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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [10 March 1862]1



Dr Darwin

I return Grays letter with many thanks. I need not say that he is quite wrong in thinking I “care for none of these things,” but I told you before why I ceased to write to him about them, & am very glad I did so—2 he writes to you & to Boott & did to me as an angry man—visibly—& there is no use arguing with such.3 I confess moreover to be miserably disappointed in him as with the North generally. I did think that there were some at any rate who would have preserved a calm & dignified bearing, let their feelings be ever so much outraged; but the Boston dinner & Gray’s letters have put all that out of the question;4 his whole letters are steeped in the most inordinate self esteem as a Yankee. he can allow of no difference of opinion, is blind to everything, & what is worse brags like the greatest bullies amongst them. It is the total want of self-respect that I so deeply deplore in Gray.— I mean of course in his capacity as Citizen—for I have the same high opinion of him as a man as ever—

What folly he talks of 2 such nations as England & America ever being on the best terms— What is there in the whole history of the human race to quote for such a state of things as “best of terms” between two nations of the same blood & bone, & with the same aims & prospects. Nothing but the power of despising us, or we them, ever can or ever will bring one of us to look amicably on the other. It is not in the bounds of possibility that two nations so powerful, so ambitious, so like should love one another, & it will be bad day for one or both when they do. A Gray knows no more of the philosophy of the “struggle for life” than the Bp of Oxford does.5 You might as well talk of High X loving low X,6 God knows they are each powerful enough, &c like enough to form one body religious with a common aim & object—, if they would sink differences & agree each to be nothing, or one to be everything & the other nothing.

It always amuses me to hear political noodles regret that we as a nation are hated abroad, God forbid we should be any thing else (till the Millenium comes)— so sure as we are loved we shall be done for— Fancy your credit as a Naturalist if Houghton loved you as one or Owen! or Sedgwick! you must be reduced to a nonentity first.7 Rival nations may fear & hate—never love & Gray must be utterly demented not to know that.

Poor Grays account of apology for the Boston dinner is a very lame one & it is lamentable to see him try to cloak it—by sneering allusions to our “members of Parliament.”— How lame too the attempt to put all on the shoulders of a few cunning fellows on both sides the water—. as if the general feeling here in favor of giving Jonathan8 a licking were not spontaneous & heartfelt—(right or wrong I do not say)— I can quite see that the poor fellow is most hurt at the loss of your cordial sympathy & there is an uneasy state of mind running through his letter. Again many thanks for it, I was most anxious to see it.

I find nothing so good as Alcohol & water to preserve plants in for after dissection—9 it hardens enough & not too much, leaves tissues tolerably transparent, & quite clean. Vinegar will preserve pollen masses if I remember right but renders other tissues far too soft. Other fluids are apt to clog or discolor, as far as my experience goes.

Olivers lecture went off very well   he will have a capital paper in next Review—10 would you care to see it before publication?

I send you a capital letter of Bates, which please return as I have not answered it.11

Lubbock spent a day here last week & I am as much charmed as you are with him. We hope he will bring Mrs L. to Kew, I like her so much12

I hope much to get down to you at Easter week, if you can take me in: but my Father’s health is so uncertain that I cannot be sure of my movements.13 This an examination week at Chelsea for Asst Surgeons Army.14

Ever yours affec | J D Hooker

P.S. Reading over this I fear you will think my politics very Mephistophelean—

I am curious to hear of your trimorphous Primula— I suspect it will prove a very complicated case.15


King St Leicester March 5 My Dear Sir

I have not been quick to answer your last not only because most of my writing time is just now taken up by my book of Travels16 but because your letter was so full of new observations on the most difficult of all Nat. Hist. subjects that it required long consideration.17 I hope you will attend to mine only when you have nothing else to do. The view you propound of the origin of species—by the nat. Selection of varieties which always occur as a universal condition of reproduction, in organic species, independent of the direct action of external conditions; is simple & grand. As you say it recommends itself by its simplicity & clearness & is amply sufficient to explain the origin of species. But what if the real state of things is not so simple as this? Are there not some phenomena in species which seem to show that local conditions & use & disuse have some direct effect on individuals the effect being propagated to the offspring & so complicating the question of the origin of species. Whilst I was travelling I used to attribute like many others the production of distinct local varieties or races to the direct action of the local conditions & when I found such coming in contact with their supposed parents without intermarrying or reverting, I supposed the cause was the gradual & slow change in their constitutions which had brought them to a point when they were incapable of going back. But since I read Mr Darwin’s book I believe that Nat. Sel. has effected this change operating both on structure & functions. But still the belief is strong that Climatal & other causes have some slight effect; so slight however, that of themselves they are unable to produce a race. Your letter shows me plainly that the effect must be yet slighter. I think the strongest case of the inability of local conditions acting directly to produce a race is that of the two races of man inhabiting the Tropics of America & Africa. All facts go to show that the American race must have lived in Brazil many thousands of years yet there is no approach to the negro. Yet the effect of exposure to the sun is to blacken the skin. For the nomade tribes of Amazon Indians are darker coloured than the agricultural & the families of chiefs in Africa are lighter colr. than the rest of the tribe &c &c. My studies of those curious mimetic butterflies gave me convincing proof that local physical conditions do not directly produce a race for there I see a species exhibiting nearly a dozen varieties in one limited spot & 4 or 5 of them as it were in the act of being selected & segregated; the motive for such a process being also quite plain to detect.18

