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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [17 February 1865]1



Dear Darwin

I had thought of going to you on the 25th. & was only waiting to see my way a little.2 I find however that the examinations of Army Asst. Surgeons will prevent me,3 & so I shall try & get down on the following Saty. if you are well enough to see me.4

I am puzzled about the Falconer affair, not what to subscribe, for I have no hesitation in thinking that £1"1. or £2"2 would be ample, adding if necessary afterwards to £5.5.0 the object being to secure a bust only—for which £100 or £150 should be enough. But I like to see these subscriptions confined to definite objects & bodies—as far as possible,5 & especially in Falconers case, because I suspect that Botanists will not subscribe with enthusiasm.—for this simple reason, that though he enjoyed for nearly 25 years the most magnificent pay as a Botanist, he did nothing Botanical for it—6 his collections he let go to ruin, his mss he shut up & would let no one see.—7 As Superintendent of the Gardens his name was a bye-word in Calcutta & a scandal elsewhere. Poor dear old F. these are very hard things for a friend to say—but so it is— it is impossible to exaggerate the mischief he did. He very nearly brought about the abandonment of the Calcutta Gardens, & to all my appeals at the India House for something to be done for Botany, Falconer was thrown in my teeth.8 So my idea is that the Geolog. Soc. should form the subscription & confine it to their own Members,9 & his friends afterwards subscribe for a copy of the bust if so disposed. I will subscribe to both.

I have not seen Heers paper nor Wallaces,10 for indeed I have been & am hard worked this winter. I look to, & only look to! reading Lyell with great interest.11 There is a good deal of snarling at him since Falconers death.12 I do wish that he had only shown himself at the Funeral, but he is far from strong.

How I should like to write the book you want on Botany—13 it has been as you know a dream of mine for a very long period. No one could do it so well as yourself!

Ever Yrs affec | J D Hooker

P.S. I have just heard from Anderson that he has given Scott the Curatorship of the Gardens with £240 a year & house14


