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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   16 June 1868


June 16/68.

Dear Old Darwin

I will send you the name of the grass anon: it is gone to Genl. Munros.1

Wheatstone told me that you have the Prussian order of merit;2 the only scientific distinction of the kind that I ever thought worth a fig— My dear old friend I do rejoice from the bottom of my heart & congratulate Mrs Darwin & your family a thousand thousand times   I rejoice out of love for you & yours, & I rejoice out of hate to the French Academy, who will now feel confoundedly small.3 I thought it almost too good news to be true when I heard it.

I went to the Handel festival yesterday & heard the Messiah—4 It reminded me of the organ at Oxford,5 for several of the choruses went “up & down my back” & the Hallelujah was tremendous   I never heard such music. & yet I had disappointments, the acoustics of the building are irremediably bad.— the finest solos were contemptible compared with the unsurpassable grandeur of the Chorus music. & “The Trumpet shall sound” grievously disappointed me, I expected a blast that was to wake the dead, & make my flesh creep off my bones, & leave me an unaffined skeleton—whereas the delicate trumpet solo, however beautiful, was too small a voice altogether— I had a musical companion with me, who kindly interpreted all with the score, & I avow I was “greatly awakened”,—I had always believed I would rather have been a great composer than any thing else, & I shall now die in that belief.

I was at dear old Ward’s funeral on Wednesday.6

My wife is making a capital recovery, & baby is all right.7

Ever my dear “eques bene meritus”8 | Your admiring & affect | J D Hooker.

I sent D. of Argyll last week.9


See letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 [June 1868]. William Munro, who had retired from the army and was living in Taunton, Somerset, was writing a monograph on grasses. He had become a major-general in March 1868. (ODNB.)
On French reception of CD’s theory, and his election to the academy, see Corsi and Weindling 1985, pp. 698–711. The French Academy elected CD a corresponding member to the botanical section in 1878 (see letter from the Académie des Sciences, 5 August 1878 (Calendar no. 11640a)).
The fifth Handel triennial festival took place in the Crystal Palace on 15, 16, and 17 June 1868 (The Times, 5 June 1868, p. 10). Georg Frideric Handel’s Messiah was performed on 15 June, by a chorus and orchestra of about 4000, before an audience reported to be over 15,000 in number (The Times, 16 June 1868, p. 12).
Hooker refers to the organ in the chapel of New College, Oxford, where he and CD had been for the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science between 22 June and 1 July 1847 (see Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix I, and letter from J. D. Hooker 18 July 1874 (Calendar no. 9553)).
Eques bene meritus: well-deserved knight. Hooker refers to CD’s being made a knight of the Prussian Order of Merit (see n. 2, above).


Calendar: A calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882. With supplement. 2d edition. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994.

Campbell, George Douglas. 1867. The reign of law. London: Alexander Strahan.

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


Will get name of grass [see 6243] from Gen. William Munro.

Has heard from Charles Wheatstone that CD has Prussian Order of Merit. Rejoices because it is the only distinction worth a fig.

Went to Handel festival; heard Messiah.

Went to poor old N. B. Ward’s funeral.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 102: 216–17
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6247,” accessed on 14 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16