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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [2 June 1865]1


Friday Nt.

Dear Darwin

I am most anxious to hear what you say to the Lyell & Lubbock correspondence.2 My wife & I have gone over the letters with the books & Lubbocks original papers3 & can find but little that fairly appears to be plagiarism.— So far as the Danish part is concerned, 2 sentences, of very few lines, not involving any new facts nor theory, are all we can find.4 Do ask Hetty to enlighten me if there is any thing worse,5 as I should like to join you in healing this ugly breach.6 As matters appear to me, Lyell should have said frankly & at once, I had either forgotten that I copied your expressions, or I did so quite unwittingly—& I should have quoted you more pointedly in a foot note & in the preface.7

Lubbock on the other hand has taken up the matter in a very evil spirit. The first 9 lines of his note are more than uncourteous, they are rude & insulting— The last 5 lines are hardly intelligable—& do not appear to concern the public, at least as they stand without explanation.8 They imply that Lyell told a fib to screen himself— Now really between two Scientific men, not to talk of between 28 & 70 this is too bad:9 & except Lubbock can prove malice or a perverse intention on Lyells part to crush him (as Owen tried to crush Huxley)10 it I think requires an apology.

This comes of your divine art of Compilation!.11 Both, as it appears to me were making capital compilations, & from precisely the same sources & to illustrate the same subject   And I am astonished at Lubbocks reclamation, even under his own exaggerated? idea of the mischief intentionally done him.

One statement of Lubbocks letter of 29th. May is explicit & may be cleared up— Lubbock says “You might have obtained all your information from Danish sources & from Morlots paper, but it is evident you did not do so”.12

This is giving Lyell’s statement, in his letter of May 25, the lie direct—& is inconsistent with Lubbocks opening sentence, “of course neither of us claim originality.”13

No excuse can be made for Lubbocks not quoting Lyells correspondence,—Lyell may fairly attribute that to malevolence.14

This is altogether far worse than the Falconer affair,15 & will take a deal of forgetting & forgiving. And now my dear D. shall I tell you what is at the bottom of it all?—perhaps you wont believe it— it is just this—that Lady Lyell will not call on Mrs Busk nor invite the Busks to her parties.16 This the Lubbocks’ & Huxley’s resent.17 You never agreed with me about the Lyells position respecting their Scientific reunions—but I always told you they were playing with the fire, & would assuredly burn their fingers.—18 Here is Busk, an FRS, a Secy of Linn. Soc.—Hunterian Profr.—elected by Committee in Athenæum   Examiner to the Army Medical Board, & God knows what all, besides being a universal favorite—is called on by Lyell to be pumped dry of his knowledge; living in the same street for years with the Lyells’,19 & never otherwise noticed by them.— His wife, a most thoroughly accomplished clever person, excellent wife & mother, really scientific, & the kindest & most hospitable charitable person alive, more of a Lady than others asked to Lady Ls. soirées— I do say that the Busks’ must feel this to be social ostracism & nothing else. It is all very well to say that an Englishman house is his castle, & that it is no one elses affair who is invited to the house & so forth—but Lady Lyells Soirees are quasi public.— Every Englishman & foreigner of distinction—friend or stranger is invited, & the Owens & Carpenters & Busks alone, of people of their scientific standing, that live in London, are excluded20—for it is exclusion in such a case & remarked by every one to be so. The nobility are wiser in their generation & invite those they hate, because it is “de rigeur”!

Many thanks for the Peloria, every seedling being Peloric is a very important fact which I hope you will make something of. 21

My wife has had a miscarriage but is recovering.22 I am ordered to take her to the country as soon as she can be moved. I think of Yorkshire.

