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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   29 [May 1854]1

Down Farnborough Kent


My dear Hooker

I had intended writing to tell you not to write, as I could not have the courage to leave home so soon as the next Hort. Meeting;2 but I am glad I did not as I thus got your nice little note. I am really truly sorry to hear about your stomach. I entreat you to write down your own case,—symptoms—& habits of life, & then consider your case as that of stranger; & I put it to you, whether common sense wd. not order you to take more regular exercise & work your Brain less.— (N.B. take a cold bath & walk before breakfast.) I am certain in the long run you would not lose time. Till you have a thoroughily bad stomach, you will not know the really great evil of it, morally physically & every way. Do reflect & act resolutely. Remember your troubled heart-action formerly plainly told how your constitution was tried.3 But I will say no more, excepting that a man is mad to risk health, on which everything—including his childrens inherited health, depends.—4 Do not hate me for this lecture.—

Really I am not surprised at you having some headache after Thursday evening, for it must have been no small exertion making an abstract of all that was said after dinner.5 Your being so engaged was a bore for there were several things that I shd. have liked to have talked over with you. It was certainly, a first-rate dinner & I enjoyed it extremely, far more than I expected. Very far from disagreeing with me, my London visits have just lately taken to suit my stomach admirably;—I begin to think, that dissipation, high-living, with lots of claret is what I want, & what I had during the last visit.— We are going to act on this same principle & in a very profligate manner have just taken a pair of Season-tickets to see the Queen open the Crystal Palace.6 How I wish there was any chance of your being there. The last grand thing we were at together answered, I am sure, very well, & that was the Duke’s Funeral.7

Have you seen Forbes’ introduct. lecture in the Scotsman8 (lent me by Horner) it is really admirably done, though without anything, perhaps, very original, which could hardly be expected: it has given me even a higher opinion than I before had, of the variety & polish of his intellect. It is, indeed, an irreparable loss to London Nat. History Society. I wish, however, he would not praise so much that old brown, dry stick Jameson.9 Altogether to my taste it is much the best introductory lecture I have ever read.— I hear his Anniversary Address is very good.—10 Next year we really must go to Chiswick together.—11 But this reminds me of what you said about changing your house;—an evil & trouble for which I condole with you. I cannot think what you will do, if you get any Lectureship at Kew. When you have any definite news, please let me hear.—12 You seem to be much on the move for the next few weeks.— I heartily wish for the Hitcham affair to be over.13 Adios, my dear Hooker; do be wise & good & be careful of your stomach, within which, as I know full well, lie intellect, conscience, temper & the affections.—

Farewell | C. Darwin


Dated on the basis of CD’s reference to having attended a meeting of the Philosophical Club of the Royal Society (see n. 5, below).
The Royal Horticultural Society was due to hold its second annual exhibition of fruit and flowers at the society’s premises in Turnham Green, Chiswick, on 3 June 1854 (Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, no. 22, 3 June 1854, p. 359).
See Correspondence vol. 4, letter from J. D. Hooker, 20 February – 16 [March] 1848, in which Hooker expressed his fear that he may have a heart complaint. CD refers to his own regime of an early cold bath and a walk before breakfast which he followed after being treated at J. M. Gully’s hydropathic establishment in Malvern (LL 1: 112).
This was a subject which greatly interested CD. He had carefully studied, for example, Henry Holland’s writings ‘On hereditary disease’ in H. Holland 1839; the work, in the Darwin Library–CUL, is heavily annotated.
A meeting of the Philosophical Club of the Royal Society had been held on Thursday evening, 25 May. This was CD’s first attendance. It was apparently Hooker’s duty as treasurer of the club to take the minutes.
CD’s Account book (Down House MS) records the purchase on 28 May 1854 of season tickets for the Crystal Palace at a total cost of £3 16s. The ceremony officially opening the Crystal Palace at its new location at Sydenham, Kent, took place on 10 June 1854. Emma Darwin noted the opening in her diary on this date, and it is to this occasion that Henrietta Litchfield referred when she wrote of her mother: ‘one of the very few times in my life that I saw her lose her self-control was when Clara Novello sang the solo verse of God Save the Queen at the opening of the Crystal Palace. My mother broke down then and sobbed audibly. The scene was extraordinarily impressive—the standing crowd, the Queen and Prince Albert present, and the wonderful volume of the rich soprano voice … filling the enormous building.’ (Emma Darwin (1915) 1: 271).
The Duke of Wellington’s funeral, 18 November 1852.
Edward Forbes’s inaugural lecture as professor of natural history at Edinburgh, published in the Scotsman, 17 May 1854.
Forbes succeeded Robert Jameson, who had held the Regius professorship from 1804 until his death on 19 April 1854. CD’s opinion of Jameson as a dull lecturer stemmed from his undergraduate days at Edinburgh (see Autobiography, p. 52).
Forbes’s anniversary address as president of the Geological Society, 17 February 1854. See letter to Charles Lyell, 18 February [1854], n. 9.
The gardens of the Royal Horticultural Society were located in Turnham Green, Chiswick, just outside London. CD’s reference is probably intended to include the Duke of Devonshire’s famous gardens in Chiswick, part of which was leased to the Royal Horticultural Society.
Hooker’s prospects for a professional post were uncertain. His Admiralty grant for completing the botany of the Antarctic voyage, and one from the Department of woods and forests for arranging his Indian collection, were drawing to an end. Possibilities for a lectureship and for an assistantship at Kew were being explored. Only in May 1855 did his father succeed in obtaining an appointment for him as assistant director of the garden (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 351–2). For Hooker’s immediate predicament in having to move house, see letter from J. D. Hooker, 25 August 1854 and n. 20.
Hooker’s wife was expecting their second child; she had gone to Hitcham to be with her parents for her confinement, which took place on 23 June.


Autobiography: The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882. With original omissions restored. Edited with appendix and notes by Nora Barlow. London: Collins. 1958.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Emma Darwin (1915): Emma Darwin: a century of family letters, 1792–1896. Edited by Henrietta Litchfield. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1915.

Holland, Henry. 1839. Medical notes and reflections. London.

LL: The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter. Edited by Francis Darwin. 3 vols. London: John Murray. 1887–8.


CD "lectures" JDH on taking care of his health.

CD’s pleasure in London trip.

CD and Emma have taken season tickets to Crystal Palace.

Edward Forbes’s "Introductory Lecture" is the best CD ever read.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 122
Physical description
ALS 9pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1575,” accessed on 27 May 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 5