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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [6 December 1864]1

Royal Gardens Kew


Dear Darwin

The Cucurbitaceous plant is Peponopsis adhærens, Naud. in Ann. Sc. Nat. Ser IV. 12. p. 89. of which he says “Cirrhis multifidis, in superficie vel lavissima adminiculorum extrema digitorum parte cohærentibus.”2 I send a copy of what he says further about it.3 Its native country is unknown, but as I am doing Cucurbitaceæ for Genera Plant. I do not despair of turning it up.4 Naudin describes it from cult specimen of ♀ plant.5 Welwitsch has a gigantic, climbing Scitamineæ from S.W. Africa.6

I have read Sabines address in the Reader,7 it is very good on the whole but he has mutilated the Botany a good deal—especially the Linum & Lythrum bits, & clapped the beginning to the end of the Linum story, leaving out all the middle, in the funniest fashion. Lythrum he has literally dished.8

He certainly has not praised you too much as to your Botany;—but I do suppose that your merits as Geologist, & Zoologist are Audaciously Exaggerated— there then

I send Huxleys account of his own proceedings.9

I think the best thing of the kind I ever read in my life is Ruskin’s eloquent answer to big Jukes—10 it is delicious— Jukes may answer the letter, but not the man! who feels himself as far above J. as heaven is above earth—& is as far beyond the reach of knowing or learning or even seeing what is put before him by J. as we are of comprehending eternity.

Then too, “as one fool makes many” see M. A. Cs. small blue-light blazing up after reading Ruskin’s philosophy.11

The cut at D’Isræli is capital too12

Ever yrs affec | J D Hooker

Thanks for hints about queries to Hector,13 any number will be gratefully received.

CD annotations

1.1 The … plant 1.6] crossed pencil
Top of first page: ‘Hofmeister— Naudin.’14 pencil


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letters to J. D. Hooker, 4 December [1864] and 10 December [1864]; the intervening Tuesday was 6 December.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 4 December [1864] and n. 12. The reference is to the article by Charles Victor Naudin, ‘Revue des cucurbitacées cultivées au Muséum, en 1859’ (Naudin 1859b, pp. 88–90). Naudin’s article described the adhesive properties of Peponopsis, a genus of Cucurbitaceae. Hooker quotes from the description of the genus, Peponopsis, not from the description of P. adhaerens, the sole species (Naudin 1859b, p. 89). The Latin translates as ‘tendrils cleft into many parts, the end of the finger-like part cohering by the upper surface to the smoothest support’.
Hooker enclosed a description of Peponopsis adhaerens, copied by Frances Harriet Hooker, from Naudin 1859b, p. 90. The copy is in DAR 166: 265. See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 10 December [1864].
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 4 December [1864]. Hooker was preparing an account of the family Cucurbitaceae for Genera plantarum (Bentham and Hooker 1862–83, 1: 816–41). In this work, Hooker gave the native country of Peponopsis as America, but added that the exact locality was thus far unknown (Bentham and Hooker 1862–83, 1: 829).
Naudin 1859b, p. 89.
The Austrian botanist Friedrich Welwitsch had settled in London in October 1863, and was collaborating with a number of botanists, including Hooker, to arrange his large botanical collections from Portuguese West Africa (Hiern 1896–1900, 1: xv).
An edited version of Edward Sabine’s anniversary address to the Royal Society of London was published in the Reader, 3 December 1864, pp. 708–9. See Appendix IV.
Sabine commented on CD’s publications ‘Two forms in species of Linum and ‘Three forms of Lythrum salicaria in his anniversary address to the Royal Society (Sabine 1864, p. 510; a portion of Sabine 1864 is included in Appendix IV). Hooker had been asked to draft the section of the address on CD’s botany (see letter from T. H. Huxley to J. D. Hooker, 3 December 1864, n. 5).
Hooker refers to the letter from the art critic John Ruskin that appeared in the Reader, 3 December 1864, p. 710. Ruskin had written in response to a letter from the geologist Joseph Beete Jukes that was printed in the issue of 26 November, p. 678. Ruskin and Jukes took different sides in a long-running controversy over the formation of mountain lakes and valleys by glaciers (see also letter from Joseph Beete Jukes, 10 August 1864 and nn. 2–4). Other participants in the debate included Andrew Crombie Ramsay, Roderick Impey Murchison, John Tyndall, Hugh Falconer, and Charles Lyell. For a discussion of the controversy, see Davies 1969, pp. 304–9. For CD and Hooker’s ongoing discussion of the controversy, see, for example, the letter to J. D. Hooker, 3 November [1864] and nn. 10 and 11. Ruskin’s interest in glaciers is discussed in Hevly 1996, pp. 73–5.
The reference is to the letter by M. A. C. in the Reader, 3 December 1864, p. 711. The author of this letter has not been identified. A blue light is ‘a pyrotechnical composition which burns with a blue flame, used also at sea as a night-signal’ (OED).
Hooker refers to the following notice in the Reader, 3 December 1864, p. 710, of Benjamin Disraeli’s speech on church policy (Disraeli 1864). The speech had been delivered at the Oxford Diocesan Society for the Augmentation of Small Livings on 25 November 1864. ‘What is the question? It is now placed before society with, I might say, a glib assurance which to me is astonishing. The question is, Is man an ape or an angel? Now I am on the side of the angels.’ That Mr. Disraeli should be astonished at ‘glib assurance’ is wonderful; that he should have discovered some scientific theorist whose wild dreams have led him to conceive of man as an angel is still more wonderful, but his belief that he is himself ‘on the side of the angels’ is most wonderful of all.
The reference is to James Hector. See letter to J. D. Hooker, 4 December [1864].
Wilhelm Hofmeister and Charles Victor Naudin. See letter to J. D. Hooker, 10 December [1864] and nn. 3 and 14.


Disraeli, Benjamin. 1864. Church policy: a speech delivered … at a meeting of the Oxford Diocesan Society for the augmentation of small livings. London: Rivingtons.

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

Hiern, William Philip. 1896–1900. Catalogue of the African plants collected by Dr. Friedrich Welwitsch in 1853–61. Dicotyledons. 4 parts. London: Printed by order of the Trustees [of the British Museum].

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

Sabine, Edward. 1864. [Anniversary address, 30 November 1864.] Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 13 (1863–4): 497–517.

‘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.]

‘Two forms in species of Linum’: On the existence of two forms, and on their reciprocal sexual relation, in several species of the genus Linum. By Charles Darwin. [Read 5 February 1863.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 7 (1864): 69–83. [Collected papers 2: 93–105.]


Sabine’s address, printed in the Reader [4 (1864): 708–9], is good on the whole. Sends Huxley’s account of the row.

Praises John Ruskin’s eloquent reply to Jukes.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 262–3
Physical description
4pp † encl 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4708,” accessed on 27 November 2021,

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