skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   13 April [1864]


April 13

My dear Hooker

Cordial thanks for your excellent advice about Scott.—1 I have written to him, merely saying that I know that you wd. aid him, if in your power; but that he must not in the least trust to this in looking to the future; that you had men of your own to recommend, & that you did not know him personally.—2 I see there is no help, but it is really a pity that an indomitable worker shd. not be able to follow out laborious researches, which no one else will probably for years undertake.3 Again I thank you sincerely.— I have asked Scott to tell me his plans

When you write to Chief Baron, pray thank him with my sincere respect for his kind enquiries after me.—4 I really begin to hope that I shall recover & work again— Dr. Jenner has done me much good & is, I am sure, a most able doctor:5 drinking very little—enormous quantities of chalk, magnesia & Carb. of Ammonia has checked the vomiting wonderfully & I am gaining vigour.6 I can now read a very little & am beginning a sort of work, (not exciting!) viz counting the seeds in capsules of Lythrum. I believe in a fortnight, if I do not go back, I shall dictate my paper on Lythrum!!!!—7

I have been wonderfully interested by Oliver’s paper on Dimorphic flowers which has been read to me—8 How I shd like to cultivate Leersia9 Could I grow it in a large shallow tub? Have you seed? Could you tell me any Botanist in Sussex or Hampshire to whom I could write & who could send me plants? or is it hopeless?— That the perfect flowers shd. not be fertile is wondrous, & I shd. like to examine into the case.—10 I am educating my under gardener into an expert experimentalist.—11

Farewell my dear & best of old friends | Ever yours affect | C. Darwin


In his letter of 8 April 1864, Hooker had advised CD how to reply to John Scott’s request that Hooker might consider recommending him for a foreign appointment.
For an example of Scott’s recent botanical research, see the letter from John Scott, 28 March 1864. See also letters to J. D. Hooker, [1 April 1864] and nn. 3–5, and 7 April [1864] and n. 4.
CD refers to Jonathan Frederick Pollock’s note to Hooker (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 April 1864).
In CD’s ‘Journal’, he reported that he was ill during the first three months of 1864, and was last sick on 13 April (see Correspondence vol. 12, Appendix II; see also letter to T. H. Huxley, 11 April [1864] and n. 6). Emma Darwin recorded in her diary (DAR 242) that William Jenner visited Down on 20 March and 10 April (see also letter from William Jenner to Emma Darwin, [17 March 1864], and letter from J. D. Hooker, 29 March 1864 and n. 23).
Contemporary medical sources recommended limiting the drinking of water as a treatment for those suffering from acute gastritis (see, for example, Roberts 1873, p. 656). For 22 March 1864, Emma Darwin recorded in her diary (DAR 242): ‘began lime water chalk & mag’. Jenner had evidently prescribed CD a combination of antacids that included lime-water, chalk, and carbonate of magnesia. Carbonate of ammonia, lime-water, and chalk were generally prescribed as antacids, with chalk also used as an absorbent (see Royle and Headland 1865, pp. 67, 118, 121). For a nineteenth-century description of the effect of carbonate of ammonia, lime-water, and chalk on the stomach and intestines, see Ringer 1869, pp. 109–12 and 116–18. For CD’s prescription of carbonate of magnesia, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 April 1864, n. 9. See also letter from William Jenner, 14 August 1864.
CD had first become interested in the three flower-forms of Lythrum salicaria at the end of 1861; he made crossing experiments in 1862 and 1863 (see Correspondence vol. 12, Appendix III). According to CD’s ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 12, Appendix II), he began counting Lythrum seeds ‘about April 20th’ 1864, and finished the paper about 25 May 1864 (see also letter to Asa Gray, 25 February [1864], experimental notes in DAR 109, and a draft of a paper in DAR 27.2). His paper ‘Three forms of Lythrum salicaria was read at the Linnean Society on 16 June 1864.
CD refers to [Oliver] 1864a (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 April [1864] and n. 22).
In [Oliver] 1864a, pp. 244–5, Daniel Oliver discussed the aquatic European cut-grass, Leersia oryzoides, which he said grew in some of the southern counties of England. See also n. 10, below.
CD was intrigued by Oliver’s comment that though the ‘imperfect’, or unopening, flowers inside the sheath of Leersia were self-fertile, the open flowers outside the sheath did not produce seed (see [Oliver] 1864a, pp. 244–5, and CD’s notes in DAR 111: A40). CD had been interested in flowers that never opened and were evidently self-pollinated (later called cleistogamic) since 1862, when he began studying the unopening flowers of Oxalis and Viola (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 10, letter to Asa Gray, 10–20 June [1862], and Correspondence vol. 11, letter from Daniel Oliver, 27 November 1863 and n. 7, and letter to Daniel Oliver 28 [November 1863] and nn. 5–7). See also ‘Three forms of Lythrum salicaria, pp. 191–2 n. (Collected papers 2: 130–1).
CD refers to Henry Lettington (Census returns 1861 (Public Record Office, RG9/462: 70, 74)). See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 April [1864], n. 19.


Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

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

Ringer, Sydney. 1869. A handbook of therapeutics. London: H. K. Lewis.

Roberts, Frederick T. 1873. A handbook of the theory and practice of medicine. London: H. K. Lewis.

‘Three forms of Lythrum salicaria’: On the sexual relations of the three forms of Lythrum salicaria. By Charles Darwin. [Read 16 June 1864.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 8 (1865): 169–96. [Collected papers 2: 106–31.]


CD has told Scott not to hope for help from JDH.

Health improving.

Hopes to write Lythrum paper soon.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 229
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4461,” accessed on 2 March 2024,

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