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Darwin Correspondence Project

From T. H. Huxley to J. D. Hooker   3 December 18641

Jermyn S.

Dcr 3rd 1864

My dear Hooker

I am sorry to hear that you did not get my note in time the other day. The Post office people assured me you would have it before 1.30 or 2. P.M and I imagine you were not likely to leave Kew before that time.

I wish you had been at the Anniversary Meeting & Dinner,2 because the latter was very pleasant & the former, to me, very disagreeable   My distrust of Sabine3 is as you know, chronic—: and I went determined to keep careful watch on his address—lest some crafty phrase injurious to Darwin should be introduced—4 My suspicions were justified— The only part of the address to Darwin written by Sabine himself5 containing the following passage

“Speaking generally and collectively we have expressly omitted it (Darwins theory) from the grounds of our award”6

Of course this would be interpreted by every body as meaning that after due discussion the council had formally resolved not only to exclude Darwins theory from the grounds of the award but to give public notice through the President that they had done so—and furthermore that Darwins friends had been base enough to accept an honour for him on the understanding that in receiving it he should be publicly insulted—!

I felt that this would never do, and therefore when the resolution for printing the address was moved—I made a speech which I took care to keep perfectly cool & temperate, disavowing all intention of interfering with the liberty of the President to say what he pleased—but exercising my constitutional right of requiring the minutes of council making the award to be read7—in order that the Society might be informed whether the conditions implied by Sabine had been imposed or not—

The resolution was read & of course nothing of the kind appeared8

Sabine didn’t exactly like it I believe   Both Busk & Falconer protested against the passage to him9—and I hope it will be withdrawn when the address is printed10

If not there will be an awful row—and I for one will shew that old fox no mercy.

Ever yours faithfully | T. H. Huxley


Hooker enclosed this letter in his letter to CD of [6 December 1864].
Huxley refers to the meeting of the Royal Society of London on 30 November 1864, which was followed by dinner.
Sabine’s anniversary address described the formal basis on which the Council of the Royal Society had awarded the Copley Medal to CD.
Sabine received a notice of CD’s botanical researches from Hooker (letter from Edward Sabine to J. D. Hooker, 14 November 1864, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (letters to J. D. Hooker, vol. 18, letter 218)). In his letter of [6 December 1864], Hooker complained that Sabine had ‘mutilated the Botany a good deal’. Sabine also obtained information from Hugh Falconer for incorporation into the address (letter from Edward Sabine to William Sharpey, 29 December 1864, Royal Society Archives, Misc. Mss. 19, no. 41).
See letter from Hugh Falconer, 2 December 1864 and n. 3, and letter from J. D. Hooker, 2 December 1864. Huxley also entered into a debate with one of the secretaries of the Royal Society, George Gabriel Stokes, about whether the words ‘expressly excluded’ or ‘expressly omitted’ had been used with respect to Origin (see first letter from G. G. Stokes to T. H. Huxley, 5 December 1864, and letter from T. H. Huxley to G. G. Stokes, 6 December 1864).
The Royal Society statutes of 1847 stipulate that the minutes of all Council meetings must be recorded, and that these records must be made available at any meetings of the Society ‘as the case may require, or as shall be ordered by the Society, Council, or President’ (Record of the Royal Society of London, pp. 310, 314).
In the version of Sabine’s address that was eventually published in the Royal Society’s Proceedings, the wording of the controversial passage was changed (see Sabine 1864, p. 508). For a comparison of the different versions, see Correspondence vol. 12, Appendix IV.


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

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Record of the Royal Society of London: The record of the Royal Society of London for the promotion of natural knowledge. 4th edition. London: Royal Society. 1940.

Sabine, Edward. 1864. [Anniversary address, 30 November 1864.] Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 13 (1863–4): 497–517.


His suspicions regarding [Edward] Sabine’s treatment of CD were justified by the Anniversary Address. THH, [George] Busk, and [Hugh] Falconer insisted on a more accurate account of the grounds on which the Copley Medal was awarded to CD.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Henry Huxley
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
London, Jermyn Street
Source of text
Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine Archives (Huxley 2: 129–30)
Physical description
C 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4691F,” accessed on 4 February 2023,

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