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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   13 January [1863]


Jan 13th

My dear Hooker

I send very imperfect answer to question, & which I have written on foreign paper, to save you copying & you can send when you write to Thomson in Calcutta.—1 Hereafter I shall be able to answer better your question about qualities induced in individual being inherited:2 gout in man,—loss of wool in sheep (which begins in 1st generation & takes 2 or 3 to complete) probably obesity (for it is rare with poor); probably obesity & early maturity in Short-horn Cattle, &c.—

I am very glad you like Huxley’s Lectures;3 I have been very much struck with them; especially with the philosophy of induction.—4 I have quarrelled with him with overdoing sterility & ignoring cases from Gärtner & Kölreuter about sterile varieties.5 His geology is obscure;6 & I rather doubt about man’s mind & language.—7 But it seems to me admirably done, & as you say “oh my” about the praise of the Origin:8 I can’t help liking it, which makes me rather ashamed of myself.—

I enclose Asa Gray;9 only last page & 12 will interest you; but look at red (?) & rewrite names.10 Do not allude to Gray that you have seen this letter, as he might not like it, as he speaks of your being wrong (& converted, alas not so!) about Crossing.11 The sentence about Strawberries made me look at Bentham, & I have enclosed remark for him;12 I can assure him his remark would make any good horticulturist’s hair stand on end.13 It is marvellous to see Asa Gray so cock-sure about the doom of Slavery.—14

You wrote me a famous long letter a few days ago: Emma is going to read De TocVille & so was glad to hear your remarks.—15 I am glad to hear that you are going to do some work which will bring a little grist to the mill; but good Heavens how do you find time with Genera Plantarum, official work, friends, & Heaven knows what!16

Many thanks about Poison for Plants.—17 I know nothing about leaf-insects, except that they are carnivorous.— Andrew Murray knows.—18

You ask what I think about Falconer;19 of course I am much pleased at the very kind way he refers to me;20 but, as I look at it, the great gain is for any good man to give up immutability of species: the road is then open for progress; it is comparatively immaterial whether he believes in N. Selection; but how any man can persuade himself that species change unless he sees how they become adapted to their conditions is to me incomprehensible.—21 I do not see force of Falconer’s remarks about spire of shells, Phyllotaxis, &c:22 I suppose he did not look at my chapter on what I call laws of variation.—23

How very well Falconer writes: by the way in one of your letters you insisted on importance of style;24 I have just been struck with excellent instance in Alex. Braun on Rejuvenescence in Ray Soc 1853; I have tried & literally I cannot read it.25 Have you read it?

I have just received long pamphet by Alph. De Candolle on Oaks & allies,26 in which he has worked out in very complete & curious manner individual variability of species, & has wildish speculations on their migrations & duration &c.27 It is really curious to see how blind he is to the conditions or struggle for life; he attributes the presence of all species of all genera of trees to dryness or dampness! At end he has discussion on “Origin”;28 I have not yet come to this, but suppose it will be dead against it. Should you like to see this pamphlet?

My hot-house will begin building in a week or so,29 & I am looking with much pleasure at catalogues to see what plants to get: I shall keep to curious & experimental plants. I see I can buy Pitcher plants for only 10s .6!30 But the job is whether we shall be able to manage them. I shall get Sarracenia Dichœa your Hedysarum, Mimosa & all such funny things,, as far as I can without great expence.31 I daresay I shall beg for loan of some few orchids; especially for Acropera Loddigesii.32 I fancy orchids cost awful sums; but I must get priced catalogue. I can see hardly any Melastomas in catalogues.—33

I had a whole Box of small Wedgwood medallions; but drat the children everything in this house gets lost & wasted; I can find only about a dozen little things as big as shillings, & I presume worth nothing; but you shall look at them when here & take them if worth pocketing.34

You sent us a gratuitous insult about the “chimney-pots” in dining room, for you shan’t have them; nor are they Wedgwood ware.—35

Remember Naudin36

When you return you must remember my list of experimental seeds.—37 I hope you will enjoy yourself38

