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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Farrer   29 November [1874]1

My dear F.

I am going to beg a favour of you, which I am sure you will wish to grant, but it may not be in your power.— Dr H. came here shortly after the death of his wife,2 & said that he was so overworked at Kew, by correspondence & [demands] independently of the [ordinary] work that if the G. would not appoint an assistant secretary to the Institution; he wd retire & this wd be a fearful loss to science. His wife was able to compose letters from his verbal instructions & now all that is over. H. has long paid for a private sec. out of his own salary but he has resigned.3 I asked him to give me some idea of what his extra work was, & a copy of his application to the Government, which I enclose & hope you will read.4

For it has occurred to me that you might interest Sir S. Northcote5 on the subject; but pray believe me, I mean only in so far as getting him to consider the case himself, & not to throw it over to some subordinate. This is all that Hooker desires, but it was my thought to trouble you.— I shd add that H. has received a hint the G. would perhaps increase his salary so that he wd have to pay a P. S. but that wd not suit his views: he thinks it necessary to get some good botanist who wd not accept a temporary appointment; & he thinks it most desirable that there shd be some one at Kew who could carry on the [business] for a time, in case of his illness or [departure].— If you can give any aid, you will do a good service toward an excellent man & to Science anyhow I hope that you will forgive me thus troubling you. Truly [illeg] [yours ever—]

T. H. Farrer | Nov 29


The year is established by the reference to the death of Joseph Dalton Hooker’s wife (see n. 2, below).
Hooker had stayed with CD at Down from 19 to 23 November 1874 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)) following the sudden death of Frances Harriet Hooker on 13 November 1874 (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 2: 189).
The botanist William Turner Thiselton-Dyer had assisted Hooker for an hour a day but could not continue to do so because of his other duties as professor of botany at the Royal Horticultural Society (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 15 September 1874 and n. 4).
The Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, of which Hooker was the director, was funded by the government; CD had asked Hooker to prepare a document laying out his reasons for wishing an assistant to be appointed (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 26 November [1874] and n. 3).
Stafford Northcote was chancellor of the Exchequer.


Hooker is greatly overworked at Kew and is trying to get the Government to provide some help. CD hopes THF will take an interest in the matter and forwards a copy of JDH’s application for an assistant.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Farrer, 1st baronet and 1st Baron Farrer
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 97: C67–8
Physical description
ADraft 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9737,” accessed on 24 March 2023,

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