From J. D. Hooker 14 December 1866
Royal Gardens Kew Dec 14/66
Nothing to answer
The Scarlet seed is that of Adenanthera pavonina a native of India.1 I am well acquainted with itself & with its habits from the year -[inf symbol] (minus infinity)— At that rather (Geologically) early period it was a low bush, & the seeds were all black, (an allied species has seeds half-black & half-red, which proves this statement).2 Gallinaceous birds were, after its creation, introduced into the part of the globe where I first saw it, & these sought the seeds with avidity: so that finally only those vars of climbing habit alone survived & thus got out of the way of the gallinaceous birds (which are not perchers)— its’ chances of dissemination being thus diminished, the tendency to scarlet next developed itself in excess, being determined by the perchers (whose gizzards would not grind the seeds) & which were attracted by the color, & soon led to the extinction of all but the full scarlet forms.
Nonsense apart, I should suppose that it is to imitate a scarlet insect & thus attract insectivorous birds, or frugiferous perchers, of weak digestions, that the color is acquired. The plant is a very common Indian one, & it would be easy to ascertain how far it is a prey to birds.3
It is all very easy for Spencer to wriggle without facts, & if he spent a fraction of his brain & time in observing & experimenting, he would not wriggle so lithely—he is all oil & no bone.4 Though I must confess that his sap & wood paper in the Linnean is a confoundedly good piece of scientific work—5 I was disgusted with his wriggles against facts in the matter of some Umbelliferous flowers, & utterly so when he declined to bring the specimen to analysis, preferring to argue on the bare possibility of being right, against Bentham’s Master’s & my assurances that he was wrong & would find himself so if he would be honest & look his observations in the face.6 I think he is now ashamed of this. He always reminds me of a thinking pump; though I can attach no meaning to the simile. it ought to have one.
I do not see how the Mts of N. Zealand S. Australia & Tasmania could have been peopled to so large an extent by Antarctic forms common to Fuegia, without some intercommunication, & I have always supposed this was before the immigration of Asiatic plants into Australia, & of which plants the temperate & tropical plants of that country may be considered as altered forms.7 The presence of so many of these temperate & cold Australian & New Zealand genera on the top of Kini Balou in Borneo (under the Equator) is an awful staggerer, & demands a very extended northern distribution of Australian temperate forms.8 It is a frightful assumption, that the plains of Borneo were covered with a temperate cold vegetation that was driven up Kini balou by the returning cold.9
Then there is the very distinct distribution of a few Australian types Northwards to the Phillippines China & Japan, that is a fearful & wonderful fact,—though as these plants are New Zealand too for the most part, the migration northward may have been East of Australia.
Bentham was at Zoolog. Soc. last night & heard a very interesting paper by Gunther on fishes of oceans E & W. of Panama being the same; a fact which staggered the conclave.—10 Considering the seabirds & short distance I should rather have wondered if it were not so. The Fish of the fresh water Lakes there seem very curious
I saw Grove at Athenæum— he had read abstract of my lecture in the publication of the meetings proceedings, & was so disappointed with the wind up, that he swears I have altered it—11 I had difficulty in assuring him it was not so, & that it was “all in the telling” which is quite what I all along expected, & one reason why I have delayed publication— The sooner after delivery it is read, the poorer it will appear to those who heard it read. Now that the abstract is out, I send the entire affair to Gard. Chron—where I intreat you to overhaul it—, as I shall immediately reprint it for private circulation.12 The G. C. will give me 40/ a column for it, which I am very glad of, as I have made a confounded fool of myself buying Wedgwood—13
I had not quite overlooked the state of development of life in the matter of bulk or weight of organic matter, but I think it may be wriggled through.14 true enough the cellulares15 would give rise to less chemical change if their vital phases were as slow as those of phenogams, but does not a Mucor effect more chemical change than a 10000 times bigger phenog. plant?16
I am so glad that you are at your big book.17
Huxley was telling me how much he wondered at the sensation of novelty that Grove’s paper excited in the hoi polloi (I forget the greek letters!)—& was amused when I told him what I believe the real facts of the case to be, viz. that Grove’s continuity doctrine was received at Nottingham as a sort of corollary flowing from, & subsequent to, your development theory!!!18 Of this I have no doubt whatever. Do not say that this is a cynical invention of mine, for I am sure it is a fact,—as it is that I am cynic enough to enjoy it—
Fancy my dining the next night after Lyell’s at the W. Spottiswoods, where Lecky turned up again!—it was a nice party, Huxley, Sir B & Lady Brodie Greg (Creed of Cm.)—H Wedgwood,19—their house is a Gorgeous one. S. & his wife do a vast deal for their work-people, lecturing & so on, & are very nice & friendly but these London dinners are the ruin of Science, & I must now get on with “Genera Plantarum”.20
So no more from your affec | Jos D Hooker—
Scarlet seed is Adenanthera pavonina. JDH’s suggestion on how disseminated.
On Herbert Spencer, "all oil no bone – a thinking pump", but his paper on sap and wood [Trans. Linn. Soc. Lond. 25 (1866): 405–30] is good science. His refusal to bring a specimen for analysis when confronted by JDH.
Bentham and Martin disagreement.
Speculations on New Zealand flora.
Albert Günther’s paper on fishes on each side of Isthmus of Panama [Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond. (1866): 600–4].
On the quantity (bulk and weight) of organic life [matter].
- experiment, scientific observation
- geographical distribution
- isolation, islands
- negative criticism of correspondent
- physical ‘external’ characters
- plant physiology
- positive attitude/assessment
- scientific controversy, confrontation
- specimens / samples
- theory (including philosophy)
- ‘amount of life’
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5305,” accessed on 29 September 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-5305