I have got through a deal of troublesome work here, & caught a most promising youth to be assist in the Herbarium, the other day.23

Ever yrs affec | J D Hooker


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 1 June [1865]. In 1865, the first Friday after 1 June was 2 June.
Evidently both Hooker and CD received at about the same time letters from Charles Lyell with copies of his correspondence with John Lubbock (see letter from Charles Lyell to J. D. Hooker, [31 May 1865] and enclosures).
See enclosures to letter from Charles Lyell to J. D. Hooker, [31 May 1865]. The books referred to are C. Lyell 1863c and Lubbock 1865; the ‘original papers’ are Lubbock 1861, 1862a, 1862b, and 1863a. Hooker’s wife was Frances Harriet Hooker.
See enclosures to letter from Charles Lyell to J. D. Hooker, [31 May 1865]; see also Bynum 1984, pp. 175–6, for a comparison of some of the parts of Lubbock 1861 and C. Lyell 1863c that could be taken as evidence of plagiarism by Lyell.
Henrietta Emma Darwin was interested in the dispute between Lyell and Lubbock. While Henrietta was on holiday in Wales, Emma Darwin wrote to her about CD’s worries over the dispute (see letter from Charles Lyell to J. D. Hooker, [31 May 1865] and n. 2). CD later sent her a letter on the subject from Thomas Henry Huxley to Hooker (see enclosure to letter from J. D. Hooker, [15 June 1865]; see also letter to J. D. Hooker, [17 June 1865] and n. 3). For an earlier criticism by Henrietta of C. Lyell 1863a, see Correspondence vol. 11, letter to Charles Lyell, 12–13 March [1863].
Both Lubbock and Lyell appealed further to Hooker to help resolve their disagreement (letter from John Lubbock to J. D. Hooker, 23 June 1865, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Letters to J. D. Hooker, vol. 14, doc. 183–4, and letter from Charles Lyell to J. D. Hooker, 5 June 1865, ibid., doc. 325). Lubbock may have consulted CD again in person, as they were neighbours (see letter from Charles Lyell to J. D. Hooker, [31 May 1865], n. 2), but no correspondence from him on the subject has been found. No further correspondence between Lyell and CD on the subject has been found, although Lyell apparently did arrange for a proof copy of the revised preface to C. Lyell 1863c to be sent to CD (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 13 July 1865 and n. 9).
There is no preface to the first edition of Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863a). The prefaces to the second edition (C. Lyell 1863b) and to the first printing of the third edition (C. Lyell 1863c), make no mention of Lubbock 1861. In a footnote in the second chapter (C. Lyell 1863a, p. 11), Lyell had written: Mr. John Lubbock published, after these sheets were written, an able paper on the Danish ‘shell-mounds’ in the October Number of the Natural History Review, 1861, p. 489, in which he has described the results of a recent trip to Denmark, made by him in company with Messrs. Busk, Prestwich, and Galton. In the second edition and the earlier print runs of the third edition, the footnote is almost the same except for the omission of the names of Joseph Prestwich and Douglas Strutt Galton, who had not been with Lubbock and Busk in Denmark; Lyell corrected this error in the second and third editions after Lubbock had pointed it out to him (letter from Charles Lyell to John Lubbock, 20 February 1863, in BL MSS ADD 49640; the letter is reprinted in Hutchinson 1914, 1: 62). On the advice of Hooker and Huxley (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [15 June 1865] and n. 13), Lyell did change the footnote and his preface in print runs of the third edition made after August 1865, leading to variant versions of C. Lyell 1863c (see Correspondence vol. 13, Appendix V for the text of the altered part of the preface to C. Lyell 1863c and the revised note; see also Bynum 1984 and Grayson 1985 for a comparison of the first three editions of Antiquity of man). The next, and last, edition of Antiquity of man did not appear until 1873, by which time Lyell had made substantial revisions.
Hooker refers to the note in Lubbock 1865, p. x (for the text of the note, see the letter from Charles Lyell to J. D. Hooker, [31 May 1865], n. 3; see also letter to J. D. Hooker, 1 June [1865] and n. 7).
In June 1865, John Lubbock was 31 and Charles Lyell was 67.
Hooker is probably referring to the ‘Hippocampus controversy’, the public argument over differences between human and ape brains that lasted from about 1860 to 1862 with Huxley and Richard Owen as the principal disputants. See Correspondence vols. 8, 9, 10, and 11; see also Rupke 1994, pp. 270–86, and L. G. Wilson 1996, for an account of the controversy.
