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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   14 November [1858]1

Down Bromley Kent.

Nov. 14th.

My dear Hooker

I am heartily glad to hear that my Lyellian notes have been of slightest use to you;2 I do not think the view is exaggerated. I am also very glad to hear about Mr R. How kind you have been about it.—3

Your letter & lists have most deeply interested me.4 First for less important point, about hermaphrodite trees. It is enough to knock me down, yet I can hardly think that Britain, N. America & N. Zealand should all have been theoretically right by chance.5 Have you at Kew any Eucalyptus or Australian mimosa, which sets its seeds; if so would it be very troublesome to observe when pollen is mature, & whether the pollen-tube, enters stigma readily immediately that pollen is mature or some little time afterwards; though if pollen is not mature for some little time after flower opens, the stigma might be ready first, though according to C. C. Sprengel this is a rarer case.6 I wrote to Müller for chance of his being able & willing to observe this.—7

Your fact of greater number of European plants N.B. But do you mean greater percentage??8 in S. Australia than in S. America is astounding & very unpleasant to me; for from N. W. America (where nearly same flora exists as in Canada?) to T. del Fuego, there is far more continuous high-land than from Europe to Tasmania. There must have, I shd. think, existed some curious barrier on American High-Road; dryness of Peru; excessive damp of Panama, or some other confounded cause which either prevented immigration or has since destroyed them.— You say I may ask questions, & so I have on enclosed paper. but it will of course be a very different thing whether you will think them worth labour of answering.9

May I keep the lists now returned; otherwise I will have them copied?—

You said that you could give me a few cases of Australian forms & identical species going N. by Malay Archipelago-mountains to Philippines & Japan; but if these are given in your Introduction this will suffice for me.—10

Your lists seem to me wonderfully interesting.

According to my theoretical notions, I am not satisfied with what you say about local plants in S.W. corner of Australia & the seeds not readily germinating: do be cautious on this;—consider lapse of time.11 It does not suit my stomach at all.— It is like Wollaston’s confined Land-snails in Porto Santo & confined to same spots since a tertiary period, being due to their slow crawling powers; & yet we know that other snail-shells have stocked a whole country, within a very few years with same breeding powers, & same crawling powers, when the conditions have been favourable to the life of the introduced species.—12

Hypothetically I should rather look at the case as owing to,—but as my notions are not very simple or clear & only hypothetical they are not worth inflicting on you.—

I had vowed not to mention my everlasting Abstract to you again, for I am sure I have bothered you far more than enough about it; but as you allude to its previous publication, I may say that I have chapters on Instinct & Hybridism to abstract, which may take a fortnight each; & my materials for Palæontology, Geograp. Distrib. & Affinities, being less worked up, I daresay each of these will take me 3 weeks, so that I shall not have done at soonest till April, & then my Abstract will in bulk make a small volume.13 I never give more than one or two instances & I pass over briefly all difficulties & yet I cannot make my abstract shorter, to be satisfactory, than I am now doing & yet it will expand to small volume.—

I have for some time thought that I have done you an ill-service, in return for the immense good, which I have reaped from you, in discussing all my notions with you; & now there is no doubt of it, as you would have arrived at the frigorific mixture independently.14 My only comfort is, that without you were prepared to give up species, you must have been greatly bothered in your conclusions, for the ranges of identical & representative species are so mixed up in this case, as hardly to be separated. And I can most truly say that I never thought that I might be interfering with your independent work. Oh that I had but health to get my everlasting work done.—

Ever yours C. Darwin

In about a months time I shall begin & have my first part of M.S. fairly copied, would it be of any use to you to read it in M.S. & refer to it if wanted, before it is printed. I should hate doing this ie reading M.S. myself, but there is no harm in offering it.—15


Dated by the reference to the Ralfs relief fund (see n. 3, below).
CD had provided Hooker with notes to assist him in his preparation of the announcement of the award of the Royal Society’s Copley Medal to Charles Lyell. See letter to J. D. Hooker, 9[–10] November [1858], and letter from J. D. Hooker, 12 November 1858.
CD refers to the subscription organised by Hooker for John Ralfs.
Letter from J. D. Hooker, 12 November 1858. The lists have not been located in the Darwin Archive.
In Natural selection, p. 47, CD stated, on Christian Konrad Sprengel’s authority, that many hermaphrodite plants are dichogamous, that is, with the male and female organs maturing at different times. CD reasoned that such plants might be fertilised by other individuals and cited Sprengel 1793 to this effect. An annotated copy of Sprengel 1793 is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
The letter has not been found. CD had written to Ferdinand Jakob Heinrich von Mueller on another point at the end of 1857 (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter to F. J. H. von Mueller, 8 December [1857]).
CD added the sentence ‘N.B… . percentage??’ in the margin, with its position in the text indicated by a dotted line.
The enclosure has not been found.
In Hooker 1859, p. xviii, Hooker stated that ‘there are some facts in the distribution of species common to the mountain Floras of the Himalay and Malay islands, and of Australia and Japan, that would well accommodate themselves to a similar hypothesis’, namely, that former mountain chains might have provided a means for the migration of plants. CD cited Hooker on this point in Origin, p. 375, but without giving any examples.
CD cited Thomas Vernon Wollaston on this point in Natural selection, stating that the local species of land-shells on Madeira and Porto Santo formed ‘by far the most remarkable case of this nature on record’ (Natural selection, p. 201). He refers to Wollaston 1856.
By 14 November 1858, CD had written the first seven chapters of his proposed ‘abstract’. According to his ‘Journal’ (Appendix II), the chapter on instinct was completed on 13 November.
The concluding paragraph was written on a slip of paper, presumably enclosed with the letter.


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

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.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Sprengel, Christian Konrad. 1793. Das entdeckte Geheimniss der Natur im Bau und in der Befruchtung der Blumen. Berlin: Friedrich Vieweg.

Wollaston, Thomas Vernon. 1856. On the variation of species with especial reference to the Insecta; followed by an inquiry into the nature of genera. London: John van Voorst.


Hermaphrodite trees are enough to "knock" CD down. Can JDH observe Eucalyptus to see whether pollen and stigma mature at same time?

JDH’s facts showing European plants are more common in southern Australia than in South America are disturbing because they are improbable on CD’s views of migration.

JDH said he would give examples of Australian forms that have migrated north along the mountains of the Malay Archipelago.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 254
Physical description
7pp encl

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2361,” accessed on 24 July 2021,

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