skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [1 March 1863]1



Dear Darwin

You will be glad to know that Lubbocks lecture was a complete success, & quite admirable I thought—2 I never before recognized any satisfactory evidence of a probably distinct Stone, Iron & Bronze age. Lubbock put it all in the most satisfactory light that the subject admitted of, with excellent skill and judgement.—3 (I wish he had written the chapters thereon in Lyell’s book.).4

I have pretty nearly got through my Examination week’s work & shall resume Lyell at once—5

Many thanks for A Grays letter—6 I am always glad to see them, he never alludes to politics or “Darwinism” in his letters to me.7 the War has made him very bumptious in many ways I fear.— & I often think that one of the worst effects of a war is the acerbation of feelings that it brings about. It certainly seems wonderfully to have dwarfed Gray’s intellect— how he can so utterly misconceive the respective positions and attitudes of England & America is inconceivable to me, but it is impossible to undeceive him,—to attempt it would madden him.— His account of his “young Rothricks propensities is sickening,—“wd make wounds rather than tend them”!8

Rolleston’s letter will please Lyell & I was glad to see it.9 R. is a great favorite amongst the orthodox in Oxford, & is perhaps Owen’s most formidable enemy, socially certainly he is so

P.S. I have progressed through Lyells Glacial Chapters, & can quite see they are far the best in the book & quite excellent.—10 the subject is freely & boldly handled, & bears the stamp of his intellect his Experience & his opinion   he throws himself into the subject—& carries his head erect through it like the Master he is— the wind up about Ramsay is excellent, & struck me as very original & able, but I am not convinced by it. it requires several readings.11

I do wish he could have begun or ended his book with the Glacial discussion & worked down to the recent times— The perplexity of post-pliocenes & post-tertiary is very irritating at the beginning for I must tell him how feeble the Cave, Stone, &c. discussion is, comparatively,12 & how terribly disappointing the termination of the chapters on origin & on Man.—13which I have again read over, though still not with sufficient care. One leaves off absolutely hungry & thirsty for his own imprimatur on the evidence he so glibly adduces & so ably marshals. I think very highly of all the latter part of the book, in every way but this,: & it is the opinion of all I have asked that the want of a summary & authoratative expression of opinion should not have been foregone, & can-not be forgiven— it is an abandonment of Lyells high position,— —he is like a King ducking down behind his throne, when obnoxious nobles crowd & frown. And we who quote him will have this thrown in our teeth ever after— In this Lyell & Stanley are in the same unenviable position, of reticence of their opinions on questions of the gravest import to the progress of Science.14 To me & my papers he has done far more than mere justice—& I feel greatly gratified,15 nay more, touched, by the evident kindly spirit that I can appreciate throughout.

I have a deal more to say, but no time to say it now. Ever yours affec | J D Hooker

Lyell is I suppose with you16   if you the least care to, pray read him the above, I must tell him the same in pretty much the same words. & it is perhaps better that he should hear it in words not written under the vestment of a personal communication—if you do read it, please read this too.


