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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   4 December [1860]

Down Bromley Kent

Dec. 4th

My dear Hooker

What a King of good men you are to write me so long a letter so brimfull of most interesting matter.1 Thank you heartily for your sympathy (which my wife read) about poor Etty, who keeps in same state; but the Doctors do not despair; I almost do.—

Thank you much for remarks about sudden changes: I have not been cautious enough; but I formerly worked the subject, & in animal kingdom could get go2 sufficient evidence nor could I get any in Aug. Geoffroy, or Moquin-Tandon which satisfied me.3 I have already put a sentence or two in the new Edition, & I will now make them still more cautious.—4 I had thought of the cases of plants which habitually bear two kinds of flowers, but I had no means of conjecturing how they were acquired.5 I entirely agree in what you say about convergence, & have already put few sentences on this subject.—6 I am thus adding little discussions on almost every point which has been handled by Reviewers. I will of course send you a copy, & I shall publish table of additions, so anyone who cares can easily see the more important additions.—

Thanks for Harvey’s letter:7 I will keep it, as hereafter it may be very useful, unless I hear you want it back again. What truly wonderful, most uncomfortably wonderful, facts you tell me on Distribution. I am glad you attended to manner in which plants appeared & disappeared; it seems to me in many ways important. Many thanks about Apocynum & Meyen.—8 The latter I want about some strange movements in cells of Drosera, which Meyen alone seems to have observed. It is very curious but Trècul disbelieves that Drosera really clasps flies!9 I shd. very much wish to talk over Drosera with you. I did chloroform it & the leaves which were already expanded did not recover 30ʺ of exposure for 3 days.—

I used expression weight, for the bit of Hair which caused movement & weighed 1/78,000 of a grain; but I do not believe it is weight, & what it is I cannot, after many experiments, conjecture. The movement in this case does not depend on chemical nature of substance. Latterly I have tried experiments on single glands, & a microscopical atom of raw meat causes such rapid movement that I could see it move, like hand of clock. In this case it is nature of object. It is wonderful, the rapidity of the absorption; in 10 [DITTO] weak solution of C. of Ammia changes not colour, do not lower ditto but state of contents within the glands. In 2 30 juice of meat has been absorbed by gland & passed from cell to cell all down the pedicel (or hair) of the gland, & caused the sap to pass from the cells on the upper side of the pedicel to the lower side & this causes the curvature of the pedicel. I shall work away next summer, when Drosera opens again for I am much interested in subject.— After the glandular Hairs have curved, the oddest changes take place, viz a segregation of the homogeneous pink fluid, & never-ceasing slow movements in the thicker matter. By Jove I sometimes think Drosera is a disguised animal! You know that I always so like telling you what I do, that you must forgive me scribbling on my beloved Drosera.— Farewell.— I am so very glad that you are going to reform your ways. I am sure that you would have injured your health seriously. There is poor Dana has done actually nothing, cannot even write a letter, for a year, & it is hoped that in another year he may quite recover.—10

After this homily good night My dear friend.—   Good Heavens I ought not to thank you, but scold you, for writing me so long & interesting a letter

Farewell | C. Darwin

I believe I shall have to go soon for some Water-cure, I cannot sleep & my heart is almost always palpitating.—

P.S. I have been looking at Harvey’s case again: it is really very pretty, as case of compensation & analogous variation. When you write urge him, as an honest man, to publish it with figures— During your absence I had immense correspondence with him.11 He is not nearly so savage as he was. If he works in this way he will be a convert to us. Many of his objections were very ingenious, but several of them, I think, not well founded.—   He sent me his foolish pamphet marked “with repentance”. Was this not nice of him.?—12

If you have any suggestion on first half of Origin, please let me hear soon, as I must go to press immediately. Poor wretch you will soon remember that I did write a Book on Species.—

P.S. I have just heard from Murray that I must get on with proofs as quickly as I can13


CD obviously meant to write ‘no’.
CD refers to Saint-Hilaire 1841 and Moquin-Tandon 1841. He read these works on teratology in 1846 and discussed them with Hooker. See Correspondence vol. 3, letter to J. D. Hooker, [13 March 1846].
‘It may perhaps be doubted whether monstrosities, or such sudden and great deviations of structure as we occasionally see in our domestic productions, more especially with plants, are ever permanently propagated in a state of nature.‘ (Origin 3d ed., p. 46; Peckham ed. 1959, p. 121).
CD discussed this point in Origin 3d ed., p. 46.
CD discussed the problem of ‘convergence’ with the botanist Hewett Cottrell Watson at the beginning of the year (see letter from H. C. Watson, [3? January 1860], and letter to H. C. Watson, [5–12 January 1860]. He added a section on the topic to the revised American edition of Origin (see Correspondence vol.8, Appendix IV) and to the third edition of Origin (Origin 3d ed., pp. 141–3; Peckham ed. 1959, pp. 267–70).
CD made the same statement in Insectivorous plants, p. 1 n.: ‘M. Trécul went so far as to doubt whether they [the leaves] possessed any power of movement.’ He refers to Trécul 1855.
See letter from W. H. Harvey, 24 August 1860, and letter to W. H. Harvey, [20–4 September 1860].
The second postscript was added to the first in pencil.


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

Harvey, William Henry. 1860. An inquiry into the probable origin of the human animal, on the principles of Mr Darwin’s theory of natural selection, and in opposition to the Lamarckian notion of a monkey parentage. Dublin: privately printed.

Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

Meyen, Franz Julius Ferdinand. 1837. Ueber die Secretionsorgane der Pflanzen. Berlin.

Moquin-Tandon, Horace Bénédict Alfred. 1841. Eléments de tératologie végétale, ou, histoire abrégée des anomalies de l’organisation dans les végétaux. Paris: P.-J. Loss.

Origin 3d ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 3d edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1861.

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.

Trécul, Auguste. 1855. Organisation des glandes pédicellées des feuilles du Drosera rotundifolia. Annales des sciences naturelles (botanique) 4th ser. 3: 303–11.


Third edition of Origin will answer reviewers.

Drosera experiments detailed.

Hopes for W. H. Harvey’s conversion.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 78
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3008,” accessed on 13 April 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8