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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   14 May 1872

Royal Gardens Kew

May 14/72

Dear Darwin

I was indeed concerned to have to call off my visit to you—but the “Treasury” has wakened up, & begins to find out that it will get into trouble with me—& that I am not to be “put down” in short, & this has brought about an official correspondence.1

I have just heard that there is a hot fight raging between the Treasury & Mr Ayrton, & “My Lords” are all on a sudden wondrous civil to me—

The conduct of Gladstone, & indeed of the whole Ministry, is truly despicable— They are in abject terror of the correspondence being called for in Parliament, & coolly advise me to wait till a new Ministry comes in!, as if it was not this Ministry’s duty to put me right; & as if “another Ministry” had nothing else to do but to rectify their blunders, & short-comings.2

Gladstone, Lowe, Ld Ripon, Cardwell, Ld Halifax, Bruce & D. of Argyll, all say I am wholly in the right, & that I have been officially as well as privately, infamously treated—3 but not one will raise a finger to help me, till exposure in Parliament is imminent—.

I hoped to have seen Lord Derby4 call for the papers last night— I regret that it is delayed— The exposure will render it impossible that I & Ayrton should retain our respective positions, & I am perfectly ready for the worst. It is my clear duty to the public to expose this affair irrespective of personal consequences, & I shall not raise a whisper to stop it: but I rather expect, now, that active measures in my favor will be immediately resorted to; & they have the Whitsuntide recess to think over their position. Gladstone cannot wish for the production of a correspondence in which I have officially accused Ayrton of having deceived him (the P.M.) in a public document, & telling him a falsehood in a private letter— Accusations made 10 months ago, & to this hour unanswered!5

Ever yours affect | J D Hooker


See letter to J. D. Hooker, 14 May [1872]. Hooker refers to his dispute with Acton Smee Ayrton over the running of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 11 May 1872 and n. 1).
William Ewart Gladstone became prime minister at the end of 1868; this parliament was dissolved in January 1874, and Benjamin Disraeli became prime minister (ODNB).
Robert Lowe, George Frederick Samuel Robinson (the marquess of Ripon), Edward Cardwell, Charles Wood (Viscount Halifax), Henry Austin Bruce, and George Douglas Campbell (the duke of Argyll) were members of Gladstone’s administration.
Edward Henry Stanley, the earl of Derby.
Hooker had written to Gladstone on 19 August 1871 (see Nature, 11 July 1872, p. 213). The Whitsuntide recess lasted until the end of May 1872.


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.


More on Ayrton affair. Conduct of Gladstone and the Ministry despicable. They have owned him to be in right but will not raise a finger until exposure in Parliament is imminent.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 103: 112–13
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8327,” accessed on 30 November 2023,

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