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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   2 March [1859]

Down. Bromley Kent

March 2d

My dear Hooker

Here is an odd, though very little, fact. I think it would be hardly possible to name a bird which apparently could have less to do with distribution than a Petrel. Sir W. Milner1 at St. Kilda2 cut open some young nestling Petrels, & he found large curious nuts in their crops; I suspect picked up by parent-birds from Gulf Stream. He seems to value these nuts excessively; I have asked him (but I doubt whether he will) to send a nut to Sir William Hooker (I gave this address for grandeur sake) to see if any of you can name it & its native country. Will you please mention this to Sir William Hooker, & if the nut does arrive, will you oblige me by returning it to “Sir W. Milner Bart:, Nunappleton Tadcaster” in a registered letter & I will repay you postage: enclose slip of paper with name & country if you can & let me hereafter know.— Forgive me asking you to take this much trouble; for it is a funny little fact after my own heart.—

Now for another subject. I have finished my abstract of Ch. on Geograph. Distrib. as bearing on my subject.—3 I should like you much to read it; but I say this, believing that you will not do so, if, as I believe to be the case, you are extra busy. On my honour I shall not be mortified & I earnestly beg you not to do it, if it will bother you.— I want it, because I here feel especially unsafe & errors may have crept in. Also I shd. much like to know what parts you will most vehemently object to; I know we do, & must, differ widely on several heads. Lastly I shd. like particularly to know, whether I have taken anything from you, which you wd like to retain for first publication; but I think I have chiefly taken from your published works; & though I have several times in this Ch. & elsewhere acknowledged your assistance, I am aware that it is not possible for me in this abstract to do it sufficiently.—4

But again let me say that you must not offer to read it, if very irksome: it is long, about 90 pages, I expect, when fairly copied out. I hope you are all well. Moor Park has done me some good.—

Yours affect | C. Darwin

P.S. Heaven forgive me; here is another question. How far am I right in supposing that with Plants, the most important characters for main divisions are Embryological?— The seed itself cannot be considered as such, I suppose, nor the albumen &c. But I suppose the cotyledons & their position; & the position of plumule & radicle & the position & form of whole embryo in seed are Embryological, & how far are these very important? I wish to instance Plants, as case of high importance of embryological characters in Classification.— In the Animal Kingdom there is of course no doubt of this.—


William Mordaunt Edward Milner.
An island in the Outer Hebrides, off the coast of Scotland.
CD had begun work on this chapter on 15 January 1859. He began work on the next chapter, on affinities and classification, on 28 February (see ‘Journal’; Appendix II).
Hooker had previously read and commented on CD’s longer version of his chapter on geographical distribution (see Correspondence vol. 5, letter from J. D. Hooker, 9 November 1856).


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


Has finished geographical distribution chapter and asks JDH to read it.

Is it just to say embryological characters are of high importance in plant classification?

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
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Source of text
DAR 115: 5
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2422,” accessed on 21 September 2021,

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