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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   29 March 1864

Royal Gardens Kew

March 29/64.

Dear Darwin

I am delighted to hear of the blessed 52 hours immunity from Sickness,1 & am buoyed up with the hope of soon being able to run down & seeing you, which I am able to do at any time—but not till you can entirely stand seeing me for a few minutes.

I have heard nothing of Scott’s leaving the Edh. Bot Gardens—2 his election for L.S. cannot come in I believe till next year, as we elect only one a year,   when the time comes I will let you know & ask you for half a dozen lines apropos addressed to the Council.3

It is all settled that Jn. Smith of Sion shall succeed Jn. Smith of Kew4—but the lazy Treasury have not yet settled the pension for old Smith, which they have had 3 months to think over. They propose to give the new man £180, rising by 10 annually to £250 & house.— We have seen a good deal of him & are vastly pleased with him— My only fear is his breaking down— he is one of those thorough characters who will neglect nothing & try too much at once.

I go to Isle of Wight tomorrow with Charlie to meet Tyndall & return on Saturday, my chief object is to take Charlie away whilst Willie comes home for the rest his holiday.—5 We had to send the poor boy off on arrival last week to St. Albans to a friend to take care of him! I was near seeing your boys on Sunday, at old Wards with whom I dined, & who would have asked the boys but they had gone home.6 I must ask your Willy7 to come to me when we are settled again.

I think Huxley had much better have let the Anthropologicals alone— it was a vicious undignified response of his, which did him harm.8 I entirely agree about old Jukes, I quite warmed to his letter & his side.9 Falconer is one of the 2 classes of Scotchmen that Crawfurd distinguishes as “Scotsman”—& “d——d Scotsman”—10 There are two most curiously antagonistic sides to his character. I cannot approve either his or Prestwiches conduct to themselves or or one-another or to Lyell—nor can I accord to Falconer the credit he demands as a great discoverer in this bone cave affair—nor to Prestwich the credit F. gives him of being a great philosophic Geologist—11 I suppose you have seen Prestwichs resume of his R. Inst. lecture—12 I utterly disbelieve his whole theory of River & Ice being the causes— the total length of these wonderful rivers which, according to him, covered many hundreds of square miles with 30–60 ft of deposits, at elevations of 1–300 ft. above the present river bottoms,—& which transported tons of sandstone on ice, was 50 miles13—& he quotes my note on the floods of the Soane in corroboration—not reflecting that the Soane drains a county equal to all France & is fed by tropical rains, & that it does not give rise to similar deposits either.14 Then all his reasoning anent man & the Quaternary period is weak as water—neither absolutely false, nor well made out.15 I agree with you as to Prestwich’s value as a geological observer &c methodizer of difficult strata &c but doubt at his powers of abstract reasoning & generalization—16 I think his Loess is a myth, & feel confident that the deposits of the Somme valley are comparable as to origin & age with those of the Norfolk coast—& that a tidal ocean in a glacial period had most to do with them both.17 But these Cave discoveries half way up the Rock of: Gibraltar18 must modify extensively all our views of the outline & condition of Europe during the early period of man’s history: & it now becomes most important to know what was its configuration before 30 feet of deposits were heaped up over the works of man & spread over so large an area of N. France. that the existing rivers terraced the valleys as we now find them I quite believe, but not that they first spread this enormous deposit over both the hills & valleys.

I know nothing of Blyth nor where he intends to take up his quarters.— unfortunately he drinks.19

Owens Lecture is published but I have not seen it,20 I will enquire about it.

