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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   14 December [1859]

Down. Bromley Kent

Dec. 14th

My dear Hooker

Your approval of my book, for many reasons, gives me intense satisfaction; but I must make some allowance for your kindness & sympathy.1 Anyone with ordinary faculties, if he had patience enough & plenty of time could have written my book.— You do not know how I admire your & Lyell’s generous & unselfish sympathy; I do not believe either of you would have cared so much about your own work.— My book, as yet has been far more successful, that I ever even formerly ventured in wildest day-dreams to anticipate. We shall soon be a good body of working men & shall have, I am convinced, all young & rising naturalists on our side.—

I shall be intensely interested to hear whether my book produces any effect on A. Gray: from what I heard at Lyells I fancy your correspondence has brought him some way already.—2 I fear that there is no chance of Benthams being staggered: will he read my Book? Has he a copy, I would send him one of the Reprint if he has not.— Old J. E. Gray at B. Mus.3 attacked me in fine style “you have just reproduced Lamarck’s doctrine & nothing else, & here Lyell & others have been attacking him for 20 years, & because you (with a sneer & laugh) say the very same thing, they are all coming round—it is the most ridiculous inconsistency”.— &c &c.—

You must be very glad to be settled in your House, & I hope all the improvements satisfy you; as far as my experience goes, improvements are never perfection.— I am very sorry to hear that you are still so very busy & have so much work.

And now for the main purport of my note, which is to ask & beg you & Mrs Hooker (whom it is really an age since I have seen) & all your children, if you like, to come & spend a week here. It would be a great pleasure to me & to my wife.— I hope that I shd be better, & so enjoy you more; for the last 10 days at Ilkley did me much good; though I have retrograded since being at home, from having had rather an extra heavy dose of things to do. As far as we can see we shall be at home all winter; & all times probably would be equally convenient; but if you can, do not put it off very late, as it may slip through. Think of this & persuade Mrs Hooker & be a good man & come.

Farewell my kind & dear friend | Yours affecly. | C. Darwin

I am very sorry to hear about Lady Hooker: I fear inflammation of Bone is great suffering.4

I shall be very curious to hear what you think on my discussion on Classification in Ch XIII; I believe Huxley demurs to the whole; & says he has nailed his colours to the mast, & I would sooner die than give up, so that we are in as fine a frame of mind to discuss the point, as any two religionists.—.

Embryology is my pet bit in my book, & confound my friends not one has noticed this to me.—5


Hooker and Asa Gray had corresponded at length about the transmutation of species throughout the summer and autumn of 1859, with Gray expressing agreement with many of CD’s tenets but hesitating about the philosophical and religious implications of the theory. See Dupree 1959, pp. 265–9.
John Edward Gray, the keeper of the zoological department at the British Museum, had assisted CD with his work on Cirripedia (see Correspondence vols. 4 and 5).
See letter from J. D. Hooker, [12 December 1859], in which Hooker mentioned the illness of his mother, Maria Hooker.
CD recalled the omission in Autobiography, p. 125: Hardly any point gave me so much satisfaction when I was at work on the Origin, as the explanation of the wide difference in many classes between the embryo and the adult animal, and of the close resemblance of the embryos within the same class. No notice of this point was taken, as far as I remember, in the early reviews of the Origin, and I recollect expressing my surprise on this head in a letter to Asa Gray… . I had materials for a whole chapter on the subject, and I ought to have made the discussion longer; for it is clear that I failed to impress my readers; and he who succeeds in doing so deserves, in my opinion, all the credit.


Autobiography: The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882. With original omissions restored. Edited with appendix and notes by Nora Barlow. London: Collins. 1958.

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

Dupree, Anderson Hunter. 1959. Asa Gray, 1810–1888. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University.

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.


CD’s great satisfaction with JDH’s approval of Origin. The book has been extremely successful. Reactions of Asa Gray, Lyell, Bentham, and J. E. Gray.

Not one friend has noticed his pet bit in Origin: embryology.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 29
Physical description
ALS 7pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2583,” accessed on 7 October 2022,

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