skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   16 May [1866]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

May 16

My dear Hooker

I have been very glad to see Asa Gray’s letter;2 but how I shd have liked to have seen yours to him; if you had been half a man you wd have sent it me, though this wd have been something new in correspondence.3

I have been wonderfully interested about the C. de Verd Alpine plants.4 After giving your Fernando Po case, may I give, in the new Ed. of Origin, the enclosed sentence;5 & if so, return it in enclosed envelope, without adding a word as I know how busy you must be: If I do not receive it back I shall understand that for some reason I must not give it.

I shd have liked beyond any thing to have seen the Hort. Exhib. but without 2 or 3 days hardening in London it wd be impossible for me.6 Do not forget about Caspary,7 & if you can remember it, please say to Decandolle & you can say it with perfect truth, how greatly I regret not seeing him in London.8

My dissipation in London did me no harm, perhaps good, though I have lately had a poorish week; & I enjoyed extremely seeing my old friends at the Royal Soc. & their reception of me pleased me greatly.9 I saw Tyler there & was much struck with his pleasant manner.10 Can you lend me Crawford’s paper on Cult. plants?11 What you say about “twaddle” gives me a shudder for I fear it is applicable to my 2 Chaps on the same subject.12 I have often had it at my pen or tongue’s end to ask you to read these 2 Chapters; but they are fearfully dull; yet I cd not pass the subject over.

I am getting on with my work & have finished correcting but not revising the Origin, which I think I have considerably improved.13 I have now begun again at my other book & am at work on a Chap. on Reversion which to me is a most interesting subject & brimful of my dear little mysterious gemmules.14

Hildebrand of Bonn has sent thro’ me to the Congress a curious paper on the fertilization of Corydalis.15 The horrid man has been taking the bread out of my mouth, as he has out of G. Henslow’s,16 for the Fumariacæ have been a pet subject with me & he has likewise just made out the trimorphism of Oxalis.17

Lastly, but by no means least, we shall be delighted to see Mrs Hooker & yourself & as many children as you have at home at the end of the first week in June or in any part of the 3 following weeks when we shall certainly be at home, & we hope you will be able to give us a week.18

yours affectionately | Ch Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, 13 May 1866.
Hooker had enclosed a letter from Asa Gray. See letter from J. D. Hooker, 13 May 1866 and n. 1.
For Hooker’s notes on the content of his letter to Gray, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, [17 May 1866].
The enclosure has not been found. CD had praised Hooker’s 1861 paper on the vegetation of Clarence Peak on Fernando Po, now known as Bioko Island, in his letter to Charles Lyell, 7 February [1866], and his letter to J. D. Hooker, [28 February 1866]. CD cited information from J. D. Hooker 1861 in Origin 4th ed., p. 445, and added the following sentences to his discussion of the migration of temperate plants during the glacial period: It now also appears, as I hear from Dr. Hooker, that some of these same temperate plants have been discovered by the Rev. R. T. Lowe on the mountains of the Cape de Verde islands. This extension of the same temperate forms, almost under the equator, across the whole continent of Africa and to the mountains of the Cape de Verde archipelago, is one of the most astonishing facts ever recorded in the distribution of plants.
In his letter of 13 May 1866, Hooker had suggested that he meet CD in London at the International Horticultural Exhibition and Botanical Congress.
Robert Caspary wished to meet CD; Hooker was to inform Caspary that he could visit CD at Down House (see letter from Robert Caspary, 7 May 1866, and letter to J. D. Hooker, [12 May 1866]).
CD had been invited to dinner at the home of John Edward Gray on 16 May; Alphonse de Candolle had also been invited (see letter from J. E. Gray, 9 April 1866). CD had also been invited to meet Candolle at the home of Charles Wentworth Dilke (see letter from C. W. Dilke, 24 April 1866).
CD had stayed in London with his brother Erasmus from 21 April to 1 May; he attended a reception at the Royal Society of London on 28 April (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 13 May 1866 and n. 3).
CD refers to Edward Burnett Tylor. See letter from J. D. Hooker, 13 May 1866 and n. 5.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, 13 May 1866. CD refers to chapters 9 and 10 of Variation, which were on cultivated plants.
CD had been working on the fourth edition of Origin since 1 March (see ‘Journal’, Appendix II).
CD discussed reversion, or the appearance in organisms of ancestral traits not evident in the parent forms, in chapter 13 of Variation. CD’s hypothesis of pangenesis, presented in chapter 27, proposed that characteristics of an organism were inherited through ‘gemmules’ that were thrown off by the body’s cells, and that aggregated either into buds or into the elements of sexual reproduction. CD attempted to explain the phenomenon of reversion by suggesting that gemmules could remain inactive for generations (Variation 2: 372–3, 398–402). For a further discussion of pangenesis, see the letter to J. D. Hooker, 4 April [1866]; see also Correspondence vol. 13, letters to T. H. Huxley, 27 May [1865] and 12 July [1865].
Hildebrand 1866d. See letter to Friedrich Hildebrand, 16 May [1866] and nn. 3–5.
See letter to George Henslow, 16 April [1866]. Hildebrand had published a paper on the pollination mechanisms of Indigofera and Medicago sativa (Hildebrand 1866a); the paper contained observations similar to those made independently by Henslow.
CD refers to Hildebrand 1866c. See letter from Friedrich Hildebrand, 11 May 1866 and nn. 2 and 3, and letter to Friedrich Hildebrand, 16 May [1866] and n. 10.
Hooker and his wife, Frances Harriet Hooker, arrived at Down on 23 June 1866. He left on 25 June, and she left on 29 June (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Crawfurd, John. 1866. On the migration of cultivated plants in reference to ethnology. Journal of Botany 4: 317–32.

Origin 4th ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 4th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1866.

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.

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


Glad to see Asa Gray’s letter.

Asks whether he may insert a sentence about Cape Verde alpine plants in new edition [4th] of Origin.

Fears "twaddle" may also be the word for his two chapters on cultivated plants. Asks for Crawfurd’s paper.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 289, 289b
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5091,” accessed on 17 April 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14