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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   10 December [1864]1


Dec. 10th

My dear Hooker

Pray thank Mrs. Hooker2 much for her beautifully written copy from Naudin which is most useful to me.3 By the way Naudin has just sent me his Photograph.— what a nice looking man he is—with heaps of tournures about the Copley medal.—4

What a curious case it is that one or two Bignoniaceæ Vitaceæ & Cucurbitaceæ should all develope adhesive discs at end of tendrils.5 I was thinking so this morning in my hot-house, & concluded that there must be incipient stages & so looked at the clasped tendrils of your Hanburya, & by Jove they form on under side a long narrow white cellular outgrowth which is strongly adhesive! The extreme cells are such curious objects with globular & retort-like heads.—6 Thanks, also, about the Scitamin: a new order to me.—7

I return Huxley’s letter which I am glad to have seen.8 I think he was right pro bono publico; but I am sure I for one could not have dared to do so disagreeable thing.—9 Poor old Sabine is ill.—10

I was charmed with Ruskin’s folly; & I see there is more to read today in the Reader;11 I missed the cut at D’Israeli.12 In one of his novels many years ago there are some splendid sneers at us transmutationists; a young lady saying “oh it is proved by geology” that we came from crows or something of the kind.—13 I see in foreign advertisements that a ‘Handbuch zur Physiologie” is coming out in 1865 by Hofmeister; I shd. think this would be so good that you ought to stir up some one to translate it.14 How goes on your Book on G. Distrib. of Plants?15 Do you make any progress? I fear not, you have so many irons in the fire & so many & such confounded correspondents like my blessed self.— It wd. not be worth my while to take in Bot. Zeitung16 & as I never go out I never see it; so will you ask Oliver,17 if he will be so very kind as to18 tell me if anything appear in it on Dimorphism that especially concerns me   I expect to hear of a paper Hildebrand on dimorphic Pulmonaria19

signed C. Darwin.


