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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   4 May [1865]


May 4th

My dear Hooker

Sincere thanks for two most interesting notes.1 I was astounded at news about FitzRoy; but I ought not to have been, for I remember once thinking it likely; poor fellow his mind was quite out of balance once during our voyage.2 I never knew in my life so mixed a character. Always much to love & I once loved him sincerely; but so bad a temper & so given to take offence, that I gradually quite lost my love & wished only to keep out of contact with him. Twice he quarrelled bitterly with me, without any just provocation on my part.3 But certainly there was much noble & exalted in his character. Poor fellow his career is sadly closed. You know he was nephew to Ld. Castlereagh, & very like him in manners & appearance.—4

You will be glad to hear, I know my dear old friend, that my ten or 12 days of sickness has suddenly ceased, & has left me not much the worse: I feared it was the beginning of another six or nine months miserable attack & feared it much:5 Jenner has been here,6 & is evidently perplexed at my case; he struck me as a more able & sensible man, than he did before, for then I could not talk with him: I shall consult no one else.—7 Please tell me how I am to designate the edge of enclosed peach-stone (to be thrown away) which is marked with ink??8

I do not suppose you will care to hear, apropos to your Rafflesia but in Siebold’s “Parthenogenesis” of Bee p. 107, there are cases of the 2 sexes of the same Gall-insect being produced from different plants.—9

I have just received a paper from Häckel, which gives an astonishing case of propagation in a Medusa;10 it is exactly as if tadpoles were of two sexes & regularly laid eggs, but also produced by budding frogs, these likewise being of 2 sexes & laying eggs!

Very many thanks to you for writing to me about FitzRoy.— Poor fellow how kind he was to me at first during the voyage.—

I think I will write in 2 or 3 weeks to Masters about Caspary & Cytisus.—11 I am very glad to hear pretty good accounts of Sir William.12

Yours ever affectionately | C. Darwin

How charming Mad. Laugel must be!13

Do not answer till convenient about the edge of the peach-stone.


See letters from J. D. Hooker, [19 April 1865] and 2 May 1865.
Robert FitzRoy committed suicide on 30 April 1865 (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 2 May 1865). On FitzRoy’s breakdown in 1834, during the voyage of the Beagle, see Correspondence vol. 1, letter to Catherine Darwin, 8 November 1834. See also Correspondence vol. 8, letter to J. S. Henslow, 16 July [1860], Mellersh 1968, pp. 130–6, Bowlby 1990, pp. 152–8, and n. 3, below.
In his Autobiography CD recalled the incidents referred to; the first occurred early in the voyage, at Bahia, Brazil, and concerned slavery (pp. 73–4), and the other occurred during FitzRoy’s breakdown at Concepción, Chile, in 1834 (p. 75). On CD’s relationship with FitzRoy, see Barlow 1932. See also Autobiography, p. 76, LL 1: 332, and Mellersh 1968, pp. 62–136.
Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, was British foreign secretary from 1812 to 1822; he committed suicide on 12 August 1822 (DNB). FitzRoy’s mother was Stewart’s sister (Mellersh 1968, p. 19).
According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), CD vomited or suffered nausea every day from 21 April to 1 May 1865; he also recorded in his journal that he became ill on 22 April 1865 (see Correspondence vol. 13, Appendix II). See also letter from George Busk, 28 April 1865, and letter to J. D. Hooker, [1 May 1865]. CD had been seriously ill for parts of 1863 and 1864 (see Correspondence vols. 11 and 12).
According to CD’s Account book–cash account (Down House MS), CD paid his physician William Jenner £10 10s. on 3 May 1865, presumably the date of his visit to Down House.
CD had become dissatisfied with Jenner’s treatment of him and had asked Hooker to recommend him another doctor (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 6 April [1865] and n. 2). Jenner had been treating CD since March 1864; on the course of treatment that he prescribed, see Correspondence vol. 12. George Busk had recommended another physician in his letter of 28 April 1865.
At the end of the letter, Hooker wrote: ‘ventral or placental suture of endocarp’. Hooker may have sent this information to CD in a reply; however, no letter referring to it has been found. Peach and almond stones are illustrated in Variation 1: 337; the information may have been used in giving instructions to the artist who produced the engravings, probably Walter Hood Fitch, a freelance botanical artist often used by the staff of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (see letter to John Murray, 31 March [1865], and letter from John Murray, 1 April 1865).
By ‘your Rafflesia’, CD may be referring to a comment of Hooker’s that he passed on to Benjamin Dann Walsh, in his letter to Walsh of 27 March [1865]: ‘With respect to Dimorphism you may like to hear that Dr Hooker tells me that a dioicous parasitic plant allied to Rafflesia has its 2 sexes parasitic on 2 distinct species of the same genus of plants’. Hooker may have told CD this during his visit to Down from 4 to 6 March 1865; no letter containing this information has been found. There is an annotated copy of Siebold 1857 (On true parthenogenesis in moths and bees) in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 756–7). CD marked a passage on page 107 where Karl Theodor Ernst von Siebold refers to the work of a colleague: ‘From a particular gall, he always reared nothing but female individuals of the Hymenopterous insect Stomoctea, but was much astonished when he obtained nothing but males of this insect from the pupa of a Tenthredo.
CD refers to Haeckel 1865b; there is an annotated copy of this work in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. An English translation of the article appeared in the June 1865 issue of Annals and Magazine of Natural History, pp. 437–44; CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL. In Variation 2: 384 n. 41, CD wrote: ‘Ernst Häckel has recently … observed the surprising case of a medusa, with its reproductive organs active, which produces by budding a widely different form of medusa; and this latter also has the power of sexual reproduction.’ Haeckel had mentioned his ongoing work on the Coelenterata, a class of invertebrates that included sea anemones and jellyfish, in 1864 (see Correspondence vol. 12, letters from Ernst Haeckel, 9 [July 1864] and n. 14, and 26 October 1864).
CD refers to Maxwell Tylden Masters and to Caspary 1865 (see letter to J. D. Hooker, [1 May 1865], and letter from J. D. Hooker, 2 May 1865).
See letter from J. D. Hooker, 2 May 1865. Hooker’s father, William Jackson Hooker, was suffering from bronchitis and influenza (see letters from J. D. Hooker, 12 April 1865 and [19 April 1865]).
See letter from J. D. Hooker, [19 April 1865]. Madame Laugel was the wife of Auguste Laugel.


Autobiography: The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882. With original omissions restored. Edited with appendix and notes by Nora Barlow. London: Collins. 1958.

Barlow, Nora. 1932. Robert FitzRoy and Charles Darwin. Cornhill Magazine n.s. 72 (1932): 493–510.

Bowlby, John. 1990. Charles Darwin: a biography. London: Hutchinson.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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.

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

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.

Mellersh, Harold Edward Leslie. 1968. FitzRoy of the Beagle. London: Rupert Hart-Davis.

Siebold, Karl Theodor Ernst von. 1857. On a true parthenogenesis in moths and bees; a contribution to the history of reproduction in animals. Translated by William S. Dallas. London: John van Voorst.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


On FitzRoy’s life and character.

Carl von Siebold’s cases of males and females of gall insects [True parthenogenesis in moths and bees (1857)]. Each sex produced on different plants.

Haeckel’s astonishing case of propagation in a Medusa.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 268a–b
Physical description
6pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4827,” accessed on 17 October 2021,

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