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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   29 December 1868

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

Dec. 29. 68

My dear Hooker,

Your letter is quite invaluable, for Nägeli’s Essay is so clever that it will & indeed I know it has, produced a great effect; so that I shall devote three or four pages to an answer.1 I have been particularly struck by your statements about erect and suspended ovules.2 You have given me heart and I will fight my battle better than I shd otherwise have done. I think I cannot resist throwing the contrivances in Orchids into his teeth.3 You say nothing about the flowers of the Rue; ask your colleagues whether they know anything about the structure of the flower and ovarium in the upper most flower.4 But do’nt answer on purpose.

I have gone thro’ my long Index of Gard. Chron., which was made solely for my own use, and am greatly disappointed to find, as I fear, hardly anything wh. will be of use to you. I send such as I have for the chance of their being of use. 5

We all enjoyed your remark about the marine. I should like Owen to see it & that I shd have the pleasure of watching his expression.6

Yours affectionately | Ch. Darwin


Hooker’s letter has not been found. CD refers to Carl Wilhelm von Nägeli’s paper, Entstehung und Begriff der naturhistorischen Art (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 25 December [1868] and n. 6).
In Origin 5th ed., pp. 152–3, CD noted, Dr. Hooker informs me that of the ovules within the same ovarium, in some cases the upper ones alone and in other cases the lower ones alone are fertilised; and he suggests that this probably depends on the direction in which the pollen-tubes enter. If so, the position of the ovules, even when one is erect and the other suspended, would follow from the selection of any slight deviation in position which might favour their fertilisation and the production of seed.
In his response to Nägeli 1865 in Origin 5th ed., pp. 151–7, CD did not include any examples of contrivances of orchids.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 25 December [1868] and n. 4. The enclosure has not been found.
CD refers to Richard Owen. See letter to J. D. Hooker, 25 December [1868] and n. 15. The reference to the marine has not been identified.


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

Origin 5th ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 5th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1869.


JDH’s letter invaluable for an answer to Nägeli’s essay [Entstehung und Begriff der Naturhistorischen Art (1865)].

Has gone through his index to Gardeners’ Chronicle but finds little of use to JDH for his Flora.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 94: 108—9
Physical description
LS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6515,” accessed on 23 June 2024,

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