From J. D. Hooker 20 May 1868
Dear old Darwin
What an age it is since we have corresponded,—I hope I have written since my little trip to Wales with Huxley, which was perfect— Since then I have been for 3 days to see my sister in Torquay, & nowhere else. at Torquay I had a good lecture on “Kent’s hole” from Pengelly, who does it thoroughly well.1
My time has been actively employed in garden duties, out of doors & indoors, with an occasional diversion at your volumes & Lyell’s last2 You greatly underrate the interest of your’s, it is capital reading, putting aside all question of it’s matter, which will, if foreigners deign to read it at all, do you more credit in their eyes than all your other works put together. (I have not read of it). Bentham has, & now I think, unreservedly, acknowledged himself a convert to Darwinism!3 this I quite expected, would be the case with many: a few will still hold back & flaunt the “rag of protection” till your next part appears, holding that cultivation is no argument,—when,—the said rag, being worn back to the rope, & no longer visible, they will gracefully haul it down—4
It is so long since we have corresponded, that I do not know what the deuce to write about!— We are all pretty well: my wife expects her confinement in 10 days, & is as miserable as usual, with Heart-burn, dyspepsia, palpitation & every imaginable minor evil of the coming event. Charlie has had measles lightly, at school— The Governess & children go to Eastbourne in a day or two.5
Andrew Murrays 2d & 3d parts are better than the first. How do you like Wallace’s paper?6 the more I read the more struck I am with the great ability of the man.
I have finished the Reign of Law with utter disgust—& uncontrollable indignation;—considering his birth education & position, I regard him as lower than Owen—7 his suppressed sneers at you are of a far lower order of sneer than the malicious sneers of Owen. I like a man to sneer at me out of malice & envy—but can not stand a man’s sneering at me from a top of a high Horse— The preliminary reasoning on the principles of flight appear to me radically unsound. The idea of God being compelled to dab in rudimentary organs to keep up appearances! as it were, is very droll.8 The little man writes extremely well, & expresses himself with admirable facility— in fact he has a fatal facility for handling things he does not fully understand, & which he has not the time, & probably not the power to grasp the principles of.
Lyell’s vol II. is I think a wonderful book, better than all subsequent Editions to Ed. 1. put together— What do you think of it? I have not had time to read all of it—yet.
I have skimmed over Smyth’s anniversary Geological address, with great admiration— I like both tone & manner, & the way that modest able man keeps himself & his own views & works in the background, is quite worthy of all praise.9
I have a disagreeable task in reporting on a paper of Tristram’s for R.S., which appears to be simply trash— it is an attempt to shew that the few tropical plants of the “Ghor” (Dead Sea valley) are the remains of a Miocene Flora! that has survived all subsequent geological &c changes—as Forbes W. Ireland plant survived the destruction of the Atlantis!—a more impotent production I never perused.10 I like Tristram personally & think him a most meritorious Naturalist
I am used up, & have nothing more to say— I feel my barrenness of scientific matter to communicate creeping over me every day now—& the tide of scientific literature is already up to my knees. The time was when I had now & then something to communicate that you cared to know— that is all changed now, & I feel very low at times about it.— I begin to despair of doing any-thing—even at Insular Flora again, wherein I see that I could still do much.11 perhaps when this Norwich meeting is over I shall feel more at ease. I would give 100 gs. that it were over, even with a failure a fiasco or worse. The address is nowhere yet & I look on its prospect with a loathing that cannot be uttered.12 Tomorrow I go to see Fergusson to encourage him about his prospective Lecture at the meeting!—13 God pity us both—the “blind leading the blind”— I shall have to play the hypocrite with a vengeance—
Ever yr affec | J D Hooker
Trip with Huxley was perfect.
At Torquay later he had a lecture on "Kent’s hole" from Joseph Pengelly.
George Bentham acknowledges himself unreservedly a convert to Darwinism. Many will still cling to a "rag of protection, but will eventually haul it down".
A. Murray’s later parts better than first [? Geographical distribution of mammals (1866)].
Wallace’s paper shows great ability.
Disgusted with [Duke of Argyll’s] Reign of law.
His depression and exhaustion.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6189,” accessed on 24 February 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-6189