The year is established the relationship between this letter and the letter from C. V. Naudin, 6 December 1864.
In his letter of [6 December 1864], Hooker enclosed a description of Peponopsis adhaerens, copied from Charles Victor Naudin’s article ‘Revue des cucurbitacées cultivées au Muséum, en 1859’ (Naudin 1859b, p. 90). The enclosure is in DAR 166: 265.
See letter from C. V. Naudin, 6 December 1864. The photograph of Naudin has not been found.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 4 December [1864] and nn. 13 and 14. In ‘Climbing plants’, p. 104, CD discussed the development of adhesive discs in the three different plant families.
The reference is to Hanburya mexicana, a member of the Cucurbitaceae, and one of the climbing plants sent to CD by Hooker from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, for his experiments (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 15 June 1864). In a note dated 10 December 1864, CD described the appearance of a thick layer of cellular outgrowth on the plant (DAR 187: 2). CD discussed Hanburya mexicana in ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 77–9 and 104, commenting that the adhesive layer formed at the tips of the tendrils was of no apparent service to the plant. In the Cucurbitaceae, CD concluded, ‘we have a nearly perfect gradation from a common tendril to one that forms an adherent disk at its tip’ (‘Climbing plants’, p. 104). CD’s other experimental notes on Hanburya mexicana are in DAR 157.2: 52.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, [6 December 1864]. The Scitamineae are now known as the order Zingiberales (Willis 1973).
See letter from J. D. Hooker, [6 December 1864] and n. 10. The Reader, 10 December 1864, p. 741, printed the responses of John Ruskin, Joseph Beete Jukes, and other participants in a debate over the role of glaciers in shaping the topography of the Alps.
Hooker refers to a notice in the Reader, 3 December 1864, p. 710, of a speech by Benjamin Disraeli (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [6 December 1864] and n. 12).
In Disraeli’s Tancred (Disraeli 1847, 1: 225–6), Lady Constance Rawleigh recommends The revelations of chaos, a new book in which ‘Everything is proved—by geology’: You know, all is development.... First, there was nothing, then there was something; then—I forget the next—I think there were shells, then fishes; then we came—let me see—did we come next? Never mind that; we came at last. And the next change there will be something very superior to us—something with wings. Ah! that’s it: we were fishes, and I believe we shall be crows.
The foreign advertisement has not been found; however, it evidently referred to Handbuch der physiologischen Botanik, a series of monographs to be published under the general editorship of Wilhelm Hofmeister (Hofmeister ed. 1865–77). Hofmeister wrote two monographs in the series, Die Lehre von der Pflazenzelle (Hofmeister 1867) and Allgemeine Morphologie der Gewächse (Hofmeister 1868). CD’s annotated copy of Hofmeister 1867 is in the Darwin Library–Down. An English translation of Hofmeister’s 1851 book, Vergleichende Untersuchungen der Keimung, Entfaltung und Fruchtbildung höherer Kryptogamen … und der Samenbildung der Coniferen (On the germination, development, and fructification of the higher Cryptogamia and on the fructification of the Coniferae), was published in 1862, with substantial revisions and additions, by the Ray Society (Hofmeister 1862).
Hooker had a long-running interest in the geographical distribution of plants (see, for example, J. D. Hooker 1853, and Correspondence vol. 6, letter from J. D. Hooker, 9 November 1856). He is cited extensively in the chapters on geographical distribution in Origin. In his letter of 1 January 1865 (Correspondence vol. 13), Hooker wrote ‘my book on Geog. Distrib. is nowhere’. Hooker never wrote a general book on geographical distribution; however, he continued to publish articles and addresses on the subject (see, for example, J. D. Hooker 1867 and J. D. Hooker 1881).
The reference is to the German journal Botanische Zeitung.
Daniel Oliver often provided CD with references to German and French articles (see, for example, letter from Daniel Oliver, [1 April 1864]).
The remainder of the letter is in Hooker’s hand, apparently copied from the final page of the letter, which has not been found.
CD refers to the paper ‘Dimorphismus von Pulmonaria officinalis’ by the German botanist Friedrich Hildebrand (Hildebrand 1865, pp. 13–15). Hildebrand had corresponded with CD about dimorphism in Pulmonaria officinalis in June (see letter from Friedrich Hildebrand, 21 June 1864, and letter to Friedrich Hildebrand, 25 June [1864]). The paper is discussed in Forms of flowers, pp. 101–3. Hildebrand sent CD a copy of this paper in February 1865 (see Correspondence vol. 13, letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 [February 1865]). An annotated copy is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.


‘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–.

Disraeli, Benjamin. 1847. Tancred: or, the new crusade. 3 vols. London: Henry Colburn.

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

Hofmeister, Wilhelm Friedrich Benedict. 1862. On the germination, development, and fructification of the higher Cryptogamia, and on the fructification of the Coniferæ. Translated by Frederick Currey. London: Ray Society.

Hofmeister, Wilhelm Friedrich Benedict. 1867. Die Lehre von der Pflanzenzelle. Vol. 1, part 1 of Handbuch der physiologischen Botanik, edited by W. Hofmeister. In association with A. de Bary, Th. Irmisch, N. Pringsheim, and J. Sachs. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1853. Introductory essay to the flora of New Zealand. London: Lovell Reeve.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1881. On geographical distribution. Presidential address, section E, geography. [Read 1 September 1881.] Report of the 51st Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, held at York, Transactions of the sections, pp. 727–38.

Willis, John Christopher. 1973. A dictionary of the flowering plants and ferns. 8th edition. Revised by H. K. Airy Shaw. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Has found incipient stages of adhesive discs in Hanburia tendrils.

Huxley was probably right to have challenged Sabine, but the poor old man is sick.

CD remembers the old Disraeli novel [Tancred (1847)] that sneers at transmutation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 256
Physical description
AL 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4712,” accessed on 21 July 2024,

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