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Darwin Correspondence Project


To J. D. Hooker   27 October [1872]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Oct. 27

My dear Hooker

I thank you much for your answers; & now I want to beg one other address, if you know it, viz Mrs. Barber somewhere in S. Africa: she gave me information on Expression: write address on Post card, & if I do not hear, I shall understand you do not know it.—2

Your letter printed in Nature seems to me excellent & how you could have written so quietly is wonderful to me.—3 Owen’s conduct makes me grind my teeth: I long to meet him to have the pleasure of cutting him dead.

Did mortal man ever read such a sentence as the last: it is quite unintelligible, except that it implies a base insinuation against you, that you have defrauded the Government.4 It makes it, if possible, worse coming from him, who notoriously did so little public work at the College of Surgeons.—5 What an utter blackguard he is.—

Yours affectionately | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, 26 October 1872.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, 26 October 1872. Mary Elizabeth Barber had responded to CD’s queries on expression, but her responses had been sent by James Philip Mansel Weale (see Correspondence vol. 15, letter from M. E. Barber, [after February 1867] and n. 4). Barber’s name is on CD’s presentation list for Expression (see Appendix V).
Hooker’s letter was his reply of 6 August 1872 to a report by Richard Owen addressed to Acton Smee Ayrton concerning the management and control of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (for the text of the report, dated 16 May 1872, see Parliamentary Papers 1872 (335) XLVII.527, pp. 169–75). The reply had been printed by order of the House of Commons (Parliamentary Papers 1872 (427) XLVII.707) and reprinted in Nature, 24 October 1872, pp. 516–17.
In his report, Owen had argued that the herbarium at Kew was an ‘additional establishment for the same end as the Botanical Department of the British Museum’ and that it would be cost effective to transfer its collections to the new Museum of Natural History. Owen concluded (Parliamentary Papers 1872 (335) XLVII.527, p. 175): To the extent or proportion in which the Director’s time has been diverted from the immediate aims of the Royal Gardens to this foundation of his scientific fame, the proportion of his salary of 800 l. per annum must also be placed to the credit of the superaddition of the dead plants to “the Botanical Department under the Board of Works,” competing with the “Botanical Department under the Trustees of the British Museum.” Hooker quoted this sentence, with minor changes in punctuation, in full in his letter of 6 August 1872, published in Nature, 24 October 1872, pp. 516–17. See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 4 August [1872] and n. 4.
Owen was Hunterian Professor of comparative anatomy and physiology at the Royal College of Surgeons from 1836 and curator of the Hunterian Museum from 1842 until 1856 (ODNB). For a discussion of Owen’s work at the museum, see Rupke 1994, pp. 12–29.


Asks for address of a Mrs Barber somewhere in South Africa.

JDH’s letter in Nature [6 (1872): 516–17] is excellent, and wonderfully quiet.

Severely criticises Owen’s conduct.

Letter details

Letter no.
Darwin, C. R.
Hooker, J. D.
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 94: 235–6
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8579,” accessed on 24 October 2016,