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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   20 June 1875


June 20/75.

Dear Old Darwin

I have been back just a month1 & never yet written to you often as I have taken up my pen for the purpose.—but I have been overwhelmed with work & family matters, visitors & visiting, & it was only last week that Dyer’s appointment came—for which by the way I feel wholly indebted to Farrer & this through your instrumentality.2 Now I am inducting him into Office, & I hope that all will go smooth, as I see great relief in view.—

I wish that I could come down on Saturday, but it is impossible. I have so many engagements. If I could get down & back on Sunday perhaps I might.3

I had a pleasant little tour with Strachey to the Pyrenees, picked Harriet up at Paris & so home.4 She is really remarkably well, not robust but in good health— How she is to stand the wear & tear of this House & Household is not clear to me.— the visitors are dreadful— we are never alone.— My Aunt Mrs Turner of Liverpool is staying with us, & her daughter, a contemporary & great friend of Harriets & this is an immense comfort— Hodgson (of Darjeeling quondam) & his wife are also staying with us.5

Maximovicz.6 the best Russian botanist who spent many years in Japan Mongolia &c is here, a very nice fellow indeed: if he should stay over Sunday might I bring him to Abinger?..

I want to have a talk with you about Insectivora if you are not disgusted with them— I must set some experiments agoing7

I have a wonderful trap door spider in the bark of a S. African tree!— he occupies a nidus that fills a deep fissure in the bark longitudinal & is wholly undistinguishable from the bark— Murray suggests that this nidus is the old Cocoon of a Bombyx!— the trap door is entirely similar to that of the Mentone sorts & he holds it down the same way.8

I am indeed glad that your Insectivorous book is off your hands.9

Bentham & I are now printing another part of “Genera Plantarum”.10

I hope that some of your boys will be at the R. S. Reception on Wednesday.— we issue very few invitations, not 150 in all.—11

Ever yr affec | J D Hooker


Hooker had travelled to Algeria in mid-April, stopping in Paris (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 15 April 1875, and L. Huxley ed. 1918, 2: 198).
William Turner Thiselton-Dyer had been appointed assistant director at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Thomas Henry Farrer had supported Hooker’s application for an assistant at CD’s request (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 14 January 1875 and nn. 2 and 3).
CD had invited Hooker to visit him at Abinger Hall (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 19 June [1875] and n. 3).
Harriet Anne Hooker had evidently travelled to Paris directly from Algeria while Hooker and Richard Strachey returned via the Pyrenees.
Hooker’s aunt Ophelia Turner and her daughter Effie Elizabeth Turner lived with Hooker until 1876 (see Allan 1967, pp. 225–7). Hooker also refers to Brian Houghton Hodgson and Susan Hodgson.
Carl Johann Maximowicz.
Hooker evidently intended to refer to insectivorous plants, not the former order of insect-eating mammals, Insectivora. Hooker had worked on Nepenthes, the genus of tropical pitcher-plants, in 1874; see Hooker 1874a.
The first formal description of an African tree trapdoor spider was made by Octavius Pickard-Cambridge, who named the genus Moggridgea in honour of John Traherne Moggridge (see O. Pickard-Cambridge 1875, p. 318). Moggridge’s book Harvesting ants and trap-door spiders (Moggridge 1873) had been praised by both CD and Hooker (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 21, letter from J. D. Hooker, 20 February 1873). Moggridge had described trapdoor spiders found near Mentone, where he always spent the winter. Contrary to Andrew Murray’s suggestion, the silk in the structure built by tree trapdoor spiders is produced by the spider itself (see O. Pickard-Cambridge 1875, p. 321; see also Dippenaar-Schoeman 2002, p. 84). Bombyx is a genus of silk-moths.
Insectivorous plants was published on 2 July 1875 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
The second part of vol. 2 of Genera plantarum (Bentham and Hooker 1862–83) was published in May 1876 (Publishers’ circular, 1 June 1876, p. 416). The first part of vol. 2 had been published in 1873.
It is not known whether any of CD’s sons attended the Royal Society of London reception on 23 June 1875. Hooker was president of the society.


Allan, Mea. 1967. The Hookers of Kew, 1785–1911. London: Michael Joseph.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Dippenaar-Schoeman, A. S. 2002. Baboon and trapdoor spiders of southern Africa: an identification manual. Plant Protection Research Institute Handbook no. 13. Pretoria: Agricultural Research Council.

Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

Moggridge, John Traherne. 1873. Harvesting ants and trap-door spiders: notes and observations on their habits and dwellings. London: L. Reeve & Co.

Pickard-Cambridge, Octavius. 1875. On a new genus and species of trap-door spider from South Africa. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 4th ser. 16: 317–22.


Thiselton-Dyer’s appointment has come.

Wants to discuss insectivorous plants and get some experiments going.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 104: 30–2
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10025,” accessed on 28 May 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23