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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [29 March 1863]


Sunday night

My dear Hooker

It is very good of you to think of William;1 but I feel sure that he could not spare the time; barring the sea-sickness, I am sure he would have enjoyed it greatly. We will, however, tell him. If you go to Southampton & have spare time, beat up his quarters: he lodges at 1 Carlton Terrace; the little Bank is in heart of town.2 I am glad you are so abandoned & dissipated.3

Many thanks for Athenæum, received this morning & to be returned tomorrow morning.4 Who would have ever thought of the old stupid Athenæum taking to Oken-like transcendental philosophy written in Owenian style! It will be some time before we see “slime, snot or protolasm” (what an elegant writer) generating a new animal.5 But I have long regretted that I truckled to public opinion & used Pentateuchal term of creation, by which I really meant “appeared” by some wholly unknown process.—6 It is mere rubbish thinking, at present, of origin of life; one might as well think of origin of matter.—

The medallion will be sent with monstrous Primulas to Oliver.—7

I am unhappy about those horrid hot plants.8 When one can say nothing it is best to declare solemnly “Magna est veritas et prevalebit”.—9

I am sure there are cases of real tropical plants which to surprise of gardeners have been found to stand much cooler climates than could have been expected. Do think over such cases.— I wish Berberis Wallichii did not belong to that genus. Is Cassia partially a case. Think of Tiger— Think of Glacial Elephant & Rhinoceros, as far as genera are concerned.—

Goodnight— May you have a pleasant trip— goodnight | C. Darwin

Thwaites has sent me from Ceylon, I suppose through you, two splendid specimens of reciprocally dimorphic plants like Primula. One is Limnanthemum Indicum; & the other Sethia.—10


In his letter to CD of [28 March 1863], Hooker suggested that William Erasmus Darwin accompany him to botanise on the island of Guernsey.
William was a partner in the Southampton and Hampshire Bank, 25 High Street, Southampton.
Hooker had sent CD his copy of the Athenæum of 28 March 1863 (see the letter from J. D. Hooker, [28 March 1863]), thinking CD would be interested to see an anonymous review of Carpenter 1862 (Athenæum, 28 March 1863, pp. 417–19). Hooker later discovered the review to be by Richard Owen (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [31 March 1863] and n. 2). Owen’s review is reproduced in Appendix VII.
CD refers to the German naturalist and leading exponent of the romantic Naturphilosophie, Lorenz Oken, by whom Owen had been greatly influenced. In his review, Owen followed Oken in arguing that microscopic organisms like the Foraminifera were spontaneously generated on the beds of seas, lakes, and rivers, by the effect of a ‘general polarizing force’ on the ‘slime’ from dead and decaying organisms (Athenæum, 28 March 1863, p. 417; see also DSB, s.v. ‘Oken, Lorenz’, and Rupke 1994, pp. 175, 251–2, 309–10). Owen’s reference to Foraminifera as ‘Aggregates of slime, snot, or “protoplasm’” appeared on p. 418.
CD refers particularly to Owen’s derisive statement that CD ‘could only express’ the creative force responsible for the origin of life ‘in Pentateuchal terms as the primordial form “into which life was first breathed”!’ (Athenæum, 28 March 1863, p. 419; see Origin, p. 484). Owen had sought to use this argument to impugn CD’s commitment to naturalistic explanation on several occasions since 1859 (see Rupke 1994, pp. 239–40 and 251–2). CD omitted this phrase from the third edition of Origin (see Peckham 1959, p. 753). See letter to Athenæum, 18 April [1863].
Magna est veritas et praevalebit: ‘truth is great and will prevail’ (Chambers); also given with ‘prevalet’ (prevails), in I Esd. (Vulgate III Ezra) 4:41.
See following letter.


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

Chambers: The Chambers dictionary. Edinburgh: Chambers Harrap Publishers. 1998.

DSB: Dictionary of scientific biography. Edited by Charles Coulston Gillispie and Frederic L. Holmes. 18 vols. including index and supplements. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1970–90.

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.

Peckham, Morse, ed. 1959. The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin: a variorum text. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Rupke, Nicolaas A. 1994. Richard Owen, Victorian naturalist. New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press.


CD regrets he used "creation" in Origin when he meant "appeared".

An Oken-like article in "Owenian style" in Athenæum.

Tropical plants continue to be troublesome.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 189
Physical description
ALS 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4065,” accessed on 15 July 2024,

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