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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [29 April 1857]1

Moor Park | Farnham | Surrey


My dear Hooker.

Your letter has been forwarded to me here, where I am undergoing Hydropathy for a fortnight, having been here for a week, & having already received an amount of good, which is quite incredible to myself & quite unaccountable.— I can walk & eat like a hearty Christian; & even my nights are good.— I cannot in the least understand how hydropathy can act as it certainly does on me. It dulls one’s brain splendidly, I have not thought about a single species of any kind, since leaving home.

Your note has taken me aback; I thought the hairiness &c of alpine species was generally admitted; I am sure I have seen it alluded to a score of times.2 Falconer was haranging on it the other day to me.3 Meyen or Gay or some such fellow (whom you would despise) I remember makes same remark on Chilian Cordillera plants.—4 Wimmer has written a little Book on same line, & on varieties being so characterised in Alps.—5 But after writing to you, I confess I was staggered by finding one man (Moquin Tandon I think) saying that alpine flowers are strongly inclined to be white;6 & Linnæus saying that cold makes plants apelatous; even the same species!7 Are arctic plants often apetalous?

My general belief from my compiling work, is quite to agree with what you say about little direct influence of climate; & I have just alluded to the hairiness of alpine plants as an exception. The odoriferousness would be a good case for me, if I knew of varieties being more odoriferous in dry habitats.—

I fear that I have looked at hairiness of Alpine plants as so generally acknowledged that I have not marked passages, so as at all to see what kind of evidence authors advance.— I must confess the other day, when I asked Falconer, whether he knew of individual plant losing or acquiring hairiness when transported, he did not.— But now this second, my memory flashes on me & I am certain I have somewhere got marked case of hairy plants from Pyrenees, losing hairs when cultivated at Montpellier.—8

Shall you think me very impudent if I tell you, that I have sometimes thought that (quite independently of the present case) you are a little too hard on bad observers—that a remark made by a bad observer cannot be right—an observer who deserves to be damned, you would utterly damn— I feel entire deference to any remark you make out of your own head; but when in opposition to some poor devil, I somehow involuntarily feel not quite so much, but yet much deference for your opinion.

I do not know in the least whether there is any truth in this my criticism against you, but I have often thought I would tell you it.—

I am really very much obliged for your letter, for though I intended to put only one sentence & that vaguely, I shd. probably have put that much too strongly.

Ever, my dear Hooker | Your most truly | C. Darwin

This note, as you will see, has not anything requiring an answer.—

The distribution of F.W. Molluscs, has been a horrid incubus to me, but I think I know way now; when first hatched they are very active, & I have had 30 or 40 crawl on a dead Duck’s foot; & they cannot be jerked off, & will live 15 & even 24 hours out of water.—9


Dated by CD’s reference to having been at Moor Park for a week. He arrived there on Wednesday, 22 April (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
CD had visited Hugh Falconer at his London home (see letter to J. D. Dana, 5 April [1857]).
Franz Julius Ferdinand Meyen and Claude Gay had both prepared works describing the natural history of Chile (Meyen 1834[–5] and Gay 1845[–53]).
Probably Wimmer 1840.
Moquin-Tandon 1841, p. 42. CD scored this passage in pencil and wrote ‘Q’ beside it in his copy (DAR Library–CUL). The ‘Q’ indicated he had quoted it. See Natural selection, p. 283.
Linnaeus 1783, p. 79. In the back of his copy of this work, CD wrote: ‘p. 79 Flowers apetalous from cold’.
CD mentioned this case in Natural selection, p. 283, citing Moquin-Tandon 1841, p. 62 (see letter to J. D. Hooker, [2 May 1857], n. 2). Next to this passage in his copy of Moquin-Tandon 1841 (Darwin Library–CUL), CD wrote ‘Ch 7’ in pencil, a reference to the ‘Laws of variation’ chapter in his species book (Natural selection, pp. 279–338).


Moquin-Tandon, Horace Bénédict Alfred. 1841. Eléments de tératologie végétale, ou, histoire abrégée des anomalies de l’organisation dans les végétaux. Paris: P.-J. Loss.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

Wimmer, Christian Friedrich Heinrich. 1840. Flora von Schlesien, preussischen und österreichischen Antheils, oder vom oberen Oder- und Weichsel-Quellen-Gebiet. Nach natürlichen Familien, mit Hinweisung auf das Linnéische System. Breslau, Ratibor, and Pless.


Curative power of hydropathy.

General hairiness of alpine plants questioned: direct environmental effect.

CD has long felt JDH is too hard on bad observers.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Moor Park
Source of text
DAR 114: 194
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2084,” accessed on 20 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6