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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   1 March [1854]

Down Farnborough Kent

March 1st

My dear Hooker

I finished yesterday evening the first volume,1 & I very sincerely congratulate you on having produced a first-class book,—a book which certainly will last. I cannot doubt that it will take its place as a standard, not so much because it contains real solid matter, but that it gives a picture of the whole country,—one can feel that one has seen it (& desperately uncomfortable I felt in going over some of the Bridges, & steep slopes) & one realises all the great Physical features. You have in truth reason to be proud: consider how few Travellers there have been with a profound knowledge of one subject, & who could in addition make a map (which by the way is one of the most distinct ones, I ever looked at, wherefore blessings alight on your head) & study geology & meterelology! I thought I knew you very well, but I had not the least idea that your Travels were your Hobby, but I am heartily glad of it, for I feel sure that the time will never come, when you & Mrs Hooker will not be proud to look back at the labour bestowed on these beautiful volumes. Your letter, received this morning has interested me extremely, & I thank you sincerely for telling me your old thoughts & aspirations.— All that you say makes me even more deeply gratified by the Dedication; but you bad man, do you remember asking me how I thought Lyell would like the work to be dedicated to him? I remember how strongly I answered & I presume you wanted to know what I should feel: who ever would have dreamed of you being so crafty ? I am glad you have shown a little bit of ambition about your Journal, for you must know, that I have often abused you for not caring more about Fame, though, at the same time, I must confess, I have envied & honoured you for being so free (too free as I have always thought) of this “last infirmity of &c.”2 Do not say “there never was a past hitherto to me,—the phantom was always in view”, for you will soon find other phantoms in view. How well I know this feeling & did formerly still more vividly; but I think my stomach has much deadened my former, pure, enthusiasm for science & knowledge.

I am writing an unconscionably long letter, but I must return to the Journals, about which I have hardly said anything in detail— Imprimis the illustrations & maps appear to me the best I have ever seen;3 the style seems to me everywhere perfectly clear (how rare a virtue) & some passages really eloquent. How excellently you have described the upper valleys, & how detestable their climate, I felt quite anxious on the slopes of Kinchin, that dreadful snowy night.—4 Nothing has astonished me more than your Physical strength; & oh those devilish Bridges;5 well thank goodness it is not very likely that I shall ever go to the Himmalaya. Much in a scientific point of view has interested me,—especially all about those wonderful moraines.6 I certainly think I quite realise the valleys,—more vividly perhaps from having seen the valleys of Tahiti; I cannot doubt that the Himmalaya, owe almost all their contour to running water & that they have been subjected to such action longer than any mountains, (as yet described) in the world.— What a contrast with the Andes! Perhaps you would like to hear the very little that I can say per contra, & this only applies to the beginning, in which (as it struck me) there was not flow enough till you got to Mirzapore on the Ganges, (but the Thugs were most interesting)7 where the stream seemed to carry you on more equably with longer sentences & longer facts & discussions &c.— In another Edition (& I am delighted to hear that Murray8 has sold all off) I would consider whether this part could not be condensed. Even if the Metereology was put in Foot-notes, I think it would be an improvement. All the world is against me, but it makes me very unhappy to see the Latin names all in Italics & all mingled with English names in Roman type, but I must bear this burden; for all men of Science seem to think it would corrupt the Latin to dress it in the same type as poor old English.

Well I am very proud of my Book; but there is one bore, that I do not much like asking people whether they have seen it & how they like it, for I feel so much identified with it, that such questions become rather personal. Hence I cannot tell you the opinion of others. You will have seen a fairly good review in Athenæum.9

What capital news from Tasmania:10 it really is a very remarkable & creditable fact to the Colony: I am always building veritable castles-in the air about emigrating, & Tasmania has been my head quarters of late, so that I feel very proud of my adopted country; it is really a very singular & delightful fact, contrasted with the slight appreciation of science in the Old Country.

