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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   8 February [1867]

Down Bromley Kent

Feb 8th

My dear Hooker

I am heartily glad that you have been offered the Presidentship of the B. Assoc. for it is a great honour, & as you have so much work to do I am equally glad that you have declined it.1 I feel, however, convinced that you would have succeeded very well; but if I fancy myself in such a position it actually makes my blood run cold. I look back with amazement at the skill & taste with which the D. of Argyll made a multitude of little speeches at Glasglow.2 By the way I have not seen the Duke’s book,3 but I formerly thought that some of the articles which appeared in periodicals were very clever, but not very profound. One of these was reviewed in the Saturday Review some years ago; & the fallacy of some main argument was admirably exposed, & I sent the article to you, & you agreed strongly with it.4 Now I have forgotten this counter-argument & I know I shall be humbugged by the Duke, if I reread him as I suppose I must. There was the other day a rather good review of the Duke’s book in the Spectator, & with a new explanation, either by the Duke or Reviewer (I could not make out which) of rudimentary organs; viz that economy of labour & material was a great guiding principle with God (ignoring waste of seed & of young, monsters &c &c), & that making a new plan for the structure of animals was thought & thought was labour, & therefore God kept to a uniform plan & left rudiments.5 This is no exaggeration. In short, God is a man rather cleverer than us: I wonder they did not suggest that he would suffer from indigestion, if he worked his brains too much.— I am very much obliged for the “Nation” (returned by this post): it is admirably good:6 you say I always guess wrong, but I do not believe anyone, except Asa Gray could have done the thing so well. I would bet even, or 3 to 2, that it is Asa Gray, though one or two passages staggered me.

I finish my Book on “Domestic Animals &c” by a single paragraph answering, or rather throwing doubt, in so far as so little space permits on Asa Gray’s doctrine that each variation has been specially ordered or led along a beneficial line. It is foolish to touch such subjects, but there have been so many allusions to what I think about the part which God has played in the formation of organic beings, that I thought it shabby to evade the question.7 I have even received several letters on subject. One was a funny one from a lady with a whole string of questions, & when I said I could not answer one; she wrote she was perfectly satisfied & it was exactly what she expected.—8 I overlooked your sentence about Providence, & suppose I treated it as Buckland did his own theology, when his Bridgewater Treatise was read aloud to him for correction.9 I do not quite understand what you mean; partly from Providence meaning either simply God or hourly, providential care.—

That seems a very difficult point to conjecture on, whether an insular genus originated on the island or survived there.10 When several allied species occur in an archipelago the probability seems that it was created there; as it shows it has long there been a varying & is a well adapted form. I forget whether the Umbellifers live on the other Atlantic Islands.11

Supposing that the Deer’s bones are not those of a naturalised animal, (for certainly there was no deer, when Mauritius was discovered) it is a grand case of continental extension & of greatest value. If you see Owen, caution him, but not from me, about the many animals which have been there naturalised.12

I saw in Proof-sheet the passage in a note by Owen about ideal types; he outdoes himself in audacious impudence on this head, & makes it the ground for an attack on Huxley.13

Send me a copy of your Insular paper when printed, as several of us want to read it.—14

I told Murray not to publish my book blindly, & he has kept the M.S long & is frightened, perhaps with good reason, for I never know when I go too much into detail; & the details are to be printed in smaller type; & at last the M.S is in printer’s hands.—15 In the interval I began a chapter on Man, for which I have long collected materials, but it has grown too long, & I think I shall publish separately a very small volume, “an essay on the origin of mankind:”16 I have convinced myself of the means by which the Races of man have been mainly formed, but I do not expect I shall convince anyone else.—17 I wish the dreadful six-month labour of correcting press was over.—18

Hensleigh Wedgwood has been very ill, & is sadly pulled down, but is now recovering.—19

Give our very kind remembrances to Mrs Hooker & our congratulations on her coming down stairs20

Ever yours affecty | C. Darwin

On Feb 13th we go for a week to 6 Queen Anne St.—21 I wish there was any chance of your being in London & seeing you.—


