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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   24 November 1868

Royal Gardens Kew

Nov 24/68

Dear old Darwin

I have been longing to write to you & ask what you think of Hewett Watson’s last throes— — I take for granted he has sent you his Synoptical Cybele.—1 He wrote me a characteristic letter with it, to the effect that he hoped I thought it fair— I answered him with some tartness—that I thought it very unfair, that the passage he quotes from Flora Indica could not be made to bear the interpretation he forced upon it.—that I neither liked the tone of his criticisms, nor the language with which he spiced them, & that as we had so long agreed to differ as to what was right or wrong in matters of scientific criticism I could with truth still sign myself his truly &c—2

I have had no answer. Certainly Owen3 could not be more false or contemptuous than he is— the latter I always knew he was, but I never found him wilfully deceiving before as here in garbling a passage & then putting a false interpretation on it. I feel absolutely indifferent, but do like to pitch into H.C.W.   This was 10 days ago & I have no answer   Now tell me what you think of his mauling of your positions—

Carpenters N. Sea dredging results seem to be most curious, & especially his deep sea temperatures— do you believe in a submarine current at 32o in the Arabian Gulf? which he quotes chapter & verse for!4

Have you read Croll’s last,5 it is very interesting & clever but not convincing as yet—but I have not finished it

What a complicated subject Geology is becoming.

The Grays went off last week.—6

Ever yrs affec | J D Hooker

CD annotations

End of letter: ‘Lubbock’ ink 7


Hooker refers to Hewett Cottrell Watson and his Compendium of the Cybele Britannica: or British plants in their geographical relations, which was published privately in three instalments between 1868 and 1870 and later appeared in a single volume (Watson 1868–70 and 1870). CD’s annotated copy of Watson 1868–70 is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 850–2).
For the full passage quoted from Flora Indica (J. D. Hooker and Thomson 1855), see the letter from H. C. Watson to J. D. Hooker, 1 January 186[8], and n. 8. In Watson 1868–70, 1: 45, Watson commented on the ‘baneful effect’ of the influence of Charles Lyell’s belief in the distinctness of species and their successive creations: In ‘Flora Indica’, vol. 1, page 20, Drs. Hooker and Thomson wrote in high eulogy of Sir Charles Lyell’s inconsistent views, rather too dogmatically designating as ‘superficial naturalists’ those who accepted ‘the doctrine of mutability of species.’ Subsequently, it would now seem, both Sir Charles Lyell and Dr. J. D. Hooker have adopted the Darwinian doctrines; thus enlisting themselves into the ranks of the (so-called) ‘superficial naturalists’, and rapidly rising to generalship over them.
Richard Owen.
William Benjamin Carpenter directed dredging operations in the North Sea on HM Steam-Vessel Lightning in August and September 1868. The results of this expedition were published by Carpenter in ‘Preliminary report of dredging operations in the seas to the north of the British islands’ (Carpenter 1868). In his report, Carpenter referred to results of soundings in the Arabian Sea between Aden and Bombay that recorded temperatures of 3312 o F. at depths of 1800 fathoms. Carpenter hypothesised that only a deep current from the Antarctic region could account for such low temperatures (Carpenter 1868, pp. 187–8).
The reference is to James Croll and Croll 1868 (see letter to James Croll, 24 November 1868).
Asa Gray and Jane Loring Gray had been in England since September 1868 (see letter from Asa Gray, 17 September 1868).
John Lubbock.


Carpenter, William Benjamin. 1868. Preliminary report of dredging operations in the seas to the north of the British Islands, carried on in Her Majesty’s steam-vessel ‘Lightning’, by Dr. Carpenter and Dr. Wyville Thomson, Professor of Natural History in Queen's College, Belfast. [Read 17 December 1868.] Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 17 (1868–9): 168–200.

Croll, James. 1868. On geological time, and the probable date of the Glacial and the Upper Miocene Period. Philosophical Magazine 4th ser. 35: 363–84; 36: 141–54, 362–86.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Watson, Hewett Cottrell. 1868–70. Compendium of the Cybele Britannica; or, British plants in their geographical relations. 3 vols. Thames Ditton: printed for private distribution.


On H. C. Watson’s false and contemptuous criticism of [J. D. Hooker and T. Thomson] Flora Indica [1855].

W. B. Carpenter’s deep-sea dredgings.

James Croll’s last paper ["On geological time", Philos. Mag. 35 (1868): 363; 36 (1868): 141, 362].

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 102: 240–1
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6471,” accessed on 24 October 2021,

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