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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [22 January 1869]

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

My dear Hooker

Your letter is quite splenditious.1 I am greatly tempted, but shall I hope refrain, from using some of your remarks. (quinary & Dicots &c.) in my Chapt. on Classification.—2

It is very true what you say about unimportant characters being so important systematically; yet it is hardly paradoxical, bearing in mind that the natural system is genetic, & that we have to discover the genealogies anyhow.3 Hence, such parts as organs of generation are so useful for classification, though not concerned with the manner of life— Hence use for same purpose of of rudimentary organs &c &c.— You cannot think what a relief it is that you do not object to this view; for it removes partly a heavy burden from my shoulders.— If I lived 20 more years, & was able to work, how I shd. have to modify the “Origin”, & how much the views on all points will have to be modified.— Well it is a beginning, & that is something.

About the Leaves you say “.... even here is variation, capable of transmission”; I perhaps wrongly inferred that you might know of actual cases of transmission.—

I hope you will have a lateral branch of Spanish Chesnut grafted, to see, if when upright it will retain same divergence; but surely it wd not be inherited, as both tendencies must be transmitted in every seed.—4

I did notice a slight error about Lythrum;5 but your Address is so deeply embedded in other, as yet, unclassed pamphlets, I cannot find it just now.— How odd old P.6 shd. have detected it. I shd like to see any published flagellation of your Heterodoxy.—

I have received H. Spencer’s appendix on spontaneous generation & on his confused physiological units; but I do not remember any discussion on materialism;7 I read, however, with care only the part on spont. gen. & was struck with vivid admiration at its ability: He is a wonderful man.—

My dear old fellow | Yours affecly | C. Darwin

I hope you take in, to encourage, “Scientific Opinion”: some articles have interested me a good deal; but the Nat. Hist part seems not well done, or not much attended to.—8

I have just received Mrs Somerville’s Book:9 it seems a most strange Hotch-potch.—


CD used the word ‘splenditious’ in two other letters to Hooker (see letters to J. D. Hooker, 1 June [1865] (Correspondence vol. 13) and 7 August [1869]). Henrietta Emma Darwin used a variant, ‘splendicious’, in a letter to William Erasmus Darwin dated [18 November 1862] (DAR 219.1: 67), which suggests that it may have been a family word.
For Hooker’s remarks on the quinary arrangement of dicotyledons, see letter from J. D. Hooker, 18 January 1869.
See letters from J. D. Hooker, 15 January 1869 and n. 6, and 18 January 1869. Hooker had suggested the grafting experiment to determine whether the variation in angle of divergence in the leaves would be transmitted in seeds produced by such a grafted branch.
Scientific Opinion was a weekly popular-science newspaper, published from 1868 to 1870, after which it merged with the English Mechanic and Mirror of Science (North 1989, 6: 4271).


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

North, John S. 1989. The Waterloo directory of Scottish newspapers and periodicals, 1800–1900. 2 vols. Waterloo, Ontario: North Waterloo Academic Press.

Somerville, Mary. 1869. On molecular and microscopic science. 2 vols. London: John Murray.


No paradox that unimportant characters are important systematically. This view removes heavy burden from CD’s shoulders. Relief that JDH does not object.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 94: 114—15
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6568,” accessed on 17 April 2024,

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