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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   24 January 1864


Jany 24th/64.

My dear old Darwin

It is long since I have written to you, but I heard of you from your brother the other night, at the Athenæum.1 My Father2 has been laid up for nearly 3 weeks, which has kept me unusually busy. he is better & about the house now.

You ask about H Spencers works, I cannot appreciate them so highly as Huxley,3 they are too purely speculative for me. I wonder at & worship the man’s astonishing power of assimilation & incomparable fluidity of diction: he seems to have the whole English language in his inkstand; added to which, he is a sort of imaginative Carpenter—4 What I dislike most is the assumption of finality he claims, for all his speculations: or rather his treating all his speculative conclusions as realized facts. I cannot think him deep, but very ingenious, & very voluble. He sends me sundry chapters to revise & I have cut up some,—5 (The Botany in Number 10, this moment arrived, is all new to me however)—6 His chapters on variation interest me a good deal—7 I totally dispute his reasoning regarding induced modifications being transmitted, & think them weak & inconclusive—without however denying the fact of such heredity.—8 The man is I think often out of his depth. I believe he is very poor & makes his bread by these books.9

Of Mrs Bootts family I know nothing beyond that her name was Hardcastle of Derby—10 I think I have heard her talk as if there was a connection between her family & yours—certainly an intimacy.11

I am busy at N.Z. Handbook12   Hector sent me a fine Otago Mountain collection, still wanting the most conspicuous Auckland & Campbells Island plants, a strange fact.13

Can you at all account for Westcoasts in both N. & S. temp zones being so Archipelagic or cut into very deep bays. I suppose action of waves had much to do with it, & perhaps wind blowing particles to leeward through all time!

I have not seen Lubbock14 for months. I shall go to Phil: Club this coming week.15 I saw Falconer16 looking very happy. Horner is laid up with influenza I hear: they talk of Florence in Spring,17 & I of Algeria, if I can, in April, but the Lord only knows.18

I want very much to run down one forenoon & see you, but I dread putting you out, as any visitor must: it seems so very long since I have seen you.19 I have your Dr. Darwin to return—20

Huxley grows fat!. & is awfully well— he dines out never:—won’t even come here—the savage.

I took the children to Franconi’s the other day—21 the clowns were marvellous— one fellow could be as rigid as a board, & be knocked about like a stone statue one minute, & the next double himself like I don’t know what, with his feet over his shoulders & head in his crotch— I should like to know the physical history of their people, & see one dissected— they can have no, or very short, processes to the vertebræ— the odd thing is their combined prodigious strength & elasticity22

What are we to do about Denmark; they say the subject is taboo at the Palace23   I hope it may get the Italians the opportunity of striking for Venetia.24

My Jesuit cousin Gifford25 has returned from Arabia, which he has traversed—travelling as a Hakeem—of Damascus.— he returns first to upper Egypt & then takes up his abode in the interior of Oman. I think he has a notion of being a prophet.— He says the Arabs of Arabia are not Mahomedans but sun & fire worshippers.— he has made no observations of the smallest scientific value. Napoleon26 pays his expences, which are small, & he is going to publish in Belgium.27

Have you read Speke, I have not   I assume it is bad.28 I am very anxious to get Woolner down to take a clay model of your bust,29 for myself, as you kindly promised I might; & look to Mrs Darwin to let me know when— he shall cut it in marble at his leisure for me.— such heaps of people want to know what you are like—& the photographs are not pleasing—

When you write tell me how your children are & what doing.

