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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [5 April 1866]1



My dear Hooker.—

Please ask Mr Smith (who I shd. think wd be trustworthy) 1st. where the Sion House Cucumber is crossed by foreign a var. whether the fruit is always, generally or only rarely affected? 2d Is there any other change besides flavour, & what is flavour that a change in it can be detected?— 3d Has Mr S. himself crossed the Sion H. with foreign pollen?—2

I wd. not trouble you, but this case sounds of real value to me.—

Yours affect | C. D.

We hope to go to 6 Queen Anne St next Wednesday, if both are well enough, but this depends on the doctrine of chances.—3


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to J. D. Hooker, [9 April 1866]. In 1866, 5 April was the Thursday before 9 April.
CD had thanked Hooker for the ‘cucumber case’ in his letter of 4 April [1866]. John Smith (1821–88), curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, had previously been gardener to the duke of Northumberland at Syon House, Middlesex (R. Desmond 1994). CD was interested in the possible effects of the male element on the female element in crossing. In Variation 1: 397–403, he gave numerous examples of plants in which the internal or external characteristics of the fruit were modified as a result of pollination by another plant. CD noted that such modifications had been observed in cucumbers in England but did not provide corroborative evidence (ibid., p. 399). See also Correspondence vol. 6, letter from J. D. Hooker, [2 December 1857].
Six Queen Anne Street was the London address of CD’s brother, Erasmus Alvey Darwin. CD and Emma Darwin both fell ill with influenza in the following week, and did not go to London until 21 April (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 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.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Queries for John Smith [Kew curator] on crossing a cucumber variety.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 286
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5054,” accessed on 26 May 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14