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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   11 May 1872

Royal Gardens Kew

May 11 / 72.

Dear old Darwin

The die is cast, Lord Derby calls for my correspondence with the First Lord of the Treasy in the Upper House without delay.1

I cannot tell you how I hate & loathe the process. The responsibility of the act rests with my “friends” Tyndall, Huxley, Bentham & Lubbock2—but it is adopted with my entire concurrence—asked & given unhesitatingly.

As to the upshot, I am confoundedly indifferent. I know that a subordinate can have no chance in fighting against his own Superior, himself a Minister of the Crown, & backed by the P. M & whole Cabinet. It is the operation I so dislike—having Kew’s dirty linen washed in public.

I have a most charming letter from Lord Russell, just so, promising to go to the House & support Lord Derby when the discussion comes on.3

Now that my part in the fight is over,—with my stomach still full of fight, I feel as if I should burst & disintegrate, by turns. You may not understand this, no more do I, but it is so all the same.

Now for the silver edging— Harriette4 came home yesterday, so well & happy

I should like much to go to Down soon for a few days if you are going to be at home—& bring some writing with me for Gen. Plant, which I shall never get through here.5 Would Mrs Darwin let me bring Harriete for a couple of days?—

Ever yours affec | J D Hooker

I have just had a splendid Greenland collection, which supports my views altogether, & I am ready to do fight for these with you.6


Edward Henry Stanley, the earl of Derby, was leader of the House of Lords (ODNB). Hooker had written to William Ewart Gladstone, prime minister and first lord of the Treasury, about his disagreements with Acton Smee Ayrton, the commissioner of works. See letter from J. D. Hooker, 1 January 1872 and n. 1. The Hooker–Ayrton dispute was discussed in the House of Lords at the end of July 1872 (The Times, 29 July 1872, p. 5). The correspondence was printed in Parliamentary Papers, 1872 (335) XLVII.527.
A copy of the letter from John Russell is in the Archives of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Papers relating to Kew 1867–72, Ayrton controversy, f. 193). For the debate in the House of Lords, 29 July 1872, see Hansard parliamentary debates 3d ser., vol. 213 (1872), cols. 2–23.
Harriet Anne Hooker, Hooker’s daughter.
Hooker refers to Genera plantarum (Bentham and Hooker 1862–83).
CD and Hooker had disagreed over the survival of Scandinavian flora on Greenland after the glacial period: CD thought that Greenland had been entirely depopulated during the glacial period, and repopulated by the accidental transport of plants from Scandinavia, while Hooker thought that some plants must have survived in the south of the island and spread north when temperatures rose. See Correspondence vol. 10, letters to J. D. Hooker, 4 November [1862] and n. 6, and [10–]12 November [1862], and letter from J. D. Hooker, 7 November 1862; see also Hooker 1860.


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

Hansard parliamentary debates:

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


The die is cast on Ayrton affair. Lord Derby has called for all of the correspondence, as a result of pressure by men of science on JDH’s behalf.

Has just had a Greenland collection, which supports his views altogether; "I am ready to do fight for these with you."

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 103: 109–10
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8317,” accessed on 19 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20