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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   8 October [1864]1


Oct. 8

My dear Hooker

I write one line to thank about Nepenthes2 & to ask you to give enclosed to Harvey.—3 How often I have said I wd. give no more trouble about Climbers, & now again I say it is over.—

Have you looked at. N. Hist. R.   Huxley answers Kölliker in a quite inimitable manner.4

How I glad I am that I did not make a mess of it.—5 Who wrote the curious article on Agardh?6 I like that on you & nice little problems your Reviewer sets you to solve.—7

Tell Oliver I am much pleased that he has noticed Scotts paper.8 I have just been correcting Scotts two papers on Sterility9 & by Jove the facts are very odd.—

I have been counting the seeds (or rather almost no seeds) from heteromorphic & homomorphic unions of the common (ie. not Bardsfield) oxlip,10 & likewise from those oxlips crossed by pollen of primroses & cowslips; & it is clear that primroses & cowslips are as good species as the Horse & Ass.11 Tell Bentham this as he unites these 2 forms together as varieties.—12

Yours affect | C. Darwin


The year is confirmed by the relationship between this letter and the letter to J. D. Hooker, [28 September 1864].
The enclosure to William Henry Harvey has not been found, but it probably related to CD’s researches on climbing plants from South Africa (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [28 September 1864] and n. 7). According to CD’s ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 12, Appendix II), the manuscript of ‘Climbing plants’ was finished on 13 September 1864; however, CD continued making observations on the subject after mid-September (see, for example, CD’s letter to J. D. Hooker, 10 December [1864], and notes on species of Clematis, Maurandia, and Bignonia, dated between 14 September and 29 October 1864, in DAR 157.1: 66–9, 97–8, 124, and 137).
The reference is to Thomas Henry Huxley’s review of Rudolf Albert von Kölliker’s criticisms of Origin in Kölliker 1864c. The review appeared in the Natural History Review ([T. H. Huxley] 1864a). See letter to T. H. Huxley, 3 October [1864] and n. 2, and letter to Ernst Haeckel, [after 10] August – 8 October [1864].
CD had been dissuaded from answering Kölliker himself by Charles Lyell and Hooker (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 28 August [1864], and letter from J. D. Hooker, 30 August 1864).
CD refers to an article entitled ‘Agardh’s classification of plants’ that appeared in the October 1864 issue of the Natural History Review, pp. 536–51 ([Thomson] 1864). The article reviewed Jacob Georg Agardh’s Theoria systematis plantarum (Agardh 1858), an attempt to build a new natural system of classification. Agardh’s taxonomic system was developed from his earlier studies of algae (see DSB). CD lightly annotated the article in his unbound copy of the October 1864 issue of the Natural History Review; see also his comment on the paper pinned to the back cover.
CD refers to an anonymous review of the first part of Hooker’s Handbook of the New Zealand flora (J. D. Hooker 1864–7) that appeared in the October 1864 issue of the Natural History Review, pp. 529–36. The reviewer noted Hooker’s intention to publish an independent essay on the significance of his findings on the composition of New Zealand’s flora for understanding the geographical distribution of plants. In particular, the reviewer looked forward to an explanation of the differences between the floras of North Island and Middle Island (now South Island), of the absence of many Australian genera from New Zealand, of the many species common to New Zealand, Australia, and South America, and of the preponderance of ferns in New Zealand, hoping that light would be thrown on the geological history of New Zealand and its possible past overland connection with the continents of Australia and South America. Hooker’s intended essay on New Zealand was never completed (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [26 or 27 April 1864] and n. 10). On CD’s interest in New Zealand’s geological history and the origin of its plant assemblages, see Correspondence vol. 11, letter to J. D. Hooker, [28 August 1863] and n. 7. For a discussion of the principal differences between CD’s and Hooker’s viewpoints on the origin and development of island floras in general, see, for example, ibid., letter from J. D. Hooker, [13 May 1863] and n. 20, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 and 22 May [1863]. See also J. D. Hooker 1867 and L. Huxley ed. 1918, 2: 98–108.
Daniel Oliver had agreed to review John Scott’s paper on the Primulaceae (Scott 1864a). See letter from J. D. Hooker, 16 September 1864 and n. 5.
CD refers to Scott’s studies of sterility in the orchid genus Oncidium (Scott 1864b), and in Passiflora, Disemma, and Tacsonia (Scott 1864d). Scott 1864b and 1864d were read at the Linnean Society in June 1864, and printed copies were distributed to members of the society in December 1864 (General index to the Journal of the Linnean Society). There are annotated copies of Scott 1864b and 1864d in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. For a discussion of the nature of the experiments described in these papers and CD’s role in encouraging Scott to undertake them, see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from John Scott, 22 May 1863 and nn. 5 and 6. For CD’s interest in sterility in Passiflora, see also Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix VI. Scott sent CD a preliminary statement of his results and manuscript versions of Scott 1864b and 1864d in the spring and summer of 1864 (see letters from John Scott, 28 March 1864 and nn. 15–17, 5 May [1864], and first letter from John Scott, 10 June [1864]).
A slip for ‘Bardfield’ oxlip, Primula elatior (see ‘Specific difference in Primula, p. 449, and Forms of flowers, p. 32).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 10 June [1864] and n. 17. In Forms of flowers, p. 73, CD remarked that the primrose and the cowslip were true species and had ‘as good a right to receive distinct specific names as … the ass, quagga, and zebra’.
CD refers to George Bentham’s Handbook of the British flora, which listed the oxlip, Primula elatior, as one of three races of primrose indigenous to Britain, the common primrose P. vulgaris and the cowslip P. veris being the other two; Bentham defined a ‘race’ as a variety that generally comes true from seed. Bentham also noted that oxlips were frequently found intermixed with primroses and cowslips in the field and passed ‘gradually into the one or the other’ (see Bentham 1858, pp. 26, 353).


Agardh, Jacob Georg. 1858. Theoria systematis plantarum; accedit familiarum phanerogamarum in series naturales dispositio, secundum structuræ normas et evolutionis gradus instituta. Lund, Sweden: C. W. K. Gleerup.

Bentham, George. 1858. Handbook of the British flora; a description of the flowering plants and ferns indigenous to, or naturalized in, the British Isles. London: Lovell Reeve.

‘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. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

DSB: Dictionary of scientific biography. Edited by Charles Coulston Gillispie and Frederic L. Holmes. 18 vols. including index and supplements. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1970–90.

Forms of flowers: The different forms of flowers on plants of the same species. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1877.

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.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1864–7. Handbook of the New Zealand flora: a systematic description of the native plants of New Zealand and the Chatham, Kermadec’s, Lord Auckland’s, Campbell’s, and MacQuarrie’s Islands. 2 vols. London: Lovell Reeve & Co.

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.

‘Specific difference in Primula’: On the specific difference between Primula veris, Brit. Fl. (var. officinalis of Linn.), P. vulgaris, Brit. Fl. (var. acaulis, Linn.), and P. elatior, Jacq.; and on the hybrid nature of the common oxlip. With supplementary remarks on naturally produced hybrids in the genus Verbascum. By Charles Darwin. [Read 19 March 1868.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 10 (1869): 437–54.

[Thomson, Thomas]. 1864. Agardh’s classification of plants. [Review of Theoria systematis plantarum, by J. G. Agardh.] Natural History Review n.s. 4: 536–51.


Huxley has answered Kölliker in Natural History Review [(1864): 566–80].

CD is correcting two of Scott’s papers; is convinced primrose and cowslip are two good species.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 251
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4630,” accessed on 15 November 2019,

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