More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 1

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Author: Charles Darwin

Letter 358. To J.D. Hooker. Down, November 12th [1862].

I return by this post Dawson’s lecture, which seems to me interesting, but with nothing new. I think he must be rather conceited, with his "If Dr. Hooker had known this and that, he would have said so and so." It seems to me absurd in Dawson assuming that North America was under sea during the whole Glacial period. Certainly Greenland is a most curious and difficult problem. But as for the Leguminosae, the case, my dear fellow, is as plain as a pike-staff, as the seeds are so very quickly killed by the sea-water. Seriously, it would be a curious experiment to try vitality in salt water of the plants which ought to be in Greenland. I forget, however, that it would be impossible, I suppose, to get hardly any except the Caltha, and if ever I stumble on that plant in seed I will try it.

I wish to Heaven some one would examine the rocks near sea-level at the south point of Greenland, and see if they are well scored; that would tell something. But then subsidence might have brought down higher rocks to present sea-level. I am much more willing to admit your Norwego-Greenland connecting land than most other cases, from the nature of the rocks in Spitzbergen and Bear Island. You have broached and thrown a lot of light on a splendid problem, which some day will be solved. It rejoices me to think that, when a boy, I was shown an erratic boulder in Shrewsbury, and was told by a clever old gentleman that till the world’s end no one would ever guess how it came there.

It makes me laugh to think of Dr. Dawson’s indignation at your sentence about "obliquity of vision." (358/1. See Letter 144.) By Jove, he will try and pitch into you some day. Good night for the present.

To return for a moment to the Glacial period. You might have asked Dawson whether ibex, marmot, etc., etc., were carried from mountain to mountain in Europe on floating ice; and whether musk ox got to England on icebergs? Yet England has subsided, if we trust to the good evidence of shells alone, more during Glacial period than America is known to have done.

For Heaven’s sake instil a word of caution into Tyndall’s ears. I saw an extract that valleys of Switzerland were wholly due to glaciers. He cannot have reflected on valleys in tropical countries. The grandest valleys I ever saw were in Tahiti. Again, if I understand, he supposes that glaciers wear down whole mountain ranges; thus lower their height, decrease the temperature, and decrease the glaciers themselves. Does he suppose the whole of Scotland thus worn down? Surely he must forget oscillation of level would be more potent one way or another during such enormous lapses of time. It would be hard to believe any mountain range has been so long stationary.

I suppose Lyell’s book will soon be out. (358/2. "The Antiquity of Man," 1863.) I was very glad to see in a newspaper that Murray sold 4,000. What a sale!

I am now working on cultivated plants, and rather like my work; but I am horribly afraid I make the rashest remarks on value of differences. I trust to a sort of instinct, and, God knows, can seldom give any reason for my remarks. Lord, in what a medley the origin of cultivated plants is. I have been reading on strawberries, and I can find hardly two botanists agree what are the wild forms; but I pick out of horticultural books here and there queer cases of variation, inheritance, etc., etc.

What a long letter I have scribbled; but you must forgive me, for it is a great pleasure thus talking to you.

Did you ever hear of "Condy’s Ozonised Water"? I have been trying it with, I think, extraordinary advantage—to comfort, at least. A teaspoon, in water, three or four times a day. If you meet any poor dyspeptic devil like me, suggest it.

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Chicago: Charles Darwin, "Letter 358. To J.D. Hooker. Down, November 12th [1862].," More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 1, ed. Darwin, Francis, Sir, 1848-1925 and Seward, A. C. (Albert Charles), 1863-1941 and trans. Babington, B. G. (Benjamin Guy), 1794-1866 in More Letters of Charles Darwin Original Sources, accessed February 9, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8NX3EVSKUP253CX.

MLA: Darwin, Charles. "Letter 358. To J.D. Hooker. Down, November 12th [1862]." More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 1, edited by Darwin, Francis, Sir, 1848-1925 and Seward, A. C. (Albert Charles), 1863-1941, and translated by Babington, B. G. (Benjamin Guy), 1794-1866, in More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 1, Original Sources. 9 Feb. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8NX3EVSKUP253CX.

Harvard: Darwin, C, 'Letter 358. To J.D. Hooker. Down, November 12th [1862].' in More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 1, ed. and trans. . cited in , More Letters of Charles Darwin. Original Sources, retrieved 9 February 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8NX3EVSKUP253CX.