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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   22 and 28 [October 1865]


Sunday 22d & Saturday 28th.

(This letter is mere idle talk & you need not read till so inclined.) N.B.)

My dear Hooker

I hope you are established at Kew, & relieved of your stiff joints & not more overwhelmed with business than you might naturally expect—1 Mind I write to amuse myself & expect no answer beyond a line in a week or two’s time just to tell me how you are.— You wrote me a splendidly long & good letter just before you left Buxton.2 You speak with regret that the Royal Soc. never publickly honoured your Father; but do you not think that is accounted for by the fewness of the Botanists ever on the Council?3 I think it would aid in fairness of bestowal of medals; if the list of all that have received them were printed at end of List of Members, as is done by Geolog. Socy.—4 I have been wading through the Annals & Mag. of N. Hist. for last 10 years, & have been interested by several papers; chiefly, however, translations,; but none have interested me more than Carter’s on lower vegetables, infusoria & Protozoa.5 Is he is as good a workman as he appears? for if so he would deserve a Royal Medal.—6 I know it is not new; but how wonderful his account of the spermatozoa of some diœcious alga or conferva, swimming & finding the minute micropyle on a distinct plant & forcing its way in!7 Why, these zoospores must possess some sort of organ of sense to guide their locomotive powers to the small micropyle, & does not this necessarily imply something like a nervous system, in the same way as Complemental male cirripedes have organs of sense & locomotion & nothing else but a sack of spermatozoa?8

I fully agree with your remarks on Wallace’s remarks & on the man himself:9 I fear he will not do what he ought in science. As for the Anthropologists being a bête noir to scientific men, I am not suprised, for I have just skimmed through the last Anthro: Journal, & it shows, especially the long attack on Brit: Assoc: a curious spirit of insolence, conceit, dullness & vulgarity.10

I have read with uncommon interest Travers’ short paper on the Chatham I.s.   I remember your pitching into me with terrible ferocity because I said I thought the seed of Edwardsia might have been floated from Chili to N. Zealand; now what do you say my young man to the three young trees of the same size on one spot alone of the Island & with the cast up pod on the shore?11 If it were not for those unlucky wingless birds, I cd believe that the group had been colonized by accidental means; but as it is, it appears by far to me the best evidence of continental extension ever observed; the distance I see is 360 miles. I wish I knew whether the sea was deeper than between N. Z. & Australia12   I fear you will not admit such a small accident as the wingless birds having been transported on ice-bergs. Do suggest, if you have a chance, to any one visiting the Islands again to look out for erratic boulders there.13 How curious his statement is about the fruit trees & bees! I wish I knew whether the clover had spread before the bees were introduced.—14

A newspaper has been sent me from N. Zealand with a savage anonymous attack on Haast for geological plagiarism;15 perhaps you have received or wd. not care to see it.— I saw in Gard. Chron. the sentence about the Origin dying in Germany, but did not know it was by Seeman.—16 I shd. not be surprised, if it were a bit of revenge; for he had the impudence to ask me for a Testimonial for some Professorship, which I felt compelled to refuse.—17 Talking of the Origin, a Yankee has called my attention to a paper attached to Dr Well’s famous Essay on Dew, which was read in 1813 to Royal Soc. but not printed, in which he applies most distinctly the principle of N. Selection to the races of man.—18 So poor old Patrick Matthew, is not the first, & he cannot or ought not any longer put on his Title pages “Discoverer of the principle of Natural Selection”!19

Do you know who wrote the article in July Quarterly on Bates, Wallace & you?20

You will like much better the 2d vol. of Palgrave:21 I hardly know why but I have liked the whole very much.— We are reading (but you will have no time now to read) Buckle, & like it extremely though we disagree with him every other page, & Emma incessantly gets into a rage with him.—22 As you do not like Silas Marner, I will not like much the Mill on the Floss;23 it is certainly most clever; but almost all the persons are odious, & there is no one so charming as Dolly.—24

You borrowed many months ago Max Wichura on Hybrid Willows: the book is of value to me, as being marked. so some time please see about it.—25

