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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [11–12 July 1845]

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Hooker

I shd have written to you a few days ago, as I had some questions to ask & several points in your last letter, which I should much enjoy discussing with you: but on Wednesday an upsetting event happened in the fact of a Boy-Baby being born to us—may he turn out a Naturalist.1 My wife is going on most comfortably.— First I have got a few questions about the Galapagos Plants, as I am now come (not in correcting press, but first time over) to that Chapter: I will put these questions on a separate paper & some of them you can answer by a word or two on the paper on its back & return it to me, pretty soon, if you can so manage it.2 I cannot tell you how delighted & astonished I am at the results of your examination; how wonderfully they support my assertion on the differences in the animals of the different islands, about which I have always been fearful: I see the case excites the interest even of R. Brown.—3

I am sorry to plague you with so many questions but I do not think they will take you long to answer.— Of course I shall give all these results as from you.—

I could, if I had the vigour, fill half a dozen letters in discussing the many most interesting points you allude to in your letters, which always delight me & tell me much.— I am glad to have your criticisms: thank you much for your note about the so-called Fucus: I can correct my error in the range in press:4 I wonder what sea-weed I saw that looked different & a representative.— Do you know whether the Tasmanian savage used the Boomerang & Throwing Stick?—

With respect to the non-improvements of savages, your line of argument is the same with Arch. Whatelys5 & has I believe been developed by Dr. C. Taylor,6 but I have not seen his book: I have always felt opposed to this, but I fancy only general arguments can be advanced against it. They maintain civilization is a miracle, requiring the interposition of God. Do you know Whatelys capital explanation of the origin of the Boomerange, from the laterally flattened first rib of the Whale.— There is much to read: Lyell’s book is very good, I think;7 I have not yet got the Kosmos, for I want to know which is the best Translation, can you tell me?8 Strezleckis Book has greatly disappointed me.—9 I am now reading a wonderful book, for facts on Variation—Bronn Gesichte der Natur: it is stiff German: it forestalls me, sometimes I think delightfully & sometimes cruelly.10 You will be ten times hereafter more horrified at me, than at H. Watson: I hate arguments from results, but on my views of descent, really Nat. Hist. becomes a sublimely grand result-giving subject (now you may quiz me for so foolish an escape of mouth)— I am particularly interested by your remarks on insular Floras: your statement about the definiteness is exactly the reverse of that of that old logger-head B. St. Vincent.11 A genus having several good species in the same small island is new to me & very remarkable & as you well observe hostile to descent: can you enlarge I shd particularly be obliged on this sometime, to me: are such genera peculiar to the islands? How differently people view the same subject, for I look at insular Floras (though not overlooking from ignorance all the grave difficulties) as leading to an opposite view to yours. (I must leave this letter till tomorrow, for I am tired; but I so enjoy writing to you, that I must inflict a little more on you).

Have you any good evidence for absence of insects in small islands: I found 13 species in Keeling atoll. Flies are good fertilisers; & I have seen a microscopic Thrips & a Cecidomya take flight from a flower in the direction of another with pollen adhering to them. In Arctic countries a Bee seems to go as far N. as any flower.— Not that I am a Believer in Hybridising to any extent worth mention;12 but I believe the absence of insects wd. present the most serious difficulty to the impregnation of a host of (not diœcious or monoœcious plant) plants:—have you ever seen C. Sprengels curious book on this subject; I have verified many of his observations: doubtless he rides his theory very hard.—13

Without knowing the age of the Kerguelen tree no one would, I presume, guess about any change of climate since they grew: S. America was once hotter, then much colder, than now: in N. America, within Tertiary epochs the series, has been.—hot—warm—very cold—a little warmer than now—present climate.—

I am particularly glad to observe in your former letter that you have plants in your Fathers collection from Elizabeth Isd: how I do long to see your results on the Pacific & indeed every-where else. I find just the same relation in a curious group of birds from the Galapagos to one species from near Elizabeth isld, which you do with some plants from Juan Fernandez: I find in sea-shells the Galapagos is a point of union for two grand & otherwise most distinct concho-geographical divisions of the world.—14

I am not aware that I want any geological information from India; but if your friend resides near those parts where the Chetah is used for hunting I am particularly anxious to know, whether they ever breed in domestication; & if never or seldom, whether they copulate, & whether it is thought to be the fault of the male or female.— Again if he reside in the silk-worm districts, any information whether the moths, caterpillars or cocoons vary at all,—whether the inhabitants take any pains in selecting good individuals for breeding—whether there is any traditional belief in the origin of any breed, ie if different breeds of the same species are found in different districts.—or any analagous information.— This wd. be eminently valuable to me.

I was surprised to observe that in the short report in the Athenæum of Brit: Assoc: that there was no allusion to Forbes ice-driving-plant notions:15 it would take up a whole sheet to discuss this with you; but I shd particularly like to discuss it with you.— How I do hope we may see you here this summer; though I am fearful our plans may clash. About the 20th of August we go from home for about six weeks: is there any chance of your coming before? or wd there be time in October, before your return to Edinburgh? do cogitate on this.

I am sincerely sorry to hear of the grievous state of Prof. Graham.— What a letter I have written you! God Help you!

Ever yours | C. Darwin

I know nothing, (I wish I did) on sexes of Irish Yew, but I observe all my young trees bear berries; I had thoughts of going to the Nursery & looking to the trees. I will try to get enquiries made at Florence Court.16



Was my collection your main material? roughly what percentage is my collection to that of others Whose other collections have you described that I may mention their names, if they form any considerable proportion. I think I collected few at Albemarle Isl. & those certainly rather near the coast.

