skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [15 January 1863]1

Royal Gardens Kew


Dear Darwin

I return A Gray with the names, as far as I can make them out.—2 What a fertile man he is, & what a sanguine one about the war & Slavery!3

I should like vastly to have a talk with you one day about, variation.

I quite agree that Huxley is still uninstructed on the subject, & shall tell him so.4 Carpenter is better fitted than he to deal fully with a subject he has no practical acquaintance with:5 but then what spirit what force Huxley commands & compells his audience with.

I liked the bits about Man’s mind & language6

Strawberries are awful cases,—& suggest to me the desirability of crossing native American with native English specimens. Write to A Gray for seeds of native specimens Europ: plants & sow them & cross them with English-grown ones.7

Murray came & saw leaf Insect   it is a Phyllium that eats leaves.!8

Falconer is a Scotchman.9 A thousand thanks for answer for Thomson, he is at Hastings—has been home for a year & very ill off & on.10

You will give me deadly offence if you do not send me your Catalogue of the plants you want before going to Nurserymen.11 If by pitcher plants you mean Nepenthes, I can give you a lot of excellent seedling & 2 year old plants   half a dozen I dare say.12

My wife has been wonderfully well of late—though rather neuralgic.—13 Willy is improving rapidly I find.14 I want a good semi ladies school not too far from London for Charlie15   at 734 a splendid boy in all ways— Can you or Mrs Darwin help me.

I have ADC on Oaks but not read him yet.—16

I shall not forget Naudin17

Ever affec | J D Hooker

[infinity symbol] thanks for little Medallions—the last things I thought you would have!18


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 January [1863], and by the reference to Hooker’s forthcoming visit to Paris, which began on 17 January 1863 (see n. 17, below); the intervening Thursday was 15 January.
With his letter to Hooker of 13 January [1863], CD enclosed Asa Gray’s letter of 29 December 1862 (Correspondence vol. 10), in which Gray had provided the names of some plants pollinated in the bud; CD asked Hooker to clarify the names.
Hooker refers to the letter from Asa Gray, 29 December 1862 (Correspondence vol. 10; see n. 2, above). Gray’s letter is incomplete; the portion containing Gray’s statement about events in the United States has not been found. However, it may have concerned the emancipation proclamation that took effect from 1 January 1863 (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 January [1863] and n. 14).
The reference is to Thomas Henry Huxley’s six lectures to working men (T. H. Huxley 1863a) delivered at the Museum of Practical Geology in London between 10 November and 15 December 1862. The lectures were entitled ‘On our knowledge of the causes of organic phenomena’. In his letter to Hooker of 13 January [1863], CD praised the lectures but admitted he had ‘quarrelled’ with Huxley about ‘overdoing sterility’ (see T. H. Huxley 1863a, pp. 146–50). See letter to T. H. Huxley, 10 [January 1863] and nn. 5–9, and Correspondence vol. 10, letters to T. H. Huxley, 18 December [1862] and 28 December [1862], and Appendix VI. There is an annotated copy of T. H. Huxley 1863a in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 425).
Hooker refers to the physician and zoologist William Benjamin Carpenter. In his microscopic study of Foraminifera (Carpenter 1862), Carpenter described and classified the group, fossil and recent, and evaluated the immense range of variation displayed. There is a copy of Carpenter 1862 in the Darwin Library–Down.
T. H. Huxley 1863a, pp. 153–6. In his letter to Hooker of 13 January [1863], CD expressed doubts about Huxley’s statements on the human mind and language.
In a postscript to his letter of 29 December 1862 (Correspondence vol. 10), Gray replied to CD’s query regarding strawberries; CD had asked whether Fragaria vesca and F. virginiana differed ‘Botanically’, and whether anyone had succeeded in crossing them (ibid., letter to Asa Gray, 26[–7] November [1862]). Gray’s postscript has not been found. For CD’s conclusions on the fertility of hybrids of American and European strawberries, see Variation 1: 351–4. See also letter to Asa Gray, 2 January [1863] and n. 17, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 January [1863] and n. 12.
Phyllium is a genus of leaf-insect from south-east Asia and New Guinea. In his letter of 6 January 1863, Hooker reported that they had hatched some leaf-insects from Java at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and he asked CD whether he knew what they should be fed. CD thought they were carnivorous, but suggested he ask the entomologist Andrew Murray (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 January [1863]).
Thomas Thomson had been superintendent of the Calcutta botanic garden and professor of botany at the Calcutta Medical College until 1860 or 1861, when he returned to Britain (DNB, and Kew Bulletin (1895): 236). Thomson had asked for some information and Hooker forwarded the request to CD (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [12 January 1863], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 January [1863]).
In his letter to Hooker of 13 January [1863], CD told Hooker of the imminent construction of a hothouse at Down House, and spoke of his plans for purchasing experimental plants. See also letter to Asa Gray, 2 January [1863] and n. 24, and Appendix VI.
In his letter to Hooker of 13 January [1863], CD reported that he could buy pitcher plants for only 10s. 6d.
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).
Hooker had been concerned about the development of his nine-year-old son, William Henslow Hooker, whom he described as a ‘standing protest against the “Origin of Species’”, appearing to care ‘for no one thing in life’ (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, [21 December 1862]).
Hooker refers to his son, Charles Paget Hooker.
Hooker refers to Alphonse de Candolle’s review of the oak genus and its relatives (A. de Candolle 1862a). For CD’s comments on A. de Candolle 1862a, see the letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 January [1863], and the letter to Alphonse de Candolle, 14 January [1863].
Hooker and George Bentham were preparing to leave for a ten-day trip to Paris where they planned to visit Charles Victor Naudin. In his letter to Hooker of 13 January [1863], CD reminded him of the ‘memorandum of enquiry’ for Naudin, which he enclosed with his letter to Hooker of 24 December [1862] (Correspondence vol. 10).
Hooker had started to collect Wedgwood ware (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, [27 or 28 December 1862], and this volume, letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 January 1863). In his letter to Hooker of 3 January [1863], CD described Emma Darwin and himself as ‘degenerate descendants of old Josiah W.’, because of their insensibility to the pleasure of Wedgwood ware. In his letter to Hooker of 13 January [1863], CD offered ‘about a dozen little things as big as shillings’ that had survived at Down House.


Carpenter, William Benjamin. 1862. Introduction to the study of the Foraminifera. Assisted by W. K. Parker and T. R. Jones. London: Ray Society.

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.

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.

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


JDH on Asa Gray’s sanguine view of the Civil War and slavery.

Wishes to discuss variation with CD, a subject that Huxley does not understand.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 101–2
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3919,” accessed on 22 September 2023,

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