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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   23 April [1863]


Ap. 23d

My dear Hooker

I return Haast’s letter: he is a glorious species man.—1 I am very sorry for your account of your Boy (but what a fine little fellow Charlie appears).2 What anxiety our children give us: Horace has been very bad in his stomach again, & we have resolved to go on Monday to “Rev. C. Langton   Hartfield   Tonbridge Wells” & thence to Leith Hill for a fortnight’s change, which indeed I much require.—3 Very many thanks for gratifying my silly hobby-horse about orchid seeds & they are all planted.4 If ever you have a very large pod of any foreign orchis, I shd. like it to estimate, out of mere curiosity, total number of seed.—5 One more thing, you told me of some plant, I think a Hot-House plant allied to Lythrum, with two coloured anthers; now I shd be really be particularly glad to examine fresh flowers of this plant this summer.—6

The more I think of Falconer’s letter, the more grieved I am; he & Prestwich (the latter at least must owe much to the Principles) assume an absurdly unwarrantable position with respect to Lyell.7 It is too bad to treat an old hero in Science thus. I can see from note from Falconer (about a wonderful fossil Brazilian mammal, well called Meso- or Typo-therium) that he expects no sympathy from me.8 He will end, I hope, by being sorry. Lyell lays himself open to a slap by saying that he would come to show his original observations; & then not distinctly doing so; he had better only have laid claim on this one point of man, to verification & compilation.9 altogether I much like Lyell’s letter. But all this squabbling will greatly sink Scientific men: I have seen sneers already in Times.10

I am heartily glad that your new specimens of Wellwitschia confirm your results: I suppose you are sure that these great “bristling” stigmas cannot serve to lift up or push out pollen, as in sterile florets of some Compositæ?11 Have you ever looked at the common Ash? I find in my Field 3 classes of Trees; viz (1) females (seed-producers) with aborted anthers, & rarely with single good anther (2) Hermaphrodite (seed-producers) in my field few in number (3) Males “bristling” with good-sized pistils & stigmas, which soon drop off & with atrophied ovules: these male trees apparently do not produce a single seed; but I shall watch them— what a gradation!12

Emma tells me that the “Admiral’s Daughter” would not at all suit me,—too melancholy.—13

I am very glad you are stirring up Oliver for Orchideæ;14 by Jove he would find it a job worthy his talents & I shd. think most interesting. Do you ever see old Cottage Gardener; there is something odd about seeds of Orchids with little filament coming out, described by Gosse in last Wednesday’s. paper.15 If ever I have time I must have a look: one would suspect it was to attach seeds to bark.—

I am very glad you had such fine weather for your Trip.16

Farewell— | C. Darwin

Your plants in Hot-house are an everlasting amusement to me;17 but heat is killing.—


Hooker had included some candid remarks regarding his sons William Henslow Hooker and Charles Paget Hooker in his letter to CD of 20 April 1863.
Emma Darwin recorded in her diary (DAR 242) that Horace Darwin, aged 11, was intermittently ill during 1863; entries on 17, 19, and 21 April noted his poor health. Hartfield Grove at Hartfield, Sussex, was the home of Charles Langton, widower of Emma Darwin’s sister Charlotte. Leith Hill Place, near Dorking, Surrey, was the home of Josiah and Caroline Sarah Wedgwood, Emma’s brother and CD’s sister.
CD had recently counted seeds of another orchid pod, and did this for a number of plants (see letter to Hugh Falconer, 5 [and 6] January [1863], and letter to John Scott, 20 [February 1863] and n. 3).
Hooker replied to CD’s query regarding Lagerstroemia in his letter to CD of [24 May 1863].
Hugh Falconer’s letter in the Athenæum, 4 April 1863, pp. 459–60, criticised Charles Lyell for not giving sufficient credit to the work of Falconer and Joseph Prestwich in C. Lyell 1863a (see letter to Charles Lyell, 18 April [1863] and nn. 7–9, and letter to Asa Gray, 20 April [1863]). CD refers to the nine editions of Lyell’s Principles of geology (C. Lyell 1830–3), Lyell’s ‘lifework’, which established ‘a new era in geology’ (DSB).
Lyell published a letter replying to Falconer’s (see Athenæum, 18 April 1863, pp. 523–5, and n. 7, above), in which he quoted (pp. 523–4) from Falconer’s letter (see n. 7, above): ‘I now invite Sir Charles Lyell, or any one else on his behalf, to point out a single new fact or one solitary special observation which he has contributed bearing on the immediate subject of the antiquity of man.’ Lyell took up Falconer’s challenge at the end of his letter (ibid., pp. 524–5); he detailed his own work, which was largely on the geological background of human remains and relics at sites that had already been discovered and interpreted.
The reference is to a letter titled ‘Fair and foul’ in The Times, 14 April 1863, p. 12.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, 20 April 1863 and n. 9. CD mentioned this feature of Compositae in Origin, p. 452. See also Natural selection, p. 48.
These observations of the common ash (Fraxinus excelsior) are reported in Forms of flowers, pp. 11–12. For CD’s notes on the ash, dated 20 April 1863, see DAR 109: 51.
[Marsh] 1834. See letter from J. D. Hooker, 20 April 1863 and n. 11.
Daniel Oliver. In his letter to CD of 20 April 1863, Hooker mentioned that he was encouraging Oliver to concentrate on orchids and become Kew’s ‘orchidologist’.
CD refers to Philip Henry Gosse’s description of microscopic observations on orchid seeds that appeared in the Journal of Horticulture and Cottage Gardener, 21 April 1863, pp. 287–8.
Hooker had just returned from a two-week trip to Dorset and to Jersey and Guernsey in the Channel Islands. See letter from J. D. Hooker, 20 April 1863.
CD had recently had a hothouse built at Down House; Hooker contributed plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (see Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix VI).


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

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.

Forms of flowers: The different forms of flowers on plants of the same species. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1877.

Lyell, Charles. 1830–3. Principles of geology, being an attempt to explain the former changes of the earth’s surface, by reference to causes now in operation. 3 vols. London: John Murray.

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.


Grieved by Falconer’s and Prestwich’s treatment of Lyell.

Reproductive anatomy of the common ash reminds CD of JDH’s Welwitschia because of its transitional forms.

Pleased JDH encourages Oliver to do orchids.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 191
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4122,” accessed on 13 July 2024,

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