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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   7 January [1865]1


Jan 7th.

My dear Hooker.

I wrote to Stainton to say that Gärtner is by no means antiquated & no notes are required to the Translation.—2 I return Thwaites’ letter; you had better pass sub silentio about the natives being like in colour to the soil; for if true, I shd. think it was the dust of each district adhering to their perspiring bodies.—3

Thanks for telling me of the Cucurb; with adhering tendrils.—4 Today I shall get my M.S. on Climbing plants from the Copyist after much delay from his having caught the scarlet Fever, & in a week or two I will run over it & send it to Linn. Soc.—5 (But I think I will first consult Bentham,6 whether Linn. Soc. will like expence of so large a paper with 12 woodcuts; for if too expensive for Linn. Soc. I wd send it to Royal Soc.; though I shd. prefer the former.—)7 See P.S.

I am sorry that you have not begun your Plant Book,8 but I cannot say that I am surprised with the heaps of things which you have to do. Is New Zealand Flora finished?9 If there is any Introduction please be sure & tell me.— If you discuss miscellaneous points, I think it wd. be worth while to count how many plants there are with irregular corollas in comparison with, for instance, England.—10

I do not quite agree with what you say about the Reader;11 it seems to me to give a splendid & interesting resume of all that is doing in all branches of science. It does seem a pity that Huxley shd. edit the scientific part. I read over again the slashing leading article & thought it excellent; but none of us could see its “withering & desolating” effects.12 How capital that was about no more use in an Eton Boy knowing how to make a pump than a pair of shoes:13 what a glorious profundity of ignorance it shows.— By the way I felt convinced that a Leader in the Reader 2 or 3 weeks ago, on Spiritualism was by Tyndall, who was called by the rapper the “Poet of Science”.— It was a capital article; was it by Tyndall?14

You ask how I am; I have now had five pretty good days, but before that I spent fully a third of my time in bed, but had no actual vomiting. Dr. Jenner is exhausted as to doing me any good.15 All Doctors seem to think that I am case of suppressed gout:16 do you know of any good men hereafter to consult? I did think of trying Bence Jones;17 but I know it is folly & nonsense to try anyone.— We are all well & I enjoy much having all the Boys at home:18 they make the house jolly. I am glad that you are all right at your home. Our boy Horace has made a sudden start in power of walking & that, I think, is very good sign of real improvement in health.—19

Farewell my dear old friend | Yours ever | C. Darwin

P.S. Will you be so kind as to read the passage in red brackets & following to Bentham;20 as it will save me writing, & whenever you write again within a fortnight, tell me in half-a dozen words his answer.—

I am quite ashamed to say that if my Copyist has not overcharged me, the M.S. will take about 102 pages of the Journal, though the pages of the Journal have so many lines & are in so small a type,— But I declare I do not think I have spun out my matter. But I repeat that I am ashamed & disgusted at the length of my paper.— The Royal is so rich, that it could afford to print it.—


