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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   1 August [1857]1

Down Bromley Kent

Aug 1st

My dear Hooker

It is a horrid bore you cannot come soon, & I reproach myself that I did not write sooner, but I had fancied Mrs. Hooker’s confinement was later.2 N.B. I found that I could do with giving much less Chloroform last time, for I never gave it till she skriked out for it, & yet she never suffered at all.—3

How busy you must be! with such a heap of Botanists at Kew.— Only think I have just had letter from Henslow, saying he will come here between 11th & 15th! Is not that grand?4 Many thanks about Furnrohr: I must humbly supplicate Kippist to search for it.: he most kindly got Boreau for me.—5

I am got extremely interested in tabulating according to mere size of genera, the species having any varieties marked by greek letters or otherwise: the result (as far as I have yet gone seems to me one of the most important arguments I have yet met with, that varieties are only small species—or species only strongly marked varieties. The subject is in many ways so very important for me; I wish much you would think of any well-worked Floras with from 1000–2000 species, with the varieties marked. It is good to have hair-splitters & lumpers.—6 I have done or am doing. Babington7 Henslow8 British Flora London Catalogue. H. C. Watson9 Boreau. France Miquel.10 Holland Asa Gray.11 N. U. States Hooker.12 N. Zealand ——— Fragment of Indian Flora Wollaston13 Madeira Insects.

Has not Koch published good Germany Flora:14 does he mark varieties? Could you lend it me? Is there not some grand Russian Flora which perhaps has vars. marked.—15 The Floras ought to be well known.—

I am in no hurry for a few weeks.— Will you turn this in your head, when, if ever, you have leisure. The subject is very important for my work, though I clearly see many causes of error.—

Do not forget that you must come before very long here.— Most sincerely do I wish Mrs Hooker through her troubles

Ever yours | C. Darwin


The year is given by the reference to Frances Harriet Hooker’s imminent confinement (see n. 2, below).
The Hookers’ fourth child, Marie Elizabeth Hooker, was born on 10 August 1857.
For CD’s earlier remarks concerning the administration of chloroform during childbirth, see Correspondence vol. 4, letters to W. D. Fox, [17 January 1850] and [May 1850], and Correspondence vol. 5, letter to J. D. Hooker, 27 [June 1854], and letter from J. D. Hooker, [29 June 1854]. The proper dosage of chloroform had recently been the subject of discussion in various medical journals following an increase in the number of deaths resulting from its use.
See letters to J. S. Henslow, 10 August [1857], and to John Lubbock, 11 August [1857] and 12 [August 1857].
By ‘hair splitters’ CD means those taxonomists who formed many genera, species, and varieties; ‘lumpers’ tended to group diverse forms together as one species or genus.
Watson and Syme eds. 1853.
A. Gray 1856a.
J. D. Hooker 1853–5 and J. D. Hooker and Thomson 1857–8.


Babington, Charles Cardale. 1851. Manual of British botany, containing the flowering plants and ferns arranged according to the natural orders. 3d edition. London: John van Voorst.

Boreau, Alexandre. 1840. Flore du centre de la France; ou description des plantes qui croissent spontanément dans la région centrale de la France, et de celles qui y sont cultivées en grand, avec l’analyse des genres et des espèces. 2 vols. in 1. Paris: Roret.

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

Fürnrohr, August Emanuel. 1839. Flora Ratisbonensis, oder Uebersicht der um Regensburg wildwachsenden Gewächse. Vol. 2 of Naturhistorische Topographie von Regensburg, edited by A. E. Fürnrohr. Regensburg: Manz.

Henslow, John Stevens. 1835. A catalogue of British plants, arranged according to the natural system, with the synonyms of De Candolle, Smith, Lindley, and Hooker. 2d ed. Cambridge.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1853–5. Flora Novæ-Zelandiæ. 2 vols. Pt 2 of The botany of the Antarctic voyage of HM discovery ships Erebus and Terror, in the years 1839–1843, under the command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross. London: Lovell Reeve.

Koch, Wilhelm Daniel Joseph. 1843–4. Synopsis florae Germanicae et Helveticae, exhibens stirpes phanerogamas rite cognitas, praemissa generum dispositione secundum classes et ordines systematis Linnaeani conscripta. 2d edition. 2 vols. Frankfurt: Fridericus Wilmans. Leipzig: Gebhardt & Reisland.

Ledebour, Karl Friedrich von. 1842–53. Flora Rossica sive enumeratio plantarum in totius imperii Rossici provinciis Europaeis, Asiaticis et Americanis hucusque observatarum. 4 vols. Stuttgart. [Vols. 6,7]

Miquel, Frederich Anton Wilhelm. 1837. Disquisitio geographicobotanica de plantarum Regni Batavi distributione. Leiden. [Vols. 6,7]

Wollaston, Thomas Vernon. 1854. Insecta Maderensia; being an account of the insects of the islands of the Madeiran group. London: John van Voorst.


Important issue at stake with new flora calculations: evidence that species are only strongly marked varieties. Planning large-scale survey.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 206, 207
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2130,” accessed on 1 April 2023,

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