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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   6 January [1868]1

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

Jan 6th

My dear Hooker

Many thanks about names of plants, synonyms & male flowers,—all what I wanted.2

I have been glad to see Watson’s letter, & am sorry he is a renegade about Nat. Selection.3 It is, as you say, characteristic with the final fling at you.—4 His difficulty about the difference between the two genera of St. Helena Umbellifers, is exactly the same, as what Nägeli has urged in an able pamphet, & who in consequence maintains that there is some unknown innate tendency to progression in all organisms.5 I said in letter to him, that of course I could not in the least explain such cases; but that they did not seem to me of overwhelming force, as long as we are quite ignorant of the meaning of such structures,—whether they are of any service to the plants, or inevitable consequences of modifications in other parts.6

I cannot understand what Watson means by the “counter balance in nature” to divergent variation.7 There is the counter balance of crossing, of which my present work daily leads me to see more & more the efficiency, but I suppose he means something very different. Further I believe variation to be divergent solely because diversified forms can best subsist.— But you will think me a bore.

I enclose half a letter from F. Müller (which please return) for the chance of your liking to see it; though I have doubted much about sending it, as you are so overworked: I imagine the Solanum-like flower is curious.8

I heard yesterday to my joy that D Hildebrand has been experimenting on the direct action of pollen on mother-plant with success.9 He has also succeeded in making a true graft-hybrid between 2. vars. of Potatoes, in which I failed: I look at this as splendid for Pangenesis, as being strong evidence that bud-reproduction & seminal reproduction do not essentially differ.10 My book is horribly delayed owing to the accursed Index-maker.11 I have almost forgotten it! Farewell   I am very glad to hear about Willy & Tyndall:12 I look at it as a sure sign that he will make good progress.—

Yours ever affect | C. Darwin

Do not plague yourself to discuss or enlarge on F. Müllers facts.

When we meet I must enquire a little more about Balanophora.13


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Friedrich Hildebrand, 2 January 1868.
See letter from H. C. Watson to J. D. Hooker, 1 January 186[8] and n. 7; Hewett Cottrell Watson’s letter may have been enclosed with the letter from J. D. Hooker, [before 6 January 1868?].
See letter from H. C. Watson to J. D. Hooker, 1 January 186[8] and n. 8.
See letter from H. C. Watson to J. D. Hooker, 1 January 186[8] and n. 6. CD refers to Entstehung und Begriff der naturhistorischen (The origin and concept of natural historical species) by Carl Wilhelm von Nägeli (Nägeli 1865). A heavily annotated copy is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL; a handwritten English translation and further notes by CD are in the Darwin Archive–CUL. Nägeli argued that species evolved through the operation of natural selection in conjunction with a ‘perfectibility principle’, a tendency in each organism to develop more complicated structures (see Nägeli 1865, pp. 16–17, 28–30). CD discussed Nägeli further in his letter to J. D. Hooker, 25 December [1868].
See Correspondence vol. 14, letter to C. W. von Nägeli, 12 June [1866].
See letter from H. C. Watson to J. D. Hooker, 1 January 186[8] and n. 7.
CD probably enclosed part of the letter from Fritz Müller, [8 October 1867] (Correspondence vol. 15); this portion of the letter is now missing. Müller had written a letter to Hooker on 7 October 1867 in which he described the Solanum-like species as a member of the family Acanthaceae (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, DC, 215: 168).
See letter from Friedrich Hildebrand, 2 January 1868 and n. 3, and letter to Friedrich Hildebrand, 5 January [1868] and n. 5. CD discussed the similarities between bud and seminal reproduction and their significance for pangenesis in Variation 2: 360–5.
The index for Variation was prepared by William Sweetland Dallas. He had informed CD on 4 November 1867 that he expected to finish the work in a fortnight (see Correspondence vol. 15, letter from W. S. Dallas, 4 November 1867). CD had hoped Variation would be published by the end of November 1867 (ibid., letter to Fritz Müller, 2 November 1867).


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

Nägeli, Carl Wilhelm von. 1865. Entstehung und Begriff der naturhistorischen Art. 2d edition. Munich: Verlag der königl. Akademie.

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


Thanks for plant names.

H. C. Watson a renegade about natural selection. Discusses HCW’s views.

F. Müller’s letter enclosed.

Friedrich Hildebrand’s experiments are splendid for Pangenesis [Die Geschlechter-Vertheilung bei den Pflanzen (1867)].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 94: 39–40
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5779,” accessed on 27 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16