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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [1 or 3 November 1863]1


⁠⟨⁠  ⁠⟩⁠u⁠⟨⁠  ⁠⟩⁠2

My dear Darwin

Mrs Darwins very ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ letter & your scrap are s⁠⟨⁠ilver⁠⟩⁠ linings to my black cloud.3 I do trust that you are to have a little rest from your intolerable illness. I will see about the prickly Palm (Calamus) at once & send it to Down postman.4

I should extremely like ⁠⟨⁠to⁠⟩⁠ see Haast’s letter,5 as I am quite excited about ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ Geology, in one letter ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ mentions, besides ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ cuts in the valley ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ read like Gl⁠⟨⁠  ⁠⟩⁠ ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ on Hectors sketches—6 ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ [illeg] in Otago, which ⁠⟨⁠close⁠⟩⁠ly resemble those on ⁠⟨⁠the up⁠⟩⁠per Himalayan valleys.7 ⁠⟨⁠I h⁠⟩⁠ave been along the Norfolk Coast again with Gunn,8 from Bacton to Happisburgh, & cannot but think all the beds there, from the “forest bed” up to Trimmer’s warp, are terms of one series, & the said warp, ⁠⟨⁠wh⁠⟩⁠ere present, is a myth, only ⁠⟨⁠the⁠⟩⁠ effect of atmosphere &c &c on ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ part of upper bed.9 ⁠⟨⁠The simi⁠⟩⁠larity of the whole ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ those of Picardy is ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ & suggestive10   I ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ ⁠⟨⁠sa⁠⟩⁠w Ramsay11 at ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ seemed to agree with me about all being terms of one series & not due to alternations of climates & periods. Surely Prestwich’s distinctions are too fine-drawn:12 he is a wonderful close accurate observer certainly

Willy goes on well,13 but has given the Scarlatina to my Mother who is very ill with it,14 but as there are no bad symptoms we are not alarmed. She took it from me 35 years ago!15 My wife & other children are still away at Yarmouth where I have ordered them to remain & where they will be now I suppose for a month at least,16 & I have turned nurse in my old age, as my father & mother live all alone.17 No doubt it is good for me, but it is a sad mess altogether, & I do not cotton to my condition at all. I bought a whole lot of Wedgwoods some time ago & have not the heart to open them yet:18 by the bye I wish Gladstone would hold his tongue & not raise the price of them with his nonsense.—19 What a clever dog he is, but he seems to me to be but a small minded man in many matters.

What do you think we should do about the Poles, to go to war about them seems absurd, but surely we have behaved ⁠⟨⁠as lo⁠⟩⁠west sneaks, we incurred ⁠⟨⁠res⁠⟩⁠ponsibilities by the Treaty ⁠⟨⁠o⁠⟩⁠f Vienna & now ignore them. I for one wish the French may go at the Russians.20—not but what I suppose the Poles are a miserable race who will never survive the struggle for life if not crossed with some better breed.— If the French do go ahead we must follow.

What does Asa Gray say now? I think Lairds position is a most dishonorable one to a British merchant & Legislator.21 he should make a clean breast of it & cry “peccavi”,22 or justify himself if he can do so. This squabble between Lord Russell & Sir James Hudson is a pitiful affair,23 I supp⁠⟨⁠ose⁠⟩⁠ both are wrong—at leas⁠⟨⁠t⁠⟩⁠ ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠

Thanks many for Huxleys v⁠⟨⁠ery⁠⟩⁠ amusing & clever letter & its enclosure.24

Ramsay told us at Phil. Club that they had found old moraines in Mts of Roxburghshire, at about 12–1500 ft elevation I think.25

Now you are not to answer this discussion of mine; but thank Mrs Darwin heartily for letter.—26

