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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [10 and 12 January 1864]1



My dear Hooker.

The last few weeks have been bad ones with excessive vomiting, but I am now better again somewhat.—2 So poor old Boott is gone:3 I never knew him much; but his kindly nature excited love from the first sight.— Emma has written a few lines to Mrs. Boott—4 Do you know her maiden name: I suspect she is grandaughter of Dr. Darwin of Zoonom., who had some illegitimate daughters, who were brought up like ladies.—5

Your article in N. H. Review has been read to me: as usual you honour me.—6 I have been much interested by it; partly because about a year ago I speculated, (after reading about the habits of European weeds in U. States),7 just like you, that our agragrian8 weeds have become habituated & fitted for cultivated ground, And secondly because I have been intending to suggest to you to try & get from N. Zealand, seeds of those few European plants, which are indigenous there, & have been subsequently introduced; & compare the plants raised in this country from such seeds with our true indigenous species; so as accurately see what differences there are.9


Charles had a bad attack of sickness yesterday & he is not able to write himself today11 but he wishes me to tell you that he has a paper from Mr John Scott of the Edin. Botan. Garden on Dimorphism with quite original observations & he will communicate it to the Linn. Soc.12 & he begs if you shd hear it read & hear any favourable mention made about it that you would let Ch. know as Mr Scott has taken immense trouble & is very diffident & low spirited about himself & C. wd be very glad to tell him any thing to encourage him.13

C. wd like very much to know what you think of Herbert Spencer as he cannot appreciate him. He has heard from Mr Wallace with the highest praise of him especially the Social Statics.14 Do you know them

yours very truly | E. D


The dates are established by the reference to the manuscript of Scott 1864a, which CD was preparing to communicate to the Linnean Society (see letter from John Scott, 7 January [1864], and nn. 12 and 13, below). In 1864, 10 January was a Sunday.
On CD’s health, see, for example, letter to John Scott, 8 January [1864] and n. 4. Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242) for 10 January 1864 recorded ‘copious sickness’ at 9:30 that evening.
Francis Boott died of a lung disease on 25 December 1863 (DNB).
Mary Boott was the daughter of Lucy Hardcastle, the botanist, and John Hardcastle (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 24 January 1864, and Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society 8 (1865): xxiii–xxvii). CD refers to his paternal grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, the author of Zoonomia; or, the laws of organic life (1794–6). Between his two marriages, Erasmus Darwin had two daughters with Mary Parker (1753–1820): Susanna Parker (1772–1856) and Mary Parker (1774–1859). The daughters were brought up in Erasmus Darwin’s household; with their father’s advice and financial help, they later established and ran a girls’ school in Ashbourne, Derbyshire (see E. Darwin 1797, King-Hele 1977, pp. 234–7, and King-Hele ed. 1981, pp. 78, 209–10). The reason for CD’s suspicion that Lucy Hardcastle was a daughter of Erasmus Darwin’s is not known, but see the letters from J. D. Hooker, 24 January 1864 and nn. 10 and 11, and [23 November 1864] and n. 13, and King-Hele 1999, p. 105.
CD refers to Hooker’s article, ‘Note on the replacement of species in the colonies and elsewhere’ (J. D. Hooker 1864a), published in the January 1864 issue of the Natural History Review. Hooker wrote that CD, the ‘great naturalist’, had been the only author who had had ‘the boldness to inquire into the rationale’ of the replacement of indigenous plants and animals by foreign species, and who had grappled with ‘the startling fact that plants are thus proved to be located by nature, not necessarily under the conditions best suited to their development’ (ibid., p. 125; Origin, pp. 114–16, 201–2, 336–8). CD’s unbound copy of the January 1864 issue of the Natural History Review contains annotations on J. D. Hooker 1864a and is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
CD probably refers to Susan Augusta Fenimore Cooper’s Journal of a naturalist in the United States (Cooper 1855), which he read at the end of 1862 (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to Asa Gray, 6 November [1862]).
CD tended to misspell ‘agrarian’ (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 7, letter to J. D. Hooker, 28 January [1859]).
See n. 6, above. CD also expressed his interest in the spreading of European species to other continents in his letter to Julius von Haast of 22 January 1863 (Correspondence vol. 11). Hooker’s article (J. D. Hooker 1864a) included quotations (pp. 126–7) about the replacement of indigenous species from the letter to CD from Julius von Haast of 21 July [– 7? August] 1863 (Correspondence vol. 11). CD sent this letter to Hooker with his letter of 10 [November 1863] (Correspondence vol. 11); see also Correspondence vol. 11, letter from J. D. Hooker to Emma Darwin, 11 November 1863 and n. 4.
CD wrote the first section of the letter in pencil; Emma Darwin wrote and signed the second section of the letter.
For 11 January 1864, Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242) recorded sickness at 8:30 (‘slight’), 10:30 (‘bad sick & distress’), 2:30 (‘many times’), and 2:00 (‘twice in night’).
Hooker did not hear John Scott’s paper (Scott 1864a) read at the Linnean Society on 4 February 1864; however, he relayed news of its reception in his letter of 5 February 1864. See also letter to John Scott, 6 February [1864], and letter from J. D. Hooker, [before 9 February 1864].
Alfred Russel Wallace praised Herbert Spencer’s work, including Spencer 1851, to which Emma Darwin refers here, in his letter of 2 January 1864. For CD’s reading and opinion of Spencer’s work, see letter from A. R. Wallace, 2 January 1864, nn. 23 and 24.


Cooper, Susan Fenimore. 1855. Journal of a naturalist in the United States. 2 vols. London: R. Bentley.

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

Darwin, Erasmus. 1797. A plan for the conduct of female education in boarding schools. London: J. Johnson.

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.

King-Hele, Desmond. 1977. Doctor of revolution. The life and genius of Erasmus Darwin. London: Faber & Faber.

King-Hele, Desmond. 1999. Erasmus Darwin. A life of unequalled achievement. London: Giles de la Mare Publishers.

King-Hele, Desmond, ed. 1981. The letters of Erasmus Darwin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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.

Spencer, Herbert. 1851. Social statics: or, the conditions essential to human happiness specified, and the first of them developed. London: John Chapman.


CD very ill.

Suspects F. Boott’s widow is illegitimate granddaughter of Erasmus Darwin.

CD, like JDH, has speculated that agrarian weeds have become adapted to cultivated ground. Suggests comparison with country of origin.

Wallace’s praise of Herbert Spencer’s Social statics baffles CD.

[Letter completed by E. A. Darwin.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 216
Physical description
AL 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4389,” accessed on 20 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 12