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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [23] December 18651


Saturday 22 Dec | /65.

My dear Darwin

When I read your letter & came to the part that said you could work an hour a day, my heart leaped—2 I am so glad, & like the boys I say ‘Oh my how jolly—’

No one believes Karsten—3 he has been asked to come forward & would not: I heard the subject discussed by Decaisne & Naudin when in Paris,4 & by Braun & others at Vienna in 1858 I think   Karsten is a very bad observer— Braun you know I think it was who found a pollen tube in the ovary, but attributed it to some other plant.—5 I have often selected a plant of Cœleb. to operate upon, but one & another thing always put it off! I think Brauns paper is in Ann. Sc. Nat. but am not sure.6

Your observation on the undoubted offspring of species simulating hybrids is a surprizing fact, & I cannot understand it— have you ever had 2 or more such pseudo-hybrids from one capsule or plant; or produced the same pseudo-hybrid twice.7

John Scotts observations were always too much for me— but I do not like to be churlish in my estimate of success in a line of enquiry I have not followed—& could only be guided to a judgment by appearances.8 Then too I was suspicious of results obtained by snatches at a time when he should have been doing something else & was always in dread of being caught.9

I would let Palestine alone just now— we have shipped an explorer off, & if at all successful more funds will be wanted & then will be the time.10

Anderson has given Scott a capital appt. at Calcutta11   I hope he has squared with you.12

I am diverted at your quandary about membership of societies—as it was only yesterday that I got a hint that I had not had the civility to acknowledge one that I had forgotten all about— Latterly I have taken to send my titles as they come to Kippist who inserts them in the Linnæan list—13 I do not like to parade them in the Royal, & it is not polite to the said Academies to ignore them altogether   The Linnæan list seemed to me a modest way of embalming them & if I had only kept it up, it would have been a means of reference useful to myself. The Berlin, St. Petersburgh & Austrian Academys’ are real honors, also the Bavarian.—14 The French Institute is no longer worth having quoad Correspondence but membership is the greatest continental honor that can be passed on a foreigner.15

I am surprized at your election to Edinbh. R. S.16—the Edinburgh people being as prejudiced partial & unfair as the Parisian.

The Berlin Academy does not send proceedings to Foreign correspondents or members I believe.

By all means sign Haasts paper when drawn up,17 I shall—but I am in a bit of a fix here   Haast asked me to draw up & sign his paper, being no Geologist I transferred it to Murchison, who being then on Council transferred it to Ramsay, who will do it.—18 I however felt very strongly that if Haast is F.R.S. before Hector it will be a bad thing.19 Because 1. Hectors claims are far higher as previously Geologist to American Expedition; 2. Hector is Director Genl. of Geolog. Survey of all N. Z. & high above Haast who is only provincial Geologist to Canterbury. 3. There is an ugly attack made on Haast in the Colony, for appropriating some other mans facts & theories bodily.20 Considering all these facts, & as a friend to both parties, & knowing that modesty alone kept Hector from putting his name forward—I wrote consulted confidentially Ramsay & Lyell,21 & both agreeing, I wrote to Hector the other day saying that I would have him proposed, though there will not be time to get his answer or approval.— I was also influenced by the fear that Haast was not elected (& I hear he would not be) the first year & Hector comes forward the next with Haasts name still up, the collision would be awkward   Hector I think would get in at once—22 Haast I think not, there being a more deserving Geologist on the list; but one not superior to Hector.

I am really extremely well though still a little stiff in the joints—23 I have taken to Gardening i.e. laying out walks lawns shrubberies & planting trees &c, with enthusiasm24

I shall look to go down to Bromley at an early Sunday— Frances cannot till the bairns go back to school.25

