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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   5 March [1863]


March 5th

My dear Hooker

I have been having very bad 10 days with much sickness & weakness, & have been obliged to stop the Lyells.1 It breaks my heart, but Emma says, I believe truly, that we must all go for two months to Malvern.2 It is very provoking after London doing me so much good.3 And so many experiments in prospect. I doubt whether I shall ever finish my book on Variation: I do not suppose I have done 3 months work during the last 9 months,4 and poor little Horace is ailing much.5 But it is no use complaining. One must grin & bear; but a grumble to you, my dear old friend, does one good.— A good severe fit of Eczema would do me good, & I have a touch this morning & consequently feel a little alive.6 This might save me from Malvern. If not, we should go after Easter holidays early in April.7 If I get any strength, & you could spare a Sunday, I shd very much like to see you here; but I doubt whether it wd. be worth your while.—8

A few words about the Stove Plants: they do so amuse me; I have crawled to see them 2 or 3 times. Will you correct & answer & return enclosed.9 I have hunted in all my Books & cannot find these names, & I like much to know family. They nearly all look splendidly well; except nepenthes & like an ass, I knew it liked warmth & put it in the bed near pipe & now find it has been having 109o bottom Heat!!! One little plant has leaves browned. I have made list of plants, 165 in number!!!10 Do you not think you ought to be sent with Mr Gower11 to the Police Court? and such interesting forms many of them to me.—

I am reading Wellwitschia:12 what a wonderful plant it is; but the case requires more knowledge than I have fully to appreciate: those devilish ovules, embryos,, sacks & membranes drive my weakened brain half mad—

Cordial thanks for your deeply interesting letters about Lyell, Owen & co.13 I cannot say how glad I am to hear that I have not been unjust about species-question towards Lyell.14 I feared I had been unreasonable. When a bit stronger I must write to him. As for showing him your letter; I would as soon burn his house down.15 I am too fearful & shall put the case much milder; but shall tell him that I am much disappointed. He has written to me, & thinks (perhaps truly) that his chapter will produce great effect on species question.—16 He puts you with me on migration during mundane glacial period: what do you say to that? I fear you will not approve of this.17 I have not yet seen Rolleston’s letter. I shall be very glad if he exposes Owen’s cloud of false words.—18

I have half a mind to get Owen’s paper on Aye-Aye, in which Lyell tells me, that he claims whole credit of making out the derivation or origin of species; & if this is so, write a letter to Athenæum & show, what he has really done.—19 It is in my Hist. Introduct. to 3d Edit of Origin; but I did not then point out the laugable definition he gives of “Creation”; after doubting whether certain species were “created”.—20

I am so heartily glad to hear about Lubbock’s lecture: I could not resist telling him by dictation in letter what you said.—21

Good Bye— I am weary.— I fear you will hardly read this. You really must not write so often. I cannot bear to add to your too hard work. Farewell | C. Darwin


