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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   25 February [1862]1

Down Bromley Kent Feb. 25th My dear Hooker

I have almost finished your Arctic paper, & I must tell you how I admire it.2 The subject treated, as you have treated it, is really magnificent. Good Heavens what labour it must have cost you! And what a grand prospect there is for the future.— I need not say how much pleased I am at your notice of my work;3 for you know that I regard your opinion more than that of all others. Such papers are the real engine to compel people to reflect on modification of species: anyone with an enquiring mind could hardly fail to wish to consider the whole subject after reading your paper.— By Jove you will be driven,, nolens volens, to a cooled globe—4 think of your own case of Abyssinia & Fernando Po, & S. Africa5 & of your Lebanon case;6 grant that there are high lands to favour migration, but surely the lowlands must have been somewhat cooled.— I hope I blunder but I fear there is serious erratum at p. 258, compare whole table of “233 Arctic Asiatic species” with p. 264:7 the “O” to “Tropical Mountains of Asia” gave me a shudder: I hope I am wrong; but if it be an erratum, ought it not to be corrected in next vol. of Transactions.?

What a splendid new & original evidence & case is that of Greenland: I cannot see how, even by granting bridges of continuous land one can understand the existing Flora. I should think from state of Scotland & America & from isothermals, that during the coldest part of Glacial period, Greenland must have been quite depopulated. Like a dog to his vomit, I cannot help going back & leaning to accidental means of transport by ice & currents.8 How curious also is the case of Iceland. What a splendid paper you have made of the subject. When we meet I must ask how much you attribute richness of Flora of Lapland to mere climate: it seems to me very marvellous that this point should have been a sort of focus of radiation: if, however, it is unnaturally rich, ie contains more species that it ought to do for its latitude, in comparison with the other arctic regions, would it not thus falsely seem to a focus of radiation? But I shall hereafter have to go over & over again your paper; at present I am quite muddy on subject. How very odd on any view, the relation of Greenland to the mountains of E. N. America; this looks as if there had been wholesale extinction in E. N. America.— But I must not run on.— By the way I find Link in 1820 speculated on relation of Alpine & Arctic plants being due to former colder climate, which he attributed to higher mountains cutting off the warm southern winds.9

I enclose list of specimens much wanted for experiment. Aid me, if you can.—10 Do not send off in a frost; otherwise soon, or transplanting may check seeding.—

I am much troubled in mind about Masdevallia fenestrata;11 I shd. like to make it out: is it a large plant or very precious? if not, could you lend me the specimen whenever this next summer it is near flowering?—

When at Lubbock’s12 you said you shd. ask Bentham about my reading some extracts to Linn. Soc: about the odd sexual orchids.— I shd. doubt the propriety, & am quite indifferent on subject.— I mention it only because if wished I must at once get the M.S. from printers & have a few pages copied & get a few diagrams made. If I do not hear I will understand it is not desired.13

Ever my dear Hooker | Yours most truly | C. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship to the letter from J. D. Hooker, 27 February 1862.
J. D. Hooker 1861a. Having divided the polar zone into five areas ‘characterized by differences in their vegetation’, Hooker traced the distribution of Arctic plants into temperate and alpine regions in an attempt to show how far their present distribution could be accounted for by ‘slow changes of climate during and since the glacial period’ (ibid., p. 251). The issue of the Transactions of the Linnean Society of London in which Hooker’s paper appeared was published on 14 December 1861 (Raphael 1970); CD’s annotated copy of this issue is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
J. D. Hooker 1861a, pp. 253–4. The reference is to CD’s discussion of the southern, transtropical migration of northern types during the glacial period (see Origin, pp. 365–82).
In 1856, CD sent Hooker part of the manuscript of his ‘big book’ on species that discussed geographical distribution (a section of chapter 11 of Natural selection). Hooker was initially unconvinced by CD’s proposal of a cooling of the whole globe, including the tropics, during the glacial period (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter from J. D. Hooker, 9 November 1856, and Correspondence vol. 7, letter to Charles Lyell, 26 April [1858]).
J. D. Hooker 1862b.
J. D. Hooker 1862a.
As explained in the letter from J. D. Hooker, 27 February 1862, the erratum is on page 264 of J. D. Hooker 1861a. In the discussion of the distribution of the Arctic Asiatic species, the figure given for how many species occurred on the mountains of the two Indian peninsulas was ‘4’ instead of ‘0’ and the number of species on the mountains of Australia and New Zealand was recorded as ‘8’ instead of ‘5’ (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 27 February 1862).
CD had consistently opposed the ad hoc invocation of land-bridges to explain the geographical distribution of plants and animals.
Link 1821, p. 102. There is an annotated copy of this work in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 501).
The enclosure has not been found, but see the letter from J. D. Hooker, 3 March 1862 and n. 5, and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 14 March [1862] and n. 13.
The structure of the flower of Masdevallia fenestrata, with its small window opening, appeared to prevent both the withdrawal and insertion of pollinia by insects (see Orchids, pp. 168–9).
John Lubbock held a luncheon party at his house on 15 February 1862, which both CD and Hooker attended (see letter to W. E. Darwin, 14 February [1862]).
See letter from J. D. Hooker, 27 February 1862 and nn. 6 and 7. George Bentham was president of the Linnean Society of London.


Admires JDH’s paper on Arctic plants ["Distribution of Arctic plants", Trans. Linn. Soc. Lond. 23 (1862): 251–348]. Such papers compel people to reflect on modification of species;

JDH will be driven to a cooled globe.

Serious erratum in paper.

New and original evidence in case of Greenland. Its flora requires accidental means of transport by ice and currents.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 144
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3458,” accessed on 22 March 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10