skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [22–3 November 1863]1


Sunday & Monday.

My dear old Friend—

Since writing I have had much sickness & am weak & must be brief— 2 I have been delighted by your long letter & have had it read thrice;3 but in truth you must not write so much as you are so overworked.—

Pray thank Mr Gower for the excellent plants which will amuse me nicely on the table by my sofa—4 You have not sent Asa Gray; I must see his praise of you—5 It is charming your being thus converted to the Northern side.6 I never heard of the dear old woman with her Mesopotamia—7 The enclosed curious letter (please return it) is worth reading—8 You will agree with what he says on n. selection; I do not quite.—

I have got your note this morning—9 we think (& will enquire) that the Vases must have come from the Fr. Wedgwoods of Etruria.—10 Your Zeal has stimulated me to send some old letters to Miss Metyard for her life.— 11 Whoever sent the vases, I do rejoice you are pleased: it cuts us both that we have nothing to give.— Thwaites letter & enclosure on Cassia not worth Linn. Soc—12

If you know, sometime tell me who reviewed Lyell in Edinburgh.— 13 I hope you can read this; I can thus write lying down.—

A German has sent me pamphet, (which I have not read) on the Darwinsche theorie applied to Language with a diagram like mine with names of Languages instead of mere letters.—14 The more I look at Plants the higher they rise in my mind: really the tendril-bearers are higher organised, as far as adapted sensitivity goes, than the lower animals. Does Flagellaria, (are you sure?) use leaves like Tendrils?15

Excuse my jumping from subject to subject.—

I shall be curious to read Oliver’s paper:16 I have often admired the curling of valves.— I suppose O. knows Wymans paper in (I think) Proc. Boston Soc. of bursting of gourd of Echinocystis—17 I suppose Oliver read Bot. Zeitung: ask him to tell me, if John Scotts paper on sterility of Orchids with own pollen is noticed that I may tell the poor fellow:18 I want much to encourage him. He is a splendid worker & has paper for Linn. Soc. that interests at least me greatly.—19

I have been just looking again at your former letter.20 How well I remember your feeling when we lost Annie,21 that it was my greatest comfort that I had never spoken a harsh word to her. Your grief has made me shed a few tears over our poor darling; but believe me that these tears have lost that unutterable bitterness of former days.—

I have no new ideas on New Zealand.—22

I agree with what you say on Sedgwick & medal:23 he has done good descriptive work—prepared way for Murchison24 & discovered, but not explained, cleavage.25 Hardly enough for Copley Medal. I was told, (but ought not to have heard) that I was put in opposition to poor old Sedgwick;26 with Owen27 to lead against me I shd. have no chance whatever—

I am so glad to hear about your Willie.—28 Henrietta is much pleased at your invitation,29 which I have no doubt she will gladly accept in part, but will write again.

