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Darwin Correspondence Project


From J. D. Hooker   [24 May 1863]1



Dr. Darwin

I was aware how poorly you must be on receiving the sad case & Abbeville paper, for both of which much thanks.2 No one yet knows who wrote said Case— Busk & Egerton both deny it.3 Wm. Gourlay F.L.S. is the man you ask about,4 a most estimable fellow who did great good in Glasgow all ways, & died awfully of Fungus hæmatodes in the face! a dreadful death, & rapid.

I twice took Clianthus, to look at it, but had no time, & so sent it to you— not doubting that you would explain it readily & rightly, & that if I tried I should make a bungle of it.5

Thanks for your exposition of your Island views.6 I think I understand them precisely— my difficulty in accepting them arises from the want of apparent accordance between the plants common to Isld & continent, & what I should have expected to be common. In other words migration inadequate to explain the presence of what is common to both, & the absence of what is absent in one. I am far from believing in ancient connection, all I hold is that in the present state of science it is to me the least difficult hypothesis—though a very bad one.7 Cameroons Mts have much shaken my faith in our having any clue to ancient or modern migration as yet—8 We want some new hypothesis, as novel as Nat. Selection, or Glacial Cold, & as stupendous as continental connection.

I do hope Godman & Salvin will stick to Gallapagos—9 my fear is that G., a fine looking young man of means, will be bagged by some pretty girl before a year is over.

I had a preliminary talk with F. the other evening about a reconciliation with Lyell.10 of course he was not ready yet, that I expected but I thought right to broach the subject before he was ready—it will probably be months yet. Poor Lyell seems perdu, no one sees him in London, & I am told by one that met him at Osborne, that he button-holes you about F.—as Wheatstone used about Brewster.11

I am going to re-read Wallaces book.12 I do not remember that it interested me at all when it appeared. I wonder that Wallace does not fructify as Bates does.13 Dr Gray is really not malignant, Owen is,—Gray has all the attributes of malignancy except malignance—14 there then!—or rather, he talks like a malignant man without feeling in the least malignant.— I never knew Gray to do an action that sprung from an unkind motive or feeling. he abounds in all the active attributes of unkindness & malignancy without being either in heart.

I will get the Anthropolical.15 I shall be intensely interested in your opinion of Benthams Address16   It is neither judicial nor argumentative, only intended to show his opinion of the position of your hypothesis in regard to its acceptance, its influence & its future prospects, on scientific research— he has taken immense pains with it— of course he does not appreciate half your stand-points.

What a mess Falc. Busk, Carpenter & Prestwich have made of it!17 We had a “field night” at the Club last Thursday, & trotted them all out.18 I cannot but think that Prestwich’s position is most awkward— he had just claimed from Lyell the lion’s share of authority in such matters & forthwith breaks down on a practical question.19 I regard the position of all 4 as humiliating. Falconer is of his original opinion saving solely that no fraud was played, (how he reconciles this to his facts I cannot conceive). Busk believes a little more than F.— Carpenter more than either, & P. is ready to believe any thing!20 Falc. assured us that his whole conversation with Lartet in the train from Paris to Moulin Quignon was, how so to word the Report as to give least umbrage to France’s susceptibility!21 Lubbock tells me he is going next week to see for himself.22

My wife’s knee is bad again but better— we go to the Nightingales for 3 days this week, & to Bury-hill next for as long or longer—23 I do hate these sort of visits, but one has no business to cut old & kind friends, & certainly trotting about agrees with my wife, & it is very nice to see how people like her— How people with disagreeable wives can visit is a most fearful & wonderful thing.

I saw Huxley on Thursday looking quite well— his wife & children are at Felixstow.24

Palmerston has given my brother in Law Leonard a living of £600 & good house in Suffolk, near Halesworth.— his wife has had a very bad confinement indeed.25

I fancy I can feel the bad influence of Yankee affairs on A Gray’s ordinary correspondence:26 it makes him very bumptious scientifically!

I send you Nægeli’s paper & I pity you,27 but you are a hard headed man:—these subjects & papers floor me.— Please send it back when done with as it is Library copy

I will remember the 2-formed stamen plant (Lagerstroemia) when it flowers—28

I am glad that Lubbock is going to Abbeville— that young man wants advice— he is living too hard, a great deal, what with business Society & science—29 I feel very strongly attached to him indeed. I think him the most faultless character I know, who is at the same time one of the best & most active & clever. Thank God there are some men worth living for, but really when one peeps beyond the immediate circle of ones friends one gets disgusted & disquited altogether.