A little more in corroboration of your views.— On testing them by my case of the mimetic butterflies I find they hold good. There is really no proof that the variable species originally sported in a different manner in one locality from what it did in another. Inappreciable variations or very small variations similar in all the localities & Nat. Sel. drawing them out as it were would be sufficient to explain the whole case. The elimination of intermediate vars. formerly, & of the occasional offspring of cross marriages between the divergent selected forms in one limited district must have been & must be now very stringent & perpetually acting; probably however there is a moral barrier preventing frequent intermarriages although there is not a geographical one; in other words the selected & now somewhat widely divergent vars. refuse to intermarry.

Now for a few cases which seem to show that the modifications induced by direct action, are propagated. A few sheep have been imported into the Amazons region from Portugal. The wool nearly all falls off & the young at about 2 or 3 months old (when alone I have noticed them) have a thin coat of straight wool more like hair than wool. I know this is an imperfect observation. I did not notice that hair or a tendency to hair was produced in the lifetime of a sheep & I did not see lambs when first born, to prove that they have this modified coating at their birth. The sheep are only kept by twos & threes as pets & have not been in the country for many generations so that I do not think selection artificial or Natural has operated.

Dogs become lopeared in consequence of the relaxation of muscles from disuse   puppies are born lop-eared.

Mr Darwin’s case of tame Ducks having less developed wing bones from disuse seems to come under this head19 but unconscious or Nat. Sel. may have come into play here. For when ducks were first tamed strong flyers would less readily submit than weak ones & so forth.

The general blindness of animals in deep caverns seems to be partly owing to direct effect of external cond. on individuals leading to disuse of the organs & collapse of muscles & nerves reproduced in offspring. But this belongs to the same class of facts as those cases which show a general similarity in some features amongst widely different species of animals & plants living under the same conditions; such as fleshiness of plants on sea coast brassy tints of beetles ditto & some similar cases which I observed in S. America such as transparency of wings in Heliconia butterflies living near either tropic; very suffused colouring on E. of Andes under the equator &c.

Some part of this general similarity is owing to Nat. Sel. adapting one sp. to another in external dress; but I think there are some cases where this explanation is inapplicable. It is curious in the case of negro that the colour produced by direct action should be also the one selected as most suitable by nature. Of course the whole argument depends on this question which you put & which I thank you for having placed so vividly before me. Are the peculiarities induced in the lifetime of an organism transmitted to its offspring? We may allow several generations for the operation. I cannot think of any facts giving affirmation to this question except the poor ones given in this letter. Even if they prove it they would not show that a race & new species could be produced by direct action; Nat. Sel. is always acting & would act of course on the offspring of these species

I am much obliged to you for recalling me to order in the matter of forgetting the thousands of generations & millions of individuals extinguished without offspring in the case of insect species. I really was not giving the full force to that.

I have not fully answered your letter but will finish another time. Would you oblige me by getting from Mr Bentham the names of the following trees— I think Mr Spruce may have sent them under these same native names20

Tapiribá   a stone-fruit tree (very acid— comn) Acutitiribá— round yellow mealy fruit Jabuti-puhé— anonaceæ? delicious wild fruit Massarandúba— cow tree Umarí or Marí   two similar fruits

and Uixí Upper Amazon Pamá   wild stone fruit flavour of cherry Sucu-úba of Santarem21


Please give my kind regards to your family  

Yours sincerely | H W Bates

I shall send tomorrow a small box per post with a specimen of leaves that have a fine woolly substance on their under surface to get information from you on its nature.— a certain ant (Polyrhachis bispinosa) collects this material & makes large nests of it   after being elaborated by them it is collected & used as tinder & sold in all shops on the Amazons. Latreille gave an interesting account of the ant & its work but no one up to present time has explained the matter.22 | Yrs | H W B

