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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   23 February [1868]


Feb. 23d

My dear Hooker

I have had almost as many letters to write of late, as you can have—viz from 8–10 per diem,—chiefly getting up facts on sexual selection; therefore I have felt no inclination to write to you, & now I mean to write solely about my Book, for my own satisfaction, & not at all for yours.— The first Edit was 1500 copies, & now the second is printed off,—sharp work.1 Did you look at the Review in the Athenæum, showing profound contempt of me. I feel convinced it is by Owen—2 Pouchet— Mr. Charles Darwin, always in full & other little strokes. It is a shame that he shd have said that I have taken much from Pouchet without acknowledgement; for I took literally nothing, there being nothing to take.3 There is capital R. in Gardeners Chronicle—which will sell the book, if anything will—4 I do not quite see whether I or the writer is in a muddle about man causing variability.5 If a man drops a bit of iron into Sulphuric acid he does not cause the affinities to come into play, yet he may be said to make Sulphate of Iron. I do not know how to avoid ambiguity. After what Pall Mall6 & G. Chronicle have said, I do not care a d—. for Owen.—

I fear Pangenesis is still-born. Bates says he has read it twice & is not sure that he understands it.—7 H. Spencer says the view is quite different from his (& this a great relief to me, as I feared to be accused of plagiarism, but utterly failed to be sure what he meant, so thought it safest to give my view as almost same as his) & he says he is not sure he understands it.8 Sir J. Lubbock says he shall wait, before he expresses his opinion, & see what the Reviews say.9 Am I not a poor Devil; yet I took such pains, I must think that I expressed myself clearly   Old Sir H. Holland says he has read it twice & thinks it very tough, but believes that sooner or later “some view akin to it” will be accepted.10

You will think me very self-sufficient, when I declare that I feel sure if Pangenesis is now still born it will thank God at some future time reappear, begotten by some other Father, & christened by some other name.—

Have you ever met with any tangible & clear view of what takes place in generation, whether by seeds or buds.— Or how a long-lost character can possibly reappear—or how the male element can possibly affect the mother-plant—or the mother animal so that her future progeny are affected. Now all these points & many others are connected to-gether,—whether truly or falsely is another question—by Pangenesis.— You see I die hard, & stick up for my poor child.—

This letter is written for my own satisfaction & not for yours—so bear it.

Yours affectionately | Ch. Darwin


CD mistakenly attributed the review of Variation published in the Athenaeum ([Robertson] 1868a) to Richard Owen.
CD had remarked on a claim by Félix Archimède Pouchet that variation under domestication threw no light on the modification of species in nature: ‘I cannot perceive the force of his arguments, or, to speak more accurately, of his assertions to this effect’ (Variation 1: 2 n. 2). The Athenæum reviewer commented that CD had ‘perceived, felt, and yielded to the force’ of Pouchet’s claim by postponing ‘to future works the consideration of the natural modification of species’ ([Robertson] 1868a, p. 243).
A review of Variation appeared in the Gardeners’ Chronicle, 22 February 1868, p. 184. The reviewer wrote: ‘there is not a gardener in the country who has any taste for the history or theory of his art but will peruse it with pleasure and profit’.
The reviewer claimed that CD argued ambiguously with regard to the role of human agency in the production of variations: ‘if altered conditions cause variability, and man alters a plant’s condition, he may fairly be charged with causing variability—just as fairly as a man who so places a sovereign before a thievish boy, as that boy will surely steal it’ (Gardeners’ Chronicle, p. 184).
The review of Variation in the Pall Mall Gazette was by George Henry Lewes ([Lewes] 1868a).
CD refers to Henry Walter Bates; see letter from H. W. Bates, 18 February 1868. CD discussed his provisional hypothesis of pangenesis in Variation 2: 357–404.


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


Review in Athenæum full of contempt. Is sure Owen wrote it [see 5931].

Gardeners’ Chronicle review [(1868): 184] favourable.

Fears Pangenesis is still-born. Cites Bates, Spencer, Lubbock, and Sir Henry Holland. Is sure Pangenesis will sometime reappear. Questions that are connected and answered by Pangenesis.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 94: 52–4
Physical description
ALS 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5918,” accessed on 12 April 2024,

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