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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   28 March 1849

Down Farnborough Kent (The Lodge Malvern.)

March 28th /49

My dear Hooker

Your letter of the 13th of October has remained unanswered till this day! What an ungrateful return for a letter which interested me so much, & which contained so much & curious information. But I have had a bad winter. On the 13th of November my poor dear Father died & no one, who did not know him, would believe that a man above 83 years old, could have retained so tender & affectionate a disposition, with all his sagacity unclouded to the last. I was at the time so unwell that I was unable to travel which added to my misery. Indeed all this winter I have been bad enough, with dreadful vomiting every week, & my nervous system began to be affected, so that my hands trembled & head was often swimming. I was not able to do anything one day out of three, & was altogether too dispirited to write to you or to do anything but what I was compelled.— I thought I was rapidly going the way of all flesh. Having heard, accidentally, of two persons who had received much benefit from the Water Cure, I got Dr. Gully’s book1 & made further enquiries, & at last started here, with wife, children & all our servants. We have taken a house for two month & have been here a fortnight. I am already a little stronger & now have had no vomiting for 10 days. Dr. G. feels pretty sure he can do me good, which most certainly the regular Doctors could not. At present, I am heated by Spirit lamp till I stream with perspiration,2 & am then suddenly rubbed violently with towels dripping with cold water: have two cold feet-baths, & wear a wet compress all day on my stomach. I eat simply, dine at 1 oclock & take several short walks daily. Even in first 8 days the treatment brought out an eruption all over my legs. I mention all this to you, as being a medical man, you might possibly like to hear about it.— I feel certain that the Water Cure is no quackery.— How I shall enjoy getting back to Down with renovated health, if such is to be my good fortune, & resuming the beloved Barnacles.— Now I hope that you will forgive me for my negligence in not having sooner answered your letter.—

I was uncommonly interested by the sketch you give of your intended grand expedition, from which I suppose you will soon be returning. How earnestly I hope that it may prove in every way successful. I received from your Father a few weeks ago your Galapagos papers3 & I have read them since being here. I really cannot express too strongly my admiration of the geographical discussion: to my judgment it is a perfect model what such a paper shd be: it took me four days to read & think over. How interesting the Flora of the Sandwich islands appears to be,4 how I wish there were materials for you to treat its flora, as you have done the Galapagos. In the Systematic paper I was rather disappointed in not finding general remarks on affinities, structure &c, such as you often give in conversation & such as Decandolle & St. Hilaire,5 introduce in almost all their papers & which make them interesting even to a non-Botanist. I have not yet succeeded in borrowing the vol. with your Coal Paper,6 & I grudged buying the whole volume; but I will & must get it, for as you know, there is no subject which interests me more than that inexplicable Coal Problem.— I have received Mr Hodgson’s excellent pamphlets,7 & have forwarded them to Waterhouse & will write to Mr H. in a few days.— What a good fellow you were to take so much trouble in giving me so much information from H. on the crossing of animals &c. effect of climate. &c.— I shall be very curious sometime to read your observations on the fruit-trees of Europe.— Many thanks also for your news about poor dear old Falconer: I do hope he will not have any more illness: when you write remember me most kindly to him.— I see that you have been attending to the Geology of the mountains; I quite agree that the gneiss & mica-slate districts are the dullest of all. I believe that what you call strata are not really so, but analogous to the laminæ of clay-slate. I have developed this view in my Geolog. vol. of S. America,8 & it is held by some excellent continental geologists, though not adopted in England: Dan Sharpe, however, since I published this view maintains that it is correct.9 I wd. wager that the so called strata of the mica-slate are parallel to the laminæ of the clay-slate, if such occurs in same neighbourhood. I may just mention, as you have been having analyses made of mould, that I lately read a Paper in Gardeners Chron. that potash is found to be volatilised during the usual process of incineration.—10

I have really no news to tell you, for I was in London only once all this winter & have seen no one for an age. I have heard nothing of the Henslows, but in that quarter you will have full information. Sir Ch. Lyell is flourishing as President:11 he got Sir R. Peel & the Archbishop of Canterbury to attend the Anniversary Geolog Dinner.—12 I have not even seen Mrs. Forbes, & altogether I daresay you know more London news than I do. You heard no doubt of the tremendous turmoil there was in Royal Soc.: the Naturalists beating the Physicists, with whom were most of the Geologists.13 Well my dear Hooker this is a dreadfully dull letter to send across the world, but such as it is, it must carry my most sincere wishes for your success.—

