RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1916-18. [Letters to J. D. Hooker and recollections of Darwin, 1843-81]. In Leonard Huxley ed., Life and letters of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe 5.2022. RN1

NOTE: See record in the Freeman Bibliographical Database, enter its Identifier here. In the correspondence, extracts from Darwin's letters are given in bold. The dates of the letters, usually not stated, have been provided. The complete letters with important editorial notes are published in the Correspondence.

[Volume 1:]

[page] 222


Here also must be noted the beginnings of the close friendship with Charles Darwin which was to be lifelong. They had already been in close touch over botanical matters; Hooker had been working out Darwin's plants from the Galapagos Islands; now on October 10 he has gone to stay with Darwin in Kent for three days, and on January 14, 1847, again he goes for a visit of a week or ten days.

[page] 353


He had long been the confidant of Darwin's views; had discussed and debated them with his old friend, providing botanical information, offering criticisms, citing instances and pointing out difficulties, suggesting his own solutions to problems which had vexed him ever more insistently as he more fully realised the fluidity of species, and the difficulty of establishing 'specific types,'—those abstract definitions, to which individual specimens should be referred, being as hopeless as the bed of Procrustes. On the main lines, at least, he was approaching conviction. The new theory, privately discussed, threw light on his own work if he was not yet, in the earlier fifties, persuaded of all its details; and he felt bound to avow publicly the change of view brought about by his later investigations. But Darwin's views had not yet been concentrated and expressed as a whole. A summary of them was given to the world in the 'Origin.' The sledge-hammer effect of this was still to be experienced.

[page] 363


Meantime the 'Himalayan Journals; or, Notes of a Naturalist in Bengal, the Sikkim and Nepal Himalayas, the Khasia Mountains, &c.,' were published in 1854. These two volumes, containing together more than 900 pages of incident and adventure, as well as picturesque description and the most varied scientific notes, were 'dedicated to Charles Darwin by his affectionate friend, Joseph Dalton Hooker.'


[page] 436


In one of his letters Darwin makes special mention of preserving his friend's letters. The answers to scientific questions are detached and placed among the memoranda of that subject; the other parts are put among his general correspondence, so that it would only be a matter of half an hour to rearrange them in case of need. In spite of his care, however, a large number of the earlier letters from Hooker have disappeared wholly or in part. From the remainder I give a selection to illustrate their correspondence before the appearance of the 'Origin.' Darwin's first letter to Hooker (December 1843) is printed in the 'Life of Charles Darwin,' ii. 21. He had then sent his Galapagos collections to Hooker through Henslow, who had had them in keeping (see 'More Letters of Charles Darwin,' i. 400); the next in sequence, which answers the following of Hooker's, is given in 'More Letters of Charles Darwin,' i. 39.


[page] 486



But the making of the 'Origin' is not only a history of science—it is the history of a great friendship. In its fabric the two strands are indissolubly interwoven. As Darwin exclaimed to his friend, 'Talk of fame, honour, pleasure, wealth —all are dirt compared with affection, and this is a doctrine [in] which I know from your letter that you will agree from the bottom of your heart,' [2 July 1860] so the achievement is ennobled by the warm human affection that so long sustained the worker and aided the work. For twenty years the materials for the task were being amassed; for fifteen of these years Hooker was Darwin's confidant and helper. Without Hooker's aid Darwin's great work would hardly have been carried out on the botanical side.'1 In his quiet isolation at Down, cut off from the ordinary converse of the world by the perpetual uncertainties of ill health, Darwin found refreshment and delight in pouring out to his friend his schemes of research and his wonderful experi-


1 Sir F. Darwin and Professor Seward, in M.L. i. p. 39.

[page] 488


Only the first two or three letters open with the formal 'My dear Sir' of the period; by February 1844 Darwin inaugurates 'Dear Hooker' to his 'co-circum-wanderer and fellow labourer,' while from the day of his impending departure to India the 'very truly' or 'very sincerely' of either signature, gradually merging in 'Ever yours,' is lost in 'Your affectionate friend' or 'Yours affectionately' maintained by both to the end.

Acquaintance ripened swiftly into friendship. 'Farewell!' Darwin concludes a letter in 1845. 'What a good thing is community of tastes! I feel as if I had known you for fifty years. Adios!' [14 November 1846] And 'forty years on' the sympathetic

[page] 489

bond between them was as strong as ever. In 1881 Darwin writes:

Your letter has cheered me, and the world does not look a quarter so black as it did when I wrote before. Your friendly words are worth their weight in gold. One of the starting points of Darwin's 'presumptuous work' had been the striking impression made on him by the distribution of the Galapagos organisms; hence his eager desire to know whether the botany of this isolated group was as suggestive as the zoology.

