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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   3 February 1849


Feby 3d. 1849.

Dear Darwin

I left no room in my last for a gossip with you & indeed on reading it over, it appears an infliction even too severe for an intimate friend.

On my return I received your’s of Oct. 6th. for which very many thanks. how sorry I am to hear of your illness;—as for me I am in robust health & boisterous spirits—never was so well in my life—& could spare you a little too:—would willingly were there a means— You are kind & considerate about my correspondence, & I will only ask one thing, that you do not destroy those containing speculations! or make a note of those you think may be of future use—for I give in some letters (as in the long one accompaning this) observations on points the tenor of which I may forget; though I log all facts I seldom venture to speculate, except in letters to friends & my spects. are very transient— after we have talked over each at Down they may all go into the fire—& before it, if you think proper. I quite forgot to congratulate Lyell on his K.2 pray do so warmly & sincerely & Mrs Lyell too who sans doute cares [more] most about it.

The pamphlets from Hodgson3 went by the October mail I hope & a yarn about species from me. You will write H. a tiny acknowledgement I am sure. What on earth have Barnacles to do with ornamental poultry!—?4 except possibly “mediante” the old fable of the geese.5

I am vastly amused with your not recognizing the author of the cattle hunt in Ross Voy—I was petted with Ross about the way he was humbugging the ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ contribution & would not give my name6 which I should not tell you of now, were I not lately smashed in the Ath.,7 as I am given to understand: very deservedly I dare say; for the ath. is a very good reviewer & the letters in question were never intended for publication— I have this day received the “letters” but not seen the Ath. the former are puerile & flippant.— I fear between my Father with his dislocated arm & my Mother nursing poor Bessy8 they were sent to press in a heap— I was alarmed from the moment I heard they had gone to print. Whoever reads them will I should think see this & at any rate it is so “far a cry to Loch Awe”9 that I do not care a rush about the matter,10 & shall never take the trouble to enquire about the author of the Review.

For my Father’s sake I am very sorry, for he feels it I think deeply, & for his sake I should like to reestablish my credit— Now if there be any thing in my letters to yourself or Lyell which, as concerning what at present ranks as the highest Mt. in the world, the readers of the Ath. would care to peruse, you would do my Father a great pleasure by extracting it & sending it to the Athen., but do not do it as my suggestion, or still less as my communication to the Ath., for I scorn to curry favor with any Periodical whatever, & were it not for the gratification it will give my Father I should never have wished you to consider the propriety of this.—11 I have had my share of flattery & undeserved credit—my position in Scientific society I very much owe to his deserved esteem & popularity, & I should not & will not growl at my share of kicks & cuffs.— Here too I am in the way of establishing a credit for Industry & careful collection of valuable facts, if I can only stick to my work, & that’s the best character a traveller can bear, who is not blessed with Humboldts powers.—12

The supplemental males of Barnacles are really wonderful, though the supplemental males in the Bhothea families (a wife may have 10 husbands by Law) have rather distracted my attention of late from cirripedes & from our old lucubrations—

Do my dear Darwin take a fools advice & drop the battle about perpetuity of names,13 you have far better work in hand, right or wrong it is a teazed & teazing point, so closely touching the honor of some, the pride of many & the conflicting interests of all, that you will get into hot water. Naturalists are of the genus irritabili— we have associated amongst the exceptions chiefly: but the swarm of snobs with various qualifications & claims for fame & who seek fame alone is still very great & by Jove old Darwin they will be down on you like Sikhs if you do not look out & you will be tormented with letters if nothing else. I see the force of your arguments—nine tenths of the mineralogists are nobodies, & their minerals are hardly worth names at all— As generally pursued it does not rank above “Shell worship”, as Conchology stands— In connexion with the chemical & other changes the mother rock has undergone & its relation to Geology, specific mineralogy would be a charming study—so Humboldt applied it & in this bearing Henslow views it—& so have you to good purpose. As to Chemists their specific names are as hard to keep as their gasses. if they do not vanish in time they explode on the bursting of their theories & nomenclatures. If the Quarterly is right,14 & I hardly can understand it & so I suppose must be all our time spent in Chemical schooling is thrown away, & I remember nothing but the bottles of my old Laboratory likely to prove of use in the new, certainly the books names & combinations have all gone to be reorganized in space, or elsewhere. So I never now bother about specific names & do earnestly hope you will not.

What has come over Falconer I cannot conceive: he has not answered me one of my many letters this 6 months, & it was only yesterday, Colevile wrote to me, saying that he felt obliged to relinquish the Presd. Chair,15 that he sent a request to F. to aid him as a Vice & got for answer that he would not, but was about to renew the (10 months old) discussion about an irregularity (established by long usage,) in electing Honorary Members— A more perfectly gentlemanly man than Colevile cannot be. The point in question every one has given up & the future elections are as he knows full well to be carried on selon regle. The point was a most trumpery one (shewing of hands instead of ballotting) & how Falconer can behave so passes my comprehension. A few disagreeable mischief making fellows are his partizans. With F. I have dropped the subject, after speaking my mind fully & freely; which he took no way amiss, if I may so interpret the most friendly continuance of a correspondence, which on his part never alludes to the contents of my letters or answers a question I put him, however important.

