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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   5 August 1869

Royal Gardens Kew

Aug 5 /69.

Dear Darwin

I thought you would be interested to know that Dr Cunningham has brought the upper & lower jaws of an Anoplotherium from the Gallegas river— Huxley shewed me them today.1

I went to Brighton yesterday & saw Hallett’s wheat crops.— his results by Selection are very striking—2 He finds by experiment that having advanced to a certain point in improving the quality in a desired direction he can get no further, & that then the power of varying in other directions is much reduced— thus, the Le Couteur wheat which,—itself a very highly improved strain, he has tried in vain to break— he can however from common wheats raise a strain far superior to LeCouteurs,—3 I was much pleased with the man & his methods;—though not altogether a Scientific observer & experimenter,—I think he is a sound & good one in many respects.— He is drawing up a paper for the British Association.4

Has this been proved on wheats before?

Huxley is arranging all his Darwinian papers for republication—5 he is a most wonderful man—& I am beginning to feel quite infantine beside him!— I have read his answer to Congreve,—it is crushing, but too discursive as it struck me—6

I have not seen the N. B. which has a “fling at me” as you call it—7 tell me “on your soul” should I see it?— I have not the smallest curiosity to do so except you think it merits it in any way, great or small. I have no time for mere literature & no mood for worry: & I still dream at times that I have the address to deliver!.8

What did you think of Govt. offering, & Sabine’s accepting, K.C.B.—9 I do think that the chucking the bauble into the poor man’s Coffin—so to speak—is in the most atrocious bad taste—& worse than that is the exhibition of eternal childhood in the aged philosopher’s clutching at it— I should have refused it & written to the Times! I am sure, if he deserved it at all, he did so 20 years ago, when it would have been a gracious acknowledgment of public services.

I am anxious to hear how you are now that you are at home? & Mrs Darwin & George.10

Ever yrs affec | J D Hooker

CD annotations

2.2 He finds … to break— 2.5] crossed pencil
Top of letter: ‘(Palaeontology)’ pencil
End of letter: ‘(Lyell)’ ink


Hooker refers to Robert Oliver Cunningham and Thomas Henry Huxley. See letter from T. H. Huxley, 7 May 1869 and nn. 2 and 3.
Frederic Francis Hallett had been experimenting on wheat since the 1840s but CD apparently did not read his principal paper, ‘On “pedigree” in wheat as a means of increasing the crop’ (Hallett 1861) until Hallett sent it to him in 1875 (letter from F. F. Hallett, 21 May 1875 (Calendar no. 9988)).
CD cited John Le Couteur’s experiments in the first edition of Variation (Variation 2: 200); he expanded this in the second edition to refer also to Hallett’s experiments (Variation 2d ed., 2: 184). There is a copy of Le Couteur 1836 (On the varieties, properties, and classification of wheat) in the Darwin Library–CUL.
Hallett read a paper titled ‘On the laws of the development of cereals’ at the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting at Exeter on 18 August 1869; an abstract was published in the Report of the thirty-ninth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Transactions of the sections, p. 113. There is copy of the paper in the Darwin Library–CUL sent to CD by Hallett in 1875 (letter from F. F. Hallett, 18 May 1875 (Calendar no. 9982)); it appears to have been privately printed.
Hooker refers to Thomas Henry Huxley and his volume of collected papers, Lay sermons, addresses and reviews (T. H. Huxley 1870). In it he reprinted two reviews of Origin from the Westminster Review, April 1860 (T. H. Huxley 1860), and the Natural History Review, 1864 ([T. H. Huxley] 1864).
Hooker refers to T. H. Huxley 1869b, in which Huxley responded to an article by Richard Congreve attacking his views on Auguste Comte. See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 24 July [1869] and n. 6.
On the criticism of J. D. Hooker 1868 in an article in the North British Review, see the letter to J. D. Hooker, 24 July [1869] and n. 7.
Hooker refers to his presidential address to the previous year’s meeting of the British Association delivered in Norwich on 19 August 1868 (J. D. Hooker 1868).
Edward Sabine’s appointment as a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath was announced in the London Gazette on 27 July 1869.
The Darwins had returned to Down from a holiday in Wales on 31 July 1869 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 17, Appendix II)). CD, George Howard Darwin, and Emma Darwin had all been unwell (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 24 July [1869]).


Calendar: A calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882. With supplement. 2d edition. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Hallett, Frederic F. 1861. On ‘pedigree’ in wheat as a means of increasing the crop. Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England 22: 371–81.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1868. Address of the president. Report of the thirty-eighth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, held at Norwich, pp. lviii–lxxv.

Le Couteur, John. 1836. On the varieties, properties, and classification of wheat. London: Shearsmith.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Variation 2d ed.: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1875.

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


Huxley has shown him the jaws of an Anoplotherium brought from the Gallegos by R. O. Cunningham.

Saw Hallett’s wheat crops at Brighton; results of his selection very striking.

Huxley is assembling his Darwiniana papers for republication.

Has written a crushing reply to Richard Congreve ["The scientific aspects of positivism", Fortn. Rev. n.s. 5 (1869): 653–70] and JDH feels "infantine" beside him.

Comments on Sabine’s being offered and accepting K.C.B.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 103: 25–6
Physical description
5pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6853,” accessed on 10 April 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17