skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [10 September 1845]

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Hooker

I write to say that we are going on Monday for a month to my Father’s at Shrewsbury:1 when, therefore, you can quite spare Cosmos2 wd you send it directed to me. “Shrewsbury”: please not send anything else with it.— I will not trouble you for the Asiatic Journal, as I can see it at the Club.— I send my Journal today for you.— N.B. If by chance you shd. have sent Cosmos either to the Athenæum or Geolog. Soc. I can get it forwarded, if you will inform me.

Many thanks for your letter received yesterday, which, as always, sets me thinking: I laughed at your attack at my stinginesss in changes of level towards Forbes, being so liberal towards myself; but I must maintain, that I have never let down or upheaved our mother earth’s surface, for the sake of explaining any one phenomenon, & I trust I have very seldom done so without some distinct evidence. So I must still think it a bold step, (perhaps a very true one) to sink into depths of ocean, within the period of existing species, so large a tract of surface. But there is no amount or extent of change of level, which I am not fully prepared to admit, but I must say I shd. like better evidence, than the identity of a few plants, which possibly (I do not say probably) might have been otherwise transported. Particular thanks for your attempt to get me a copy of L’Espece3 & almost equal thanks for your criticisms on him: I rather misdoubted him & felt not much inclined to take as gospel his facts. I find this one of my greatest difficulties with foreign authors, viz. judging of their credibility.

How painfully (to me) true is your remark that no one has hardly a right to examine the question of species who has not minutely described many.4 I was, however, pleased to hear from Owen (who is vehemently opposed to any mutability in species) that he thought it was a very fair subject & that there was a mass of facts to be brought to bear on the question, not hitherto collected. My only comfort is, (as I mean to attempt the subject) that I have dabbled in several branches of Nat. Hist: & seen good specific men work out my species & know something of geology; (an indispensable union)5 & though I shall get more kicks than half-pennies, I will, life serving, attempt my work.— Lamarck is the only exception, that I can think of, of an accurate describer of species at least in the Invertebrate kingdom, who has disbelieved in permanent species, but he in his absurd though clever work has done the subject harm, as has Mr. Vestiges, and, as (some future loose naturalist attempting the same speculations will perhaps say) has Mr. D.—

Is not Aug. St. Hilaire a good Botanist? I presume he follows his father & Brother’s views?6

It is a shame to plague you with this long note; but I did not sit down, with malice prepence.

Farewell; I shall long to hear the result in October.— | Ever your’s | C. Darwin


CD left for Shrewsbury on 15 September. He also visited William Herbert and Charles Waterton. See ‘Journal’ (Correspondence, vol. 3, Appendix II).
Hooker’s criticism of Gérard 1844 (see previous letter) clearly struck CD as an implied criticism of his own position. Hooker denied this intention (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 14 September 1845), but CD’s response here and in the letter to J. D. Hooker, [18 September 1845], shows his sensitivity on the point. CD subsequently undertook a systematic study of cirripedes and ‘minutely described’ many species (see Correspondence vol. 4), thus establishing his ‘right to examine the question of species’.
See letter to Emma Darwin, 5 July 1844, in which CD makes such a union of talents a criterion for choosing the literary executor to work up and publish his essay of 1844.
Auguste Saint-Hilaire was not related to Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire or his son Isidore, who both favoured transformist views.


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

Gérard, Frédéric. 1844. De l’espèce dans les corps organisés. Extract from d’Orbigny, Alcide Charles Victor Dessalines, ed., Dictionnaire universel d’histoire naturelle. 16 vols. Paris. 1841–9.

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


Going to Shrewsbury on Monday.

Means to attempt the question of species: "though I shall get more kicks than half-pennies, I will, life serving, attempt my work".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 41
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 915,” accessed on 4 March 2024,

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