I find from my Father that he pays punctual attention to my many troublesome requests— Now he is gone to Moulmain to report on the Teak Timber, & a no-body put in charge of the garden— as I said his last letter dates more than 6 months ago, I think. I have not told my Father of all this as it would vex him,16 & do no good, & except to Lyell—pray do not allude to it. Everyone says he is spoiled by attention in England & presuming upon it. I still stick up for him & Coleville has most kindly overlooked his former rudeness on my representations: but this outburst passes bearing I fear, & without a word from himself or in his own justification, I have not a leg to stand upon as his defender. I am deeply grieved about it: for people in India are, as he ought to know, not to be snubbed in that manner. and a more welcome reception no man received on his return from leave.

I never thought more of you than amongst the Snowy passes, where the rarified air affects me at rather low elevations; sometimes I go on retching for hours & what with headache & its concomitant sensations I doubt if I ever could reach 18000 ft. perhaps not 16000—for at 15000 I was so prostrated that I would not have gone 1000 more to solve the coal mystery.17 The Headaches do not go off for hours after returning to Camp & quiet & I sit rocking myself on the ground in my Tent in real pain, till I fall back asleep, & very hungry I awake.

I have heaps more to tell you but have been writing now 4 days uninterruptedly & very poor stuff it all is

Ever yours affectionately | Jos D Hooker.


The address was added to the letter in pencil by Hooker.
Charles Lyell had been knighted on 19 September 1848.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 6 October [1848], in which CD said he had begun corresponding with Edmund Saul Dixon on the topic of ornamental poultry.
Medieval naturalists believed the barnacle (originally bernacle or barnack) goose, a winter visitor to Britain whose eggs could not be found, developed from species of Lepas; thus it was that the stalked Lepadidae, and subsequently other cirripedes, came to be called barnacles.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 6 October [1848], n. 10. The words ‘I was petted … name’ were added in the margin with the intended position marked by an asterisk in the text.
Extracts from Hooker’s letters home were published in J. D. Hooker 1848d. The Athenæum, no. 1095, 21 October 1848, pp. 1049–50, contains a review of part one of the publication and comments that the voyage described is ‘about as interesting as a voyage to Gravesend would be’.
Elizabeth Hooker, who was often ill during these years (Allan 1967, pp. 106–8, 180).
Walter Scott, A legend of Montrose (1819), ch. 12: This menace was received with a scornful laugh, while one of the Campbell’s replied, “It is a far cry to Lochow,” a proverbial expression of the tribe, meaning that their ancient hereditary domains lay beyond the reach of an invading army.
‘Something of no value or importance, esp. in negative phrases as not to care a rush, not worth a rush’ (OED).
Neither CD nor Lyell sent any extracts of Hooker’s letters to the Athenæum, but there was a more favourable account of Hooker’s travels, accompanied by a long extract from a letter of his to William Jackson Hooker, dated 25 July 1849, in Athenæum, no. 1146, 13 October 1849, pp. 1039–40.
Alexander von Humboldt had supported Hooker’s efforts to get a grant to travel to India (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 218). Before Hooker sailed, Humboldt wrote him a long letter full of instructions about the kind of observations Hooker could make in the Himalayas (Allan 1967, p. 168). Most of Humboldt’s letter is printed in the London Journal of Botany (1847) 6: 604–7.
Hooker refers to a review of ‘Modern Chemistry’ in Quarterly Review 83 (1848): 37–70, in which it is said that chemical knowledge had developed so rapidly that writings only thirty years old were now ‘utterly out of date and useless’ (p. 38). The author was Henry Holland (Wellesley Index 1: 731).
James William Colvile was president of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. Hugh Falconer’s behaviour and his differences with the Asiatic Society were earlier commented on in the letter from J. D. Hooker, 13 October 1848.
Since 1841, when Kew Gardens came under the Department of Woods and Forests, W. J. Hooker had negotiated an unwritten policy that the Kew director should be closely involved with the funding, staffing, and research of the colonial botanic gardens, and that certain privileges should be granted to these semi-official botanists, such as free postage and ocean travel. As time went on, Kew virtually ran colonial gardens like those at Saharanpur and Calcutta where Falconer was stationed (Brockway 1979, pp. 83–6). Evidently any social misdemeanours of Falconer would reflect badly on Kew and jeopardise W. J. Hooker’s influence on government bodies.
In a letter to W. J. Hooker, Hooker stated ‘above 15,000 feet … I am a “gone coon,” my head rings with acute headache and feels as if bound in a vice, my temples throb at every step and I retch with sea-sickness’ (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 300).


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

Brockway, Lucile H. 1979. Science and colonial expansion. The role of the British Royal Botanic Gardens. New York: Academic Press.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.


Continues prior letter of this date. Has received CD’s [1202]. Thanks CD for saving his correspondence.

Sent "a yarn about species" in October mail.

Some "puerile" JDH letters printed in Athenæum.

Requests CD extract anything valuable from his letters to CD and Lyell for Athenæum.

CD’s complemental males in barnacles wonderful.

Warns CD to drop his battle about perpetuity of names in species descriptions.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (India letters 1847–51: 136–7 JDH/1/10)
Physical description
ALS 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1220,” accessed on 30 November 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 4