Charles and Mary Elizabeth Lyell had planned to visit Down House from 1 to 4 March 1863 (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 24[–5] February [1863]). On CD’s health, see the letter to H. W. Bates, 4 March [1863], n. 10.
Emma Darwin. CD refers to James Manby Gully’s hydropathic establishment in Great Malvern, Worcestershire, where Anne Elizabeth Darwin, CD’s eldest daughter and favourite child, died of fever in 1851 (see Correspondence vol. 5).
CD visited London from 4 to 14 February 1863 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix II)).
CD began drafting Variation in January 1860 (see Correspondence vol. 8, Appendix II); it was not published until 1868. Since June 1862, CD had drafted several chapters of Variation and had written ‘Two forms in species of Linum (see Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II, and this volume, ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix II)).
CD suffered from eczema in June 1862, and had a further attack in October 1862 (see Correspondence vol. 10, letters to J. D. Hooker, 30 [June 1862] and 6 October [1862]).
CD stayed with his family at Malvern Wells from 3 September to 12 or 13 October 1863 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix II)).
Hooker visited Down House on 22 March 1863 (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [24 March 1863]).
The enclosure has not been found. In February, Hooker had sent CD plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, for his new hothouse (see letter to J. D. Hooker, [21 February 1863]).
See Appendix VI.
William Hugh Gower, a foreman at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, had assisted Hooker in selecting the plants sent for CD’s hothouse (see letters to J. D. Hooker, 15 February [1863] and [21 February 1863]).
The number of the Transactions of the Linnean Society of London in which J. D. Hooker 1863a appeared was published on 30 January 1863 (see Raphael 1970); CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
CD refers to the letters from J. D. Hooker, [26 February 1863] and [1 March 1863], concerning reactions to Lyell’s Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863a), especially those of Richard Owen and Hugh Falconer. See also letter from J. D. Hooker, [23 February 1863], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 24[–5] February [1863].
The reference is to chapter 21 of Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863a, pp. 407–23), on ‘the origin of species by variation and natural selection’. Lyell’s letter has not been found; however, see the letters to Charles Lyell, 6 March [1863] and 17 March [1863].
The reference is to C. Lyell 1863a, p. 367, where Lyell referred to the attempt of ‘Mr. Darwin and Dr. Hooker’ to explain the distribution of numerous plants common to the northern and southern temperate zones in terms of migrations ‘along mountain chains running from N. to S. during some of the colder phases of the glacial epoch’. CD and Hooker had consistently disagreed over the causes of the geographical distribution of plants and animals. In particular, Hooker could not accept the idea that tropical genera could be kept alive in ‘so very cool a greenhouse’ as would be required to allow temperate plants to cross the Equator (Correspondence vol. 6, letter from J. D. Hooker, 9 November 1856). Instead, he preferred to account for the distribution of plants and animals in terms of land-bridges and continental extensions occurring during the period, an explanation that CD rejected (see, for instance, Correspondence vol. 6, letter from J. D. Hooker, 4 August 1856). For CD and Hooker’s continuing dialogue on this subject, see Correspondence vols. 9 and 10.
Lyell’s letter to CD has not been found. The reference is to Owen 1862c, pp. 89–97, where Owen discussed the question of the origin of species, committing himself to ‘creation by law’ while stating his ‘ignorance of how such secondary causes may have operated’, and refusing to endorse any of the mechanisms currently proposed (p. 96). In introducing the general principle of the natural origin of species, Owen mentioned Owen 1849 as the work in which he had first formally stated this position (Owen 1862c, pp. 90 n. – 91 n.); however, following the publication of Origin he had vehemently opposed CD’s views (see Correspondence vols. 7 and 8). On Owen’s views on evolution, see Rupke 1994, pp. 220–58. Having read the paper, CD told Hooker and Lyell that its wording gave him no scope for his proposed attack (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 17 March [1863], and letter to Charles Lyell, 17 March [1863]). There is an unannotated and unbound copy of the number of the Transactions of the Zoological Society of London in which Owen 1862c appeared in the Darwin Library–CUL.
CD refers to the ‘Historical sketch of the recent progress of opinion on the origin of species’, which was added to the third edition of Origin (Origin 3d ed., pp. xiii–xix). In detailing Owen’s statements respecting the production of new species by natural means (pp. xvi–xvii), CD quoted several extracts from Owen 1858, and concluded: Farther on (p. xc.), after referring to geographical distribution, he adds, ‘These phenomena shake our confidence in the conclusion that the Apteryx of New Zealand and the Red Grouse of England were distinct creations in and for those islands respectively. Always, also, it may be well to bear in mind that by the word “creation” the zoologist means “a process he knows not what.’” He amplifies this idea by adding, that when such cases as that of the Red Grouse are ‘enumerated by the zoologist as evidence of distinct creation of the bird in and for such islands, he chiefly expresses that he knows not how the Red Grouse came to be there, and there exclusively; signifying also by this mode of expressing such ignorance his belief, that both the bird and the islands owed their origin to a great first Creative Cause.’ In the fourth edition of Origin, pp. xvii–xviii, CD greatly enlarged his discussion of Owen’s views, disputing Owen’s claim to have promulgated a theory of evolution at an earlier date than had CD.
CD refers to Hooker’s praise of John Lubbock’s lecture on ancient Swiss lake-habitations, delivered at the Royal Institution on 27 February 1863 (Lubbock 1863d; see letter from J. D. Hooker, [1 March 1863]). CD’s letter to Lubbock has not been found; however, see the letter from John Lubbock, 6 March 1863.


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

Origin 3d ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 3d edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1861.

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.

Raphael, Sandra. 1970. The publication dates of the Transactions of the Linnean Society of London, series 1, 1791–1875. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 2: 61–76. [Vols. 10,11]

Rupke, Nicolaas A. 1994. Richard Owen, Victorian naturalist. New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press.

‘Two forms in species of Linum’: On the existence of two forms, and on their reciprocal sexual relation, in several species of the genus Linum. By Charles Darwin. [Read 5 February 1863.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 7 (1864): 69–83. [Collected papers 2: 93–105.]

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Ill health.

At work on Variation.

Reading JDH on Welwitschia.

Letter from Lyell defends his position on species.

Anger at Owen.

John Lubbock’s lectures.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 184
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4024,” accessed on 24 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11