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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   17 March [1869]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

March 17th

My dear Hooker

This is a wonderful piece of news about St. Petersburgh, & I shd. think you would be sure to find it very interesting. I thought you were a perfect master of the French language, & respected & envied you accordingly.— But you make my blood run cold at the cool way you talk of going for a couple of months S.E. from St. Petersburgh. & turning up God knows where.2 I will have you tried by a court martial of Botanists & have you shot. Perhaps the grapes are sour, which makes me so savage & virtuous at your deserting your work.—

Henrietta has been very unwell, & though baddish today, she is now better & comes down stairs;3 but she has a fearfully poor constitution, & can digest hardly anything; & all this has followed from a mere cold!—

Thanks for telling me about the Aucuba— now for Heaven sake, try yourself some careful experiments & publish yourself details with figures, & observe range of variation in form when the vars’. own pollen has been used. The case really has highest physiological importance, not to mention pangenesis.—4

Yesterday I received a splendid cargo from Oporto of 12 plants of Drosophyllum Lusitanicum; but the Box was almost open & the frost has injured them cruelly; yet I hope & think some will recover. The structure seems very different from Drosera, & I think the plant will prove the single basis or starting point for Drosera & Dionæa.5 The plants are called by the Portuguese Boys fly-catchers.6 If some spare plants recover, I suppose you wd like some for Kew— But I hear that a merchant at Oporto cd. not cultivate them in his garden, so it seems that they are ticklish things. It is odd that they grow in very dry soil. Huxley told me that he had been attacking Sir W. Thompson. & I fancy mathematicians in general, so he seems to have followed your audacious lead.7 You must write me one other note before you start for St. Petersburgh.

Yours affecty. | C. Darwin

P.S A good paper from a man like you on the direct action of the pollen in Aucuba—wd settle the question for ever.—


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, 11 March 1869.
CD refers to Henrietta Emma Darwin. See letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 March [1869] and n. 4.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, 11 March 1869. CD was interested in the direct action of the male element upon the female as a phenomenon to be explained by his hypothesis of pangenesis (Variation 2: 365–6).
See letter to W. C. Tait, 12 and 16 March 1869 and n. 2. The Portuguese city of Oporto is now known as Porto. In Insectivorous plants, p. 358, CD inferred that the ‘common parent form’ of the Droseraceae ‘partook of the characters of Drosophyllum, Roridula, and Byblis’.
CD alludes to Thomas Henry Huxley’s address to the Geological Society of London on 19 February 1869 (T. H. Huxley 1869c), in which he challenged the accuracy of William Thomson’s calculations on the cooling of the earth. In his presidential address to the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Norwich in August 1868, Hooker had also challenged astronomers’ objections to geologists’ theories on the age of the earth (see J.D. Hooker 1868, pp. lxxi–lxxii).


Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

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


Envies JDH’s Russian trip.

Thanks for information on Aucuba. Urges him to experiment – case "has highest physiological importance, not to mention Pangenesis".

Has heard that Huxley has been attacking views of Sir W. Thomson.

Has received 12 plants of Drosophyllum lusitanicum from Oporto.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 94: 118–20
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6666,” accessed on 21 September 2021,

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