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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [19 May 1846]1

Down Farnborough Kent

Tuesday Evening

My dear Hooker

It has just flashed across me suddenly, that I brought home a very few plants in Spirits of Wine (with the colours noted) namely some sea-weeds, & 2 Orchideous plants from shady parts of Forests of T. del Fuego—a Calceolaria from Elizabeth Isd. St of Magellan (which at the time I thought a wonderful production of nature!) & a salt-plant from near a Salina at Port St Julians in same jar with Opuntia Darwinii from do.— Has Henslow ever given you these? He is now in Cambridge & cd probably find them (if you have not seen them & would like them) & this is the reason I write today, though not well— I go to London for a few days tomorrow.

I received the other day another number of your Antarctic Work, & I have now 4 or 5 to read: Hopkirk did not come: I mention this not at all as wanting immediately but in case of any accident. Have you seen Bunbury’s Paper in Last number of Geolog. Journal on American Coal-plants: your observations on uniformity of Floras on W. coast of S. America under equable climate bears on his remarks,2 & I will point them out to him; that is, if I am not confounding one of your letters, so valuable to me, with your published remarks.—

Many thanks for your most critical & scientific, & I don’t doubt true specific character of Dieffenbach; but I am sorry you took so much trouble about it: I asked chiefly out of simple curiosity, & partly from having been urged to recommend him as Naturalist on any occasion which might turn up, & I was quite unable to make up my mind about him.— There has always struck me as a want of originality in him.—

I am delighted that you are in the Field, geologising or palæontologising:3 I beg you to read the two Rogers’ account of the Coal-fields of N. America; in my opinion they are eminently instructive & suggestive: I can lend you their resumé of their own labours & indeed I do not know that their work is yet published in full.4 L. Horner gives a capital balance of difficulties on the Coal-Theory in his last Anniversary Address, which, if you have not read, will, I think interestyou.—5 In a paper just read an Author throws out the idea that the Sigillaria was an aquatic plant, I suppose a Cycad-Conifer with the habits of the Mangrove.—6 From simple Geological reasoning, I have for some time been led to suspect, that the great (& great & difficult it is) problem of the Coal would be solved on the theory of the upright plants having been aquatic— But even on such, I presume improbable notion, there are, as it strikes me, immense difficulties; & none greater than the width of the coal-fields. On what kind of coast or land could the plants have lived? It is a grand problem, & I trust you will grapple with it: I shall like much to have some discussion with you. When will you come here again?

I am very sorry to infer from your letter that your Sister7 has been ill.

Ever yours | My dear Hooker | C. Darwin

I have heard today that Lyell has found Cheirotherium footsteps in true coal-measures Palæozoic rocks of America!!! Hurrah!8


Dated on the basis of an entry of 22 May 1846 in CD’s Account Book (Down House MS) recording payment for a trip to London. The visit coincided with a meeting of the Geological Society on Wednesday 20 May (see n. 8, below).
C. J. F. Bunbury 1846, see especially p. 87.
Hooker, like the other naturalists on the Geological Survey, was carrying out fieldwork during the summer. He was in South Wales in May and June, examining the coal-beds for fossil plants in situ (Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 210).
CD refers to a set of extracts from papers by William Barton Rogers and Henry Darwin Rogers in the Transactions of the Association of American Geologists and Naturalists for 1843, which are now in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. They include Rogers and Rogers 1843.
Horner 1846, pp. 170–81.
Binney 1846, p. 393. Edward William Binney’s paper was read at a Geological Society meeting on 22 April 1846. CD attended this meeting (Correspondence vol. 3, Appendix II).
Elizabeth Hooker.
Charles Lyell wrote to Leonard Horner from Philadelphia on 27 April 1846 about the discovery. It was announced on 20 May at the Geological Society meeting of that date (see C. Lyell 1846a and K. M. Lyell ed. 1881, 2: 102–3). CD attended the meeting (Correspondence vol. 3, Appendix II).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Horner, Leonard. 1846. Anniversary address of the president. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London 2: 145-221.

Rogers, William Barton and Rogers, Henry Darwin. 1843. On the physical structure of the Appalachian chain, as exemplifying the laws which have regulated the elevation of great mountain chains, generally. Transactions of the Association of American Geologists and Naturalists, pp. 474–531.


CD brought some plants in spirits from Tierra del Fuego. Did JDH see them?

Problems of explaining formation of coalfields. Comments on recent work on coal formation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 62
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 976,” accessed on 9 April 2020,

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