skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   10 July 1870

Royal Gardens Kew

July 10/70

Dear Darwin

Enclosed seeds & note just arrived from Playfair of Algiers, I do not quite understand it. as I asked only for what you told me. & here are a whole lot of others seeds— all were in duplicate parcels, so I have kept one set; assuming that he means one for us & one for you1

Delpino writes asking me where a Mr Curtis has published physiological observations on Dionea, I cannot guess, do you know.2 I have an obscure recollection of some leaf observations by W. Curtis in his introduction to Botany, a book I have not— Have you any reference to any such observations on Dionaea Cephalotus or Nepenthes?3

Very many thanks for the Orchid papers which I will return when done with.4

I had a talk with the D. of Argyll last night, with whom I dined, about origin of man, & found him in a “cleft stick” about Wallace, believing him to be right in the fact about man; but allowing that he must be wrong in his argument! (he had not read that paper of Wallaces)—5 What a clever little beggar it is!— but I cannot follow his views about man; or quite see what he would have us to believe— His chief quarrell with the “Origin” is that you do not state that the order of evolution is preordained though he believes that you would admit this.— I told him that I did not think this was any business of your’s—that you did not pretend to go into the origin of life, only into it’s phenomena. I could not, before his wife & children especially,6 go into this matter, & avow my own (& I suppose your) belief that all speculations on preordination are utterly idle in the absence of better materials than theologies & cosmogonies supply us with—that in fact the whole subject is beyond the range of our conceptions:

Thanks for telling me of Sach’s Lehrbuch which I will order.7

Ever yr affec | J D Hooker


British Consulate General | Algiers.

27 June

My dear Dr Hooker

As soon as I received your letter with the enclosure from Dr Darwin I went about to all the gardeners in the place but I could not hear of anyone having any of the seeds in question save only Iberis umbellata8

Dr. Darwin also wrote to Durando on the subject and he has sent direct a packet of that seed—9

I hope to take a few days at home this summer & to have the pleasure of seeing you & your family band   I can only get one month’s leave & as I have to go to Switzerland to look for a school for my eldest boy I shall have very little time to spare in England   I must go north where I have a big girl, & innumerable relations, & I trust I may be able to be present at the meeting of the B. A. at L’pool—10 Where will you be between the 15th August & 15 September?

The only chance I shall have of seeing my brother Lyon11 will be at the B. A.—

Good bye, Yours faithfully | R L Playfair

P.S. Our Premier President de la Cour Imperiale12 has a wonderful collection of Autographs & he is very anxious to have a letter of Darwin’s   have you any old one you can spare—

CD annotations

2.1 Delpino…W. Curtis 2.3] double scored pencil
4.3 he must…cannot 4.4] double scored pencil


See the enclosure from Robert Lambert Playfair. The seeds have not been found but see the memorandum to J. D. Hooker, [13 June 1870?]. CD had asked for seeds of Iberis amara, I. umbellata, Nolana prostrata (a synonym of N. paradoxa, Chilean-bellflower), Hibiscus africanus (a synonym of H. trionum, bladder ketmia), Canna warszewiczii (now C. indica), and Mimulus luteus (a synonym of Erythranthe lutea, yellow monkeyflower). The Inwards Book (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) records the receipt of seeds of Lathyrus tingitanus from Playfair on 4 July 1870. No other seeds were recorded.
The references are to Federico Delpino and Moses Ashley Curtis. Curtis had published a description of Dionaea muscipula in M. A. Curtis 1834. In Insectivorous plants, p. 301 n., CD noted that Curtis was the first person to describe the secretion of the glands in Dionaea and cited M. A. Curtis 1834.
Hooker refers to William Curtis and probably to Curtis’s Lectures on botany (W. Curtis 1805).
See letters to J. D. Hooker, 2 July [1870] and nn. 3 and 4, and 8 July [1870].
George Douglas Campbell evidently agreed with the view expressed by Alfred Russel Wallace in an essay, ‘The limits of natural selection as applied to man’, that humans were not subject to natural selection to the same extent as other organisms (see Wallace 1870a, pp. 332–71).
Campbell’s wife was Elizabeth Georgiana Campbell. They had twelve children (ODNB s.v. Campbell, George Douglas).
Hooker refers to Julius Sachs and to Sachs 1870. CD’s annotated presentation copy of Sachs 1870 is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 727).
Hooker’s letter has not been found; the enclosure may have been the memorandum to J. D. Hooker, [13 June 1870?]. Iberis umbellata is globe candytuft.
Playfair refers to Gaetano Durando. See letter to J. D. Hooker, [29 June 1870] and n. 2. In Cross and self fertilisation, p. 105, CD mentions receiving seeds of Iberis umbellata sent from Algiers by Durando.
Playfair’s eldest son has not been identified. The daughter referred to was probably Agnes Mary Playfair. The meeting of the British Association took place in Liverpool from 14 to 21 September 1870 (Report of the fortieth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, held at Liverpool, p. lxxii).
The president of the ‘Cour Imperiale’ has not been identified.


Cross and self fertilisation: The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1876.

Curtis, Moses A. 1834. Enumeration of plants growing spontaneously around Wilmington, North Carolina, with remarks on some new and obscure species. Boston Journal of Natural History 1 (1834–7): 82–140.

Curtis, William. 1805. Lectures on botany: as delivered in the botanic garden at Lambeth. 3 vols. London: H. D. Symonds and Curtis.

Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

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.

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.

Sachs, Julius. 1870. Lehrbuch der Botanik nach dem gegenwärtigen Stand der Wissenschaft. 2d edition. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann.


Sends seeds from R. L. Playfair in Algiers.

F. Delpino writes asking where M. A. Curtis has published physiological observations on Dionaea ["Enumeration of plants growing spontaneously around Wilmington, North Carolina", Boston J. Nat. Hist. 1 (1834–7): 82–140; see Insectivorous plants, p. 301 n.].

Talk with Duke of Argyll on CD’s and Wallace’s views on man.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 103: 53–4; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Directors’ Correspondence 17a: 117)
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7272,” accessed on 12 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18