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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   8 November 1844

West Park Kew

Friday Novr. 8. 1844

My dear Darwin

The accompanying are almost verbatim copies of the notes on Infusoriæ in my Journal: are they not luminous?!— I did think of dressing them a bit, but changed my mind; if they are worth any thing they are better as authentic— I have added an idea of my own of the formation of Pancake ice,1 I never read an xplanation of it, but Ehrenberg seems to have been so puzzled about it in his former letters, that I thought I had better initiate him a little into the mysteries of the S. Pole.— I dare say he will think me very presumptuous for this & some other parts of these notes, but I give him them as I found them & he may make any use he can of them, providing he will promise to look on them as they really are—crude remarks made on the spot.

The figures referred to I will copy when the drawings are accessable, but they are now at Edinburgh in Goodsirs hands, who is doing the Crustacea, & have been there a long time..2 The little story at the end about the Ice in columns I intend for you, & not for Ehrenberg’s edification; though as I carelessly wrote it on the same sheet, he will have the benefit of it— I am presuming that you will read the ponderous mss. & forgetting that you are not a Kopfnüsse German. 3

I have not forgot a question you once propounded to me as to whether the species of large-groups-which-were-local were local also, & am inclined to think that species of local large nat. ords. are local also, Cacti I think I mentioned before as an example & Proteaceæ & Epacridæ I take to be two others.

I find two fruitful sources of error into which specific Botanists fall, one is the describing two things as new, because they come from 2 far off countries; & the other of uniting 2 species because they come from the same. To a certain extent a safeguard will be the consideration of whether the group to which the individual belongs is local or widely diffused:—thus, I should hesitate to join two Proteaceæ because they both come from Australia, longer than I should to join two Cardamines one from England & the other from Australia— If this caution saves one single species, the Athenæum need no more cry “cui bono” to poor Watsons Geog. Distrib. of British plants.—4

I find Lycopodiums the same all over the world they do vary miro modo.. atmospheric & other causes have made (what have passed for) many species of them. How is this?, I am firmly convinced (but not sure enough to print it) that L. Selago varies in V. D L. into L. varium—two more different species (as they have hitherto been thought) per se can not be conceived, but no where else do they vary into one another nor does Selago vary at all in England.—5 I am perfectly aware of the xtreme caution that should be used in this instance, & the propriety of keeping the two species distinct in V. D L., or finding some character between the V. D L. form of varium which appears there as Selago,—if in either case, any, however slight, a character can be found between them; but I can find none, the V. D L. Selago is, to my eyes, identical with the English & V. D L. appears to me to possess all intermediate states between selago & varium: this is not the passage merely of one species into another, but of two groups of the genus differing originally toto caelo.. If I can only find a parallel case in the genus (& it is a weeks work to get the species together), I will be down upon varium very soon.

I do not know why I should bother you with these things xcept that you always take it so kindly:

My Father joins me in most kind remembrances to Mrs Darwin & believe me ever | Yours most truly | Jos D Hooker

P.S. The drawings referred to are not worth any thing but only shew what form of infusoria I refer to.—

If you go towards the Ship inn Charing X you can see by asking the waiter a very fine plant of Tussack belonging to Capt Ross.6 I enclose you some good seeds, we have plenty young plants from them..

CD annotations

crossed pencil
5.4 L. Selago… one another 5.6] scored pencil
5.11 English] comma added pencil after
crossed pencil
Top of first page: ‘Nov./10/44’added pencil


Small, thin cakes of ice, which form on the surface when sea-water begins to freeze.
Harry Goodsir was preparing a volume of ‘crustacealogical researches’, announced in Goodsir 1844, but never completed because of his death on the Franklin expedition in 1845.
Hard-headed German.
The Athenæum criticised Hewett Cottrell Watson for not drawing any scientific conclusions from the facts given in Watson 1835 (Athenæum, no. 458, 6 August 1836, p. 552); Watson rejected the criticism in Watson 1835–7. See also Athenæum, no. 529, 16 December 1837, pp. 909–10.
Hooker was much impressed with the agricultural potential of the Falklands tussock grass with its six-foot blades, and hoped it would ‘make the fortune of Orkney and the owners of Irish peat-bogs’. An account extracted from his Erebus letters was published in W. J. Hooker 1843.


Goodsir, Harry D. S. 1844. Notice of observations on the development of the seminal fluid and organs of generation in the Crustacea. Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal 36: 183–6.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1844–7. Flora Antarctica. 1 vol. and 1 vol. of plates. Pt 1 of The botany of the Antarctic voyage of HM discovery ships Erebus and Terror in the years 1839–1843, under the command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross. London: Reeve Brothers.

Hooker, William Jackson. 1843. Notes on the botany of HM Discovery Ships, Erebus and Terror in the Antarctic voyage; with some account of the Tussac grass of the Falkland Islands. London Journal of Botany 2: 247–329.

Watson, Hewett Cottrell. 1835–7. The new botanist’s guide to the localities of the rarer plants of Britain. 2 vols. London. [Vols. 3,8]

Watson, Hewett Cottrell. 1835. Remarks on the geographical distribution of British plants; chiefly in connection with latitude, elevation, and climate. London.


Sends notes on Infusoria for Ehrenberg.

Comments on distribution of species in natural orders that have local distributions. Intermediate forms between species of Lycopodium.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 100: 24–5
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 788,” accessed on 1 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 3