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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [9 April 1866]1



My dear Hooker

I write one line to thank you for your note & to say how grieved I am to hear about poor Oliver’s loss.—2 There is nothing in this world like the bitterness of such a loss,—unless indeed the wife herself. If you have any good opportunity say a kind word from me to poor Oliver.—

I have been bad in bed with influenza sore throat & rheumatism.—3

How curious your note on the odd Begonia coinciding with article in Gard: Chronicle on ditto.—4 I read some word wrong in your former note about flavour of crossed Sion H. Cucumber, & was surprised: I have ordered seed to cross.5

I am astonished that Pangenesis seems perplexing to you; that it is abominably wildly, horridly speculative, (worthy even of Herbert Spencer) I fully plead guilty to.6

Ever yours | C. D.


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, [6 April 1866]. In 1866, the Monday after 6 April was 9 April.
Hooker informed CD of the death of Daniel Oliver’s daughter in his letter of [6 April 1866].
Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242) records that CD fell ill with a cold on 6 April 1866, and that he contracted influenza on 8 April.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, [6 April 1866] and n. 2. An editorial in the Gardeners’ Chronicle, 7 April 1866, pp. 313–14, considered Begonia phyllomaniaca as an example of sports arising by ‘prolification of the leaf’.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, [5 April 1866] and n. 2. Hooker’s note on the cucumber has not been found. CD crossed the ‘Sion House cucumber’ with another variety, and compared offspring of the crossed and self-pollinated plants in height, number, and seed production; his notes, dated 30 October to 30 December [1866], are in DAR 78: 190–1.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, [6 April 1866]. Hooker and CD had previously criticised the speculative nature of Spencer’s work (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 12, letter from J. D. Hooker, 24 January 1864, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 3 November [1864]).


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


Sad about Oliver’s loss.

JDH’s reference to odd Begonia at same time as an article about it came out in Gardeners’ Chronicle [(1866): 313–14].

Is astonished that Pangenesis seems perplexing to JDH. Pleads guilty to its being "wildly abominably speculative (worthy even of Herbert Spencer)".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 284
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5051,” accessed on 18 April 2021,

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