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Letter 3913

Darwin, C. R. to Hooker, J. D.

13 Jan [1863]

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    Summary Add

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    Acquired characteristics.

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    Huxley's lectures: good on induction, bad on sterility, obscure on geology.

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    Asa Gray on slavery.

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    Falconer's partial conversion.

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    Alphonse de Candolle on Origin.



Jan 13th

My dear Hooker

I send very imperfect answer to question, & which I have written on foreign paper, to save you copying & you can send when you write to Thomson in Calcutta.— Hereafter I shall be able to answer better your question about qualities induced in individual being inherited: gout in man,—loss of wool in sheep (which begins in 1st generation & takes 2 or 3 to complete) probably obesity (for it is rare with poor); probably obesity & early maturity in Short-horn Cattle, &c.—

I am very glad you like Huxley's Lectures; I have been very much struck with them; especially with the philosophy of induction.— I have quarrelled with him with overdoing sterility & ignoring cases from G¨artner & K¨olreuter about sterile varieties. His geology is obscure; & I rather doubt about man's mind & language.— But it seems to me admirably done, & as you say ``oh my'' about the praise of the Origin: I can't help liking it, which makes me rather ashamed of myself.—

I enclose Asa Gray; only last page & 12 will interest you; but look at red (?) & rewrite names. Do not allude to Gray that you have seen this letter, as he might not like it, as he speaks of your being wrong (& converted, alas not so!) about Crossing. The sentence about Strawberries made me look at Bentham, & I have enclosed remark for him; I can assure him his remark would make any good horticulturist's hair stand on end. It is marvellous to see Asa Gray so cock-sure about the doom of Slavery.—

You wrote me a famous long letter a few days ago: Emma is going to read De TocVille & so was glad to hear your remarks.— I am glad to hear that you are going to do some work which will bring a little grist to the mill; but good Heavens how do you find time with Genera Plantarum, official work, friends, & Heaven knows what!

Many thanks about Poison for Plants.— I know nothing about leaf-insects, except that they are carnivorous.— Andrew Murray knows.—

You ask what I think about Falconer; of course I am much pleased at the very kind way he refers to me; but, as I look at it, the great gain is for any good man to give up immutability of species: the road is then open for progress; it is comparatively immaterial whether he believes in N. Selection; but how any man can persuade himself that species change unless he sees how they become adapted to their conditions is to me incomprehensible.— I do not see force of Falconer's remarks about spire of shells, Phyllotaxis, &c: I suppose he did not look at my chapter on what I call laws of variation.—

How very well Falconer writes: by the way in one of your letters you insisted on importance of style; I have just been struck with excellent instance in Alex. Braun on Rejuvenescence in Ray Soc 1853; I have tried & literally I cannot read it. Have you read it?

I have just received long pamphet by Alph. De Candolle on Oaks & allies, in which he has worked out in very complete & curious manner individual variability of species, & has wildish speculations on their migrations & duration &c. It is really curious to see how blind he is to the conditions or struggle for life; he attributes the presence of all species of all genera of trees to dryness or dampness! At end he has discussion on ``Origin''; I have not yet come to this, but suppose it will be dead against it. Should you like to see this pamphlet?

My hot-house will begin building in a week or so, & I am looking with much pleasure at catalogues to see what plants to get: I shall keep to curious & experimental plants. I see I can buy Pitcher plants for only 10s.6! But the job is whether we shall be able to manage them. I shall get Sarracenia Dichœa your Hedysarum, Mimosa & all such funny things,, as far as I can without great expence. I daresay I shall beg for loan of some few orchids; especially for Acropera Loddigesii. I fancy orchids cost awful sums; but I must get priced catalogue. I can see hardly any Melastomas in catalogues.—

I had a whole Box of small Wedgwood medallions; but drat the children everything in this house gets lost & wasted; I can find only about a dozen little things as big as shillings, & I presume worth nothing; but you shall look at them when here & take them if worth pocketing.

You sent us a gratuitous insult about the ``chimney-pots'' in dining room, for you shan't have them; nor are they Wedgwood ware.—

Remember Naudin

When you return you must remember my list of experimental seeds.— I hope you will enjoy yourself

