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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   19 November 1867

Royal Gardens Kew

Nov 19/67.

My dear Darwin

I do not indeed congratulate—myself—on your book being done & the truce to our taciturnity—1 Knowing from Lyell2 that you were sore pressed, I did not like to bother you. I shall not be inclined to challenge Pangenesis,3 I am ’umbled by your victory over my continental hypothesis.4 (I won’t give up Greenland though— I will have a “rag of Protection”)5

As for me I have been & am Sic vos non vobissing rather too much even for my liking—& I really do like that sort of dilettanteing for my neighbours—6 I have just concluded Bootts Carices, & am at the distribution of the copies (as much bother as any thing)—7 I am printing Harvey’s Genera of Cape Plants8—& revising the English Edition of DeCandolles “Laws of Botanical Nomenclature, which will be a good thick pamphlet.9

In the Garden I am very busy laying out grounds & planting all over, & doing a vast deal for better or for worse. Also I have induced the Board to put the whole Heating apparatus, (which has been messed & jobbed till Curator & Foremen are driven wild,) into my hands instead of the Surveyor of Works, & I have elaborated a plan for rearranging the whole in 25 Houses & 3 Museums, & have put out all for estimates from 3 Tradesmen.10 I shall effect an enormous saving, & have all properly heated too. Also I am planning one new range of Houses to supersede 7 old ones, & which will not only save 6 fires, but save Smith & myself a deal of labor.11

Smith has been very bad since July, has considerable heart disease & functions all out of order— he was away a month in Cornwall, & is now gone for a month to Brighton— this is a severe blow to me.— The whole Garden system is however in such good order that I can conduct the out of door duties in his absence with pleasure. I can trust all my 7 foremen12—& Oliver reigns supreme in the Herbarium, & takes some of the correspondence—13 he has taken to mineralogy as an amusement & collected some beautiful things in Skye & elsewhere.

I shall be delighted to come in December & will hold myself free whenever most convenient to you. & be glad to meet Woolner. I suppose there is a chance of my getting your bust now—which you seem to have forgotten all about.14

I have met Huxley several times lately, he has two children ill with S. Fever,—the first, my Godson, had it mild, I hope the second, a girl, will be equally favorable.15

I have just heard that the Endemic Umbelliferous plant of St. Helena, which is a species of a Cape genus, takes exactly the same abnormal form & Palm like habit as one of the Endemic Madeiran species of the European genus “Ferula”.— this is a good case of conditions.16

I expect the first installment of Seychelles Island plants very soon.17

Thanks for the Balsam seed—also for the advice about your book,18 but the chances are that I shall not find time to read it. at all till I have forgotten the advice.

Have you read Sintram, I never did before, what a grewsome story it is.—19

Gen. Plant. jogs on, I am at a family Rubiaceæ, that takes an immense deal of dissection & gets on proportionately slowly.20

We are all well— | Ever aff Yrs | Jos D Hooker

Do you know that most Brambles have an odd habit of actually thrusting the ends of their surculi down into the ground when a sort of callus forms at the tip & makes root & new plant— This is quite different from a Strawberry runner, I think, that buds at the side, like an ordinary surculus.

CD annotations21

3.1 In the … Labor. 3.9] ‘Your work stuns one’ added pencil
4.1 Smith … July, ] scored red crayon
4.5 Oliver … favorable. 6.2] crossed ink
4.5 Oliver … advice. 9.3] ‘Nov. 19th 1867— Laws of Variation’ added ink
5.1 I shall … December] scored red crayon
5.2 I suppose … now 5.3] scored red crayon
7.1 I have … conditions. 7.4] scored red crayon; ‘like N. Amer QQQQ’ pencil; ‘Due to similar constitution? When growing to larger size, for suppose they do grow larger??’ ink
9.1 Thanks … advice. 9.3] crossed ink
13.1 Do you know … habit] scored red crayon
Top of letter: ‘Keep 2d sheet | Law of Variation’ pencil