I heard only lately of the Subscription for FitzRoy & wrote to the Hon. Secretary to enquire purpose of subscription & was glad to hear it was money for his family.26 The Sec. told me that the 3000, granted by Government wd nearly all go to pay debts & his children were left penniless by his first marriage! Yet poor FitzRoy started with £20,000 as he told me. What a melancholy career he has run with all his splendid qualities.—

My health improves a little, but very slowly: I can, however, do no work & have great daily discomfort. God knows whether I shall ever do work again. On Nov. 7th we go for a week to 6 Queen Anne St to see Dr. B. Jones:27 if you are well enough, which I know is very doubtful & are in London, you must call & let me hear when.— I heard two days ago from Oliver a not very good account of you & that you wd. not return till Thursday.—28

My dear old friend | Yours affectionately | C. Darwin


Hooker was expected to return to Kew on 26 October 1865, after more than a month’s absence due to illness (see letter from Daniel Oliver, 23 October 1865 and n. 6).
The Royal Society of London had traditionally honoured achievement in the sciences with medals, conferred annually or biannually by vote of the council (see Record of the Royal Society of London, Appendix IV, and MacLeod 1971a). The distribution of medals among practitioners of different disciplines was a contentious issue, and reflected long-running disputes about the representation of ‘natural’ versus ‘physical’ science in the council (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 6, letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 April [1856], and Record of the Royal Society of London, pp. 116–17). After Hooker was awarded a Royal Medal in 1859, he wrote to George Bentham about his indignation at the failure of the Royal Society to award his father, William Jackson Hooker, a Copley Medal. He was particularly opposed to the award being confined to ‘great discoveries, or great generalizations’, because much important taxonomic work was thereby excluded (letter to George Bentham, 20 November 1859; reprinted in L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 418). William Jackson Hooker never received a medal from the Royal Society; he was, however, awarded a knighthood in 1836 for his contributions to botany (see Allan 1967, pp. 94–5).
The annual report printed in the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London included a list of all the winners of the society’s Wollaston medal.
For CD’s copies of the Annals and Magazine of Natural History, see letter to J. D. Hooker, 27 [or 28 September 1865], n. 12. Most of CD’s copies of the journal for the years 1856 to 1864 have not been found, but volumes 15 and 16, for 1865, are in the Darwin Library–CUL. Between 1856 and 1865 Henry John Carter published about twenty articles in the Annals and Magazine of Natural History, all of which dealt with the structure and reproduction of microscopic organisms. CD’s copy of Carter’s article ‘Conjugations of Navicula serians, N. rhomboides, and Pinnularia gibba’ in vol. 15 is lightly annotated. Navicula serians is a synonym ofFrustulia serians; Navicula rhomboides is a synonym of Frustulia rhomboides.
Two Royal Medals were awarded annually to representatives of both ‘natural’ and ‘physical’ sciences, based on the recommendation of the Council of the Royal Society, for ‘contributions to the advancement of Natural Knowledge’ (Record of the Royal Society of London, p. 349). CD had been awarded the medal in 1853 for his work on coral reefs and on Cirripedia (Abstracts of Papers Communicated to the Royal Society of London 6 (1850–4): 355–6). Carter received the medal in 1872 for his work on Infusoria, Rhizopoda, and Spongiadae (Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 22 (1871–2): 31).
In his article ‘On fecundation in Eudorina elegans and Cryptoglena’, Carter describes both micro-organisms as algae that, during the reproductive cycle, have free swimming ‘spermatozoids’ that seek out individual ‘female cells’. He describes the ‘point of ingress’ (micropyle) of the cell and the ‘amalgamation’ of the spermatozoid and female cell (Carter 1858, p. 240).
CD had found parasitic males in the sacs of female or hermaphrodite individuals in the barnacle genera Ibla and Scalpellum. Many of these complemental males lacked stomach and mouth parts and several had no penis. See Living Cirripedia (1851), pp. 281–93.
