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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [28 March 1863]1



Dear Darwin

I send Athenæum by todays post, which please return. I thought you would like to see the first article!2

I wish I could see any way of “ingenious wriggling” that would remove the crushing evidence in the shape of tropical forms—against tropical cold.3 You have no idea of the magnitude of such a case as Dipterocarp in Nat. Ord—not a mere genus, of 10 genera, & 112 species all from Ceylon, the Malayan Peninsula & Islands,—& of which a good 100 more species, & many more genera, are still to come from Borneo, Sumatra &c.— All are woody & for the larger proportion are huge timber trees— not one ascends at all to any height.—& analogous species to living are found in tertiary coal beds of Labuan &c.4

Zingiberaceæ & Marantaceæ are as bad cases in the Herbaceous way & there are many many others. I shall work out the Cameroon’s case carefully & put the pros & cons in as strong a light as I can— I am very sorry for you, but what can I do or say!—5

A thousand thanks for your explanation about Reversion in which I am sure I shall go the whole hog with you; it is a subject on which I have a huge latent interest—6 I am glad you pitched into Lyell about the passage regarding genius,—he will surely think we were in collusion! about his book.7

We went to Lord Dundreary last night & roared, he is a far more scientific character than I anticipated—not a broad comedy character, but very charming in his fatuity, nonchalance, ignorance, & his incoherent wit:8 for the first time in my life I fell in love with the character of “diverting vagabond”   quite a new sensation—I assure you— he is not a puppy, like Albert Smith was.9

Please leave the Medallion any-where in town when you are sending up, & I will send for it.—10

Ever yours | J D Hooker

I have been awfully dissipated of late—out every night. We think of Weymouth & Guernsey on Thursday with 2 boys11

I wonder if your Willy would like to join us and botanize in Guernsey?— if you think so I will write to him12

We would cross from Southampton

N B. if the weather is bad we shall not cross, but take a cruise in New forest


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letters to J. D. Hooker, 26 [March 1863] and from J. D. Hooker, [31 March 1863]; the intervening Saturday was 28 March.
Hooker refers to Richard Owen’s anonymous review of Carpenter 1862, which appeared in the Athenæum, 28 March 1863, pp. 417–19 (for the attribution, see the publisher’s marked copies of the journal at City University Library, London). The review, which is reproduced in Appendix VII, contained comments critical of CD’s account of the origin of life and the origin of species (see letter to J. D. Hooker, [29 March 1863] and nn. 5 and 6).
Hooker refers to CD’s claim that the tropics must have been cool enough during the Pleistocene glacial period for temperate species to have migrated between the northern and southern hemispheres, a claim that Hooker disputed on the grounds that many tropical plants could not have survived in such conditions (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 26 [March 1863]). CD’s capacity for ‘ingenious wriggling’ with regard to theoretical difficulties had been a joke between the two friends over a number of years (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, 7 November 1862 and n. 17).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 26 [March 1863] and n. 9. Labuan is an island off the north-west coast of Borneo.
In the introduction to his flora of the temperate regions of the Cameroons mountains (J. D. Hooker 1863b, pp. 176–80), Hooker briefly characterised, under itemised headings, the extent of the overlap between the genera and species of the Cameroons mountains and those of various other temperate regions. He noted that the large proportion of plant genera in the Cameroons mountains that were also found in Europe was ‘most singular’, given the ‘total isolation’ of the regions by ‘hot, low deserts’, and he mentioned two hypotheses that could render the phenomenon explicable (p. 181). The first was CD’s theory of migration during a global cold period, and the second was Hooker’s preferred theory of transport by aerial currents and birds; however, Hooker did not clearly state which of the two theories he considered was favoured by the evidence. See also letter from J. D. Hooker, [15 March 1863] and n. 21.
Hooker refers to Tom Taylor’s comedy, Our American cousin, which had been running at the Haymarket Theatre, London, since 1861. The main feature of the play was Edward Askew Sothern’s portrayal of the character Lord Dundreary, an English aristrocrat with a ‘well-bred air married to a vacant stare’, absurd mannerisms, twisted aphorisms, and inane lines. Sothern substantially rewrote the part for himself until it grew into a series of monologues and ‘all but dwarfed the remainder of the play’, creating one of the most celebrated comic parts in nineteenth-century theatre (Tolles 1940, pp. 173–80).
Puppy: ‘a vain, empty-headed, impertinent young man; a fop, a coxcomb’ (OED). Between 1850 and 1860, the writer and dramatist Albert Richard Smith wrote and performed in a number of ‘entertainments’ in London, descriptive of his journeys in Asia (DNB).
CD had agreed to send Hooker his Wedgwood medallion of Erasmus Darwin so that it could be copied for the museum at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 26 [March 1863]).
The reference is to Frances Harriet, William Henslow, and Charles Paget Hooker; Hooker’s party travelled to Weymouth, Portland, Jersey, and Guernsey, returning home on 17 April 1863 (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 20 April 1863).
CD’s eldest son, William Erasmus Darwin, was a banker in Southampton. Since his removal to Southampton in 1861, CD had encouraged William to study botany, and had repeatedly asked him to carry out observations (see Correspondence vols. 9 and 10). In June 1862, William had visited Hooker at Kew (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, 19 [June 1862], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 June [1862]).


Athenæum. 1844. A few words by way of comment on Miss Martineau’s statement. No. 896 (28 December): 1198–9.

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. 27 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.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

Tolles, Winton. 1940. Tom Taylor and the Victorian drama. New York: Columbia University Press.


Evidence of tropical floras continuous since Tertiary cannot fit CD’s position on intermittent cold periods.

Agrees with CD on reversion and latency.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 121–2
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4064,” accessed on 10 July 2020,

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