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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   6 August [1871]1

Haredene | Albury | Guildford.

Aug 6th | Sunday

My dear Hooker

I was going to have written to you today, & now I have received your long letter.2 We have a spare bed-room, though a poor one.— Can you come here on Sat & spend next Sunday? or the following Sunday? You must come to Gomshall & Shere Stn. on S.E. Ry.— The station is 3 miles from this House.—3

I have read with greatest interest Thompson’s address: but you say so exactly & fully all that I think, that you have taken all the words from my mouth; even about Tyndall.—4 It is a gain that so wonderful a man, though no naturalist, shd. become a convert to evolution: Huxley, it seems, remarked in his speech to this effect.—5 I shd. like to know what he means about Design.— I cannot in the least understand, for I presume he does not believe in special interpositions.6 Herschel’s was a good sneer. It made me put in the simile about Raphael’s Madonna, when describing in the Descent of Man the manner of formations of the wondrous ball-and-socket ornaments; & I will swear to the truth of this case.—7 I am sorry to hear about Mrs. Hooker’s hand.—8

Ever yours | C. Darwin

You know the oak-leaved var. of the common Honeysuckle: I cd. not persuade a lady that this was not the result of the Honeysuckle climbing up a young oak-tree!— Is this not like the Viola case?9


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, 5 August 1871.
The Darwins rented Haredene from 28 July to 25 August 1871 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)). Gomshall (sometimes Gumshall) is a hamlet in the parish of Shere, Surrey; it had a station on the Reading, Guildford, and Reigate railway line which was run by the South Eastern Railway company (Post Office directory for the six home counties).
CD refers to William Thomson and his presidential address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and to John Tyndall. See letter from J. D. Hooker, 5 August 1871 and nn. 1 and 4.
Thomson rejected natural selection, but concluded his address with a partial endorsement of evolution, quoting the final paragraph of Origin (Thomson 1871, p. cv). According to an account published in The Times, 5 August 1871, Thomas Henry Huxley, speaking in the biological section of the British Association meeting, referred to Thomson’s address as a ‘bold and heretical’ declaration in favour of evolution, and concluded that Thomson was a ‘sound Darwinian’ at heart.
CD refers to John Frederick William Herschel. See letter from J. D. Hooker, 5 August 1871 and n. 7. In Descent, when arguing that the intricate ‘ball and socket’ pattern on the feathers of the Argus pheasant had been developed through sexual selection, CD admitted that at first sight this seemed as incredible as suggesting that one of Raphael’s famous Renaissance paintings of the Madonna could have been formed ‘by the selection of chance daubs of paint made by a long succession of young artists, not one of whom intended at first to draw the human figure’ (Descent 2: 142).
CD refers to Frances Harriet Hooker. See letter from J. D. Hooker, 5 August 1871.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, 5 August 1871 and n. 15. The lady has not been identified. CD refers to Lonicera periclymenum var. quercifolium.


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Thomson, William. 1871. Presidential address. Report of the 41st Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, held at Edinburgh (1871): lxxxiv–cv.


Has read Thomson’s address with "greatest interest", but JDH has said exactly what he [CD] thinks of it.

Herschel’s was a good sneer. It made him add the Raphael Madonna simile in Descent [2: 142].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Haredene, Albury Surrey
Source of text
DAR 94: 202–3
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7898,” accessed on 25 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19