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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   11 March 1869

Royal Gardens Kew

March 11 /69.

Dear Darwin

That is a capital letter of Fritz Mueller’s, many thanks for it.—1

We were very glad to hear of you,—but this is bad news of Henrietta— give her our love, & best wishes for her recovery.2 I hope you are not anxious about her. I am delighted to hear of the Orchis-book, if that does not goad them into electing you to the Academy I do not know what will— I would not make many additions, it is very full as it is—3

As for me I am working like an “Injine” but not to much scientific purpose— Firstly I am threatened with being sent to St. Petersburgh by Govt. to represent British Botanists & Horticulturalists (God help them) at the approaching Congress which the Emperor has taken up.—4 I hate the sort of thing—but shall have to go.—about 12th May.— Consequently I am mugging up French as hard as I can, with a French Baron! for 2 hours from London who gives leçons on pronunciation,—with French novels with my wife, & French talk with the “spirituelle” Miss Symonds, who has been 10 days here & has captivated us entirely—5 Then I am working away at this British Flora,6 & lastly getting 3 months ahead with my current duties, with the view of extending my travels from St. Petersburgh for 2 months to the S.E. perhaps—& picking myself up somewhere.

Have you read Huxley upon Protoplasm?.7 & what do you think of it— I am on the look out for his G. Soc. Address, which Lyell says is “something of extraordinary” (you see I am getting on in French!)8

We are all well— no news of Willy yet— Charlie is launched at Marlborough & takes a good place, which he probably will not keep—9

We fertilized a large Aucuba 10 last year with the pollen of various varieties (or species) & there appear on the bush here & there, besides the common form of fruit


, a few of another form


whose pollen was amongst that used   There are none of intermediate form & b is still green, though all a is ripe   I will try to have definite experiments made.

Ever yrs affec | J D Hooker


In his letter to Hooker of 8 March [1869], CD enclosed the letter from Fritz Müller, 12 January 1869.
Henrietta Emma Darwin had been ill for a couple of weeks (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 March [1869] and n. 4).
Hooker refers to the proposed translation into French of Orchids and to the Académie des Sciences (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 March [1869] and nn. 5 and 6).
The International Horticultural Exhibition at St Petersburg opened on 16 May 1869. For reports on the exhibition, including reports on the attendance of Emperor Alexander II, see Gardeners’ Chronicle (1869): 553–4, 582, 586–8, 609–10, 614. Hooker did not go as a government representative because the government was not willing to pay expenses. For more on Hooker’s trip, see L. Huxley ed. 1918, 2: 85–9, and the letter from J. D. Hooker to James Hector, 23 April 1869 (Yaldwyn and Hobbs eds. 1998, pp. 109–10).
Hooker refers to Frances Harriet Hooker and Hyacinth Symonds.
In his letter of [28 November 1868] (Correspondence vol. 16), Hooker had informed CD that he was going to write a ‘British Flora’ adapted to students’ purposes. The student’s flora of the British Islands was published in 1870 (J. D. Hooker 1870).
Thomas Henry Huxley’s article, ‘On the physical basis of life’ was published in the Fortnightly Review, 1 February 1869 (T. H. Huxley 1869a). Huxley equated ‘protoplasm’ with the physical basis of life (T. H. Huxley 1869a, p. 129).
Hooker refers to the anniversary address given by Huxley in his capacity as president of the Geological Society of London on 19 February 1869 (T. H. Huxley 1869c). In the address, Huxley challenged the accuracy of William Thomson’s calculations of the cooling of the earth. Hooker also refers to Charles Lyell.
William Henslow Hooker had been sent to New Zealand for his health (see Correspondence vol. 16, letter from J. D. Hooker, 30 August 1868, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 26 November [1868] and n. 8). He left England on 11 November 1868 on the Matoaka, which arrived in New Zealand on 8 February 1869 (Yaldwyn and Hobbs eds. 1998, pp. 102, 108 n. 7). Hooker also refers to Charles Paget Hooker and Marlborough College, Wiltshire.
Aucuba is a genus of dioecious shrubs in the family Cornaceae (Mabberley 1997).


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

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1870. The student’s flora of the British Islands. London: Macmillan.

Mabberley, David J. 1997. The plant-book. A portable dictionary of the vascular plants. 2d edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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.


Orchids translation should goad [French] Academy into electing CD.

JDH will be sent to St Petersburg congress by Government.

Huxley on protoplasm; his address to Geological Society.

Fertilised an Aucuba with pollen of various species. Reports on results.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 103: 10–11
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6655,” accessed on 3 August 2021,

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