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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   20 January 1874

Royal Gardens Kew

Jany 20/74

Dear old Darwin

I was indeed sorry not to see you in London,1 but I am in a whirl of dissipation for the moment—with balls & junketting & sightseeing—the Medium being a charming Swedish girl, who is staying with us, & who I have been escorting about, & who of course leads captivity-captive! We have had too an awful row in the Linnean when Carruthers & Co. packed a meeting to throw out the decision of the Council & we beat him by 1! i.e. by one over & above the 23 majority of a packed meeting.2 I was awfully excited & anxious for 2 days as we only heard of this secret doings by accident 24 hours before the meeting.

We give a ball tonight, which will finish it, thank God, & go to the Cardwells from Friday till Monday— a very quiet house near Godalming.3

What you tell me of your Medium is simply crushing; how is the secret kept? What had you to pay her for her services?— What the d—–l is George about, in consorting with such unholy or at least un-canny people.4

I have your Nephews interest already at the top of my list— though Mrs Archie Smith, & Lyell also told me of him.5 I spent 2 hours with L. yesterday; he is certainly not more feeble than last year; & his intellect is wonderful   we had a capital chat over Belts book:— the tropical old Glaciers beat the seance I do think; & Lyell agrees with me that the Glacial Epoch is the great Geological Crux of the day. The lowering of the Ocean-level also is an idea that must now be fully investigated.6

Coral-Reefs is safe back.7

I am curious about Ramsays paper which is coming on at Royal on 29th.8

What do you think of Huxley’s book—9 I am for the moment satisfied with him & his ways, but the Council days at R.S are great pulls.10 1–6 pm continuous— then dinner, followed by the meeting at 812. he is very prudent, I am glad to say.

Ever yr affec | J D Hooker

I hope to run down to you some Sunday soon for peace & quiet & sound sleep.


CD was in London from 10 to 17 January 1874 (see ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
At a meeting of the Linnean Society of London held on 15 January 1874, alterations to the bylaws agreed to by the Council were read by George Bentham. William Carruthers then put forward a motion that the proposed alterations be put to the meeting seriatim, but his motion was declined. In the ballot that followed, the alterations were adopted by a vote of forty-four to twenty-one. For a detailed account of the meeting, see Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London 86 (1873–4): xi–xiii). Two of the alterations to the bylaws were important changes; one allowed fellows to be eligible for paid posts in the society, while the other removed the election of the librarian from the fellows to the council. For more on the dispute about voting procedure and the consequences of the continuing disagreement at later meetings, see Gage and Stearn 1988, pp. 67–71.
Edward Cardwell had recently become a member of the Royal Society of London (Record of the Royal Society of London). Hooker was president of the society. Cardwell and his wife Annie lived at Eashing park, Godalming, Surrey (Post Office directory of the six home counties 1874).
In his letter of 18 January [1874], CD had described the séance held at Erasmus Alvey Darwin’s house. George Howard Darwin had hired the medium, Charles E. Williams.
CD had asked Hooker to support Henry Parker’s application for membership of the Athenaeum Club. Parker became a member in 1874 (Waugh [1888]). Charles Lyell was a member, and Susan Emma Smith was the widow of Archibald Smith, who had also been a member.
In The naturalist in Nicaragua, Thomas Belt discussed evidence of glacial action in Central America and the lowering of the sea level during the glacial period (Belt 1874, pp. 260–74).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 18 January [1874] and n. 2. Hooker refers to CD’s book Coral reefs.
Andrew Crombie Ramsay presented his paper ‘On the comparative value of certain geological ages’ (Ramsay 1874) at the Royal Society on 29 January 1874.
Thomas Henry Huxley’s most recent book was Critiques and addresses (T. H. Huxley 1873). It was published in May 1873 (Publishers’ circular, 16 May 1873, p. 338).
Hooker became president of the Royal Society on 30 November 1873; Huxley was a secretary of the society from 1872 (Record of the Royal Society of London). In 1873, Huxley had suffered a breakdown from overwork and financial worries. Some friends, including CD and Hooker, had raised a subscription on his behalf to allow him to take a vacation and reduce his workload (see Correspondence vol. 21).


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. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Huxley, Thomas Henry. 1873. Critiques and addresses. London: Macmillan.

Post Office directory of the six home counties: Post Office directory of the six home counties, viz., Essex, Herts, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex. London: W. Kelly & Co. 1845–78.

Ramsay, Andrew Crombie. 1874. On the comparative value of certain geological ages (or groups of formations) considered as items of geological time. [Read 29 January 1874.] Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 22 (1873–4): 334–43.

Record of the Royal Society of London: The record of the Royal Society of London for the promotion of natural knowledge. 4th edition. London: Royal Society. 1940.

Waugh, Francis Gledstanes. [1888.] Members of the Athenæum Club, 1824 to 1887. N.p.: privately printed.


An awful row at the Linnean Society. William Carruthers and Co. packed a meeting to throw out a decision of the Council. He was beaten by one vote (more than two-thirds majority needed).

Spent two hours with Lyell talking about Thomas Belt’s book [The naturalist in Nicaragua (1874)]: "the tropical old Glaciers beat the seance I do think".

Lyell agrees that the glacial epoch is the great geological crux of the day. Lowering of the ocean level must also be investigated.

Curious about A. C. Ramsay’s paper coming at Royal Society on 29th ["On the comparative value of certain geological ages", Proc. R. Soc. Lond. 22 (1874): 145–8].

Huxley’s new book [? Critiques and addresses (1873)].

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 103: 187–8
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9250,” accessed on 29 September 2020,

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