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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   30 August 1868

Royal Gardens Kew

Aug 30/68

Dear old Darwin

A thousand thanks for your letter. A regular sun-beam it was—1 What a pother these papers kick up about my mild theology! An Aberdeen one calls me an Atheist & all that is bad:2 to me, who do not intend to answer their abuse, misquotations, garbled extracts, & blunders, it is all really very good fun. There were gentle disapproving allusions at Kew Church today I am told! I am beginning to feel quite a great man!

Tyndall most assuredly did couple our names most prominently, unequivocally, & unmistakeably as the two modestest men in Science!!!3

The last day was by far the hardest work, what with Committees & Councils & the Mayor’s Dejeuner—& Huxleys splendid lecture to the Working men—on all which occasions I had to speak.—4 I never had such a day’s work, & had no rest whatever, from 10 am till 1012 PM. I could not sleep at night, & had to give up the excursions next day. My darling wife5 did enjoy it all through most thoroughly, & proved herself “as strong as a woman”   I am sure that without her the whole thing would have been to me simply intolerable; as it was, it was delightful to see her always in public & looking so pretty (at a distance at least) & pleased.

The sections were splendidly full all through. Poor Huxley made a sad mess of it by twice offending the clergy*, totally without cause or warrant,—once at the Prehisto[ry] Congress, when he likened them to Bulls of Basan—& again at the Red Lion Club, when they got up & left the room!6 I was not there having providentially been prevented attending— On this last occasion he had no intention of hitting the Clergy, but Carl Vogt7   No one understood this at the time, & whether or no the application was obvious, & the blunder atrocious. Several got drunk as usual at the Red Lions— I do wish I could persuade Lubbock8 to drop that very silly Club— he is now the head & front of it; & it really is a scandal to Science, & however it might have once been good under E. Forbes 25 years ago is now completely out of place, out of date, & out of keeping with the age & standing of the Members9

Stokes10 has accepted the Presidency for next year, & if he is as dull & wanting in tact as at Norwich, the Exeter meeting will not be brilliant.

My time was an anxious one as Willy who was staying with an old messmate of mine at Oxford burst a blood vessel in the Lungs on the very day of meeting, & we are a good deal anxious about him—11 We had constant letters & Telegrams, & my wife was ready to start at a minutes warning, but his good kind hosts would not allow it. & it would have made an awful row at Norwich. I went from Norwich to Oxford on Friday & brought him home on Saturday. He has had several slight returns, but is otherwise well, has no cough or bad symptom. The Oxford Doctor, an excellent man, declares that it is from the Lungs, & dreads tubercle, but can detect no lesion. We are keeping him very quiet, & he is not to go back to school this quarter.

I have between £8 & 9. to hand over to Mrs Cameron for sale of photographs, cheifly yours, of which 8 or 10 went off; but it is far too big for travellers to carry away. I wrote twice to her from Norwich.12

Asa Gray sails on 2d Sept from New York.13

I forgot to tell you that I read all over about you to Thomson who thought I had “drawn it very mild”— Bentham & Oliver do not think that I said a word too much.14

The Astronomers do not quite like my allusions to them. I had a long talk with Adams, who is a most charming fellow, he will not agree with me, but won’t give me any definite answer. He does not allow that Astronomy is in fault in the matter of the suns distance, no more it is in one sense, but astronomers are, & the science of Astronomy is simply the exponent of Astronomers knowledge—15

Lady Lyell was much pleased at my notice of Sir Chas: book & thanked me very heartily. Sir C. said nothing— Wallace was charmed. & so was Flower.16

I am longing to run to Down & tell you all about it—but I must go to Scotland next week (7th. or 8th.) to settle about the late Dr Arnott’s Library & Herbm. & then for a few days visit to a friend near Dunfermline—17

As soon as I can after my return I will run down to you (& bring my wife, if convenient to Mrs Darwin, & Willy keeps well, so that she may go without anxiety.)—

Love to all | Ever yr affec | J D Hooker

I gave your Reindeer Query to Nilsson & saw a great deal of Victor Carus.18

P.S. I have just seen Owen’s rigmarole in the Athenæum, is it worth answering?19

* The Clergy throughout behaved splendidly like men & gentlemen. The Cathedral service was glorious, the anthem was chosen for me “What though I know each Herb & Flower” & brought tears into my eyes, & Dr Magees discourse was the grandest ever heard by Tyndall Berkeley, Spottiswoode, Hirst or myself.20


