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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   21 November 1869

Royal Gardens Kew

Nov 21 /69

Dear Darwin

I have been corresponding with MacMillan about Nature, which I find too desultory, & like you, not half full enough in the matter of foreign journals nor indeed of English Societies.1

I must get Kerner on Tubocytisus, Oliver does not know it—2 the worst of such papers is, that it must be a mere guess which form to fix on as the type. May not the supposed 2 old parent like tribes, be two modern varieties?— imagine them destroyed, or not discovered, & would not the whole subject have to be treated from quite another assumed type—? I thought of adding a chapter on this subject to the Australia Essay3 when I wrote it, but could not for the life of me find reasonable evidence of any one species being the earliest—; Something might be done in the case of very old genera like Juglans4 which we believe have spread Westward, whence we may assume that the Eastern forms are the oldest, but that is at once met by the facts, that if the genus has been longest in the East it has had as much time to vary there as to spread to the west!—

What a sell for Mlle Royer   serve her right—5 how nasty women are when spiteful, & French women perhaps the worst in the world.

I met young Agassiz at Huxleys two nights ago, but I was recovering from a horrid headache & could not enjoy a very pleasant party of Flowers & Maskelynes   Young Agassiz seems a nice fellow & his wife too.6

Lyell absolutely declines P.R.S. & we look to Grove: I put it to him last night, & he will accept if offered, but will have no fights with Sabine—7 I assured him that it was only in case of Sabines retirement or being called to his maker (in which case I pity the latter for he wont know what to do with him) that the question of a successor would arise.

It is a pity—that Willy cannot get located in N.Z. for I shall not know what to do with him when he returns8

I think you will like to see Lady Ls. letter so I enclose it.9

Ever yrs affec | J D Hooker

Pray do not C.B. your letters to me— I can’t stand it.— I own CB gratifies me in a service point of view, & it is very useful officially Indeed for clerical correspondence,—but scientifically I rather dislike it.10


P.S. Lyell had a long talk with me about Kt.—which he seems greatly to regret my not accepting— I could not tell him, how gladly I “not accepted” nor how much I do not regret it: nor could I make him understand my feelings in the matter.—that I have no wish whatever to be Sir J. at all—but that if this must be some day, the least objectionable way is clearly in the Bath, the Bath being a recognition of public services &c.11 I have no wish even for that, but I quite feel the force of all my friends wishing it, of my public position suiting it, & of keeping up, (what I & my relations do & my children will take a reasonable pride in) the public recognitions won by so many members of my family without Court or aristocratic influence. If I had raised myself wholly unaided, to my scientific position, as Lyell himself, & my father, & Murchison, & Palgrave did, to the positions they attained, then I should have felt that I had earned Knighthood as they did, & might have accepted: but my case is wholly different— my Science I owe to my father, ditto my Kew position. My services have been wholly under Govt. & if I am entitled to any such recognition as Knighthood at all it is one given for services unmistakeably.12

As it is, I am in the horns of a dilemma— I could be Knighted for the saying I wished it tomorrow— the declining is interpreted into despising it, in preference to a riband which I am not offered. Lyell & Murchison say—“take the Kt. as a step to K.C.B.”— this would be all very well if I really wanted the K.C.B.! though even then I do not think I could have stooped to any such dodge. Huxley & Lyell are the only persons with whom I have talked over this matter. Huxley quite understands & approves: but then he despises Kts., which I do not.


The reference is to Kerner von Marilaun 1869; see letter to J. D. Hooker, 19 November [1869] and n. 7. Hooker also refers to Daniel Oliver.
Juglans is the walnut genus.
See the letter to J. D. Hooker, 19 November [1869], for CD’s discussion of French translations of Origin, including those of Clémence Auguste Royer.
Alexander and Anna Russell Agassiz were visiting Britain (see G. R. Agassiz ed. 1913, p. 97). Thomas Henry and Henrietta Anne Huxley hosted the anatomist William Henry Flower, the mineralogist Nevil Maskelyne, and their wives or other family members.
For Hooker’s interest in Charles Lyell as a possible successor to Edward Sabine as president of the Royal Society, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, 14 November 1869. Hooker also refers to William Robert Grove.
Hooker had asked Mary Elizabeth Lyell about her husband’s physical fitness for the presidency of the Royal Society; see letter from J. D. Hooker, 14 November 1869. The enclosure has not been found; it is not in the Director’s Correspondence, Library and Archives, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
On Hooker’s receiving a CB, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, 14 November 1869.
On Hooker’s declining the offer of a knighthood, while waiting for a KCB to become vacant, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, 14 November 1869. On the civil KCBs as an award for service in the mid nineteenth century, see Risk 1972, pp. 71–3.
Charles Lyell, William Jackson Hooker, Roderick Impey Murchison, and Francis Palgrave had all been knighted. On the public recognition received by members of Hooker’s family, see Allan 1967. For Hooker’s father as director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and Hooker’s replacing him in 1865, see also R. Desmond 1995 and 1999, and Bellon 2001.


Allan, Mea. 1967. The Hookers of Kew, 1785–1911. London: Michael Joseph.

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

Desmond, Ray. 1995. Kew: the history of the Royal Botanic Gardens. London: Harvill Press with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1859. On the flora of Australia, its origin, affinities, and distribution; being an introductory essay to the flora of Tasmania. London: Lovell Reeve.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Risk, James C. 1972. The history of the Order of the Bath and its insignia. London: Spink & Son.


Has corresponded with Macmillan about Nature.

Will get the Kerner book.

Mere guesses must determine which form to fix on as the type.

Raises questions about the genealogical tree.

Serves Mlle Royer right.

Lyell declines Royal Society Presidency; now look to W. R. Grove. Long postscript on JDH’s views about knighthood.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 103: 39–41
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7002,” accessed on 22 September 2023,

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