Your affectionate friend | C. Darwin


Gully 1846. CD did not otherwise record having read this book, but in letter from Emma Darwin to W. D. Fox, [6 March 1849], this is inferred.
James Manby Gully introduced the ‘lamp bath’ into hydropathic practice. Prior to this, the ‘blanket sweat’, in which the patient was wrapped in blankets and an eiderdown, was the process for inducing perspiration. The lamp bath was a much quicker process (Metcalfe 1906, p. 73).
J. D. Hooker 1851a and 1851b, the preprinted copies of which are in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection– CUL. Bound with these papers are five pages of notes by CD, dated March 1849. His copy of ‘On the vegetation of the Galapagos archipelago’ (J. D. Hooker 1851b) is also heavily annotated.
‘It [the Galápagos archipelago] possesses the further singularity of containing a Flora differing by upwards of one-half its species from that of the rest of the globe, a peculiarity shared by no other tract of land of equal size, excepting perhaps the Sandwich group’ (J. D. Hooker 1851b, p. 235).
Augustin Pyramus de Candolle and Auguste de Saint-Hilaire. CD’s abstracts of papers by both botanists are in DAR 73.
J. D. Hooker 1848a.
CD refers to his theory that the foliation found in gneiss and other metamorphic rocks was related to cleavage and distinct from stratification. See letter to Charles Lyell, [on or before 20 January 1847], n. 2.
Sharpe 1847.
No such paper has been found. At this time there was considerable debate among agricultural chemists as to whether the usual method of burning organic specimens to leave inorganic ash for analysis gave a true measure of the inorganic material contained in the organic substance (see, for example, Way and Ogston 1849, pp. 152–74). The breakdown and dissipation of certain compounds, including the volatilisation of potassium chloride, as a result of the heat of incineration had been identified as a possible source of error. CD had probably read a report of experiments on this problem, but his source has not been identified.
Charles Lyell was elected president of the Geological Society (for the second time) on 16 February 1849.
Robert Peel and John Bird Sumner. In a letter to George Ticknor (K. M. Lyell ed. 1881, 2: 154–5, dated 7 February 1849 but probably a mistake for 17 February, which was the day after the anniversary meeting) Lyell wrote: I have been very busy with my inauguration dinner as President of the Geological Society, and succeeded in getting the Archbishop of Canterbury (Dr. Sumner, author of “Records of Creation”, a geologico-theological work), Sir Robert Peel, Van der Weyer, and a great many M.P.’s and notabilities to come, so that the speaking is allowed to be the most brilliant we ever had at any anniversary. Sedgwick spoke most eloquently, and Peel; and the Archbishop made a straightforward and manly speech.
An allusion to the controversial election of Thomas Bell to the position of secretary of the Royal Society. Although Bell had been rejected by the council as a nominee, his name nevertheless appeared on the ballot paper. He obtained more votes than the official candidate, the physicist William Robert Grove, and was duly elected (M. B. Hall 1984, pp. 90–1).’


Gully, James Manby. 1846. The water cure in chronic disease: an exposition of the causes, progress, & terminations of various chronic diseases of the digestive organs, lungs, nerves, limbs, & skin; and of their treatment by water, and other hygienic means. London: J. Churchill.

Hall, Marie Boas. 1984. All scientists now: the Royal Society in the nineteenth century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1851. On the vegetation of the Galapagos Archipelago, as compared with that of some other tropical islands and of the continent of America. Transactions of the Linnean Society of London 20: 235–62. [Vols. 4,6]

Metcalfe, Richard. 1906. The rise and progress of hydropathy in England and Scotland. London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co.


CD’s health and his father’s death have delayed his answer. Describes J. M. Gully’s water-cure.

JDH’s Galapagos papers [Trans. Linn. Soc. Lond. 20 (1851): 163–233] have excellent discussion of geographical distribution, but why no general treatment of affinities?

CD’s views on clay-slate laminae.

Turmoil in Royal Society between naturalists and physicists.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 113
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1236,” accessed on 5 March 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 4