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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   27 January 1877

Royal Gardens Kew

Jay 27/77.

Dear Darwin

Dyer is full of your Cross & Self Fertilization & about to review it for “Nature”—1 he gloats over it—

I do hope that Frank will come & stay with us at Kew— I can promise him quiet:— he shall of course have the run of the Herbarium & get all the flowers that Oliver can give him.2

I am not in the least savage at his sending his “Dipsacus” paper to Royal, where I shall welcome it & where it will cut a figure in the Transactions.—3 What I so much object to is, young authors sending all their papers to the Royal;—solely with a view to entrance, most if not all such papers being far better suited to the Linnean, where they would get better discussion at the meeting & better circulation— This does not apply to a paper of such extreme interest as the Dipsacus “pseudopods”.— Dyer however regrets its going to Royal because, he says, truly enough, it will be buried in the Phil: Transactions, & would not be so in the Linnean.4

Last night we had the last part (at Royal) of Gunthers fine paper on the big Tortoises.5 He speculated wildly on former land connections between the African Islands & Continent of Africa & this with Continent of America, & the Galapagos, to account for the affinity of the Maroccan & Galapagos beasts—which affinity is certainly a crux major.6 Oddly enough it never occurred to him that the said Tortoises all inhabit Volcanic Islands; which when I pointed it out, he demurred to in regard of Rodriguez, which however as we now know from Balfour to be Volcanic.

I am doubtful as to Aldebach, have you any data? it’s neighbour Johanna is Volcanic.7

Huxley went in for a sunk area connecting India & Africa & so on across Pacific, & quoted the gigantic tortoises of the Sivaliks as evidence of a Miocene development of Tortoises of which the modern ones are relics.—8 In so far as the Indian ocean is concerned Plant distribution supports a sunk area joining Madagascar, Seychelles, Ceylon & the Malay Archipelago of which Nepenthes distribution is the most striking support.—9

Ever aff yrs | J D Hooker


William Turner Thiselton-Dyer’s review of Cross and self fertilisation was published in Nature, 15 February 1877 (Thiselton-Dyer 1877).
In his letter of 25 January [1877], CD had asked Hooker whether Francis Darwin could spend some time at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, to look for dimorphic plants and obtain specimens of different flower forms. Daniel Oliver was keeper of the herbarium at Kew.
CD had decided to submit Francis’s paper on Dipsacus sylvestris (a synonym of D. fullonum, common or fuller’s teasel) to the Royal Society of London, but worried that Hooker, who was president of the society, would disapprove (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 25 January [1877] and n. 7).
The Linnean Society of London specialised in botany and zoology. An abstract of Francis’s paper was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London (F. Darwin 1877a). The full paper was published in July 1877 in the Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science (F. Darwin 1877b).
The third and fourth parts of Albert Günther’s ‘Description of the living and extinct races of gigantic land-tortoises’ were read at the Royal Society on 25 January 1877, and an abstract was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 25 (1876–7): 506–7. The first two parts had been read on 18 June 1874 and published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (Günther 1874). The third and fourth parts were not published in full by the Royal Society; Günther combined the papers read at the Royal Society in 1874 and 1877 with part of one read at the Zoological Society of London and these were published as The gigantic land-tortoises (living and extinct) in the collection of the British Museum (Günther 1877; see ibid., pp. iii–iv).
In Günther 1877, pp. 8–9, Günther briefly discussed the possible ways that tortoises might have been transported to islands of Africa and South America. No account of the discussion following the reading of Günther’s paper was included in the abstract published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 25 (1876–7): 506–7.
Aldabra is a large outlying coral atoll of the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean; Johanna Island (now Nzwani) is one of the three main islands of the Comoros Islands in the Mozambique Channel, Indian Ocean (Columbia gazetteer of the world). Isaac Bayley Balfour had been on the expedition to Rodriguez Island (now usually spelled ‘Rodrigues’) to observe the transit of Venus (ODNB); he described the volcanic nature of the island in a letter to the secretary of the Royal Society, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 23 (1874): 135–6.
Thomas Henry Huxley supported the view that a sunken continent, known as Lemuria, had once existed in the Indian Ocean (see Bowler 1996, p. 412). Fossil remains of giant tortoises had been found in the Sivalik Hills, a mountain range of the outer Himalayas. The tortoise Colossochelys atlas (a synonym of Megalochelys atlas) was described in Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 12 (1844): 54–5.
Nepenthes is the genus of tropical pitcher-plants; it has about 150 species with the greatest number found in Borneo and the Philippines (see McPherson 2009 and McPherson 2011). Species are found as far west as Madagascar and the Seychelles, and as far south as Australia.


Bowler, Peter John. 1996. Life’s splendid drama: evolutionary biology and the reconstruction of life’s ancestry, 1860–1940. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Columbia gazetteer of the world: The Columbia gazetteer of the world. Edited by Saul B. Cohen. 3 vols. New York: Columbia University Press. 1998.

Cross and self fertilisation: The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1876.

Günther, Albert. 1874. Description of the living and extinct races of gigantic land-tortoises.— Parts I & II. Introduction, and the tortoises of the Galapagos Islands. [Read 18 June 1874.] Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 165 (1875): 251–84.

Günther, Albert Charles Lewis Gotthilf. 1877. The gigantic land-tortoises (living and extinct) in the collection of the British Museum. London: Trustees of the British Museum.

McPherson, Stewart. 2009. Pitcher plants of the Old World. Edited by Alastair Robinson and Andreas Fleishman. 2 vols. Poole: Redfern Natural History Productions.

McPherson, Stewart. 2011. New Nepenthes. Volume one. Edited by Alastair Robinson. Poole: Redfern Natural History Productions.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.

Thiselton-Dyer, William Turner. 1877. Darwin on fertilisation. Nature, 15 February 1877, pp. 329–32.


JDH recounts discussion at Royal Society over Günther’s paper on distribution and affinities of gigantic tortoises ["Description of the living and extinct races of gigantic land-tortoises, Parts III and IV", Proc. R. Soc. Lond. 25 (1876–7): 506–7]. Huxley suggests they are Miocene relics.

Royal Society will publish Frank’s Dipsacus paper [but see 10971 and 11073].

Thiselton-Dyer will review Cross and self-fertilisation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
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Source of text
DAR 104: 77–9
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10817,” accessed on 24 September 2021,