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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   16 February 1864


Feby 16/64.

My dear Darwin

Our only large Flagellaria is 40 years old,! & we fear to remove it.1 Yours of Feby 6 is most intensely interesting & suggestive—2 What gigantic strides you are making in Veg. Phys.— Bentham is most anxious to have something this of yours to allude to in his anniversary address at which he is working3

We have not Naravelia alive, but I am writing to Anderson at Calcutta about it.—4 I do not see how we can any longer deny nerve-force to plants;—5 I think we used once to argue about it— When & where do you propose to publish?6

I suppose axis may pass into tendrils somehow as any organ may become axial & bear buds.7

Poor Horner has been at deaths-door with congestion of Lungs, last Friday or Saturday but is much better.8 he is in his 80th. year I think. All the family are up. Lyell9 came & spent Sunday afternoon & evening with us, very pleasantly, full of chat; we discussed Franklands new glacial theory which I think the most monstrous absurdity ever broached in Science & the most ill digested attempt.10 Have you seen Falconers attempt to explain absence of Lakes in Himal Valleys?— I fear it is not very successful.11

Have you seen the pamphlet on the production of sexes in animals &c, if not I can send it you.12

In “Ansted Ionian Islands” is a very suggestive account of the way vegetation breaks up rocks, & buildings producing Earthquaque appearances.13

I saw Lindley14 on Sunday looking very ill, complaining of constant headaches with the loss of memory.— So poor old Portlock is gathered to his fathers.15

I am very glad of the settlement of the Williams case by the Privy Council16—& shall subscribe to the Colenso defence fund on principle;17 but am not quite sure about Colenso himself— he ought to go further. My hope is that after the trial he will go out just to assert his position & then retire. his holding his Bishopric in Natal can only breed intolerable confusion & do his cause mischief; & as to his going out to convert Zulus, why, he has Xtians here to convert, & the Zulus are not worth a thought:— He might come back with great glory & set up in England as a Tutor abandoning his title & mitre.18 I have seen a good deal of him & consider him sanguine & unsafe.19

We are making private enquiries about a Curator to succeed Mr Smith,20 & I have written to Balfour, I wonder if he will recommend Scott;21 if he wants to get rid of him he is sure to do so. Do you know any-thing of Scotts capacity as manager of a large establishment, with 5 foremen, & no end of accounts, gardeners & labourers under him. I have my eye on the D. of Northumberlands Gardener at Syon,22 a man I like much, who had the wit to impregnate the Cocoa-nut which is now ripening & is very fond of scientific gardening, keeps an enormous establishment in splendid order, & is not too old.— oddly enough his name is John Smith.! he has been to volunteer for the appointment but we have taken no steps whatever yet.

