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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [10 February 1845]

Down near Bromley | Kent


My dear Hooker

I am much obliged for your very agreeable letter; it was very goodnatured, in the midst of your scientific & theatrical dissipation, to think of writing so long a letter to me. I am astonished at your news & I must condole with you in your present view of the Professorship,1 & most heartily deplore it on my own account. There is something so chilling in a separation of so many hundred miles, though we did not see much of each other when nearer.— You will hardly believe how deeply I regret for myself your present prospects— I had looked forward to seeing much of each other during our lives. It is a heavy disappointment; & in a mere selfish point of view, as aiding me in my work, your loss is indeed irreparable.— But on the other hand, I cannot doubt that you take at present a desponding, instead of bright view of your prospects: Surely there are great advantages, as well as disadvantages. The place is one of eminence; & really it appears to me there are so many indifferent workers & so few readers, that it is a high advantage, in a purely scientific point of view, for a good worker to hold a position, which leads others to attend to his work.— I forget whether you attended Edinburgh, as a student,2 but in my time, there was a knot of men who were far from being the indifferent & dull listeners which you expect for your audience.3 Reflect what a satisfaction & honour it would be to make a good Botanist—with your disposition you will be to many, what Henslow was at Cambridge to me & others, a most kind friend & guide.

Then what a fine garden, & how good a Public Library; why Forbes4 always regrets the advantages of Edinburgh for work; think of the inestimable advantage of getting, within a short walk, of those noble rocks, & hills & sandy-shores near Edinburgh. Indeed I cannot pity you much, though I pity myself exceedingly in your loss.— Surely lecturing will in a year or too, with your great capacity for work (whatever you may be pleased to say to the contrary) become easy & you will have a fair time for your Antarctic Flora & general views of distribution. If I thought your Professorship would stop your work, I shd wish it & all the good worldly consequences at el Diavolo: I know I shall live to see you the first authority in Europe on that grand subject, that almost key-stone of the laws of creation, Geographical Distribution.— Well there is one comfort, you will be at Kew, no doubt every year.—so I shall finish, by forcing down your throat my sincere congratulations.

Thanks for all your news— I grieve to hear Humboldt is failing;5 one cannot help feeling, though unrightly, that such an end is humiliating: even when I saw him he talked beyond all reason.— If you see him again, pray give him my most respectful & kind compliments, & say that I never forget that my whole course of life is due to having read & reread as a Youth his Personal Narrative.6 How true & pleasing are all your remarks on his kindness: think how many opportunities you will have, in your new place, of being a Humboldt to others. Ask him about the river in NE Europe, with the Flora very different on its opposite banks.—7 I have got & read your Wilkes.—8 what a feeble book in matter & style, & how splendidly got up. Shall I return it, (with your Sandwich Lists, which have interested me much; ah what labour) to Sir William.—

Do write me a line from Berlin—also thanks for the proof sheets; I did, not, however, mean proof-Plates: I value them, as saving me copying extracts.—

Farewell, my dear Hooker, with a heavy heart, I wish you joy of your prospects. | Your sincere friend | C. Darwin


Hooker’s ‘agreeable letter’ has not been found. Hooker had been invited to teach at Edinburgh University during the spring of 1845 as substitute for the ailing professor of botany, Robert Graham, and was plainly Graham’s choice as successor (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [23] March 1845).
Hooker had studied for his medical degree at Glasgow, where his father, William Jackson Hooker, had been professor of botany.
For CD’s time at Edinburgh see Autobiography, pp. 46–53, and Correspondence vol. 1.
Edward Forbes, previously at Edinburgh University, but at this time living and working in London.
Hooker met Alexander von Humboldt in Paris shortly after his arrival there on 30 January (Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 179).
Humboldt 1814–29. See Autobiography, pp. 67–8.
The Obi in Siberia, see letter to J. D. Hooker, [10–11 November 1844], n. 7, and letter from J. D. Hooker, [late February 1845].
Wilkes 1845.


Congratulates JDH and condoles with him on possible position at Edinburgh. Although CD will miss him bitterly, he encourages JDH to view it as a good opportunity.

Sorry to hear that Humboldt is failing.

Letter details

Letter no.
Darwin, C. R.
Hooker, J. D.
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 27
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 826,” accessed on 26 February 2017,