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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   30 August [1874]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Aug. 30th

My dear Hooker

I am particularly obliged for your address.2 It strikes me as quite excellent & has interested me in the highest degree. Nor is this due to my having worked at the subject, for I feel sure that I shd have been just as much struck, perhaps more so, if I had known nothing about it. You could not in my opinion have put the case better. There are several lights (besides the facts) in your essay new to me, & you have greatly honoured me. I heartily congratulate you on so splendid a piece of work. There is a misprint at p. 7, Mitschke for Nitschke.3 There is a partial error at p. 8 where you say that Drosera is nearly indifferent to inorganic substances: this is much too strong; though they do act less efficiently than organic with soluble nitrogenous matter; but the chief difference is in the widely different period of subsequent reexpansion.—4 Thirdly I did not suggest to Sanderson his electrical experiments; though no doubt my remarks led to his thinking of them.5

Now for your letter   you are very generous about Dionæa; but some of my experiments will require cutting off leaves, & therefore injuring plants. I cd not write to Lady Dorothy.—6 Rollisson says that they expect soon a lot from America.7 If Dionæa is not despatched have marked on address “to be forwarded by foot-messenger.”

Mrs Barber’s paper is very curious & ought to be published; but when you come here (& remember you offered to come) we will consult where to send it.8

Let me hear when you recommence on Cephalotus or Sarracenia, as I think I am now on right track about Utricularia, after wasting several weeks in fruitless trials & observations.9

The negative work takes five times more time than the positive.

Ever Yours | C. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, [29 August 1874].
Hooker had sent CD a pre-print of his address on insectivorous plants at the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science; the final version, as published by the British Association, is J. D. Hooker 1874a. The annotated pre-print is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
This misprint was corrected in the published version (J. D. Hooker 1874a, p. 106). The reference was to Theodor Nitschke.
In the later published version, Hooker changed this passage, writing that Drosera (the sundew) responded ‘less efficiently’ to inorganic matter (J. D. Hooker 1874a, p. 106).
In the later published version, Hooker removed the reference to CD’s inspiring John Scott Burdon Sanderson’s experiments on Dionaea muscipula (Venus fly trap; J. D. Hooker 1874a, p. 105).
In his letter of [29 August 1874], Hooker had offered to send CD the best Dionaeas they had at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and had suggested Dorothy Fanny Nevill as an alternative source.
George Rollisson ran a nursery in Tooting, Surrey (R. Desmond 1994).
Hooker had sent Mary Elizabeth Barber’s manuscript on the pupae of Papilio nireus; it was communicated to the Entomological Society of London by CD and published as Barber 1874. See letter from J. D. Hooker, [29 August 1874] and n. 8.
On Cephalotus (the Albany pitcher-plant), see letter from J. D. Hooker, 17 August 1874 and nn. 6 and 9. Hooker discussed Sarracenia (trumpet pitcher-plants) in his address (J. D. Hooker 1874a, pp. 107–10).


Barber, Mary Elizabeth. 1874. Notes on the peculiar habits and changes which take place in the larva and pupa of Papilio nireus. [Read 2 November 1874.] Transactions of the Entomological Society of London 22: 519–21.

Desmond, Ray. 1994. Dictionary of British and Irish botanists and horticulturists including plant collectors, flower painters and garden designers. New edition, revised with the assistance of Christine Ellwood. London: Taylor & Francis and the Natural History Museum. Bristol, Pa.: Taylor & Francis.


Thanks JDH for his "quite admirable" address [Rep. BAAS 44 (1874) pt 2: 102–16]. Suggests revisions.

CD thinks he is "now on right track about Utricularia" after wasting several weeks "in fruitless trials and observations".

Mrs Barber’s paper is very curious and ought to be published.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (JDH/6/3 Insectivorous plants 1873–8: 40)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9613,” accessed on 22 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22