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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   16 January [1869]1

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

Jan 16th.

My Dear Hooker

Your two notes and remarks are of the utmost value, and I am greatly obliged to you.2 Your criticism on the term “morphological” seems quite just, but I do not see how I can avoid using it.3 I found after writing to you in Vaucher about the rue but from what you say I will speak more cautiously.4 It is the Spanish Chesnut that varies in divergence.5 Seeds named “Viola nana” were sent me from Calcutta by Scott; I must refer to the plants as an “Indian species”, for though they have produced hundreds of Closed flowers, they have not boarn one perfect flower6 You ask whether I want illustrations “of ovules differing in position in different flowers on the same plant”. If you know of such cases, I should certainly much like to hear them. Again you speak of the angle of leaf-divergeance varying, and the variations being transmitted; was the latter point put in in a hurry to round the sentence; or do you really know of cases?7

Whilst looking for notes on the variability in the divisions of the ovarium, position of the ovules, æstivation, &c, &c, I found remarks, written 15 or 20 ago, showing that I then supposed that characters which were nearly uniform throughout whole groups must be of high vital importance to the plants themselves; consequently I was greatly puzzled how with organisms having very different habits of life this uniformity could have been acquired through Natural Selection.8 Now I am much inclined to believe, in accordance with the view—given towards the close of my MS., that the near approach to uniformity in such structures depends on their not being of vital importance and therefore not being acted on by natural selection.9 If you have reflected on this point, what do you think of it? I hope that you approved of the argument deduced from the modifications in the small closed flowers.

Hearty thanks for all you assistance and I will give you no more trouble on this subject.

Yours affectionately | Ch. Darwin

It is rich about Babington, but I daresay many others have said the same thing.10 It is only about 2 years since last Edit. of Origin, & I am fairly disgusted to find how much I have to modify & how much I ought to add; but I have determined not to add much.—11 Fleming Jenkins has given me much trouble, but has been of more real use to me, than any other Essay or Review.12


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, 15 January 1869.
CD refers to the letters from J. D. Hooker, 14 [January] 1869 and 15 January 1869.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, 14 [January] 1869 and n. 2. CD refers to Jean-Pierre-Etienne Vaucher and Vaucher 1841, 1: 557–70. Vaucher’s comments on numbers of locules of the ovarium refer to the genus Peganum (African rue, now in the family Zygophyllaceae; see Vaucher 1841, 1: 562). In Origin 5th ed., p. 155, CD referred to differences in the number of ovaries in some species of the genus Zanthoxylon (a synonym of Zanthoxylum, prickly ash, family Rutaceae).
See letter from J. D. Hooker, 15 January 1869 and n. 5. CD refers to John Scott.
The notes CD refers to have not been identified.
See Origin 5th ed., pp. 156–7.
The fourth edition of Origin was published in the autumn of 1866 (on the delay in releasing the book, see Correspondence vol. 14, letter from John Murray, 18 July [1866]).
Henry Charles Fleeming Jenkin had written an article in the North British Review criticising some aspects of CD’s theory ([Jenkin] 1867). For more on the review and responses to it, see Correspondence vol 15. In Origin 5th ed., pp. 104–5, CD responded to Jenkin’s argument that a variation occurring in a single individual, no matter how advantageous, would not be perpetuated (see [Jenkin] 1867, pp. 288–92; see also Gayon 1998, pp. 97–102).


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

Gayon, Jean. 1998. Darwinism’s struggle for survival: heredity and the hypothesis of natural selection. Translated by Matthew Cobb. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[Jenkin, Henry Charles Fleeming.] 1867. The origin of species. North British Review 46: 277–318.

Origin 5th ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 5th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1869.

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.

Vaucher, Jean Pierre Etienne. 1841. Histoire physiologique des plantes d’Europe ou exposition des phénomènes qu’elles présentent dans les diverses périodes de leur développement. 4 vols. Paris: Marc Aurel Frères.


Finds JDH’s comments of utmost value. Answers some questions, and asks new ones. Transmission of variations. Relation of uniformity of structure to natural selection.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 94: 112–13
Physical description
LS(A) 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6557,” accessed on 14 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17