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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [12 December 1866]1



Dear Darwin

The plants arrived all safe & are most acceptable, many thanks.2

I am getting up a good bed of Monsters, amongst which the Antirrhinum will come.3 I am now busy rearranging & replanting our whole Herbaceous Ground, which will take all winter to get into order.4

I had a delightful dinner party at Lyells yesterday 2 Bunburys, (& Lady B)—Lecky the rationalist & Miss B. Coutts.5 I have rarely really enjoyed a dinner party. Lyell looks uncommonly well & in great spirits.

I shall be glad to hear the result of passing the Leguminous seeds through a fowl, the red one you sent me resembles little Crab’s eyes (Abrus precatorius)— What are the splendid crimson seeds you allude to—anything difft from those you sent?—6

I hear that the Wedgwoods at Shrewsbury were bought by a Mrs Wedgwood of London—probably, as you supposed, of Leith hill—7

Lubbock gave a most interesting account at Linn. Soc. of a new sort of Centipede which gave rise to an able discussion by Busk & Huxley as to whether it was a new order or not. I thought Huxley’s view the most rational.8

Ever yrs affec | J D Hooker


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 10 December [1866]. In 1866, the first Wednesday after 10 December was 12 December.
CD had sent the plant specimens to Hooker on 5 December 1866 (see letters to J. D. Hooker, 5 December [1866] and 10 December [1866]).
CD had sent a specimen of peloric Antirrhinum majus, the common snapdragon (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 December [1866] and n. 1).
The arrangement of the herbaceous ground (or order beds) was based on taxonomic classification. From 1856, Hooker had begun to rearrange the beds, including fewer representative species of each genus, while increasing the actual number of plants (see R. Desmond 1995, pp. 183, 248).
Hooker refers to Charles and Mary Elizabeth Lyell, Charles James Fox Bunbury, Edward Herbert Bunbury, Frances Joanna Bunbury, William Edward Hartpole Lecky, and Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts. Charles Bunbury recorded recollections of the event in his journal (see F. J. Bunbury ed. 1891–3, Later life 1: 237–8).
Fritz Müller had sent CD brightly coloured seeds of two plants, one of which he suggested might be a Rhynchosia, while the other he described as probably belonging to the Mimoseae, comparing the seeds to ‘brilliant red pearls’ (see letter from Fritz Müller, 1 and 3 October 1866, and letter to J. D. Hooker 5 December [1866] and n. 3). Abrus precatorius and Rhynchosia precatoria have very similar-looking black and red seeds. CD sent specimens of the red and black seeds with his letter to Hooker of 5 December [1866]. He sent the crimson seeds to Hooker with his letter of 10 December [1866].
Hooker refers to the Wedgwood medallions that he failed to acquire at the sale in Shrewsbury of Susan Elizabeth Darwin’s effects (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [22 November 1866] and nn. 5–7). CD’s sister, Caroline Sarah Wedgwood, lived at Leith Hill Place near Dorking, Surrey (Freeman 1978).
John Lubbock read his paper ‘On Pauropus, a new type of centipede’ at the meeting of the Linnean Society on 6 December 1866 (Lubbock 1866b). Lubbock later gave the animal the name Pauropus huxleyi. In modern classification, Pauropus is a member of the class Pauropoda, not of the class Chilopoda (centipedes). Hooker also refers to George Busk and Thomas Henry Huxley.


Desmond, Ray. 1995. Kew: the history of the Royal Botanic Gardens. London: Harvill Press with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1978. Charles Darwin: a companion. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.


Plants arrived.

Delightful dinner at Lyell’s.

Will be interested in seeds passed through a fowl.

Wedgwood medallions were bought by a Miss W. [Sophy Wedgwood] of Leith Hill.

Lubbock’s account of a new centipede at Linnean Society gave rise to lively discussion by Busk and Huxley.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 102: 118–19
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5302,” accessed on 24 May 2022,

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