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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Henry Hennessy   10 January [1868]1


[Thanking him for sending his papers and discussing the ‘case of the Asturian plants’]2 Your view of their introduction through the agency of man is quite novel,3 but I suspect the botanists will object that the particular plants in question are unlikely kinds to have been thus introduced.— On the other hand those who most closely study Insular Floras seem to me to admit more & more largely the introduction through man’s agency of plants of many kinds4

with my best thanks I beg leave to remain | Dear Sir | Yours faithfully | Charles Darwin


The year is established by the references to Hennessy 1867a and 1867b (see n. 2, below). According to the sale catalogue, the letter was written on notepaper with the printed address, ‘Down, Bromley, Kent’; the date 10 January is given in the sale catalogue, but the year given, 1865, appears to be incorrect.
Copies of Hennessy 1867a and 1867b are in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Hennessy 1867b discusses the migration of plants from Asturias, a region of northern Spain, to Ireland.
Hennessy proposed that plants common to northern Spain and Ireland might have been accidentally introduced to Ireland from Spain by trading or fishing vessels (Hennessy 1867b). CD scored this discussion in his copy of the paper.
CD had discussed competing theories of plant distribution at length with Joseph Dalton Hooker, most recently in 1866, when Hooker was preparing an address on insular floras (see Correspondence vol. 14, and J. D. Hooker 1866). Hooker argued that components of the Madeiran and New Zealand floras were derived from deliberate introductions; however he admitted that the common flora of Ireland and the Pyrenees could be explained by a former land-bridge between Ireland and the Iberian penninsula (see J. D. Hooker 1866, pp. 14, 75, and 50).


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


Thanks for papers.

Discusses case of the Asturian plants and HH’s view of their introduction through the agency of man. Although botanists question whether plants are thus introduced, those working closely on insular floras are admitting this view more and more.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Henry Hennessy
Sent from
Source of text
Christie’s (dealers) (24 June 1987)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4744A,” accessed on 25 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16