Siphomeris is a synonym of Lecontea—Rubiaceæ   the species is a nondescript.21

Thanks many for A Grays letter— how doucely he takes the changed aspect of affairs.22

I am very glad that you have had Jenners opinion, he seems to be an extraordinarily able man— glad enough I am that he finds nothing organic the matter—23

As to Veitch we find him the closest-fisted fellow we have anything to do with—24 he sends to us for any plant he & the trade have not in cultivation, & sells it at enormous prices & professing to give us in exchange—he sends the shabbiest morsels imaginable— if he sends a plant to be figured in Bot Mag. he mutilates it lest we should grow it!—25 My Father treated his son when he went to Japan,26 like his own, got him an autograph circular from Lord John Russell to the powers that be27—& gave him private letters to all his correspondents: besides giving him Botanical outfit &c.—but he has not had the grace even to call on my father since his return, nor given him a dried plant for his collection or live one for the Garden or pine-cone for the Museum.— Yet he perpetually sends me plants to name! I am very glad that the father treats you better than us, his is the only firm of nurserymen who we do not get on with.

I surely told you that Vanilla climbs by rootlets alone.28 I do not think that it even twists its shoots—but will look.

I will look to Nepenthes if I can.29 You have it I suppose.

We are all pretty well—& have no news— I like the Reader much, but am hard up for a weekly political paper, I gave up the London Review when it began to snuffle to the low X,30 & look to the Spectator, which I now abominate; it is as unfair as the Athenæum unscrupulous as the Times & wrong as the Saturday—31 We have no paper like the old Spectator in Rintouls time.32

I have letters from Hector talking of the “glacier origin of all the W. Coast valleys.”33 I think Jukes & Ramsay carry glacial action much too far.34

Did I tell you that the Pinus peuce found on one solitary mountain of Western Macedonia being the famous P. excelsa of Himalaya35—the most wonderful case of an outlier on record—as the P. excelsa is not found W. of Affghanistan.

I wish you would tell me if ever you happen to know of Godfrey Wedgwood coming to Town, I want his help to decipher some dates of my wedgwood— his father has been excessively kind, & I dread trespassing on his kindness36

Ever yr affec | J D Hooker

CD annotations

1.2 which … time— 1.3] double scored pencil
2.1 his election … a year, 2.2] double scored pencil; scoring deleted, pencil
5.19 but doubt … generalization 5.20] double scored pencil
8.1 Siphomeris … nondescript] scored pencil
8.1 Lecontea] underl pencil


