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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   23 [June 1863]



My dear Hooker

My eczema is well & consequently till it comes on again, I am languid & bedeviled & have1 writing & hate everybody. No, that is not true for in my worst state I do not hate you; but I have not had spirit to thank you for two pleasant notes.—2 John Scott of Edinburgh is very grateful for what you say about keeping him in mind.3 I almost think he doubts his power to manage a great private establishment & leans to some foreign place; but I suspect that he is too modest.4 He has asked me whether he might send you his orchid-paper when published; I told him by all means to send it—5 About Haasts letter all right; you wrote some time ago saying that you thought you had lost one for me.—6 I shall be very glad to see the account of his Explorations.7 He seems a fine fellow. Thanks for sending Sneezing paper; how curious the case is, but how weak the explanation of origin at end.—8

The more I think of Bentham’s address the more I like it. I quite enjoyed the snubs to Owen.—9 You ask what I think of Herbert Spencer’s great book: I never attempted to read any except last Part;10 & that greatly disappointed me—all words & generalities, like Sir H. Holland’s writings,11 & I could grasp nothing clearly. But I suppose this is all my stupidity; as so many think so highly of this work.—

If Oliver knows “Beer’s Morphologie und Biologie der Orchideen”, I shd. like to know whether it would interest me: it is just published price 30s .—12

I shall enjoy extremely seeing you, if you can run down for a Sunday & I hope to God I may be decently well to enjoy it; but this gets rarer & rarer with me.

Farewell my old friend | C. Darwin


CD probably intended to write ‘hate’. He believed that his attacks of eczema alleviated the symptoms of his chronic illness. See letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 March [1863].
Letters from J. D. Hooker, 10 June 1863 and 19 June 1863.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, [30 April 1863] and n. 2. Hooker had forwarded to CD the letter from Julius von Haast, 5 March 1863, which enclosed a copy of his letter to CD of 9 December 1862 (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 19 June 1863).
Haliburton 1863; see letter from J. D. Hooker, 19 June 1863 and n. 6. In his pamphlet, Robert Grant Haliburton explained the universality of certain superstitions respecting sneezing in terms of their having prevailed among a primeval human stock, from which all races had descended; he argued that these primeval humans must have believed that the act of sneezing particularly exposed the soul ‘to the influence of unseen enemies’ (Haliburton 1863, p. 14).
CD refers to George Bentham’s anniversary address to the Linnean Society (Bentham 1863), of which Bentham had sent him a preprint (see letter to George Bentham, 19 June [1863] and n. 2). In his address Bentham criticised the ‘ex cathedrâ’ promulgation of ‘a new form of spontaneous generation’ in Richard Owen’s anonymous review of Carpenter 1862, which appeared in the Athenæum, 28 March 1863, pp. 417–19 (see Bentham 1863, pp. xxvi–xxvii). See also letters to Athenæum, 18 April [1863] and 5 May [1863], and Appendix VII.
CD refers to Spencer 1860–2, the first volume of a projected five-part ‘System of philosophy’ which was issued to subscribers in parts (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 10 June 1863 and n. 10). There is a copy of this work in the Darwin Library–CUL; the final two numbers have their pages uncut.
Henry Holland was a leading London physician and a distant relative of CD’s; there are a number of annotated copies of Holland’s volumes of essays, some of which are presentation copies, in the Darwin Library–CUL and the Darwin Library–Down (see Marginalia 1: 385–8).
Daniel Oliver was assistant in the herbarium and librarian at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (R. Desmond 1994, List of the Linnean Society of London 1863); CD refers to Beer 1863.


Beer, Joseph Georg. 1863. Beiträge zur Morphologie und Biologie der Familie der Orchideen. Vienna: Carl Gerold’s Sohn.

Bentham, George. 1863. [Anniversary address, 25 May 1863.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 7 (1864): xi–xxix.

Carpenter, William Benjamin. 1862. Introduction to the study of the Foraminifera. Assisted by W. K. Parker and T. R. Jones. London: Ray Society.

Desmond, Ray. 1994. Dictionary of British and Irish botanists and horticulturists including plant collectors, flower painters and garden designers. New edition, revised with the assistance of Christine Ellwood. London: Taylor & Francis and the Natural History Museum. Bristol, Pa.: Taylor & Francis.

Haliburton, Robert Grant. 1863. New materials for the history of man, derived from a comparison of the customs and superstitions of nations. Halifax, Nova Scotia: n.p.

List of the Linnean Society of London. London: [Linnean Society of London]. 1805–1939.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Spencer, Herbert. 1860–2. First principles. London: George Manwaring; Williams & Norgate.


Herbert Spencer’s work disappointing – "all words & generalities".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 196
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4218,” accessed on 23 June 2024,

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