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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   19 January [1865]1


Jan. 19th

My dear Hooker

It is working hours, but I am trying to take a day’s holiday, for I finished & despatched yesterday my Climbing paper.2 For the last ten days I have done nothing but correct refractory sentences, & I loathe the whole subject like tartar-emetic.— By the way I am convinced that you want a holiday—& I think so because you took the Devil’s name in vain so often in your last note.3 Can you come here for Sunday; you know how I shd. like it, & you will be quiet & dull enough here to get plenty of rest.—4

I have been thinking with regret about what you said in one of your later notes, about having neglected to make notes on the gradation of characters in your genera.5 But would it be too late? surely if you looked over names in series the facts would come back & you might surely write a fine paper “On the Gradation of important characters in the genera of Plants”. As for unimportant characters, I have made their perfect gradation a very prominent point, with respect to the means of climbing, in my paper. I begin to think that one of the commonest means of transition is the same individual plant having the same part in different states: thus Corydalis claviculata, if you look to one leaf may be called a tendril-bearer,—if you look to another leaf it may be called a leaf-climber.6 Now I am sure I remember some cases with plants in which important part, such as position of ovule, differs—differences in spire of leaves on lateral & terminal branches &c.—

There was not much in last Nat. Hist. R. which interested me except Colonial Floras & the Report on sexuality of Cryptogams. I suppose the former was by Oliver:7 how extremely curious is the fact is of similarity of orders in Tropics.— I feel a conviction that it is somehow connected with Glacial destruction,8 but I cannot “wriggle” comfortably at all on the subject.9 I am nearly sure that Dana makes out that the greatest number of Crustacean forms inhabit warmer temperate regions.10

I have had an enormous letter from Leo Lesquereux (after doubts I did not think it worth sending you) on Coal Flora:11 he wrote some excellent articles in Silliman against “Origin” views;12 but he says now after repeated reading of the book he is a convert! But how funny men’s minds are; he says he is chiefly converted because my books makes the Birth of Christ—Redemption by Grace &c plain to him!!13

Ray Soc. will publish Gärtner; but consults me about a Translator & can give no advice, & asks me for Introductory Chapter, which I have felt compelled to decline & am sorry for.—14

Ever yours affect | C. Darwin

There is not one question in this letter! please to make a note of this little fact & carry it to my credit.

P.S. I by no means wished to send my paper on Climbers to Royal Soc. & suggested it solely to avoid expence for Linn. Soc.— I always preferred latter.15


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, 1 January 1865.
According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), Hooker did not visit Down House until 4 to 6 March 1865.
In ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 70–2, CD described the gradation from the first-formed leaves to reduced leaflets to tendrils on individual specimens of Corydalis claviculata, concluding: ‘we here behold a plant in an actual state of transition from a leaf-climber to a tendril-bearer’. On pages 108 to 115, he discussed gradations in various twiners, leaf-climbers, and tendril-bearers, which suggested that the plants had developed from one form into another over long periods of time. CD’s notes on C. claviculata are in DAR 157.2: 26–8. CD added a brief account of gradation in climbing plants to his discussion of ‘modes of transition’ in Origin 4th ed., p. 221. See also Correspondence vol. 12, letters to J. D. Hooker, [27 January 1864] and [8 February 1864], and letter to Daniel Oliver, 11 March [1864].
CD refers to two review articles, ‘New colonial floras’ and ‘Report on sexuality in the lower Cryptogamia’, that appeared in the January 1865 issue of the Natural History Review, pp. 46–63 and 64–79. CD’s annotated copies of these papers are in his collection of unbound journals, Darwin Library–CUL. Daniel Oliver, the botanical editor of the Natural History Review responsible for material on flowering plants, may have been the author of ‘New colonial floras’. The author of ‘Report on sexuality in the lower Cryptogamia’ was probably Frederick Currey, the botanical editor responsible for material on non-flowering plants.
In Origin, pp. 376–81, CD had proposed the widespread destruction of tropical plants, and the migration of temperate plants towards, and in some cases across, the equator during the glacial epoch. CD’s hypothesis was an attempt to explain the range and affinities of species inhabiting the northern and southern temperate zones, and intertropical mountains; however, the author of ‘New colonial floras’ (Natural History Review n.s. 5 (1865): 59–60) noted that CD’s hypothesis did not account for the similarity of vegetation in tropical regions of the globe.
‘Wriggling’ out of theoretical difficulties had long been a joke between CD and Hooker. For examples, see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, 7 November 1862, n. 17, and Correspondence vol. 12, letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 April [1864] and n. 8.
James Dwight Dana had corresponded with CD about the geographical distribution of Crustacea in 1856 and 1857 (see Correspondence vol. 6). In his work on Crustacea, Dana showed that there was a greater number of species in warmer temperate latitudes (Dana 1853a, p. 1498). An annotated copy of Dana 1853a is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 178–9).
Lesquereux published a series of papers between 1859 and 1863, entitled ‘On some questions concerning the coal formations of North America’ (Lesquereux 1859–63). In the third part of this series, published in the November 1860 issue of the American Journal of Science and Arts, pp. 367–84, Lesquereux claimed that the fossil flora of America’s coal basins showed no trace of the intermediate forms that might support a theory of the transformation of species by successive variations. An annotated copy of this paper is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. The American Journal of Science and Arts was commonly known as ‘Silliman’s journal’, after its founder, Benjamin Silliman.
In his letter of 14 December 1864 (Correspondence vol. 12), Lesquereux apologised for having sought ‘geological proofs in contradiction to [CD’s] system’. He remarked that he had initially rejected Origin as ‘hostile to every kind of religious faith’, but that CD’s book now satisfied him ‘concerning some of the most obscure points of the biblical teachings; the miraculous birth of Christ, … the first species of a higher and Divine type; the doctrine of grace &c’.
See letter to Ray Society, [14–18 January 1865] and n. 3. The Ray Society minutes for 3 February 1865 record a resolution by the Council to employ a translator for Gärtner 1849; however, the work was never undertaken (see Curle 1954, p. 26).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 7 January [1865], and letter from J. D. Hooker, [8–18 January 1865]. Because of the cost of printing his lengthy paper paper ‘Climbing plants’, CD had considered sending it to the Royal Society rather than to the Linnean Society for publication.


‘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–.

Curle, Richard. 1954. The Ray Society: a bibliographical history. London: Ray Society.

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.

Lesquereux, Leo. 1859–63. On some questions concerning the coal formations of North America. American Journal of Science and Arts 2d ser. 28 (1859): 21–37; 30 (1860): 63–74, 367–84; 32 (1861): 15–25, 193–205; 33 (1862): 206–16; 35 (1863): 375–86.

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.

Origin 4th ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 4th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1866.

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.


"Climbing plants" sent off.

Encourages JDH to include notes on gradation of important characters in Genera plantarum or to write a paper on the subject. Has given prominence to gradation of unimportant characters in climbing plants. Believes that it is common for the same part in an individual plant to be in different states. Same may be true of important parts – for example position of ovule may differ.

Two articles in last Natural History Review interested him; "Colonial floras" [n.s. 5 (1865): 46–63]

and "Sexuality of cryptogams" [n.s. 5 (1865): 64–79].

Fact of similarity of orders in tropics is extremely curious. Thinks it may be connected with glacial destruction.

Leo Lesquereux says he is a convert for the curious reason that CD’s books make birth of Christ and redemption by grace so clear to him!

"Not one question [for JDH] in this letter!"

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 258a–c
Physical description
ALS 7pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4748,” accessed on 25 September 2023,

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