Ever Yrs affec | J D Hooker

I send a quip to amuse the boys.26

I do not think I quite understand the Hybrid affair.27


The date ‘22’ was written in error; in 1865, 22 December was a Friday.
In an 1861 paper, Hermann Karsten claimed to have observed fertilisation in Coelebogyne ilicifolia, a species previously considered parthenogenetic (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 22 December [1865] and n. 7).
Prior to Karsten’s publication on Coelebogyne ilicifolia, Charles Victor Naudin and Joseph Decaisne had undertaken experiments indicating that parthenogenetic reproduction occurred in species of Cannabis, Mercurialis, and possibly Bryonia (see Naudin 1856 and Radlkofer 1857, pp. 250–1). Hooker had visited Naudin and Decaisne in Paris in 1863 (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from J. D. Hooker, 24 January 1863).
Alexander Carl Heinrich Braun had supported the view that Coelebogyne ilicifolia was parthenogenetic, reporting that a pollen tube once seen by another observer on the stigma of C. ilicifolia had probably fallen accidentally from a different plant (Braun 1856, p. 324). Hooker visited Vienna in 1856 (Correspondence vol. 6, letter to J. D. Hooker, 28 September [1856]).
A French translation of Braun 1856 appeared in the Annales des Sciences Naturelles (Botanique) 7 (1857): 229–46.
See letter to B. D. Walsh, 19 December [1865] and n. 10, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 22 December [1865]. CD had guided John Scott in his Primulaceae crossing experiments, and had repeatedly expressed enthusiasm for Scott’s research on this and other subjects in letters to Hooker (see letter from John Scott, 20 January 1865, nn. 3, 4, and 6). In a letter to CD of 16 September 1864 (Correspondence vol. 12), Hooker remarked that he had found Scott’s 1864 paper on Primula ‘obscure’ and had set it aside ‘waiting leisure’.
Scott’s superiors at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, had claimed that he had neglected his regular duties as a gardener in order to pursue botanical researches; Scott denied the charges, however (see letter from John Scott, 21 July 1865 and n. 6).
At the September 1865 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, a grant of £100 was awarded by the general committee to help finance an expedition, led by Charles William Wilson of the Royal Engineers. The party undertook topographic measurements for the preparation of maps of the region between Jerusalem and Damascus (Report of the thirty-sixth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science; held at Nottingham in August 1866, Transactions of the sections, p. 110). On the Palestine Exploration Fund, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, 13 July 1865 and n. 22, and the letter to J. D. Hooker, [29 July 1865] and n. 5.
On Scott’s previous position at a Cinchona plantation near Darjeeling, and his new appointment as curator of the Calcutta botanic garden under Thomas Anderson, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, [17 February 1865], and the letter from John Scott, 21 July 1865 and nn. 3 and 4.
Scott had promised to repay the sum he had received from CD for his passage to India and sundry expenses (see letter from John Scott, 20 January 1865 and n. 6).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 22 December [1865]. As the Linnean Society’s librarian, Richard Kippist was evidently responsible for updating the annually published List of the Linnean Society of London, which included the titles, appointments, and society memberships of each fellow. CD’s entry for 1865 listed only his membership of the Royal and Geological Societies of London, and the Academia Caesaria Leopoldino-Carolina Naturae Curiosorum, a German academy of naturalists.
CD was a corresponding member of the Königliche-Preussiche Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin; he became a fellow in 1878. He became a corresponding member of the Academia Scientiarum Imperialis Petropolitana, St Petersburg, in 1867. He became a corresponding member of the Kaiserliche Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna, in 1871, and an honorary foreign member in 1875. He became a foreign member of the Königliche-Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Munich, in 1878. See Freeman 1978, pp. 107–9.
CD became a corresponding member of the Institut de France in 1878 (Freeman 1978, p. 108).
Julius von Haast had asked CD to support his candidacy for fellowship of the Royal Society of London (see letter from Julius von Haast, 27 September 1865 and n. 6).
Hooker refers to Roderick Impey Murchison and Andrew Crombie Ramsay. Murchison was a member of the Royal Society council in 1865 (Royal Society, council minutes).
Hooker refers to James Hector.
Haast had been accused in the New Zealand press of plagiarising the work of other geologists (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 22 and 28 [October 1865] and n. 15).
Hooker had written to Hector on 24 November 1865 of his decision to have Hector proposed for the fellowship at the same time as Haast (see Yaldwyn and Hobbes eds. 1998, pp. 63–4). Hector was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1866; Haast in 1867 (DNB).
On Hooker’s involvement in landscaping at Kew, see R. Desmond 1995, pp. 226–31.
The enclosure has not been found.
See n. 8, above.


Braun, Alexander Carl Heinrich. 1856. Über Parthenogenesis bei Pflanzen. [Read 23 October 1856.] Abhandlungen der Königlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin (1857): 311–76.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Desmond, Ray. 1995. Kew: the history of the Royal Botanic Gardens. London: Harvill Press 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. 1978. Charles Darwin: a companion. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

List of the Linnean Society of London. London: [Linnean Society of London]. 1805–1939.

Radlkofer, Ludwig. 1857. On true parthenogenesis in plants. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 2d ser. 20: 204–10.


No one believes in Karsten.

Surprised by CD’s observations that illegitimate crosses within a species produce hybrid-like offspring.

JDH’s scepticism of Scott’s observations.

On proposing James Hector vs Julius von Haast for Royal Society; on learned society honours.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 102: 47–50
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4954,” accessed on 22 May 2022,

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