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 [February 1865]; the Friday following CD’s letter to Hooker of 15 [February 1865] was 17 February.
In his letter of 15 [February 1865], CD had warned Hooker to visit on any Saturday other than 25 February, when the Darwins expected other visitors.
Hooker was one of the examiners in science for medical officers in the armed services (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 387). Examinations for army medical officers were held at Chelsea Hospital in February and March 1865 (Statistical, Sanitary, and Medical Reports (Army Medical Department) 7 (1865): 605–6).
According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), Hooker visited Down House between 4 and 6 March 1865.
CD had asked Hooker what would be an appropriate contribution to the fund being raised for a marble bust of Hugh Falconer (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 [February 1865]). For two additional memorials made to Falconer, see the letter from George Busk, 20 February 1865, n.4.
Although Falconer had been superintendent of the botanic garden in Saharanpur, north-west India, from 1832 to 1842, and superintendent of the botanic garden in Calcutta and professor of botany at the Calcutta Medical College from 1848 to 1855 (DNB), he became known primarily for his geological and palaeontological research; however, see also nn. 7 and 8, below. A list of Falconer’s botanical memoirs and reports is provided in Falconer 1868, 1: lv–lvi; see also R. Desmond 1994.
When Falconer returned to Britain in 1843 (see n. 6, above), he brought back seventy chests of dried plants, which suffered damage from damp on the voyage and in the cellars of East India House, the headquarters of the East India Company, where they were deposited (see Falconer 1868, 1: xxxv). In preparing Flora Indica, Hooker and Thomas Thomson, referring to Falconer as ‘one of the most estimable, able, and accomplished of Indian botanists’, also recorded that his ‘magnificent’ India collection, with ‘voluminous notes’ was the only herbarium of importance to which they could not procure access (Hooker and Thomson 1855, pp. 67–8). However, it is not clear whether the poor condition and inaccessibility of the collection was the fault of Falconer or the East India Company; in 1858, the year after the East India Company was dissolved, Hooker secured several collections for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, from the East India Company’s cellars. These collections had all suffered from long neglect, and included Falconer’s (see R. Desmond 1995, pp. 200–1, McCracken 1997, p. 154, and R. Desmond 1999, p. 206).
For Hooker’s mixed reports from India of Falconer’s behaviour and work as superintendent of the Calcutta botanic garden, see Correspondence vol. 4, letters from J. D. Hooker, 13 October 1848, 3 February 1849, and 6 and 7 April 1850; see also Hooker 1854, 2: 244–7. For positive accounts of Falconer’s work in India, see Falconer 1868, 1: xxxix–xl, R. Desmond 1992, pp. 98–100, 223, and McCracken 1997, pp. 8, 20. Hooker felt that the East India Company, which was effectively Falconer’s employer in Calcutta, had treated Falconer far better than he and his colleague Thomson had been treated as collectors and botanists, and that the company had provided insufficient support and recognition of his and Thomson’s labours (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 355–8, 2: 145–6, and R. Desmond 1999, pp. 201, 217–19, 250–1). In 1869 and later years, Hooker still despaired over the support for and progress of the study of botany in India (see L. Huxley, ed. 1918, 2: 17, R. Desmond 1992, pp. 102, 323, McCracken 1997, p. 23, and R. Desmond 1999, p. 270). Hooker eventually published the seven-volume Flora of British India (Hooker 1872–97)
Falconer had been a fellow of the Geological Society of London since 1842 (List of the Geological Society of London).
In his letter to Hooker of 15 [February 1865], CD said that he wanted to show Hooker a section of Heer 1864 in which Oswald Heer discussed the distribution of Arctic and alpine plants; in the same letter CD recommended Alfred Russel Wallace’s papers on geographical distribution in the Malay Archipelago (Wallace 1862, 1863a, 1863b, 1863c, and 1864b).
The reference is to the sixth edition of Charles Lyell’s Elements of geology (C. Lyell 1865). For CD’s opinion of this work, see the letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 [February 1865].
Hooker may refer to the quarrel between Lyell and Falconer over Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863a): Falconer had publicly denounced Lyell in the Athenæum for not having sufficiently acknowledged in Antiquity of man his own research and that of others (see Correspondence vol. 11, Bynum 1984, Grayson 1985, and L. G. Wilson 1996).
Thomas Anderson, who was the superintendent of the botanic garden at Calcutta, had first given John Scott a temporary position at one of the Cinchona plantations near Darjeeling (see letter from John Scott, 20 January 1865 and n. 7, and letter from J. D. Hooker, [26 January 1865]). Anderson then offered Scott the curatorship at the botanic garden at Calcutta (see letter from John Scott, 21 July 1865).


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

Desmond, Ray. 1992. The European discovery of the Indian flora. Oxford: Oxford University Press [in association with the] Royal Botanic Gardens.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Grayson, Donald K. 1985. The first three editions of Charles Lyell’s The geological evidences of the antiquity of man. Archives of Natural History 13: 105–21.

Heer, Oswald. 1864. Discours prononcé à l’ouverture de la 48e session de la Société Helvétique des Sciences Naturelles. N.p.: n.p. [Reprinted from Bibliothèque Universelle et Revue Suisse (Archives des sciences physiques et naturelles) n.s. 21: 335–69.]

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1872–97. The flora of British India. Assisted by various botanists. 7 vols. London: L. Reeve & Co.

Huxley, Leonard, ed. 1918. Life and letters of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, OM, GCSI. Based on materials collected and arranged by Lady Hooker. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

List of the Geological Society of London. London: [Geological Society of London]. 1864–1934.

Lyell, Charles. 1865. Elements of geology, or the ancient changes of the earth and its inhabitants as illustrated by geological monuments. 6th edition, revised. London: John Murray.

McCracken, Donal P. 1997. Gardens of empire: botanical institutions of the Victorian British empire. London and Washington: Leicester University Press.

Wallace, Alfred Russel. 1862. List of birds from the Sula Islands (east of Celebes), with descriptions of the new species. [Read 13 January 1862.] Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London (1862): 333–46.


Why botanists will not subscribe to Falconer’s bust with enthusiasm.

Scott has been offered curatorship at Calcutta Botanic Garden.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 102: 10–11
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4773,” accessed on 3 February 2023,

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