid bore for you to get into a dispute with such a man as Burton.—3

I received the other day a German Book, by Dr L. Bückner in which it is said that the distinguished Botanist Hooker first applied natural selection to the replacement of races of men,—the ruder races as Polynesians &c yielding to the civilised Europeans.—4 I cannot remember reading this.—

I hope your awesome labours on Wellwitschia are drawing to a close.— Take care it does not run on into a case of Barnacles, & consume years instead of months.5

Strange to say I have only one little bother for you today, & that is to let me know about what month flowers appear in Acropera Loddigesii & luteola; for I want extremely to beg a few more flowers; & if I knew time I would keep memorandum to remind you.— Why I want these flowers is (& I am much alarmed), that Mr J. Scott of Bot. Garden of Edinburgh, (do you know anything of him?) has written me a very long & clever letter, in which he confirms most of my observations;6 but tells me that with much difficulty he managed to get pollen into orifice or as far as mouth of orifice of six flowers of A. Loddigesii (the ovarium of which I did not examine) & two pods set; one he gathered & saw a very few ovules, as he thinks, on the large & mostly rudimentary placentæ. I shall be most curious to hear whether the other pod produces a good lot of seed. He says he regrets that he did not test the ovules with chemical agents: does he mean Tincture of Iodine?7 He suggests that in state of nature the viscid matter may come to very surface of stigmatic chamber, & so pollen-masses need not be inserted. This is possible, but I shd. think improbable. Altogether the case is very odd, & I am very uneasy; for I cannot hope that A. Loddigesii is hermaphrodite & A. luteola the male of same species.— Whenever I can get Acropera, would be very good time for me to look at Vanda in spirits, which you so kindly preserved for me.—8

Ever yours | C. Darwin

The D. of Argylls Review is very clever, but not convincing to me.—9

P.S. I am in middle of Bates’ paper;10 it is a very admirable & is worth labour (& that not slight) of careful reading— The remarks in the systematic part excellent on formation of species from vars.—11 It is a pity the title did not more plainly tell contents.12 Most wonderful the mimetic resemblances!


Büchner 1862, pp. 249–50; there is a copy of this work in the Darwin Library–CUL. Although Ludwig Büchner cited J. D. Hooker 1855–60, the reference has not been traced. However, Büchner may have misunderstood a passage in which Hooker discussed the impact of the ‘progress of civilization’ on the struggle for existence between native and introduced plants (J. D. Hooker 1855–60, pp. civ–cv). See also letter to Ludwig Büchner, 17 November [1862].
Hooker was preparing a monograph on the Angolan plant Welwitschia mirabilis (J. D. Hooker 1863a; see letter from J. D. Hooker, 2 November 1862). In a letter that is now missing (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 2: 24), CD had compared Hooker’s work on Welwitschia to his own extensive work on barnacles, carried out between 1846 and 1854 (see Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix II); the allusion had been repeated on several occasions in their correspondence (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [19 January 1862], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 14 [October 1862]).
‘Tincture of Iodine’ is used to check for the presence of starch grains in plant cells.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, 20 August 1862 and n. 12. CD wished to compare a seed-capsule of Acropera Loddigesii (a synonym of Gongora galeata), which John Scott had promised to send him, with a capsule from another species of the Vandeae, the orchid tribe to which Vanda belongs (see letter to John Scott, 19 November [1862]).
[G. D. Campbell] 1862; there is an annotated copy of this publication in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. In his review, the duke of Argyll, George Douglas Campbell, discussed Orchids in conjunction with five works on miracles and the supernatural. He argued that miracles were not supernatural, since they did not involve the suspension or violation of natural laws, but that they were superhuman, since natural laws were in such cases applied by the divine will in a way that was analogous to human contrivance, but more powerful. Argyll used this interpretation of divine action to account for the design apparent in the contrivances by which orchids are pollinated, contrasting it with CD’s explanations in terms of natural selection, which he considered ‘the vaguest and most unsatisfactory conjectures’ (p. 394).
Henry Walter Bates’s paper comprised a discursive introduction (Bates 1862a, pp. 495–515), followed by a taxonomic study of the Amazonian Heliconidae (pp. 515–64). Having described the formation of species from varieties in general terms in his introduction (pp. 500–2), Bates referred the reader to his systematic descriptions of the individual species for ‘the details of variation’.
Bates’s paper was entitled, ‘Contributions to an insect fauna of the Amazon Valley. Lepidoptera: Heliconidæ.’ In the paper, Bates invoked the theory of natural selection to account for the phenomenon of mimicry in Amazonian butterflies, arguing that the case offered ‘a most beautiful proof of the truth of the theory’ (Bates 1862a, p. 513).


Bates, Henry Walter. 1862. Contributions to an insect fauna of the Amazon valley. Coleoptera: Longicornes. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 3d ser. 9: 117–24, 396–405, 446–58.

Bonafous, Matthieu. 1836. Histoire naturelle, agricole et économique du maïs. Paris and Turin.

Büchner, Friedrich Karl Christian Ludwig. 1862. Aus Natur und Wissenschaft. Studien, Kritiken und Abhandlungen. Leipzig.

[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–.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1855–60. Flora Tasmaniæ. Pt 3 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. 2 vols. London.

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.


A German scholar says JDH first applied natural selection to replacement of races of men, the ruder races of Polynesians yielding to civilised Europeans. CD cannot remember reading this.

Warns JDH to take care Welwitschia does not turn into a case of barnacles and consume years instead of months.

In what months do flowers appear in Acropera loddigesia and A. luteola? CD is alarmed by John Scott’s observations on them, which differ from his own. "I am very uneasy."

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 170
Physical description
ALS 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3812,” accessed on 28 May 2024,

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