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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Joseph Dalton Hooker   15 January [1861]1

Down Bromley Kent

Jan 15th

My dear Hooker

The sight of your hand-writing always rejoices the very cockles of my heart.—2 I am glad to have seen H.C.W. letter; but it does not alter my disbelief.3 I have put one sentence in my new Edit, in which I admit that the descendants of two genera might converge into one; but even then I shd. think they would form two sections of the new genus.4 What he means by saying that it is a logical absurdity (I can understand that it might be thought improbable in any degree) that all forms shd. descend from a dozen or one form, I cannot conceive.—

I most fully agree to what you say about Huxley’s article & power of writing.5 What a smasher for Owen! The whole Review seems to me excellent. How capitally Oliver has done the resume of Bot. Books.6 Good Heavens how he must have read! I am sorry he did not say a little on Sturr on Astrantia:7 I have only skimmed it, but the manner in which he shows by map how a widely extended species breaks up into local forms seemed to me very pretty. What a silly & little feeling on H.C.W’s part to suppose that Oliver would intentionally overlook the Cybele.—8

I quite agree that Phillips is unreadably dull.—9 You need not attempt Bree,10— the man must be a conceited fool.— If you come across Dr Freke on “Origin of species by means of Organic Affinity”,11 read a page here & there just to see the maximum of ill-written unintelligible rubbish, which he tells the reader to observe has been arrived at by “induction”, whereas all my results are arrived at only by “analogy”. I see a Mr Neale has read a paper before Zoolog. Soc. on “Typical Selection”, what it means I know not.—12 I have not read H. Spence[r],13 for I find that I must more & more husband the very little strength which I have. I sometimes suspect I shall soon entirely fail; my stomach now keeps bad nearly all day & night.— As soon as this dreadful weather gets a little milder, I must try a little water-cure. Have you read “Woman in White”—the plot is wonderfully interesting.14 I can recommend a Book which has interested us greatly, viz “Olmsted, Journey in Back Country”.15 It is an admirably lively picture of man & Slavery in the S. States.

I see that your Sikkim Rajah has been again playing tricks.16

I am very glad to hear so good account of Mrs. H. & your children.17 Etty has had a good fortnight & has got up the state she was in a month ago, & comes down almost every evening.—18

My dear Hooker | Yours affect | C. Darwin

Are you doing anything besides your gigantic Genera Plantarum (which I rather hate as I know it will absorb so much time & no doubt be most valuable)?19 I always much like to know what you are about. In the Spring I hope you will find time & come here for a few days.— A sight of you is a real pleasure.—

