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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   22 December 1871

Royal Gardens Kew

Dec 22/71

Dear Darwin

We had a very small Club dinner yesterday— I called on & took Lyell down; who was very excited & made a statement at the Club, contradicting Carpenters assertion made at last meeting (& read from the minutes)—to the effect that he had proved that there was an undercurrent outwards through the Strait of Gibraltar. He having just heard at the Admiralty that it was a mistake of Carpenters.1 Carpenter was not there & the thing was only worth noticing from the very excited state Lyell got into: & apparent animus which he displayed—

He told me that a Prof Orton of U.S. had sent him fossil shells from Agassiz’s glacial drift formation 2000 (two thousand) miles up the Amazons, which shells were of 3 extinct Genera, allied to Potamomyæ; & of late Eocene or early Miocene age; & of Estuarial character dating from the time when the coast was 2000 miles inland— & thus disposing of the Glacial hypothesis of the Amazon valley.2

We have seedling plants of two Melastomaceæ, which shall be sent to you.3

If you remember to do so, please let me know when they flower with you. Neither require great heat.

No news of my affair; I have again written to Mr Gladstone, reminding him that it is 5 months since I appealed to him, & have as yet no redress: & that it is 7 weeks since I communicated with him through Mr West; & was promised an answer.4

The D. of Argyll5 has written to him; expressing his sense of the loss my retirement would be to the Public service

Ever yrs affect | J D Hooker


A meeting of the Philosophical Club of the Royal Society of London took place on 21 December 1871. At the previous meeting, on 23 November 1871, William Benjamin Carpenter announced that the existence of an outflow undercurrent from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic had been confirmed by his recent expedition. At the 21 December meeting, Charles Lyell gave particulars from a report sent to the Admiralty suggesting that ‘the Mediterranean tide acted and reacted down to the bottom of the Strait, causing an outflow during flood tide and an inflow during the ebb’. See Bonney 1919, pp. 188–9. See also letter from James Croll, 17 August 1871 and n. 4.
In 1865 and 1866, Louis Agassiz had led an expedition to Brazil to look for evidence of glacial action, which, he thought, would disprove CD’s theory of evolution (see J. L. R. Agassiz and Agassiz 1868, Lurie 1960, pp. 345–9, Orton 1870, pp. 282–3, and Correspondence vol. 14). For James Orton’s discoveries, see Correspondence vol. 17, letter from James Orton, 4 January 1869. Potamomya is an extinct genus of bivalve mollusc.
Hooker had written to William Ewart Gladstone, the prime minister, about his disagreements with Acton Smee Ayrton, first commissioner of works, over the governance of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, on 19 August 1871 (see Nature, 11 July 1872, p. 213). He met Gladstone’s private secretary, Algernon Edward West, on 30 October 1871 (see ibid., p. 214, and letter from J. D. Hooker, 31 October 1871). For more on the dispute between Ayrton and Hooker, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, [2 October 1871] and n. 10.
George Douglas Campbell.


Bonney, T. G. 1919. Annals of the Philosophical Club of the Royal Society written from its minute books. London: Macmillan.

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

Lurie, Edward. 1960. Louis Agassiz: a life in science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Orton, James. 1870. The Andes and the Amazon; or, across the continent of South America. New York: Harper.


Philosophical Club dinner.

Lyell contradicts W. B. Carpenter on current in Straits of Gibraltar.

James Orton’s report on fossil shells found by L. Agassiz 2000 miles up the Amazon. Their identification disposes of the glacial hypothesis.

No news yet from Gladstone on Ayrton affair.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 103: 99–100
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8117,” accessed on 16 September 2021,

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