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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   21 [May 1856]1

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Hooker

I have got the Lectures & have read them. The Lectures strike me as very clever. Though I believe, as far as my knowledge goes that Huxley is right, yet I think his tone very much too vehement, & I have ventured to say so in a note to Huxley.—2 I had not thought of these Lectures in relation to the Athenæum, but I am inclined quite to agree with you & that we had better pause before anything is said.3 It might be urged as a real objection the way our friend falls foul of every one (N.B I found Falconer very indignant at the manner in which Huxley treated Cuvier in his R. Inn. Lecture;4 & I have gently told Huxley so.) I think we had better do nothing, to try in earnest to get a great Naturalist into Athenæum & fail, is far worse than doing nothing—

How strange, funny & disgraceful that nearly all—(Faraday, Sir J. Herschel at least exceptions) our great men are in quarrels in couplets; it never struck me before.—

I hope to meet you at Club.—5 When there, tell me whether Leptospermum & Stylidum are confined to southern Australia, or are they, also, Tropical? Can you lend me paper on crossing of Fucus?6

Ever yours | C. Darwin

Also can you tell me whether the fossil Casuarina & Banksia of Flinders Isd. can be recognised as distinct species.—7


Dated by the reference to Hugh Falconer’s reaction to T. H. Huxley 1856a (see n. 4, below).
CD’s note has not been found. He refers to the first two lectures given by Thomas Henry Huxley in his series ‘Lectures on general natural history’, published in the Medical Times & Gazette (T. H. Huxley 1856–7). The first two lectures, printed in issues dated 3 May and 17 May 1856, deliberately attacked Richard Owen’s definition of life (Medical Times & Gazette 12 (1856): 430), Owen’s apparent lack of reference to embryology (p. 432), his work on parthenogenesis (p. 482), and his classification scheme (p. 484).
Huxley was not proposed for election to the Athenæum Club in 1856 but was elected in 1858 under Rule 2, which provided for the election of persons distinguished in the arts, science, or letters independently of the normal balloting by the membership (L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 150).
Huxley had attacked Georges Cuvier’s principle of the correlation or coadaptation of organs in T. H. Huxley 1856a. Hugh Falconer later criticised Huxley for his attack in the June issue of the Annals and Magazine of Natural History (Falconer 1856). See letter to J. D. Hooker, 17–18 [June 1856].
The Philosophical Club of the Royal Society. CD was in London to attend the meeting of the council of the Royal Society on Thursday, 30 May 1856 (Royal Society council minutes). The Philosophical Club usually met once a month on Thursdays (Bonney 1919).
Thuret 1854–5. Gustave Adolphe Thuret was well known for his researches on the reproduction of algae and had, in this paper, identified both spores and antherozoids in Fucus, thereby showing that sexual reproduction took place in seaweeds. See Farley 1982, pp. 64–5.
On the back of a note headed ‘Hooker. Notes on N. Zealand Flora *In conversation May 1856 [added pencil]’, CD wrote: ‘The Casuarinæ are quite [above del’very‘] absent in N. Zealand & makes another strong case like Eucalyptus. There are 2 (but distinct species) of Proteaceæ in N. Zealand; no Banksia; but yet Tert. deposit, From Flinders islds. there is a Casuarina & Banksia, showing that probably these forms anciently in Australia.—’ ink (MS inserted in CD’s copy of the introductory essay of J. D. Hooker 1853–5 in the Darwin Library–CUL).


Bonney, T. G. 1919. Annals of the Philosophical Club of the Royal Society written from its minute books. London: Macmillan.

Falconer, Hugh. 1856. On Prof. Huxley’s attempted refutation of Cuvier’s laws of correlation, in the reconstruction of extinct vertebrate forms. Annals and Magazine of Natural History n.s. 17: 476–93.

Farley, John. 1982. Gametes & spores: ideas about sexual reproduction, 1750–1914. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1853–5. Flora Novæ-Zelandiæ. 2 vols. Pt 2 of The botany of the Antarctic voyage of HM discovery ships Erebus and Terror, in the years 1839–1843, under the command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross. London: Lovell Reeve.

Huxley, Thomas Henry. 1856–7. Lectures on general natural history. Medical Times & Gazette n.s. 12: 429–32, 481–4, 507–11, 563–7, 618–23; 13: 27–30, 131–4, 157–60, 278–81, 383–6, 462–3, 537–8, 586–8, 635–9; 14: 133–5, 181–3, 255-7, 353–5, 505–8, 638–40; 15: 159–62, 186–9, 238–41, 467-71.

Thuret, Gustave Adolphe. 1854–5. Recherches sur la fecondation des Fucacées, suivies d’observations sur les anthéridies des Algues. Annales des sciences naturelles (botanique) 4th ser. 2: 197–214; 3: 5–28.


Huxley’s "vehement" [Royal Institution?] Lectures make it difficult to propose him for Athenaeum.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 163
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1876,” accessed on 7 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6