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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [23 November 1846]1



My dear Hooker.

I have read your paper pretty carefully,2 but to fully appreciate it, it ought to be read two or three times, & that I shall do when in print. In my opinion, it is without comparison, the best essay on geograph. distrib. in any class, which I have ever met with; & poor judge though I may be, I have looked far & wide for such discussions in vain. I will praise it no more, though in truth I could say with earnestness much more.—

Now for my small criticisms.—

p. 3. I say mountains from 1000 to (above) 4000 ft: I know of three of about 3700 & one of 4700.

p. 4. swampy land on summit of islds not rare

p. 5. “almost absolute sterility” a good deal too strong: much (& I think you ought to allude to this) of the lower lands, (which by the way is almost always rocky, very little soil in any part) is thickly covered with a starved poor yet often thick brushwood.

p. 9. C. Verds quite as barren, or rather more barren than Galapagos.—

p. 7. sentence about St. Jago unintelligible to me. (how interesting your remarks on the Compositæ)

p. 18— it is not quite obvious at first, whether the 28 species of Compositæ include all the Galapageian species.

p. 19 Does your remark mean that the same species of Compositæ are not widely spread in the same country, or are the same species rarely found in widely separated countries, that is more rarely than the species in other families.

p 21. some obscurity in a sentence marked in a discussion to me very interesting: are there not two species to each genus at the Galapagos?! how very surprising! your ratio is 1 to 1.7.—

p. 20 just consider whether a too strong impression is not given of the affinity of the Juan F: & St. Helena; is not the case of the really, not analogically related plants in these islands, quite the exception to the rule. Is Aristida a confined genus.— Do you keep distinct your terms of analogy & affinity—just reconsider the mere wording of this sentence, & the first impression it would give. My impression from this sentence jars against what I take from rest of paper; but I shd have had to have kept this paper for a week to look back to all such & other points.

p. 23. in appearance, summit-land abundantly moist enough for tree-ferns.—

p. 27. The arrangement of leading paragraph, strikes me as awkward; as the possibly altered plants, come chiefly under W. Indian type, as stated at end of paragraph, ought they not to be mentioned earlier in the paragraph.— Ought you not, at least in a bracket, to state that your W. Indian type includes both sides of Isth. of Panama; I was in a perfect fidget to know whether you meant to exclude Panama.— So again, when first referred to (as first impressions always tell) would it not be better to add to “Mexican type”, including temperate or dry or highland parts of both Americas; no after explanation quite does away with first impression that you mean exclusively Mexican.—

p. 28. (4 lines from top) [reverse question mark]. add after the “24” out of the “45”.— as now stands not perfectly clear at first sight.

p. 41. No doubt owing to my noddle being occupied by some stupid puzzle, I cannot, though I tryed for 14 of hour, understand your Table; does in 2d. “American” mean extra-Galapageian, or exclusively American so as to exclude those also found in Pacific islands.— Third column, I cannot conjecture meaning of; does “islets” refer to the Galapageian islets, if so, under Charles isld would it not be 96 15 81 instead of 74—or do islets refer to islands in other parts of world; even then I cannot make your numbers intelligible: I again repeat I daresay this is my stupidity, but some others will be as stupid. Though not properly introduced, would it not be well, as a refresher, to give a separate line for total of whole group, leaving blank the columns, under which no total can be given?

p. 41. James Isd by no means loftiest;—Albemarles has highest mountains.

Mem. Buccaniers formerly much frequented James Isd & I believe Charles.—[reverse question mark]. allude to absence of gales (as I have done) not dispersing seeds from island to island? I suspect whenever damp parts (for such occur & a running stream!!) on windward coast of Chatham Isd are explored, your numerical results will I suspect be altered. Is not the upland Flora much more peculiar than the lowland Flora?

Your paper is in my eyes splendid, & I long to have a copy.

Ever yours | C. Darwin

I return lens & many thanks

Pray give my remembrances & thanks for his kind reception to Sir William.— Please inform me about your Sisters health.3


Dated on the basis of CD’s visit to Hooker at Kew on 20 November 1846 (see letter to J. D. Hooker, [17 November 1846]), and the letter from J. D. Hooker, [24 November 1846], which preceded his reading of the Galápagos paper at the Linnean Society, see n. 2, below.
The final version of Hooker’s paper on the geographical distribution of Galápagos plants, J. D. Hooker 1846, was read to the Linnean Society on 1 and 15 December 1846.
Elizabeth Hooker.


Has read JDH’s paper ["Plants of the Galapagos Archipelago", Trans. Linn. Soc. Lond. 20 (1851): 116–233] and thinks it the best essay on geographical distribution he has ever met with. Comments on the paper.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 75
Physical description
4pp & C

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1031,” accessed on 26 September 2021,

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