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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   10 October [1872]1

Miss Woodington’s | The Common | Sevenoaks

Oct 10—

My dear Hooker

I am very much vexed about the Droseras. I am sure it was an oversight of Lettington’s & not carelessness, as he was very proud of the state of D. Capensis.2

I will send your mem– to Parslow today, but I am very doubtful whether he will be able to aid you.3 I was very much struck with Mallet’s paper, but do not remember it enough to see how it bears on the inward dipping of mountain basal strata.4 In none of the theories founded on secular refrigeration can I understand how the same area should have been repeatedly lifted up & down.5 The admission of water to the heated rocks seems now universally accepted as the immediate cause of volcanic outbursts; but the moon, now destitute of aquieous(!) vapour, & yet so studded with craters seems to me difficult to reconcile with this theory.6

I forgot in my last note to thank you & Prof. Dyer for his paper, which interested me immensely; by its aid & my own reflections I have managed to shake off pretty well Dr Bastian; but I never did for a moment admit his extreme cases—7

He seems to me a very able man & I think spontaneous gen. to a confined extent will some day be proved—8

yours affectionately | Ch Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, 7 October 1872.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, 7 October 1872. Henry Lettington was CD’s gardener. CD refers to Drosera capensis.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, 7 October 1872. Hooker hoped that CD’s butler, Joseph Parslow, could assist him in finding a horse to buy.
Secular refrigeration theories accounted for the formation of mountains as a result of the contraction of the earth’s crust due to cycles of cooling (see Mallet 1872, pp. 153–7).
George Poulett Scrope attributed the fluidity of magmas to water in 1825; this view later gained support from other prominent geologists, notably Charles Lyell (see Scrope 1825 and C. Lyell 1872, 2: 230–1). For more on nineteenth-century theories on the role of water in volcanic activity, see Sigurdsson 1999, pp. 219–24. Lunar craters were at this time generally believed to be the result of volcanic action (see Koeberl 2001 for a review of theories of the origin of craters).
William Turner Thiselton-Dyer, in his paper ‘On spontaneous generation and evolution’ (Thiselton-Dyer 1870), criticised Henry Charlton Bastian’s theory of and experiments on spontaneous generation. CD had commented briefly on the paper in his letter to J. D. Hooker, 1 February [1871] (Correspondence vol. 19). CD’s annotated offprint of the article is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. CD discussed Bastian’s theory in more detail in his letter to A. R. Wallace, 28 August [1872].
For more on Bastian’s theory and other contemporary theories of spontaneous generation, see Strick 1999 and Strick 2000.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Koeberl, Christian. 2001. Craters on the moon from Galileo to Wegener: a short history of the impact hypothesis, and implications for the study of terrestrial impact craters. Earth, Moon and Planets 85–86: 209–24.

Lyell, Charles. 1872. Principles of geology or the modern changes of the earth and its inhabitants considered as illustrative of geology. 11th edition. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

Mallet, Robert. 1872. Volcanic energy: an attempt to develop its true origin and cosmical relations. [Read 20 June 1872.] Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 163 (1873): 147–227.

Scrope, George Poulett. 1825. Considerations on volcanos, the probable causes of their phenomena, the laws which determine their march, the disposition of their products, and their connexion with the present state and past history of the globe; leading to the establishment of a new theory of the earth. London: W. Phillips.

Sigurdsson, Haraldur. 1999. Melting the Earth: the history of ideas on volcanic eruptions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Strick, James. 1999. Darwinism and the origin of life: the role of H. C. Bastian in the British spontaneous generation debates, 1868–1873. Journal of the History of Biology 32: 51–92.

Strick, James. 2000. Sparks of life: Darwinism and the Victorian debates over spontaneous generation. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Thiselton-Dyer, William Turner. 1870. On spontaneous generation and evolution. Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science n.s. 10: 333–54.


Is much vexed about Drosera.

Land-level changes and volcanic activity.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Thiselton-Dyer, W. T., Letters from Charles Darwin 1873–81: 31–2)
Physical description
LS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8552,” accessed on 30 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20