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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   21 June [1876]1

Down Beckenham | Kent

Jun 21st

My dear Hooker

I am sorry for you about the inscription, which has almost burst me.2 We think there are too many plurals in yours, & when read aloud it hisses like a goose. I think the omission of some words makes it much stronger, see enclosed.— “World” is much stronger & truer than “public”. As Lyell wrote various other books & memoirs, I have some little doubt about “Principles of Geology”—

People here do not like your “enduring value” it sounds almost an anticlimax— they do not much like my “endure or “last as long science lasts.”— If one reads a sentence often enough it always becomes odious. God Help you—

I am so glad to hear about Mr Vigner’s (??) success.—3 I have never heard from that poor devil L. Tait, since I sent him an abstract of the Referee’s report.—4 By the way I have agreed to communicate another paper from Hubert Airy to the R. Socy, for which I daresay you will blame me; but I think his instrument for taking angles easily may be very useful & I cannot get it out of my head that he is on the right course in explaining phyllotaxis by the mutual pressure of very young buds.—5

Pray accept my thanks for lending me Paxtons book & breaking all rules: it shall be returned in at furthest 2 or 3 days.—6

And now I must tell you about Franks discovery, but please do not mention it, in case that it shd. break down, but I am almost sure it will not.—7 The cups of the Dipsacus are lined with little glands;


but they do not secrete digestive fluid, nor do they directly absorb putrefying fluid; but they emit (always from the summit) a little mass of sarcode when when surrounded by nitrogenous fluid sends forth long filaments, in constant movement, absolutely like the pseudopodia of one of the protozoa or of an Amœba; & these filaments seem to catch & involve solid particles, (which may be seen travelling in the filaments,) also just like an amœba or white blood-corpuscle. All these facts will have to be observed again & again; but I have hardly a doubt that here we have a plant catching & feeding on solid particles of decaying insects. When the sarcode is protruded from a gland under the microscope & a minute quantity of alcohol or other irritant is sucked under the covering glass, it is wonderful as I have witnessed how quickly the sarcode is all withdrawn. Is not this a surprising discovery if it all holds good?—

Yours affectionately | Ch. Darwin

Mrs Lyell’s inscriptions were not enclosed.8

[Enclosure 1]


His long life was devoted to the search for Truth, & he gave to the ?—world ?—public the results of his labour in a work of enduring value, The Principles of Geology.9

[Enclosure 2]


His long life was devoted to the search for truth, & he gave to the world works which will ?endure ?last as long as Science lasts.10


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, 20 June 1876.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, 20 June 1876. Hooker had been asked to suggest an inscription for Charles Lyell’s memorial in Westminster Abbey.
Someone that Hooker mentioned as ‘Vigner’ had isolated the digestive principle in Nepenthes (the tropical pitcher-plant); Hooker may have meant George William Wigner, a well-known analytical chemist.
See letter to Lawson Tait, 5 May 1876. CD had communicated a paper by Tait on the digestive fluids of Nepenthes to the Royal Society of London; it had been rejected.
See letter from Hubert Airy, 2 May 1876 and n. 8; he called the instrument a taxigraph. Airy had been corresponding with CD about phyllotaxy since 1871 (see Correspondence vols. 19, 20, 21, and 22).
Hooker or William Turner Thiselton-Dyer had sent a volume of Paxton’s Magazine containing a figure of Coryanthes macrantha (see letter from W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 6 June 1876 and n. 1).
Francis had discovered protoplasmic filaments protruding from the glandular hairs in the cups of the common or fuller’s teasel (Dipsacus sylvestris, now D. fullonum; see letter from Francis Darwin, [28 May 1876]). He thought that the filaments might enable the plant to absorb nitrogenous matter dissolved in the water in the cups formed by some of the leaves (see F. Darwin 1877b).
Mrs Lyell: Katherine Murray Lyell. See letter from J. D. Hooker, 20 June 1876.
The inscription used for the memorial was as follows:


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Lyell, Charles. 1830–3. Principles of geology, being an attempt to explain the former changes of the earth’s surface, by reference to causes now in operation. 3 vols. London: John Murray.


CD and family suggest inscriptions for Lyell memorial at Westminster Abbey.

CD communicating H. Airy’s paper on phyllotaxis to the Royal Society.

Frank observes pod-like emanations from glands of insectivorous plant ingesting solid insect particles [see 10520].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 95: 408–12
Physical description
5pp, encl 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10542,” accessed on 23 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24