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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   21 December 1874


Dec 21/74

Dear Darwin

I have had enclosed from Huxley,1 I have not answered it . . I have the strongest repugnance against cutting a man without explanation under such circumstances—it gives him the power of saying that he does not know why he is cut— I cannot agree with H. in saying that “all desirable practical results are thus obtained”— It leaves you & me where we were— that is a position I have no intention of holding toward M.

We must wait to hear what comes of Huxleys [venture]2 it may (barely conceivably) lead to a repudiation of the article by Mivart— It if does not my idea is to write myself to him a little more suavely & fully than you have—3 The tone of your letter prejudges the case; & he may take advantage of that to decline to answer.

What I thought of saying for myself was that the internal evidence of its being his is so strong that it is a duty to myself to give him the opportunity of repudiating it— or of apologizing for it. That I hoped for the former, but that if he declines to do one or other I must regulate my relations with him accordingly.

Meanwhile I must see the Contemporary article again & reread it very carefully, & will ask Bentham’s counsel—4 One cannot be too careful in these matters

I have just read the apology in the October Quarterly it is abominable—worse than the article—5 not having the excuse of zeal in haste.

We are looking out for a school of 5–10 little boys of 6–9 for Reggie6—where the Lady takes special charge of the children as Reggie is not strong.

We are all well.

I have heard of excellent Drosophyllum at Edinburgh7   is it too late?

No news of my Secretary. Lord Hy has put £5000 on the estimates of a new fire proof building for Herbarium, books & mss &c8

Huxleys paper on the Head of Amphioxus was9 ⁠⟨⁠foot of page excised⁠⟩⁠


Dec 19. 1874

My dear Hooker

I had no opportunity of talking to you about Mivart’s affair on Thursday But it came to a catastrophe that evening— I read the July article at the club and quite share Darwin’s opinion about it— It is scandalous & the apology is wholly insufficient— Smith ought to be ashamed of it & I shall let him know what I think, when opportunity serves10

Mivart was at the meeting in the evening; & while the ‘swell’ of my indignation was still on—he came & bothered me about the MS of my Linnean paper—11 I told him I had settled all that with the President,12 in the dryest of tones, & turned my back on him, to talk with someone else   Next morning I reflected that this sort of thing could not go on—and as his ghostly father, Roberts, is attending my lectures I called him aside after my lecture & asked him to give me a few minutes conversation13

I told him what had happened and asked him to let Mivart know my opinion about the article. I told him that I had neither right nor wish to ask if M. was the writer of the article—still less to influence the expression of his opinion—but that I had a right to regulate my own social relations—. That G. D. was a friend for whom I had every respect & that I desired Mivart to know, that I objected to have anything to do, with the writer of an article, which had so unjustifiably attacked a friend of mine—.

Father Roberts is a gentleman & quite appreciated my views & undertook my commission

He did not tell me in so many words that Mivart wrote the article—but his manner left no doubt of the fact in my mind.

I will let you know what turns up if anything does

In the meanwhile, I think Darwin had better let the matter rest. It is not worth his while to write to Mivart— The explosion will go down to the account of my short temper and all desirable practical results will be obtained.

The slavery humbug has had one dressing at my hands & he knows better than to provoke another & worse.

Ever | yours | THH


CD had recently told Thomas Henry Huxley of St George Jackson Mivart’s attack on an article by George Howard Darwin (‘On beneficial restrictions to liberty of marriage’; G. H. Darwin 1873a) in an anonymous essay review in the Quarterly Review of works by John Lubbock and Edward Burnett Tylor ([Mivart] 1874, p. 70). See letter to G. H. Darwin, [6 December 1874].
Huxley sent a verbal message to Mivart via William Walter Roberts; for Mivart’s reply to Huxley, see Appendix V.
For a draft of a letter to Mivart that CD discussed with Hooker, see the enclosure to the letter to J. D. Hooker, 14 December 1874. The letter was never sent.
Hooker refers to G. H. Darwin’s article on marriage (G. H. Darwin 1873a). George Bentham had qualified as a barrister (ODNB).
G. H. Darwin’s response to Mivart’s criticisms appeared in the October issue of Quarterly Review (137 (1874): 587–8), followed by an anonymous rejoinder by Mivart. See also Appendix V.
CD had been seeking specimens of Drosophyllum lusitanicum (Portuguese sundew or dewy pine) for his work on Insectivorous plants (see letter to David Moore, 12 July 1874). Hooker refers to the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.
CD was supporting Hooker’s efforts to have an assistant appointed to help him in his work at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 2 December [1874]). Lord Hy: Henry Gordon-Lennox, the first commissioner of public works (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 8 December 1874).
See letter from T. H. Huxley, 8 December 1874. Huxley’s paper (T. H. Huxley 1874b) was read at the Royal Society of London on 17 December 1874.
William Smith was the editor of the Quarterly Review.
T. H. Huxley 1874c. Mivart was secretary of the Linnean Society (ODNB).
Roberts was a Catholic priest and a close friend of Mivart.


Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

[Mivart, St George Jackson.] 1874b. Primitive man: Tylor and Lubbock. [Essay review of the works of John Lubbock and Edward Burnett Tylor.] Quarterly Review 137 (1874): 40–77.

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.


His view of Huxley’s cutting Mivart without explanation. States his own intentions. Mivart’s apology in October Quarterly Review is abominable.

Has heard of a Drosophyllum in Edinburgh. Is it too late?

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 103: 236–8; Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine Archives (Dawson 2.214)
Physical description
AL inc

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9768,” accessed on 7 June 2023,

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