The correspondence began in December; by January the momentous confession was made: At last gleams of light have come, and I am almost convinced (quite contrary to the opinion I started with) that species are not (it is like confessing a murder) immutable. [11 January 1844]

He had instantly recognised Hooker's capacity. 'I am pleased to think,' he writes on Hooker's rejection at Edinburgh in 1845, 'that after having read a few of your letters, I never once doubted the position you will ultimately hold among European Botanists.' [8 October 1845] And in the next letter, 'It is absurdly unjust to speak of you as a mere systematist.' More than this, he recognised that Hooker also believed, as he put it in the Preface to his Flora Antarctica, that 'Geographical Distribution will be the key which will unlock the mystery of the species.' [5 or 12 November 1845]


But true views of geographical distribution were impossible without full and accurate Floras. Here no doubt was a redoubled motive for the ardour with which Hooker flung himself into his unending labours, the extent of which called forth the first of many anxious warnings from Darwin as early as 1845, to beware of overwork, doctor though he be,' and a novel prescription, 'You ought to have a wife to stop your working too much, as Mrs. Lyell peremptorily stops Lyell' [4 June 1845] […]

[page] 490


Thus Darwin, in the act of asking his aid, stimulated his native bent. He was encouraged in his inclination to deal with the wider bearings of his observations, which, in Darwin's eyes, made his Flora and his letters so different from the works of so many other systematists, remarkable for their lack of instructive general results. […]

I am almost sorry for your eternal additional labours on the Galapagos Flora (writes Darwin in September 1846; but adds emphatically], as yet your work assuredly has not been thrown away, as many have referred to your curious geographical results on this archipelago. Similarly, of a preliminary sketch of his Tasmanian results, in 1844:

I trust that your sketch will not have cost you ultimately loss of time, as, judging by myself, preliminary sketches and resketches do much good. . . . Seriously, I almost grieved, when I saw the length of your letter, that you should have given up so much time to me. Sir William will think me a bad friend to you, but anyhow, I trust, the sketch part of your geographical results will not turn out lost time. [16 December 1844]

These generalisations gave special value to his work and led Darwin to repudiate his description of himself as not possessing a philosophic mind,

'one of the greatest falsehoods ever told by implication; read your own Galapagos paper and be ashamed of yourself' [13 June 1850] (the whole passage is given in CD. ii. 37). In short (March 31, 1845):

Nothing would do you so much good as a little vanity, and then you would not talk of collecting facts for others, when, say just what you please, I am sure no one could put them to better use than yourself. [31 March 1845]

[page] 491

Darwin from the earliest time feels the immense value of his help, in books lent, summaries of results, in published works, letters, conversations. 'For my own part,' he writes after a visit of Hooker's to Down, 'I learn more in these discussions than in ten times over the number of hours reading.' [10 December 1845]


[page] 494


They germinate perfectly, and in answer to his confession of defeat (the letter is not extant), Darwin writes (June 1, 1856):

I read your note as far as 'unutterable mortification' and was in despair, for I came instantly to the conclusion that probably Government had determined to give up Kew Gardens! and you may imagine how I laughed when I came to the real cause of mortification. It is the funniest thing in the world that you do not rejoice; for you have (as I never have) put in print that you do not believe in multiple creation, and therefore you surely should rejoice at every conceivable means of dispersal. Well, I and my wife have enjoyed a jolly laugh, and all the more from fully believing for a second that some great calamity had befallen you.


[page] 495


Many were not procurable even from the Linnean Library, where Hooker arranged that Darwin could take out what volumes he wanted. Many he lent to his friend from his own botanical library to be studied and lightly marked on the margins for the purposes of his analysis, sometimes to be borrowed afresh that the marked passages might be consulted anew when some better scheme of analysis had presented itself or some flaw had been detected in the previous scheme. 'I never cease begging favours of you,' writes Darwin in August 1855, when asking for the loan of the copy he had before of Asa Gray's Manual. The parcels generally go from Kew to the Nag's Head in the Borough, the headquarters of the Down carrier, whether botanical parcels or a 'magnificent and awful box of books,' [11 September [1857]] though in the case of a rare orchid in flower, Parslow, the immemorial butler, would travel to Kew and carry it back in his own safe hands.

