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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [31 January 1846]1

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Hooker

I shd. have written to you some time ago (though I do not exactly know I had anything particular to say) but I have been very unwell for a fortnight with a cold which affected my detested stomach.

I have at last finished Webb & Berthelot,2 & carefully packed it up; shall I return it you or keep it? If you will be so good as to leave my few pencil marks (that I may hereafter skim through it) it is absolutely the same to me whether returned now or hereafter; I have been a good deal disappointed with it, & think it much spun out with empty remarks & generalities: I see he says he will give a list of all species at end of the Descriptive Part; so that I am at present no wiser than when I begun, how far in proportional numbers the Flora is peculiar & how closely the different islands of the Western division resemble each other, or the character of the Alpine plants, or indeed in any of the grand features, which I think wd. naturally interest every philosophic naturalist. How different are your results as given in your Flora & letters to me!

I see Berthelot quotes & concurs with Gaudichaud (who is a good man, is he not?) that the plants in volcanic islands are polymorphous ie variable:3 this is directly the reverse, I know, of your opinion.—4

I am delighted to hear of more species from the Galapagos; what a wonderful spot it is! I am surprised to hear of the W. Indian character of the Flora, though as this Flora is common to Panama, as you say, it makes it less surprising.5 It is an odd coincidence that the one shell common to the two coasts of Panama, is found, also, at the Galapagos.

What an odd chance it was the discussion in the Gardeners Chronicle about the longevity of fruit-trees;6 I cannot say I am convinced; surely Oak-trees attain a greater age than lime-trees & it is a mere assumption to say it is due to mechanical causes. What a stride from Annuals to Eternity of life! I have seen none of our Party here, since we met here: what a grievous thing poor Forbes’7 illness has been. I have had one note from him, saying he was much better. What a loss he wd be to science: it is grievous to think of it.—

Farewell my dear Hooker excuse this dull note & don’t write till you feel inclined. | Ever yours | C. Darwin


Dated from the relationship to the letter from J. D. Hooker, 1 February 1846, and on CD’s noting that he finished reading Webb and Berthelot 1836–50 on 30 January (DAR 119; Vorzimmer 1977, p. 134).
Webb and Berthelot 1836–50, vol. 3, pt 1.
Sabin Berthelot did not in this instance directly quote Charles Gaudichaud but cited Gaudichaud 1826 immediately following the reference to polymorphic plants (Webb and Berthelot 1836–50, vol. 3, pt 1: 74–5).
See letters from J. D. Hooker, 5 July 1845 and [mid-July 1845].
J. D. Hooker 1846, pp. 255–6.
Lindley 1845b.
Edward Forbes.


Gaudichaud, Charles Beaupré-. 1826. Botanique. Vol. 4 of Freycinet, L. C. D. de, Voyage autour du monde, entrepris par ordre du Roi … exécuté sur les corvettes de S. M. l’Uranie et la Physicienne, pendant les années 1817, 1818, 1819 et 1820. 9 vols. Paris. 1824–44.

Vorzimmer, Peter J. 1977. The Darwin reading notebooks (1838-1860). Journal of the History of Biology 10: 107–53.


Disappointed with Webb and Berthelot.

Delighted to hear of more species from the Galapagos, surprised to hear W. Indian character of flora.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 53
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 945,” accessed on 4 December 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 3