skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [13 May 1863]1



Dr Darwin

Salwyn & his fellow traveller called today, very full of having heard from you, & quite bent upon Gallapagos.2 I have tonight written to Consul at Guayaquil for information—3 They talk of hiring a schooner & spending 10 months (I advise them to go on to Sandwich Islands), next March.

Thanks for A Grays letter.—4 I quite agree with you that Lyell has in no way taken position of judge, but of advocate—5 he is far too conscious of the merits of your case & too prudent of his own future fame not to have taken a side— Had he taken Judges seat I never should have blamed him—the fact is he is half-hearted but whole-headed— Do ask Gray to reconsider— I asked Bentham, who is wholly of our opinion— I think Bentham will make a very interesting discussion for the Linnæan anniversary on the methods of your adversaries.6

Your paper in Linn. Journal reads excellently well.7

I hope to get loan of copy of squib & will copy it.8 Busk & Mrs B. have credit of it;9 but I cannot believe it theirs, it is too clever & too impartial.

Bates book is charming—but I can see some ground for saying that it is biassed by Darwinism10   It is a little evident to me, here & there, that his Darwinistic explanations of what he sees &c are after-thoughts— It is too bad to say that his facts are therefore twisted—but he says here & there, or leaves the impression of saying, in 1849, “We did so & so which is of such importance “au point de vue” of N. Selection or of Variation & N & S.” whereas he never knew aught of these till 185911 I express my meaning very clumsily—

I am very anxious to hear what you can say of divergence of leaves, PS. I was thinking of divergence of species— You mean Phyllotaxis12   Oliver asks if you have seen Nageli on relations of leaves to vascular bundles of stem.13 I have often tried to see something in it, but never could get the remotest glimpse & have been greatly disappointed in McCosh’s & other books on the subject.14 I remember no paper by A Gray15

I am groaning over Cameroons.16 Mann has been again (4th time) up F. Po Peak, but got nothing new. he has been at deaths door 3 times & is on his way home.17 We only found out last week that he was engaged to a very nice girl at Kew!18

I have perfect faith in your doctrine of absence of competition favoring retention of continental forms on Islands, though how the devil one is to reconcile that with the extraordinary modification of other continental forms on same Islands passes my comprehension.19 Except what you won’t admit:— that they were common to continent & Island before disjunction of latter & the modification is of the Continental forms, the insular being the old original type— This is turning the tables on you with a vengeance but I will work it out in spite of you. Go to weep & howl20

The Ferns of Ascencion & St Helena are totally difft. from one another & from Cameroons, this is, or ought to be, a deathblow to all aerial migration, for ferns are notoriously widely dispersed & dispersable.— I wish I had never wasted a thought on the stupid subject

I feel quite sick & sorry when I think over this squabble of Falconer & Lyell21   I am determined to bring them together if possible, & appeal to the magnanimity of each to allow me to do so.

I must send you a flower of Clianthus Dampieri, in which the pollen falls out of anthers into boatshaped pendulous keel, & rolls along the Kelson down towards the stigma—but it takes a Darwinian waggle of the keel to get it on stigma I expect.22

I shall be anxious to hear how the hot house plants get on.23

I quite expect that Bentham will speak out by & bye, & Oliver I am sure is far gone, but is bothered with external conditions.24

J. E. Gray spent 34 hours abusing Bates to me the other day.—25 I let him go on till he had made Bates out to be morally intellectually & physically, unutterably base & then I pitched into him hot & strong & made him eat all his assertions except that he had not collected 8000 new species (which I believe he has, but care nothing about.)—26 He began by saying he had spent all his time in idleness & licentiousness amongst the natives on the Amazons & half an hour afterwards told me that it was the B.M. that had supported him, all the 11 years, paying him £300–400 a year for the pick of his collections!!27 I think I made him heartily ashamed of himself. I never heard such a slanderer in my whole life. I suppose it is because he so overdoes it that he makes so few real enemies thereby.

Bates is in a very difficult position & I am urging him to keep before the world in publishing & especially to take care not to quarrell with or show contempt for his brother Entomologists;28 & to take their sneers & suspicions in perfect good part.— Poor fellow he dined with me the other day, & 2 days after wrote me that he had a hornets nest about his ears headed by J. E. Gray, who attacked him at the B.M.

I am certain if he only goes on quietly & goodnaturedly working hard & publishing such papers as he has in 3 years he will be the first living philosophical Entomologist & all the rest will be at his feet if he makes no enemies amongst them.

This is a cruel long letter to make you read—so I’ve done.

Ever yours affect | J D Hooker

CD annotations

6.1 I am very … stem. 6.3] cross in margin, pencil
10.2 I am determined … do so. 10.3] cross in right margin, pencil
11.1 I must … keel, 11.2] cross in right margin, pencil
14.9 I suppose … thereby. 14.10] cross in margin, pencil
Top of letter: ‘Primroses’ ink