Once, when Hooker had a fair copy of one of Darwin's MSS. to read, a misfortune happened which recalls, though it happily did not equal, the catastrophe to the sole MS. of Carlyle's 'French Revolution' in J. S. Mill's house. The bundle 'by some screaming accident' had got transferred to the drawer where Mrs. Hooker kept paper for the children to draw upon—and they 'of course had a drawing fit ever since.'

Nearly a quarter of the MS. had vanished when Hooker prepared to read it at the end of a busy week.

[page] 496


By a happy compensation these free gifts of time and labour for friendship's sake brought their own reward. With Hooker, as with others, such as Asa Gray, whose opinion Darwin had asked on similar points, the consequent research independently enriched his own books, widened the scope of his results, and pointed the way to a revivifying theory. Writing to Hooker in January 1857, Darwin says:

You know how I work subjects, namely if I stumble on any general remark, and if I find it confirmed in any other very distinct class, then I try to find out whether it is true, if it has any bearing on my work. [after 20 January 1857]


[page] 497

[…] Darwin never tires of telling how he values his criticisms. They led not to destruction, but to reconstruction. 'You never make an objection without doing much good,' he exclaims (November 18, 1856). After a long talk together, 'fighting a battle with you clears my mind wonderfully' (October 19, 1856), or, touching Hooker's help over the question of large genera varying largely, already mentioned, 'Again I thank you for your valuable assistance. . . . Adios, you terrible worrier of poor theorists!' [28 February 1858]


[page] 498

[…] Thus replying to Hooker, who finds the changes effected by external conditions inconstant and unequal to modifying species, Darwin urges (November 11, 1856) that the external conditions by themselves do very little in producing new species, except as causing mere variability upon which selection can work. He feels strongly that to make this clear, he ought to have sent Hooker a preliminary note on variation and its causes.

In this connection it may be noted that even after the publication of the 'Origin' Hooker continued to lay more stress on external conditions than did Darwin, who explains (May 29, 1860) that he sees in almost every organism (though far more clearly in animals than in plants) adaptation, and this, except in rare instances, must, he thinks, be due to selection. Again (March 16, 1858) Darwin finds the reason for various difficulties raised by Hooker in the fact that probably he has not yet sufficiently explained his notions, and begs his friend to await the MS. dealing with these points. So when he does send

[page] 499

fairly complete sections of his MS. to his chief critic, his words, 'Believe me I value to the full every word of criticism from you, and the advantage which I have derived from you cannot be told,' [8 June 1858] are a measure of the delight and relief at that critic's appreciation of the finished argument. The process bears out the phrase of June 2, 1857: Although we are very apt, I have observed, at the first approach of a subject, to take different views, we generally come to a near approach after a talk. Indeed, in writing on the subject, Darwin confesses, 'I try to give the strongest cases opposed to me. I have been working your books as richest (and vilest) against mine' (July 12, 1856). But in the end, when the first paper expounding his views had been read at the Linnean, he concludes:

You cannot imagine how pleased I am that the notion of Natural Selection has acted as a purgative on your bowels of immutability. Whenever Naturalists can look on species changing as certain, what a magnificent field will be open,— on all the lines of variation—on the genealogy of all living beings—on their lines of migration, &c., &c. [13 July 1858]

At the end as at the beginning he was keenly aware of all the help Hooker had lent, help which, as has been said, Hooker himself rated at nothing. Darwin, however, exclaims: You speak of my having 'so few aids '; why should you ? [you] yourself for years and years have aided me in innumerable ways, lending me books, giving me endless facts, giving me your- valuable opinion and advice on all sorts of subjects, and more than all, your kindest sympathy. Again, when the Abstract had been set going after Wallace's paper had come like a bolt from the blue, he cries,' [9 December 1857] in how


1 It will be remembered how Wallace, on realising the vast work already done by Darwin to establish the theory on an incomparably broader basis than the observations which had suggested the same theory to himself, generously waived all claim to priority. When in May 1864, in his paper on the Evolution of Man, in the Anthropological Review, he repeated his disclaimer, Hooker writes to Darwin (May 14): 'I am struck with his negation of all credit or share in the Natural Selection theory—which makes one think him a very high-minded man.' [page] 500

many ways have you aided me.' Yet again, when this delicate situation had been arranged, he adds, 'You must let me once again tell you how deeply I feel your generous kindness and Lyell's on this occasion; but in truth it shames me that you should have lost time on a mere point of priority.' Still, perhaps the greatest service of all was 'making me make this abstract; for though I thought I had got all clear, it has clarified my brains much, by making me weigh relative importance of the several elements,' and 'I shall, when it is done, be able to finish my work with greater ease and leisure.'

