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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   23 September [1864]1

Down Bromley Kent

Sept. 23d

My dear Hooker

There never was such a man as you. I did not in the least expect to hear about the Brit. Assoc., & so many things you have told me that I liked to hear.2 What splendid news about Scott, i.e. if he gets it; I do not know when I have been so much pleased & I am delighted that I paid his passage & I fully believe that he will justify all your extraordinary kindness: you have just made the fortune of an able & I am convinced worthy man.3 I shall be disappointed if hereafter he does not do some good work in science. Please remember & let me hear how I must propose him as Assoc. for Linn. Soc.—4 To hear how pleasant Bath was makes me a little envious; but I must try & be contented, for I begin pretty plainly to see that the best I can hope for is not to be worse.—

I thank you sincerely for your previous letter: your openness towards me gratifies me deeply, & you must know that you have my entire sympathy.5 I never remember dates for good or evil, & I do believe I have thus escaped many a bitter day.— Do not be in a hurry about the operation;6 for I distinctly remember some very good authority being against it on such occasions.— How many anxieties & sorrows there are, great & small, as life advances, & nothing to be done but bear them as well as one can, & that I cannot do at all well.—

I enclose a note for Ray Soc. which I hope will do.—7 I am prodigal of suggestions, & it has occurred to me that a Royal Medal might before long be well bestowed on Wallace.—8

I am glad to hear that the Lyells are so well pleased; I think I quite agree to what you say about his Address.9 I regretted most the confined view which he took on change of temperature during Glacial period, with not the slightest allusion to New Zealand or S. America; & he knows well that all our continents are old as continents. I can never believe that change of land & water will suffice.—10

I sent on A. Gray’s note about Orchids direct to Masters,11 as I had a few monstrous plants which I thought he would like to see: he was very glad to get Asa Gray’s note.—

I hardly know what to think about Bentham’s address.12 A man sometimes uses such expressions as “life without renewal or break” in some non-natural sense. I shd. be pleased if he were to give up successive creations. How many have gone thus far within the few last years!—

Remember to give me name of the climbing Nepenthes.—13

I have begun looking over my old M.S.14 & it is as fresh as if I had never written it: parts are astonishingly dull, but yet worth printing I think; & other parts strike me as very good. I am a complete millionaire in odd & curious little facts & I have been really astounded at my own industry whilst reading my chapters on Inheritance & Selection.15 God knows when the Book will ever be completed,16 for I find that I am very weak & on my best days cannot do more than 1 or 112 hours work. It is a good deal harder than writing about my dear climbing plants.17

GoodBye my dear old fellow & with thanks for your two charming letters,18 farewell; but do not write soon again

Ever yours | C. Darwin

Do you object to my putting this sentence from old note from you?19

“Annual plants sometimes become perennial under a different climate, as I hear from Dr. Hooker is the case with the stock & migniotte in Tasmania”.

(say yes or no)

I know the case is nothing wonderful, & I want only just thus to allude to it—


[Draft]20 Down My dear Hooker

Would you propose or suggest for me to the Council of the Ray Society, the translation of Gärtners great work “Versuche & Beobachtungen ueber die Bastarderzeugung 1849” in 790 pages.21 I believe I have read with attention everything that has been published on hybridisation & worked a little practically on the subject, & I do not hesitate to affirm that there is more useful & trust worthy matter in Gärtners work than in all others combined even including Kölreuter perhaps.22

This work is very little known in England & apparently even less in France. I am convinced that the Ray Soc. would confer an essential benefit on natural science by its translation—