Goodnight my dear old friend | C. Darwin

You have not lately mentioned Mrs. Hooker: remember us most kindly to her.—

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 3913.f1
    The reference is to the surgeon and botanist Thomas Thomson; Thomson lived in Calcutta only until 1860 or 1861 (DNB). The enclosure has not been found. See also letter from J. D. Hooker, [12 January 1863] and n. 2.
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    f2 3913.f2
    See letter from J. D. Hooker, [12 January 1863]. On 23 January 1863, CD began writing up his `Chapter on Inheritance' for Variation, eventually published as chapters 12--14 (Variation 2: 1--84; see `Journal' (Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix II)).
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    f3 3913.f3
    Thomas Henry Huxley presented an evening lecture series for working men at the Museum of Practical Geology in London during November and December 1862; the lectures were published as T. H. Huxley 1863a. See letter to T. H. Huxley, 10 [January 1863], and letter from J. D. Hooker, [12 January 1862].
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    f4 3913.f4
    T. H. Huxley 1863a, pp. 55--67. Huxley's discussion of induction formed part of the third lecture, delivered on 24 November 1862 (`The method by which the causes of the present and past conditions of organic nature are to be discovered.— The origination of living beings'). There is a lightly annotated copy of T. H. Huxley 1863a in the Darwin Library--CUL (see Marginalia 1: 425).
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    f5 3913.f5
    Huxley argued that the origin of species through natural selection could not be proven until artificial selection produced from a common stock varieties that were sterile with one another (T. H. Huxley 1863a, pp. 146--50). CD, by contrast, was impressed by the plant hybridisation experiments conducted by Karl Friedrich von G¨artner and Joseph Gottlieb K¨olreuter (Origin, pp. 246--9, 257--9, 270--4; G¨artner 1844 and 1849; K¨olreuter 1761--6). See letter to T. H. Huxley, 10 [January 1863], and Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix VI.
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    f6 3913.f6
    T. H. Huxley 1863a, pp. 29--52. CD refers particularly to pages 39--41, and to figure 5 on page 40, which he thought would be confusing to a non-geologist. See letters to T. H. Huxley, 7 December [1862] and n. 7, and 18 December [1862] (Correspondence vol. 10).
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    f7 3913.f7
    T. H. Huxley 1863a, pp. 153--6. While arguing that `man differs to no greater extent from the animals which are immediately below him than these do from other members of the same order', Huxley wrote that it was largely the power of language that distinguished man `from the whole of the brute world' (ibid., pp. 154--5).
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    f8 3913.f8
    See letter from J. D. Hooker, [12 January 1863], and letter to T. H. Huxley, 10 [January 1863] and n. 4.
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    f9 3913.f9
    Letter from Asa Gray, 29 December 1862 (Correspondence vol. 10).
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    f10 3913.f10
    In Asa Gray's letter, CD marked some of the plant names with marginal crosses in red crayon, and Hooker clearly printed the names `Abronia', `Nyctaginia', `Pavonia' for Pavonia hastata, and `Ruellia'. These were plants in which the plants flowering earlier in the season were pollinated in the bud (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from Asa Gray, 29 December 1862).
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    f11 3913.f11
    In November and December 1862, CD and Hooker debated the effects of crossing on variation, with Hooker maintaining that self-fertilisation did not favour variation, `whereas crossing tends to variation by adding differences' (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, 26 November 1862). CD agreed with Gray (A. Gray 1862d, p. 420) that: free cross-breeding of incipient varieties inter se and with their original types is just the way to blend all together, to repress all salient characteristics as fast as the mysterious process of variation originates them, and fuse the whole into a homogeneous form. See Correspondence vol. 10, letter to Asa Gray, 26[--7] November [1862].
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    f12 3913.f12
    The letter from Asa Gray, 29 December 1862 (Correspondence vol. 10), is incomplete; Gray's statement concerning strawberries was made in a postscript that has not been located. However, in his account of strawberries in Variation 1: 351--4, CD considered it unlikely that hybrids of European and American strawberries were fertile enough to be worth cultivation. This fact was surprising to him `as these forms structurally are not widely distinct, and are sometimes connected in the districts where they grow wild, as I hear from Professor Asa Gray, by puzzling intermediate forms' (Variation 1: 352). CD probably consulted George Bentham's Handbook of the British flora (Bentham 1858; see n. 13, below). The enclosure for Bentham has not been found. See also letter to Asa Gray, 2 January [1863] and n. 17.
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    f13 3913.f13
    In his Handbook of the British flora, Bentham wrote that while several wild and cultivated strawberries had been proposed as species, `the great facility with which fertile hybrids are produced, gives reason to suspect that the whole genus … may prove to consist but of one species' (Bentham 1858, pp. 191--2). CD's annotated copy of Bentham 1858 is in the Rare Books Room--CUL (see Marginalia 1: 51).
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    f14 3913.f14
    The letter from Asa Gray, 29 December 1862 (Correspondence vol. 10), is incomplete; the portion containing Gray's statement regarding events in the United States has not been found. Gray may have commented on Abraham Lincoln's emancipation proclamation, which was to come into effect on 1 January 1863; from that time all slaves in territories still in rebellion were to be freed (see Denney 1992, pp. 248, 251).
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    f15 3913.f15
    Emma Darwin. CD refers to Alexis Henri Charles Maurice Cl´erel, comte de Tocqueville's Democracy in America (H. Reeve trans. 1862). See Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, [21 December 1862], and this volume, letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 January 1863. CD had read Tocqueville's De la d´emocratie en Am´erique (Tocqueville 1836) in February 1849 (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to J. D. Hooker, 24 December [1862], and Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, 119: 22b).
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    f16 3913.f16