Ever yours affec | J D Hooker

CD annotations

7.1 I want … return— 7.3] scored pencil


Hooker’s last letter to CD has not been found, but was written before 26 December 1863 (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from Emma Darwin to J. D. Hooker, 26 December [1863]). Hooker also refers to Erasmus Alvey Darwin and to the Athenaeum Club in London.
In his letter of 2 January 1864, Alfred Russel Wallace praised Herbert Spencer’s publications, mentioning that they were also appreciated by Thomas Henry Huxley. CD had asked for Hooker’s opinion of Spencer in his letter of [10 and 12 January 1864].
Hooker refers to the Principles of biology (Spencer 1864–7: see Spencer 1904, 2: 103, and letter from A. R. Wallace, 2 January 1864 and n. 20). In the prefaces to both volumes of Principles of biology, Spencer acknowledged the help of Huxley and Hooker.
Hooker refers to number 10 of Spencer 1864–7, vol. 1, which evidently comprised pp. 239–328; number 10 was issued to subscribers in January 1864 (see ibid., Preface).
See the chapters entitled ‘Variation’ and ‘Genesis, heredity, and variation’ (Spencer 1864–7, 1: 257–91).
Some of the pages on which Spencer discussed the inheritance of induced modifications caused by functional changes are heavily annotated in CD’s copy of Spencer 1864–7, which is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see ibid., 1: 244–56, and Marginalia 1: 770). See also letter from A. R. Wallace, 2 January 1864 and n. 21.
In 1853, following the success of Social statics (Spencer 1851) and his inheritance of £500, Spencer left his position as sub-editor of the Economist to pursue his own writing (Spencer 1904, 1: 409–24).
Hooker refers to Francis Boott’s wife, Mary Boott, whose maiden name was Hardcastle (see letter to J. D. Hooker, [10 and 12 January 1864] and n. 5).
In the preface to J. D. Hooker 1864–7, dated 30 June 1864, Hooker mentioned that James Hector, a geologist working in Otago province, New Zealand, had sent valuable collections from the mountains of the interior and west coasts. Hooker also noted that much remained to be collected on Campbell’s Island and the islands named Lord Auckland’s group (see ibid., 1: 8, 13).
The Philosophical Club of the Royal Society met on 28 January 1864 (Bonney 1919).
Leonard Horner’s planned trip did not take place; he grew weaker in February and died on 5 March 1864 (K. M. Lyell ed. 1890, 2: 366–7).
Algeria had recently become a popular winter destination for the British (see G. A. Rogers 1865). Hooker did not travel to North Africa until 1871 (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 2: 90).
Hooker’s last recorded visit to Down House was on 22 March 1863 (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from J. D. Hooker, [24 March 1863]).
Hooker had borrowed a Wedgwood medallion of CD’s grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, so that it might be copied for the museum at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from J. D. Hooker, [24 March 1863], and letter to J. D. Hooker, [29 March 1863]).
The French circus, Franconi’s Cirque Impérial, performed at the Royal Alhambra music hall, Leicester Square, from 7 December 1863 to 5 March 1864 (The Times, 7 December 1863, p.1, and 5 March 1864, p. 1).
A notice in the Times, 7 January 1864, p. 1, for Franconi’s Cirque Impérial, advertised ‘the finest artistes, selected from the best-known continental troupes, including male and female equestrians, gymnasts, acrobats, and clowns’. An earlier notice, on 7 December 1863, p. 1, said, ‘The clowns, those amusing genii of the ring, will be witty without being vulgar.’ See also Lyonnet 1911–12 and Wild 1989.
On 22 January 1864, Austria and Prussia had announced the movement of their troops through Holstein, the southernmost duchy of Denmark, north to the adjacent duchy of Schleswig (The Times, 23 January 1864, p. 8). With a protocol signed in London in 1852, Britain and other European powers had played a role in increasing Denmark’s parliamentary control over the contested region. While Britain continued to support Denmark, Queen Victoria at ‘the Palace’ was closely related through marriage to both claimants, but sympathised with Prussia (see Pakula 1996, p. 203).
In 1864, the province of Venetia was not yet unified with Italy and was still occupied by Austria (EB; see also, for example, The Times, 24 January 1864, p. 2).
William Gifford Palgrave was the son of Elizabeth Palgrave, sister of Hooker’s mother, Maria.
Napoleon III (1808–73), emperor of France.
Palgrave published Narrative of a year’s journey through central and eastern Arabia (1862–1863) in 1865 (Palgrave 1865); this was followed by nine more editions. A translation was published in France, not Belgium (Palgrave 1866); this was followed by two more editions. See Allan 1972.
Hooker may be responding, in part, to a negative review in the Reader, 26 December 1863, pp. 752–3, of John Hanning Speke’s Journal of the discovery of the source of the Nile (Speke 1863).


Allan, Mea. 1972. Palgrave of Arabia. The life of William Gifford Palgrave 1826–88. London: Macmillan.

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

Calendar: A calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882. With supplement. 2d edition. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994.

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

EB: The Encyclopædia Britannica. A dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information. 11th edition. 29 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1910–11.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1864–7. Handbook of the New Zealand flora: a systematic description of the native plants of New Zealand and the Chatham, Kermadec’s, Lord Auckland’s, Campbell’s, and MacQuarrie’s Islands. 2 vols. London: Lovell Reeve & Co.

Lyonnet, Henry. 1911–12. Dictionnaire des comédiens français (ceux d’hier): biographie, bibliographie, iconographie. 2 vols. Paris: E. Jorel.

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.

Pakula, Hannah. 1996. An uncommon woman. The Empress Frederick: daughter of Queen Victoria, wife of the crown prince of Prussia, mother of Kaiser Wilhelm. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Palgrave, William Gifford. 1865. Narrative of a year’s journey through central and eastern Arabia (1862–63). 2 vols. London and Cambridge: Macmillan and Co.

Palgrave, William Gifford. 1866. Une année de voyage dans l’Arabie centrale (1862–1863) ouvrage tr. de l’anglais, avec l’autorisation de l’auteur, par Émile Jonveux, et accompagné d’une carte et de quatre plans . . . 2 vols. Paris: L. Hachette et cie.

Rogers, G. Albert. 1865. A winter in Algeria. 1863–4. London: Sampson Low, Son, & Marston.

Speke, John Hanning. 1863. Journal of the discovery of the source of the Nile. Edinburgh and London: W. Blackwood and sons.

Spencer, Herbert. 1851. Social statics: or, the conditions essential to human happiness specified, and the first of them developed. London: John Chapman.

Spencer, Herbert. 1864–7. The principles of biology. 2 vols. London: Williams & Norgate.

Spencer, Herbert. 1904. An autobiography. 2 vols. London: Williams and Norgate.

Wild, Nicole. 1989. Dictionnaire des théâtres parisiens au XIXe siècle. Les théâtres et la musique. Paris: Aux amateurs de livres.


JDH’s opinion of Herbert Spencer.

Rejects CD’s view of inheritance of induced modifications.

Huxley grows fat.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 176–9
Physical description
ALS 8pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4396,” accessed on 31 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 12