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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   13 September [1864]1


Sept. 13th

My dear Hooker

Thanks for your note of the 5th.—2 You think much, & greatly too much, of me & my doings.; but this is pleasant for you have represented for many years the whole great Public to me.—

I have read with interest Bentham’s address on Hybridism.3 I am glad that he is cautious about Naudin’s view,4 for I cannot think that it will hold. The tendency of hybrids to revert to either parent is part of a wider law (which I am fully convinced that I can show experimentally) namely that crossing races as well as species tends to bring back characters which existed in progenitors, hundreds & thousands of generations ago.5 Why this should be so, God knows— But Naudin’s view throws no light, that I can see, on this reversion of long lost characters.—

I wish the Ray Soc. would translate Gärtner’s Bastarderzeugung;6 it contains more valuable matter than all other works put together, & would do great service if better known.—

I have been greatly interested by Scotts paper;7 I probably overrate it from caring for the subject, but it certainly seems to me one of the very most remarkable memoirs on such subjects which I have ever read.— From the subject being complex & style in parts obscure, I suppose very few will read it.— I think it ought to be noticed in N. H. Review; otherwise the more remarkable facts will never be known.— Try & persuade Oliver to do it:8 with the Summary it wd not be troublesome   I would offer, but I have sworn to myself I will do nothing till my volume on “Variation under Domestication” is complete.9 I know you will not have time to read Scott & therefore I will just point out the new & as they seem to me important points.

(1) The Red Cowslip, losing its dimorphic structure & changing so extraordinarily in its great production of seed with its own pollen; especially being nearly sterile when fertilised by, or fertilising, the common cowslip.— The analogous facts with red & white primrose.—10

Secondly, the utter dissimilarity of action of the pollen of long- & short-styled form of one species in crossing with a distinct species.—11 And many other points. Will you suggest to Oliver to review this paper— if he does so & if it would be of any service to him, I would (as I have attended so much to these subjects) just indicate, with pages, leading & new points.— I could send him, if he wishes, a separate & spare copy marked with pencil.—

And now I have two questions.

First, May I quote substance of Spruce’s note on Marcgravia,12 or should I write & ask his permission?

Secondly, what species of Nepenthes climbs so well? Remember I quote you that they climb well.13 At Veitch’s, the foreman did not know that any climbed; but I saw some which had twisted round the footstalks of other pitcher & were in this part, as you said, thickened; but then some which had taken a turn diagram in the air, round nothing, were likewise here thickened. 14 I have not heard from Harvey on Cape Climbers;15 if I do not hear soon, I will write to him a refresher.—

I have done my gigantic “Climbing” paper,16 except 2 or 3 additions on plants now under observation— Praise the Lord, & congratulate me. And now this minute I will get out papers on Variation—17 Oh dear, no more fun & new work—

