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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   3 April [1868]1


April 3d.

My dear Hooker.

Will you ask Mr. Smith for exact numbers of seeds, which he said he had recorded, of the crossed & self-fertilised Victoria-Water-lily. He said that the crossed seedlings were at first finest, but afterwards, when repotted inferior to the selfs.—2

He said, I think, no difference in number of seeds or in growth of seedlings with Euryale.—3

I much enjoyed my walk with you, & now I have resumed my old routine, but have been overwhelmed by getting all my notes in order & letters answered.—4

I have been thinking over your Presidential address.5 I declare I made myself quite uncomfortable by fancying I had to do it, & feeling myself, utterly dumb-founded. But I do not believe that you will find it so difficult.— When you come to Down, I shall be very curious to hear what your ideas are on the subject.—6 Could you make anything out of a History of the great steps in the progress of Botany, as representing the whole of Natural History. Heaven protect you. I suppose there are men, to whom such a job would not be so awful as it appears to me.—

Farewell | Ever Yours | C. Darwin

P.S. If you had time, you ought to read an article by W. Baghyot in April nor of Fortnightly, applying Natural selection to early or prehistoric politics & indeed to later politics— this, you know, is your view.—7


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, 7 April 1868.
CD refers to John Smith, curator at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and to the giant Amazonian waterlily, Victoria regia (now Victoria amazonica). Smith had already sent CD a note on the species (see Correspondence vol. 15, letter to John Smith, 26 December [1867]).
CD refers to Euryale ferox; he wanted to test Robert Caspary’s observation that this species and Victoria regia were perpetually self-fertilised (see Caspary 1865, pp. 19–20, and letters from Robert Caspary, 18 February 1868 and n. 4, and 2 April 1868).
CD had visited Hooker on 30 or 31 March 1868 (see letter to J. D. Hooker, [28 March 1868]). He had been in London from 3 March to 1 April (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 16, Appendix II)).
Hooker gave the presidential address to the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Norwich on 19 August 1868 (Hooker 1868).
The next recorded visit between CD and Hooker took place while CD was at Freshwater on the Isle of Wight in August 1868 (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 17 [August 1868]).
CD refers to Walter Bagehot’s article ‘The age of conflict’ (Bagehot 1868). It was the second in a series of essays with the collective title ‘Physics and politics’ that appeared in the Fortnightly Review between 1867 and 1872 and that were then published as a book (Bagehot 1872). Bagehot suggested ‘approximate laws’ of progress in human society and compared these to ‘natural selection’ in physical science (see Bagehot 1868, p. 453). For Hooker’s own view on struggle in human society, see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, [21 December 1862], in which he concluded, ‘I do hold that a Govt must always eventually get into the hands of an individual, or a family, or a class—or there is no truth in Nat: Selection.’


Bagehot, Walter. 1868. Physics and politics. No. II.– The age of conflict. Fortnightly Review n.s. 3 (1868): 452–71.

Bagehot, Walter. 1872. Physics and politics: or thoughts on the application of the principles of ‘natural selection’ and ‘inheritance’ to political society. London: Henry S. King. [Facsimile edition, Westmead: Gregg International Publishers, 1971.]

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


Asks for [John?] Smith’s exact count of seeds of the crossed and self-fertilised Victoria water-lily. Similar question on Euryale seed and seedlings.

JDH’s coming [BAAS] Presidential Address.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 94: 60–1
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6086,” accessed on 27 March 2023,

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