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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   28 June 1873

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

June 28. 1873

My dear Hooker

I write a line to wish you Goodbye, as I hear you are off on Wed.;1 & to thank you for Dionæa, but I cannot make the little creature grow well.2 I have this day read Bentham’s last address, & must express my admiration for it. Perhaps I ought not to do so, as he fairly crushes me with honour.3

I am delighted to see how exactly I agree with him on affinities & especially on extinct forms as illustrated by his flat-topped tree.4 My recent work leads me to differ from him on one point, viz on the separation of the sexes. I strongly suspect that sexes were primordially in distinct individuals; then became commonly united in the same individual, & then in a host of animals & some few plants—became again separated.5 Do ask Bentham to send a copy of his address to “Dr. H. Müller

Lippstadt Prussia”,

as I am sure it will please him greatly.6 Huxley like a good man came here last night, & worked at Drosera this morning.7

He seemed very much struck by what he saw, & has been of the greatest use to me. He made me understand several points far clearer than I ever did before. It is quite unfair that any one should be so sharp as he is.

When in France write me a line & tell me how you get on & how Huxley is; but do not do so if you feel idle & writing bothers you—

yours affectionately | Ch. Darwin


Hooker was accompanying Thomas Henry Huxley on holiday to France and Germany (see L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 390–3).
Hooker had sent CD three specimens of Dionaea muscipula (Venus fly trap) on 9 June 1873; he had sent four specimens of the plant in October 1872 (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Outwards book, 1869–81, pp. 220 and 249). For CD’s interest in Dionaea, see the letter from Mary Treat, 1 January 1873 and n. 5.
George Bentham’s anniversary address to the Linnean Society was given on 24 May 1873. Bentham described CD as one of the leading ‘scientific celebrities’ of Europe (Bentham 1873b, p. ix). CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Bentham described how a genealogical tree of the dicotyledons might form a ‘flat-topped summit’ with branches increasingly diverging from the parent trunk (Bentham 1873b, p. xix).
Bentham discussed the origins of sexual organs and separate sexes in plants, arguing that there was no evidence of ‘retrogression’: ‘we have no more reason to believe that sexes once separated are brought together again in future generations than that cellular plants should descend from those in which the vascular system has been perfected’ (Bentham 1873b, p. xiv). For CD’s views on the separation of the sexes, see Cross and self fertilisation, pp. 413 and 462–3. He argued that plants were ‘aboriginally dioecious’, and that hermaphroditism developed as plants became fixed to the ground, so as to ensure fertilisation; separation occurred again at a later stage of evolution, because of the advantages of occasional crossing. See also Natural selection, pp. 60–2, and Origin, pp. 99–101. CD summarised his views in a note written on the back page of his copy of Bentham 1873b: As long as lowest organism are free—sexes separated: as soon as they become attached to prevent sterility sexes reunited—reseparated by means of fertilisation perfected for distant organisms—in case of animals by their senses & voluntary means,—with plants, the aid of insects & wind. The latter changes existent, & long retained.
Bentham praised Müller’s Befruchtung der Blumen durch Insekten (Fertilisation of flowers by means of insects; H. Müller 1873) in his address (Bentham 1873b, pp. xxiv–xxv).
Thomas Henry Huxley. For CD’s work on Drosera (sundew), see the letter to J. S. Burdon Sanderson, 26 June [1873].


Cross and self fertilisation: The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1876.

Müller, Hermann. 1873. Die Befruchtung der Blumen durch Insekten und die gegenseitigen Anpassungen beider. Ein Beitrag zur Erkenntniss des ursächlichen Zusammenhanges in der organischen Natur. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

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.


Thanks for Dionaea.

George Bentham’s last Linnean Society [Presidential] Address [Proc. Linn. Soc. Lond. (1873): viii–xxix]. Admires it greatly.

CD’s recent work leads him to a different theory [from GB’s] on the separation of the sexes of plants.

Huxley has been at Down working with CD on Drosera – very helpful.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 94: 263–4
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8956,” accessed on 4 December 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21