Will you please give me the reference to your remarks on colours of plants & fur of artic animals not being dependent on climate. I must quote you in my book where I have given similar generalization23

CD annotations

6.1 Olivers … publication? 6.2] cross in margin, pencil
7.1 I send … it. 7.2] cross in margin, pencil
8.1 Lubbock … much 8.2] cross in margin, pencil
9.1 I hope … in:] cross in margin, pencil
11.1 P.S.... Mephistophelean—] cross in margin, pencil
Top of first page: ‘Photograph’24 pencil, circled pencil
Above last paragraph: ‘Remember Lythrum’25 ink


Dated by the relationship to the letters to J. D. Hooker, 7 March [1862] and 14 March [1862]. The only Monday between these dates fell on 10 March 1862.
Hooker refers to the dinner held in honour of Charles Wilkes in Boston in November 1861 (see letter to Asa Gray, 22 January [1862], n. 9).
The bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce, was well-known for his outspoken opposition to natural selection (see Correspondence vol. 8, and this volume, letter from Charles Kingsley, 31 January 1862).
The reference is to High and Low Church Anglicans.
Samuel Haughton, Richard Owen, and Adam Sedgwick had all written hostile reviews of Origin (see Correspondence vol. 8, Appendix VII).
Jonathan: ‘a generic name for the people of the United States, and also for a representative United States citizen’ (OED).
CD had asked Hooker about methods for preserving plant specimens in the letter to J. D. Hooker, 7 March [1862].
Daniel Oliver had delivered a lecture entitled ‘On the distribution of northern plants’ at the Royal Institution of Great Britain on 7 March 1862 (Oliver 1862a). In an article published in the April issue of the Natural History Review, Oliver challenged the proposal made by Oswald Heer (Heer 1861a, pp. 213–20) and others that the geographical distribution of plants could be explained by postulating a continental link between Europe and America during the Miocene period, the so-called ‘Atlantis’ hypothesis (Oliver 1862b).
Henry Walter Bates. See enclosure.
Hooker refers to John and Ellen Frances Lubbock.
William Jackson Hooker had been seriously ill since the summer of 1861 (Allan 1967, pp. 207, 208).
Hooker refers to examinations for admission to the Army Medical Service, held at Chelsea Hospital in March 1862. Hooker served for many years as a scientific examiner for medical officers in the armed services (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 387); he was examiner for the paper on natural history, held on 11 March 1862 (Statistical, Sanitary, and Medical Reports 1860, p. 488).
Bates 1863.
For Hooker’s letter to H. W. Bates of 2 February 1862, see the enclosure to the letter from J. D. Hooker, [23 March 1862].
Bates displayed his collection of Amazonian mimetic butterflies to the Linnean Society on 16 January 1862 (Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London (Botany) 6 (1862): lviii). His paper on the butterflies (Bates 1862a), read before the society on 21 November 1861, was published in the society’s Transactions in November 1862 (see Raphael 1970, p. 76).
Origin, p. 11.
The botanist Richard Spruce had been collecting plants in South America since 1849; George Bentham received, named, and distributed the plants Spruce sent back to England (DNB). Hooker, in his reply to Bates of 18 March 1862, informed him that Bentham had not kept a record of Spruce’s native names, but had reclassified the specimens according to their natural orders (Bates 1892, pp. lv–lvi).
Bates described several of these fruits in Bates 1863, 2: 216–18.
Latreille 1802, pp. 133–7. Pierre André Latreille referred to this ant as Formica bispinosa.
Hooker had reported in his letter to Bates of 2 February 1862 that he had long denied ‘that tropical heat or light produces the bright colouring of plants, or that arctic climates produce woolly covering’ (see the enclosure to the letter from J. D. Hooker, [23 March 1862]). In his reply to Bates of 18 March 1862, Hooker stated: ‘I do not think I have anywhere published any notices of colours of plants in relation to climate, but I will see and let you know’ (Bates 1892, p. lvii). In his discussion of the independence of colour and climate (Bates 1863, 1: 19–22), Bates did not cite any work of Hooker’s, but did refer to CD’s similar conclusions (see letter from H. W. Bates, 6 January 1862 and nn. 5–7).
Hooker apparently enclosed a photograph of himself in this letter (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 14 March [1862] and n. 4).
Hooker had repeated his promise to send CD specimens of Lythrum in the letter from J. D. Hooker, 3 March 1862. See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 14 March [1862] and n. 13.


Returns Asa Gray’s letter. Disappointed with Gray. Comments on America. British–American relations.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 20–2; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Physical description
6pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3469,” accessed on 27 June 2017,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10