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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   8 March [1869]1

Mar 8—

Dear Hooker

I think that part of the enclosed letter is well worth your reading, viz about the grass of which the awns like a tendril catch its own rachis. The first part about Escholtzia, which is self-sterile in a much greater degree in S. Brazil than here, is not worth your reading. At the end of the note however there is a good & precise case of the transmission of character from the individual flowers on the same spike.2

Please return the letter.

I am rather glad to have the excuse of sending it, as I want to hear a little news of you. About myself I have no news, as I am going on in my old routine. The subject of sexual selection grows bigger & bigger as I progress but I suppose I shall some day end it.3 We are a very small party here at present for Lizzy is gone to Germany & Henrietta is in a very poor state & has been confined to her bed room for the last fortnight.4

As you always puff me up so I must tell you that I have just been applied to to permit a French trans. of my Orchis book. It bothers me a good deal to know how much to add, for I have an immense amount of new matter; want of time however will compel me I think to make but few additions.5

yours affectionately | Ch Darwin

Though I am so despised by the great guns of the Institute, I presume I am rising in estimation amongst the mob, for another man has applied to translate my Journal of Travels.—6 Here is a boasting note.


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Fritz Müller, 12 January 1869.
CD evidently enclosed the letter from Fritz Müller, 12 January 1869. CD refers to Müller’s experiments with Eschscholzia californica and maize.
CD refers to his research for Descent.
According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), Elizabeth Darwin left on 5 March, and Henrietta Emma Darwin was very ill from 23 February until 9 March 1869.
The French translation of Orchids by Louis Rérolle was published in 1870 (Rérolle trans. 1870). CD’s additions to the French edition were in the form of footnotes ending ‘C. D., mai 1869’. CD published an English version of these notes in Annals and Magazine of Natural History in July 1869 (‘Fertilization of orchids’). Much of this material was later incorporated into the text of the second edition of Orchids.
CD probably alludes to the Académie des Sciences and to the negative reception of Darwinian views among the French scientific élite (see Browne 2002, pp. 260–1). Charles Phipps Haussoullier had requested permission to translate CD’s Journal of researches into French (see letter from C. P. Haussoullier, 31 January 1869 and n. 1).


Browne, Janet. 2002. Charles Darwin. The power of place. Volume II of a biography. London: Pimlico.

‘Fertilization of orchids’: Notes on the fertilization of orchids. By Charles Darwin. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 4th ser. 4 (1869): 141–59. [Collected papers 2: 138–56.]

Journal of researches: Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, RN, from 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.

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.


Transmits letter [from Fritz Müller].

Has been asked to permit a French translation of Orchids and Journal of researches.

At work on sexual selection.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 94: 116-17
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6647,” accessed on 27 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17