Hooker refers to John Scott’s departure from his employment at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 26[–7] March [1864] and n. 11, and letter from John Scott, 28 March 1864 and nn. 18–20).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 26[–7] March [1864] and n. 12. Hooker was mistaken about the election of one associate member a year to the Linnean Society (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [before 9 February 1864], n. 3). Neither CD nor Hooker proposed Scott for the associateship (see letter to John Scott, 9 February [1864] and n. 9).
Hooker refers to John Smith (1821–88), gardener at Syon House, and to John Smith (1798–1888), the incumbent curator at Kew. See letter to J. D. Hooker, 26[–7] March [1864] and n. 13. For information on the elder Smith’s retirement, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, 5 February 1864 and n. 7.
The references are to two of Hooker’s sons, Charles Paget and William Henslow Hooker; Charles had been infected with ringworm while at school (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 9 [March] 1864). Hooker also refers to John Tyndall.
Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward, a physician and botanist, had retired to Clapham Rise, near the school in Clapham that George Howard, Francis, and Leonard Darwin were attending (DNB). CD’s sons went home for Easter Sunday, which fell on 27 March in 1864 (see letter from H. E. Darwin to W. E. Darwin, [16 March 1864] and n. 3).
William Erasmus Darwin was CD’s eldest son.
Hooker refers to Thomas Henry Huxley’s arguments with James Hunt and Charles Carter Blake, president and honorary secretary, respectively, of the Anthropological Society of London (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 26[–7] March [1864] and n. 18). Huxley’s response to their letters is in the 12 March 1864 issue of the Reader, pp. 334–5.
Joseph Beete Jukes had written letters to the Reader on the glacial formation of lakes in response to Hugh Falconer’s 27 January speech on the subject at the Royal Geographical Society (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 26[–7] March [1864] and nn. 18 and 19).
In 1863, Falconer and Joseph Prestwich had criticised Charles Lyell’s Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863a) for not giving sufficient credit to them for their field investigations into human antiquity, particularly in the excavation of artefacts from Pleistocene deposits in Brixham Cave in Devon; in his letter in the Athenæum, 4 April 1863, pp. 459–60, Falconer defended Prestwich’s work, claiming that Prestwich was responsible for determining the precise geological ages of quaternary deposits in England and France (see also letter from Joseph Prestwich in the Athenæum, 25 April 1863, p. 555, and letter from Hugh Falconer in the Athenæum, 2 May 1863, p. 586). There was much discussion in CD’s 1863 correspondence regarding the controversy (see Correspondence vol. 11); like Hooker, CD had been disappointed by Falconer’s conduct regarding C. Lyell 1863a (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 11, letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 April [1863] and nn. 7–10). See also Bynum 1984 and Wilson 1996.
Prestwich gave a lecture at the Royal Institution on 26 February 1864, entitled: ‘On the Quaternary flint implements of Abbeville, Amiens, Hoxne, &c., their geological position and history’. A résumé of the lecture was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Institution of Great Britain (Prestwich 1864).
Prestwich argued that Quaternary gravels of the Somme river valley, which included fossil animals, had been deposited by periodic river-flooding and the associated action of river ice (Prestwich 1864, pp. 218–20; see also Prestwich 1862, pp. 286–98). Two reports given to the Geological Society meeting of 24 February 1864 supported Prestwich’s argument (see the Reader, 12 March 1864, p. 335).
Prestwich mentioned Hooker’s information on the Soane river in Prestwich 1864, p. 219. In 1848, Hooker had travelled in the Soane river valley as part of his journey in the Himalayas (see J. D. Hooker 1854, 1: 32–54); the information on the river that Prestwich referred to is in J. D. Hooker 1854, 1: 38. The Soane river is now known as the Son or Sone; it is 475 miles long, flowing north-west and then north-east into the Ganges river in north-east central India.
See Prestwich 1864, pp. 216–17 and 221–2, for his discussion of the flint implements thought to have been fashioned by early humans; the implements had been discovered in some of the Somme and Oise river valley deposits in France.
No written comment from CD to Hooker about Prestwich has been found, but see Correspondence vol. 6, letter to Edward Sabine, 23 April [1856], and Correspondence vol. 8, letter to Joseph Prestwich, 12 March [1860].
Prestwich argued that the topmost layer of loess was a deposit of the old river during floods, while Hooker believed it was the condition of beds exposed to the air (see Prestwich 1864, pp. 216, 219, and Correspondence vol. 11, letter from J. D. Hooker, 23 October 1863). In 1863, Hooker had noticed the similarity of the deposits in France to terrain in Norfolk, a county in eastern England, after he had spent time in both regions (see Correspondence vol. 11, letters from J. D. Hooker, 23 October 1863 and nn. 4–7, and [1 or 3 November 1863] and nn. 8–12).
In a letter in the 30 January 1864 issue of the Reader, pp. 140–1, George Busk reported on an extensive limestone cave that had been discovered in 1862 during excavations for additions to a military prison on Windmill Hill, Gibraltar. The cave contained fossil bones of extinct animals, including humans; Busk and Falconer were still examining the specimens at the Royal College of Surgeons in January 1864 (see also the report by Busk in the 23 July 1864 issue of the Reader, pp. 109–10, Busk 1864, Busk and Falconer 1865, and Falconer 1868, 2: 554–63).
CD had asked Hooker if Edward Blyth was living in Ireland (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 26[–7] March [1864] and n. 20). For Blyth’s drinking habits, see Brandon-Jones 1997, pp. 172–3 n.
CD had asked Hooker about Richard Owen’s Exeter Hall lecture (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 26[–7] March [1864] and n. 21).
CD had mentioned his visit from William Jenner in his letter to Hooker of 26[–7] March [1864].
For CD’s dealings with James Veitch (1815–69), see his letter to Hooker of 26[–7] March [1864] and nn. 5 and 6.
Hooker refers to Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, which was subtitled ‘Comprising the plants of the Royal Gardens of Kew and of other botanical establishments in Great Britain’. The magazine was edited by William Jackson Hooker, the director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Hooker refers to his father, William Jackson Hooker. John Gould Veitch, the son of the nurseryman James Veitch (1815–69), travelled to Japan in 1860 (Coats 1969, pp. 69–71).
William Jackson Hooker was acquainted with John Russell and had enlisted his support for the establishment of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in 1839, when Russell was home secretary (R. Desmond 1995, pp. 152–3, 156, 222).
For CD’s comments on the Reader, see his letter to J. D. Hooker, 26[–7] March [1864] and n. 17. Several years earlier, Hooker and CD had favoured the London Review and Weekly Journal of Politics, Literature, Art and Society (see Correspondence vol. 9, second letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 [April 1861], and letters to J. D. Hooker, 18 [May 1861] and 19 June [1861]). Hooker refers to a party of the Church of England that held evangelical theological views. For other assessments of the London Review, see Ellegard 1990, p. 377, and North 1997, pp. 3020–1.
Hooker refers to the Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science, and Art.
Robert Stephen Rintoul founded the liberal journal Spectator in 1828; he sold it in 1858, and it was sold again in 1861. Under its new owners, the Spectator championed the north in the American Civil War, opposed CD’s theory, and took a stronger interest in religious questions (see Sullivan ed. 1984, pp. 391–8, and Ellegard 1990, pp. 381–2).
In 1863, James Hector explored the west coast of Otago province, New Zealand, and discovered an overland route between the west and east coasts (Hector 1864a, DNZB); he published an account of the expedition in Hector 1864a. Hector’s letters to Hooker are in the Library and Archives, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Director’s correspondence 174). See also Yaldwyn and Hobbs eds. 1998.
Hooker refers to Joseph Beete Jukes and to Andrew Crombie Ramsay (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 26[–7] March [1864] and n. 19, and n. 9, above).
Hooker told CD about the discovery of Pinus excelsa (a synonym of Picea abies var. abies, the common spruce) in Macedonia in his letter of 5 February 1864.
Godfrey Wedgwood was the eldest son of Francis Wedgwood (Emma Darwin’s brother) and a partner in the Wedgwood pottery firm (Freeman 1978). Hooker, a collector of Wedgwood ware, was especially interested in medallions (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 January 1863, and L. Huxley ed. 1918, 2: 77–9).


