Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP5323

Sent by:
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent to:
Charles Robert Darwin
26 October 1864

Sent by Joseph Dalton Hooker, Kew, Surrey to Charles Robert Darwin [none given] on 26 October 1864.

Record created:
20 May 2013 by Chillingworth, Nancy


Regarding Darwin suggestion to nominate Wallace for The Royal Society's Gold Medal.

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LETTER (WCP5323.5867)

A typical letter handwritten by author in English and signed by author.

Held by:
Cambridge University Library
Finding number:
MS DAR 101: 247-53
Copyright owner:
Reproduced with kind permission of members of the Hooker family

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Transcription information





October 26/[18]64.

Dear Darwin

Many thanks for A. Grays1-- he writes as if he had never been deceived as to the progress of matters from the first. I do not believe that any Belligerent aggressor ever knows whither it is drifting.

Have you seen Chas: Martins “Tableau Physique du Sahara oriental” it is very slight, but admirably written. I see A Gray alludes to Herbert Spencer2-- the latter has thanked me for some (trifling) assistance, in his preface,-- thank God he does not bind me to his views;-- which may be good bad [[2]] or indifferent.-- I always admire his wonderful grasp & admirable illustrations, but his whole work is cumbrous to my mind, & reminds me of a huge mill-sluice of scientific diction & ideas: fluid, very noisy [1 word illeg.] the noise never discordant; the stream full & powerful, but never adding an inch to the depth of the river it pours into. Much of it seems to consist in clothing biological science in the language of physical science. He often comes to me for illumination, & I reel under him, [[3]] like a drunk man: he is the toughest cross questioner I ever had to deal with.

I have read Tyndall3, but was not satisfied, I had a talk to him afterwards, but he is grown so dogmatic;-- when a fellow says “my dear Hooker, the whole thing I have mathematically shown to be as certain as the heating power of the solar ray”-- what can you say? but sink into insignificance.

My great difficulty is to allow of sufficient denudation. What is more familiar to you & me than 2 (or [1 word illeg.] more) rocks a. b some miles apart, sticking up mid ocean so

Each 800 ft high or so,-- if the distance a.--b. represents the [[4]] transverse section of a quondam river valley why then the peaks a. b. must represent points in the bowels of an old continent. I like Ramsays4 paper much better, & can follow it well, I suppose that you have seen it. Still sea-action puzzles me: Staffa to my mind presents no traces of marine denudation. As far as I could see on a most hasty visit the angles of the column are not eaten away by Ocean, nor are the broken prostrate columns rounded. Again in the swishing tidal straits of Loch Leven I saw the glacial scratches on the [1 word illeg.] rocks moutonnée under water. The flat surfaces of Staffa are no doubt planed [[5]] off by ice -- how the cave is formed I cannot guess, but I think not by the sea. The valleys of E. Norfolk & Suffolk are I am sure tidal & not fluvial-- I have traced them from below Ipswich up to Hitcham. If Tyndalls idea holds good, there should be beds of pebbles most frequently found high up on cliffs, everywhere. Ramsays idea is much better, glaciers tell no tales where rivers do. Of course I can allow of any amount of river cutting through Limestone countries, but how about [[6]] rivers running through the gorges of hard trap in Auvergne or the quartz rocks of Siberia? On the other hand ice will not cut gorges, & in those trap districts the question is narrowed to water versus fissuring.-- After all the great objection to the whole Ice or water theory is, where are you to stop? -- is the valley of the Amazons to be held to be all scooped out by water-- if so then why not the Atlantic? if on the other hand the Atlantic is not a water-scoop, but a depression between 2 uplifted [[7]] continents masses of land, why not also the Amazons, Rhine,? & so on to every smaller river? It cannot be doubted that strata were thrown into great folds in the bowels of the earth;-- that marine denudation shaved down the tips of these as they [1 word illeg.] became exposed, & that marine accumulations fill up their hollows--that subsequent tiltings rearrange the slopes hollows & hills so that there is no or little relation now between the original curves & existing valleys, & that water or [1 word missing] was busy all the time of these changes in scooping.

So that it seems to me that it must be very difficult to say in a general way how much is due to upheaval, & faults, & how much [[8]] to river & Glacier-- & though I entirely go with Ramsay in thinking that in all Alpine regions or regions that have been alpine, the glaciers have done far more than the water has since, or the upheaval before them--still I cannot go so far as to account for their whole sculpturing by Ice. Ice will increase Valleys, I doubt its originating them, except by their its melting & the water following a definite course.

I have no objection in the world to Primrose & Cowslip being good species, & oxlip too for that matter, but I do not see why the fact of Red Cowslips not being wild should influence our [[9]] view of its claims to be a species. If it has a constant difference & will not cross, let it be a species, whether wild or created by cultivation (as the Gardeners have it.). Lord Ducie says that Red [1 word illeg.] Cowslips grow wild about him & he has promised to send me some for you.

I have written to Anderson5 recommending him to try Scott-- but McNab, who was here the other day gives a confoundedly bad character of Scott: he seems to be vehemently prejudiced against him.

We are all pretty well | Ever affec Y[ou]rs | J.D. Hooker. [signature]

[[10]] Did I tell you that by a recent bye-law persons residing out of England are not eligible for election as Associates of the Linnean. but for this there would have been no difficulty in electing Scott. If he does well in India he may be a member yet.

Young Bartlett6, son of the Curator of Zoological Society is going to Nicaragua with Capt Prior, & to stay away 3 years. have you any [[11]] agenda or inquirenda in that quarter of the Globe?

Tell me when you write how the book gets on.

I have been thinking of Wallace for Gold Medal R.S. but it seems to be half engaged to Dr Lockhardt Clark this year. How would you word Wallaces claims? Will it not be difficult to cite sufficient paper work?

[[12]] P.S. | The Stanhopeas are all past flower—though one or two will be in flower again in a month or so.

The new Curator is making a thorough reform, & the Orchids are going ahead fast.

We had a good meeting of Phil Club yesterday. Busk7 gave us an incoherent account of the Gibraltar caves-- species at least in a space half as big as your drawing room. Red deer Ibex, Cape Hyena, Serval, 3 Rhinoceros, Rabbit, Cervus Dama-- Horse, lots of Hyena coprolites-- The human remains belong to a [[13]] totally different category & age. The rock itself seems to be a great Geological puzzle.

The association of Red Deer Rhinoceros & Cape Hyena seems to me to capsize all our ideas of climate being a guide to distribution--or rather of the converse

The Royal medals are I suppose as good as settled to Mr Lockhardt Clarke8 & Warren DelaRue9, the Rumford to Tyndall.


1. Gray, Asa (1810 – 1888). An American botanist.

2. Spencer, Herbert (1820 – 1903). An English biologist and philosopher.

3. Tyndall, John (1820 – 1893). An English physicist.

4. Ramsay, Andrew (1814 – 1891). A Scottish geologist.

5. Anderson, James (1738 – 1809). A Scottish physician and botanist.

6. Bartlett, Abraham Dee (1812 – 1897). An English zoologist.

7. Busk, George (1807 – 1886). An English surgeon for the Royal Navy and comparative anatomist.

8. Clarke, Jacob Augustus Lockhart (1817 – 1880). An English physiologist and neurologist.

9. De la Rue, Warren (1815 – 1889). An English astronomer and chemist.

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