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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   17 March [1863]

Down Bromley Kent

March 17th

My dear Hooker

What a candid honest fellow you are,—too candid & too honest. I do not believe one man in ten thousand would have thought & said what you say about your own work in your letter.1 I told Lyell that nothing pleased me more in his work than the conspicuous position in which he very properly placed you.2 About dates of your Essay & the Origin, I feared I might be thought to have told untruths, so I mentioned to Lyell that I had asked you (which I think you have forgotten) when I was writing my “historical sketch” the date of publication of your Essay & you wrote to me “December”;3 the Origin was published to world & every copy sold on Novr. 24th, but was finished ie last sheet corrected Oct 1. (& Oct 2d. I started for Ilkley), but was kept back by Murray for auction-sale; but private copies were distributed a good while before.4 But all this is absolutely & wholly immaterial, excepting so far that anyone might think that Lyell has found out that I had misrepresented case.—5

I am really sorry for Lyell’s troubles about so many claimants for notice: he has sent me the long P.S. addressed to you about Falconer;6 I never heard such nonsense, as that of the monkey case.7 Do see Falconer & see whether you can at all influence him, by saying what ill appearance Reclamations always have, & that the future historians of Science alone ought to settle such points.— It is wretched to see men fighting so for a little fame.—

I am so glad that you heartily admire parts of Huxley’s book.8 It can be only from brevity with which he treats species-question that he does not notice your great works: I do not remember that he even alludes to the grand subject of Geograph. Distribution.— The greatest blemish in my opinion in Lyell’s work9 (which I have said to no one) strikes me as a certain want of originality in the whole.— I have read Owen on Aye-Aye: it is nothing new: it gave me no scope for attacking him, & I had partly composed such a good letter (!);10 I long to be in the same boat with all (except you) my friends ie at open war; but at same time I rejoice not to be annoyed at public quarrel, & it would annoy me much.

Thanks about Potatoes & Poplars.—11 I was very glad of the Bee-combs; but they did not turn out anything specially interesting; & I am a fool to go on collecting materials for work, when I can clearly see that I shall never publish half my already half-worked out matter.—12

Thank you for telling me about your heart-symptoms, which are very like mine; but thank God I have not yet come to have “worms crawling over my heart”!13 This is first day I have had an hour’s comfort.— If you can come over here on Sunday, we should indeed be delighted; but I shd. doubt it, as it is so far: I would send you back in carriage.—14

I am heartily glad to hear that you mean to think & write about mundane glacial period apropos to your grand Cameroon case.15 How I wish I could have published my M.S in full on this subject, as the sketch in Origin does not do it justice.16 Do not indulge in belief that any one continent could have remained a hot refuge for all tropical productions of world.17 I have of late come to conclusion that there must have been former Tertiary or Secondary cold periods & migrations.18

You speak of Reversions in your letter:19 I have been writing during last fortnight on this subject, i.e., on reversions to particular characters, & have got curious collection of facts & experiments. They have led me to view the whole case rather differently i.e. that the child never inherits from its grandfather or more distant ancestor, but that a crowd of characters lie latent in every living creature & parent.—20

