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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Emma Darwin to J. D. Hooker   [7 December 1863]1



Dear Dr Hooker

I cannot give a very good account of Charles.2 He has frequent attacks of sickness but recovers from them in a wonderful manner & they are often with very little distress. The stomach retains the food in a surprizing manner which accounts for his not getting thin. His medical men speak confidently of his regaining his former state of health.3

He desires me to say that your letters always give him the greatest pleasure tho’ he grudges you the time you employ in them. The partridge’s foot has now produced 54 plants which he hopes may stick in your throat.4 “Do not think me bigotted for I fully admit an immense residuum of unexplained facts”. What is Galton’s book on Domest. Animals?5 He sends you a letter of Asa Gray which tho’ not very interesting you may like to see.6 Also 2 squibs by the Author of the Dialogue in the New Zealand paper on Origin.7 He is a Mr Butler Grandson of the old master of Shrewsbury C.’s schoolmaster.8

Dr Haast says they have made a noise but he says himself he did not think them fit for publication but the Editor put them in.9

I am so glad you will soon have Charley at home safe & sound & that you have got Mrs Hooker & the rest10   Will you give her my love & thank her for her note to me & for her help in my trap affair which has succeeded better than I expected & is drawing to a conclusion,11

I am dear Dr Hooker | yours very sincerely | E. D.


The date is conjectured by the relationship between this letter and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 [December 1863], and the entries in Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242). See n. 2, below. In 1863, 7 December was a Monday.
Emma Darwin’s diary entries on 5 and 6 December 1863 record that CD was vomiting four times a day (DAR 242). See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 [December 1863] and n. 7.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 [December 1863]. CD viewed this case of the transport of seeds by a bird as further evidence in support of his favoured explanation of the geographical distribution of island plants, namely, occasional oceanic and wind transport (see letter from Alfred Newton, 31 October 1863 and nn. 2 and 5). Hooker favoured explanations that involved the existence of land-bridges in past geological eras (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [13 May 1863] and n. 20, and letters to J. D. Hooker, 15 and 22 May [1863], and [28 August 1863]).
On 22 December 1863, Francis Galton read a paper on the domestication of animals before the Ethnological Society of London (Galton 1863). Galton circulated a privately printed preprint of the paper, which Hooker may have referred to in a missing letter, in advance of the lecture. There is an annotated copy of the preprint in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
CD refers to Samuel Butler (1835–1902), who wrote an anonymous article entitled ‘Darwin on the Origin of Species: a dialogue’, which was published in the Press of Christchurch, New Zealand, on 20 December 1862 (see letter to an editor, 24 March [1863?] and n. 3). The squibs were published in the Press on 13 June 1863, p. 1, and 15 September 1863, p. 2. There are copies in the ‘Scrapbook of reviews’ in the Darwin Archive–CUL (DAR 226.1: 130 and DAR 226.1: 133–4, respectively).
Samuel Butler (1774–1839) was headmaster at Shrewsbury School, 1798–1836; CD attended Shrewsbury between 1818 and 1825 (Freeman 1978).
The letter from Julius von Haast that may have accompanied the squibs from the Christchurch Press (see n. 7, above) has not been found.
Frances Harriet Hooker and the two youngest Hookers, Charles Paget Hooker and Brian Harvey Hodgson Hooker, had been staying in Norfolk because William Henslow Hooker, the Hookers’ eldest son, had scarlet fever (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [1 or 3 November 1863], and letter from J. D. Hooker to Emma Darwin, 11 November 1863). CD’s comment suggests that Charles Paget Hooker had also fallen ill.
Following the publication and distribution of an appeal against the use of steel traps to control vermin, Emma organised the raising of subscriptions to fund a competition for the design of a humane trap under the auspices of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (see letter from Emma Darwin to W. D. Fox, [6–27 September 1863], and Appendix IX).


Freeman, Richard Broke. 1978. Charles Darwin: a companion. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Galton, Francis. 1863. The first steps towards the domestication of animals. London: privately printed. [Read before the Ethnological Society of London, 22 December 1863, and printed in Transactions of the Ethnological Society of London n.s. 3 (1865): 122–38.]


CD too ill to write.

Has evidence of long life of seed transported on a partridge’s foot.

Sends a squib by Samuel Butler on the Origin.

Letter details

Letter no.
Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 215
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4351,” accessed on 2 March 2024,

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