skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   28 February [1858]

Down Bromley Kent

Feb. 28th

My dear Hooker

I have written to Sinclair.1 Hearty thanks for De Candolle received:2 I have put the big genera in hand. Also many thanks for your valuable remarks on the affinities of the species in great genera, which will be of much use to me in my chapt. on Classification:3 your opinion is what I had expected from what little I knew, but I much wanted it confirmed, & many of your remarks were more or less new to me & all of value.—

You give a poor picture of the philosophy of Botany. From my ignorance, I suppose, I can hardly persuade myself that things are quite as bad as you make them,—you might have been writing remarks on ornithology! I shall meditate much on your remarks, which will also come in very useful when I write & consider my tables of big & small genera.—4 I grieve for myself, to say that Watson agrees with your view but with much doubt; I gave him no guide what your opinion was.—5 I have written to A. Gray & to Babington6 —who ie the latter on this point may be looked at as S. Smith’s Foolometer.7

I am now working several of the larger local Floras, with leaving out altogether all the smaller genera; when I have done this, & seen what the sections of the largest genera say, & seen what the results are of range & commonness of varying species, I must come to some definite conclusion whether or not entirely to give up the ghost.— I shall then show how my theory points, how the facts stand, then state the nature of your grievous assualt & yield entirely or defend the case as far as I can honestly.

Again I thank you for your invaluable assistance. I have not felt the blow so much of late, as I have been beyond measure interested on the construction instinct of the Hive Bee.—

Adios—you terrible worrier of poor theorists— | C. Darwin


CD’s letter to Andrew Sinclair has not been found.
CD refers to the volumes of Candolle and Candolle 1824–73 that he had borrowed from Hooker. See letter from J. D. Hooker, [25] February [1858].
CD intended to include a chapter on classification in his species book, but he did not start on the subject until February 1859, by which time the material was intended for Origin.
CD discussed Hooker’s views in Natural selection, pp. 162–3.
Letters to Asa Gray, 21 February [1858], and to C. C. Babington, 22 February [1858].
The word ‘foolometer’ is ascribed to Sydney Smith: ‘I am astonished that these Ministers neglect the common precaution of a foolometer … I mean, the acquaintance and society of three or four regular British fools as a test of public opinion.’ (OED).


Candolle, Augustin Pyramus de and Candolle, Alphonse de. 1824–73. Prodromus systematis naturalis regni vegetabilis, sive enumeratio contracta ordinum generum specierumque plantarum huc usque cognitarum, juxta methodi naturalis normas digesta. 19 vols. Paris: Treuttel & Würtz [and others].

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


JDH has confirmed CD’s opinion on the affinities of species in great genera. Is looking at large genera in several local Floras to find the "range & commonness of varying species".

Has been "beyond measure interested" in the construction instincts of the hive-bee.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 225
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2228,” accessed on 16 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7