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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   24–5 May [1861]

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

May 24th

My dear Hooker

Thanks for your two notes.1 I am glad that the Burial is over & sincerely sympathise & can most fully understand your feelings at your loss.2 I grieve to think how little I saw of Henslow for many years. With respect to a biography of Henslow, I cannot help feeling rather doubtful, on the principle that a biography could not do him justice. His letters were generally written in a hurry & I fear he did not keep any Journal or Diary. If there were any vivid materials to describe his life as Parish-priest, & manner of managing the poor it would be very good.

I am never very sanguine on literary projects, I cannot help fearing his Life might turn out flat. There can hardly be marked incidents to describe.— I sincerely hope that I take a wrong & gloomy view; but I cannot help fearing. I would rather see no life than one that would interest very few. It will be a pleasure & duty in me to consider what I can recollect; but at present I can think of scarcely anything. The equability & perfection of Henslows whole character, I shd. think would make it very difficult for anyone to pourtray him.— I have been thinking about Henslow all day a good deal; but the more I think the less I can think of to write down. It is quite a new style for me to set about; but I will continue to think what I could say to give any, however imperfect, notion of him in the old Cambridge days.3

Pray give my kindest remembrances to L. Jenyns, who is often associated with my recollection of those old happy days.4 It is really fearful to think of Babington in that Chair.5

With respect to your former note, thank you for telling me about Lyell: it makes me easy about him.6 From what you say about London Review, it will be better to encourage Editor, & I have written to order it for myself.—7 Two of your Himalayan Rhododendrons have flowered; R. formosum (I think) splendid dark crimson & R. Thompsoni(?) more like an Azalea—orange shading into Reddish orange.—8

I have just reread your note: perhaps I am wrong to give my first impression that it would be very difficult to give a good & vivid Biography; & that a flat Biography is a doubtful good. I hope I am wholly wrong; but I thought it best to give my first impression.— I will see what I can do; but it will be miserably poor.—

My dear Hooker | Ever yours | C. Darwin

25th— P.S. Please let me hear, as soon as you have decided anything about the Biography, as I will merely jot down (which I have begun to do) anything which occurs to me, but will not attempt to arrange till I hear. Two or three pages is the utmost which I could do; for I find that my recollections are not defined enough.


Neither of the letters from Hooker has been found.
The funeral of Hooker’s father-in-law, John Stevens Henslow, was held on 22 May 1861. Henslow had died on 16 May. See L. Huxley ed. 1918, 2: 61.
CD did contribute a brief recollection of Henslow to the memoir edited by Henslow’s brother-in-law Leonard Jenyns. See Jenyns ed. 1862, pp. 51–5; Collected papers 2: 72–4 (see also Correspondence vol. 9, Appendix X).
CD and Jenyns had occasionally gone on entomological excursions together while CD was a student in Cambridge. After CD’s return from the Beagle voyage, which Jenyns had himself considered undertaking and then declined, Jenyns agreed to describe the fresh-water fish CD had collected (Fish). See Correspondence vols. 1 and 2, and Autobiography, pp. 66–7.
Charles Cardale Babington succeeded Henslow as professor of botany at Cambridge University.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 18 [May 1861]. The London Review and Weekly Journal of Politics, Literature, Art and Science, edited by Charles Mackay, began publication in July 1860.
Hooker had collected many species of Rhododendron during his expedition to the Himalayas, 1848–50. His work entitled The rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya (Hooker 1849) widened the interest of horticulturalists in using rhododendrons as garden plants. Hooker is credited with introducing the plant to Great Britain for widespread cultivation (Turrill 1963). Hooker named R. thomsonii after his friend Thomas Thomson, the co-author of the Flora Indica (Hooker and Thomson 1855).


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

Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

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

Fish: Pt IV of The zoology of the voyage of HMS Beagle. By Leonard Jenyns. Edited and superintended by Charles Darwin. London. 1840–2. [Vols. 2,3,4,9]

Turrill, William Bertram. 1963. Joseph Dalton Hooker. Botanist, explorer, and administrator. London: Thomas Nelson and Sons.


CD’s doubts on biography of Henslow. Writing recollections of Cambridge days at JDH’s request.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 101
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3155,” accessed on 17 May 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9