On the disputes between members of the Anthropological Society of London and some of CD’s scientific friends and supporters, see the letter from A. R. Wallace, 2 October 1865, and the letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 October 1865. An unsigned article in the October 1865 issue of the Anthropological Review, pp. 354–71, described the refusal of the British Association to accept a resolution put forward by the president of the Anthropological Society, James Hunt, proposing that a separate section be created for anthropology. The author was critical not only of the association’s refusal to create the new section but also of the perceived preferential treatment given to papers from members of the rival Ethnological Society. For more on the rivalry between the two societies, see Stocking 1987, pp. 245–57. CD’s copy of the October 1865 issue of the Anthropological Review is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
Henry Hammersley Travers had discovered three trees of a species known only in New Zealand and Chile, Edwardsia microphylla, in the Chatham Islands, which are in the South Pacific, 534 miles east of Christchurch, New Zealand (Columbia gazetteer of the world). Travers also found a seed of the same species on a sawn plank of a Totara tree (Podocarpus totara), together with logs of white and red pines, on the coast of the island, and suggested that the seed of Edwardsia had been carried by ocean currents from New Zealand (Travers 1864, p. 143). CD had long believed that certain problems of plant distribution could be explained by oceanic migration, suggesting icebergs, wind, driftwood, and birds as possible vectors of transmission (Foundations, pp. 57–255; for CD’s discussion of plant distribution in Origin, see pp. 356–92). In his Flora Novæ–Zelandiæ (Hooker 1853–5, 1: xix), Hooker had also considered the difficulty of explaining the existence in two widely separated locations of rare local species, but had dismissed the idea of transportation by aerial or oceanic currents, claiming seeds were too heavy to be airborne and could not stand exposure to salt water. CD and Hooker often discussed the topic in their correspondence, and at one point CD joked: ‘I believe you are afraid to send me a ripe Edwardsia pod for fear I shd float it from N. Zealand to Chile!!!’ (Correspondence vol. 6, letter to J. D. Hooker, 3 June [1857]). CD’s annotated copy of Travers 1864, in his unbound issue of the 3 October 1865 number of the Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany), including a separate sheet of notes referring to the article pasted on the back cover, is in the Darwin Archive–CUL.
In his paper (Travers 1864, p. 141), Travers noted that the kiwi (Apteryx) had once inhabited the Chatham Islands. CD could not explain the presence of the flightless bird by his migration theory (see n. 11, above), and was forced to admit that the bird’s presence was strong evidence for the existence of a former land-bridge connecting the islands to New Zealand. Hooker favoured Edward Forbes’s theory that oceanic islands were once connected to the major continents but CD had reservations about it (E. Forbes 1846; see, for example, Correspondence vol. 5, letter to J. D. Hooker, 27 May [1855] and n. 2, and Correspondence vol. 11, letter to J. D. Hooker, [28 August 1863] and n. 7). In Origin, pp. 357–8, CD remained highly sceptical of Forbes’s theory in its broadest form, but admitted the possibility that there had been some land bridges. CD was interested in the depth of the ocean as an indicator of a boundary between different faunal regions (see letter to A. R. Wallace, 29 January [1865] and nn. 4 and 5).
In Origin, p. 363, CD discussed the possibility of icebergs as agents of seed transmission and noted that the presence of ‘erratic boulders’, that is, fragments of rock not native to the location where they were found, in the Azores suggested that icebergs had once drifted to the islands, possibly bringing non-native seeds. See also Correspondence vol. 7, letter to J. D. Hooker, 26 [April 1858] and n. 4.
Travers had noted that many introduced plants, including white clover, were spreading rapidly, and also that the importation of bees had resulted in good fruit production from introduced European trees and shrubs (Travers 1864, p. 144). In correspondence with Hooker, CD had suggested that the ‘remarkable absence’ of papilionaceous plants in New Zealand might be explained by the absence of hive bees (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to J. D. Hooker, 12 January [1858]). In Origin, p. 97, CD had argued that the fertility of papilionaceous plants was greatly reduced if bees were excluded. See also Correspondence vol. 12, letter to J. D. Hooker, 4 December [1864] and n. 20. Some of CD’s notes on the subject are in his Experimental book (DAR 157a: 33–8; see also Natural selection, pp. 68–71).