When discussing Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863a) with Hooker, CD had praised the usefulness to science of compilers and compilations: ‘You know I value & rank high Compilers being one myself!’ (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter to J. D. Hooker, 24[–5] February [1863]).
See letter from Charles Lyell to J. D. Hooker, [31 May 1865] and enclosures. In the letter from John Lubbock to Charles Lyell, 29 May 1865, Lubbock referred to an article by Charles Adolphe Morlot (Morlot 1859), which summarised earlier Danish research (see Forchhammer et al. 1851–5), making it available to a wider audience. Lubbock’s charge of plagiarism was based on a comparison of certain passages in Lubbock 1861 and C. Lyell 1863c (see n. 4, above), but Lyell later argued to Hooker: ‘any one well read up in the Danish memoirs especially in Morlots abstract of them would never know without close comparison whether there was greater coincidence between my version and Lubbocks than was consistent with both of them coming from a common and older source—’ (letter to J. D. Hooker, 4 June 1865, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Letters to J. D. Hooker, vol. 14, doc. 324). See n. 13, below.
In his letter to Lubbock of 25 May 1865, Lyell claimed that there were only three passages where he ‘borrowed even any expressions from [Lubbock]’ (see letter from Charles Lyell to J. D. Hooker, [31 May 1865] and enclosures).
In his letter to Lubbock of 25 May 1865, Lyell asked why Lubbock did not include in Lubbock 1865 the explanation Lyell had given for inserting the note on page 11 of C. Lyell 1863c (see letter from Charles Lyell to J. D. Hooker, [31 May 1865] and n. 6).
Hugh Falconer had attacked Lyell for failing to acknowledge his and Prestwich’s research sufficiently in Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863a). See Correspondence vol. 11 and this volume, letter from J. D. Hooker, [17 February 1865] and n. 12.
The reference is to George and Ellen Busk. A reason for the Busks’ exclusion may have been that Ellen Busk was known as a freethinker and religious sceptic (see Jensen 1977, A. Desmond 1994–7, 1: 341, and L. G. Wilson 2002, pp. 78–80).
The reference is to John and Ellen Frances Lubbock and Thomas Henry and Henrietta Anne Huxley. Lubbock had known Busk since 1856 and considered him one of his closest friends and advisors (Hutchinson 1914, 1: 39–40). Huxley met Busk in 1850 and became closely attached to both him and Ellen Busk (Jensen 1977, p. 316).
No correspondence between CD and Hooker has been found in which the Lyells’ position respecting their scientific reunions is discussed.
George and Ellen Busk lived at 15 Harley Street; Charles and Mary Elizabeth Lyell lived at 53 Harley Street (Post Office London directory 1865).
The reference is to George and Ellen Busk (see n. 16, above), Richard and Caroline Owen, and William Benjamin and Louisa Carpenter. The Owens may have been excluded because Lyell had publicly quarrelled with Richard Owen (see Bynum 1984, pp. 154–9). The reason for the Carpenters’ exclusion is not known.
CD had sent Hooker a peloric specimen of Antirrhinum majus (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 1 June [1865] and n. 11). All the surviving seedlings produced by pollinating the peloric plant with its own pollen were peloric.


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

Desmond, Adrian. 1994–7. Huxley. 2 vols. London: Michael Joseph.

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.

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.

Hutchinson, Horace Gordon. 1914. Life of Sir John Lubbock, Lord Avebury. 2 vols. London: Macmillan.

Jensen, J. Vernon. 1977. "The most intimate and trusted friend I have": a note on Ellen Busk, young T. H. Huxley’s confidante. Historical studies 17 (1977): 315–22.

Morlot, Charles Adolphe. 1859. Etudes géologico-archéologiques en Danemark et en Suisse. [Read January 1859.] Bulletin des séances. Société Vaudoise des Sciences Naturelles 6: 263–328.

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.

Rupke, Nicolaas A. 1994. Richard Owen, Victorian naturalist. New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press.

Wilson, Leonard Gilchrist. 2002. A scientific libel: John Lubbock’s attack upon Sir Charles Lyell. Archives of Natural History 29: 73–87.


JDH on the Lyell–Lubbock plagiarism controversy. His view of the true cause of Lubbock’s behaviour.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 102: 24–7
Physical description
ALS 7pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4849,” accessed on 13 April 2024,

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