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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   25 May [1870]

Down. | Beckenham. | Kent. S.E

May 25

My dear Hooker

I have indeed had time to grow very old since we have written to each other: never so long before.1 I had intended more than once writing, but I heard indirectly how hard you had been pressed by work & so refrained. I suppose thank God that your British Flora is as good as finished.2 Now you have rewarded my virtue by a very long & pleasant letter, telling me much that I wished to hear. I am heartily glad that Willy3 has come back so well & not in the least deteriorated in manners; not that I shd. have expected this from all that I have heard of him. It will be a fearful puzzle for you what to do with him now: God knows it is puzzle enough in every case whatever; & what our Boy Horace is to do, I know no more than the man in the moon: he is clever enough; but so often ailing in health, that I doubt whether he can stick to anything. About ourselves I have little news: Henrietta4 has just returned much strengthened by her 4 months residence at Cannes. Last Friday we all went to the Bull Hotel at Cambridge to see the Boys & for a little rest & enjoyment.—5 The Backs of the Colleges were simply paradisical. On Monday I saw Sedgwick who was most cordial & kind: in the morning I thought that his mind was enfeebled: in the evening he was brilliant & quite himself. His affection & kindness charmed us all. My visit to him was in one way unfortunate: for after a long sit he proposed to take me to the Museum;6 & I could not refuse, & in consequence he utterly prostrated me; so that we left Cambridge next morning, & I have not recovered the exhaustion yet. Is it not humiliating to be thus killed by a man of 86, who evidently never dreamed that he was killing me.— As he said to me “Oh I consider you as a mere baby to me”.— I saw Newton7 several times, & several nice friends of Frank.— But Cambridge without dear Henslow was not itself: I tried to get to the two old Houses, but it was too far for me.—8

As for myself I have been working away on Man, & as usual running to much greater length than I expected. I hope to go to press this Autumn.9 In the plant line I have been continuing my comparison of crossed & self-fertilised plants, & am coming I think to some interesting results, & some curious anomalies.— Do you happen by any strange chance to have seeds of Canna Warszewiczi matured in some hot country; they wd. be of great value to me— I shall, however, receive some from Italy.—10

I truly sympathise with you about Dawson’s paper: under all the circumstances it is quite horrid for you; but I fancy there are always two referees, which will partly relieve the burthen.11 It amuses me to hear of his hashing up Cope’s unintelligible views about accleration of development & Agassiz on Synthesis, in explanation of the origin of species, as he spoke so contemptuously on any attempt to explain such problems, when my book first appeared. He seemed to me to be the staunchest of creationists.—12

Will you not come here some Sunday—or any time, any day wd suit us, & the sooner the better: you wd rejoice all our hearts.

I am delighted to hear about Charlies success13—our son’s success in life is more delightful than our own—

Yours affect. | C. Darwin


CD refers to The student’s flora of the British Islands (Hooker 1870).
CD refers to Francis Darwin, who was a student at Trinity College, Cambridge, and to George Howard Darwin, a fellow of that college.
Adam Sedgwick and CD had visited the Woodwardian Museum, Cambridge, on 23 May 1870 (see letter to Alfred Newton [22 May 1870]).
John Stevens Henslow had died in 1861. CD probably refers to the two houses where Henslow lived in Cambridge, the ‘Gothic Cottage’ in Regent Street and the house overlooking Parker’s Piece (see Walters and Stow 2001, p. 108).
Descent went to press on 30 August 1870 (see CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
CD had asked Federico Delpino for seeds of Canna warszewiczii (now C. indica; see letter from Federico Delpino, 20 May 1870 and n. 3). CD has double scored both margins, as well as double underlining the words ‘matured in some hot country’.
CD refers to Hooker’s critical report on John William Dawson’s Bakerian lecture of 1870 (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [22 May 1870] and n. 5). The other referee was Peter Martin Duncan, who gave a generally favourable report on the paper (see Sheets-Pyenson 1991, pp. 181, 184).
Dawson had discussed the evolutionary ideas of Edward Drinker Cope in his paper, ‘Modern ideas of derivation’ (Dawson 1869, pp. 134–7). CD had scored part of this section in his copy of an offprint of the article (p. 135; p. 15 in CD’s copy, which is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL). Cope proposed that changes in species were the result of acceleration or retardation during embryogenesis of the individual, but had not explained why or how the alterations would occur, other than crediting the direct intervention of God. Dawson considered Richard Owen’s theory of evolutionary change (CD evidently referred to Louis Agassiz in error) to be a synthesis of the theories of Jean Baptiste Lamarck and CD (Dawson 1869, pp. 133–4).


Dawson, John William. 1869. Modern ideas of derivation. Canadian Naturalist and Quarterly Journal of Science n.s. 4: 121–38.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1870. The student’s flora of the British Islands. London: Macmillan.

Sheets-Pyenson, Susan. 1991. ‘Pearls before swine’: Sir William Dawson’s Bakerian Lecture of 1870. Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 45: 177–91.


Concern about futures of Willy [Hooker] and Horace [Darwin].

Henrietta [Darwin] back from Cannes.

CD has been to Cambridge to visit Frank [Darwin]. Saw Sedgwick, who took him to the [Geological] Museum and utterly exhausted him. Humiliating to be "killed by a man of 86".

Saw Alfred Newton.

CD has been working away on man, to much greater length (as usual) than expected,

and on cross- and self-fertilisation.

Does JDH happen to have seeds of Canna warszewiczii matured in some hot country?

Sympathises with JDH on Dawson’s paper – amusing that Dawson hashes up E. D. Cope’s and L. Agassiz’s views.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 94: 169–72
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7200,” accessed on 15 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18