Goodnight my dear old friend | C. Darwin

You have not lately mentioned Mrs. Hooker: remember us most kindly to her.—39


The reference is to the surgeon and botanist Thomas Thomson; Thomson lived in Calcutta only until 1860 or 1861 (DNB). The enclosure has not been found. See also letter from J. D. Hooker, [12 January 1863] and n. 2.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, [12 January 1863]. On 23 January 1863, CD began writing up his ‘Chapter on Inheritance’ for Variation, eventually published as chapters 12–14 (Variation 2: 1–84; see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix II)).
Thomas Henry Huxley presented an evening lecture series for working men at the Museum of Practical Geology in London during November and December 1862; the lectures were published as T. H. Huxley 1863a. See letter to T. H. Huxley, 10 [January 1863], and letter from J. D. Hooker, [12 January 1862].
T. H. Huxley 1863a, pp. 55–67. Huxley’s discussion of induction formed part of the third lecture, delivered on 24 November 1862 (‘The method by which the causes of the present and past conditions of organic nature are to be discovered.— The origination of living beings’). There is a lightly annotated copy of T. H. Huxley 1863a in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 425).
Huxley argued that the origin of species through natural selection could not be proven until artificial selection produced from a common stock varieties that were sterile with one another (T. H. Huxley 1863a, pp. 146–50). CD, by contrast, was impressed by the plant hybridisation experiments conducted by Karl Friedrich von Gärtner and Joseph Gottlieb Kölreuter (Origin, pp. 246–9, 257–9, 270–4; Gärtner 1844 and 1849; Kölreuter 1761–6). See letter to T. H. Huxley, 10 [January 1863], and Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix VI.
T. H. Huxley 1863a, pp. 29–52. CD refers particularly to pages 39–41, and to figure 5 on page 40, which he thought would be confusing to a non-geologist. See letters to T. H. Huxley, 7 December [1862] and n. 7, and 18 December [1862] (Correspondence vol. 10).
T. H. Huxley 1863a, pp. 153–6. While arguing that ‘man differs to no greater extent from the animals which are immediately below him than these do from other members of the same order’, Huxley wrote that it was largely the power of language that distinguished man ‘from the whole of the brute world’ (ibid., pp. 154–5).
In Asa Gray’s letter, CD marked some of the plant names with marginal crosses in red crayon, and Hooker clearly printed the names ‘Abronia’, ‘Nyctaginia’, ‘Pavonia’ for Pavonia hastata, and ‘Ruellia’. These were plants in which the plants flowering earlier in the season were pollinated in the bud (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from Asa Gray, 29 December 1862).
In November and December 1862, CD and Hooker debated the effects of crossing on variation, with Hooker maintaining that self-fertilisation did not favour variation, ‘whereas crossing tends to variation by adding differences’ (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, 26 November 1862). CD agreed with Gray (A. Gray 1862d, p. 420) that: free cross-breeding of incipient varieties inter se and with their original types is just the way to blend all together, to repress all salient characteristics as fast as the mysterious process of variation originates them, and fuse the whole into a homogeneous form. See Correspondence vol. 10, letter to Asa Gray, 26[–7] November [1862].
The letter from Asa Gray, 29 December 1862 (Correspondence vol. 10), is incomplete; Gray’s statement concerning strawberries was made in a postscript that has not been located. However, in his account of strawberries in Variation 1: 351–4, CD considered it unlikely that hybrids of European and American strawberries were fertile enough to be worth cultivation. This fact was surprising to him ‘as these forms structurally are not widely distinct, and are sometimes connected in the districts where they grow wild, as I hear from Professor Asa Gray, by puzzling intermediate forms’ (Variation 1: 352). CD probably consulted George Bentham’s Handbook of the British flora (Bentham 1858; see n. 13, below). The enclosure for Bentham has not been found. See also letter to Asa Gray, 2 January [1863] and n. 17.
In his Handbook of the British flora, Bentham wrote that while several wild and cultivated strawberries had been proposed as species, ‘the great facility with which fertile hybrids are produced, gives reason to suspect that the whole genus … may prove to consist but of one species’ (Bentham 1858, pp. 191–2). CD’s annotated copy of Bentham 1858 is in the Rare Books Room–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 51).
The letter from Asa Gray, 29 December 1862 (Correspondence vol. 10), is incomplete; the portion containing Gray’s statement regarding events in the United States has not been found. Gray may have commented on Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation, which was to come into effect on 1 January 1863; from that time all slaves in territories still in rebellion were to be freed (see Denney 1992, pp. 248, 251).
Emma Darwin. CD refers to Alexis Henri Charles Maurice Clérel, comte de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (H. Reeve trans. 1862). See Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, [21 December 1862], and this volume, letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 January 1863. CD had read Tocqueville’s De la démocratie en Amérique (Tocqueville 1836) in February 1849 (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to J. D. Hooker, 24 December [1862], and Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, 119: 22b).
Hooker had been commissioned to write a flora of New Zealand (J. D. Hooker 1864–7; see letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 January 1863). At the same time, Hooker was at work on Genera plantarum (Bentham and Hooker 1862–83), and also had official duties in his capacity as assistant director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
In his letter to Hooker of 3 January [1863], CD asked for advice about how to prevent mould from growing on his children’s dried flower collections; for Hooker’s reply, see his letter of 6 January 1863. In his Account book–cash accounts (Down House MS), on 16 January 1863, CD recorded a payment of 9s. for ‘Poison for plants’ to the London importers and makers of chemical and photographic apparatus, Bolton & Barnitt of Holborn Bars, London.
Hooker had asked CD what he should feed newly hatched leaf insects from Java (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 January 1863). Andrew Murray was a botanist and entomologist with expertise in Coleoptera and insects harmful to crops (DNB).
Hooker had asked CD’s opinion of Falconer 1863a (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 January 1863).
Falconer 1863a, pp. 77–81 (see n. 21, below). See also letter to Hugh Falconer, 5 [and 6] January [1863] and n. 7.
In his article on fossil and recent elephants, Hugh Falconer praised CD and his theory of modified descent (Falconer 1863a, pp. 77, 80). At the same time, he argued that natural selection was an inadequate explanation for the origin of species since some species subject to variable conditions over time, such as the mammoths, had remained unchanged (Falconer 1863a, p. 80).
While Falconer conceded that forms like the mammoth and other extinct elephants were ‘modified descendants of earlier progenitors’ (Falconer 1863a, p. 80), he continued to argue against the adequacy of natural selection to explain this modification: The law of Phyllotaxis, which governs the evolution of leaves around the axis of a plant, is nearly as constant in its manifestation, as any of the physical laws connected with the material world. Each instance, however different from another, can be shown to be a term of some series of continued fractions. When this is coupled with the geometrical law governing the evolution of form, so manifest in some departments of the animal kingdom, e. g. the spiral shells of the Mollusca, it is difficult to believe, that there is not in nature, a deeper seated and innate principle, to the operation of which ‘Natural Selection’ is merely an adjunct.
Origin, pp. 131–70.
The reference has not been identified.
Braun 1851. The English title of the article was ‘Reflections on the phenomena of rejuvenescence in nature, especially in the life and development of plants’ (Henfrey trans. 1853). There is an annotated copy of Arthur Henfrey’s translation of Braun 1851 in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 366–7).
Alphonse de Candolle sent CD copies of A. de Candolle 1862a and 1862b. See Correspondence vol. 10, letter from Alphonse de Candolle, 18 September 1862; see also following letter. CD’s annotated copies of A. de Candolle 1862a and 1862b are in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
A. de Candolle 1862a, pp. 326–53. See following letter and n. 6.
A. de Candolle 1862a, pp. 354–61, 363. See Intellectual Observer 3 (1863): 81–6, for a translation of the last portion of A. de Candolle 1862b. See also following letter and n. 7.
See DAR 157.1: 111 and 112 for CD’s botanical notes on experiments with Nepenthes (pitcher plants).
CD had experimented on the power of movement in Hedysarum and Mimosa in 1862 (see Correspondence vol. 10).
CD was keen to obtain fresh flowers of Acropera; for CD’s continuing investigation of this orchid genus, see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from John Scott, 11 November 1862, and letter to John Scott, 12 November [1862], and this volume, letter from John Scott, 6 January 1863 and nn. 3 and 4.
Hooker had started to collect Wedgwood ware and was particularly interested in medallions. See Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, [27 or 28 December 1862], and this volume, letter to J. D. Hooker, 3 January [1863], and letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 January 1863.
With his letter to Hooker of 24 December [1862] (Correspondence vol. 10), CD enclosed a ‘memorandum of enquiry’ for Charles Victor Naudin, whom Hooker hoped to meet during his forthcoming visit to Paris (see n. 38, below).
In his letter to Hooker of 3 November [1862] (Correspondence vol. 10), CD enclosed a list of the seeds he wanted for experiments on sensitivity in plants. See also ibid., letter to J. D. Hooker, [10–]12 November [1862].
Hooker and Bentham departed for Paris on 17 January 1863 (Jackson 1906, p. 193).
Since the death of her father, John Stevens Henslow, in May 1861, Frances Harriet Hooker had been suffering from depression and ill-health (see Correspondence vols. 9 and 10).