Charles Lyell.
CD had asked Hooker’s opinion of his hypothesis of pangenesis (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 17 November [1867] and n. 3).
The humble Uriah Heep in Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield did not pronounce the ‘h’ in ‘humble’. In letters to CD in 1866, Hooker argued that the distribution of plants to islands could be explained by continents having formerly been greater in extent (Correspondence vol. 14). Hooker and CD had long disagreed over continental extension (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 13, letter to J. D. Hooker, 22 and 28 [October 1865] and nn. 11–13). They also disagreed on the influence of occasional transport (or trans-oceanic migration), as postulated by CD in Origin, chapter 12 (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 14). In his lecture on insular floras at the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in August 1866 (J. D. Hooker 1866a), Hooker in large part retracted his earlier objections to CD’s theory. For CD’s relief at persuading Hooker of his argument, see Correspondence vol. 14, letter to J. D. Hooker, 30 August [1866] and n. 5. For more on CD’s long-standing criticism of continental extension theories, see, for example, Correspondence vol. 9, letter to Daniel Oliver, 30 November [1861] and nn. 7 and 8.
On Hooker’s hypothesis that Greenland represented the western boundary of the European flora, see Correspondence vol. 14, letter from J. D. Hooker, 9 August 1866 and n. 17. Hooker apparently alludes to the ‘rag of protection’ to which Charles William Wentworth Fitzwilliam had objected in the bill for the repeal of the Corn Laws (Annual register 1846, 1: 78); previously, Richard Cobden had referred to agricultural protection as an ‘old, tattered and torn flag’ (Bright and Rogers eds. 1870, 1: 282).
Sic vos non vobis: a Latin phrase attributed to Virgil and used of those from whose work others reap the reward (Brewer 1898, p. 1183).
Hooker supervised the engravings and production of the fourth volume of Francis Boott’s Illustrations of the genus Carex (Boott 1858–67), adding occasional notes (ibid., vol. 4, preface). Boott died in 1863. See also Correspondence vol. 12, letter from J. D. Hooker, [23 November 1864] and n. 13.
Hooker had edited W. H. Harvey 1868, a new, enlarged edition of William Henry Harvey’s Genera of South African plants (W. H. Harvey 1838), in accordance with the late author’s wishes (W. H. Harvey 1868, preface).
Alphonse de Candolle’s laws of nomenclature had been adopted at the international botanical congress held in Paris in August 1867 (Candolle 1867). The English translation, Laws of botanical nomenclature adopted by the international botanical congress held at Paris in August, 1867, was published in 1868 by L. Reeve & Co. of London.
Hooker refers to the Board of Works and Public Buildings and their surveyor (R. Desmond 1995, pp. 180, 241), and to the curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, John Smith. For Hooker’s programme of planting at Kew at this period, see R. Desmond 1995, pp. 226–8, 371. For more on improvements to the glasshouses of Kew and their heating systems, see R. Desmond 1995, pp. 230–1, 371. A museum was established at Kew in 1848 and a second opened in 1857 (R. Desmond 1995, pp. 193, 368–9). Hooker’s plans for a museum for the timber specimens were not realised until after his retirement (R. Desmond 1995, p. 288; see also Allan 1967, p. 208).
Hooker refers to the curator, John Smith. A new range of greenhouses was built in 1868 and 1869 (R. Desmond 1995, pp. 231, 371).
Since becoming director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in 1865, Hooker had taken measures to increase the efficiency of his staff, including replacing a number of foremen (Allan 1967, pp. 212–3).
Daniel Oliver was keeper of the herbarium.
On Hooker’s earlier request for a bust of CD by the sculptor, Thomas Woolner, see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from Emma Darwin to J. D. Hooker, 26 December [1863] and n. 1. Hooker visited Down on 21 December 1867 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
Leonard Huxley was Hooker and CD’s godson (A. Desmond 1994–7, 1: 290–1). It is not known which of Thomas Henry Huxley’s daughters, Jessie, Marian, Rachel, Nettie, or Ethel, had scarlet fever.
On the ‘law of the conditions of existence’, see Origin, p. 206. Hooker’s source was probably George Bentham, who was working on the Umbelliferae for Genera plantarum (Bentham and Hooker 1862–83; see letter from J. D. Hooker, 4 February 1867). The umbellifer endemic to St Helena is Sium helenianum (Hemsley 1885, 2: 68–9); Sium is represented in South Africa by a single species, S. thunbergii (W. H. Harvey 1868, p. 140; see also n. 8, above). The Madeiran species referred to is probably either a Melanoselinum or Monizia edulis; Hooker had noted the unusual palm-like habit of these plants and their occurrence on Madeira in J. D. Hooker 1866a, p. 7. The species of Melanoselinum endemic in Madeira is M. decipiens (Lowe 1868). The only European species of Ferula, F. communis, does not occur in Madeira (see Lowe 1868). For previous discussion of the effect of external conditions on morphology in the Umbelliferae (now Apiaceae), see Correspondence vol. 13, letter from Charles and Emma Darwin to J. D. Hooker, [10 July 1865] and n. 8.
Edward Perceval Wright was collecting plants in the Seychelles (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 31 March 1867). Wright later described several Seychelles plants and found the general character of the islands’ flora to conform with the ‘general rules’ given in Hooker’s lecture on insular floras (E. P. Wright 1868; see also J. D. Hooker 1866a).
Friedrich Heinrich Karl Fouqué, Baron de la Motte’s Sintram and his companions (Fouqué 1815) is an allegorical novel concerned with death and sin. A new English translation had recently been published (Fouqué 1867).
Hooker refers to the Genera plantarum (Bentham and Hooker 1862–83). The joint and separate contributions of the authors are documented in Bentham 1883.
CD’s annotations are for his letter to Hooker of 25 November [1867].