Ever dear old Darwin | Yours | J D Hooker

What a horrible business our destruction of that Japan town is.—27


The date is established by the endorsement and by the relationship between this letter and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 10 [November 1863]. Hooker dated the letter either Sunday or Tuesday (see n. 2, below), making the most likely date 1 or 3 November 1863.
Only the second letter, ‘u’, of this word is legible, suggesting that Hooker wrote either Sunday or Tuesday.
Emma Darwin’s letter to J. D. Hooker is not included in the collection of J. D. Hooker correspondence at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. For CD’s letter, see the letter to J. D. Hooker, [30 October 1863].
CD discussed this climbing palm in Origin 6th ed., p. 158. See letters to J. D. Hooker, 3 August [1863], n. 2, and [28 August 1863] and n. 10, and letter from J. D. Hooker, 15 September 1863. See also CD’s note in DAR 157.1: 66.
In his letter of 23 October 1863, Hooker discussed the geology of New Zealand, having received Hector’s sketches; he was struck by the similarity of the effects of glacial action in New Zealand to what he had observed on his Himalayan travels (see J. D. Hooker 1854b). Hooker exhibited photographs of Hector’s sketches at the 29 October 1863 meeting of the Philosophical Club of the Royal Society (Bonney 1919, p. 165).
John Gunn. Hooker had also visited the Norfolk coast during the previous month (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 23 October 1863).
Hooker describes an approximately three-mile stretch of a north-east Norfolk coastal cliff that included a lower stratum of an ancient forest buried in loam and lignite (see C. Lyell 1863a, pp. 212–16). Joshua Trimmer had named what he thought was an upper alluvial deposit of surface soil ‘Warp of the drift, or erratic Warp’, since it appeared to fill cavities in the glacial drift (see Trimmer 1850, p. 23). Hooker evidently attributed this stratum to weathering of the underlying deposit.
Hooker had recently visited the archaeological sites near Amiens and Abbeville in the French province of Picardy, where he was able to observe the geology of the Somme valley (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 23 October 1863 and n. 4).
Hooker refers to Joseph Prestwich’s conclusions that particular Pleistocene deposits in north-western France and eastern England were due to intense and periodic flooding of large, ancient rivers, and to the associated action of river ice; Prestwich believed the resulting scouring and deposition were correlated with significant changes in climate (see J. Prestwich 1862a and 1862b, pp. 286–98). There is a copy of J. Prestwich 1862b in the Darwin Library–CUL. See also letter from J. D. Hooker, 23 October 1863 and n. 6.
William Henslow Hooker was Hooker’s eldest son.
Hooker contracted a mild case of scarlet fever at the age of six (see L. Huxley 1918, 1: 5).
Hooker refers to his wife, Frances Harriet Hooker, and their two youngest children, Charles Paget Hooker and Brian Harvey Hodgson Hooker (Allan 1967).
Hooker had started collecting Wedgwood ware in 1862 (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, [27 or 28 December 1862]).
Hooker refers to William Ewart Gladstone’s address delivered at the laying of the foundation stone of the Wedgwood Institute, which was built in Burslem, Staffordshire, in honour of Josiah Wedgwood I. The address extolled Wedgwood’s industry, and the beauty and quality of the ware (see The Times, 27 October 1863, pp. 5–6, and Gladstone 1863).
In 1863, Poland attempted to achieve independence from Russia by a prolonged insurrection. Under the Congress of Vienna (1814–15), Great Britain and other western European nations had advocated limiting Russia’s control and incorporating Poland as a separate kingdom with the capability eventually of establishing its own constitution. In his 5 November 1863 address to the new legislature, the French Emperor, Napoleon III, was expected to announce his intention to intervene on the Polish side in the war with Russia (EB; The Times, 2 November 1863, p. 6, 5 November 1863, p. 6).
The reference is to the industrialist and MP for Birkenhead, John Laird (ODNB). His shipbuilding firm, Laird Brothers, had built the Alabama, which was sold to the American Confederacy in 1862 and played an active role in the Civil War as a commerce raider (Jenkins 1974–80, 2: 121–2). During October 1863 the firm was also completing two armour-plated vessels carrying gun turrets and a seven-foot iron spike for piercing wooden ships below the waterline. When the authorities seized the two so-called ‘Laird rams’ on 27 October, stating that they violated British neutrality, Laird denied that the ships were to be sold to the Confederacy; he also continued to evade the question of his earlier intentions for the Alabama (The Times, 27 October 1863, p. 7, 28 October 1863, p. 8, and 29 October 1863, p. 9). See Jenkins 1974–80, 2: 289–306. See also letters from Asa Gray, 26 May 1863 and n. 27, and 23 November 1863 and nn. 8 and 9.
Peccavi: ‘I have sinned’; an acknowledgment or confession of guilt (OED).
The references are to Lord John Russell, the foreign secretary, and Sir James Hudson, the former British envoy at Turin, who had resigned in April 1863. Though the two men were not themselves openly quarrelling, a public outcry supporting Hudson raised the question whether he had been forced from office by Russell (The Times, 25 August 1863, 24 October 1863, p. 8, 28 October 1863, p. 5, 29 October 1863, p. 8; DNB).
Hooker refers to Andrew Crombie Ramsay’s statement at the 29 October 1863 meeting of the Philosophical Club of the Royal Society that members of the Geological Society had discovered and mapped terminal moraines in the south of Scotland (Bonney 1919, pp. 164–5).
See n. 3, above.
On 15 and 16 August 1863 seven British navy warships bombarded Kagoshima (the capital of Satsuma province) causing an estimated £1,000,000 of damage; the action was in response to repeated attacks on British people and property and to demands for indemnities. In Britain, this attack was hotly debated and widely condemned (see Fox 1969, pp. 97–119, particularly pp. 114–19).


Allan, Mea. 1967. The Hookers of Kew, 1785–1911. London: Michael Joseph.

Bonney, T. G. 1919. Annals of the Philosophical Club of the Royal Society written from its minute books. London: Macmillan.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 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.

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

Fox, Grace. 1969. Britain and Japan 1858–1883. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Gladstone, William Ewart. 1863. Wedgwood: an address … Delivered at the laying of the foundation stone of the memorial building in honour of Josiah Wedgwood at Burslem, Staffordshire, October 26, 1863. London: John Murray.

Huxley, Leonard, ed. 1918. Life and letters of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, OM, GCSI. Based on materials collected and arranged by Lady Hooker. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

Jenkins, Brian. 1974–80. Britain & the war for the Union. 2 vols. Montreal, Quebec, and London: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

Origin 6th ed.: The origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 6th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

Trimmer, Joshua. 1850. Generalizations respecting the erratic tertiaries or northern drift, founded on the mapping of the superficial deposits of a large portion of Norfolk. With a description of the freshwater deposits of the Gayton-Thorpe Valley; and a note on the contorted strata of Cromer cliffs. [Read 20 November 1850.] Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London 7 (1851): 19–31.


Anxious to see Haast’s letter.

JDH’s views on Poles and Franco-Prussian conflict.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 173–5
Physical description
ALS 6pp damaged

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4325,” accessed on 17 April 2024,

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