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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   18 [July 1855]

Down Farnborough Kent


My dear Hooker

I heartily wish you joy of the Birth being over.1 The Horners are all here; & the Breakfast party was charmed with the scientific & brief way of showing the sex of the new seedling.2 This morning, also, I have received your magnificent present of the Flora Indica:3 I do not know how you publish it but if on your own responsibility it is a perfect shame that you do not make me buy a copy. (I see on title it is published by Authors.) What a splendidly long introduction; it will be, if it be like everything else you have written, to me most interesting & valuable. By the way I have just been reading to my mind a capital little Essay, (which must be by you) on the Madeira Flora in the London Journal of Botany,4 & I see you bring forward a crushing (as it appears to me) argument (as I, also, inferred from parallel facts in Wollaston’s Insects)5 against the Forbesian doctrine!6

Have you ever read Eyres Journey from Spencers Gulf to K. George Sound:7 it is very interesting; it impressed me with a very strong notion of the desert character of intermediate country. A desert ought to be a more effectual barrier to migration than an arm of the sea, like Basse’s St. on the idea of sea-borne seeds.—

Very many thanks for your writing to Daubeny;8 I am really anxious on that head. I shall, also, be glad of the seeds.

What an odd coincidence; I wrote some weeks ago to Dr. Bell Salter for seeds of the hybrid Geum!9 I wish simply to ascertain fertility according to Gærtner’s process.— Several of my most foolish experiments are failing just as might have been expected; but I shd. never have been easy without trying them.—

Adios | C. Darwin

Hurrah I got yesterday my 41st Grass.—10

P.S. Next time you write, show a bold face, & say in how many years, you think, Charlock seed would probably all be dead.— A man told me the other day, of as I thought, a splendid instance,—& splendid it was for according to his evidence the seed came up alive out of the lower part of the London Clay!!! I disgusted him by telling him that Palms ought to have come up.—11

You ask how far I go in attributing organisms to a common descent; I answer I know not; the way in which I intend treating the subject, is to show (as far as I can) the facts & arguments for & against the common descent of species of same genus; & then show how far the same arguments tell for or against forms, more & more widely different: & when we come to forms of different orders & classes, there remain only some such arguments as those which can perhaps be deduced from similar rudimentary structure, & very soon not an argument, is left.—

I think I am getting a mild case about Charlock seed;12 but just as about salting, ill-luck to it, I cannot remember how many years you would allow that Charlock seed might live in the ground.—


Charles Paget Hooker was born 16 July 1855.
Presumably Hooker had indicated the baby’s sex with the scientific symbol for male: ♂.
J. D. Hooker and Thomson 1855. Only the first volume was published and this was at the authors’ own expense. CD’s copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
W. J. Hooker and J. D. Hooker 1847.
Wollaston 1854. See letter from T. V. Wollaston, 2 March [1855].
William Jackson Hooker and Joseph Dalton Hooker argued that if Forbes’s Atlantic landmass had existed, there should be more specific identity between the plants of the separate islands than was the case: ‘the affinity of vegetation between the different islands consists, not in identical species, but in representatives. The same agent, in short, which effected the peopling of the several groups with the plants of continental Europe, would also have distributed more equally the non-European species over the same area.’ (W. J. Hooker and J. D. Hooker 1847, p. 129).
Eyre 1845. In 1841, Edward John Eyre was the first to complete an overland journey from Adelaide to Western Australia (Aust. Dict. Biog.).
Thomas Bell Salter had recently corresponded with CD about hybrid plants (letter from T. B. Salter, 25 June 1855). CD’s letter asking for seeds has not been found, but see letter to J. S. Henslow, 27 June [1855], in which he asked for the same seeds from John Stevens Henslow.
CD had begun collecting and identifying grasses in early June. See letters to J. D. Hooker, 5 June [1855], 15 [June 1855], and 5 July [1855].
For CD’s interest in the longevity of seeds and the possibility of ancient seeds being viable, see Correspondence vol. 2, Appendix VI.
CD had noticed that charlock had sprung up in fields in which it had been absent for fifteen years. He concluded that the seeds must have lain dormant until the ground was cleared and dug up. See letter to Gardeners’ Chronicle, 13 November [1855].


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

Eyre, Edward John. 1845. Journals of expeditions of discovery into central Australia, and overland from Adelaide to King George’s Sound, in the years 1840–1. 2 vols. London. [Vols. 5,10]

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1847. Floræ Tasmaniæ Spicilegium; or contributions towards a flora of Van Diemen’s Land. London Journal of Botany 6: 106–25, 265–86, 461–79.

Wollaston, Thomas Vernon. 1854. Insecta Maderensia; being an account of the insects of the islands of the Madeiran group. London: John van Voorst.


Has read a paper, presumably by JDH, using the Madeiran flora to argue against Forbes’s doctrine.

JDH asked how far CD will go in attributing common descent; he intends to show "the facts & arguments for & against the common descent of species of same genus; & then show how far the same arguments tell for or against forms, more & more widely different".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 142
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1719,” accessed on 20 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 5