From J. D. Hooker 4 February 1867
Kew Feby 4/67. Dear Darwin
How gets on the book?.1 I send a number of the Nation, with an article on Popular Lectures &c that seems to me remarkably good. I wonder how Agassiz likes it!—2 A. Gray3 sends me the paper regularly.
I yesterday declined the invitation to be President of Brit: Assoc: at Norwich in 1868 with much pain at having to refuse so very flattering an invitation so very kindly conveyed;4 but the fact is that I have an insuperable aversion to high places. the acceptance would have been bad dreams in anticipation for 18 months, & a downright surgical operation at the end of it!— I believe I inherit this from my father,5 who never would put himself forward, or be put forward, & I am sure it paid in the end. I was also actuated by the fact that I can see no way to a good “Address”— I played out my Trump card at Nottingham, knowing that if I were called to be President (which I had already good reason to expect) & accepted, I was throwing away my best chance of success.6 Lastly it would stand terribly in the way of my work—both Genera Plantarum, & Insular Botany.7 Here above is a pretty dose of Egotism even from one friend to another
I am reprinting the Lecture in same type but other form for distribution—8 the only thing I do not like & could not conscientiously consult you about, was the passage about “a Wise Providence ordering &c &c” or something of that sort. (I forget the words, it matters little)9
It is bosh & unscientific, but I could not resist the opportunity of turning the tables of Providence over those who think & argue the contrary of its intentions—& showing those who will have a Providence in the affair, that your’s is the God one, theirs the Devils. I always felt, that if I had to print the Lecture, I should wish these passages cut out, but that this would be dishonest—so it even went forth in G. C. & now will further
What do you say to Owen’s assuring me that Mammals bones, (Deer) are found in bogs in Mauritius.10 he told me this himself.
Grove told me, at an excellent Phil. Club meeting, that Owen in his Dodo-paper, has taken again to himself the credit of continuity theory, & of showing the futility of the Type theory—11 I wish Grove would pitch into him.
Bentham is doing Umbelliferæ for Gen. Plant, & finds that the two remarkable Umbelliferous genera of Madeira, Monizia & Melanoselinum, are only species of Thapsia, a Mediterranean genus, of most remarkable & exceptional habit.12 Now this is one of those cases of genera confined to the Island being then created out of a continental form; the genus I suspect; not having ever existed on the continent. It appears to me that it will always be difficult to say whether a genus that has continental allies, is an Insular development, or an old now extinct continental genus. & the utter want of fixed system upon which genera are & must always be formed will always throw insuperable obstacles in the way of this enquiry— it is easy enough with regard to the Laurels & other things having no continental affinities.13
I dined at Murchisons14 on Saturday, for the first time, for many years. What a charming host he makes at a small table.
I heard very poor accounts of H. Wedgwoods15 health how is this?
The frost has done us a power of damage16
My wife sends her kind love to Mrs Darwin—& yourself— I took her just now to the Drawing room for the first time17
Ever yrs Aff | J D Hooker
Have you read the Duke’s “Reign of Law”, & if so is it worth reading?18
What I mean about Providence is this— I think & believe that all reasoning upon the subject is utterly futile—that there is no such thing in a scientific sense—but that whereas those who deal in it, hold that the theory of fixed types & creations is the only one consonant with a belief in a Providence I hold, that they are wrong & that the theory of continuity & variation is the only one consonant with the belief
Has declined Presidency of BAAS.
Relation of insular and continental genera will always be difficult problem.
On Providence and the "continuity theory".
- affinity and analogy
- creationism, religion
- higher groupings (‘family’, ‘class’, ‘order’ etc)
- isolation, islands
- theory (including philosophy)
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5390,” accessed on 23 October 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-5390