Bentham, George. 1858. Handbook of the British flora; a description of the flowering plants and ferns indigenous to, or naturalized in, the British Isles. London: Lovell Reeve.

Braun, Alexander Carl Heinrich. 1851. Betrachtungen über die Erscheinung der Verjüngung in der Natur, insbesondere in der Lebens- und Bildungsgeschichte der Pflanze. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann.

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

Denney, Robert E. 1992. The civil war years: a day-by-day chronicle of the life of a nation. New York: Sterling Publishing.

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.

Gärtner, Karl Friedrich von. 1844. Versuche und Beobachtungen über die Befruchtungsorgane der vollkommeneren Gewächse und über die natürliche und künstliche Befruchtung durch den eigenen Pollen. Pt 1 of Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Befruchtung der vollkommeneren Gewächse. Stuttgart: E. Schweizerbart.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1864–7. Handbook of the New Zealand flora: a systematic description of the native plants of New Zealand and the Chatham, Kermadec’s, Lord Auckland’s, Campbell’s, and MacQuarrie’s Islands. 2 vols. London: Lovell Reeve & Co.

Jackson, Benjamin Daydon. 1906. George Bentham. London: J. M. Dent. New York: E. P. Dutton.

Kölreuter, Joseph Gottlieb. 1761–6. Vorläufige Nachricht von einigen das Geschlecht der Pflanzen betreffenden Versuchen und Beobachtungen. Leipzig: Gleditschischen Handlung.

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.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Tocqueville, Charles Alexis Henri Maurice Clérel de. 1836. De la démocratie en Amérique. 4th edition. 2 vols. in 1. Paris: Charles Gosselin.

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


Acquired characteristics.

Huxley’s lectures: good on induction, bad on sterility, obscure on geology.

Asa Gray on slavery.

Falconer’s partial conversion.

Alphonse de Candolle on Origin.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 179
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3913,” accessed on 22 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11