Perhaps the most remarkable tribute paid by Darwin to his friend is that which is given in the 'Life and Letters,' ii. 138. The date is October 1858, while he was hard at work on the Abstract. Hooker the critic had seemed strangely unmoved by the arguments advanced, but a rather despondent note praying him not to pronounce too strongly against Natural Selection till he had read the Abstract, brought an enthusiastic reply, declaring that Darwin's speculations had been a 'jampot' to him. To this Darwin rejoins:

I wrote the sentence without reflection. But the truth is I have so accustomed myself, partly from being quizzed by my non-naturalist relations, to expect opposition and even contempt, that I forgot for the moment that you are the one living soul from whom I have constantly received sympathy. Believe that I never forget even for a minute how much assistance I have received from you.

But Darwin, with his usual generosity of spirit, watching the increasing parallelism of their views, feared lest he had checked Hooker's original thoughts by discussing his own views with him so fully and freely. Hooker would have been the last to admit anything of the sort. He, as has been said, while gradually loosening the foundations of his former opinions, was slow to reach conviction as to the new, and only under stress of the completed argument of the 'Origin.' His original interest in their common problems connected with Geographical distribution and the unsatisfactory views current about species, was ever intensified by their constant discussions, while the

[page] 501

special investigations, the result of which often helped to push him along the Darwinian path, were frequently prompted or stimulated by Darwin's enquiries. His own ideas involved mutability of species. Yet so long as he remained unpersuaded of a true cause for mutability, he could hardly have carried these ideas to their full completion.

Darwin's feeling, well expressed in the letter of December 25, 1859, which is given in the 'Life and Letters,' ii. 252, appears further from an as yet unpublished passage in his letter of November 14, 1858, the remainder of which is given in CD. ii. 139 and M.L. i. 455.

I have for some time thought that I have done you an ill-service, in return for the immense good which I have reaped from you, in discussing all my notions with you; and now there is no doubt of it, as you would have arrived at the mixture (?) independently. My only comfort is, that without you were prepared to give up species, you must have been greatly bothered in your conclusions, for the ranges of identical and representative species are so mixed up in this case, as hardly to be separated. And I can most truly say that I never thought that I might be interfering with your independent work.

And again, on January 28, 1859:

I never did pick anybody's pocket, but whilst writing my present chapter (Geographical Distribution) I keep on feeling (even while differing most from you) just as if I were stealing from you, so much do I owe to your writings and conversation: so much more than mere acknowledgments show.

Hooker, however, took the opposite view in the missing letter to which Darwin replies on April 2:

Do not fear about interfering with me in your publications. I have little doubt your views will be, and have arisen, independent of mine.

[And on Ap. 7,] The Fl. Austr. and Origin contain much of the same, but yet somehow everything is taken up from

[page] 502

such different points of view, that I do not think we shall injure the originality of our respective books.

[In short,] You may say what you like, but you will never convince me that I do not owe you ten times as much as you can owe me (Dec. 30, 1858, M.L. i. 114).

But Hooker would never admit this, and five years later, when Lyell, in his forthcoming 'Antiquity of Man,' proceeded to give him large credit for his services to the Darwinian theory, his native impulse was to send Darwin a flat disclaimer (March 15, 1863):

He has written to me also about the date of publication of the Australian Essay, as preceding your 'Origin'—in this matter he has got into a fix by giving said Essay a prominence which in the history of the discussion it (and its author) do not deserve. I have such an extreme aversion to intrude myself personally into such matters, and such an abomination of reclamations, that I cannot set him right, even did the plan of his book now admit of his giving the Essay less prominence. As it is, I am ashamed of seeing it paraded with an italicised heading, just as you and the 'Origin' are, and an importance given to its priority of publication which it never dreamt of claiming. Had I really believed that your 'Origin' would have been out so soon after it I really think I should have delayed the Fl. Tasmanica rather than antedate you; but though I knew you were actually printing the 'Origin,' I knew how long it had been delayed, I knew how uncertain your health was, and I was working myself to death to get the Tasmanian Flora and its (for me) gigantic expenses off my hands. As it is Lyell seems to think me entitled to a goodly share of the credit of establishing, though not originating.

1. Because of your over-generous acknowledgment of assistance from me in the 'Origin.'

2. Because it was my making him eat the leek of variation, that so stupefied his senses that he was enabled to swallow Origin and apply Selection (as gastric juices).