God Bless you.—


Dated by the reference to the new edition of Origin, which was issued in April 1861, and by CD’s discussion of the first number of the new series of the Natural History Review, published in January 1861.
Hooker’s letter has not been found.
Hewett Cottrell Watson’s letter to Hooker, dated 4 January 1861, is in the archive of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The letter offers further illustrations of what Watson called the ‘convergence’ of species. For earlier correspondence on this point, see Correspondence vol. 8, letter from H. C. Watson, [3? January 1860], and letter to H. C. Watson, [5–11 January 1860]. CD discussed Watson’s views and his objection to natural selection and divergence in the revised American edition of Origin (Origin US ed., pp. 116–17*; see Correspondence vol. 8, Appendix IV, pp. 576–7); he also included the discussion in Origin 3d ed., p. 141: A distinguished botanist, Mr. H. C. Watson, believes that I have overrated the importance of the principle of divergence of character (in which, however, he apparently believes), and that convergence of character, as it may be called, has likewise played a part … Mr. Watson has also objected that the continued action of natural selection with divergence of character will tend to make an indefinite number of specific forms. For CD’s response to the first point, see n. 4, below. For his reasons for not believing in an unlimited proliferation of different forms, see Origin 3d ed., pp. 141–3.
‘I will only say that if two species of two closely allied genera produced a number of new and divergent species, I can believe that these new forms might sometimes approach each other so closely that they would for convenience sake be classed in the same new genus, and thus two genera would converge into one; but from the strength of the principle of inheritance, it seems hardly credible that the two groups of new species would not at least form two sections of the supposed new single genus.’ (Origin 3d ed., p. 141).
T. H. Huxley 1861a. The article was published in the new series of the Natural History Review under Thomas Henry Huxley’s general editorship.
Daniel Oliver worked with Hooker at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Oliver contributed a bibliographic review of the botanical literature on phanerogamic plants published in the first nine months of 1860 to the Natural History Review n.s. 1 (1861): 85–115. See also letter to T. H. Huxley, 3 January [1861] and n. 15.
Stur 1860. There is a copy of the work in the Darwin Library–CUL; it is a reprint of an article published in the Sitzungsberichte der Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftlichen Classe der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften (Wien) 40: 469–524.
Oliver’s bibliographic review (see n. 6, above) did not include a notice of the third volume of Watson 1847–59, published in 1859.
Phillips 1860. CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
Bree 1860. CD’s lightly annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
Freke 1861. There is a copy of this work in the Darwin Library–Down. Henry Freke had published a brief notice in October 1860 claiming to have preceded CD by publishing in 1851 the view that all plants and animals had descended from a single prototype. There is a copy of this notice (Freke 1860) in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Neale 1861. The Christian Socialist Edward Vansittart Neale believed that CD’s theory relied too heavily on chance variations. Neale advocated the view that variations arose through an ‘internal action of the living Power gradually modifying the constitution of the individual.’ (Neale 1861, p. 5).
The second number of Herbert Spencer’s First principles (Spencer 1860–2) was published in January 1861. CD was a subscriber to this work. His copy, which is not annotated, is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
Hooker undertook a botanical expedition in the Himalayas between 1848 and 1850, during which time he and another British subject were briefly imprisoned by the Sikkim Raja, Cho-phoe Namgyé. To secure their release, the British governor-general sent in an expeditionary force, an action that ended in territory belonging to the Raja being seized. See Correspondence vol. 4, letter to W. J. Hooker, [January 1850]; Hooker 1854, 2: 202–41; and L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 306–19. The Times, 14 January 1861, p. 6, carried a report on the recent dispatch of another British force following the kidnapping of workers from the hill station at Darjeeling. This incident eventually led to the imposition of a new treaty with Sikkim (EB).
CD refers to Hooker’s wife, Frances Harriet Hooker, and the Hookers’ children, William Henslow, Harriet Anne, Charles Paget, Marie Elizabeth, and Brian Harvey Hodgson.
Henrietta Emma Darwin was recuperating slowly after having contracted typhus fever in 1860.
Hooker and George Bentham had begun work late in 1860 on an ambitious project to prepare a complete systematic catalogue of all the genera of flowering plants then known to botanists. The first part of volume one of the Genera plantarum (Bentham and Hooker 1862–83) appeared in 1862. See L. Huxley ed. 1918, 2: 18–23.


Bree, Charles Robert. 1860. Species not transmutable, nor the result of secondary causes. Being a critical examination of Mr Darwin’s work entitled ‘Origin and variation of species’. London: Groombridge & Sons. Edinburgh: Maclachlan & Stewart.

Collins, William Wilkie. 1860. The woman in white. 3 vols. London.

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

EB: The Encyclopædia Britannica. A dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information. 11th edition. 29 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1910–11.

Freke, Henry. 1860. Observations upon Mr Darwin’s recently published work—“On the origin of species by means of natural selection”. Dublin: privately printed.

Freke, Henry. 1861. On the origin of species by means of organic affinity. London, Dublin, and Edinburgh.

Neale, Edward Vansittart. 1861. On typical selection, as a means of removing the difficulties attending the doctrine of the origin of species by natural selection. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, pp. 1–11. [Reprinted in Annals and Magazine of Natural History 3d ser. 7: 330–40.]

Olmsted, Frederick Law. 1860. A journey in the back country in the winter of 1853–4. London: Sampson, Low, Son & Co.

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.

Origin US ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. A new edition, revised and augmented by the author. By Charles Darwin. New York: D. Appleton. 1860.

Phillips, John. 1860. Life on the earth, its origin and succession. Cambridge and London: Macmillan and Co.

Spencer, Herbert. 1860–2. First principles. London: George Manwaring; Williams & Norgate.

Watson, Hewett Cottrell. 1847–59. Cybele Britannica; or British plants and their geographical relations. 4 vols. London: Longman.


CD’s opinion of minor critics and commentators on Origin.

H. C. Watson’s notion of genera converging is dismissed.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115.2: 85
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3047,” accessed on 5 December 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9