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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   6 January 1863


Jany 6/63

My dear Darwin

I have read Falconer most interesting & most prosy paper,1 I do wish he had cut it into 4—for a non-Zoologist like me it is an apalling thing to have 70 pages of such an article in one quarter.2 The “Review” is much better than usual, but confound them they have printed the Index of New genera of last volume on last page of first number of this volume!. it is too bad of Huxley.3

As to Owen he certainly is in a degrading position, but really his conduct is so small as well as detestable that I cannot even get up indignation.4 I hardly know how to speak to him when I see him, or of him when I am asked by some great swell to echo his praises. Falconer is evidently consumedly riled. I am most curious to know what you think of Falconers observations on you5—he seems to me to have just awakened to the fact that there is something in you, & he too thinks that you make Nat Selection work independently & do every thing without variation to work upon.6 I have not seen F. for ages.

I have finished de Tocqueville Democ. in America7 & cannot help thinking how differently he might have written had he read the Origin & applied it—all his fallacies are attributable to ignorance of its principles. Specially his want of perception that the versatility & variety of resources each Yankee to which he attributes all their excellencies, more or less, possesses is simply the result of want of competition, & that when the land is filled with people this superiority will vanish, each will be good at his speciality only & the evil effects of Republicanism will burst out all over the peoples & communities. I do not believe that any nation can last for ever, either under a Republic or Monarchy, (both being bad) but 〈by〉 my notions I think the 〈    〉 will be the longest lived, 〈    〉 always turn up first—〈2 words missinggrowing community 〈    〉 started as a grown commun〈ity〉 was too precocious all along.

Then too all de Tocquevilles 〈com〉parative raticinations are frustrated by the growth of Englands colonies, which he (frenchman like) utterly ignores. Then too he is utterly wrong in assuming that the greater proportion of foreign traders to home traders in the American ports, compared to the English ports is a good sign for America8—& forgets that our home traders are the result of the boundless resources of different parts of our own country.— He says that all Americans entertain the most “virulent hatred” against the 〈Eng〉lish nation!—9 this was just 〈30 years〉 ago!

〈I am〉 extremely concerned to hear 〈of your〉 failing powers of enduring 〈conve〉rsation—that will however 〈soon〉 come right again as far as 〈ev〉er you can be right: I do not doubt—but cannot help laughing at your plan of the Epitaph,10 how jolly it would be to hear your own works criticized after death, & yourself abused for what you never said or did & praised for what you never wrote or thought of.

I have not been long waiting for a place to scratch, for the New Zeald Govt. have asked me to write a manual of the N. Z. Flora like Bentham’s Flora of Hong Kong.11 I am not sorry to do this, as it will enable me to correct many errors, add many Southern Island species, & interest me further in New Zealand.12 They have voted £500— th〈at〉 gives me £150 a volume 〈for〉 2 vols of about 600 pages each & the other £200 goes to publ〈isher〉 as no one will publish with〈out〉 that bonus per volume—for which the publisher gives 100 copies.13 This is equivalent to Govt subscribing for 100 copies at £1 per volume per copy. Of course writing so much is a frightful bore, but I may as well do that as worse, & please tell Henrietta that I have no scope for vice in the undertaking.14

I am quite aware of your insensibility to Wedgewood ware,15 Were it otherwise I do not think I could have gone into this foible, for I should have bored you out of your life to beg buy borrow & steal for me (do not tell Henrietta.) A〈s〉 it is I do not go further 〈than〉 little Medallions & such 〈m〉atters—such gorgeous things 〈as〉 you had on slates; are not 〈fo〉r the like of me; & as to the chimney pots on your chimney piece in the dining room they are not worth carriage.

We have hatched some leaf-insects of Java— Can you tell us what to feed them on?

Ever yours affec | J D Hooker

Send to Bolton & Barnett in Holborn bars, for a Quart bottle of the poison he supplies to the Kew Herbarium & wash all plants with that as soon as dry, & they will neither mould nor be devoured by beasts.16 Use it with a great big Camel hair brush—not a tin mounted one—& just wash the specimens lightly over.


