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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   10 June 1863


June 10/63.

Dear Darwin

We have been visiting, eating, idling, riding & driving—& finish off next Saturday with the Clarke’s at Bagshot park.1

Thanks for Scotts letter, he really must be a very superior man.2 I know nothing of the present McNab, but as for Balfour, poor Scotts believing in aught you have writ is a settler in his eyes3   You have a deal to answer for & may thank your stars that the days of torch & faggot are over, or some of your humble admirers would find out their mistake.— take that.

Balfour has the credit of ousting out of Edinburgh every man who shows any susceptibility for Botany.

If I hear of any thing at all likely to suit Scott I will bear him in mind. If he is a good cultivator the best place for him is a good liberal orchid growers garden like Rucker’s—4 It is a pity that he should throw away his papers on Bot. Soc. of Edinburgh, which has no status & no circulation of its Journals whatever.5

A Grays letter would be diverting were it not sad.—6 What slaves men must be to environment that he should write & think so. How the deuce you can keep up the correspondence is a mystery to me— he & I would quarell over the 2d letter we exchanged.7

What a capital letter Evan’s is in Athenæum.8

Phyllotaxis is to me a most puzzling subject. I never get beyond the outline of the idea, I tried hard with α + β9

Do you read Herbert Spencers First principles—10 he asks me awfully hard questions in transcendental Botany.11

I am at Genera Plantarum—the only thing I am fit for—12 I have stuck at Cameroons plants—& am hopeless & helpless—13 Geog. Bot: must go to the dogs for me. I really cannot put a spoke in its wheel.

Ev yr aff | J D Hooker

CD annotations14

End of letter: ‘John Scott— Humble. | Herbert Spencer | Beer— Morphologie & Biologie of orchids.15 | Bentham16 | Haast letter—& Account—17 | Visit here.— | Sneezing Pamphlet’18 pencil


James and Barbara Clark lived at Bagshot Park in Surrey (Post Office directory of the six home counties 1862).
CD sent the enclosure to the letter from John Scott, 21 May [1863], with his letter to Hooker of 8 [June 1863].
Hooker refers to John Hutton Balfour, regius professor of botany, University of Edinburgh, and keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, and to James McNab, curator at the garden in succession to his father, William McNab (R. Desmond 1994). See letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 [June 1863].
Sigismund Rucker was a leading amateur horticulturalist and orchid-collector (Gardeners’ Chronicle (1875), pt 2: 532–3; Orchids, p. 158 n.).
To date, Scott had read all his own papers before the Botanical Society of Edinburgh; they were all published, either in full or in abstract, in the Transactions of the Botanical Society [of Edinburgh] (Scott 1862a, 1862b, 1862c, 1862d, and 1863a). In his letter to Hooker of 8 [June 1863], CD mentioned his intention to communicate one of Scott’s papers to the Linnean Society.
CD had enclosed the letter from Asa Gray, 26 May 1863, with his letter to Hooker of 8 [June 1863].
Hooker and Asa Gray held radically different views on the American Civil War, and had for some time tacitly agreed not to discuss the matter in their letters (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [1 March 1863] and n. 7).
Hooker refers to John Evans’s letter in the Athenæum, 6 June 1863, pp. 747–8, in which Evans maintained that the human jaw and flint implements found in March 1863 at Moulin-Quignon quarry, near Abbeville, France, were not authentic. See Grayson 1983, pp. 213–17, and Van Riper 1993, pp. 134–9. See also letter from S. P. Woodward, 5 June 1863, n. 9.
CD had become interested in phyllotaxy as a result of comments made on the subject with regard to natural selection in Falconer 1863a, p. 80 (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 January [1863], letter to Daniel Oliver, 20 [February 1863], and letter from Daniel Oliver, 17 February 1863). He carried out observations and measurements on the subject in May 1863, requesting references from Hooker (see letters to J. D. Hooker, [9 May 1863] and 29 May [1863], and letters from J. D. Hooker, [13 May 1863] and [24 May 1863]; see also CD’s notes on this subject in DAR 51: 6–32). Hooker’s comments were apparently prompted by Gray’s remarks on the subject in his letter to CD of 26 May 1863 (see n. 6, above).
Spencer 1860–2 constituted the first volume of a projected five-part ‘System of philosophy’ to which CD subscribed (see Correspondence vol. 8, letter to Herbert Spencer, 2 February [1860]); the volume presented Herbert Spencer’s evolutionary philosophy in abstract terms, and the remaining four parts, published between 1863 and 1896 (DNB), dealt with its application to biology, psychology, sociology, and morality. There is a copy of Spencer 1860–2 in the Darwin Library–CUL; the last two numbers are uncut. See also n. 11, below.
The second part of Spencer’s ‘System of philosophy’, entitled Principles of biology (Spencer 1864–7), began publication in numbers in January 1863 (ibid., p. [v]). CD’s annotated copy of this work is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 269–73).
Bentham and Hooker 1862–83.
Hooker was preparing an account of the plants collected in the Cameroons mountains by Gustav Mann (see, for example, letters from J. D. Hooker, [15 March 1863], [7 May 1863], [13 May 1863], and [24 May 1863]); his paper on the subject was read before the Linnean Society on 5 November 1863 (J. D. Hooker 1863b). CD was interested in the evidence these collections provided concerning the historical causes of the prevailing geographical distribution of plant species in tropical areas (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to J. D. Hooker, 9 May [1862] and n. 6). However, Hooker had found that this case shook his confidence in the ability of naturalists to theorise successfully on the history of plant migrations (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [24 May 1863]). Hooker discussed the significance of his findings for CD’s theory of migration during a global cold period in J. D. Hooker 1863b, p. 181.
These annotations relate to subjects discussed by CD in his letter to Hooker of 23 [June 1863]. See also letter from J. D. Hooker, 19 June 1863.
The reference is to the letter from Julius von Haast, 5 March 1863, and probably to Haast’s article in the Christchurch Press, 1 April 1863, pp. 1–2, and 2 April 1863, pp. 2–3 (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 19 June 1863, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 [June 1863]).


Athenæum. 1844. A few words by way of comment on Miss Martineau’s statement. No. 896 (28 December): 1198–9.

Beer, Joseph Georg. 1863. Beiträge zur Morphologie und Biologie der Familie der Orchideen. Vienna: Carl Gerold’s Sohn.

Bentham, George. 1863. [Anniversary address, 25 May 1863.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 7 (1864): xi–xxix.

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

Desmond, Ray. 1994. Dictionary of British and Irish botanists and horticulturists including plant collectors, flower painters and garden designers. New edition, revised with the assistance of Christine Ellwood. London: Taylor & Francis and the Natural History Museum. Bristol, Pa.: Taylor & Francis.

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

Grayson, Donald K. 1983. The establishment of human antiquity. New York: Academic Press.

Haliburton, Robert Grant. 1863. New materials for the history of man, derived from a comparison of the customs and superstitions of nations. Halifax, Nova Scotia: n.p.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.

Post Office directory of the six home counties: Post Office directory of the six home counties, viz., Essex, Herts, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex. London: W. Kelly & Co. 1845–78.

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

Spencer, Herbert. 1864–7. The principles of biology. 2 vols. London: Williams & Norgate.

Van Riper, A. Bowdoin. 1993. Men among the mammoths: Victorian science and the discovery of human prehistory. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.


JDH lays hard treatment of John Scott to J. H. Balfour’s anti-Darwinism.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 149–50
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4210,” accessed on 20 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11