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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   26 [March 1863]



My dear Hooker

Is it worth while to send the Medallion by Railway? say the word & it shall be sent.—1

I consulted the great Mr Startin for my Eczema;2 & the enclosed local applications are certainly to me very soothing. The muddy stuff must be shaken, a little poured out & smeared on part with broad camel-brush, & then mopped nearly dry with a bit of rag.— Startin said particularly go to Waugh 177 Regent St.—3 Please return prescription.4

I hope & think that you are too severe on Lyell’s early chapters: though so condensed & not well arranged, they seemed to me to convey with uncommon force the antiquity of Man, & that was his object. It did not occur to me, but I fear there is some truth in your criticism that nothing is to be trusted until he Lyell had observed it.—5

I am glad to see you stirred up about Tropical plants during Glacial period. Remember that I have many times sworn to you that they coexisted, so my dear fellow you must make them coexist.6 I do not think greater coolness in a disturbed condition of things would be required than that zone of Himalaya in which you describe some Tropical & temperate forms commingling;7 & as in lower part of Cameroons, & as Seemann describes on low mountains of Panama—8 It is, as you say, absurd to suppose that such a genus as Dipterocarpea could have been developed since glacial era;9 but do you feel so sure, as to oppose a large body of consideration on other side, that this genus could not have been slowly accustomed to a cooler climate. I see Lindley says it has not been brought to England10 & so could not have been tried in greenhouse. Have you materials to know to what little height it ever ascends mountains of Java or Sumatra. It makes a mighty difference the whole area being cooled; & the area perhaps not being in all respects, such as dampness &c &c fitted for such temperate plants as could get in. But anyhow I am ready to swear again that Dipetrocarpea & any other genus you like to name did survive during a cooler period!

About Reversion you express just what I mean:11 I somehow blundered & mentally took literally that the child inherited from his grandfather: this view of latency collects a lot of facts—both secondary sexual character in each individual—tendency of latent character to appear temporarily in youth—effect of crossing in educing latent character &c.— When one thinks of a latent character being handed down hidden for a thousand or ten-thousand generations & then suddenly appearing, one is quite bewildered at the host of characters written in invisible ink on the germ.— I have no evidence of the reversion of all characters in a variety.— I quite agree to what you say about genius; I told Lyell that passage made me groan.—12

What a pity about Falconer; how singular & how lamentable.—13

I am tired, so farewell | Ever my dear Hooker | Yours affectly | C. Darwin

Remember Orchid pods.— I have a passion to grow the seeds (& other motives):14 I have not a fact to go on, but have a notion (no, I have firm conviction!) that they are parasites in early youth on cryptogams!! Here is a fool’s notion; I have some planted on sphagnum.—15 Do any tropical lichens or mosses or European withstand heat grow on any trees in Hothouse at Kew; if so for love of Heaven favour my madness & have some scraped off & sent me. I am like a gambler, & love a wild experiment. It gives me great pleasure to fancy that I see radicles of orchis-seed penetrating the sphagnum; I know I shall not, & therefore shall not be disappointed.


In his letter to CD of [24 March 1863], Hooker asked if he could borrow a Wedgwood medallion of Erasmus Darwin so that a copy could be made for the museum at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
James Startin was a leading skin specialist in London; he was the senior surgeon at the Hospital for Diseases of the Skin, Blackfriars, and ran a private consultancy at 3 Savile Row, Piccadilly (Medical directory 1863). An entry in CD’s Classed account book (Down House MS) dated 24 August 1862 records payment of £1 7s. under the heading ‘Mr. Startin & Physic’; CD probably consulted Startin while in London in May 1862 (see Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 30 [June 1862]). In his letter to CD of [24 March 1863], Hooker inquired about treatments for eczema, from which his father, William Jackson Hooker, also suffered.
The reference is to the chemists George Waugh & Co. There is an entry in CD’s Classed account book (Down House MS) under the classification ‘Medical attendance’, which records payment of £1 3s. to ‘Waugh’ on 11 January 1863.
The enclosure has not been found.
CD marked several passages in his copy of Hooker’s Himalayan journals in which Hooker described the mixing of temperate and tropical plants in Himalayan localities (J. D. Hooker 1854b, 1: 109–10, 2: 18–19 and 319); CD’s annotated copy of this work is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 392–3).
Hooker referred to the ‘Order … Dipterocarpeæ’ (which approximates to the modern family Dipterocarpaceae) in his letter to CD of [24 March 1863]; in his letter of [28 March 1863], Hooker corrected CD’s assumption that he had referred only to the genus Dipterocarpus.
The reference is apparently to John Lindley’s statement in Lindley 1853, p. 393, that trees of this order were ‘apparently unknown in Europe in a living state’.
CD probably refers to the seed-capsules of the orchid genus Vanda that he had been promised while on a visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in February 1863; CD wished to compare a capsule produced artificially by John Scott from Acropera loddigesii with capsules from others of the Vandeae (see letter to John Scott, 16 February [1863] and n. 15).
CD probably refers to some of the seeds from Scott’s capsule of Acropera loddigesii; Scott’s own attempts to germinate the seeds had so far proved ineffectual (see letter from John Scott, 21 March [1863]).


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

Lindley, John. 1853. The vegetable kingdom; or, the structure, classification, and uses of plants, illustrated upon the natural system. 3d edition with corrections and additional genera. London: Bradbury & Evans.

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.

Medical directory: The London medical directory … every physician, surgeon, and general practitioner resident in London. London: C. Mitchell. 1845. The London and provincial medical directory. London: John Churchill. 1848–60. The London & provincial medical directory, inclusive of the medical directory for Scotland, and the medical directory for Ireland, and general medical register. London: John Churchill. 1861–9. The medical directory … including the London and provincial medical directory, the medical directory for Scotland, the medical directory for Ireland. London: J. & A. Churchill. 1870–1905.

Seemann, Berthold Carl. 1852–7. The botany of the voyage of HMS Herald … during the years 1845–51. London: Lovell Reeve.


CD’s opinion of Lyell’s Antiquity of man.

Geographical distribution during and between glacial periods.

Latent characters and reversion.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 188
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4061,” accessed on 12 September 2023,

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