The article CD refers to has not been identified. Over the course of his career, Julius von Haast was involved in a number of well-publicised disputes, but most occurred after 1866 (see, for example, the discussion of his conflict with Frederick Wollaston Hutton over glacial theory in H. F. von Haast 1948, pp. 665–72).
CD refers to a brief article in the Gardeners’ Chronicle, 7 October 1865, p. 938, which summarised a longer report in the Athenæum, 30 September 1865, pp. 435–6, and to Berthold Carl Seemann. The article mentioned the reading of two papers with opposing views of CD’s theory at a meeting of German naturalists and claimed that German enthusiasm for Darwinism was beginning to cool. Hooker had mentioned the report in the Athenæum to CD, referring to ‘Seeman’s sneers’ at CD’s Origin (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 October 1865 and n. 27).
No correspondence between CD and Seemann regarding a testimonial for a professorship has been found. Seemann proposed CD for membership in the Academia Caesarea Leopoldino-Carolina Naturae Curiosorum (a German academy of naturalists) in 1857 (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter to J. D. Hooker, 11 September [1857]).
CD’s informant was Charles Loring Brace, a nephew of Asa Gray’s wife, Jane Loring Gray. In the historical sketch at the beginning of Origin 4th ed., p. xv, CD cited Brace for calling his attention to William Charles Wells’s paper, ‘An account of a white female, part of whose skin resembles that of a Negro’. The paper was published together with Wells’s ‘Essay on dew’ and another essay in W. C. Wells 1818. CD’s copy of the book is in the Darwin Library–Down. CD referred again to Wells’s work in Descent 1: 243. For a discussion of Wells’s paper, see K. D. Wells 1973.
In a letter in the 7 April 1860 issue of Gardeners’ Chronicle, pp. 312–13, Patrick Matthew claimed that he had anticipated CD’s discovery of the principle of natural selection in his book, Naval timber and arboriculture (Matthew 1831). Matthew’s political pamphlet, Schleswig-Holstein, etc. (Matthew 1864) had ‘Solver of the species problem’ on the title page (Dempster 1996, p. 34). Matthew told CD he would send him a copy of the book, but it has not been found in the Darwin Library–CUL or the Darwin Library–Down (see Correspondence vol. 12, letter from Patrick Matthew, 6 June 1864 and n. 3).
CD refers to an unsigned article by William Houghton, ‘Gleanings from the natural history of the tropics’, which reviewed A. R. Wallace 1853, Hooker 1854, and Bates 1863, as well as other works ([Houghton] 1865; see Wellesley index).
Hooker had written to CD that he could not get beyond the first volume of Palgrave 1865 (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 October 1865 and n. 13).
CD refers to Eliot 1860 and 1861; see letters from J. D. Hooker, [26 September 1865] and 6 October 1865, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 27 [or 28 September 1865].
CD refers to Dolly Winthrop, a character in Silas Marner (Eliot 1861): ‘a woman of scrupulous conscience, so eager for duties, that life seemed to offer them too scantily unless she rose at half-past four’ (ibid., p. 158).
CD had received Wichura 1865 at the beginning of 1865 (see letter to M. E. Wichura, 3 February [1865]); he evidently lent it to Hooker shortly after. He had asked for its return in a letter to Hooker of [17 June 1865]. CD’s annotated presentation copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 871–3).
Robert FitzRoy had died on 30 April 1865 (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 2 May 1865, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 4 May [1865]). CD’s letter to Charles Shaw, the honorary secretary of the FitzRoy testimonial fund, inquiring about the subscription has not been found; however, see the letter from Charles Shaw, 3 October 1865 and n. 6.
Six Queen Anne Street was the London residence of CD’s brother, Erasmus Alvey Darwin; Henry Bence Jones had been treating CD since July (see letter to Asa Gray, 15 August [1865], n. 12, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 27 [or 28 September 1865]). Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), records a trip to London from 8 to 20 November 1865, but does not mention a visit to Bence Jones. CD’s Account book–cash account (Down House MS) records two payments to Bence Jones for £12 12s., one on 31 October 1865 and the other on 28 November 1865.
Daniel Oliver informed CD that Hooker was expected to return to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, on 26 October 1865; see letter from Daniel Oliver, 23 October 1865.


