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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [2]9 June 18631


June 9/63.

My dear Darwin

Oliver2 & I have little to say about your observation on the gyratory motion of the upper internode of Echinocystis except that it is most curious & important & goes a long way towards explaining the secondary causes which result in tendrils seeking & finding. indeed in so far as I know it is the first step in that direction—3 I have set our people to watch various climbers with tendrils.

I am greatly relieved to find you like Bentham’s address, I was very anxious about its result.4 I wonder if Lyell will read it.5

We are overwhelmed with—& almost knocked up by visitors & visiting—of which there is no end & I have been atrociously idle of late— of course I have my Garden & Herbm work from 9 till 6, but my evening work, from which all my science used to be evolved is no where & I am disgusted with the extra part of the last 4 months— but then what am I to do?— unlike you, I have health & strength, & no large family connection with whom my children can mix, & I must keep up some society for them to mix in by & bye. added to which my position here demands large sacrifices of that sort. What a complicated machine life has become! I went to the Guards ball the other night & was deeply interested—6 of course I knew so few people that I had abundant time & opportunity to roam about & observe & listen—admire & despise—the contrasts of old & young were ghastly— my God there were hideous old women in brides robes enough to keep you in night mares for a month of Sundays, & lovely girls enough to fill all the paradises of all the Turks.

The intellectual cut & exceeding handsomeness of both men and women was very satisfactory in the main, as was the cleanlyness & general health of the whole stock of high-bred humanity. To compare these with an equal number of the lower classes suggested many reflections—& strengthened me in my dogma that Brains x Beauty = Breeding + wealth.7 I should extremely like to go to a similar selection in America, France or Austria; my impression is that the comparison would be ludicrous. Pray tell Mrs Darwin & Henrietta8 that I thought the Princess very charming looking, but neither pretty nor handsome, & that she was very badly dressed with a huge coronet of white roses enough to sink a ship— The Prince looked an utter nincompoop—& smiles with his lips only—a detestable savage feature.9

Have you read Goldwin Smiths “Empire”10   I am much interested in it, probably most so because I had previously read only the abuse of his letters in the Times.11 I think that after a mild course of Darwinism something might be made of him!

Ev yr affec & abandoned | Jos D Hooker

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘Haast’ pencil 12


Hooker wrote ‘June 9’ in error; the date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 25 [June 1863].
Daniel Oliver.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 25 [June 1863] and nn. 2 and 3. CD had asked Hooker whether he or Oliver knew whether his observation of gyratory movements in Echinocystis lobata represented a new discovery. In ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 1–2, CD noted of his work on climbing plants in 1863 and 1864: My observations were more than half completed before I became aware that the surprising phenomenon of the spontaneous revolutions of the stems and tendrils of climbing plants had been long ago observed by Palm and by Hugo von Mohl, and had subsequently been the subject of two memoirs by Dutrochet. The references are to Palm 1827, Mohl 1827, Henfrey trans. 1852, pp. 147–58, and Dutrochet 1843 and 1844; there are annotated copies of Palm 1827, Mohl 1827, and Henfrey trans. 1852 in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 589–94, 662–3). See also letters to J. D. Hooker, 12–13 August [1863] and 25 [August 1863], letter to Asa Gray, 4 August [1863], and letter from Asa Gray, 1 September 1863.
The reference is to George Bentham’s anniversary address, delivered before the Linnean Society on 25 May 1863 (Bentham 1863; see letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 [June 1863] and n. 9). See also letters from J. D. Hooker, 20 April 1863 and [13 May 1863].
Charles Lyell. In his address, George Bentham included a survey of the scientific reaction to Origin, making reference to the ‘eagerness’ with which Lyell’s judgment on CD’s theory had been anticipated, and the ‘great weight’ that attached to his authority. He noted, however, that Lyell’s opinion was ‘not very easy to ascertain’ from Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863a), and continued: ‘the impression conveyed is, that he is generally convinced of the derivative origin of the present species, although he may leave it an open question whether there may not be exceptions, especially with regard to man’ (Bentham 1863, p. xx). CD had been disappointed that Lyell had not endorsed natural selection more unambiguously in C. Lyell 1863a (see letter to Charles Lyell, 6 March [1863]).
The Guards’ ball, described by The Times as ‘ “the bright particular star” of this season’, took place in London on the evening of 26 June 1863; among the many guests were foreign dignitaries, members of the royal household and the government, and representatives of many of the leading aristocratic families (The Times, 27 June 1863, p. 11).
Hooker refers to various remarks that he made to CD in 1862, on the development of an aristocracy being a consequence of natural selection (see Correspondence vol. 10). In his letter to CD of [23 March 1862] (ibid.), Hooker argued that the accumulation of ‘Blood, Blunt [that is, wealth], Brains, [and] Beauty’ by natural selection ‘must culminate in an Aristocracy’.
Emma and Henrietta Emma Darwin.
The reference is to Alexandra, princess of Wales, and Albert Edward, prince of Wales, who were married on 10 March 1863 (DNB).
G. Smith 1863 comprised a series of letters on the British empire, contributed by Goldwin Smith to the Daily News in 1862 and 1863. In his letters, Smith argued for ‘colonial emancipation’, by which he meant that the self-governing colonies should be converted into independent states; his views attracted much attention, and caused widespread offence (DNB).
Julius von Haast. See letter to J. D. Hooker, 1 July [1863] and n. 2.


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

‘Climbing plants’: On the movements and habits of climbing plants. By Charles Darwin. [Read 2 February 1865.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 9 (1867): 1–118.

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.

Dutrochet, René Joachim Henri. 1843. Des mouvements révolutifs spontanés qui s’observent chez les végétaux. [Read 6 November 1843.] Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l’Académie des Sciences 17: 989–1008.

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.

Mohl, Hugo von. 1827. Ueber den Bau und das Winden der Ranken und Schlingpflanzen. Tübingen: Heinrich Laupp.

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.

Palm, Ludwig Heinrich. 1827. Ueber das Winden der Pflanzen: eine botanisch-physiologische Abhandlung, welche von der medicinischen Facultät der Universität Tübingen im Jahr 1826 als Preisschrift gekrönt wurde. Tübingen: Christian Richter.

Smith, Goldwin. 1863. The Empire. A series of letters published in ‘The Daily News,’ 1862, 1863. Oxford and London: John Henry & James Parker.


JDH and Oliver impressed with CD’s observations on gyratory motion of plants.

CD pleased with Bentham’s Linnean Society address on the reception of Darwinism [J. Proc. Linn. Soc. Lond. 7 (1863): xi–xxix].

JDH’s social "dogma": "Brains x Beauty = Breeding + wealth".

[Dated 9 June by JDH.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 147–8
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4224,” accessed on 3 March 2021,

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