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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [3 November 1865]1



Dear old Darwin

I am back & well, all but stiff joints—better than before I was ill.2

I am up in heaps with work, & find I shall have a desperate fight to get scientific assistance, I will not give in however— I am prepared to improve the Gardens enormously & will do so, but if therein scientific character of the Establishment is to go down one iota, I shall intimate that I only hold the post with a view to retirement when able.3

My elevation brings me no increase of income but a higher scale of living;4 as I now feel it my duty to give up Examinerships &c that yielded upwards of £300—5 But I have no fear of not carrying my point, which is a properly educated assistant to be under Oliver.6

The Curator is in future to be my Asst. in Garden duties,7 Oliver’ with increased Salary, in scientific matters. an excellent arrangement, as there is no one able to be my assistant in both, nor are the functions compatible in any but one who like myself has grown with growth of the Establishment, & been educated to it. In the conversation I had with the Board they “let the cat out of the bag” in informing me, that, they abolished the Assistant Directorship because they knew of no one fitted for it,! not only an unintentional compliment to me, but an admission by implication that neither could they find another person fit to be Director!—8 I took no notice, but have it in hand as “one for his nob.” if needs be.9

You see “my Dander is up”, as the Yankees say—but pray say nothing about this, fighting battles before byestanders is only a shade better than in the dark—& one gains nothing by appearing to be in opposition.

A thousand thanks for your long kind letter,10 Why will you run your head against an “ingenious wriggler”   I can answer you on all points anent the Chatham Isld.11

I have no idea who wrote trashy article on Bates &c.12

Carters observations are wonderful but want verification.13 I think I remember his once describing Amoeba or Actinophrys as products of vegetation (origin in Chlorophyll)14

Wallace has turned table turner I am told15   Travers Chatham Isld facts are too nice,—the three Edwardias all of one size along side their pod all to hand   Oh Oh Oh The Forest trees & bees sounds very post-Darwinian! The Edwardsia may have floated from S. America, Good!—16 did the Apteryx come from that Quarter too?—17 you might at least have suggested N.Z. for S. America. Why will you break your head against a Wrigglers?

I hope to call before you leave18 | J H


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 22 and 28 [October 1865], and by the date of Hooker’s return to Kew (see n. 2, below). The Friday following 28 October 1865 was 3 November.
Hooker had been suffering from rheumatic fever (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [26 September 1865] and n. 2). He returned to his duties at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, on 26 October (see letter from Daniel Oliver, 23 October 1865).
Hooker officially became director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, on 1 November 1865; he had served as assistant director under his father, William Jackson Hooker, since 1855 (R. Desmond 1995, pp. 223, 225). For Hooker’s view of the difficulties of Kew administration, and his efforts to promote scientific botany and horticulture at the garden, see Correspondence vol. 12, letter from J. D. Hooker, 20 April 1864, and this volume, letters from J. D. Hooker, [7–8 April 1865] and nn. 5 and 6, and [26 May 1865].
Hooker’s annual salary as director was £800 in 1868 (Whitaker 1868, p. 102). The position included a residence at 49 Kew Green (R. Desmond 1995, p. 191). As assistant director his salary had been £400, and included a residence at 55 Kew Green (R. Desmond 1995, p. 200, and R. Desmond 1999, p. 206).
Hooker was an examiner in botany for the medical service of the Indian Army, and for the Society of Apothecaries in London; he had resigned his position as examiner in botany at University of London the previous year (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 385, 537).
Daniel Oliver was librarian and keeper of the herbarium at Kew; in 1865 he was also made keeper of the museum (R. Desmond 1995, p. 225).
A new curator, John Smith (1821–88), had been appointed in 1864 (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [7–8 April 1865] and n. 5, and R. Desmond 1995, p. 226).
Hooker refers to the commissioners of the Board of Works and Public Buildings, which had had jurisdiction over Kew since 1851 (see R. Desmond 1995, pp. 180, 225).
‘One for his nob’ is an expression derived from cribbage, implying to hold in reserve (see OED).
See n. 16, below. The ability to ‘wriggle’ out of difficulties had long been a joke between CD and Hooker (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 19 January [1865] and n. 9).
CD had praised the articles by Henry John Carter in the Annals and Magazine of Natural History (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 22 and 28 [October 1865] and nn. 5–7).
Hooker refers to Carter’s article ‘Transformation of the vegetable protoplasm into Actinophrys’ (Carter 1857).
Alfred Russel Wallace began attending séances in London in the summer of 1865 (see Raby 2001, pp. 184–7). His efforts to establish a scientific basis for spiritualism are discussed in A. R. Wallace 1905, 2: 275–350. See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 7 January [1865] and n. 14.
Hooker refers to CD’s discussion of Henry Hammersley Travers’s paper on the Chatham Islands and its pertinence to the dispersal of Edwardsia microphylla (a synonym of Sophora microphylla) and other species from South America across the Pacific Ocean (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 22 and 28 [October 1865] and nn. 11 and 12). CD had also mentioned the connection Travers made between the importation of bees and the increased production of fruit trees on the islands. CD and Hooker had long debated the means of species dispersal and geographic distribution.
Apteryx is a genus of flightless birds, commonly known as kiwis, found in New Zealand. See letter to J. D. Hooker, 22 and 28 [October 1865] and n. 12.
CD expected to be in London for a week from 7 November (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 22 and 28 [October 1865] and n. 27).


Carter, Henry John. 1857. Transformation of the vegetable protoplasm into Actinophrys. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 2d ser. 19: 259–63.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Desmond, Ray. 1995. Kew: the history of the Royal Botanic Gardens. London: Harvill Press with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Desmond, Ray. 1999. Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, traveller and plant collector. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Antique Collectors’ Club with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

[Houghton, William.] 1865. Gleanings from the natural history of the tropics. Quarterly Review 118: 166–93.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

Raby, Peter. 2001. Alfred Russel Wallace: a life. London: Chatto & Windus.

Wallace, Alfred Russel. 1905. My life: a record of events and opinions. 2 vols. London: Chapman & Hall.

Whitaker, Joseph. 1868. Almanack for the year of our Lord 1869. London: J. Whitaker.


Kew affairs.

H. J. Carter’s observations are wonderful but want verification.

Skeptical of H. H. Travers’ observations.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 102: 43–6
Physical description
ALS 8pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4330,” accessed on 7 October 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13