To J. D. Hooker 18 [December 1861]
Down Bromley Kent
My dear Hooker
Thanks for your note.1 I have not written for a long time, for I always fancy, busy as you are, that my letters must be a bore. Though I like writing, & always enjoy your notes.
I can sympathise with you about fear of Scarlet Fever: to the day of my death I shall never forget all the sickening fear about the other children after our poor little Baby died of it.—2
The Genera Plantarum must be a tremendous work & no doubt very valuable (such a Book, odd as it may appear, would be very useful even to me) but I cannot help being rather sorry at the length of time it must take, because I cannot enter on & understand your work—3 Will you not be puzzled when you come to the Orchids? It seems to me Orchids alone would be work for a man’s life time: I cannot somehow feel satisfied with Lindley’s classification: the Malaxeæ & Epidendreæ seem to me very artificially separated.4 Not that I have seen enough to form an opinion worth anything.—
Your African plant seems to be a vegetable Ornithorhynchus,—indeed much more than that.5 The more I read about Plants, the more I get to feel that all Phanerogams seem comparable with one class, as Lepidoptera, rather than with one Kingdom as the whole Insecta.
Thanks for your comforting sentence about the accursed ducts (accursed though they be, I should like nothing better than to work at them in other allied orders, if I had time).6 I shall be ready for press in 3 or 4 week & have got all my woodcuts drawn.7 I fear much that publishing separately will prove a foolish job; but I do not care much, & the work has greatly amused me.— The Catasetum has not flowered yet!
In writing to Lindley about an Orchid which he sent me, I told him a little about Acropera & in answer he suggests that Gongora may be its female:8 he seems dreadfully busy & I feel that I have more right to kill you than to kill him; so can you send me one, or at most two dried flowers of Gongora: if you know habitat of Acropera luteola, a Gongora from same country would be best; but any true Gongora would do; if its pollen should prove as rudimentary as that of Monacanthus relatively to Catasetum, I think I could easily perceive it even in dried specimens when well soaked.—
I have picked a little out of Lecoq; but it is awful tedious hunting.9
Bates is getting on with his Natural History Travels in one Vol.10 I have read 1st. Chapt. in M.S. & I think that it will be an excellent book & very well written:11 he argues in good & new way to me, that Tropical climate has very little direct relation to the gorgeous colouring of insects (though of course he admits that Tropics have a far greater number of beautiful insects) by taking all the few genera common to Britain & Amazonia, & he finds that the species proper to the latter are not at all more beautiful. I wonder how this is in species of the same restricted genera of Plants.—
If you can remember it, thank Bentham for getting my Primula paper printed so quickly: I do enjoy getting a subject off one’s hands completely.—12 I have now got dimorphism in structure in 8 natural orders, just like Primula.— Asa Gray sent me dried flowers of capital case in Amsinckia spectabilis one of Borragineæ.13 I suppose you do not chance to have this plant alive at Kew.—
Attend, will you please, to enclosed memorandum.—14
I have scribbled a long rigmarole, so good night | My dear Hooker | Your affect | C. Darwin
P.S. | I have just met in Lecoq a magnificent case (for experiment) of Trimorphism in Lythrum salicaria & in L. thymifolia.— Could you help me to seeds or plants?15
Is Mr Borrer a good-natured man.? Would it do to write to him before the Spring to ask him for some plants or seeds? Perhaps he abominates the author of the Origin.—16
Lindley suggests Gongora may be female Acropera.
CD’s orchid book nearly ready for press.
Discovers trimorphism in Lythrum is in H. Lecoq [Études sur la géographie botanique de l’Europe (1854–8)].
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3346,” accessed on 25 April 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-3346