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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   2 May 1865


May 2/65.

My dear Darwin

We feel very much the shock that poor Fitzroys death must be to you.1 My old friend Davis writes to me that he had been very excited for some time, & fancied that many had ill-treated him.2 also that Sir Rodk had decidedly snubbed him at the Geographical.3 He had taken a house at Norwood, for a few weeks— his daughters went to knock at his door on Sunday mg. & receiving no answer the door was forced & he found dead with his throat cut.4 Poor old Fitzroy— I am very sorry—for though I did not know him much I always regarded him in joint association with you, & I did admire his 12-Scientific pluck, as a Meteorologist,5 & his wonderfull kindness & goodness.

I hope to heavens that they will not appoint Glaisher to the post, or Maury, or any of those cattle, who seem to live on self glorification.6

My Father is considerably better, but not fit for work & will I hope soon go to the West.7

As soon as I get any notice of Caspary on Cytisus I will send it—8 I have seen none yet.

Lyell & Lady9 were out last night both very well & bright.—

I do not at all like Ramsays answer to Lyell— the note on p 1. is carping & uncalled for,10 & the whole thing far from clear— I am still of opinion that they are fighting for a shadow, in the present state of the question, & that a Rock basin is a Geological desideratum apart from Volcanic action.— The idea of a series of lakes, like the alpine ones, being formed by faults is in my notion preposterous—11

Masters I suppose reported for G. C. from Amsterdam   the Hort Soc. sent him.12

Ever yr affec | J D Hooker

CD annotations

End of letter: ‘Hackels case’13 pencil


Robert FitzRoy committed suicide on 30 April 1865 (DNB). FitzRoy was commander of HMS Beagle for the 1831 to 1836 surveying voyage, on which CD was his guest and companion (see Correspondence vol. 1).
John Edward Davis had been a second master on HMS Terror, the companion ship of HMS Erebus, on which Hooker served as assistant ship’s surgeon and naturalist during the Antarctic voyage, 1839–43 (Modern English biography, DNB). Davis may have come into contact with FitzRoy because they were both naval men and worked in the centre of government administration in Whitehall, London: FitzRoy had been head of the Meteorological Department at the Board of Trade and Davis was a naval assistant in the Hydrographic Department at the Admiralty (Navy list 1865). For an account of FitzRoy’s final breakdown and suicide, see Mellersh 1968, pp. 270–84.
Roderick Impey Murchison was president of the Royal Geographical Society. FitzRoy had been a fellow of the society since 1830 (‘List of council, officers, and fellows’, Journal of the Royal Geographical Society 34 (1864): xlvii), and had been awarded the society’s Gold Medal in 1837 (DNB). On FitzRoy’s connection with Murchison during the 1850s, see Stafford 1989, pp. 85–6. For Murchison’s obituary of FitzRoy, in which he expressed his high estimation of FitzRoy’s career, see Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society 9 (1865): 215–18.
The FitzRoys had taken Lyndhurst House, Upper Norwood, Surrey (Mellersh 1968, pp. 281–4; Modern English biography); their regular residence was 38 Onslow Square, Brompton, London (Post Office London directory 1865). FitzRoy had three daughters, Emily-Unah, Fanny, and Katherine, from his first marriage, to Mary Henrietta O’Brien; Emily-Unah died in 1856. He had a fourth daughter, Laura Elizabeth FitzRoy, from his second marriage, to Maria Isabella Smyth. See Burke’s peerage 1868, s.v. Grafton, duke of, and Correspondence vol. 6, letter to Syms Covington, 22 February 1857.
FitzRoy had instituted the first national system of weather forecasting with the intention of providing storm warnings for shipping; he described his methods of forecasting in The weather book (FitzRoy 1863). The forecasts were controversial, and exposed FitzRoy to considerable adverse comment within the scientific community (Anderson 1999, pp. 179, 182). There was, nevertheless, a popular demand for the forecasts (Burton 1986, pp. 170–3). For an account of FitzRoy’s work at the Meteorological Department, and the debate over whether the forecasts represented reliable scientific knowledge, see also Mellersh 1968, pp. 262–7, 276–80.
James Glaisher was head of the magnetic and meteorological department at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and secretary of the Royal Meteorological Society (DNB). Glaisher was frequently in the public eye for his scientific balloon ascents; see Tucker 1996. Matthew Fontaine Maury was the former superintendent of the United States Naval Observatory and Hydrographical Office; he had been in Britain since 1862 as an agent of the Confederate States of America (DAB; see also Burton 1986, pp. 149–51, 155). Robert Henry Scott eventually took over as head of the reconstituted Meteorological Office in February 1867 (see Burton 1986, pp. 169, 173–4, and Anderson 1999, pp. 206–7).
William Jackson Hooker was suffering from bronchitis and influenza (see letters from J. D. Hooker, 12 April 1865 and [19 April 1865]).
The reference is to Robert Caspary’s paper on Cytisus adami, now known as +Laburnocytisus adamii (Caspary 1865). See letter to J. D. Hooker, [1 May 1865].
Charles and Mary Elizabeth Lyell.
Hooker refers to Ramsay 1865, Andrew Crombie Ramsay’s response to Lyell’s discussion of the formation of lake-filled rock basins in the sixth edition of Elements of geology (C. Lyell 1865). Ramsay had proposed a theory of the glacial origin of rock basins in a paper read before the Geological Society of London on 5 March 1862 (Ramsay 1862); he elaborated the theory in Ramsay 1864. Lyell, however, argued that ice was incapable of excavating large rock basins and maintained that their formation was accounted for by unequal movements of upheaval and subsidence (C. Lyell 1863a, pp. 311–19, and C. Lyell 1865, pp. 168–74). For an account of the controversy, see Davies 1969, pp. 303–9. On the first page of Ramsay 1865, p. 3 n., Ramsay criticised Lyell for appearing to claim to have been the first to notice the correlation between glaciated areas and rock basins in regions that Ramsay had already noted in Ramsay 1862. There is a lightly annotated copy of Ramsay 1865 in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. CD had been supportive of Ramsay’s theory of the origin of lake basins, but had also been impressed by some critiques of the theory; see, for example, Correspondence vol. 10, letter to A. C. Ramsay, 5 September [1862], Correspondence vol. 12, letter to A. C. Ramsay, 12 July [1864], letter from J. B. Jukes, 10 August 1864 and n. 2, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 22 October [1864], and this volume, letter to Charles Lyell, 21 February [1865].
The theory that rock basins such as those in the Alps were formed by faults or crustal fractures was put forward by Roderick Impey Murchison (Murchison 1864a and 1864b). For Murchison’s contribution to the debate on rock basins, see Davies 1969, pp. 306–7. CD had discussed Murchison’s theory with Hooker in 1864; see Correspondence vol. 12, letter to J. D. Hooker, [23 August 1864], and letters from J. D. Hooker, 5 September 1864 and 16 September 1864. There is an annotated copy of Murchison 1864b in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. In 1864, Hugh Falconer had propounded a tectonic theory of the origin of rock basins, of which Hooker and CD were critical (see Correspondence vol. 12, letter from J. D. Hooker, 9 [March] 1864, and letter from J. B. Jukes, 10 August 1864 and n. 2). See also ibid., letter from J. D. Hooker, 2 December 1864.
Hooker refers to Maxwell Tylden Masters and to his report on the Congrès International de Botanique et d’Horticulture held at Amsterdam in April 1865; the report was published in the Gardeners’ Chronicle, 29 April 1865, pp. 385–6. CD was interested in a paper on the hybrid Cytisus adami (+Laburnocytisus adamii) mentioned in the report (see n. 8, above, and letter to J. D. Hooker, [1 May 1865]). Masters also reported on the Congress in the Proceedings of the Royal Horticultural Society 5 (1865): 92–7.
CD’s annotation refers to Ernst Haeckel. See letter to J. D. Hooker, 4 May [1865] and n. 10.