My dear Hooker | Yours sincerely


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letters from J. D. Hooker, 16 September 1864 and [19 September 1864].
CD refers to Hooker’s recommendation of John Scott for a new post at a botanic garden in Darjeeling (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [19 September 1864] and n. 22). Hooker had also assisted Scott in making arrangements for the journey to India, and CD had paid for Scott’s passage (see letters from J. D. Hooker, [29 July 1864] and [15 August 1864], and letter to Asa Gray, 13 September [1864] and n. 9).
George Bentham, the president of the Linnean Society, had been impressed by Scott’s paper on reproduction in the Primulaceae (Scott 1864a), and proposed that he be elected an associate of the Society. See letter from J. D. Hooker, [before 9 February 1864], and letter to John Scott, 9 February [1864] and nn. 6–9.
CD refers to Hooker’s discussion of his feelings on the anniversary of his daughter’s death (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 16 September 1864 and n. 24).
The reference to an operation may have been in the missing portion of Hooker’s letter of 16 September 1864.
See enclosure.
See letters from J. D. Hooker, 16 September 1864 and [19 September 1864]. CD refers to Charles and Mary Elizabeth Lyell, and to C. Lyell 1864.
In his presidential address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science (C. Lyell 1864, pp. lxx–lxxiii), Lyell confined his discussion of glaciation to central Europe. Lyell first proposed that alterations in physical geography might have given rise to changes in climate in 1830 (see C. Lyell 1830–3, 1: 140, and Ospovat 1977). CD had long been opposed to this theory (see Correspondence vol. 7, letters to J. D. Hooker, 15 March [1859] and 30 March [1859], Correspondence vol. 10, letter to A. C. Ramsay, 5 September [1862], and this volume, letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 April [1864] and n. 8). CD also refers to Lyell’s failure to discuss glaciation in the southern hemisphere; he had been critical of Lyell for not discussing this in Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863a); see Correspondence vol. 11, letter to Charles Lyell, 6 March [1863]. CD examined the geological evidence of a past glacial epoch in New Zealand and South America in Origin, and used the hypothesis of a simultaneous glacial period in the northern and southern hemispheres to explain the modern distribution of plant and animal species (see Origin, pp. 373–82). CD incorporated additional information on glaciation in the southern hemisphere in later editions of Origin (see Peckham ed. 1959, pp. 592–3).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 September [1864] and n. 13, and letters from J. D. Hooker, 16 September 1864 and [28 September 1864] and n. 2.
According to his journal, CD had not worked on the manuscript of Variation since 20 July 1863 (see Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix II, and this volume, Appendix II). See also letter to Asa Gray, 13 September [1864]. CD began writing Variation in 1860 (see Correspondence vol. 8, Appendix II).
CD refers to his draft chapter on inheritance, published as chapters 12 to 14 of Variation (Variation 2: 1–84), which was finished on 1 April 1863, and to his draft chapter on selection, which became chapters 20 and 21 of Variation (Variation 2: 192–249), and was completed on 20 July 1863 (see Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix II).
Variation was published in 1868.
It had taken CD four months to write ‘Climbing plants’ (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 12, Appendix II)). See also letter to Asa Gray, 13 September [1864] and n. 3.
Letters from J. D. Hooker, 16 September 1864 and [19 September 1864].
This postscript was written on a separate sheet and was returned to CD. On the original, below the question mark, is written ‘No JH’. The letter in which Hooker made this statement has not been identified, and CD does not appear to have made use of the information. Hooker visited Tasmania in 1840, during his period of service as assistant surgeon and naturalist on HMS Erebus (see R. Desmond 1999, pp. 44–6). For CD’s early interest in the nature of annual plants and the possibility of their becoming perennial, see Correspondence vol. 4, letter from Abraham Clapham, 8 March 1850 and n. 1.
The enclosure to this letter has not been found; however, this is evidently a draft of it. See also letter to Ray Society, [before 4 November 1964].
CD refers to Versuche und Beobachtungen über die Bastarderzeugung im Pflanzenreich (Experiments and observations on the production of hybrids in the plant kingdom: Gärtner 1849). CD had expressed a wish to see this work translated and Hooker had offered to raise the matter with the Ray Society, with the suggestion that CD put his request in writing (see letter to JD. Hooker, 13 September [1864], and letter from J. D. Hooker, 16 September 1864). For a discussion of the importance of Gärtner 1849 for CD’s work on hybridisation, see the letter to JDHooker, 13 September [1864] and n. 6.
CD refers to Joseph Gottlieb Kölreuter’s work on plant hybridisation (Kölreuter 1761–6). CD’s heavily annotated copy of this work is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 458–71); it is cited in Origin, pp. 271–2, and is also frequently cited in Natural selection and Variation. For the significance attached by CD to Kölreuter’s experiments see, for example, Correspondence vols. 10 and 11. For a discussion of Kölreuter’s and Gärtner’s respective contributions to the understanding of hybridisation, see Olby 1985, pp. 1–39, and Mayr 1986.


‘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–.

Desmond, Ray. 1999. Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, traveller and plant collector. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Antique Collectors’ Club with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

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.

Kölreuter, Joseph Gottlieb. 1761–6. Vorläufige Nachricht von einigen das Geschlecht der Pflanzen betreffenden Versuchen und Beobachtungen. Leipzig: Gleditschischen Handlung.

Lyell, Charles. 1830–3. Principles of geology, being an attempt to explain the former changes of the earth’s surface, by reference to causes now in operation. 3 vols. London: John Murray.

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.

Mayr, Ernst. 1986. Joseph Gottlieb Kölreuter’s contributions to biology. Osiris 2d ser. 2: 135–76.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

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.

Ospovat, Dov. 1977. Lyell’s theory of climate. Journal of the History of Biology 10: 317–39.

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


Pleased with news of BAAS meeting

and Scott’s possible position as Thomas Anderson’s curator.

Suggests Wallace is due for a Royal Medal.

Agrees with JDH’s criticism of Lyell’s address [see 4614].

Bentham’s Linnean Society address treats continuity of life in a vague non-natural sense.

Rereading his old MS [Natural selection] CD is impressed with work he had already done.

Writing Variation much harder than Climbing plants.

Encloses request to JDH to propose, or suggest on his behalf, that the Ray Society publish a translation of C. F. von Gärtner’s Versuche und Beobachtungen über die Bastarderzeugung im Pflanzenreich (1849).

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 96: 14; DAR 115: 250a–c
Physical description
ALS 7pp encl (ADraft, 2pp)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4621,” accessed on 4 March 2024,

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