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, 1 January 1865.
CD’s letter to Henry Tibbats Stainton has not been found; see, however, the letter to Ray Society, [before 7 January 1865] and n. 3. CD refers to his suggested translation of Karl Friedrich von Gärtner’s Versuche und Beobachtungen über die Bastarderzeugung im Pflanzenreich (Gärtner 1849).
CD refers to the letter from George Henry Kendrick Thwaites, enclosed with the letter from J. D. Hooker, 1 January 1865. Thwaites had speculated on the origins of the skin colour of native peoples in Ceylon, which seemed to him to resemble the colour of the soil.
CD refers to ‘Climbing plants’, an extract of which was read at the Linnean Society on 2 February 1865. The copyist of CD’s manuscript was the Down schoolmaster, Ebenezer Norman, who had worked in this capacity for many years (see LL 1: 153). An entry in CD’s Account book–cash account (Down House MS) dated 15 March 1865 records a payment of £5 11s. to ‘Norman for copying Science’. For CD’s copy of the manuscript, in his own hand, see DAR 17 and 18.
George Bentham, president of the Linnean Society.
‘Climbing plants’ was issued in June 1865 in a double number (nos. 33 and 34) of the Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany), pp. 1–118. CD’s paper appeared in two other forms, first as an offprint for the author, while commercial offprints were available from August 1865 (Publishers’ Circular, 1 August 1865, p. 391; see also letter to J. D. Hooker, [29 July 1865]). See Freeman 1977, pp. 116–18. CD evidently considered sending the paper to the Royal Society for publication in its Philosophical Transactions.
CD refers to Hooker’s proposed book on the geographical distribution of plants. See letter from J. D. Hooker, 1 January 1865 and n. 13.
CD refers to the second volume of Hooker’s Handbook of the New Zealand flora (Hooker 1864–7). The work, which had been commissioned by the New Zealand government (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 January 1863), was published in two parts. The first volume was issued in 1864, the second in 1867. See also Correspondence vol. 12, letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 October [1864] and n. 7, and R. Desmond 1999, p. 216.
For the introduction to the second volume of Hooker 1864–7, Hooker used the same essay that he had written for Bentham and Ferdinand von Mueller’s Flora Australiensis (see Bentham and Mueller 1863–78, 1: 1–xl). It included only a general description of the corolla parts of a flower (see Hooker 1864–7, 1: xiii–v). CD may have been anticipating a more theoretical introduction, like the one that Hooker had written to accompany his earlier work on New Zealand plants (Hooker 1853). For CD’s interest in irregular flowers, see, for example, Correspondence vol. 11, letter to M. T. Masters, 6 April [1863].
CD refers to Thomas Henry Huxley and [T. H. Huxley] 1864b. See letter from J. D. Hooker, 1 January 1865 and n. 6. CD is paraphrasing Hooker’s remarks.
CD refers to ‘Science and the spirits’, the lead article in the 10 December 1864 issue of the Reader, pp. 725–6 ([Tyndall] 1864). See the letter from J. D. Hooker, [8–18 January 1865], for Hooker’s confirmation that John Tyndall was the author. The article contained a critical account of a séance, and included descriptions of ‘table-rapping’ and other phenomena commonly educed by spirit mediums. At the conclusion of the séance, the medium asked for the name by which Tyndall was known in the spiritual world. The alphabet was read, and knocking was heard from beneath the table after letters that eventually spelled: ‘poet of science’. The efforts of Tyndall and other scientific practitioners to denounce spiritualism are discussed in Oppenheim 1985, pp. 327–30. For historical studies of Victorian spiritualism, see also Barrow 1986 and A. Owen 1989. CD had expressed scepticism about spiritualist phenomena in his letter to Susan Darwin, [26 April 1838] (Correspondence vol. 2).
The physician William Jenner had been treating CD since March 1864 (see Correspondence vol. 12; see also letter from T. H. Huxley, 1 January 1865, n. 9). The last known letter from Jenner is [after 24 November] 1864.
Henry Holland first diagnosed CD’s condition as ‘suppressed gout’ in 1849 (see Correspondence vol. 4, letter to W. D. Fox, 6 February [1849]). According to Holland, many chronic nervous and dyspeptic symptoms were caused by the same accumulation of toxic substances that provoked outward attacks of gout. In medical literature of the period, gout was sometimes linked with stomach disorders such as dyspepsia and flatulence (see, for example, Holland 1855, p. 233, and Garrod 1863, pp. 263–4). The diagnosis of suppressed gout may also have been made by William Brinton and Jenner. CD had consulted Brinton in 1863 (see Correspondence vol. 11). In his own notes on his symptoms, CD wrote: ‘Doctors puzzled, say suppressed gout   Family gouty’ (see Correspondence vol. 13, Appendix IV). For a discussion of the diagnosis, see Colp 1977, pp. 109–10. On theories of ‘suppressed gout’ during the period, see R. Porter and Rousseau 1998. For a discussion of recent theories of CD’s illness, see Colp 1998.
Henry Bence Jones was a prominent London physician who had published works on gout and was recognised as an authority on stomach and renal diseases (DNB). CD began to consult Jones in July 1865 (CD’s Account book–cash account (Down House MS), entry for 22 July 1865).
CD’s sons Francis and Leonard were attending Clapham School in 1865 (CD’s Account book–classed account (Down House MS)); his son George was at Cambridge University (Alum. Cantab.). Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242) records that Francis and Leonard returned to school on 2 February 1865, and suggests that George may also have been at Down for part of December 1864 and January 1865.
CD’s youngest son, Horace, aged 13, had been recovering from an intermittent illness since 1862 (see Correspondence vols. 10–12).
CD bracketed the lines in the second paragraph of this letter from ‘But I think’ to ‘the former.—’ in red crayon.


Alum. Cantab.: Alumni Cantabrigienses. A biographical list of all known students, graduates and holders of office at the University of Cambridge, from the earliest times to 1900. Compiled by John Venn and J. A. Venn. 10 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1922–54.

Barrow, Logie. 1986. Independent spirits: spiritualism and English plebeians 1850–1910. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

‘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.

Colp, Ralph, Jr. 1977. To be an invalid: the illness of Charles Darwin. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Colp, Ralph, Jr. 1998. To be an invalid, redux. Journal of the History of Biology 31: 211–40.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 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.

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

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.

Garrod, Alfred Baring. 1863. The nature and treatment of gout and rheumatic gout. 2d edition. London: Walton and Maberly.

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.

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

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.

LL: The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter. Edited by Francis Darwin. 3 vols. London: John Murray. 1887–8.

Oppenheim, Janet. 1985. The other world: spiritualism and psychic research in England, 1850–1914. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Owen, Alex. 1989. The darkened room: women, power and spiritualism in late Victorian England. London: Virago Press.

[Tyndall, John.] 1864d. Science and the spirits. Reader 4: 725–6.


Has finished long paper on "Climbing plants". Prefers sending it to Linnean Society if Bentham does not think it too long.

For New Zealand flora [1864–7] CD suggests JDH count plants with irregular corollas and compare with England.

Does not quite agree about Reader.

Is Tyndall author of piece on spiritualism?

CD’s illness diagnosed as "suppressed gout".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 257a–c
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4742,” accessed on 25 June 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13