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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [28 November 1868]1

Royal Gardens Kew


Dear Darwin

I am very vexed that I could not go down on Saturday, but we have old Mr G. Jenyns here, & I could not run away.— you must have had a delightful party.2

Now lift up your hands & eyes—when I tell you, that I am doing a British Flora!— My father’s British Flora is just out of print, & Arnott, his coadjutor is dead, & both Balfour & another Scotch Professor have been at me to write another Flora that shall be better adapted to students purposes;—more scientific, with references to such observations as your’s,—with attention to various points in structure & morphology not usually noted, & with rather more complete & uniform Generic descriptions than the former editions.3

Benthams is far the best Flora,4 but he skims over very distinct subspecies &c,—his English names are an abomination to the Professors, & his phraseology is not scientific enough for a class-book, that should impress terms that express definite morphological combinations & structures, of flower fruit &c.

I have long wished to write a book of this sort, & shall have famous help from Oliver in all Scientific points, & Baker as to critical species &c5   I should like too to write a good brief introduction to the principles of plant-Classification, with a map or 2 of orders such as we have often spoken of.

It is an awful task & you may wish me well through it.—but by my wife6 acting as amanuensis, the descriptive part goes on very smoothly. It will, if well done, be the class book for Edinburgh, Glasgow Dublin & U. College London & perhaps other Schools, & hence have a good Sale, a matter of importance to me now as the children grow up & my income is yearly more inelastic.— Pray say nothing about it however, as I may break down.

MacMillan is inclined to take it up, as one of his series of Educational books.7 I shall be thankful for any hints you can afford me.

I think I could swallow Croll’s glacial Extensions, especially as sending the Equatorial Flora Southward would account for the extension of certain tropical types into S. Temp. Latitudes

I grant you, tis’ a huge relief to get rid of a simultaneous cooling of whole Globe.8

H. Watsons contemptuous epithets did not rile me, but his unprincipled garbling of what is said in the “Flora Indica” did; for no one will turn to the book & find out for themselves how false he is & unscrupulous.9 How good of you to champion me. He has not answered my letter, in which I accuse him roundly of perverting not my meaning only, but the whole passage.

Ever yr affec | J. D. Hooker


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 26 November [1868]. The first Sunday following 26 November 1868 was 28 November.
Hooker refers to Leonard Jenyns. See letter to J. D. Hooker, 26 November [1868] and n. 7.
George Arnott Walker Arnott was co-author with William Jackson Hooker of the sixth and subsequent editions of The British flora (W. J. Hooker and Arnott 1850). Arnott had died on 17 June 1868 (ODNB). Hooker also refers to John Hutton Balfour. The other professor was probably Alexander Dickson, Arnott’s replacement as professor of botany at Glasgow; he is mentioned in the preface of Hooker’s Student’s flora of the British islands (J. D. Hooker 1870, p. viii).
Hooker refers to George Bentham’s Handbook of the British flora (Bentham 1865).
Hooker refers to Daniel Oliver and John Gilbert Baker.
Frances Harriet Hooker.
J. D. Hooker 1870 was published by Macmillan in May 1870 (Publishers’ Circular, 1 June 1870, pp. 328, 335). The head of the firm was Alexander Macmillan.
The reference is to James Croll’s theory of alternate ice ages in northern and southern hemispheres. See letter to James Croll, 24 November 1868 and n. 5, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 26 November [1868] and n. 11.
Hooker refers to Hewett Cottrell Watson and to Hooker and Thomson 1855. See letter from J. D. Hooker, 24 November 1868 and n. 2.


Bentham, George. 1865b. Handbook of the British flora; a description of the flowering plants and ferns indigenous to, or naturalized in, the British Isles. For the use of beginners and amateurs. 2 vols. London: Lovell Reeve & Co.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1870. The student’s flora of the British Islands. London: Macmillan.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


Is doing a British Flora [The student’s flora of the British Islands (1870)], for students, more scientific and more complete than former editions.

His opinion of Bentham’s [British] Flora [1858].

On Croll’s extension of glaciers – a huge relief to get rid of simultaneous cooling of the whole globe.

Watson’s garbling of passage in JDH’s Flora Indica is unprincipled.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 102: 243–6
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6484,” accessed on 14 May 2021,

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