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Darwin Correspondence Project

From JDHooker   29 October 1872


Oct 29/72

Dear Darwin

Mrs Barber’s address “The Highlands Graham’s town.— Cape of Good Hope”. She is a great correspondent of mine, & her two brothers, the Bowker’s, are most intelligent people.1

I am greatly gratified by your hatred of Owen for me.2 How different our contempts are— I so despise him, that I feel I could afford to converse with him across a neighbour’s table tomorrow—& yet I should be confoundedly angry if any friend of mine did so at the same table!—

I was very glad to see my letter in Nature & only hope that he won’t answer it, & drag me into a controversy.3

The fun of the thing is, that Owen never intended his letter to be made use of— it was professedly intended to be used by Ayrton, when the question of removal of the Brit. Mus: contents to S. Kensington was to be discussed, that is some years hence.4 When that time should come, Owen would withdraw this letter, on the plea of circumstances having altered, & have substituted a very different one— Meanwhile this would have done its work, of poisoning Ayrton’s mind— It’s premature appearance must have horrified Owen— It is case of the biter bit.

Owen, Ayrton & Robinson, the Editor of a paper called ‘the Garden”, are all at work against Kew. D. Galton has taken alarm.5

Ever Yr affec | J D Hooker

I am not easy about Huxley—though he says he is slowly bettering.—6

Did I tell you that I have put my Willy7 into a Ship-brokers office in London to learn the business; & that he likes it much


CD had asked for Mary Elizabeth Barber’s address in his letter to Hooker of 27 October [1872]. Barber’s brother James Henry Bowker had corresponded with Hooker on archaeological finds; Thomas Holden Bowker had sent palaeolithic implements to England, notably to the British Museum (Cohen 1999).
Richard Owen’s report to Acton Smee Ayrton, the first commissioner of works, was written on 16 May 1872, and printed on 25 July, by order of the House of Commons. In it Owen had argued that the herbarium at Kew should be moved to the botanical department of the British Museum and that the only objection to such a move was the current lack of space, which would be remedied by the transfer of the natural history collections in the British Museum to the new Natural History Museum in South Kensington (Parliamentary Papers 1872 (335) XLVII.527, p. 175). Ayrton had reduced the original design of the planned building in 1870, so that two side wings were never built. Building began on the new museum in 1873 and it was opened to the public in 1881 (Stearn 1981, pp. 46–7).
William Robinson had founded the journal Garden in 1871 (ODNB). Douglas Strutt Galton was the director of public works and buildings (ODNB).
Thomas Henry Huxley’s ill health had been a cause for concern amongst his friends (see letter to JDHooker, 22 October [1872] and n. 4).


Cohen, Alan. 1999. Mary Elizabeth Barber, the Bowkers and South African prehistory. South African Archaeological Bulletin 54: 120–7.

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.

Stearn, William T. 1981. The Natural History Museum at South Kensington: a history of the British Museum (Natural History), 1753–1980. London: Heinemann in association with the British Museum (Natural History).


Sends Mrs Barber’s address.

Gratified that CD hates Owen. Hopes Owen will not answer Nature letter and draw JDH into controversy. Owen’s letter was not intended for Ayrton to use. Its appearance must have horrified him.

State of Huxley’s health makes JDH uneasy.

Willy is in a stockbroker’s office in London and likes it.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 103: 128–9
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8584,” accessed on 22 September 2023,

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