Ever your affecte grumbler | J D Hooker

CD annotations

End of letter ‘Kinglake | Nageli | Broom’30 pencil


The date is established by the reference to the meeting of the Philosophical Club of the Royal Society on 21 May 1863 (see n. 18, below); the following Sunday was 24 May.
The references are to Anon. 1863a (see Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix VIII), and to an unidentified article on the human jawbone and artefacts found at Moulin-Quignon near Abbeville, France (see n. 17, below). On CD’s illness, see the letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 and 22 May [1863] and n. 7. CD apparently sent these papers on to Hooker before completing his letter to Hooker of 15 and 22 May [1863].
George Busk and Philip de Malpas Grey-Egerton. See letters from J. D. Hooker, [7 May 1863] and [13 May 1863], and Appendix VIII.
The reference is to the Scottish botanist William Gourlie. CD must have asked about Gourlie in a missing letter, possibly in a note accompanying the articles he had recently sent Hooker (see n. 2, above).
Hooker had sent CD a flower of the legume Clianthus dampieri so that he could examine its pollination mechanism (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [13 May 1863], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 and 22 May [1863]).
See letter from J. D. Hooker, [13 May 1863] and n. 20, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 and 22 May [1863].
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 and 22 May [1863]. To account for the present distribution of animals and plants, Hooker was favourably disposed to explanations invoking the former existence of land-bridges, whereas CD had long been critical of land-bridge theories, preferring explanations based on trans-oceanic migration (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 6, letter from J. D. Hooker, 4 August 1856, Correspondence vol. 9, letter to J. D. Hooker, 28 [December 1861], Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, [30 December 1861 or 6 January 1862] and n. 7, and this volume, letter from J. D. Hooker, [13 May 1863]).
Hooker had been working on a collection of plants from the Cameroons Mountains, which extend from the mainland of west Africa to the coastal island of Fernando Po (J. D. Hooker 1863b). Hooker eventually concluded that the presence of European genera in the region’s flora could be explained by two hypotheses, first, CD’s theory that temperate plants had migrated to tropical regions during a global glacial period, and second, the transport of seeds by winds and birds (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [7 May 1863] and n. 11).
Frederick Du Cane Godman and Osbert Salvin had proposed making a collecting trip to the Galápagos Islands (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [8 May 1863]). CD had written to encourage them (see letter to Osbert Salvin, 11 [May 1863]).
Hugh Falconer and Charles Lyell had been involved in a public dispute since the beginning of April 1863 (see letter to Charles Lyell, [7 May 1863] and n. 5). Hooker was encouraging them to resolve their differences (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [13 May 1863]).
Lyell was staying at Osborne House, East Cowes, Isle of Wight, in early May 1863 (K. M. Lyell ed. 1881, 2: 366–72). Hooker also apparently refers to the antagonism nurtured by Charles Wheatstone towards David Brewster following their public dispute over the priority of invention of the stereoscope, conducted in the correspondence columns of The Times in 1856 (see Wade ed. 1983, pp. 2, 171–83).
Wallace 1853.
The reference is to Alfred Russel Wallace and Henry Walter Bates, both of whom had published books on their travels to Amazonian South America (Wallace 1853 and Bates 1863); CD considered Wallace’s book to be inferior to Bates’s as a work of natural history (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 and 22 May [1863]).
John Edward Gray and Richard Owen; CD had called Gray a ‘malignant fool’ in his letter to Hooker of 15 and 22 May [1863].
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 and 22 May [1863] and n. 12. Hooker refers to the first number of the Anthropological Review, published in May 1863.
Hooker refers to George Bentham’s forthcoming anniversary address as president of the Linnean Society, which was to be delivered on 25 May 1863 (Bentham 1863). Bentham had evidently discussed his address, which assessed the impact of Origin on ‘the science of life’, with Hooker (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [13 May 1863]).