George Douglas Campbell, the duke of Argyll, made the customary presidential address at the twenty-fifth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Glasgow in September 1855 (G. D. Campbell 1855). CD praised his speech in his letter to W. D. Fox, 14 October [1855]. CD had attended the meeting as a vice-president of section C (geology); see Correspondence vol. 5. No other speeches by Campbell are noted in the Report of the twenty-fifth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.
Hooker had asked whether CD had read Campbell’s Reign of law (G. D. Campbell 1867; see letter from J. D. Hooker, 4 February 1867).
CD refers to Campbell’s review of Orchids in the Edinburgh Review ([G. D. Campbell] 1862); he commented on the article in the letter to J. D. Hooker, 18 [November 1862], and the letter to Asa Gray, 23 November [1862] (Correspondence vol. 10). There is an annotated copy of [G. D. Campbell] 1862 in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. It was reviewed in the Saturday Review by CD’s nephew, Henry Parker ([Parker] 1862). CD sent [Parker] 1862 to Hooker in late 1862 (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, [before 29 December 1862]; see also ibid., letter to J. D. Hooker, 29 [December 1862], and letter from J. D. Hooker, [31 December 1862]). Campbell also published a series of essays in Good Words (G. D. Campbell 1865) that he later used in G. D. Campbell 1867 (see Correspondence vols. 13 and 14).
The anonymous review of G. D. Campbell 1867 appeared in the Spectator. A weekly review of politics, literature, theology, and art, 5 January 1867, pp. 17–19. CD himself viewed rudimentary organs as vestiges of earlier stages in the development of species (see Origin, pp. 450–6); for recent discussions on this topic, see the letter from Fritz Müller, 1 January 1867 and nn. 15 and 16, and the letters to William Turner, 15 January [1867] and 1 February [1867].
The last paragraph in Variation (2: 432) ended with the following lines: However much we may wish it, we can hardly follow Professor Asa Gray in his belief ‘that variation has been led along certain beneficial lines,’ like a stream ‘along definite and useful lines of irrigation.’ If we assume that each particular variation was from the beginning of all time preordained, the plasticity of organisation, which leads to many injurious deviations of structure, as well as that redundant power of reproduction which inevitably leads to a struggle for existence, and, as a consequence, to the natural selection or survival of the fittest, must appear to us superfluous laws of nature. On the other hand, an omnipotent and omniscient Creator ordains everything and foresees everything. Thus we are brought face to face with a difficulty as insoluble as is that of free will and predestination. CD and Gray had long discussed natural selection and design in nature with each other (see Correspondence vols. 8–10).
CD had recently received a letter from Mary Everest Boole enquiring about the compatibility of natural selection with various religious beliefs (Correspondence vol. 14, letter from M. E. Boole, 13 December 1866; see also ibid., letter from M. E. Boole, 17 December [1866]), and had corresponded with Charles Kingsley on religious and scientific subjects since the publication of Origin. CD had also received letters on religious subjects from John Beck (Correspondence vol. 12, letter from John Beck, 6 October 1864) and Alexander F. Boardman (letter from A. F. Boardman, 26 January 1867 and enclosure).
In his letter of 4 February 1867, Hooker discussed a statement he made in his lecture on insular floras. CD had commented on the published lecture (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 29 January [1867] and n. 3). CD refers to William Buckland and the sixth ‘Bridgewater Treatise’, Geology and mineralogy considered with reference to natural theology (Buckland 1836); the incident has not been identified.
Richard Owen told Hooker of deer bones found in a bog on the island of Mauritius (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 4 February 1867 and n. 10). Owen and CD were not on good terms (see also Correspondence vol. 14, letter to T. H. Huxley, 4 July [1866] and n. 8). CD had visited Mauritius on the Beagle voyage (see Correspondence vol. 1, letter to Caroline Darwin, 29 April 1836, and Journal of researches, pp. 483–6).
See letter from J. D. Hooker, 4 February 1867 and n. 11. Owen expressed his opposition to the ‘type-form’ in R. Owen 1866, p. 81; he also referred to Thomas Henry Huxley’s opposition to his proposed expansion of the exhibition rooms for the nation’s natural history collections. Owen claimed that the restricted size of the National Museum proposed by Huxley would limit exhibits to ‘type-forms’, which Owen considered a ‘metaphysical term’. See also Rupke 1994, pp. 34–46, 99–103, and Correspondence vol. 14, letter to W. E. Gladstone, 14 May 1866. For more on the acrimony between Owen and Huxley, see A. Desmond 1994–7.
See letters to John Murray, 3 January [1867], and 8 January [1867]. The return of the manuscript to CD so that he could mark up sections to be printed in smaller type was delayed by Murray’s decision to have a non-scientific friend read the manuscript (see letter from John Murray, 9 January [1867]). CD had sent the manuscript to the printers two days earlier, on 6 February (see letter to W. D. Fox, 6 February [1867] and n. 2).
For CD’s collection of material on human descent, see Barrett 1980, H. E. Gruber 1981, and letter to Fritz Müller, 22 February [1867], n. 11. CD eventually used the material in the writing of Descent and Expression.
CD refers to the task of correcting the proof-sheets of Variation, which occupied him from 1 March to 15 November 1867 (see CD’s ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 15, Appendix II)).
Hooker had asked about Hensleigh Wedgwood’s health in his letter of 4 February 1867.
According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), the Darwins were in London from 13 to 21 February 1867. Six Queen Anne Street was the home of Erasmus Alvey Darwin, CD’s brother.


Barrett, Paul H. 1980. Metaphysics, materialism, and the evolution of mind. Early writings of Charles Darwin. With a commentary by Howard E. Gruber. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Buckland, William. 1836. Geology and mineralogy considered with reference to natural theology. Sixth Bridgewater treatise. 2 vols. London: William Pickering.

Campbell, George Douglas. 1855. Address of the president. Report of the twenty-fifth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held at Glasgow, pp. lxxiii–lxxxvi.

[Campbell, George Douglas.] 1862. [Review of Orchids and other works.] Edinburgh Review 116: 378–97.

Campbell, George Douglas. 1865. The reign of law. Good Words (1865): 52–8, 126–33, 227–32, 269–74.

Campbell, George Douglas. 1867. The reign of law. London: Alexander Strahan.

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

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Desmond, Adrian. 1994–7. Huxley. 2 vols. London: Michael Joseph.

Gruber, Howard Ernest. 1981. Darwin on man. A psychological study of scientific creativity. 2d edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Journal of researches: Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, RN, from 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.

Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.

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.

Owen, Richard. 1866. On the osteology of the Dodo (Didus ineptus Linn.). [Read 9 January 1866.] Transactions of the Zoological Society of London 6 (1869): 49–85.

[Parker, Henry.] 1862. The Edinburgh review on the supernatural. Saturday Review, 15 November 1862, pp. 589–90.

Rupke, Nicolaas A. 1994. Richard Owen, Victorian naturalist. New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


On the Duke of Argyll and a review of his Reign of law.

Asa Gray’s theological view of variation. God’s role in formation of organisms; JDH’s view of Providence.

Insular and continental genera.

Owen on continuity and ideal types

and on bones of Mauritius deer.

On man.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 94: 10–13
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5395,” accessed on 2 March 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15