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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   25 September [1866]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Sept. 25th

My dear Hooker

My poor sister still lives, but is dying.2 It is a great comfort that she has now ceased suffering & doses nearly all day long. She wishes poor thing earnestly for death, & really death is nothing compared with much suffering. It will soon now all be over.—

Many thanks for two kind notes from you, & for the loan of Sering.3 It will please me much to receive Drosera; not that I am in the least hurry.4 Can you give me another plant Erica Massoni; for I presume it is not to be bought, being described by Loudon as “grotesque”. I see it is said to catch very many insects & even once a Kitty-wren. I want to look at its glands in comparison with those of Drosera.—5

Have you read or heard of Agassiz’s new doctrine that the whole of the valley of Amazons was filled from Cordillera to beyond mouth of river with gigantic glacier! & that all striæ have disappeared owing to Tropical climate!! There never was so monstrous a notion.6 Asa Gray says he started with determination to prove the whole globe covered with ice for purpose of destroying all terrestrial productions & thus destroying “Darwinian views”. He rushed down immediately on his arrival to the Academy, & announced my destruction.—7

Talking of my views, did you see a Review in last Gard. Chronicle on Murray: by Jove if Masters wrote that he is up to snuff, & he will stand much higher than before in my estimation of his powers. It seemed to me very good.— It hits the nail on the head so truly & so hard & yet so gently.—8

Have you seen Frankland’s Lecture on muscular force read before Royal Inn.— he was so kind as to send it me, & I have liked it very much, though here & there there were bits I could not fully understand.—9

I suppose you are, as usual, very very busy. I wonder when you will find time to finish off your Lecture, & when you will publish it.10 All your doings at Nottingham seem to have troubled much the good people at Dundee, who dread such infidel doctrines.11 I hope Wallace’s paper will be published; I have seen not even a moderate abstract of it—12

Farewell | my dear old Friend.— | Yours affectly | C. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, 19 September 1866.
Susan Elizabeth Darwin died on 3 October 1866 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
CD refers to the letters from J. D. Hooker, [4 September 1866] and 19 September 1866. CD had recently returned Seringe 1830.
Hooker had promised to send a specimen of the insectivorous plant Drosera binata (see letters from J. D. Hooker, 18 August 1866 and 19 September 1866).
CD refers to John Claudius Loudon’s description of Erica massoni in Loudon 1841, p. 306. The source for the report of a kitty-wren (Troglodytes vulgaris) being caught by E. massoni has not been further identified. For CD’s interest in Erica massoni, see also the letter to L. C. Wedgwood, [before 25 September 1866] and n. 2.
Louis Agassiz advanced the theory that the Amazon valley had been covered by a huge glacier in J. L. R. Agassiz 1866a. CD also discussed Agassiz’s claim in correspondence with Charles Lyell, Asa Gray, and Fritz Müller (see letter to Charles Lyell, 8[–9] September [1866], letter to Asa Gray, 10 September [1866], and letter to Fritz Müller, 25 September [1866]).
Gray told CD that Agassiz had gone to a meeting of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington as soon as he returned from his South American trip (see letter from Asa Gray, 27 August 1866 and n. 3; for a brief description of Agassiz’s address to the Academy, given 12 August 1866, see Lurie 1960, p. 353).
The unsigned review of Andrew Murray’s study of the geographical distribution of mammals (Murray 1866) appeared in the 22 September 1866 issue of Gardeners’ Chronicle, p. 902. Maxwell Tylden Masters was the editor of Gardeners’ Chronicle. The reviewer, later identified as Hooker (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 28 September 1866), was critical of Murray’s concept of species change, which, he claimed, was unsupported by any evidence and failed to take into account many of CD’s views. Wwhen Murray first told CD about his plan to write on geographical distribution, CD had expressed doubts about Murray’s ability to do this (see Correspondence vol. 12, letter to J. D. Hooker, 3 November [1864]).
Edward Frankland’s lecture on the source of muscular power, delivered on 8 June 1866 at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, discussed his calorimetric experiments, which included the first measurements of the calorific value of various foods (Frankland 1866). CD’s copy of the paper has not been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL. For more on Frankland’s study and its significance, see Russell 1996, pp. 421–5.
CD refers to Hooker’s lecture on insular floras, delivered on 27 August 1866 at the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Nottingham (for the publication details of Hooker’s lecture, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, [28 August] 1866, n. 3).
Dundee, Scotland, was the venue of the 1867 meeting of the British Association. CD is probably alluding to remarks by members of Brechin Town Council reported in the Athenæum. Dundee Town Council, in a meeting on 4 September 1866, had resolved to issue circulars to various regional civic and corporate bodies inviting them to co-operate with Dundee to ensure a successful meeting (Dundee City Archives, ref: IF15/24/9). The Brechin meeting was evidently a response to such an invitation. One member said that the British Association propagated nothing but infidelity and another expressed disapproval of the president, William Robert Grove (Athenæum, 22 September 1866, p. 371). Brechin is about 25 miles north-east of Dundee.
CD refers to Alfred Russel Wallace’s paper on sexual modifications and adaptive mimicry in butterflies, read at the British Association meeting at Nottingham (A. R. Wallace 1866a).


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

Frankland, Edward. 1866. On the source of muscular power. [Read 8 June 1866.] Proceedings of the Royal Institution of Great Britain 4 (1862–6): 661–85.

Loudon, John Claudius. 1841. An encyclopædia of plants. London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longmans.

Lurie, Edward. 1960. Louis Agassiz: a life in science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Murray, Andrew. 1866. The geographical distribution of mammals. London: Day and Son.

Russell, Colin Archibald. 1996. Edward Frankland: chemistry, controversy and conspiracy in Victorian England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Seringe, Nicolas Charles. 1830. Pommier monstrueux de St.-Vallery, avec une notice sur la disposition des carpelles de plusieurs fruits. Bulletin Botanique ou Collection de Notices Originales et d’Extraits des Ouvrages Botaniques no. 5, May 1830, pp. 117–25.


Susan Darwin still lives, but is dying.

Requests an Erica massoni to compare with Drosera.

On L. Agassiz’s "astonishing" view that Amazon Valley was filled with gigantic glacier. Asa Gray says LA is determined to cover the globe with glaciers in order to destroy "Darwinian views".

Excellent review of A. Murray [The geographical distribution of mammals] in Gardeners’ Chronicle [(1866): 902].

Frankland’s Royal Institution lecture ["On the source of muscular power" Not. Proc. R. Inst. G. B. 4 (1862–6): 661–85].

Wallace’s paper.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 300
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5217,” accessed on 24 March 2023,

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