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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [28 August 1863]1


Friday night.

My dear Hooker

The very sight of your handwriting always does me good.—2 You poor miserable wretch you must groan when you see mine, for I think I have always some request. Do not return medallion of Dr. Darwin, but keep it till you come here on our return—3 I start next Wednesday or Thursday; perhaps staying in London for a day to see Busk if there.4 From what Goodsir said I had already written to consult Busk.5 but was glad to be confirmed by your advice.6

About New Zealand, at last I am coming round & admit it must have been connected with some Terra firma; but I will die rather than admit Australia.7 How I wish mountains of New Caledonia were well worked.—

Never mind about New Zealand map.—8

I think you will enjoy a tour in the great gardens: I was speechless with admiration, years ago, at Chatsworth.—9

I have only one request (wonderful moderation): will cuttings strike, or can suckers be separated of a palm (Calamus??) with shoots ending in hooks.10 If possible, on my return in 5 or 6 weeks I shd. very much like a young plant, with growing internodes, to look for movements.—11 Probably this is not possible. Ask Hugh Gower.—12

Goodnight | Your troublesome old friend | C. D.

I am very sorry to hear about Miss Henslow.—13


Dated by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, 26 August 1863. In 1863, 28 August was a Friday.
Letters from J. D. Hooker, 26 August 1863 and [27 August 1863].
Hooker had borrowed a Wedgwood portrait medallion of Erasmus Darwin (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 12–13 August [1863], and letter from J. D. Hooker, 26 August 1863). There is no evidence that Hooker visited Down after CD’s return from Malvern Wells, Worcestershire (see n. 4, below).
CD travelled to London on 1 September 1863 with Henrietta Emma Darwin; they travelled on to Malvern Wells, Worcestershire, on 3 September 1863, returning to Down on 14 October 1863 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)). George Busk was probably in Wales at this time (see letter from George Busk, [c. 27 August 1863]).
John Goodsir. See letter from John Goodsir, 21 August [1863]. The letter to Busk has not been found.
CD and Hooker had frequently debated competing theories of the origin of island plant and animal assemblages over the years (see Correspondence vols. 5 and 6, and Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, [30 December 1861 or 6 January 1862] and n. 7, and this volume, letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 and 22 May [1863]). Hooker was favourably disposed to the idea of land-bridges to account for the present distribution of animals and plants, whereas CD believed that there was insufficient geological evidence in most cases, and preferred explanations based on trans-oceanic migration. In Origin, pp. 389–94, 399, CD evidently considered New Zealand always to have been an island. In the fourth edition of Origin, published in 1866, CD suggested that New Zealand and New Caledonia had once been attached to Australia (Origin, 4th ed., p. 466). See also Peckham ed. 1959, pp. 621–2, and Correspondence vol. 10, letter from William Branwhite Clarke, 16 January 1862 and nn. 13 and 14.
Chatsworth in Derbyshire was the estate of William Cavendish, the seventh duke of Devonshire, and was renowned for its great conservatory. Designed by Joseph Paxton, and covering an acre, the conservatory was completed in 1840 (EB). CD visited Chatsworth in 1845 and was impressed by the large collection of tropical plants (see Correspondence vol. 3, letter to Charles Lyell, 8 October [1845], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 28 October [1845]).
CD refers to Calamus, a genus of climbing palms native to humid forests in the tropics. Few species of palm can be propagated from suckers or by division (Bailey and Bailey 1976, p. 814).
Hooker promised in his letter of 15 September 1863 to send young Calamus plants. Since June 1863, CD had been making a series of observations on the movements of climbing plants (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 3 August [1863], n. 2).
William Hugh Gower was a foreman at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (R. Desmond 1994).


Bailey, Liberty Hyde and Bailey, Ethel Zoe. 1976. Hortus third: a concise dictionary of plants cultivated in the United States and Canada. Revised and expanded by the staff of the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium. New York: Macmillan. London: Collier Macmillan.

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

Desmond, Ray. 1994. Dictionary of British and Irish botanists and horticulturists including plant collectors, flower painters and garden designers. New edition, revised with the assistance of Christine Ellwood. London: Taylor & Francis and the Natural History Museum. Bristol, Pa.: Taylor & Francis.

EB: The Encyclopædia Britannica. A dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information. 11th edition. 29 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1910–11.

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.


Admits, at last, that New Zealand must have been connected to some continent, but not Australia.

Climbing plants: asks for more plants.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 205
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4280,” accessed on 17 April 2024,

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