Anderson, Katherine. 1999. The weather prophets: science and reputation in Victorian meteorology. History of Science 37: 179–216.

Burke’s peerage: A genealogical and heraldic dictionary of the peerage and baronetage of the United Kingdom. Burke’s peerage and baronetage. 1st– edition. London: Henry Colburn [and others]. 1826–.

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Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

DAB: Dictionary of American biography. Under the auspices of the American Council of Learned Societies. 20 vols., index, and 10 supplements. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons; Simon & Schuster Macmillan. London: Oxford University Press; Humphrey Milford. 1928–95.

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.

FitzRoy, Robert. 1863. The weather book. A manual of practical meteorology. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts and Green.

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.

Mellersh, Harold Edward Leslie. 1968. FitzRoy of the Beagle. London: Rupert Hart-Davis.

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.

Navy list: The navy list. London: John Murray; Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. 1815–1900.

Post Office London directory: Post-Office annual directory. … A list of the principal merchants, traders of eminence, &c. in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent … general and special information relating to the Post Office. Post Office London directory. London: His Majesty’s Postmaster-General [and others]. 1802–1967.

Ramsay, Andrew Crombie. 1865. Sir Charles Lyell and the glacial theory of lake-basins. London: n.p. [Extracted from Philosophical Magazine 29 (1865): 285–98.]

Stafford, Robert A. 1989. Scientist of empire. Sir Roderick Murchison, scientific exploration and Victorian imperialism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tucker, Jennifer. 1996. Voyages of discovery on oceans of air: scientific observation and the image of science in an age of ‘balloonacy’. In Science in the field, edited by Henrika Kuklick and Robert E. Kohler. (Osiris 2d ser. 11: 144–76.)


On FitzRoy’s suicide.

The Lyell–Ramsay disagreement [on formation of lakes?].

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 102: 20–1
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4826,” accessed on 17 October 2021,

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