skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   12 July [1868]1


July 12th.

Dear old Darwin

If I cannot get to Down before you go to the Isle of Wight—do you think that I might see you there for a day in August?2 I shudder at the thought of bringing you my Address—& at the same time cannot bear the cowardice of not doing so.3

I have utterly broken down in any attempt to compose a solemn Scientific harangue, or a philosophical resumé of the progress of Botany, or a dilatation on the correlation of Botany with other Sciences, I cannot possibly give the 3 clear weeks of continuous application that such subjects demand, & I am going to say so—4 I have sketched out a sort of see-saw discourse on several subjects that are Germane to the Association & the Norwich meeting par excellence:—some of them are practical (as Museums)5 others theoretical as the influence of your labour on Botany6—& Pangenesis (God help it)—7 others touch “Tom Tidler’s ground” as the early history of mankind apropos of religious teaching & the International Prehistoric congress, which part I feel convinced you will advise me to burn if I read it to you, which is hence doubtful, as I sha’nt burn it, but will read it, if I burn for it.8

I do not intend to shew any part of the address to my wife, from the conviction that she would burn it all nor shall I worry myself by telling anybody else anything at all about it. I have written very little of it as yet & I will not go touting about for matter or illustrations.

My wife has made a marvellous recovery & she & the child are doing admirably. She is more fond of it than of any previous one, & it appears to be a sharp little thing at 5 weeks.9

How about the book on Man.10

Ever yr affec | J D Hooker.

CD annotations

2.4 & I am going to say so—] double scored pencil
2.7 & Pangenesis … it)—2.8] scored pencil; ‘Alph. DeCandolle’ added pencil
4.1 My wife … admirably.] scored pencil


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 24 June [1868].
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 24 June [1868]. Hooker visited CD at Freshwater from 8 August 1868 (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 August 1868).
Hooker was to deliver the presidential address at the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Norwich between 19 and 26 August (Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1868): lvii).
In his address, Hooker complained that he was unable to fulfill the expectation that the address should be ‘either a scientific tour de force, philosophical and popular, or a résumé of one or more important branches of science’, owing to the pressure of his official duties (J. D. Hooker 1868, pp. lviii–lix).
Hooker discussed the administration of the natural history collections of the British Museum, and the educational function, site, and layout of provincial and local museums, in Hooker 1868, pp. lxi–lxiv.
Hooker discussed CD’s work on the fertilisation of plants (Orchids, ‘Dimorphic condition in Primula, ‘Two forms in species of Linum, and ‘Three forms of Lythrum salicaria), and ‘Climbing plants’ in Hooker 1868, pp. lxvi–lxviii.
Hooker discussed CD’s provisional hypothesis of pangenesis (see Variation 2: 357–404) in Hooker 1868, pp. lxix–lxx.
In his address, Hooker announced prehistoric archaeology, or the early history of humans, as a new science, and the latest to have ‘replaced time-honoured traditions by scientific truths’, by proclaiming that humans had inhabited the earth for thousands of years before the historic period. This finding conflicted with the ‘so-called Scripture chronology’, which gave 5874 years as the age of the inhabited globe. (Hooker 1868, p. lxxiii.) At the beginning of his address, Hooker had drawn the audience’s attention to the International Congress of Pre-historic Archaeology, who were holding their third session in Norwich at the same time as the British Association meeting, under the presidency of John Lubbock, and had urged members to give the congress their support (Hooker 1868, p. lix). Tom Tiddler’s ground: debatable or disputed territory, where wealth is to be had for the picking up (OED; the expression is from a children’s game).
Frances Harriet Hooker’s seventh child, Grace Ellen Hooker, was born on 3 June 1868 (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 5 June 1868 and n. 1).
Hooker refers to Descent.


‘Climbing plants’: On the movements and habits of climbing plants. By Charles Darwin. [Read 2 February 1865.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 9 (1867): 1–118.

‘Dimorphic condition in Primula’: On the two forms, or dimorphic condition, in the species of Primula, and on their remarkable sexual relations. By Charles Darwin. [Read 21 November 1861.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 6 (1862): 77–96. [Collected papers 2: 45–63.]

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1868. Address of the president. Report of the thirty-eighth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, held at Norwich, pp. lviii–lxxv.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

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.

‘Three forms of Lythrum salicaria’: On the sexual relations of the three forms of Lythrum salicaria. By Charles Darwin. [Read 16 June 1864.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 8 (1865): 169–96. [Collected papers 2: 106–31.]

‘Two forms in species of Linum’: On the existence of two forms, and on their reciprocal sexual relation, in several species of the genus Linum. By Charles Darwin. [Read 5 February 1863.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 7 (1864): 69–83. [Collected papers 2: 93–105.]

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


Sketches out subjects he intends to speak on at Norwich [BAAS meeting]: museums, CD’s work in botany, Pangenesis, early history of mankind.

Asks about CD’s "book on man" [Descent].

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 102: 220–1
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6272,” accessed on 26 October 2021,

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