I see17 in all the islands, except Charles, the extra-Galapageian plants are less than half of the total number; but in Charles Isd there are 39 extra-Galapageian & only 29 Galapageian: now Charles Isd. alone has been settled & cultivated & I collected in the upper, cultivated region: can you remember,18 whether a good many of the plants here had a tropical weedy character:19 when giving your results, I shd like to put in a caution about the anomalous result in this one island.20

Owing to your having struck out one of two brackets, I cannot be sure whether there are 185 flowering plants21 and 4222 cryptogamic plants: or does the 185 include the cryptogamic.?

Can you say how many species of Ferns there are; are they not remarkable?23

Is Icaleria 24 the name of an arborescent Composit: if so, I presume it is a tree which I noticed in the upper damp region.—

I collected leaves & unripe fruit of a tree, on which the tortoise feeds: do you chance to know the genus: it is quite unimportant.

I presume there must be a good many cases, where a genus (whether confined to the Galapagos or not) has different peculiar Galapageian species on different islands:—for if it be not so, the genera must be wonderfully different on the different islands.—

If the collection had been put into your hands: shd you have known that it came from the American quarter: wd not Opuntia have told this? would other genera have told the same story?


George Howard Darwin, born 9 July 1845.
See enclosure, transcribed following this letter, and Hooker’s reply (letter from J. D. Hooker, [after 12 July 1845]).
See Athenæum, no. 910, 5 April 1845, p. 337.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, 5 July 1845, in which he corrects CD’s identification of the giant kelp, and adds further information on its geographic range. CD made the correction in Journal of researches 2d ed., p. 239 n.
R. Whately 1831, p. 119: ‘the progress of any community in civilization, by its own internal means, must always have begun from a condition removed from that of complete barbarism; out of which it does not appear that men ever did or can raise themselves.’
C. Lyell 1845a.
There were two translations of Alexander von Humboldt’s Kosmos (1845–62) under way in 1845: an unauthorised translation by Augustin Prichard (Humboldt 1845–8), and a later translation by Elizabeth Juliana Sabine (Humboldt 1846–8). The latter is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
Strzelecki 1845.
Bronn 1841–9. CD possessed a later reprint of the first two volumes (Stuttgart, 1842–3). His copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
Jean Baptiste Georges Marie Bory de Saint-Vincent, who argued that plants on isolated islands were polymorphic (Bory de Saint-Vincent 1804). See letter to J. D. Hooker, 25 December [1844], and Hooker’s reply, 30 December 1844.
CD consistently considered hybridisation in nature to be a rare event, i.e., not an important source of new varieties or species (Notebook C: 151). CD clarifies his meaning in letter to J. D. Hooker, [22 July – 19 August 1845].
Sprengel 1793, in which Christian Konrad Sprengel argues that all floral structures are designed to bring about pollination by insects. Sprengel’s observations on the relationship between flowers and insects were important to CD as evidence to support his belief in the necessity of cross-fertilisation. CD found Sprengel’s explanation of his observations unsatisfactory, and in his copy (Darwin Library–CUL) he wrote: ‘How poor! Has no notion of advantage of intermarriage Seems to think fact of insects being required at all, does not deserve any explanation, & how poor a one of Dichogamy for convenience of insects—!!’ (p. 18).
Edward Forbes’s paper (E. Forbes 1845), read in 1845 and published 1846, was referred to in Athenæum, no. 923, 5 July 1845, p. 678.
The seat of William Willoughby Cole, 3d Earl of Enniskillen. See letter from Philip de Malpas Grey-Egerton, 5 May [1844], for CD’s interest in the Irish yew.
At this point CD added ‘V. map of Pacific’ in pencil.
Hooker added in pencil ‘Yes’.
Hooker added in pencil ‘I nosed it all along.’
Hooker added in pencil ‘Yes’.
Hooker added in pencil ‘should be 40 I accidentally added 2 Malden Isld’ and deleted the last part of the sentence ‘or does … cryptogamic.?’
Hooker added in pencil ‘No’.


Bory de Saint-Vincent, Jean Baptiste Georges Marie. 1804. Voyage dans les quatres principales ae9les des mers d’Afrique. 3 vols. Paris.

Forbes, Edward. 1845. On the distribution of endemic plants, more especially those of the British Islands, considered with regard to geological changes. Report of the 15th meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held at Cambridge, Transactions of the sections, pp. 67–8.

Humboldt, Alexander von. 1845–8. Kosmos; a general survey of the physical phenomena of the universe. Translated by Augustin Prichard. 2 vols. London.

Journal of researches 2d ed.: Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of HMS Beagle round the world, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN. 2d edition, corrected, with additions. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1845.

Notebook C. See de Beer 1960; de Beer and Rowlands 1961; de Beer, Rowlands, and Skramovsky 1967; Notebooks.

Sprengel, Christian Konrad. 1793. Das entdeckte Geheimniss der Natur im Bau und in der Befruchtung der Blumen. Berlin: Friedrich Vieweg.

Taylor, William Cooke. 1840. The natural history of society in the barbarous and civilized state: an essay towards discovering the origin and course of human improvement. 2 vols. London.

Whately, Richard. 1831. Introductory lectures on political economy, being part of a course delivered in Easter term, 1831. London. [Vols. 3,10]


A son [George Howard Darwin] was born on Wednesday.

Sends queries on Galapagos flora.

Discusses JDH’s comments on [Journal of researches].

CD feels that with his views on descent "really Nat. Hist. becomes a sublimely grand result-giving subject".

"How differently people view the same subject, for I look at insular Floras … as leading to an opposite view to yours."

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
12 JY 12 1845
Source of text
DAR 114: 36, 100: 43–7
Physical description
ALS 7pp encl 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 889,” accessed on 12 September 2023,

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