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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [17 May 1866]1



Dear Darwin

Harvey is gone, he died last Tuesday after much suffering at last,2 attended by his wife & my Mother & Sister,3 to whom he had long been as a son & brother. I shall never see his like again:—for purity of Spirit & sweetness of Temper he was equalled only by Henslow;4 but then he had besides an exquisite sensibility of temperament & extreme delicacy of feeling that in other people are combined with irritability or vanity. A more unassuming or unselfish man never lived, & when I think how much purer & better he was than I am I smite my self reproaching conscience & feel stricken with shame & sorrow, almost with remorse. He will be buried at Torquay on Saturday, but it will be utterly impossible for me to go to the funeral   His loss to Science will be very great, He was a good most painstaking & most conscientious working Botanist. & he leaves no successor fit for his Chair or Herbari⁠⟨⁠um s⁠⟩⁠tudies5   I do not know how it is, but the demand for systematic Botany is enormously greater than for any other branch of Nat. Hist. Science of a practical sort I mean—& all Harveys works were useful & good.—6

I have no heart to write more now—

I saw Caspary for a moment yesterday, but forgot your message in the hurry, I will see him again tomorrow & give it7

Ever Yr affec | J D Hooker

P.S. | Many thanks for yours of 16th. just arrived—8

Crawfurds paper was such trash that I tore it up— I will get you a copy.9

Pray do let me have your chapters on same subject: they cannot be dull to me.10

My letter to A Gray was proving by law of N.S. that America will have an aristocracy—& the greater the security of life & property the firmer the aristocratic element (& be d—d to it) I am glad you did not see it— it was so far in advance of your weak elements of knowledge! that you would have been rendered miserable. Joking apart it was only what I wrote you before about effect of the interbreeding of wealth beauty & intellect11—acting on the fact, that when struggle is strong the lower classes will have no time for politics & let power lapse to those with above endowments.

May we go to you on 23d. June.12

CD annotations

Before P.S.: ‘Harvey’ added pencil
7.1 Pray … to me.] scored pencil
9.1 23d.] underl pencil


The date is established by the reference to William Henry Harvey’s death (see n. 2, below), and by the relationship between this letter and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 16 May [1866]. In 1866, 17 May was the first Thursday after 15 May.
Hooker had remarked that Harvey was very ill in his letter to CD of [26 or 27 February 1866]. Harvey died on 15 May 1866 (DNB).
Hooker refers to Elizabeth Lecky Harvey, Maria Hooker, and Elizabeth Evans-Lombe.
John Stevens Henslow was Hooker’s father-in-law and CD’s mentor at Cambridge (see Walters and Stow 2001).
Harvey had been professor of botany and keeper of the herbarium at Trinity College, Dublin (DNB).
Harvey was best known for his work on algae (for example, Harvey 1846–51), and the flora of South Africa (for example, Harvey 1859–63).
Hooker refers to Robert Caspary. See letter to J. D. Hooker, 16 May [1866] and n. 7.
CD had requested a copy of John Crawfurd’s paper ‘On the migration of cultivated plants in reference to ethnology’ (Crawfurd 1866), which Hooker had criticised as ‘shocking twaddle’. See letter from J. D. Hooker, 13 May 1866 and n. 7, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 16 May [1866].
Hooker refers to the chapters on cultivated plants that CD had written for Variation (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 16 May [1866] and n. 12).
Having seen Asa Gray’s reply to Hooker, CD remarked that he would like to have seen Hooker’s original letter to Gray (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 16 May [1866] and n. 2). In previous correspondence, Hooker had suggested that the accumulation of wealth, intelligence, and beauty in an aristocratic class was an outcome of natural selection. See, for example, Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, [23 March 1862], and Correspondence vol. 11, letter from J. D. Hooker, [2]9 June 1863. For CD’s views on hereditary aristocracy, see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to J. D. Hooker, 25 [and 26] January [1862], and Descent 2: 356.


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

Crawfurd, John. 1866. On the migration of cultivated plants in reference to ethnology. Journal of Botany 4: 317–32.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

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.

Harvey, William Henry. 1846–51. Phycologia Britannica: or a history of British sea-weeds. 4 vols. London: Reeve and Benham.

Harvey, William Henry. 1859–63. Thesaurus Capensis: or, illustrations of the South African flora, being figures and brief descriptions of South African plants selected from the Dublin University Herbarium. 2 vols. in 1. Dublin: Hodges, Smith & Co. London: John van Voorst.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


W. H. Harvey is dead. His loss to science.

Will get a copy of Crawfurd’s paper. It was such trash he tore his up.

His letter to Asa Gray was about his [JDH’s] proof that America will have an aristocracy from interbreeding of wealth, intellect, and beauty; and the lower classes, not having time for politics, will leave them to the aforementioned.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 102: 75–6
Physical description
4pp damaged †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5093,” accessed on 28 November 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14