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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   17 July 1869

Royal Gardens Kew

July 17th /69.

Dear old Darwin

It is mild weather—therm 81. in my room, & I am indisposed to describe Cucurbitaceæ for the W. Africa flora, the interest of which vanished after I had done these Genera for Gen. Plants. & I have just been idling over Fritz Muellers work, & that makes me wonder how you are & that makes me write this letter!—1 I think here is causation enough to please Herbert Spencer. I find the first 96 pp. of F. Mueller very dull, not remembering enough of Crustacea—but Chapt X on Principles of Classification & XI on Evolution strike me as being remarkably good in matter, though the manner of them is not unexceptionable   He certainly hits Agassiz hard, & his analysis of the great God J. Muller is searching, & very reverential though damaging.2 The same thoughts anent embryogenic resemblance &c had often crossed my mind.

The obs. 5 in note of p. 119 is a very good one, & exceedingly suggestive.3

I have had a queer Strasburgh Mathematician here with me this morning, about Phyllotaxy &c & we have had a long chat, during which he has expounded certain queer aspects of scientific theories—eg. that the original primordial cell—from which all organized creatures were developed, was that of Man—in as much as it has attained it’s highest development in Man.4 I told him that Pangenesis would demand this, for the original cell must have contained the original Gemmules which enter into the composition of every cell of Man.—5

Hector writes me that he thinks of putting Willy on a farm with a friend of his own, a goodly man with a good wife, who has leased Govr. Gray’s farms on Kawa Island—near Auckland.6

Hector tells me that they have found lots of Saurian bones in the brown coal of N.Z.7

I have just got the 1st part of the Transacts. of the N.Z. Institute—a most excellent volume. Colensos account of the natives seems to me to be most admirable & very interesting—& there are various other (unread) articles with interesting titles.8

I agree with you about fascination, & oddly enough had already written to Mrs Barber, the same view as to not doubting the facts, but the explanation. I have sent it to Pop. Sc. Rev.9

I saw Huxley yesterday at a dinner party, looking well I thought, but complaining of getting bloated. I see he has been at Comte again but I have not read his Article.10

Pray let some one write & tell me how you are. I do wish you would get better. I suppose the book on Man is at a stand still.—11

Ever yrs affec | J D Hooker


Hooker was working on the section on Cucurbitaceae for Daniel Oliver’s Flora of tropical Africa (Oliver 1868–77); the section appeared in the second volume, published in 1871. The section on Cucurbitaceae for Genera plantarum (Bentham and Hooker 1862–83) was published in vol. 1, part 3, in 1867. Hooker also refers to Fritz Müller’s Facts and arguments for Darwin (Dallas trans. 1869).
In chapter ten, Müller discussed the views of Johannes Peter Müller on the relationship between type, as discovered through comparative anatomy, and developmental history (Dallas trans. 1869, pp. 98–9). He then gave a detailed critique of Louis Agassiz’s view of embryogenesis (ibid., pp. 99–109). In the next chapter, Müller discussed embryonic and larval development from an evolutionary standpoint (ibid., pp. 110–21).
In Dallas trans. 1869, pp. 119–20, Müller noted that in insect orders with few genera the differences among the members were much greater than in large orders like the Coleoptera whose members were easily identified as belonging to the order. He compared this case to that of ferns of certain genera poor in species whose members differed more from each other than any two forms in a genus with numerous species.
The Strasbourg mathematician has not been identified.
Hooker refers to CD’s hypothesis of heredity, published in Variation 2: 357–404. CD had not speculated about the origin of life or primordial cells.
Hooker’s son William Henslow Hooker had travelled to New Zealand for his health. James Hector was trying to find a position for William and had discussed having him work on a farm on Kawau Island (see Yaldwyn and Hobbs eds. 1998, pp. 117–19). Hooker also refers to George Grey, the former governor of New Zealand, who had retired to Kawau Island in 1868 (ibid., p. 248).
Bones of plesiosaurs and mosasaurs were discovered in the Waipara River valley, north Canterbury, following a flood (Yaldwyn and Hobbs eds. 1998, p. 119).
Hooker refers to the first volume of Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute (1868), which was issued in May 1869, and to a paper by William Colenso, ‘On the Maori races of New Zealand’ (Colenso 1868), that appeared in the journal.
Mary Elizabeth Barber had evidently sent Hooker a paper on snakes that he passed on to CD (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 July [1869]). The paper was not published in Popular Science Review.
Hooker refers to Thomas Henry Huxley and T. H. Huxley 1869b. See letter to T. H. Huxley, 9 July [1869] and n. 4.
CD had been unwell for most of the family holiday in Wales (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 17, Appendix II)). Hooker refers to Descent.


Colenso, William. 1868. On the Maori races of New Zealand. Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute 1: (Essays) 1–76.

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

Oliver, Daniel. 1868–77. Flora of tropical Africa. 3 vols. London: L. Reeve and Co.

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


On reading F. Müller’s Facts and arguments for Darwin [1869].


Agrees with CD on fascination [of snakes].

Huxley is at Comte again.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 103: 22–4
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6832,” accessed on 28 July 2021,

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