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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   6 June 1869


June 6 /69

My dear Darwin

Here we are, homeward bound, but moored here by the amazing kindness of the people for a longer time than we expected; enjoying ourselves very much indeed.1

We went to St Petersburgh in two stages, stopping only at Berlin & there for 3 nights; our Hotel was opposite the Pertz’s,2 who were most attentive & hospitable.— I saw also a good deal of Peters,3 who is a capital fellow, & has, as you know, been much in England. At the Museum there was a very badly stuffed specimen of a new & small species of Gorilla from East Africa, & that it was the only novelty I saw. At St. Petersburgh I found many friends, including some cousins of my Mothers, who had married into Russian families, & one of whom, being an ADC to the Emperor, was immensely useful to us; nothing indeed can exceed the kindness of these Scandinavians & Scythians—4

At the Academy I was much interested with old Brandt the Zoological Director who declares that all the Bos’ses longifrons & Co are one species—that there is but one fossil Elephant, & that the Dinotherium is simpliciter a mammoth!5 he believes in you with a vengeance, & I hope I do not misinterpret his ideas— I saw the Rhinoceros tichorhinus with skin & hair on head & feet found in East Russia—6 I was not aware, or had forgotten, that this animal had been found with the soft parts preserved.. The Mammoth is certainly a magnificent thing: the skin is preserved in huge masses. But the Syremi Stelleri 7 (I cannot spell the name) of which they have a complete skeleton is even more interesting; the texture of all the bones is like the hardest ivory & the proportion of bone to size of animal I should think exceeds that of any other animal: this & its curious organization rendered it to my eyes the most curious thing I ever saw. The Birds & beasts at the Academy are most admirably stuffed & set up, & the series of varieties of Rodents &c is most instructive in the variability point of view. With the mineralogical Gallery at the School of Mines I was disappointed— Von Baer was not at St. P., he has gone to live at Dorpat, old Admiral Lutke & Bunge the Botanist were by far the most interesting men I saw—8

With St. P. I was a good deal disappointed, it is huge, tasteless, & void of all national architecture, except the churches which are Sublime, & the choral services celestial: beside these our emasculated Anglican services, with its halting imagery & puling intonation is contemptible;—if we are to have music & gesticulation & incense & gold & jewels, give them me hot & strong, & the Russo-Greek X is the place for my money. The altar Screens & chapels are literally ablaze with jewels & every jewel given, is a full & perfect sacrifice for some real stunning crime sin or misdemeanor committed by this most immoral people.

The Palaces are gorgeous, but one gets quite sick of French decoration, & endless cabinets of diamonds & rubies.— The streets are Enormous & horribly paved, distances are tremendous, living very expensive & the place terribly unhealthy.— I never saw such sickly children & I am assured that the mortality exceeds the births by 6000 per annum   immigration of French & Germans keeps up the popn.

The Exposition was very fair, but the arrangements extremely bad.— The Emperor9 was most polite, received a lot of us at his palace of Tsarkoe Selo10 showed us himself over the private apartments that were of Historic interest, gave us two dejeuners, & at the end decorated a dozen or so of the savants & expositors— as I declined a Decoration, he has sent me a pair of beautiful Jasper Vases from a private mine he has in Tomsk, which he reserves for such purposes. I was sorely puzzled what to do about the Decoration, not wishing to be rude on one hand, & on the other, anxious to avoid it, lest my motives in coming, after the refusal of Low to send me, should be misunderstood—so I said that as we could not wear foreign decorations at our Court, I would decline, adding that to English men of science they were not of the same Value as to Foreigners.—11 His functionaries were most civil about it— & he consequently sent me the Vases &c to my two compatriots, Murray & Hogg,12 each a malachite table.

With Moscow we were enchanted—& could have spent weeks there with pleasure— it is as eminently national as St. P. is the contrary.

