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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   12 February 1867

Royal Gardens Kew

Feby 12/67

Dear Darwin

Your approval of my declining Brit. Ass Presidency was an immense relief—as really I was feeling rather a guilty being.—1 Since I wrote I had a joint attack at the X club, from Huxley, Frankland, Spottiswood, Spencer & Hirst. & had much difficulty in beating off, which I did with a heavy heart, as I would fain have obliged them—2 Besides the personal objections, I know so well, that it would altogether interrupt, for months, both “Genera Plantarum” & my “Insular work” & it would not be fair to Bentham—3 Do my dear friend, if the subject is called up by Huxley or Tyndall, &c, your presence, back my resolution.4 They dwelt strongly on the scientific need of it—but really I do not recognize the British Assn needs in a scientific point of view, & though I think the D. of Buccleugh a disgraceful appointment,5 I am not sure that it is a post for the most scientific men of the day to aspire to; still less should it be dependent on their support

I hope to be in town on Thursday forenoon, & shall run my chance of seeing you before noon if you do not object.—6

Ever yours | J D Hooker


A dining club, later known as the X Club, was established on 3 November 1864 primarily for younger men of science united by friendship and a ‘devotion to science, pure and free, untrammelled by religious dogmas’ (quoted in Barton 1998, p. 411; see also Correspondence vol. 13). The initial members included Hooker, Thomas Henry Huxley, Edward Frankland, Herbert Spencer, and Thomas Archer Hirst; William Spottiswoode joined at the second meeting in 1864. For the social and political influence of the X Club on the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and on British science, see Brock 1981 and Barton 1998. For Hooker’s role in the X Club, see Bellon 2001.
Hooker refers to Bentham and Hooker 1862–83, to his work on geographic distribution, and to George Bentham (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 4 February 1867 and n. 7).
John Tyndall was one of the original members of the X Club (see n. 2, above).
The fifth duke of Buccleuch, Walter Francis Montagu-Douglas-Scott, presided over the thirty-seventh meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, held at Dundee in September 1867. He was not a man of science; Alfred Russel Wallace later wrote that Scott ‘evidently considered it a condescension on his part to be there at all’ (A. R. Wallace 1905, 2: 48; see also Brock 1981, p. 99).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 February [1867] and n. 21. Hooker evidently saw CD at Erasmus Alvey Darwin’s house in London during his visit between 13 and 21 February (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 14 March 1867).


Bellon, Richard. 2001. Joseph Hooker’s ideals for a professional man of science. Journal of the History of Biology 34: 51–82.

Brock, William Hodson. 1981. Advancing science: the British Association and the professional practice of science. In The parliament of science; the British Association for the Advancement of science, 1831–1981, edited by Roy MacLeod and Peter Collins. Northwood, Middlesex: Science Reviews.

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

Wallace, Alfred Russel. 1905. My life: a record of events and opinions. 2 vols. London: Chapman & Hall.


Relieved that CD approves his declining the Presidency of BAAS. The BAAS and the role of scientific men in it.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 102: 143–4
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5399,” accessed on 25 January 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15