Falconer 1863a.
The Natural History Review, in which Falconer 1863a appeared, was published in quarterly numbers.
The ‘Index to new genera described in the works enumerated’ was listed on page 176 of the January 1863 number of the Natural History Review; the index entries corresponded to new botanical publications described in the last number of 1862. Thomas Henry Huxley was editor-in-chief of the new series of the Natural History Review. The series had been beset by problems, for which Hooker considered Huxley responsible (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, [24 July 1862] and n. 10, and L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 209–10).
CD had told Hooker that he was ‘burning with indignation’ at the conduct of Richard Owen towards Hugh Falconer (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 3 January [1863] and n. 1).
Hooker refers to Falconer 1863a, pp. 77–81; see letter to Hugh Falconer, 5 [and 6] January [1863] and n. 7.
In his paper, Falconer praised CD, but also argued (Falconer 1863a, p. 80): the means which have been adduced to explain the origin of species by ‘Natural Selection,’ or a process of variation from external influences, is inadequate … it is difficult to believe, that there is not in nature, a deeper seated and innate principle, to the operation of which ‘Natural Selection’ is merely an adjunct. On Hooker’s view of the relationship between natural selection and variation in CD’s theory, see also Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, 26 November 1862. See also this volume, letter from Hugh Falconer, 3 January [1863] and n. 16.
Alexis Henri Charles Maurice Clérel, comte de Tocqueville, was a French politician and writer who travelled in the United States between 1831 and 1833, and in 1835 published his influential De la démocratie en Amérique (NBU). An English edition of Democracy in America, translated by Henry Reeve, was published in 1862 (H. Reeve trans. 1862). See also Correspondence vol. 10, letters from J. D. Hooker, 26 November 1862 and [21 December 1862].
Tocqueville viewed the rapid growth of shipping in America as a strong element in the country’s commercial prosperity (H. Reeve trans. 1862, 1: 505–15), and included statistics on the greater proportion of foreign to home traders in United States ports in relation to English ports (ibid., p. 507 n. 3), concluding that the Anglo-Americans were ‘born to rule the seas, as the Romans were to conquer the world’ (ibid., p. 515).
In noting the growing interdependence of English manufacturing and American prosperity, Tocqueville wrote that, nevertheless, ‘nothing can be more virulent than the hatred which exists between the Americans of the United States and the English’ (H. Reeve trans. 1862, 1: 514).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 3 January [1863].
J. D. Hooker 1864–7. George Bentham, Hooker’s colleague at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, was the author of a flora of Hong Kong (Bentham 1861).
Hooker had been in New Zealand in 1841 during the voyages of discovery of HMS Erebus and Terror; Flora Novæ Zelandiæ formed the second part of Hooker’s botanical account of the voyage (J. D. Hooker 1853–5).
Handbook of the New Zealand flora (Hooker 1864–7) was published in two parts by Lovell Reeve & Co. of Covent Garden, London.
Henrietta Emma Darwin, CD’s nineteen-year-old daughter, had commented that Hooker’s remarks on collecting showed that it led to ‘all sorts of vice’ (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 3 January [1863]).
Hooker had started to collect Wedgwood pottery (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, [27 or 28 December 1862]). In his letter to Hooker of 3 January [1863], CD described himself and Emma Darwin, grandchildren of the master-potter Josiah Wedgwood I, as ‘degenerate descendants’, noting that they had ‘not a bit of pretty ware in the house’.
Bolton & Barnitt were importers and makers of chemicals and photographic apparatus; their premises were located at 146 Holborn Bars, London (Post Office London directory 1861). In his letter to Hooker of 3 January [1863], CD asked for advice about using corrosive sublimate to prevent mould from growing on his children’s dried flowers.


Falconer’s elephant paper.

Owen’s conduct.

Falconer’s view of CD’s theory: independence of natural selection and variation.

JDH on Tocqueville,

the principles of the Origin,

and the evils of American democracy.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 88–91
Physical description
8pp damaged

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3902,” accessed on 19 February 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11