Allan, Mea. 1967. The Hookers of Kew, 1785–1911. London: Michael Joseph.

Annual register: The annual register. A view of the history and politics of the year. 1838–62. The annual register. A review of public events at home and abroad. N.s. 1863–1946. London: Longman & Co. [and others].

Bentham, George. 1883. On the joint and separate work of the authors of Bentham and Hooker’s ‘Genera plantarum’. [Read 19 April 1883.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 20 (1884): 305–8.

Boott, Francis. 1858–67. Illustrations of the genus Carex. 4 pts. London: William Pamplin (pts 1, 2, and 3), L. Reeve & Co. (pt 4).

Brewer, Ebenezer Cobham. 1898. The reader’s handbook of famous names in fiction, allusions, references, proverbs, plots, stories, and poems. New and enlarged edition. London: Chatto & Windus.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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

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

Fouqué, Friedrich Heinrich Karl, Baron de la Motte. 1815. Sintram und seine Gefährten: eine nordische Erzählung nach Albrecht Dürer. Vienna: Haas.

Fouqué, Friedrich Heinrich Karl, Baron de la Motte. 1867. Sintram and his companions. A northern romance after Albert Dürer. In Undine and other tales, translated by F. E. Bunnett. Leipzig: Tauchniz. London: Sampson, Low, Marsten, Low and Searle.

Harvey, William Henry. 1838. The genera of South African plants, arranged according to the natural system. Cape Town, South Africa: A. S. Robertson.

Harvey, William Henry. 1868. The genera of South African plants, arranged according to the natural system. 2d edition. Edited by Joseph Dalton Hooker. Cape Town, South Africa: J. C. Juta. London: Longman, Green, Reader, and Dyer.

Hemsley, William Botting. 1885. Report on the botany of the Bermudas and various other islands of the Atlantic and southern oceans. 2 vols. Part of The report of the scientific results of the voyage of H.M.S. Challenger during the years 1873–76. London: HMSO.

Lowe, Richard Thomas. 1868. A manual flora of Madeira and the adjacent islands of Porto Santo and the Desertas. Vol. 1, Dichlamydeæ. London: John van Voorst.

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.


Will not be inclined to challenge Pangenesis.

Admits CD’s victory over JDH’s continental hypothesis (but will not give up Greenland).

Relation of variation to circumstances is shown by discovery of endemic St Helena umbellifer having same palm-like habit as an endemic Madeiran species.

Has completed Boott’s Carices [Illustrations of the genus Carex, pt 4 (1867)],

is printing W. H. Harvey’s work [Genera of South African plants, 2d ed. (1868)],

and is revising English edition of Alphonse de Candolle’s Laws of botanical nomenclature [trans. H. A. Weddell (1868)].

Arrangements at Kew. Gardener [John Smith] is very ill; Oliver reigns supreme in the Herbarium.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 102: 182–4, DAR 47: 191
Physical description
8pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5683,” accessed on 14 December 2019,

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