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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   16 September 1864


Sept 16/64.

Dear Old Darwin

Your letter1 rejoices me beyond any I have had for a 12 month, because you appear so well—because your climbing paper is finished,2 & because you are actually about to begin preparing the book of books.3

I am quite ashamed of not having read Scotts paper,4 I took it up, found it obscure & have kept it beside me ever since waiting leisure. I have spoken to Oliver about noticing it & he certainly will do so,5 availing himself thankfully of your promised marks & hints. I can quite appreciate the value & extraordinary interest of the facts you indicate—6 May it not be assumed that a violent change of color—yellow to red—signifies a great change in requirement for fecundation—a very different Insect to wit— Hence may not a variation in pollen or stigma in the case of the Cowslip require a different insect to ensure fertilization, & the variation of corolla to red be the one that attracts the right insect.

By all means quote Spruce’s observation— I saw him the other day for first time, he is a most able man—7 He tells me of Indians who hardly know the use of fire. I think Bates alludes to them.8

The Nepenthes is I think N. phyllamphora but I will look before writing again, & let you know.9

I will agitate the subject of a translation of Gærtner, for Ray Society— if you will write & propose it I will back it.—10 I much wish it were translated.

I have just finished Lyells address,11 the commencement is good, the middle dull, the latter part very interesting— on the whole it appears to me a feeble affair, & I seem to see in it (with great sorrow) that Lyell is getting old. He should have alluded to Franklands theory,12 whether to discuss or no. Tyndall13 came out last Sunday, he altogether despises Murchison’s discussion of Ramsays theory of Ice scooping,14 is writing himself on the physical structure of the Alps, I understand.15

I enclose an interesting note from A Gray for you—16 when done with, if you do not object I should like to send it to Dr. Masters, who is writing a book on Teratology.17

Do you take Bentham’s address as swallowing progressive developement whole? I do.— life, he says, has been one & continuous, without renewal & without break.18 He has to thank you for the caution about Naudin,19 which he introduced on my assuring him how strongly you felt the necessity of it.

Müller of Geneva20 is here (DeCandolles21 assistant)   he says that Thurys later experiments are not so favorable as his first. Muller makes one good objection to Thurys theory22—viz that it makes the production of sex a function of the female alone which is an a-priori extreme improbability.

I go to Bath tomorrow for 2 or 3 days,23 I am glad to do so though I go with a very heavy heart— on principle I think we should not keep anniversarys of great sorrows, but as the day draws nearer I feel all the misery of last year crawling over me & my lost child’s face & voice accompany me everywhere by day & by night:24 So that I now dread an attack of what were more the horrors of delirium tremens than the chastened sorrows of a sensible man. I am sure however that there is no fear of that now; time, as you told me it would, has done its inevitable work.

What queer mortals we are! poor Grove’s25 far more dreadful blow, reconciles me to my loss, in a real though irrational manner. I have felt for him exceedingly— It is too bad of me to write on such selfish subjects to you, & I am sure Mrs Darwin26 must be angry with me for doing so—but your affection for your children has been a great example to me, & there is no other living soul with whom I can talk of the subject.— it would make my wife27 ill if I went on so to her. She is wonderfully different from me, the loss simply made her very ill, almost dangerously so— I am of tougher coarser material, & like Rawdon Crawley,28 have greater capacity for feelings, which when once aroused, run riot, without deranging

CD annotations

4.1 N. phyllamphora] cross in margin, brown crayon
6.1 I have … address,] cross in margin, brown crayon
7.1 I enclose … Teratology. 7.3] cross in margin, brown crayon
8.1 Do you … whole?] cross in margin, brown crayon


