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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [19 April 1865]1


Wednesday Nt.

Dear Darwin

I have nearly finished   “Can you forgive, her”, & have made up my mind that I cannot at all do so.—& don’t care whether she minds it or no.2

What a jolly letter I got from you today!3 Lyell4 came out most kindly to ask after my Father,5 I read it to him, & he cocked his chin in the air & said, “Well—it is worth living on to be able to write such a letter as that”— I am so pleased at your opinion of Thomson’s article.6 I do wish he would do himself justice, for he is a very able man. I thought the article extraordinarily good, & am so little accustomed to see him exert his powers, that I did not think it was his—though I knew he had been writing such an article!

My Father is still very poorly—not worse certainly, but still in bed, & coughing much—

I echo all you say about non-reading men.—7 & always did & do lift up my voice against geologists in particular— have I not roared it out at Down? It is the great fault of the best school of English scientific men—Tyndall, Ramsay8 & many others.

I gnash my teeth when I think of Lubbock going into Parliament.9 Lyell is dead against it & gave me the experience of the friends who advised him against it when it was proposed that there should be a university Member & that L. should stand for it, Grote especially.10 The awful waste of time, of energy, of brain, of life, & all that makes life worth having.— always except a man goes in for Politics, Finance, or Self-aggrandizement— for such the uphill drag through mire of all kinds, Dinners, Committees, Deputations, Lady Ps. receptions,11 Levees—&c &c.— all this & more may be worth a man’s undergoing who has a clear calling that way & a prospect of some 25 years political superiority or supremacy at the end of it.

I know Laugel12 very well, he lives at Richmond, & sometimes comes with his wife to my informal dinners of 6.— you call him charming— so he is;—but Lord bless you you should see his wife—the most lovely & loveable little woman, in the way of Lady Lyell13 20 years ago; so fresh & nice & good, & crispy.

I hoped to have got away at Easter but of course could not & do not expect to get away now.

Ever Yrs affect | J D Hooker

All Burchells collections are coming here soon! most valuable & excellent.14 Brazil & S. Africa.

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘Peach’15 blue crayon, circled blue crayon; ‘Stone’ pencil


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 17 April [1865]; the Wednesday after 17 April 1865 was 19 April.
In Anthony Trollope’s novel Can you forgive her?, Alice Vavasor breaks off her engagement to the paragon John Grey, and becomes attached to her ruthless cousin, an aspiring politician (see Trollope 1864–5). See letter to J. D. Hooker, 10 [April 1865].
The reference is to John Tyndall and Andrew Crombie Ramsay.
In 1861 Lyell declined the offer of the candidature for the University of London’s representative in Parliament (see K. M. Lyell ed. 1881, 2: 343). George Grote, the historian, had been an active reform member of parliament for the City of London between 1832 and 1841, during which time he had published little (DNB). He retired to devote himself to writing his eight-volume History of Greece (Grote 1846–56).
Hooker refers to Emily Mary Temple, wife of Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, who was then prime minister; Lady Palmerston’s Saturday evening parties were well known in political circles (see Modern English biography and Pemberton 1954, pp. 82–3, 118).
William John Burchell had died in 1863, leaving his South African and South American plant collections and botanical manuscripts to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (DNB, R. Desmond 1994). CD had been familiar with Burchell’s work (see Correspondence vol. 1, letter to J. S. Henslow, [5 September 1831], letter to Catherine Darwin, 22 May – 14 July 1833, and Appendix IV).


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

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.

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.

Grote, George. 1846–56. A history of Greece. 12 vols. London: John Murray.

Modern English biography: Modern English biography, containing many thousand concise memoirs of persons who have died since the year 1850. By Frederick Boase. 3 vols. and supplement (3 vols.). Truro, Cornwall: the author. 1892–1921.

Pemberton, W. Baring. 1954. Lord Palmerston. London: Batchworth Press.

[Thomson, Thomas.] 1865. Species and subspecies. Natural History Review 5: 226–42.

Trollope, Anthony. 1864–5. Can you forgive her? 2 vols. London: Chapman & Hall.


Pleased at CD’s opinion of Thomson’s article.

Non-reading is great fault of the best school of English scientific men.

Opposed to Lubbock’s going into Parliament.

W. J. Burchell’s collections are coming to Kew.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 102: 18–19
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4816,” accessed on 26 September 2022,

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