3. Because I forced the card of non-reversion of varieties.

4. Because I first applied many of your results to the class and district of one Flora and country, in a way intelligible to him.

[page] 503

5. Because he understood my arrangement of the subject better than yours—at least so he said, some 18 months ago.

All this is no reason for putting me in the same category with you as propounder of the doctrine, which his work seems to me too much to do. However, I have not alluded to this subject to him, nor should I, if he had been as careful never to mention my name, as Huxley would seem to be, not that he really is so in the least I am sure.

To this Darwin replied (March 17):

What a candid honest fellow you are, too candid and too honest. I do not believe one man in ten thousand would have thought and said what you say about your own work in your letter. I told Lyell that nothing pleased me more in his work than the conspicuous position in which he very properly placed you.

[Volume 2:]

[page] 24

The monograph on Welwitschia, patiently working out its morphology, development, and histology, still holds its place, though recently many papers on it have been written under the direction of the late Dr. Pearson of the Cape, and new light has been thrown on it by subsequent botanical generalisations.

The determination of this highly anomalous plant was a matter of great labour and prolonged microscopical examination directed by unrivalled botanical knowledge. 'I expect it is going to be your Barnacles,' [1862] wrote Darwin with a jesting glance at his own long drawn labours with the microscope on that genus; and Hooker himself regarded this as his greatest triumph of the kind. […]

[page] 28


Darwin in return repeated the claim of the 'Origin' (ch. xi.) for no more tropical cooling than Hooker himself had found in the Himalayan zone where tropical and temperate flora commingled, and confidently believed it would be found that the ultra-tropical plants mentioned could adapt themselves to this amount of cooling in conjunction with other changes in physical conditions, such as moisture.

Against this, however, he still held out, writing on March 18:

[page] 29

[28 March 1863]

I wish I could see any way of 'ingenious wriggling' that would remove the crushing evidence in the shape of tropical forms—against tropical cold. You have no idea of the magnitude of such a case as the Dipterocarpeae, a Nat. Ord., not a mere genus, of 10 genera and 112 species all from Ceylon, tho Malayan Peninsula and Islands—and of which a good 100 more species and many more genera are still to come from Borneo, Sumatra &c. All are woody, and far the larger proportion are large timber trees—not one ascends at all to any height—and analogous species to living are found in tertiary coal-beds of Labuan &c.

Darwin's appreciation of this Essay is recorded in his letter of February 25 [1862]. (M.L. i. 465 et seq.) 'Such papers,' he exclaims, 'are the real engine to compel people to reflect on modification of species': and 'What a splendid new and original evidence and case is that of Greenland.'


[page] 32


Darwin still works away at his experiments and his theory, and startles us by the surprising discoveries he now makes in Botany; his work on the fertilisation of orchids is quite unique—there is nothing in the whole range of Botanical Literature to compare with it, and this, with his other works, 'Journal,' 'Coral Reefs,' 'Volcanic Islands,' 'Geology of Beagle,' 'Anatomy, etc., of Cirripedes' and 'Origin,' raise him without doubt to the position of the first Naturalist in Europe, indeed I question if he will not be regarded as great as any that ever lived; his powers of observation, memory and judgement seem prodigious, his industry indefatigable and his sagacity in planning experiments, fertility of resources and care in conducting them are unrivalled, and all this with health so detestable that his

[page] 33

life is a curse to him and more than half his days and weeks are spent in inaction—in forced idleness of mind and body.


[page] 46


He often breaks out despairingly to Darwin—e.g. (May 28,1862):

I see an everlasting round of visitors whom I (for the most part) wish at Jericho. I broke three solemn engagements to-day:

And (September 20, 1862):

I am frightfully busy and inundated with d— d visitors; There goes the bell—just as I wrote. It was at least a relief that the Gardens continued to be closed to the public in the forenoon. The months brought no relief; In the summer of 1863 it was not only that 'we are overwhelmed and almost knocked

[page] 47

up by visitors and visiting, but London society, which made worse inroads upon his time than the extra work involved by his father's absence.

I cannot see my way to a mean course between dining out everywhere and nowhere, without a system of prevarication that would be intolerable, and now that my Father never goes out, I have double duty that way.

'How opposite our troubles are about society,' rejoins Darwin; 'you too much, I absolutely none.' [22 July 1863]

[page] 65


When Darwin was very ill the following February [1866 according to Emma Darwin's diary], he was allowed to see no one: and Hooker, who had spent the weekend near by at the Lubbocks', writes feelingly:

I yearned to go over and see Mrs. Darwin, but it would have been too great a punishment to both of us (you and me). I cannot tell which I crave for most, another little girl, or for you to get well.


