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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   18 January [1874]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Jan. 18th

My dear Hooker

Very many thanks for Coral Reefs Book, but before receiving it I got a copy from Lyell, so I return yours by this post, & am not the less obliged.—2 I feared that it was too good luck to see you at luncheon in London.— We had grand fun one afternoon; for George hired a medium, who made the chairs, a flute, a bell & candlestick & fiery points jump about in my Brother’s Dining Room in a manner that astounded everyone & took away all their breaths.3 It was in the dark, but George & Hensleigh Wedgwood held the mediums hands & feet on both sides all the time. I found it so hot & tiring that I went away before all these astounding miracles or jugglery took place. How the man could possibly do what was done, passes my understanding. I came down stairs & saw all the chairs &c &c on the Table which had been lifted over the heads of those sitting round it.—

The Lord have mercy on us all, if we have to believe in such rubbish. F. Galton was there & says it was a good séance.—4

Now will you make a memorandum, or what wd. be better as more trustworthy ask Mrs Hooker5 kindly to make one & remind you. It is, if you ever attend the Balloting meetings of Athenæum Club, to attend the first one early in February & vote for my nephew, Henry Parker, & ask anyone whom you can influence. He is a fellow of Oriel College Oxford, & a most able & accomplished man, & I assure you in every way fitted to be a Member.

Yours affectionately | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 January 1874.
CD had asked to use Hooker’s copy of Coral reefs to make corrections for a new edition (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 January 1874 and n. 3). Charles Lyell had supplied his copy (see letter to Charles Lyell, [13 January 1874]).
CD stayed with Erasmus Alvey Darwin from 10 to 17 January 1874 (see ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)). The medium hired by George Howard Darwin was Charles E. Williams (see Emma Darwin (1904), 2: 269). George Henry Lewes and Marian Evans (George Eliot) were also present. The séance took place on 16 January 1874, and accounts written by those present are at Cambridge University Library, in the papers of the Society for Psychical Research (CUL SPR.MS 14).
Francis Galton had started investigating mediums and attending séances in 1872 (see Correspondence vol. 20, letter from Francis Galton, 19 April 1872). For more on the scientific interest in spiritualism in Victorian Britain, see Noakes 2004.


Coral reefs: The structure and distribution of coral reefs. Being the first part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1842.

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

Emma Darwin (1904): Emma Darwin, wife of Charles Darwin. A century of family letters. Edited by Henrietta Litchfield. 2 vols. Cambridge: privately printed by Cambridge University Press. 1904.

Noakes, Richard J. 2004. Spiritualism, science, and the supernatural in mid-Victorian Britain. In The Victorian supernatural, edited by Nicola Bown et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Reports on a séance. "The Lord have mercy on us all if we have to believe in such rubbish."

Asks JDH to vote for his nephew, Henry Parker, for Athenaeum membership.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 95: 311–12
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9247,” accessed on 22 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22