Ever yr affec | J D Hooker

CD annotations

4.5 Have … successful 4.7] scored ink
5.1 Have … you. 5.2] scored ink


Hooker had sent a Flagellaria to CD earlier, but it was too young to have developed tendrils (see letter to J. D. Hooker, [8 February 1864] and n. 7). CD also received a specimen of dried Flagellaria leaves; these are in DAR 157.1: 109 and are labelled ‘Flagellaria leaves | Mauritius’ in Hooker’s hand. A note dated 25 February 1864 in DAR 157.1: 110 records the characteristics of F. indica that are described in ‘Climbing plants’, p. 46.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, [8 February 1864]; Hooker evidently thought the letter was written two days earlier.
In his annual presidential address on the anniversary of the Linnean Society, 24 May 1864 (Bentham 1864a), George Bentham discussed hybridity, comparing CD’s views as presented in Origin, pp. 245–78, with those of Dominique Alexandre Godron and Charles Victor Naudin (Bentham 1864a, pp. x–xvii). For discussions of Bentham’s address, see letters to J. D. Hooker, 22 [May 1864] and nn. 5–9, and 13 September [1864], and letter from J. D. Hooker, 16 September 1864. The September 1864 issue of the Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society, which includes Bentham’s address, is in the Darwin Library–CUL; CD annotated the address.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, [8 February 1864] and nn. 2 and 6. Thomas Anderson was the superintendent of the Calcutta botanic garden.
Hooker refers to CD’s comparisons of sensitivity in what he called the ‘nervous-system’ of the leaf-climbing plants, Clematis and Tropaeolum (see letter to J. D. Hooker, [8 February 1864] and n. 6).
CD’s paper ‘On the movements and habits of climbing plants’ was read at the Linnean Society on 2 February 1865 (‘Climbing plants’). It was published separately in 1865 (Climbing plants; Freeman 1977, pp. 116–17).
Hooker refers to CD’s speculation about how a leaf of a leaf-climbing plant could develop into a tendril (see letter to J. D. Hooker, [8 February 1864] and n. 10).
Charles Lyell was Horner’s son-in-law.
Hooker refers to a paper by Edward Frankland that was read on 29 January 1864 at the Royal Institution (Frankland 1864a). A report of Frankland’s lecture appeared in the Reader, 6 February 1864, pp. 171–2, and a longer version appeared in the May 1864 issue of the Philosophical Magazine (Frankland 1864b); a copy of the latter is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL and is inscribed by the author. Frankland proposed that the glacial epoch was caused by an increase in precipitation (snowfall) due to evaporation from the oceans, which had cooled more slowly than the earth. He wrote: ‘The sole cause of the phenomena of the glacial epoch was a higher temperature of the ocean than that which obtains at present’ (Frankland 1864a, p. 169), arguing that the lowered elevation of the snowline was essentially dependent on the amount of precipitation in the cold season rather than on the mean atmospheric temperature. See also Russell 1996, pp. 428–9.
Hugh Falconer delivered an extemporaneous speech at a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society on 27 January 1864; the speech was printed in the Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society 8: 38–42, and was later published in Falconer 1868, 2: 648–53, as a chapter entitled ‘On the glacial-erosion theory of lake-basins’. Hooker may have read the report of the speech in the Reader, 30 January 1864, pp. 142–3. Falconer argued that great fissures existed before the glacial period and accumulated silt from river deposition; he thought glaciers in the Alps and in parts of the Himalayas then scoured out the accumulated silt, creating lakes. In the valleys of the Himalayas with no lakes, Falconer argued that there had been no glaciers and therefore no way for the silt to be scoured out to create lakes. See Falconer 1868, 2: 650–2. In the following issue of the Reader (6 February 1864), pp. 173–4, Joseph Beete Jukes disputed Falconer’s argument; see also Falconer’s postscript to his letter to The Reader, 13 February 1864, p. 208. For a discussion of controversies in the 1860s regarding glacial erosion, see Davies 1969, pp. 303–8.
Hooker refers to Thury 1863, which may be the pamphlet CD thanked Candolle for in the letter from Emma Darwin to Alphonse de Candolle, 17 December [1863] (Correspondence vol. 11); see letter to J. D. Hooker, [20–]22 February [1864] and n. 15. There is a lightly annotated copy of Thury 1863 in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Hooker refers either to David Thomas Ansted’s The Ionian islands in the year 1863 (Ansted 1863a, pp. 196–7, 334–7), or to an article Ansted published in the last issue for 1863 of the quarterly Popular Science Review (Ansted 1863b, pp. 464–5).
Joseph Ellison Portlock died on 14 February 1864 (DNB).
In February 1864, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council reversed the sentences of the Court of Arches on Rowland Williams and Henry Bristow Wilson, who had been found guilty of heresy for the liberal theological opinions expressed in their contributions to the controversial volume Essays and reviews (see Annual register 1864, 1: 155–8, 2: 241–6). See also Correspondence vol. 9, second letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 [April 1861] and n. 21, letter to B. J. Sulivan, 24 May [1861], letter to John Lubbock, 1 [and 2] August [1861] and n. 5, and Appendix VI; Brock and MacLeod 1976; Ellis 1980; and Barton 1998, pp. 434–7.
On 20 March 1865, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council pronounced the deposition of Colenso by the bishop of Cape Town, Robert Gray, null and void. Colenso returned to his diocese in the same year, continuing his preaching and clerical work. Most of his mission work was complete, although he continued his translations into the Zulu language; in colonial conflicts during the 1870s he became an advocate for the native Africans. He also continued work on publications, including his examination of the Pentateuch (Colenso 1862–79). See DNB, Guy 1983, and Moore ed. 1988.
While in London from 1862 to 1865, Colenso associated frequently with members of the scientific community (see Guy 1983, pp. 100, 147, 150, and Barton 1998, pp. 434–7; see also Correspondence vol. 11, letter from H. G. Powell, 11 February 1863, letter from J. D. Hooker, [6 March 1863], and letter from S. P. Woodward, 5 June 1863; this volume, letter from J. D. Hooker, [19 September 1864]; and Correspondence vol. 13, letter from J. D. Hooker, [7–8 April 1865]). For Hooker’s earlier impression of Colenso, see L. Huxley ed. 1918, 2: 58.
John Smith (1798–1888) was the curator at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. See letter from J. D. Hooker, 5 February 1864 and n. 7.
John Hutton Balfour was regius keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, where John Scott was the foreman of the propagating department (DNB).
John Smith (1821–88) was the gardener of Algernon Percy, the fourth duke of Northumberland; Smith was hired in 1864 as the curator at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (R. Desmond 1994). Syon House was the property of the duke of Northumberland, near Isleworth, Middlesex, across the river Thames from Kew (Turrill 1959, p. 223).


Annual register: The annual register. A view of the history and politics of the year. 1838–62. The annual register. A review of public events at home and abroad. N.s. 1863–1946. London: Longman & Co. [and others].

Climbing plants: On the movements and habits of climbing plants. By Charles Darwin. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts & Green; Williams & Norgate. 1865.

‘Climbing plants’: On the movements and habits of climbing plants. By Charles Darwin. [Read 2 February 1865.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 9 (1867): 1–118.

Colenso, John William. 1862–79. The Pentateuch and Book of Joshua critically examined. 5 vols. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts & Green.

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.

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.

Ellis, Ieuan. 1980. Seven against Christ. A study of "Essays and reviews". Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill.

Essays and reviews. London: John W. Parker. 1860.

Falconer, Hugh. 1868. Palæontological memoirs and notes of the late Hugh Falconer … with a biographical sketch of the author. Compiled and edited by Charles Murchison. 2 vols. London: Robert Hardwicke.

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.

Guy, Jeff. 1983. The heretic. A study of the life of John William Colenso 1814–1883. Pietermaritzberg, South Africa: University of Natal Press. Johannesburg, South Africa: Ravan 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.

Russell, Colin Archibald. 1996. Edward Frankland: chemistry, controversy and conspiracy in Victorian England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thury, Marc Antoine. 1863. Mémoire sur la loi de production des sexes chez les plantes les animaux et l’homme. 2d edition. Geneva and Paris: Joël Cherbuliez.

Turrill, William Bertram. 1959. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, past and present. London: Herbert Jenkins.


CD’s climbing plant experiments make it impossible to deny nerve force in plants.

Has discussed Frankland’s new glacial theory with Lyell.

Bishop Colenso’s trial.

Possibility of Scott’s coming to Kew as a curator.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 183–5
Physical description
ALS 6pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4408,” accessed on 5 December 2022,

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