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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   21 [January 1866]


Sunday 21

My dear Hooker

I am ashamed of myself. I have found Verlot,1 which had been swept up with some other pamphlet on a quite different subject.— I cannot say that I am sorry I wrote, as it got a note from you.—2 How I wish that you were not so overworked with correspondence & all sorts of things.

I write now chiefly to say that though scarcely anything or rather nothing would give me so much pleasure as seeing you here for a day, yet I may have to put you off next Sunday (if you are able to come);3 for my poor sister Mrs. Langton is dying at Shrewsbury, or rather in a hopeless state, & whether or not she may linger for some time I do not think the Doctors know.4 I am sure I wish all was over with her. In case of her death I shd. not like to have anyone, even you, in the House.— I will write, if I hear she gets nearer her end.— Poor thing she suffers much.—

I continue much the same & am able to write for 112 or even 2 hours & read a little to myself; but my stomach keeps very bad.—5 What a horrid wretch you are to remind me of my coal-plant prophecy. The coal-formation will ever be an enigma to be.—6

I rejoice over the Nottingham Lecture.7 I am sure you will do it excellently— you know the subject so well & by all accounts did the Bishop so well at Oxford.—8 Will it be printed; if not you really must let me read M.S. By Jove I do not envy you the job; for I cannot conceive anything more difficult than making such a lecture; I do not mean on your subject, but on any blessed subject whatever.—

Yours affect | C. Darwin

We take in Pall Mall Gazette & agree it is admirable.—9


CD had asked Hooker whether he had lent him Verlot 1865 (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 [January 1866]).
Hooker had suggested that he might travel from London to visit CD at Down House on the evening of Saturday 27 January (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 16 January 1866).
See letter from E. C. Langton to Emma and Charles Darwin, [6 and 7? January 1866] and nn. 1 and 2.
For CD’s state of health, see also the letter to H. B. Jones, 3 January [1866]; in his letters to P. L. Sclater, 6 January [1866], and Ernst Haeckel, 20 January [1866], CD reported having recovered sufficiently to work for limited periods each day.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, 16 January 1866 and n. 8. In the late 1840s, CD had argued with Hooker about the origin of coal (see Correspondence vol. 4, letter to J. D. Hooker, [5 October 1847] and n. 6). The origin of coal tested CD’s knowledge of biology to such an extent that he likened his interest in the debates to watching a good game without knowing the rules (Correspondence vol. 4, letter to J. D. Hooker, [2 June 1847]). Divergent opinions on the subject also led him to write: ‘I suppose the coal was rained down [from Heaven] to puzzle mortals’ (Correspondence vol. 4, letter to J. D. Hooker, [5 October 1847]).
CD refers to Hooker’s proposed lecture on CD’s theory of transmutation for the August 1866 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Nottingham (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 16 January 1866 and n. 9).
Samuel Wilberforce, bishop of Oxford, spoke against Origin at the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Oxford in 1860. For Hooker’s response to Wilberforce’s lecture, see Correspondence vol. 8, Appendix VI.


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

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.

Verlot, Bernard. 1865. Sur la production et la fixation des variétés dans les plantes d’ornement. Paris: J. B. Baillière.


Has found Verlot.

His sister [Emily Catherine Langton] is dying [d. 2 Feb 1866].

His stomach still very bad. Writes one or two hours and reads a little.

JDH is a wretch to remind CD of his coal-plant prophecy.

Glad JDH will give Nottingham lecture.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 281
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4981,” accessed on 8 May 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14