We left last Tuesday by steamer sailing through the wooded glaciated isles of the Gulf of Finland & Baltic, all the way to this most lovely city—the most enchanting I ever was in. Andersson13 was on the Quay to meet us & has persuaded me to stay till the meeting of the Academy on Wednesday, when we leave for Copenhagen, & shall thence go to Hamburgh & home by steamer next week.

Here I have seen much of the officers of the Spitzbergen Expeditions—most interesting men— they hope next year to go to Nova-Zembla.14

Andersson would go again to the Galapagos for 6 months with a schooner from Guayaquil15 if he could raise £500— I should think we could do this   it would be a splendid thing to do & he is a capital man.

The weather has been cold & comfortless but suitable on the whole for travelling. Mrs Hooker16 has stood it perfectly & enjoyed herself amazingly, she sends love to you all—please add mine.

Ever my dear Darwin | Yours affec | J D Hooker

Clement Wedgwood & his wife17 arrived before we left & we spent a very happy day altogether


For Hooker’s trip to St Petersburg, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, 11 March 1869 and n. 4.
Georg Heinrich and Leonora Pertz.
Probably Wilhelm Peters.
Hooker’s mother was Maria Hooker, née Turner. Her cousins Anne, Maria Justine, and Gertrude Rigby had married in Estonia George de Wahl, Robert de Rosen, and Theophile de Rosen respectively; Gertrude’s daughter married General Manderstjerna, aide de camp to Tsar Alexander II, and the rest of Gertrude’s children also married and stayed in Russia (L. Huxley 1918, 1: 17, 2: 86). Estonia had been under Swedish control from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century but was currently ruled by Russia. De Wahl, the de Rosens, and General Manderstjerna have not been further identified.
Bos longifrons was one of three fossil forms of Bos identified as distinct species by most palaeontologists at the time (see Variation 1: 81–3). Johann Friedrich von Brandt had published on the mammoth Elephas primigenius (now Mammuthus primigenius, the woolly mammoth) and on the relationship between Deinotherium and the elephant family (Brandt 1866 and 1869).
Hooker may refer to a Rhinoceros tichorhinus (now regarded as a synonym of Coelodonta antiquitatis) discovered by Pyotr Simon Pallas in Siberia, a part of which, with skin and hair on the sides of its head, was kept at the Museum of Natural History at St Petersburg (Roderick Impey Murchison, ‘Habitation and destruction of the mammoths’, Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal 40 (1845–6): 349).
Hooker refers to Sirene stelleri, now Hydrodamalis gigas, Steller’s sea cow.
Hooker refers to Karl Ernst von Baer, Feodor Petrovich Lütke, and Alexander von Bunge. Dorpat is now Tartu, in Estonia.
Tsar Alexander II.
Tsarskoe Selo or Tsarskoye Selo.
Hooker had originally planned to attend the horticultural congress as an official delegate, but the Treasury refused to send him and he attended independently (L. Huxley 1918, 2: 85). Hooker refers to Robert Lowe, the chancellor of the Exchequer. The Gardeners’ Chronicle reported that none of the English delegates were given decorations, on Hooker’s advice (Gardeners’ Chronicle (5 June 1869): 609).
Andrew Murray and Robert Hogg.
Nils Johan Andersson.
Nova Zembla (Novaya Zemlya): two islands in the Arctic Ocean between the Barents and Kara Seas. Spitsbergen was a starting point for Arctic exploring expeditions.
Guayaquil is in Ecuador.
Frances Harriet Hooker.
Clement Francis and Emily Wedgwood.


Brandt, Johann Friedrich von. 1866. Mittheilungen über die Naturgeschichte des Mammuth oder Mamont (Elephas primigenius). St Petersburg: Kaiserlich Akademie der Wissenschaften.

Huxley, Leonard, ed. 1918. Life and letters of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, OM, GCSI. Based on materials collected and arranged by Lady Hooker. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

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


Account of his Russian trip.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 103: 14–17
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6776,” accessed on 27 May 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17