skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   20 June 1876

Nuneham Park, Abingdon. | Address Kew.

June 20/76.

Dear Darwin

Mrs Lyell has asked me to help her with an inscription for Lyell’s slab in Westminster Abbey.—such as Stanley may approve.— (I have fainted away twice)—

She sends me two, neither of which I like, I enclose them.1 I have asked for some days to consider, & the longer I do so the more awful the task appears

How would it do to suggest something of this sort.

“His long life was devoted to searching for Truths & to reasoning on their Teachings; & he gave to the Public the results of his labour in a memorable work of enduring scientific value”

“The Principles of Geology”2

I am on two days visit to a place I had not seen since I was here with Fanny Henslow in 1847!. I cannot tell you how depressed I feel at times. She, you, & Oxford are burnt into my memory.3

Harriet went through the honor of the R. S. Conversazione admirably, but was quite knocked up, & is tired out ever since.4 I left her at Sir G. MacLeay’s5 yesterday, & came on here for two days, I return to Kew tomorrow, but leave again soon, as I have promised to join the Cotswold field club next week.6

Vigner has separated the digestive principle from Nepenthes & proved it’s properties!.7 He finds Lawson Tait all wrong.8 I now want him to find out whether this principle is poured into the pitcher before animal matter is put into it.—

Ever aff yrs | Jos D Hooker


Charles Lyell died in 1875. Katherine Murray Lyell was his sister-in-law. Arthur Penrhyn Stanley was dean of Westminster. The enclosures were not included with the letter but were sent later; see letters to J. D. Hooker, 21 June [1876] and 22 June [1876].
Lyell’s Principles of geology was first published between 1830 and 1833 (C. Lyell 1830–3), and went through many editions. CD read the volumes on the Beagle voyage as they were published (see Correspondence vol. 1).
CD and Hooker had visited Nuneham Park, a country house near Oxford, with John Stevens Henslow and his family while at the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Oxford in 1847 (Correspondence vol. 4, letter to J. S. Henslow, 6 May 1849 and n. 3). Frances Harriet Hooker, Hooker’s first wife, was John Stevens Henslow’s daughter; she died in 1874.
Harriet Anne Hooker was Hooker’s eldest daughter. The conversazione was held on 14 June 1876 (Conversazione programme, Royal Society archives), and was the first Royal Society of London conversazione to which women were invited. The conversazioni were exhibitions of scientific discoveries, artefacts, and art works held at the society’s headquarters in Carlton House Terrace. Inviting women was part of an initiative to hold more events at the Royal Society (Royal Society archives: soirée committee minutes, 1873–1977, CMB/84). For some years, two conversazioni were held a year; with refreshments provided and women invited to the second. Hooker, the president of the society, deplored the holding of ‘more parties’ but did not mind women being invited so long as the invitation list was limited to persons with serious scientific interests or a very close connection to a scientific worker (Royal Society archives: letter from J. D. Hooker, 12 February 1876, MC/10/351).
George Macleay lived at Pendell Court, Bletchingley, Surrey (ODNB s.v. Macleay, Alexander).
Membership of the Cotteswold Naturalists’ Field Club was limited to 100 (Fletcher 1946, p. 8).
Hooker may refer to George William Wigner, a prominent analytic chemist. Hooker had been working on the digestive properties of Nepenthes (the tropical pitcher-plant) on CD’s behalf since 1873 (Correspondence vol. 21, letter from J. D. Hooker, 20 October 1873).
Lawson Tait had tried to isolate substances in the digestive fluids of Nepenthes (see Correspondence vol. 23, letter from Lawson Tait, 16 August 1875); a paper he sent to the Royal Society on the subject had been rejected (this volume, letter to Lawson Tait, 24 April 1876).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Fletcher, Thomas Bainbrigge. 1946. The Cotteswold Naturalists’ Field Club, 1846–1946. Gloucester: J. Bellows.

Lyell, Charles. 1830–3. Principles of geology, being an attempt to explain the former changes of the earth’s surface, by reference to causes now in operation. 3 vols. London: John Murray.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


JDH’s suggested text for Lyell’s tablet in Westminster Abbey.

Vigner[?] separates digestive principle from Nepenthes, disproving R. L. Tait.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 104: 57–8
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10540,” accessed on 28 May 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24