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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   10 February [1875]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.

Feb. 10th

My dear Hooker

I was very glad to get your letter for I had been wishing to hear from you.— It seems to me an excellent plan, you & Harriet going to Algeria, as it will be so complete a change for your mind & a sort of rest for your body.2 How slow the government is about your affair of the Assist. Secy; I wish it could have been all arranged & that you had Dyer before your journey.—3 I saw in the newspaper that Lord H. had eaten dirt,— that is that he had arranged affairs, & wd. remain in office.—4 I did not tell you before, but the Edinburgh Drosophyllum arrived, owing no doubt to the carelessness of the Railway, with the pot above & below both smashed: we thought the plant was not much hurt, but it never rallied & very slowly died & is now stone dead.5 This is very provoking, but no care was spared.— You ask about my book & all that I can say is that I am ready to commit suicide: I thought it was decently written, but find so much wants rewriting, that it will not be ready to go to Printers for 2 months & will then make a confoundedly big book.— Murray will say that it is no use publishing in the middle of the summer, so I do not know what will be the upshot; but I begin to think that everyone who publishes a book is a fool.6

—Horace showed me a paragraph in the Engineer, with an abstract of an account from Alp De Candolle of what seems a very curious case, of earth which has been covered with slag from the silver mines of Laurium for 1400 years, when uncovered, producing many plants of a Glaucium of an unknown form—ie var or species.— This sounds like a good case in favour of the belief, which I am ready to swear to.— Have you seen any such account.?7

Thank you for telling me about poor old Sir C. L.—8 I feared that after paralysis & epilepsy his mind wd. have been a mere wreck.— Have you ever come across Mivart?9

Ever yours affect | C. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, [7 February 1875].
Hooker was hoping to travel abroad with his daughter Harriet Anne Hooker; see letter from J. D. Hooker, [7 February 1875].
See letter from J. D. Hooker, [7 February 1875] and n. 5. Hooker hoped to have William Turner Thiselton-Dyer appointed as his assistant.
The first commissioner of works, Henry Gordon-Lennox, had threatened to resign after a cabinet committee, against his wishes, upheld the authority of the secretary over the director of works (Port 1995, p. 70). A report on the disagreement between the Board of Works and the Treasury noted that the ‘severance of Lord Henry Lennox’s connection with the Government’ had been satisfactorily arranged (Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, 7 February 1875, p. 11). The newspaper article that CD saw evidently related to the controversy, but it has not been identified.
In his letter to Hooker of 8 January [1875], CD had reported that the plant of Drosophyllum lusitanicum (Portuguese sundew or dewy pine) that Hooker had forwarded from the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, had arrived safely.
CD’s publisher, John Murray, often preferred to bring out books close to November, when he held a sale dinner for the book trade (J. Murray 1908–9, p. 540). Insectivorous plants was published on 2 July 1875 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
The Engineer, 5 February 1875, p. 93, contained a brief notice, which had originally appeared in the Athenæum, 31 October 1874, p. 581, about the germination of ancient seeds. The article referred to Alphonse de Candolle’s discussion of the influence of solar energy on the germination of seeds that had been buried under a slag heap for more than 1500 years. The original report was made in Gartenflora 22 (1873): 323–4 by Theodor von Heldreich, who described the plants grown from the seeds as belonging to a new species, Glaucium serpieri (now considered to be a synonym of G. flavum, the yellow horned poppy). Laurium (now Lávrion) was an industrial town in Greece, famous in antiquity for its silver mines. After 1860, franchises were granted to Greek, French, and American companies to rework ancient slag heaps for the extraction of lead, cadmium, and manganese (EB).
Hooker had promised to give St George Jackson Mivart the cold shoulder if he happened to meet him. He had been dissuaded from writing to Mivart about Mivart’s attack on George Howard Darwin’s paper on marriage ([Mivart] 1874, p. 70, G. H. Darwin 1873). See letters from J. D. Hooker, 3 January [1875] and n. 2, and 5 January 1875 and n. 1.


EB: The Encyclopædia Britannica. A dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information. 11th edition. 29 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1910–11.

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

[Mivart, St George Jackson.] 1874b. Primitive man: Tylor and Lubbock. [Essay review of the works of John Lubbock and Edward Burnett Tylor.] Quarterly Review 137 (1874): 40–77.

Murray, John. 1908–9. Darwin and his publisher. Science Progress in the Twentieth Century 3: 537–42.

Port, M. H. 1995. Imperial London: civil government building in London, 1850–1915. New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press.


Is provoked by trouble he is having writing Insectivorous plants.

Curious case of an unknown form of Glaucium in earth covered with slag for 1400 years.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 95: 374–6
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9850,” accessed on 12 August 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23