Falconer, George Busk, William Benjamin Carpenter, and Joseph Prestwich were the British members of the Anglo-French conference held at Paris and Abbeville to consider the authenticity of the flint tools and human jawbone discovered by the archaeologist Jacques Boucher de Perthes in the Moulin-Quignon gravel pit near Abbeville, France, in March 1863 (Athenæum, 23 May 1863, p. 682). See also letter from J. D. Hooker, [7 May 1863] and n. 5.
Hooker refers to the meeting of the Philosophical Club of the Royal Society, which took place once a month at 5 P.M. before the society meeting (Bonney 1919, p. 2). Falconer and Prestwich are recorded as having spoken at the May meeting, which Bonney dates 28 May (Bonney 1919, pp. 162–4), apparently in mistake for 21 May, the date of the society meeting (Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 12: 567).
During April and May 1863, Falconer had been pressing the claims of Prestwich as the foremost authority on the archaeological evidence for human antiquity, in opposition to the claims to authority he alleged had been made by Lyell in Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863a; see letter to Charles Lyell, [7 May 1863], nn. 5 and 6). Hooker probably refers to Prestwich’s equivocation regarding the authenticity of the Moulin-Quignon jawbone and the associated handaxes (Bonney 1919, p. 164). See also Prestwich’s summary of his findings in the Athenæum, 13 June 1863, pp. 779–80.
Carpenter and, initially, Falconer had lent their support to claims for the authenticity of the jaw found at Moulin-Quignon (see Falconer 1868, 2: 602, and Athenæum, 18 April 1863, p. 523). However, on closer examination of a molar belonging to the jaw, Falconer pronounced the find to be spurious (see Athenæum, 2 May 1863, p. 587, and letter from Hugh Falconer, 24 April [1863]). See nn. 17 and 19, above. Falconer and Busk finally concluded that the account of the jaw’s discovery was authentic, but that the jaw was modern and not contemporaneous with the deposit in which it was found (Falconer et al. 1863, p. 462).
The palaeontologist Edouard Lartet had acted as an intermediary between the British and French palaeontologists concerning the authenticity of the Moulin-Quignon jaw, and was a member of the conference that took place in Abbeville and Paris between 9 and 13 May 1863 (Falconer et al. 1863). Opinions on the authenticity of the remains had divided along Anglo-French lines (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [7 May 1863] and n. 5).
John Lubbock’s visit to the gravel pit at Moulin-Quignon was reported in the Athenæum, 6 June 1863, p. 748.
Lea Hurst, near Matlock, Derbyshire, was the home of William Edward Nightingale, Florence Nightingale’s father (DNB). Bury Hill, near Dorking, Surrey, was the home of Arthur Kett Barclay (Survey gazetteer of the British Isles; Post Office directory of the six home counties 1862).
Hooker refers to Thomas Henry Huxley and his wife Henrietta Anne. Felixstowe, Suffolk, was a popular seaside resort (Walton 1983, pp. 57 and 187).
Hooker refers to Frances Harriet Hooker’s brother Leonard Ramsay Henslow and his wife Susan Henslow. Henslow was appointed rector of St Mary Magdalene, Pulham, south Norfolk, by the prime minister, Henry John Temple, 3d Viscount Palmerston (Alum. Cantab.). The parish is nine miles north-west of Halesworth in north Suffolk.
Asa Gray continued to correspond with Hooker throughout the American Civil War (1861–5), but because of Hooker’s lack of sympathy for the Union cause, they had agreed to stop discussing politics (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter from J. D. Hooker, [29 December 1861], and Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, [19 January 1862]).
The reference is to the first part of Nägeli 1858–68. CD wished to consult the work for information on phyllotaxy (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 and 22 May [1863]).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 and 22 May [1863] and n. 13.
Lubbock, aged 29, helped to manage the family banking business, Robarts Lubbock and Co., and took an active part in the scientific community (DNB).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 29 May [1863].


Flora of Cameroons shakes JDH’s faith in ability to explain past or present migrations. Sees need for a major novel explanation such as natural selection, glacial cold, or continental connections.

Lyell in a bad way about feud with Falconer.

JDH’s opinion of Wallace, Bates, J. E. Gray, Owen, Asa Gray, Lubbock, and Bentham.

Bentham’s Linnean Society address [see 4118].

Letter details

Letter no.
Hooker, J. D.
Darwin, C. R.
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 143–6
Physical description
8pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4169,” accessed on 28 August 2016,