In his letter to Hooker of 13 September [1864], CD mentioned that he was about to resume work on Variation, which was planned to be the first part of a three-part work documenting and expanding Origin (see Variation 1: 3–10 and Freeman 1977, p. 122).
Scott 1864a. Hooker had intended to read Scott 1864a soon after it was presented at the Linnean Society on 4 February 1864 (see letters from J. D. Hooker, 5 February 1864 and 9 [March] 1864). The printed version of the paper was issued to fellows of the Linnean Society on 3 September 1864 (General index to the Journal of the Linnean Society,
Hooker refers to Daniel Oliver, who was one of the editors of the Natural History Review. A brief review of Scott 1864a was published in the issue of the Natural History Review for October 1864, p. 640.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 September [1864] and n. 12. Richard Spruce had recently returned from a fifteen-year plant-collecting trip to South America (see Spruce 1908).
Hooker refers to The naturalist on the River Amazons (Bates 1863); however, the allusion has not been identified.
The reference is to Gärtner 1849. See letters to J. D. Hooker, 13 September [1864] and n. 6, and 23 September [1864] and enclosure, and letter to Ray Society, [before 4 November 1864]. Apparently no translation of Gärtner 1849 was undertaken (see Curle 1954, pp. 25–6).
Hooker refers to Charles Lyell’s presidential address to the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, delivered at Bath on the evening of 14 September 1864 (C. Lyell 1864). A report of the lecture was published in The Times on 15 September 1864, pp. 7–8. See also the Reader, 17 September 1864, pp. 356–61.
The reference is to Edward Frankland’s theory of the physical causes of the glacial period (Frankland 1864a and 1864b). For CD’s and Hooker’s earlier discussions of Frankland’s theory, see, for example, the letter from J. D. Hooker, 16 February 1864 and n. 10, and the letters to J. D. Hooker, [20–]22 February [1864] and 26[–7] March 1864.
Andrew Crombie Ramsay proposed a theory of the origin of rock-basins by glacial erosion in a paper read before the Geological Society of London on 5 March 1862 (Ramsay 1862). Ramsay’s theory was strongly criticised by Roderick Impey Murchison in Murchison 1864a, pp. 221–41, and 1864b, pp. 113–23. See letter from J. B. Jukes, 10 August 1864 and nn. 2–4, letter to J. D. Hooker [23 August 1864], and letter from J. D. Hooker, 5 September 1864).
In 1864 Tyndall published an article titled ‘On the conformation of the Alps’ (Tyndall 1864c), in which he put forward evidence in support of Ramsay’s glacial erosion theory (see n. 14, above). Tyndall’s article was in the printer’s hands before Murchison’s address against the erosion theory became available (Murchison 1864a), but Tyndall indicated in a postscript that after reading the address he had not revised his opinion, which was based on ‘observed facts’ (Tyndall 1864c, p. 271; see also Hevly 1996).
The enclosure from Asa Gray has not been found; however, for an indication of the note’s contents see the letter from M. T. Masters, 19 September 1864.
The reference is to Maxwell Tylden Masters and Masters 1869. There is an annotated copy of Masters 1869 in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 571).
Hooker probably refers to the following passage from George Bentham’s anniversary address to the Linnean Society on 24 May 1864 (Bentham 1864a, p. xx): Life is continuous, and has been so from a period beyond human cognizance. We witness its cessation, but it has never been known to commence. Every new being grows out of, and is a portion detached from, a preexisting one. On Bentham’s growing support for CD’s transmutation theory, see Correspondence vol. 11, letter to George Bentham, 19 June [1863] and n. 7, and this volume, letter from J. D. Hooker, 9 [March] 1864 and n. 7.
Marc Thury, professor of botany at the Faculté des Sciences, Geneva, had published an article on the laws governing the production of sexes in plants, animals, and humans (Thury 1863). There is a lightly annotated copy of this work in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Thury concluded from experiments with cattle that the sex of offspring was determined by the maturity of the egg at the time of fertilisation; his thesis was that eggs fertilised at an early stage after ovulation produced females, while eggs fertilised after further maturation produced males. The beginning of ovulation was determined by a rise in the animal’s body temperature. CD cited some information from Thury 1863 in Descent 2: 301, but did not refer to his theory. For CD’s view of Thury 1863, see the letter to J. D. Hooker, [20–]22 February [1864] and n. 15.
The annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science was held at Bath from 14 to 21 September 1864 (Report of the thirty-fourth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, p. lix).
Maria Elizabeth, Hooker’s daughter, died on 28 September 1863 aged 6 (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from J. D. Hooker, [28 September 1863], and letter to J. D. Hooker, [4 October 1863]).
William Robert Grove; the nature of Grove’s bereavement has not been established.
Emma Darwin; CD and Emma’s eldest daughter, Anne Elizabeth, died in 1851 (see Correspondence vol. 5).
Rawdon Crawley is a fictional character in William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel Vanity fair (Thackeray 1848).


Bates, Henry Walter. 1863. The naturalist on the River Amazons. A record of adventures, habits of animals, sketches of Brazilian and Indian life, and aspects of nature under the equator, during eleven years of travel. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

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.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

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.

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.

General index to the Journal of the Linnean Society: General index to the first twenty volumes of the Journal (Botany), and the botanical portion of the Proceedings, November 1838 to June 1886, of the Linnean Society. London: Linnean Society of London. 1888.

Hevly, Bruce. 1996. The heroic science of glacier motion. Osiris 11: 66–86.

Lyell, Charles. 1864. Presidential address. Report of the thirty-fourth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science; held at Bath, pp. lx–lxxv.

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.

Masters, Maxwell Tylden. 1869. Vegetable teratology, an account of the principal deviations from the usual construction of plants. London: Ray Society.

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.

Spruce, Richard. 1908. Notes of a botanist on the Amazon & Andes, being records of travel … during the years 1849–1864. Edited by Alfred Russel Wallace. 2 vols. London: Macmillan and Co.

Thackeray, William Makepeace. 1848. Vanity Fair. A novel without a hero. London: Bradbury & Evans.

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.

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


Rejoices that CD is beginning "the book of books", Variation.

Suggests that changes in colour of pollen, stigma, and corolla, as Scott reports in his Primula paper, may be related to changes in the insects required for pollination.

Supports Gärtner translation by Ray Society.

Comments on recent addresses by Lyell [Rep. BAAS 34 (1864): lx–lxxv], Bentham [Proc. Linn. Soc. Lond. 8 (1864): ix–xxiii], and Murchison [Rep. BAAS 34 (1864): 130–6].

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 243–5
Physical description
inc †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4614,” accessed on 20 April 2024,

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