Allan, Mea. 1967. The Hookers of Kew, 1785–1911. London: Michael Joseph.

Bates, Henry Walter. 1863. The naturalist on the River Amazons. A record of adventures, habits of animals, sketches of Brazilian and Indian life, and aspects of nature under the equator, during eleven years of travel. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

Buckle, Henry Thomas. 1857–61. History of civilization in England. 2 vols. London: John W. Parker & Son.

Carter, Henry John. 1858. On fecundation in Eudorina elegans and Cryptoglena. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 3d ser. 2: 237–53.

Columbia gazetteer of the world: The Columbia gazetteer of the world. Edited by Saul B. Cohen. 3 vols. New York: Columbia University Press. 1998.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Dempster, W. J. 1996. Natural selection and Patrick Matthew. Evolutionary concepts in the nineteenth century. Durham: Pentland Press.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Eliot, George. 1860. The mill on the Floss. 3 vols. Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons.

Eliot, George. 1861. Silas Marner: the weaver of Raveloe. Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons.

Forbes, Edward. 1846. On the connexion between the distribution of the existing fauna and flora of the British Isles, and the geological changes which have affected their area, especially during the epoch of the Northern Drift. Memoirs of the Geological Survey of Great Britain, and of the Museum of Economic Geology in London 1: 336–432.

Foundations: The foundations of the Origin of Species. Two essays written in 1842 and 1844 by Charles Darwin. Edited by Francis Darwin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1909. [Reprint edition. New York: Kraus Reprint Co. 1969. Also reprinted in De Beer ed. 1958.]

Haast, Heinrich Ferdinand von. 1948. The life and times of Sir Julius von Haast, explorer, geologist, museum builder. Wellington, New Zealand: privately published.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1853–5. Flora Novæ-Zelandiæ. 2 vols. Pt 2 of The botany of the Antarctic voyage of HM discovery ships Erebus and Terror, in the years 1839–1843, under the command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross. London: Lovell Reeve.

[Houghton, William.] 1865. Gleanings from the natural history of the tropics. Quarterly Review 118: 166–93.

Living Cirripedia (1851): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Lepadidæ; or, pedunculated cirripedes. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1851.

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.

Matthew, Patrick. 1831. On naval timber and arboriculture; with critical notes on authors who have recently treated the subject of planting. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, & Green. Edinburgh: Adam Black.

Matthew, Patrick. 1864. Schleswig-Holstein, etc. London: Spottiswoode & Co.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

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.

Palgrave, William Gifford. 1865. Narrative of a year’s journey through central and eastern Arabia (1862–63). 2 vols. London and Cambridge: Macmillan and Co.

Record of the Royal Society of London: The record of the Royal Society of London for the promotion of natural knowledge. 4th edition. London: Royal Society. 1940.

Stocking, George W., Jr. 1987. Victorian anthropology. New York: The Free Press. London: Collier Macmillan.

Travers, Henry Hammersley. 1864. Notes on the Chatham Islands (lat. 44030 S., long. 1750 W.). [Read 3 November 1864.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 9 (1867): 135–44.

Wallace, Alfred Russel. 1853. A narrative of travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro, with an account of the native tribes, and observations on the climate, geology, and natural history of the Amazon valley. London: Reeve.

Wellesley index: The Wellesley index to Victorian periodicals 1824–1900. Edited by Walter E. Houghton et al. 5 vols. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1966–89.

Wells, Kentwood D. 1973. William Charles Wells and the races of man. Isis 64: 215–25.

Wells, William Charles. 1818. Two essays: one upon single vision with two eyes; the other on dew. A letter to the Right Hon. Lloyd, Lord Kenyon and an account of a female of the white race of mankind, part of whose skin resembles that of a negro; with some observations on the causes of the differences in colour and form between the white and negro races of men. London: Archibald Constable and Co. [and others].

Wichura, Max Ernst. 1865. Die Bastardbefruchtung im Pflanzenreich erläutert an den Bastarden der Weiden. Breslau: E. Morgenstern.


Thinks Royal Society’s failure to honour W. J. Hooker may be due to small number of botanists on Council.

Interest in H. J. Carter’s papers in Annals and Magazine of Natural History on lower organisms.

On Wallace; anthropology.

H. H. Travers’ paper on Chatham Islands [J. Proc. Linn. Soc. Lond. 9 (1865): 135–44].

W. C. Wells’s paper of 1813 ["Essay on dew", Two Essays (1818)] anticipates discovery of natural selection.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 277
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4921,” accessed on 21 February 2024,

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