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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   6 May [1858]

Down Bromley Kent

May 6th

My dear Hooker

What a striking fact about the willows; but I do not see how it is a “rasper” at least for me; for my notion is that plants common to America & Europe travelled over land, when climate was warmer than now a little before Glacial epoch.—1 But to business.

I send by this post my M.S. on “commonness”, “range” & “Variation” of species in large & small genera.—2 You have undertaken a horrid job in so very kindly offering to read it & I thank you warmly.— I have just corrected the copy & am disappointed in finding how tough & obscure it is; but I cannot make it clearer, & at present I loathe the very sight of it. The style of course requires further correction, & if published I must try, but as yet see not how, to make it clearer.

If not lost, please glance at the way, in which I before asked you to consider the subject;3 please read the Notes pinned on back of Pages.—4 There is one query about Urticaceæ & We؟ddell?s.—5

If you have much to say & can have patience to consider whole subject, I would meet you in London on Phil. Club day, so as to save you trouble of writing.—6 For Heavens sake, you stern & awful judge & sceptic, remember that my conclusions may be true notwithstanding that Botanists may have recorded more vars. in large than in small genera.— It seems to me a mere balancing of probabilities.— Again I thank you most sincerely, but I fear you will find it a horrid job.—

Ever yours | C. Darwin

As usual Hydropathy has made a man of me for a short time: I hope the Sea will do Mrs. Hooker much good.—

P.S | I had such a piece of luck at Moor Park: I found the rare Slave-making Ant, & saw the little black niggers in their Master’s nests.—7


See preceding letter.
CD refers to a discussion of the number of varieties appearing in large and small genera written for his species book (Natural selection, pp. 134–71). The original manuscript and the fair copy are in DAR 15.1.
CD refers to the memorandum enclosed with the letter to J. D. Hooker, 10 April [1858].
The notes are in DAR 15.1.
CD was unsure of the correct spelling of Weddell. A slip in DAR 15.1 (ser. 2): 19c/A reads: ‘Is Weddell?s Urticaceæ part of Decandolle? or a separate work?’. See Natural selection, p. 153. CD refers to Weddell 1856 and Candolle and Candolle 1824–73.
See letters to Emma Darwin, [25 April 1858], and to W. E. Darwin, [26 April 1858]. CD refers tothe slave-making ant, Formica sanguinea, and its slave, F. nigra.


Candolle, Augustin Pyramus de and Candolle, Alphonse de. 1824–73. Prodromus systematis naturalis regni vegetabilis, sive enumeratio contracta ordinum generum specierumque plantarum huc usque cognitarum, juxta methodi naturalis normas digesta. 19 vols. Paris: Treuttel & Würtz [and others].

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.

Weddell, Hugh Algernon. 1856. Monographie de la famille des Urticés. Paris.


Sends MS on large and small genera.

Observed slave-making ants at Moor Park.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 234
Physical description
ALS 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2269,” accessed on 4 March 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7