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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   5 [December 1863]


Saturday 5th

My dear Hooker

I am very glad that this will reach you at Kew & that Mrs. Hooker will soon be with you.1 You will then get rest & I do hope some lull in anxiety & fear.2 Nothing is so dreadful in this life as fear: it still sickens me when I cannot help remembering some of the many illnesses our children have endured.—3 My Father, who was a sceptical man, was convinced that he had distinctly traced several cases of scarlet-fever to handling letters from convalescents.4

The vases did come from my sister Susan;5 she is recovering & was much pleased to hear that you liked them: I have now sent one of your notes to her, in which you speak of them as “enchanting” &c.—6

I have had a bad spell, vomiting every day for eleven days & some days many times after every meal.7 It is astonishing the degree to which I keep up some strength. Dr. Brinton8 was here 2 days ago & says he sees no reason I may not recover my former degree of health.— I shd. like to live to do a little more work & often I feel sure I shall & then again I feel that my tether is run out.—

Your Hastings note, my dear old fellow, was a Copley medal to me & more than a Copley medal;9 not but what I know well that you overrate what I have been able to do. Now that I am disabled, I feel more than ever what a pleasure observing & making out little difficulties is.—

By the way here is a very little fact which may interest you.— A partridge’s foot, is described in Proc. Zoolog. Soc. with huge ball of earth attached to it, as hard as rock—10 Bird killed in 1860— Leg has been sent me & I find it diseased & no doubt exudation caused earth to accumulate: now already 32 plants have come up from this ball of earth.—11

Many thanks about Edinburgh R.—12 Do not send Hochstetter.—13

By Jove I must write no more— good Bye, my best of friends. | C. Darwin

Remember me most kindly to Huxley14 when you see him   What a capital paper the “Reader” has become15

There is an Italian Edit. of Origin preparing!!!16 This makes fifth foreign Edit, ie in five foreign countries.17 Owen will not be right in telling Longmans that Book wd be utterly forgotten in ten years—18



The letter from Hooker conveying this information has not been found. Frances Harriet Hooker had been staying with relatives in Norfolk since the burial of their daughter, Maria Elizabeth Hooker (see letters from J. D. Hooker, 1 October 1863 and 23 October 1863).
Hooker’s son, William Henslow Hooker, and mother, Maria Hooker, were both ill with scarlet fever (see letters from J. D. Hooker, 23 October 1863 and [1 or 3 November 1863], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 27 [November 1863]).
Recent serious family illnesses included Charles Waring Darwin’s fatal attack of scarlet fever and Henrietta Emma’s attack of diphtheria in 1858, and Leonard Darwin’s attack of scarlet fever in 1862; Horace Darwin also had a serious illness throughout the early part of 1862 (see Correspondence vols. 7 and 10).
Robert Waring Darwin was a physician (Freeman 1978). See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 27 [November 1863].
CD refers to his sister Susan Elizabeth Darwin, who lived at The Mount, Shrewsbury, and to some Wedgwood vases that she had sent to Hooker (see letters to J. D. Hooker, 16 [November 1863], [22–3 November 1863], and 27 [November 1863]).
Hooker’s note has not been found.
According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), CD had been vomiting almost daily from mid-November 1863.
William Brinton was a physician at St Thomas’s Hospital, London, and a specialist in stomach disorders (Physicians).
The letter from Hooker has not been found. The Copley Medal was awarded by the council of the Royal Society, usually annually, for outstanding ‘philosophical research’ (Record of the Royal Society, Appendix IV). Adam Sedgwick was awarded the Copley Medal in 1863; CD was an unsuccessful candidate (see letter from E. A. Darwin, 9 November [1863], letter from E. A. Darwin to Emma Darwin, 11 November [1863], and letter to J. D. Hooker, [22–3 November 1863]).
The reference is to the Edinburgh Review (see letter to J. D. Hooker, [22–3 November 1863], and n. 13).
Presumably this is a reference to Hochstetter 1863.
The Reader was a weekly journal reviewing literary and scientific works. The journal, which was issued for the first time on Saturday 3 January 1863, was liberal, religiously neutral, and had a circulation of about 1,000 (Ellegard 1990, Sullivan ed. 1984). CD began subscribing to the Reader by April 1863 (see letter to H. W. Bates, 18 April [1863]).
An Italian edition of Origin, translated by Giovanni Canestrini and Leonardo Salimbeni, was published in Modena by the firm of Nicola Zanichelli in 1864 (Freeman 1977, p. 105).
Several editions of Origin had appeared in the United States (Freeman 1977, p. 85), and translations had been published in Germany (Bronn trans. 1860), the Netherlands (Winkler trans. 1860), and France (Royer trans. 1862). There are copies of Bronn trans. 1860 and Winkler trans. 1860 in the Darwin Library–CUL; Bronn trans. 1860 is annotated (see Marginalia 1: 180–1). CD’s copy of Royer trans. 1862 has not been found but a lightly annotated copy of the preface is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
The occasion on which Richard Owen made this remark has not been identified; CD mentioned Owen’s comment in letters to J. D. Hooker, 3 March [1860] and [2 July 1860] (Correspondence vol. 8). The London publishing house Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts & Green was commonly known as ‘Longmans’ (P. A. H. Brown 1982).


Brown, Philip A. H. 1982. London publishers and printers c. 1800–1870. London: British Library.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

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

Hochstetter, Ferdinand Christian von. 1863. Neu-Seeland. Stuttgart: Cotta’scher.

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.

Newton, Alfred. 1863. On an illustration of the manner in which birds may occasionally aid in the dispersion of seeds. [Read 21 April 1863.] Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London (1863): 127–9.

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.

Physicians: The roll of the Royal College of Physicians of London. By William Munk. 2d edition, revised and enlarged. 3 vols. London: Royal College of Physicians. 1878. Lives of the fellows of the Royal College of Physicians of London. Compiled by G. H. Brown et al. 5 vols. London: Royal College of Physicians. Oxford and Washington, D.C.: IRL Press. 1955–89.


His bad health continues.

Thirty-two plants have come up from the earth attached to partridge’s foot.

Origin to be published in Italian.

Owen was wrong: Origin will not be forgotten in ten years.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 213
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4353,” accessed on 27 May 2022,

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