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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [7 March 1870]1



Dear old Darwin

I went a pilgrimage to town yesterday, at 1 PM on purpose to see you— on my way in, I remembered that I forgot your brother’s number, & so called at the Lyell’s to ask it—, & finding that they knew nothing of you, I took for granted that you had not come up & I went & spent the evening with Mrs Boott instead.2 So your letter this morning disgusted me.3 I am so dreadfully busy, that I doubt if I can get in this week, do tell me how long you stay in town— Can you come here?— I do want a talk about Barkly’s letter & other things; so let me hear your movements.4

I do not give much for the Botanical results of Ronde Island as depending on Monocots +/- Dicots, but the segregation of new forms & the Zoolog are most wonderful.5

Do back me up in my attempt to get Lyell to reduce his forthcoming little book to Elementary Principles & a compress of a volume like Huxleys Elementary Physiology—or not much bigger—6 A book like that to teach masters & children the principles of the Science in a concrete form is what is wanted, & it must be small & concrete. I have been coaching Charlie7 in Huxley which is admirable and the boy took to it (during his holidays) with actual avidity.— Just such a book on Geology is quite as much as should be compulsory on all youths with a liberal Education.

My Brit. Flora is a frightful drag—8 how difficult it is to do simple books well, & how little show they make for it.— I think Lyell must go to work in a different spirit or he will not succeed. He should go to work as the Veteran Phil. expanding the fundamental Principles of his own grand system—& not as a Scientific Expositor of data & facts. He tells me that “this”, & “that” requires modification explanation expansion & so forth— I tell him & such this’s & that’s should have no place in such a book: they are for proficients, advanced students & so forth— —but I bore you— we must meet some how—

Just write one line to say how long you will be in town—

Ever yrs affec | J D Hooker

Grove is disgusted at your being disquieted about Sir W Thomson— tell George from me not to sit upon you—with his mathematics—9 When I threatened your tropical cooling views with the facts of the physicists, you snubbed me & the facts sweetly, over & over again—10 & now because a scare crow of x + y has been raised on the self same facts you boo hoo— Take another dose of Huxley’s penultimate G. S. address11 & send George back to College.

A queer man—Crompton of Norwich, is too modest to send you enclosed, & asks me to do so—12 please tear it up— I do not want it again.


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 21 February [1870], and by the reference to CD’s being in London. The Darwins came to London on 5 March 1870 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)). The first Monday after 5 March was 7 March.
Hooker refers to Erasmus Alvey Darwin, who lived at 6 Queen Anne Street, Charles and Mary Elizabeth Lyell, and Mary Boott.
CD’s letter to Hooker has not been found.
Hooker had evidently sent CD copies of Henry Barkly’s letters to him concerning his visit to Round Island (near Mauritius) dated 17 November 1869 and 13 January 1870 (Archives of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, DC 188: 148–68). See also Correspondence vol. 17, enclosure to letter from J. D. Hooker to Emma Darwin, 29 March 1870, and this volume, letter to J. D. Hooker, 21 February [1870]. The Darwins returned to Kent on 12 March (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)). Hooker and CD did not meet during this visit (see letter to Asa Gray, 15 March 1870).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 21 February [1870]. Hooker refers to Round Island near Mauritius.
Hooker refers to Lyell’s Student’s elements of geology (Lyell 1871); also to Thomas Henry Huxley and T. H. Huxley 1866.
Charles Paget Hooker.
Hooker refers to his Student’s flora of the British Islands (Hooker 1870).
Hooker refers to William Robert Grove, William Thomson, and George Howard Darwin. CD had evidently written to Hooker about Thomson’s calculations of the age of the earth; see also Correspondence vol. 17, letter from Charles Lyell, 2 November 1869.
For Hooker’s objection to CD’s suggestion that temperate plants had crossed through the tropics during a global cool period, see Correspondence vol. 6, letter from J. D. Hooker, 9 November 1856.
In his 1869 address to the Geological Society of London (T. H. Huxley 1869b), Huxley challenged the accuracy of Thomson’s calculations of the cooling of the earth.
The enclosure has not been found: it may have been Joseph Crompton’s first presidential address to the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists’ Society, delivered on 27 April 1869 (Transactions of the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists’ Society 1 (1869–70): 13–18). John Gunn, Hooker’s uncle by marriage, was a member of the society.


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

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1870. The student’s flora of the British Islands. London: Macmillan.

Lyell, Charles. 1871. The student’s elements of geology. London: J. Murray.


Does not give much for botanical results of Round Island, but the zoology is wonderful.

Lyell’s new book [The student’s elements of geology (1870)]. Urges Lyell to make it Elementary principles.

Grove is disgusted with CD for being disquieted by William Thomson: "Take another dose of Huxley’s penultimate address to Geol. Soc." [Q. J. Geol. Soc. Lond. 25 (1869): 28–53].

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 103: 42–5
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6646,” accessed on 6 March 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18