The Aberdeen paper has not been identified.
On the afternoon of 26 August 1868, the mayor of Norwich, Jeremiah James Colman, gave a déjeuner for 700 people at St Andrew’s Hall, Norwich (The Times, 27 August 1868, p. 8). In the evening, Thomas Henry Huxley delivered a lecture on chalk to the ‘operative classes’ of Norwich (T. H. Huxley 1868c; Proceedings of the 38th meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, p. lvii).
The International Congress for Prehistoric Archaeology was meeting in Norwich at the same time as the British Association. Bulls of Bashan: Ps. 22:12: ‘Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.’ On the Red Lion Club, an informal dining club of the British Association, see Gardiner 1993.
Carl Vogt attended the Norwich meeting of the British Association (Proceedings of the 38th meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, List of resident and non-resident members).
Edward Forbes was a founder of the Red Lion Club (see Gardiner 1993).
Hooker refers to William Henslow Hooker; the ‘messmate’ has not been identified. Hooker had been assistant surgeon on the voyage of the Erebus to Antarctica, between 1839 and 1843.
Julia Margaret Cameron had taken photographs of both CD and Hooker while they were staying at Freshwater on the Isle of Wight (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 17 [August 1868], and plate facing p. 630).
Asa and Jane Loring Gray were in Europe from September 1868 until November 1869; they went first to Kew (J. L. Gray ed. 1893, 2: 565).
Hooker refers to Thomas Thomson, George Bentham, and Daniel Oliver.
In his presidential address to the British Association (J. D. Hooker 1868, p. lxxii), Hooker said, ‘No science is really perfect, certainly not that which lately erred nearly 4,000,000 miles in so fundamental a datum as the earth’s distance from the sun.’ The estimated age of the earth according to astronomers was viewed as a fundamental challenge to CD’s theory of natural selection, since it allowed too little time for change to occur. Hooker refers to John Couch Adams.
Hooker refers to Mary Elizabeth Lyell. In his address, Hooker referred to Charles Lyell’s Principles of geology (tenth edition, Lyell 1867–8; see letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 August [1868] and n. 9). Hooker called Alfred Russel Wallace ‘Mr. Darwin’s true knight’, and praised his modesty (ibid.). He also praised William Henry Flower’s ‘zeal and ability’ as conservator of the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons (ibid., pp. lxiv–lxv).
George Arnott Walker Arnott had collaborated with Hooker’s father, William Jackson Hooker; his collections went to the University of Glasgow (DNB). Hooker also refers to James William Colvile (see Correspondence vol. 15, letter from J. D. Hooker, 17 August 1867).
Hooker mistakenly thought that Richard Owen had written an article in the Athenæum, 29 August 1868 ([Robertson] 1868b), criticising Hooker’s remarks in his address to the British Association on the Athenæum’s earlier review of Variation (J. D. Hooker 1868, p. lxx; [Robertson] 1868a). The review and the article were by John Robertson, according to Francis Darwin writing in LL 3: 110.
See also letter from J. D. Hooker, 5 September 1868 and n. 14. Hooker refers to William Connor Magee (the bishop of Peterborough), John Tyndall, Miles Joseph Berkeley, William Spottiswoode, and Thomas Archer Hirst. Magee’s sermon, ‘The Christian theory of the origin of the Christian life’, is in Magee 1889, pp. 153–78. It was preached on 23 August 1868.


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

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.

Gardiner, Brian G. 1993. Edward Forbes, Richard Owen and the Red Lions. Archives of Natural History 20: 349–72.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1868. Address of the president. Report of the thirty-eighth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, held at Norwich, pp. lviii–lxxv.

LL: The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter. Edited by Francis Darwin. 3 vols. London: John Murray. 1887–8.

Lyell, Charles. 1867–8. Principles of geology or the modern changes of the earth and its inhabitants considered as illustrative of geology. 10th edition. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

Magee, William Connor. 1889. The gospel and the age: sermons on special occasions. London: Wm. Isbister.

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


The newspapers’ pother about his mild theology.

Tyndall’s reference to JDH and CD as the two "modestest" men in science.

Huxley offended the clergy twice without cause or warrant.

William Hooker ill.

Astronomers do not like JDH’s reference to them.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 102: 229–32
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6333,” accessed on 21 June 2024,

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