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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   8 [June 1858]



My dear Hooker

I am confined to sofa with Boil, so you must let me write in pencil— You would laugh, if you could know how much your note pleased me.1 I had firmest conviction that you would say all my M.S was bosh, & thank God you are one of the few men who dare speak truth. Though I shd. not have much cared about throwing away what you have seen, yet I have been forced to confess to myself that all was much alike, & if you condemned that you wd. condemn all—my life’s work—& that I confess made me a little low—but I cd. have borne it, for I have the conviction that I have honestly done my best.— The discussion comes in at end of long chapter on variation in a state of nature, so that I have discussed, as far as able, what to call varieties.— I will try to leave out all allusion to genera coming in & out in this part, till when I discuss the “principle of Divergence”, which with “Natural Selection” is the key-stone of my Book & I have very great confidence it is sound.2 I wd. have this discussion copied out, if I could really think it would not bore you to read—for believe me I value to the full every word of criticism from you, & the advantage, which I have derived from you, cannot be told.—

I am glad to hear that Mrs Hooker has returned: it will be a great pleasure to me to see you here, but I shd be very sorry for you to come if it caused you inconvenience.

I am glad to hear that poor old Brown is dying so easily:3 I fear that cannot be said for Miss Jenyns.4

Do not forget Fumariaceæ— I see in F. offinalis pistil does not spring towards nectary only the hood slips off rather more easily on opposite side.—5

I am trying several experiments on same head with Leguminosæ6

Farewell—your Note has relieved me immensely | Yours ever | C. Darwin

PS. | I forgot to thank you for note about the Nat. Cæs. Leopold Soc.y.—7

You will think it paltry, but as I was asked to pay for printing the Diploma, I did not like to refuse, so I sent 1£.—

But I think it a shabby proceeding.— If a gentleman did me some service, though unasked to do it, & then demanded payment, I shd. pay him, & think him a shabby dog & on this principle I sent my 1£.—


Hooker’s note has not been found, but it evidently discussed the manuscript on large and small genera that CD had sent to Hooker for his comments (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 6 May [1858]).
CD first mentioned his ‘principle of divergence’ in a letter to Asa Gray, 5 September [1857] (Correspondence vol. 6). CD had recently written up his ideas on divergence in conjunction with his discussion of large and small genera (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
Robert Brown died on 10 June 1858. In a letter to Charles James Fox Bunbury, Charles Lyell reported that the doctors had told Brown that they could keep him alive until Christmas with opium and stimulants, ‘but he preferred not to live with a mind impaired, and so cheerfully and tranquilly, and in full possession of his intellect, gave way to the break up of nature.’ (K. M. Lyell ed. 1881,2: 284).
Mary Jenyns, Leonard Jenyns’s sister, was Frances Harriet Hooker’s aunt. She died in August 1858 (letter to J. D. Hooker, [5 August 1858]).
CD was investigating the structure of Fumariaceæ to determine by what means bees or other insects might gain access to the stigma. See letter from Asa Gray, 21 June 1858 and CD’s accompanying note, and letter to Asa Gray, 4 July 1858. His notes on experiments carried out on 16 May 1858 are in DAR 76 (ser. 2): 13. A second note records observations made on 2 June 1858 (DAR 76 (ser. 2): 14).
The question of the possibility of cross-fertilisation in the Leguminosae had occupied CD since 1856 (see Correspondence vol. 6). The experiments referred to are described in CD’s Experimental book,pp. 33–4 (DAR 157a).


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


Pleased with JDH’s reaction to MS on large and small genera.

Confident of soundness of principle of divergence.

CD experimenting on pollination mechanism of Leguminosae. Asks JDH to investigate Fumariaceae.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 237
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2282,” accessed on 27 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7