Brandon-Jones, Christine. 1997. Edward Blyth, Charles Darwin, and the animal trade in nineteenth-century India and Britain. Journal of the History of Biology 30: 145–78.

Busk, George. 1864. On a very ancient human cranium from Gibraltar. Report of the thirty-fourth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, held at Bath, Transactions of the sections, pp. 91–2.

Coats, Alice Margaret. 1969. The quest for plants. A history of the horticultural explorers. London: Studio Vista.

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.

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

DNZB: A dictionary of New Zealand biography. Edited by G. H. Scholefield. 2 vols. Wellington, New Zealand: Department of Internal Affairs. 1940. The dictionary of New Zealand biography. Edited by W. H. Oliver et al. 5 vols. Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand: Department of Internal Affairs [and others]. 1990–2000.

Falconer, Hugh. 1868. Palæontological memoirs and notes of the late Hugh Falconer … with a biographical sketch of the author. Compiled and edited by Charles Murchison. 2 vols. London: Robert Hardwicke.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1978. Charles Darwin: a companion. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

North, John S. 1997. The Waterloo directory of English newspapers and periodicals, 1800–1900. 10 vols. Waterloo, Ontario: North Waterloo Academic Press.

Prestwich, Joseph. 1864. On the Quaternary flint implements of Abbeville, Amiens, Hoxne, &c., their geological position and history. [Read February 26 1864.] Proceedings of the Royal Institution of Great Britain 4 (1862–6): 213–22.


John Scott’s career.

Huxley’s vicious attack on anthropologists.

Critique of Joseph Prestwich’s theory of rivers.

Bitter feelings between the Hookers and the Veitch family of nurserymen.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 193–7
Physical description
ALS 10pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4439,” accessed on 16 June 2024,

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