    Hooker had been commissioned to write a flora of New Zealand (J. D. Hooker 1864--7; see letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 January 1863). At the same time, Hooker was at work on Genera plantarum (Bentham and Hooker 1862--83), and also had official duties in his capacity as assistant director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
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    f17 3913.f17
    In his letter to Hooker of 3 January [1863], CD asked for advice about how to prevent mould from growing on his children's dried flower collections; for Hooker's reply, see his letter of 6 January 1863. In his Account book--cash accounts (Down House MS), on 16 January 1863, CD recorded a payment of 9s. for `Poison for plants' to the London importers and makers of chemical and photographic apparatus, Bolton & Barnitt of Holborn Bars, London.
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    f18 3913.f18
    Hooker had asked CD what he should feed newly hatched leaf insects from Java (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 January 1863). Andrew Murray was a botanist and entomologist with expertise in Coleoptera and insects harmful to crops (DNB).
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    f19 3913.f19
    Hooker had asked CD's opinion of Falconer 1863a (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 January 1863).
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    f20 3913.f20
    Falconer 1863a, pp. 77--81 (see n. 21, below). See also letter to Hugh Falconer, 5 [and 6] January [1863] and n. 7.
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    f21 3913.f21
    In his article on fossil and recent elephants, Hugh Falconer praised CD and his theory of modified descent (Falconer 1863a, pp. 77, 80). At the same time, he argued that natural selection was an inadequate explanation for the origin of species since some species subject to variable conditions over time, such as the mammoths, had remained unchanged (Falconer 1863a, p. 80).
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    f22 3913.f22
    While Falconer conceded that forms like the mammoth and other extinct elephants were `modified descendants of earlier progenitors' (Falconer 1863a, p. 80), he continued to argue against the adequacy of natural selection to explain this modification: The law of Phyllotaxis, which governs the evolution of leaves around the axis of a plant, is nearly as constant in its manifestation, as any of the physical laws connected with the material world. Each instance, however different from another, can be shown to be a term of some series of continued fractions. When this is coupled with the geometrical law governing the evolution of form, so manifest in some departments of the animal kingdom, e. g. the spiral shells of the Mollusca, it is difficult to believe, that there is not in nature, a deeper seated and innate principle, to the operation of which `Natural Selection' is merely an adjunct.
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    f23 3913.f23
    Origin, pp. 131--70.
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    f24 3913.f24
    The reference has not been identified.
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    f25 3913.f25
    Braun 1851. The English title of the article was `Reflections on the phenomena of rejuvenescence in nature, especially in the life and development of plants' (Henfrey trans. 1853). There is an annotated copy of Arthur Henfrey's translation of Braun 1851 in the Darwin Library--CUL (see Marginalia 1: 366--7).
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    f26 3913.f26
    Alphonse de Candolle sent CD copies of A. de Candolle 1862a and 1862b. See Correspondence vol. 10, letter from Alphonse de Candolle, 18 September 1862; see also following letter. CD's annotated copies of A. de Candolle 1862a and 1862b are in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection--CUL.
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    f27 3913.f27
    A. de Candolle 1862a, pp. 326--53. See following letter and n. 6.
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    f28 3913.f28
    A. de Candolle 1862a, pp. 354--61, 363. See Intellectual Observer 3 (1863): 81--6, for a translation of the last portion of A. de Candolle 1862b. See also following letter and n. 7.
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    f29 3913.f29
    See Correspondence vol. 10, letter to J. D. Hooker, 24 December [1862]), and this volume, letter to Asa Gray, 2 January [1863] and n. 24, and Appendix VI.
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    f30 3913.f30
    See DAR 157.1: 111 and 112 for CD's botanical notes on experiments with Nepenthes (pitcher plants).
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    f31 3913.f31
    CD had experimented on the power of movement in Hedysarum and Mimosa in 1862 (see Correspondence vol. 10).
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    f32 3913.f32
    CD was keen to obtain fresh flowers of Acropera; for CD's continuing investigation of this orchid genus, see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from John Scott, 11 November 1862, and letter to John Scott, 12 November [1862], and this volume, letter from John Scott, 6 January 1863 and nn. 3 and 4.
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    f33 3913.f33
    See letter to Hugh Falconer, 5 [and 6] January [1863] and n. 22.
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    f34 3913.f34
    Hooker had started to collect Wedgwood ware and was particularly interested in medallions. See Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, [27 or 28 December 1862], and this volume, letter to J. D. Hooker, 3 January [1863], and letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 January 1863.
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    f35 3913.f35
    See letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 January 1863.
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    f36 3913.f36
    With his letter to Hooker of 24 December [1862] (Correspondence vol. 10), CD enclosed a `memorandum of enquiry' for Charles Victor Naudin, whom Hooker hoped to meet during his forthcoming visit to Paris (see n. 38, below).
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    f37 3913.f37
    In his letter to Hooker of 3 November [1862] (Correspondence vol. 10), CD enclosed a list of the seeds he wanted for experiments on sensitivity in plants. See also ibid., letter to J. D. Hooker, [10--]12 November [1862].
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    f38 3913.f38
    Hooker and Bentham departed for Paris on 17 January 1863 (Jackson 1906, p. 193).
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    f39 3913.f39
    Since the death of her father, John Stevens Henslow, in May 1861, Frances Harriet Hooker had been suffering from depression and ill-health (see Correspondence vols. 9 and 10).
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