Farewell my dear old fellow | C. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, 5 September 1864.
The reference is to George Bentham’s anniversary address to the Linnean Society, which was read on 24 May 1864 (Bentham 1864a, pp. x–xvii). Bentham began his address by summarising the main points of CD’s chapter on hybridism in Origin, pp. 245–78. He then went on to discuss the independent work on hybridism published by Dominique Alexandre Godron (Godron 1863) and Charles Victor Naudin (Naudin 1863), before concluding with some remarks on hybridism in animals. Bentham also noted that Naudin’s main conclusions on hybridism supported CD’s. The works by Godron and Naudin were both submitted as entries for the physical science prize of the Académie des Sciences, which was offered in 1860 for an essay on hybridism in plants; the prize was awarded to Naudin in 1862. For a discussion of the competition, see the Natural History Review n.s. 4 (1864): 50–7.
Both Godron’s and Naudin’s experiments indicated that when hybrids between species or marked varieties became fertile, that fertility increased in successive generations and was accompanied by a tendency to return to the character of one of the parent types. Naudin’s explanation of this phenomenon was the hypothesis that in the hybrid the two parental essences are intermixed, not blended, and that in future generations, the reproductive parts of one essence tend to combine with those of the same essence, with the gradual effect of eliminating the other parental essence (Naudin 1863, pp. 191–5). Bentham commented that more observations and much better knowledge than was then possessed of the ‘physiology of fecundation’ was needed before this new hypothesis could be accepted as proven (Bentham 1864a, p. xiv). Bentham’s caution may have been influenced by CD’s opinion, which was conveyed to him by Hooker (see letters from J. D. Hooker, 19 May 1864 and 16 September 1864, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 22 [May 1864]). For a discussion of Naudin’s hypothesis and CD’s assessment of it, see Geison 1969, pp. 404–11, Rheinberger 1983, Olby 1985, pp. 47–53, and J. Harvey 1997a. See also Correspondence vol. 13, letter to M. E. Wichura, 3 February [1865]. CD discussed Naudin’s hypothesis in Variation 2: 48–9 and 386. CD’s annotated copy of Naudin 1863 is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Naudin 1863 was later republished as part of Naudin 1865; there is an annotated copy of Naudin 1865 in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 638–9).
CD discussed reversion to ancestral characteristics by crossing in Origin, pp. 159–67, and presented experimental evidence of this phenomenon in Variation 2: 28–61 in a discussion of his crossing experiments with different varieties of domestic chickens. CD gave the results of crossing a Spanish cock and a silk hen; the offspring of the cross resembled the presumed ancestral breed Gallus bankiva in colour, rather than either of the parent varieties. For CD’s interest in reversion in plants, see the letter from John Scott, 7 January [1864] and n. 11. For the significance of distant reversion in shaping CD’s views on heredity, see Olby 1985, pp. 51–4.
Gärtner 1849 was one of CD’s principal sources of information on hybridism. CD’s chapter on hybridism in Origin drew extensively on the experimental work of Karl Friedrich von Gärtner, which he regarded as of great theoretical significance (see Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix VI). Gärtner is also frequently cited in Variation. CD’s 1855 memorandum on Gärtner 1849 is in DAR 116 (see Correspondence vol. 5, letter to M. J. Berkeley, 7 April [1855], n. 3), and there is a heavily annotated copy of Gärtner 1849 in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 256–98). See also Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix V, for CD’s views on the importance and reliability of Gärtner’s work. The Ray Society was established in 1844 with the object of publishing important works of natural history that were unlikely to prove commercially profitable (Curle 1954, p. 2).
CD refers to the Natural History Review and to Daniel Oliver, one of the journal’s editors. A brief review of Scott 1864a was published in the issue of the Natural History Review for October 1864, p. 640.
CD completed the manuscript of Variation in 1867 (see CD’s ‘Journal’ (DAR 158)).
See CD’s notes on Scott’s paper enclosed with the letter to Asa Gray, 13 September [1864] and nn. 11, 13, and 14.
See letter from Richard Spruce to J. D. Hooker, 29 July 1864 and n. 3. Spruce is cited on Marcgravia umbellata in ‘Climbing plants’, p. 105.
James Veitch (1815–69) was a London nurseryman with premises on the King’s Road, Chelsea, London (Post Office London directory 1863). CD was in London from 25 August to 1 September 1864 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 12, Appendix II)). CD recorded his observations on Nepenthes at Veitch’s in ‘Climbing plants’, p. 46.
CD returned to his manuscript on Variation on 14 September 1864, beginning with a draft of the chapters on laws of variation, Variation 2: 293–356 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 12, Appendix II)).


‘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.

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

Curle, Richard. 1954. The Ray Society: a bibliographical history. London: Ray Society.

Gärtner, Karl Friedrich von. 1849. Versuche und Beobachtungen über die Bastarderzeugung im Pflanzenreich. Mit Hinweisung auf die ähnlichen Erscheinungen im Thierreiche, ganz umgearbeitete und sehr vermehrte Ausgabe der von der Königlich holländischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Stuttgart: E. Schweizerbart.

Geison, Gerald L. 1969. Darwin and heredity: the evolution of his hypothesis of pangenesis. Journal of the History of Medicine 24: 375–411.

Godron, Dominique Alexandre. 1863. Des hybrides végétaux considérés au point de vue de leur fécondité et de la perpétuité ou non-perpétuité de leurs caractères. Annales des Sciences Naturelles (Botanique) 4th ser. 19: 135–79.

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.

Naudin, Charles Victor. 1863. Nouvelles recherches sur l’hybridité dans les végétaux. Annales des Sciences Naturelles (Botanique) 4th ser. 19: 180–203.

Olby, Robert. 1985. Origins of Mendelism. 2d edition. Chicago and London: University of Chicago 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.

Post Office London directory: Post-Office annual directory. … A list of the principal merchants, traders of eminence, &c. in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent … general and special information relating to the Post Office. Post Office London directory. London: His Majesty’s Postmaster-General [and others]. 1802–1967.

Rheinberger, Hans-Jörg. 1983. Naudin, Darwin, Nägeli: Bemerkungen zu den Vererbungsvorstellungen des 19. Jahrhunderts. Medizinhistorisches Journal 18: 198–212.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Pleased that Bentham is cautious about Naudin’s view of reversion. CD can show experimentally that crossing of races and species tends to bring back ancient characters.

Suggests Gärtner’s Bastarderzeugung [1849] be translated

and that Oliver review Scott’s Primula paper [J. Linn. Soc. Lond. (Bot.) 8 (1865): 78–126] for a future issue of Natural History Review.

Is working on Variation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 249a–b
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4612,” accessed on 22 July 2024,

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