The date is established by the relationship between this letter, the letter to Osbert Salvin, 11 [May 1863], and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 and 22 May [1863]. The intervening Wednesday was 13 May.
See letter to Osbert Salvin, 11 [May 1863], and letter from Osbert Salvin, 12 May 1863. Osbert Salvin and Frederick Du Cane Godman had returned from a collecting expedition in Central America that began in the autumn of 1861 and ended in January 1863 (DNB). In his letter to CD of [8 May 1863], Hooker wrote of Salvin’s interest in collecting natural history specimens in the Galápagos Islands and asked CD to write to encourage him to do so.
The chargé d’affaires and consul-general at Guayaquil in Ecuador was George Fagan (British imperial calendar 1863).
George Bentham worked independently in the herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, where Hooker was assistant director (R. Desmond 1995). Bentham, who was president of the Linnean Society, was preparing his anniversary address, to be read before the society on 25 May 1863; see letters from George Bentham, 21 April 1863 and 21 May 1863, and Bentham 1863.
‘Two forms in species of Linum was published in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) issued on 13 May 1863 (General Index to the Journal of the Linnean Society, p. vi).
Anon. 1863a. See letter from J. D. Hooker, [7 May 1863] and n. 3, and Appendix VIII.
George and Ellen Busk (see Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix VIII).
Bates 1863 was a narrative of Henry Walter Bates’s travels in the Amazon between April 1848 and July 1859; Origin was published in November 1859.
The reference is to Daniel Oliver and the first part of Nägeli 1858–68, pp. 39–156. Oliver had been assisting CD with bibliographic references on phyllotaxy (see letter from Daniel Oliver, 17 February 1863, and letter to Daniel Oliver, 20 [February 1863]).
Hooker refers to a series of articles on phyllotaxy by James McCosh (McCosh 1851, 1852, and 1854).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, [9 May 1863] and n. 11. The reference is to Asa Gray.
Hooker was writing a paper on the plants of the Cameroons Mountains that had been collected by the botanist Gustav Mann (J. D. Hooker 1863b). See letter from J. D. Hooker, [7 May 1863] and n. 11, and letter to J. D. Hooker, [9 May 1863].
Hooker refers to Clarence Peak, Fernando Po; Mann’s collections from this island mountain off the west coast of Africa were made between 1860 and 1863 (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [7 May 1863] and n. 11).
Mann married Mary Anne Stovell on 12 November 1863 (Register of marriages, registration district of Chichester, 1863, no. 60 (General Register Office)).
Hooker refers to CD’s discussion of the plants and animals of oceanic islands in Origin, pp. 388–406, in which CD argued that ‘occasional means of transport’ of species to islands, and the subsequent modification of those species, best explained the existing geographical distributions; he rejected explanations that invoked a former land connection between islands and the nearest continent. See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 and 22 May [1863]. CD and Hooker had frequently debated these theories on the origin of island plants and animals over many years (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, [30 December 1861 or 6 January 1862] and n. 7, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 4 November [1862] and n. 6).
Hooker had sent CD a cart-load of plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, for his new hothouse (see letter to J. D. Hooker, [21 February 1863]). See also Appendix VI.
Bentham favourably discussed CD’s theory of the origin of species by natural selection in his anniversary address to the Linnean Society (see n. 6, above, and Bentham 1863, p. xv–xvi). Hooker refers to CD’s list of the supporters of his theory, those ‘who dare speak out’ (see letter to J. D. Hooker, [9 May 1863]).
John Edward Gray was the keeper of the zoological department at the British Museum. Bates had worked on his South American collections at the British Museum since returning to England in 1859 (Woodcock 1969, p. 240), and had complained to CD that the naturalists at the museum did not appreciate his work (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to H. W. Bates, 3 December [1861]). On Gray’s character and antipathy towards evolutionary theory, see Gunther 1975, pp. 176–7 and 453–6.
Bates claimed to have collected 14,712 species while in South America, over 8000 of them being new (Bates 1863, 1: v). See also Gunther 1975, p. 177.
Bates had sent his specimens from South America to Samuel Stevens, his agent in London, who sold them for twenty per cent commission. Many were sold to the British Museum, which had agreed before Bates left in 1848 to purchase the rare insects (Woodcock 1969, pp. 30–1). See also letter from H. W. Bates, 20 April 1863.
At this time Bates had no regular employment, but relied on a small private income (see letter from H. W. Bates, 20 April 1863). For the direction of Bates’s career after 1863, see Woodcock 1969, pp. 255–61. Bates’s evolutionary entomology was unpopular with the members of the Entomological Society of London, of whom CD wrote: ‘No body of men were at first so much opposed to my views’ (see letter to Ernst Haeckel, 21 May [1867], Calendar no. 5544). See also n. 25, above, and letter to Charles Lyell, 17 March [1863] and n. 16.


Bates, Henry Walter. 1863. The naturalist on the River Amazons. A record of adventures, habits of animals, sketches of Brazilian and Indian life, and aspects of nature under the equator, during eleven years of travel. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

Bentham, George. 1863. [Anniversary address, 25 May 1863.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 7 (1864): xi–xxix.

British imperial calendar: The British imperial calendar or general register of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and its colonies. London: Winchester & Son [and others]. 1812–1919.

Calendar: A calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882. With supplement. 2d edition. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994.

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

Desmond, Ray. 1995. Kew: the history of the Royal Botanic Gardens. London: Harvill Press with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

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.

McCosh, James. 1851. Some remarks on the plant morphologically considered. Botanical Gazette 3: 118–23.

Nägeli, Carl Wilhelm von. 1858–68. Beiträge zur Wissenschaftlichen Botanik. 4 pts in 1 vol. Leipzig: Wilhelm Englemann.

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.

‘Two forms in species of Linum’: On the existence of two forms, and on their reciprocal sexual relation, in several species of the genus Linum. By Charles Darwin. [Read 5 February 1863.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 7 (1864): 69–83. [Collected papers 2: 93–105.]

Woodcock, George. 1969. Henry Walter Bates, naturalist of the Amazons. London: Faber & Faber.


Lyell is "half-hearted but whole-headed" for CD’s theory. George Bentham wholly converted.

Bates’s book delightful but has a Darwinistic bias.

Cameroon plants.

JDH defends Bates against J. E. Gray’s slanders.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 137–40
Physical description
ALS 8pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4165,” accessed on 20 July 2024,

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