Good Night | my dear old friend | C. Darwin


See letter from J. D. Hooker, [15 March 1863] and nn. 7 and 9. CD’s historical preface, giving a ‘sketch of the progress of opinion on the origin of species’, was first added to the first American edition of Origin, which was published in July 1860 (see Correspondence vol. 8, Appendix IV). The sketch concluded (Origin US ed., p. xi): In November, 1859, the first edition of this work was published. In December, 1859, Dr. Hooker published his Introduction to the Tasmanian Flora: in the first part of this admirable essay he admits the truth of the descent and modification of species; and supports this doctrine by many original and valuable observations. CD asked Hooker the date of publication of his essay (J. D. Hooker 1859) in the letter to J. D. Hooker, 31 [January 1860] (Correspondence vol. 8); however, no reply has been found (see Correspondence vol. 8, letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 February [1860]).
Origin was sold out at John Murray’s trade sale on 24 November 1859 (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to John Murray, 24 November [1859], and Appendix II). CD made an excursion to a hydropathic establishment in Ilkley, Yorkshire, between 2 October and 9 December 1859 (see Correspondence vol. 7, Appendix II). CD received his own copy of Origin early in November 1859, and his presentation copies were sent out shortly afterwards (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to John Murray, [3 November 1859]). The earliest extant presentation letters are dated 11 November 1859, and the earliest letter of acknowledgment is the letter from Charles Kingsley, 18 November 1859 (Correspondence vol. 7).
The reference is to Hugh Falconer, who was in dispute with Lyell over what he considered to be a lack of acknowledgment of his work in C. Lyell 1863a (see letter from Charles Lyell, 11 March 1863 and n. 13). The postscript has not been found; presumably it was enclosed with the letter from Charles Lyell, 15 March 1863. See also letter to Charles Lyell, 17 March [1863].
The reference has not been identified.
C. Lyell 1863a.
Owen 1862c. See letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 March [1863] and n. 19.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, [15 March 1863] and n. 22. CD made an extensive study of the cell-making instinct of bees in 1858, the results of which he never fully published (however, see Origin pp. 224–35); his notes on the subject are in DAR 48. See Prete 1990.
Hooker intended walking to Down House from John Lubbock’s house in Chislehurst, Kent, on 22 March 1863; it is not clear whether Hooker made the journey on foot, but he subsequently walked the five miles back (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [24 March 1863]).
CD discussed his theory of the trans-tropical migration of temperate species during a global glacial period in Origin, pp. 365–82. Most of the draft chapter on geographical distribution written for CD’s unpublished ‘big book’ on species was devoted to this subject (Natural selection, pp. 534–66); Origin was intended to be an ‘abstract’ of the ‘big book’ (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to J. D. Hooker, 12 [October 1858]).
CD and Hooker had persistently disagreed over the causes of the geographical distribution of plants and animals. See letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 March [1863], n. 17. In the fourth edition of Origin, pp. 450–1, CD added a new section to his discussion of what he called the ‘Mundane glacial period’, in which he stated: ‘At one time I had hoped to find evidence that the tropics in some part of the world had escaped the chilling effects of the Glacial period, and had afforded a safe refuge for the suffering tropical productions.’ He concluded, however, that such a discovery would be ‘of no avail’, since the tropical forms preserved in one such region ‘could not have travelled to the other great tropical regions within so short a period as has elapsed since the Glacial epoch’, and, moreover, the tropical species of the various regions were not uniform enough to have ‘proceeded from any one harbour of refuge’. See also letter to Charles Lyell, 6 March [1863] and n. 27.
See Correspondence vol. 10, letters to H. W. Bates, 4 May [1862] and n. 5, and 9 May 1862. In the fourth edition of Origin, p. 454, CD added a new passage to the conclusion of his discussion of the mundane glacial period, stating: It is extremely difficult to understand how a vast number of peculiar forms confined to the tropics could have been therein preserved during the coldest part of the Glacial period. The number of forms in Australia, which are related to European temperate forms, but which differ so greatly that it is impossible to believe that they could have been modified since the Glacial period, perhaps indicates some much more ancient cold period, even as far back as the miocene age, in accordance with the speculations of certain geologists.
CD wrote drafts of the chapters on inheritance for Variation (Variation 2: 1–84) between 23 January and 1 April 1863 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix II)); he discussed ‘reversion or atavism’ in chapter 13 (Variation 2: 28–61). On the development of CD’s ‘provisional hypothesis’ of inheritance (‘pangenesis’), first published in Variation 2: 357–404, see Hodge 1985.


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

Hodge, M. J. S. 1985. Darwin as a lifelong generation theorist. In The Darwinian heritage, edited by David Kohn. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press in association with Nova Pacifica (Wellington, NZ).

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1859. On the flora of Australia, its origin, affinities, and distribution; being an introductory essay to the flora of Tasmania. London: Lovell Reeve.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

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.

Origin US ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. A new edition, revised and augmented by the author. By Charles Darwin. New York: D. Appleton. 1860.

Prete, Frederick R. 1990. The conundrum of the honey bees: one impediment to the publication of Darwin’s theory. Journal of the History of Biology 23: 271–90.

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


Lyell’s Antiquity of man lacks originality.

Statements in Lyell provoke CD to determine exact publication date of Origin and JDH’s introductory essay [to Flora Tasmaniae].

CD now believes in repeated periods of global cooling and migration.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 187
Physical description
ALS 7pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4048,” accessed on 5 March 2024,

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