From J. D. Hooker [26 February 1854]
My dear Darwin
Now that my book has been publicly acknowledged to be of some value, I feel bold to write to you; for to tell you the truth I have never been without a misgiving that the dedication might prove a very bad compliment however kindly I knew you wd receive it.—1 The idea of the dedication has been present to me from a very early date— it was formed during the Antarctic voyage, out of love for your own “Journal”—2 & has never deserted me since, nor would it I think had I never known more of you than by report & as the author of the said Naturalists Journal. Short of the gratification I felt in getting the book out, I know no greater than your kind hearty acceptation of the dedication, & had the reviewers gibbeted me, the dedication would alone have given me real pain. I have no wish to assume a stoical indifference to public opinion, for I am well alive to it, & the critics might have irritated me sorely, but they could never have caused me the regret that the association of your name with a bad book of mine would have.
You will laugh when I tell you, that my book out, I feel past the meridian of life!—but you do not know how from my earliest childhood I nourished & cherished the desire to make a creditable Journey in a new country, & with such a respectable amount of its natural features, as should give me a niche amongst the scientific explorers of the globe I inhabit, & hand my name down as a useful contributor of original matter. A combination of most rare advantages has enabled me to gain as much of my object as contents me, for I never wished to be greatest amongst you, nor did rivalry ever enter my thoughts. No ulterior object has ever been present to me in this pursuit, my ambition is fully gratified by the satisfactory completion of my task, & I am now happy to go on jog-trot at Botany till the end of my days—down hill in one sense all the way— I shall never have such another object to work for, nor shall I feel the want of it— what marriage or the first-child is to most men, this my book is to me, & though I have never attached the same importance to it as I have to wife & child, of kind degree or any thing else; in short though the journey & book are chaff compared to my two belongings, still in so far as the latter have been after thoughts & did not divert me from the former, their arrival did not mark the era in my life—that this has. In one point of view there is something intensely selfish in all this, & all I can say in justification is, that had I to begin life again, with such a wife in view, the case would be widely different: & neither journey nor book would ever have appeared. As it is the craving of 30 years is satisfied & I now look back on life in a way I never could previously, there never was a past hitherto to me, the phantom was always in view,—may-hap it is only a “ridiculus mus”3 after all, but it is big enough for me.
And now for the wife about whom you will like much better to hear— She is very well indeed lately;4 we spent yesterday afternoon at the Horner’s, visiting the Zoolog. Gardens, & not getting back here till dark, so that she had fully 4 or 5 miles walk & is rather tired today but none the worse. I was greatly pleased with Lyells letter from Madeira, how does it agree with you?— I do not see why he should insist upon very gentle slopes only for Lava to flow on,5 so much must depend on its Sp. Grav. fluidity heat—, homogeneity & plasticity
Henslow comes up this week for a day & brings Louisa6 to stay with us.
What do you think of the Executive Council of V. D Land7 voting me £350 in acknowledgement of my past & coming services to Tasmanian Botany, with the request that I will send them 6 copies of Flora Tasmaniæ, when published,8 & put the rest in my pocket (fully £280) I do not know a soul on the Council, nor ever had direct or indirect communication with them— transportation is certainly a capital system!—9
Murray has sold off all the “travels”—but I have not heard any-thing about the profits yet.10
With united regards | Yours | J. D Hooker
Is relieved his book [Himalayan journals] has been well received and glad he has successfully completed it.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1557,” accessed on 26 February 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-1557