I thank you heartily for your letter this morning, & for all the gratification your Dedication has given me; I could not help thinking how much Murchison would despise you for not having dedicated it to some great man, who could have done you & it some good in the eyes of the world.11 Ah my dear Hooker you were very soft on this head, & justify what I say about not caring enough for your own Fame. I wish I was in every way more worthy of your good opinion.

Farewell, how pleasantly Mrs Hooker & you must rest from one of your many labours. We are very glad to hear such a good account of her;—but to walk so many hours,—is not a scolding wanted on two heads?

Again farewell— I have written a wonderfully long letter. Adios, & God Bless you | My dear Hooker | Ever yours | C. Darwin

I see you allude to Lyells letter which interested me a good deal, but I confess I do not as yet see that he has made out any great feature in the Geology of the Island.12 The inclination of the lava-beds, I believe, refers exclusively to E. de Beaumonts data.

Sulivan has command of the Lightning, for the Surveying department of the Baltic Fleet.13

I have just looked over my rambling letter; I see that I have not at all expressed my strong admiration at the amount of scientific work, in so many branches, which you effected. It is really grand. You have a right to rest on your oars; or even to say, if it so pleases you, that “your Meridian is passed”; but well assured do I feel that the day of your reputation & general recognition has only just begun to dawn.—


J. D. Hooker 1854a.
John Milton, Lycidas, lines 70–3: Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise (That last infirmity of noble mind) To scorn delights, and live laborious days
The maps were from surveys made by Hooker chiefly with his own instruments, and the other illustrations were prepared from his own drawings (J. D. Hooker 1854a, 1: xvii).
Hooker had ascended Mon Lepcha, one of the lower peaks of Kinchinjunga, to a height of 13,000 ft, where he camped for several days. During that time, he and his party of Lepchas only just survived a dangerously heavy snowstorm, graphically described in J. D. Hooker 1854a, 1: 350–7.
‘In these bridges, the principal chains are clamped to rocks on either shore, and the suspended loops occur at intervals of eight to ten feet; the single sal-plank laid on these loops swings terrifically, and the handrails not being four feet high, the sense of insecurity is very great.’ (J. D. Hooker 1854a, 1: 199).
Hooker described the giant moraines and the complicated sequence of deposits in the Yangma valley in J. D. Hooker 1854a, 1: 231–5. He believed these, and other similar beds of debris, were the residues of the former activity of glaciers and glacial lakes. This suggested that a glacial ocean had once stood ‘high on the Himalaya’ (p. 232), a view that CD would have found appealing.
‘One of an association of professional robbers and murderers in India, who strangled their victims’ (OED). In March 1848, Hooker had met a Lieutenant Ward in Mirzapore, possibly David Ward, a second lieutenant in the Bengal Engineers and one of the officials involved with the British suppression of ‘Thuggee’, and had been taken to see a Thug prisoner. Hooker described the activities of Thugs in J. D. Hooker 1854a, 1: 65–70.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, [26 February 1854].
A favourable review of J. D. Hooker 1854a was published in the Athenæum, no. 1374, 25 February 1854, pp. 237–9.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, [26 February 1854].
Roderick Impey Murchison was known to be ‘not insensible to the advantages of aristocratic friends and royal favour’ (DNB).
CD refers to Charles Lyell’s letter to Leonard Horner dated January 1854 from Madeira (see letter to Charles Lyell, 18 February [1854], n. 2, and letter from J. D. Hooker, [26 February 1854], n. 5).
Bartholomew James Sulivan had requested a return to active naval service at the outset of war with Russia in 1853 and was eventually appointed to a steam-powered surveying ship, the Lightning, which saw active service in the Baltic. Sulivan sailed on 25 March 1854 (Sulivan ed. 1896, p. 126).


Thanks JDH for dedication of Himalayan journals. CD praises the work and suggests stylistic revisions.

Lyell’s remarks on lava beds in letter from Madeira are not original – they refer exclusively to Élie de Beaumont’s data.

Letter details

Letter no.
Darwin, C. R.
Hooker, J. D.
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 118
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1556,” accessed on 21 January 2017,