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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [29 August 1874]1

Royal Gardens Kew


Dear Darwin

We are just back having spent two days near Stranraer to see the Pinetum at Castle Kennedy, which is very fine.2

Thanks for your letter received in Belfast.3 I too have been hunting for Dionaea in vain.4 Lady Dorothy Neville is your best chance— meanwhile I will send you the best we have5

Lubbock’s Lecture went off admirably— but Huxley’s was the magnum opus of the meeting.6 It was a most capital meeting. Moore brought splendid pitcher-plants.7

Ever yours affec | J.D. Hooker

P.S— The enclosed have just arrived from Mrs Barber   Her clever suggestions of the colour being as it was photographed reminds me that Grove ages ago told me that he had seen dead Fish take the colour of an adjacent object—I forget what—but it was after the manner of a photograph.8

The Papilio reminds me of my Indian Tick or the Lizard, which I never have quite persuaded myself to believe in till now!!! I remember telling you of the Grasshoppers on Mt Lebanon which were grey on grey rocks & greener & browner on other situations.9

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘Cephalotus’10 pencil


The date is established by the reference to Hooker’s return from the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Belfast. The meeting finished on 26 August 1874; the following Saturday was 29 August.
Castle Kennedy is three miles east of Stranraer in Scotland; Stranraer was the port used for crossings to and from Belfast in Ireland. Castle Kennedy burned down in the eighteenth century and its ruins remained in the famous Castle Kennedy Gardens (M’Kerlie 1870–9, 1: 162–3).
Dionaea muscipula (Dionaea is a monospecific genus) is the Venus fly trap and is native to North America; CD was interested in it for his work on insectivorous plants.
Dorothy Fanny Nevill cultivated orchids, pitcher-plants, and other tropical plants at her garden at Dangstein in Hampshire, and exchanged plants with Hooker, the director of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew (ODNB).
At the meeting of the British Association in Belfast, John Lubbock gave an evening lecture on common flowers in relation to insects (see The Times, 24 August 1874, pp. 6–7; see also Lubbock 1875b). Thomas Henry Huxley gave an evening lecture, ‘The hypothesis that animals are automata, and its history’ (T. H. Huxley 1874a).
Hooker was assisting CD with his work on insectivorous plants by experimenting on Nepenthes (tropical pitcher-plants); he had read an address on the subject at the British Association meeting (J. D. Hooker 1874a). David Moore, who raised hybrid Sarracenias (an unrelated North American pitcher-plant genus, known as trumpet pitchers) at the Glasnevin Gardens in Dublin (ODNB), exhibited a monstrous Sarracenia flower at the meeting (Report of the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1874), Transactions of the sections, p. 134).
Mary Elizabeth Barber had sent her observations on the pupae of Papilio nireus (the green-banded swallowtail, a butterfly found in sub-Saharan Africa), which developed colours to match their surroundings (Barber 1874). She questioned whether the colour change was brought about by the volition of the caterpillar, or whether the pupa automatically absorbed the colours around it, ‘a sun picture or photograph’ (Barber 1874, p. 521). Hooker also refers to William Robert Grove.
Hooker wrote to CD about his visit to Mount Lebanon in his letter of [26 November – 4 December 1860] (Correspondence vol. 8). No reference has been found in his extant correspondence with CD to the Indian tick or lizard, or the Lebanon grasshoppers. See also J. D. Hooker 1854, 1: 37.
CD’s annotation is a note for his letter to Hooker of 30 August [1874].


Barber, Mary Elizabeth. 1874. Notes on the peculiar habits and changes which take place in the larva and pupa of Papilio nireus. [Read 2 November 1874.] Transactions of the Entomological Society of London 22: 519–21.

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

M’Kerlie, Peter Handyside. 1870–9. History of the lands and their owners in Galloway. 5 vols. Edinburgh: William Paterson.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


Lady Dorothy Nevill is CD’s best chance for Dionaea.

Reports on Belfast meeting of BAAS. Lubbock’s lecture went off admirably. Huxley’s was the magnum opus.

Encloses letter from Mrs Barber on protective coloration of animals.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 103: 219–20
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9610,” accessed on 23 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22