[page] 69


The enforced leisure of convalescence afforded much opportunity for miscellaneous reading. From time to time the letters which passed between Darwin and Hooker contain references to novels, for Darwin, as we know, constantly had novels read to him when unable to work, and Hooker, from his wife's and his own reading, would offer suggestions or criticisms. Thus in 1863 Hooker recommends 'The Admiral's Daughter' by the author of 'Emilia Wyndham,' which on re-reading he had found as deeply interesting as on his first reading twenty-five years before; but this was barred as ending too sadly. Next year 'Quits' is more successful; on a return recommendation, Hooker at Bath cannot get 'Beppo,' but borrows 'Romola,' which is ponderous.' In April 1865, having received from Darwin the serial numbers of Wilkie Collins' novel. Hooker replies, 'I have nearly finished "Can you Forgive Her?" and have made up my mind that I cannot at all do so, and don't care whether she minds it or no.' Now the unexpected scope of holiday reading appears from two letters to Darwin. [..]

[page] 72


A photograph goes to Darwin on March 17, 1862, with the criticism:

As regards my Photograph, I believe I have very little expression. I have often remarked that I am not recognized except by those who know me tolerably well, that I have often to introduce myself, added to which all my photographs and portraits make me look either silly or stupid or affected. […]

In return, Darwin sends his photograph in June 1864 saying,

'Funnily enough the boys declared it was like Moses': [13 June 1864]


Darwin had reported that all the doctors seemed to think him a case of suppressed gout. What the devil is this 'suppressed gout' upon which doctors fasten every ill they cannot name? If it is suppressed how do they know it is gout? If it is apparent, why the devil do they call it suppressed? I hate the use of cant terms to cloak ignorance. (January 1865.)

[page] 74


As regards letters which reveal the personal affection and happy intimacy with Darwin, one of the very best is unfortunately missing. It is the letter written to Darwin when the proposal to award him the Copley Medal in 1863 failed. Only Darwin's reply is given in M.L. ii. 338.[…]'Your

[page] 75

Hastings note, my dear old fellow, was a Copley Medal to me and more than a Copley Medal.' [5 December 1863]

[page] 76

A year or so later, Sir Charles Lyell was desirous that the same recognition for his great scientific labours should be given to Hooker. The latter, however, was by no means of this mind, and frankly tells Darwin:

After his funny and not-at-all-agreeable-to-me fashion of telling me all about it, of course I must not tell him so, but it is God's truth, that not only shall I never think I deserve it if I get it, but that if I did deserve it, it would be far too dear at the cost of an after-dinner speech. These are things, however, which must take their courses.

Darwin's rejoinder was emphatic:

As for thinking that you do not deserve the Copley Medal,2 that I declare is mere insanity. [31 December 1865]

[page] 77

It was during this period that Hooker took up the hobby of collecting Wedgwood ware, which became a subject of much cheery banter between him and his friend.

By the way—now don't despise me— I am collecting Wedgwoods, simply and solely because they are pretty and I love them. I have not even a Grayan excuse, they afford me pleasure—voilà tout.

Darwin, who declared that he drew the line at collecting stamps, was much amused, but confessed his family to be 'degenerate descendants of old Josiah W., for we have not a bib of pretty ware in the house' (see C.D.. iii. 4), and to Hooker's enthusiasm retorts: 'You cannot imagine what pleasure your plants give me (far more than your Wedgwood ware can give you).' [24-5 February 1863]


[page] 78

Darwin fed the hobby with mingled grain and chaff.

I had a whole box full of small Wedgwood medallions (he tells his friend in April); but, drat the children, everything in this house gets lost and wasted; I can only find about a dozen little things as big as shillings, and I presume worth nothing; but you shall look at them when here and take them if worth pocketing. [16 February 1863] He got his sister to send Hooker one of her black and brown vases, but—

You sent us a gratuitous insult about the 'chimney-pots.' in dining-room, for you shan't have them; nor are they Wedgwood ware. [13 January 1863]

[page 79]

From Darwin Hooker borrowed a medallion of his grandfather Erasmus, and had a cast carefully made by Woolner the sculptor for the Kew Museum. Through Darwin also he made acquaintance with the Wedgwoods of Etruria and visited them there, where he 'dabbled among the moulds' to his heart's content, and chose several fine plaques which the Wedgwoods kindly reproduced for him.