GoodBye   I am tired. | C. Darwin


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 16 [November 1863]; in 1863, 22 and 23 November fell on the Sunday and Monday after that date.
Letter to J. D. Hooker, 16 [November 1863]. See Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242) for her daily record of CD’s symptoms during the week after 16 November; on 22 November, CD had a ‘v.g. day’.
The letter from Hooker has not been found.
William Hugh Gower was a foreman at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (R. Desmond 1994). In his letter to Hooker of [13 November 1863], CD had asked if he had any other tendril-bearing plants. Hooker had sent several tendril-bearing plants in July (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [31 July 1863] and n. 2). A note dated 19, 20, and 21 November records the movements of Hoya carnosa past objects in CD’s study (see DAR 157.1: 39v.).
See enclosure to letter to J. D. Hooker, 27 [November 1863]. In the enclosure Asa Gray commented on Hooker’s account of Welwitschia (J. D. Hooker 1863a). A review of J. D. Hooker 1863a by Gray appeared in the November issue of the American Journal of Science and Arts (A. Gray 1863f).
CD refers to the Union side in the American Civil War, which had begun in 1861. Because of Hooker’s view of the Civil War, he and Gray had stopped discussing politics in their letters (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [1 March 1863]). See also L. Huxley 1918, pp. 39–44.
Mesopotamia: ‘a word which is long, pleasant-sounding, and incomprehensible; used allusively for something which gives irrational or inexplicable comfort or satisfaction to the hearer’ (OED).
This may be a reference to a letter from Patrick Matthew; the letter has not been found but see letter from Emma Darwin to Patrick Matthew, 21 November [1863] and n. 3.
The note has not been found.
See letters to J. D. Hooker, 16 [November 1863], 27 [November 1863], and 5 [December 1863]. Francis Wedgwood was CD’s first cousin and brother-in-law; Etruria was the site of the Wedgwood pottery works in Staffordshire.
The writer Eliza Meteyard was working on a life of Josiah Wedgwood I (Meteyard 1865–6; DNB).
Hooker evidently wondered if information in the letter from George Henry Kendrick Thwaites, 8 June 1863, and the enclosed notes on Cassia from Samuel Owen Glenie, might be read as a paper to the Linnean Society. See also letter from G. H. K. Thwaites, 24 September 1863.
CD refers to the review of Charles Lyell’s Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863a) in the Edinburgh Review ([J. D. Forbes] 1863). The attribution to James David Forbes is confirmed by the Wellesley Index.
Schleicher 1863. There is a lightly annotated copy of August Schleicher’s pamphlet in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. CD refers to the illustration in Origin (facing p. 117) representing the divergence of forms through time.
CD discussed Flagellaria in Climbing plants, p. 46.
Daniel Oliver read a paper on the dehiscence of Pentaclethra macrophylla (African-oil-bean) capsules before the Linnean Society on 19 November 1863 (Oliver 1863e). Oliver discussed this research in his letter to CD of 27 November 1863.
CD refers to Jeffries Wyman and Wyman 1854, which was published in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (see letter to Daniel Oliver, [before 27 November 1863]).
CD had offered to send a copy of Scott 1863a to Friedrich Hildebrand in the hope that it would be reviewed in Botanische Zeitung, but it was not noticed or reviewed there (see letter to John Scott, 1 and 3 August [1863]).
Scott 1864a.
The Darwin’s eldest daughter, Anne Elizabeth, died in 1851 when she was 10 years old.
Hooker’s letter has not been found. CD was considered for the Royal Society’s Copley Medal in 1863 but on 5 November, Adam Sedgwick was chosen for the award (Royal Society, Council minutes, 5 November 1863). See letter from E. A. Darwin to Emma Darwin, 11 November [1863].
CD evidently refers to Adam Sedgwick’s stratigraphic mapping, based primarily on structural geology, which preceded Roderick Impey Murchison’s emphasis on fossils, in addition to structure, for classifying strata (see Secord 1986).
Richard Owen was a member of the Council of the Royal Society; he had opposed CD’s theory since the publication of Origin (see, for example, [Owen] 1860a, and letter from Edward Sabine to John Phillips, 12 November 1863 and n. 4). See also letter from E. A. Darwin to Emma Darwin, 11 November [1863] and n. 5.
William Henslow Hooker had been suffering from scarlet fever, but was evidently recovering (see letter to J. D. Hooker, [13 November 1863] and n. 6).
The invitation to Henrietta Emma Darwin has not been traced.


Climbing plants: On the movements and habits of climbing plants. By Charles Darwin. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts & Green; Williams & Norgate. 1865.

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

Desmond, Ray. 1994. Dictionary of British and Irish botanists and horticulturists including plant collectors, flower painters and garden designers. New edition, revised with the assistance of Christine Ellwood. London: Taylor & Francis and the Natural History Museum. Bristol, Pa.: Taylor & Francis.

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

[Forbes, James David.] 1863. [Review of Charles Lyell’s Antiquity of man and other works.] Edinburgh Review 118: 254–302.

Huxley, Leonard, ed. 1918. Life and letters of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, OM, GCSI. Based on materials collected and arranged by Lady Hooker. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

Meteyard, Eliza. 1865–6. The life of Josiah Wedgwood from his private correspondence and family papers … with an introductory sketch of the art of pottery in England. 2 vols. London: Hurst & Blackett.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

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.

Schleicher, August. 1863. Die Darwinsche Theorie und die Sprachwissenschaft. Offenes Sendschreiben an Herrn Dr Ernst Häckel. Weimar, Germany: Hermann Böhlau.

Secord, James Andrew. 1986. Controversy in Victorian geology: the Cambrian–Silurian dispute. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Sedgwick, Adam. 1835. Remarks on the structure of large mineral masses, and especially on the chemical changes produced in the aggregation of stratified rocks during different periods after their deposition. [Read 11 March 1835.] Transactions of the Geological Society of London 2d ser. 3: 461–86.

Wyman, Jeffries. 1854. [Cause of contractility in some vegetable tissues.] [Read 8 November 1854.] Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 3 (1852–7): 167–8.


Tendril-bearing plants seem to CD "higher" organised with respect to adaptive sensibility than lower animals.

Wishes to encourage John Scott.

Death of JDH’s daughter makes CD cry over his own dead daughter Annie.

Sedgwick’s scientific merit.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 211
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4345,” accessed on 20 March 2023,

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