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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   15 September 1874

Royal Gardens Kew

Sept 15/74

Dear Darwin

The enclosed may interest you par paranthèse:

We hope to get to you on 26th.1

Ever yr affec | J D Hooker

I have told another man to send you Utricularia2 & a Prussian will send over Aldrovanda which has the leaf of Dionæa & is sensitive.3

Dyer has announced his inability to continue my P.S. & I am in the depths of despair—4 It is quite right he ought to be at original work— he fritters his time awfully over “hack work”— That is not good for his pocket or reputation either. & I am only too glad to think that he will now settle to good work.— though to me the loss of his hour a day is dreadful.


Broomfield | Sheffield.

Sep 9/74

My dear Sir

I have arranged to be with Mr. Sawkins5 on Tuesday Sep 29, and will call on you at Kew either that day or the next. I have written out a full account of my ideas on the subject I named to you, and shall be glad to have your best council. I will not enter into the question now, since it will be so much better to do so when we can go into it more thoroughly. I hope the above named time will be when you will be at home.

At the request of Professor A. W. Bennett6 I have been examining the colouring of the hairs &c of Drosera. I was prepared to expect it possible that they might have contained something special, since the glands on the sepals of Hypericum montanum7 &c &c contain an entirely unique substance, but the hairs of Drosera are coloured red by the commonest species of erythrophyll8 which is often met with in leaves with low vitality, and in parts, like the petioles, which carry on leaf-functions in a very imperfect manner. All that can be said, therefore, is that the hairs (or tentacles) are coloured like parts of a leaf which do not fulfill their proper office. 〈    〉 leaves, which is not saying much, and does not explain their action in any way.

Yours very truly | H. C. Sorby

CD annotations

1.1 I have … at home. 1.5] crossed pencil


Hooker apparently visited CD at Down on Saturday 26 September (see letter from J. D. Hooker 23 September 1874), although there is no record of the visit in Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242).
The man has not been identified.
Aldrovanda vesiculosa, the waterwheel plant, is in the family Droseraceae. It traps insects using two lobes that fold together on contact, similarly to Dionaea, the Venus fly trap. In Insectivorous plants, p. 322, CD mentioned receiving plants from Germany through Hooker’s assistance, but did not name the source.
William Turner Thiselton-Dyer had worked part-time as Hooker’s assistant at the Royal Botanical Garden, Kew, since 1872; he was appointed assistant director later in 1875 (ODNB).
Probably James Gay Sawkins.
Alfred William Bennett.
Hypericum montanum is pale St John’s wort.
Erythrophyll was the name of a red pigment of leaves, fruit, and flowers. The remainder of this sentence and the following sentence and part sentence were cut from the original letter. Some of the missing text appears in a note to Insectivorous plants, p. 5, and has been added from there.


Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

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.


Thiselton-Dyer’s announcement of his inability to continue as JDH’s private secretary is a blow. He will now be doing original work. JDH is glad of that but the loss of his help is great.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 58.1: 88–9; DAR 103: 221; Insectivorous plants, p. 5 n.
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9638,” accessed on 22 September 2021,

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