[page] 95


Darwin, who published his 'Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals' in 1872, had asked him to make observations on this point among the Moors and Berbers. […]

[page] 103


Hooker's qualms about lecturing happily came to nothing.

Nottingham: Tuesday, August 28, 1866.

DEAR OLD DARWIN,—The whole thing went off last night in very good style. The audience were well fed and conformable, they' followed the whole lecture with admirable good nature, and were sent into fits by the conclusion. I made myself well and easily heard without unreasonable effort, and have all the more reason to bless my stars that I have not earlier given way to popular lecturing, for which I am already besought! I never was so glad to get a thing out of hand and mind, and now I must in the course of the winter cast it into scientific form for publication.

I am awfully busy as you may suppose, and only just beginning to enjoy the fun. Huxley is getting on splendidly in Section D. He returned thanks for my Lecture in the most skilful, graceful and perfect way. I never heard anything so hearty and thoroughly good—no coarse flattery or fulsome praise— but an earnest, thoughtful and, I believe, truthful eulogy of what he thought good and happy in the treatment of the subject, with a really affectionate tribute to myself.

Ever your affectionate,

Jos. D. Hooker.

[page] 104

Darwin replied (August 30 [1866]):

I have seldom been more pleased in my life than at hearing how successfully your lecture went off. Mrs. H. Wedgwood sent us an account, saying that you read capitally and were listened to with profound attention and great applause. She says when your final allegory began 'For a moment or two we were all mystified, and then came such bursts of applause from the audience. It was thoroughly enjoyed amid roars of laughter and noise, making a most brilliant conclusion.' I am rejoiced that you will publish your lecture, and felt sure that sooner or later it would come to this; indeed it would have been a sin if you had not done so. I am especially rejoiced, as you give the arguments for occasional transport with such perfect fairness; these will now receive a fair share of attention, as coming from you, a professed Botanist.


[page] 107

[…] To test the hypothesis that bright seeds attract birds which thus help in their wide dispersal, he recommended Darwin to pass some through a fowl. Darwin thereupon experimented with seeds of

the Mimoseous tree, of which the pods open and wind spirally outwards and display a lining like yellow silk studded with these crimson seeds, and look gorgeous.

But he was disappointed.

I gave two seeds to a confounded old cock, but his gizzard ground them up….. Please Mr. Deputy Wriggler explain to me why these seeds and pods hang long and look gorgeous, if Birds only grind up the seeds, for I do not suppose they can be covered with any pulp. [10 December 1866]


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But though he doubted whether the post, with all its distractions from research, was one for the most scientific men of the day to aspire to, he had to yield to the insistence of all

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the botanists he respected, and on March 14, 'in a state of deep dejection,' bids Darwin pity him. 'However, in for a penny,' in for a pound, and if I am in good health and keep a so at the time, I will do my very best.'

The matter that most interested him at this time outside his own work, was Darwin's 'Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication' (published January 30, 1868) with the speculation 'which will be called a mad dream,' [to Asa Gray, 16 October 1867] said its author, of Pangenesis. Several letters bear on this.

To Charles Darwin

March 20, 1867.

I am dying to understand Pangenesis, that haunts me at night. Huxley told me that he had referred you to something of the kind in Bonnet. I cannot conceive a Pangenesis without a correlative Panexodus (the Great God Pan is not dead yet, that's clear). What I mean is this, that if every previous attribute (infinitely subdivided) of all its ancestors exists in an organism, any of these may come out (turn up) in its progeny—but I suspect I am talking nonsense to you. I was so long blind to the force of the derivative hypothesis, that I always feel too inclined to take your views au coup de (I forget what; I am coaching up French, hard, for Paris Exposition).

Darwin answered that Pangenesis by no means implied that every previous attribute of all the ancestors exists in an organism, 'but I fear my dear Pang. will appear bosh to all you Sceptics.' [21 March 1867]

Until the middle of November, Darwin was very busy with proofs of the book, and Hooker, knowing this, abstained from writing; but after the book appeared, he wrote at some



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One of Darwin's characteristic faculties, as Sir James Paget put it, was this power of utilising the waste materials of other men's laboratories.


