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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [5 or 12 November 1845]

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Hooker

I had intended not writing to you, until I had looked through your Botany,1 but I must at once thank you very much for it & for your two letters. I began reading the first number last night, & turned over the pages of some of the others, & saw quite enough to show me how much there will be of the very highest interest to me. How different your remarks make it to most systematic works! but I will say no more about it now, except to thank you once again very heartily for it, though I know full well how unworthy I am as a naturalist for such a present, yet I am proud of it, not to mention its real practical use to me.

It was indeed most absurdly unjust to speak of you, as a mere systematist. You speak of your printed letter, as being “bilious”, I do assure you, as far as my judgment goes, I see no signs of such feelings.—2 You must forgive me for alluding to such a subject, but I must say I admire from the bottom of my heart, the manner in which you have borne your disappointment & illiberal treatment. Your noble (& really interesting) set of Testimonials must be a consolation when you think of the Baillie’s speeches.—

I am glad to hear that you are hard at work again & continue to find interesting geographical results: assuredly, as you say in your Preface, geographical distrib: will be the key which will unlock the mystery of species.3 By the way I have written to Capt. Beaufort some queries, & amongst others urged him to direct attention to the Floras of all isolated islands.— I presume of course, you have specimens of the junction of the Beech-parasite, in spirits;4 I gave some to Brown, who, I daresay, wd give them up, if you want more specimens.—

Many thanks for l’Espece;5 could you lend me sometime, your former copy that I may transpose my marks (or rather exchange copies) as I do not want the trouble of looking it over again. I shall be glad to see the other pamphets; though I do not expect much, if they are by Gerard.— I am sorry to say I have sent my very small packet to Ehrenberg: I did not give you a fair chance & ought to have retained it longer; but I am in a hurry for Ehrenberg’s answer.— I will return the Testimonials to you;—I shall not, however, send to the Geolog. Soc. for another week..— You ask about my health: I have been unusually well for a week past, owing, I believe, to what sounds a great piece of quackery, viz twice a day passing a galvanic stream through my insides from a small-plate battery for half an hour.—6 I think it certainly has relieved some of my distressing symptoms.— My wife is not as strong as she ought to be.

—If you want to read a zoological book, I think Waterhouse’s Mammalia (now publishing by Bailliere) wd. interest you;7 I can lend it you at some future time, when several of the numbers are out.— I hope this next summer to finish my S. American geology;8 then to get out a little zoology9 & hurrah for my species-work, in which, according to every law of probability, I shall stick & be confounded in the mud.—

I wish I could get you sometime hence to look over a rough sketch (well copied) on this subject,10 but it is too impudent a request.

Farewell my dear Hooker | Yours most sincerely | C. Darwin


J. D. Hooker 1844–7. Apparently this refers to part one. Although all ten numbers of part one were available by May 1845 (Wiltshear 1913) Hooker had not sent it earlier because he did not have a complete set for CD (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 1 September [1845]). CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
Hooker had written a strong letter to the Caledonian Mercury, 27 October 1845, on the subject of the Edinburgh elections.
Hooker was far more circumspect than CD implies: ‘Hence it will appear, that islands so situated furnish the best materials for a rigid comparison of the effects of geographical position and the various meteorological phænomena on vegetation, and for acquiring a knowledge of the great laws according to which plants are distributed over the face of the globe’ (J. D. Hooker 1844–7, p. xii).
J. D. Hooker 1844–7, pp. 452–3, discusses the apparent differences in structure of Cyttaria when dried or preserved in spirits of wine. CD is referring to the ‘disc’ formed when this fungus emerges from the beech tree’s bark.
The application of a current from a voltaic battery was commonly known as ‘galvanisation’, and was a popular therapeutic treatment during the first half of the nineteenth century (Colwell 1922; Rowbottom and Susskind 1984). CD does not mention galvanic treatment after 1846.
Waterhouse 1846–8, published in parts. For CD’s review of volume one, see Collected papers 1: 214–7. CD’s copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
South America. CD had recommenced work on this book on 29 October 1845 and finished correcting the last proof on 1 October 1846 (‘Journal’; Correspondence vol. 3, Appendix II).
CD’s Beagle invertebrate collection had not been described in Zoology.
CD’s essay of 1844 (Foundations, pp. 57–255).


Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

Colwell, Hector A. 1922. An essay on the history of electrotherapy and diagnosis. London: William Heinemann.

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

Foundations: The foundations of the Origin of Species. Two essays written in 1842 and 1844 by Charles Darwin. Edited by Francis Darwin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1909. [Reprint edition. New York: Kraus Reprint Co. 1969. Also reprinted in De Beer ed. 1958.]

Gérard, Frédéric. 1844. De l’espèce dans les corps organisés. Extract from d’Orbigny, Alcide Charles Victor Dessalines, ed., Dictionnaire universel d’histoire naturelle. 16 vols. Paris. 1841–9.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1844–7. Flora Antarctica. 1 vol. and 1 vol. of plates. Pt 1 of The botany of the Antarctic voyage of HM discovery ships Erebus and Terror in the years 1839–1843, under the command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross. London: Reeve Brothers.

South America: Geological observations on South America. Being the third part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1846.

Waterhouse, George Robert. 1846–8. A natural history of the Mammalia. 2 vols. London: H. Baillière.

Wiltshear, F. G. 1913. The botany of the Antarctic voyage. Journal of Botany: British and Foreign 51: 355–8. [Vols. 6,7,8]

Zoology: The zoology of the voyage of HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. Edited and superintended by Charles Darwin. 5 pts. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1838–43.


Thanks for Antarctic flora [Flora Antarctica (1844–7)].

Agrees geographical distribution will be "the key which will unlock the mystery of species".

Could JDH look over a rough sketch on species?

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 45
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 924,” accessed on 18 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 3