The date is established by the reference to Lubbock 1863d (see n. 2, below), and by the relationship between this letter and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 March [1863]; the preceding Sunday was 1 March.
John Lubbock delivered a lecture on ancient Swiss lake-habitations at the Royal Institution on 27 February 1863 (Lubbock 1863d; see also Correspondence vol. 10, letter from John Lubbock, 23 August 1862).
In his paper, Lubbock argued that the lake-villages belonged to three periods, distinguishable on the basis of the materials from which the tools and other artefacts were made, namely, Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age (Lubbock 1862d, p. 29). Although this three-age system had been accepted by many archaeologists in Scandinavia and other parts of Europe since its invention in 1819, most of the British archaeological community criticised it; Lubbock belonged to a small group of younger geological archaeologists who adopted the system. See Van Riper 1993, pp. 41–2, 193–7.
Charles Lyell discussed the three-age system and the ancient lake-habitations of Switzerland in chapter 2 of Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863a, pp. 8–32).
Hooker served for many years as a scientific examiner for medical officers in the armed services (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 387); he refers to examinations for admission to the Army Medical Service, held at Chelsea Hospital in February 1863 (see Statistical, Sanitary, and Medical Reports 5 (1865): 582–3, and letter from J. D. Hooker, [23 February 1863]). Hooker also refers to C. Lyell 1863a.
CD had apparently sent Hooker Asa Gray’s letter of 9 February 1863; this letter has not been found, but an indication of its contents is given by CD’s reply (letter to Asa Gray, 20 March [1863]), and by the letter to H. W. Bates, 4 March [1863].
Hooker and Gray held radically different views on the American Civil War, and had for some time tacitly agreed not to discuss the matter in their letters (see Correspondence vol. 10, letters from J. D. Hooker, [19 January 1862] and [14 December 1862], and letter from Asa Gray, 18 February 1862).
The reference is to Joseph Trimble Rothrock, who had been a student of and an assistant to Gray at the Lawrence Scientific School, Harvard University, until the summer of 1862, when he enlisted in the Union army (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from Asa Gray, 5 September 1862). The phrase used by Gray in his letter paraphrased a passage from Humphrey Mill’s poem, The Second Part of the Nights Search, which reads: ‘How those make wounds, that should apply the cure’ (H. Mill 1646, p. 161).
In a letter published in the Athenæum on 28 February 1863, p. 297, George Rolleston criticised at length three of the statements made in a letter by Richard Owen that appeared in the Athenæum on 21 February 1863, pp. 262–3. Owen’s letter was a protest concerning the manner in which he felt his long-standing dispute with Thomas Henry Huxley and others, concerning the comparative anatomy of human and simian brains (the so-called ‘hippocampus controversy’), had been misrepresented by Lyell in Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863a); Hooker had been fearful of the effect Owen’s letter would have on Lyell (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [23 February 1863] and n. 3).
In chapters 12–18 of Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863a, pp. 206–368), Lyell discussed recent research on glaciation and outlined a chronology of the Pleistocene glacial period. CD had expressed admiration for the same section of the book in his letter to J. D. Hooker, 24[–5] February [1863].
Hooker refers to Lyell’s critique, in C. Lyell 1863a, pp. 311–19, of Andrew Crombie Ramsay’s attempt to account for the lakes of Europe and North America by reference to the erosive action of glaciers (Ramsay 1862).
In the classification of the fossiliferous strata outlined in the introduction to Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863a, pp. 3–7), Lyell divided the post-Tertiary period into post-Pliocene (or lower post-Pliocene) and Recent (or upper post-Pliocene) divisions. Hooker apparently also refers to the extended discussion of prehistoric human remains, including ossiferous caves and stone implements, in chapters 2–11 of Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863a, pp. 8–205).
Hooker refers to chapters 21 and 24 of Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863a, pp. 407–23 and 471–506), entitled ‘On the origin of species by variation and natural selection’ and ‘Bearing of the doctrine of transmutation on the origin of man, and his place in the creation’, respectively.
The reference is to Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, who was regarded as the leader of a ‘Rationalizing school’ within the Broad Church party in the Church of England (Liddon 1893–7, 3: 334). When the rationalist theological work Essays and reviews was projected in the late 1850s, Stanley declined to be involved with it, leading one historian to refer to the book as ‘Hamlet without the prince’ (Ellis 1980, pp. 11–12). Moreover, Stanley’s review of Essays and reviews ([Stanley] 1861), which was widely expected to be a defence of the beleagured essayists, was ‘painfully ambivalent’ (Ellis 1980, p. 106). For the context of this debate, see Correspondence vol. 9, Appendix VI.
See, for example, the section entitled ‘Dr. Hooker, on the theory of “Creation by variation” as applied to the vegetable kingdom’ (C. Lyell 1863a, pp. 417–21), in which Lyell discussed Hooker’s endorsement of natural selection in his Introductory essay to the flora of Tasmania (J. D. Hooker 1859), stating that ‘no one was better qualified by observation and reflection to give an authoritative opinion on the question, whether the present vegetation of the globe is or is not in accordance with the theory which Mr. Darwin has proposed’ (C. Lyell 1863a, p. 418).
Charles and Mary Elizabeth Lyell had intended to stay at Down House from 1 to 4 March, but as CD was ill with ‘much sickness & weakness’, he was forced to cancel the engagement (see letters to J. D. Hooker, 24[–5] February [1863] and 5 March [1863]).


John Lubbock’s lecture on man a success [Not. Proc. R. Inst. G. B. 4 (1863): 29–40].

JDH on the effect of the Civil War on Asa Gray.

JDH’s opinion of Lyell on glaciers is improving.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 111–13
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4019,” accessed on 20 June 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11