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The letters that follow are concerned with the attack made on Darwin by Mr. St. George Mivart1 openly in his 'Genesis of Species' and anonymously, but from internal evidence indubitably, in the Quarterly Review. The reply made by Huxley in the Contemporary Review for November 1871 (see 'Collected Essays' ii. 120) under the title of 'Mr. Darwin's Critics,' was one of the most deadly in the history of controversy. Mivart, inter alia, had attempted to show that evolution, properly garnished with limitations as to man acceptable to the priesthood, had been accepted in advance by the Fathers of the Roman Church. Turning up the authorities quoted, Huxley found the precise opposite stated, and with delicious irony was able to pose as the defender of Catholic orthodoxy against a heterodox son of the Church, while combating his philosophy and psychology. At the same time he was full of cold anger against the man who was writing privately to express his friendship for Darwin, yet, as the anonymous Quarterly Reviewer, treated Mr. Darwin in a manner 'alike unjust and unbecoming,' sneering at his candour and the mutually generous relations between him and Wallace over the enunciation of Natural Selection.

Writing to Mrs. Darwin on September 16, apropos of her daughter's marriage to Mr. Litchfield, Hooker also refers to the impending reply.

I had not seen the marriage in the paper—I hope all passed off with the least possible 'putting about.' I am accused of once having uttered the horrid sentiment, that I would rather go to two burials than one marriage, any day.

I heard from Mr. Huxley yesterday—threatening to 'pin out' Mr. Mivart, for his insolent attack on Mr. Darwin,


1 St. George Jackson Mivart (1827-1900), F.L.S. 1862, See. 1874-80, F.R.S. […]

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and adding that he was reading up Suarez and the Jesuit Fathers and found that Mivart either misquoted or misunderstood him, and he (H.) proposed to vindicate the Catholic Fathers! What an irony his life is becoming. I call him a 'Polemician.' [15 September 1871]


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To the Same [Darwin]

June 18, 1881.

I quite understand your misery at finding yourself where you have 'all play' offered you, and no work to fall back

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upon.'1 I should be as bad, but then I know not the condition. When I go away I have work that I can always take with me, official and other: and my misery is the lots accumulating at home. I cannot tell you how I long to throw off the trammels of official life and do like Bentham.


1 Charles Darwin was staying at Patterdale, and had written despondently, 'I have not the heart or strength to begin any investigation lasting years, which is the only thing which I enjoy, and I have no little jobs which I can do.' (June 15.)

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[…] Two months later died Darwin's elder brother, Erasmus, a man whose intellectual gifts and great personal charm were, owing to ill health, only known within the circle of his immediate friends and relations.


[page] 259

But a heavier loss was soon to follow. On April 19, 1882, died Charles Darwin, the friend of forty years, in science the ally and inspirer, in personal affection and intimate sympathy the closest of his circle. Hooker's sorrow and weariness were broken in upon by the request for an obituary notice to appear in Nature. Happily he was spared this task to which he felt sadly unequal.

Kew: April 21, 1882.

Dear Huxley,— Romanes, after asking me to write the notice of Darwin for Nature, now telegraphs that you had, unknown to him, been asked by the Sub-editor to undertake it, and had accepted. I am right glad of it, as I am utterly unhinged and unfit for work and am not feeling well in my præcordia, and have not been for some time—pray say nothng of this, but I sometimes fear I shall have to seek rest if I would not that it were found for me. Nothing but the feeling that I was shrinking from duty induced me to assent to Romanes's request. If I can help you with any notice of Darwin's early life I will come over to you on Sunday.

Up to the time of his going to Cambridge, though he had flirted a little with Nat. Hist., he had no notion of pursuing it, and had devoted himself to fox-hunting and partridges. I did not feel our loss yesterday, but to-day I am depressed terribly, and a touching letter from Mrs. Darwin quite upset me.

I have heard nothing about the Abbey, though Spottiswoode promised to telegraph the answer to me. I have no fancy for the bitter taste of these ceremonials.—Ever, dear old boy, yours,

J. D. Hooker.

Kew: April 24, 1882.

Dear Huxley,—It is well indeed that I turned Darwin over to you—the only idea I had parallel to yours was a comparison with Faraday. I have sent your eloquent and most impressive eloge on to Keltie,1 with a note to send proof to you.


1 Dr. John Scott Keltie (1840) was for some years sub-editor of Nature, becoming in 1885 Librarian, and 1892-1915 Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society.

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You are right; it is too soon for any sort of biographical notice of life or works. As for myself, I have had a ten days' bout of my Anginie pains, night and day, and am in a state of nervous worry, with Bentham failing fast (82) and pressing the Genera Plantarum on me, and no end of work in the Garden. In short I have my warning note struck.

On the 26th Darwin was buried in Westminster Abbey. Hooker was one of the pall-bearers.

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Citation: John van Wyhe, ed. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (

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