skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [14 December 1862]1



Dr Darwin

I always like to see what A Gray says, though I must say it is sadly unsatisfactory to me.2 When writing to him the other day, I broke the Ice, in so far as to say, that I avoided alluding to the War, because I never knew any one to be right in his ideas or prognostications of a war in progress, & no belligerent ever knew what he was bringing about. Events alone can justify a war, motives may excuse, but never justify however good— the whole thing is as much an anomaly in civilization as duelling. Of course (I added) we both deplore it, but we are not children, & have something better to do than to hold pocket handkerchiefs to one anothers eyes across the Atlantic.

I read Max Muller, liked some parts, thought the last eminently unphilosophical, & concluded that it contained as little grist for your mill as could well be, considering how fertile the subject might be made3

Mann of W. Africa is sending you bees & honey comb as I requested.4

I will see to the Begonia &c toute de suite 5

Think again over your assumption of long-beaked pigeons being or not being in any degree sterile with short.6 They must be one or the other— there is no such thing as Equality.. it is inconceivable,—hence there is no such thing as Chance; & Nat. Seln. is the Sword of Damocles hanging over your own head, if you make a slip in your premisses

I have read, with delight, the note on Lythrum, you sent me some weeks ago—7 its consequences are of the most prolific order to your doctrine

I know nothing of Dutrochet & Cohns works, & am becoming a miserable ignoramus.—8 I once asked about John Scott for you & was told he was a very smart fellow—nothing more was known—or said.9

We have not wild Gooseberry nor do I know where to get it in this country, but will write to St Petersburgh— it is a Scandinavian plant.10

Ever yours affec— | J D Hooker

Dear Willy comes home on Thursday, he keeps at the very bottom of his school poor boy.11

CD annotations

5.2 there is … sent me 6.1] scored brown crayon
8.1 We … plant. 8.2] scored brown crayon
End of letter: ‘Not Worth’12 brown crayon; ‘(Teucrium | campanulatum)’13 ink, del ink; ‘(Huxley Lectures)’14 ink


Dated by the relationship to the letter to J. D. Hooker, 12 [December 1862], and the letter from J. D. Hooker, [21 December 1862]; the intervening Sunday was 14 December.
CD apparently enclosed Asa Gray’s letter of 24 November 1862 with his letter to J. D. Hooker, 12 [December 1862]. Hooker and Gray held radically different views on the American Civil War, and had tacitly agreed not to discuss the matter in their letters (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [19 January 1862], and letter from Asa Gray, 18 February 1862).
See letters to J. D. Hooker, [after 26] November [1862] and 12 [December 1862].
In his letter to Hooker of 12 [December 1862], CD inquired about John Scott, who was foreman of the propagating department at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. He had previously made inquiries in his letter to Hooker of 18 [November 1862].
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 12 [December 1862] and n. 18. According to his ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II), CD finished writing a draft of the section of Variation dealing with ‘Facts of variation of Plants’ (Variation 1: 305–72) on 11 December 1862; the gooseberry is discussed on pp. 354–6. See also letter to Journal of Horticulture, [before 2 December 1862].
Hooker’s oldest son, William Henslow Hooker, was 9 years old.
CD discussed the incidence of peloric flowers in Teucrium campanulatum in Variation 2: 345, citing Moquin-Tandon 1841, p. 192; there is an annotated copy of this work in the Darwin Library–CUL.


Cohn, Ferdinand Julius. 1860. Ueber contractile Gewebe im Pflanzenreiche. [Read 1 November 1860.] Abhandlungen der Schlesischen Gesellschaft für vaterländische Cultur. Abtheilung für Naturwissenschaften und Medicin 1 (1861): 1–48.

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

Dutrochet, Henri. 1837. Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire anatomique et physiologique des végétaux et des animaux. 2 vols. and atlas. Paris: J.-B. Baillière.

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.

Moquin-Tandon, Horace Bénédict Alfred. 1841. Eléments de tératologie végétale, ou, histoire abrégée des anomalies de l’organisation dans les végétaux. Paris: P.-J. Loss.

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


On Asa Gray’s letter; has written why he avoids alluding to the war.

Has read Max Müller [see 3752] – last part unphilosophical.

On CD’s pigeon example, long-beaked and short-beaked pigeons must be either sterile or not inter se. There is "no such thing as Equality – hence no such thing as chance and Nat. Sel. is the sword of Damocles hanging over your head if you make a slip in your premisses."

Has read note on Lythrum sent several weeks ago. Its consequences are of most prolific order to CD’s doctrine.

Kew has no wild gooseberries.

JDH praises the Saturday Review reply [14 (1862): 589] to the Duke of Argyll’s bitter review of Orchids ["The supernatural", Edinburgh Rev. 116 (1862): 378–97].

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 83–4
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3846,” accessed on 21 July 2024,

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