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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   27 December [1874]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.

Dec. 27th

My dear Hooker

I return Mrs Gray’s most feeling & charming letter, which we have read with great interest.2

I have not heard from Mivart, & I do not expect to do so, as if he intended to write it would have been natural, for him to have done so at once.3 I am not so good a Christian as you & cannot forgive a man for malicious lying, merely because he says he is sorry. Mivart knows that I do not live in that world, & have no influence, & cannot write savagely, & therefore he will not be at the trouble to apologise to George & myself.— I will let you hear immediately if he does write, & if you do not hear you can judge by date of his letter to Huxley’s, how much law he ought to be allowed.4 It still seems to me the most manly & simple line for me to take is to write to Mivart & say what I think of his conduct, & thus come to a dead cut: I am sure that this will be the pleasantest course for me, in case I ever meet him.—

I am very glad you have got through Christmas day, as anniversaries after a heavy loss are often most painful.5

Farewell my dear old friend. Your conduct & sympathy in this odious Mivart affair has been most generous.—

Yours affect | Ch. Darwin

P.S. When I write to Mivart, I shall not allude to his confession to Huxley, but shall simply state that the article was written by him, of which fact I was firmly convinced before he owned to it.— I hope that you will not ask him to apologise publickly or privately to me; as an extorted apology wd be valueless.— He could not put a recantation in the Quarterly, stultifying & contradicting his shabby rejoinder when he thought himself unknown.6 And an apology in any other periodical will only stir up the dirt, & more of it, as Litchfield7 thinks, would stick to George, who, I do not doubt, has already been injured by the lying scoundrel.—

C. D.


The year is established by the reference to the dispute with St George Jackson Mivart; see n. 3, below.
CD refers to a letter from Jane Loring Gray to one of Hooker’s sisters (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [26 December 1874]).
Hooker, Thomas Henry Huxley, and CD had been discussing with CD what action to take over Mivart’s anonymous attack on George Howard Darwin’s article on marriage ([Mivart] 1874, p. 70; G. H. Darwin 1873a). Huxley had sent a verbal message to Mivart and had received a written reply, which he had not been able to share with Hooker and CD (see enclosure to letter from J. D. Hooker, 21 December 1874, and letter from T. H. Huxley, 23 December 1874).
Huxley had sent a message to Mivart on 18 December 1874 (see enclosure to letter from J. D. Hooker, 21 December 1874); on 23 December 1874, Huxley wrote to CD that he had received a letter from Mivart, and enclosed a reply that he had written to Mivart. Mivart’s letter to Huxley was dated 20 December 1874 (see Appendix V). Law: indulgence, mercy (OED s.v. law, n.1, 20b).
Hooker’s wife, Frances Harriet Hooker, died on 13 November 1874 (Allan 1967, p. 225).
Mivart had published an anonymous rejoinder to George’s complaint that he (George) had been misrepresented (Quarterly Review 137 (1874): 588–9).
Richard Buckley Litchfield was CD’s son-in-law.


Allan, Mea. 1967. The Hookers of Kew, 1785–1911. London: Michael Joseph.

[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.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.


Has not heard from Mivart. He is not so good a Christian as JDH and cannot forgive a man for malicious lying merely because he says he is sorry. Does not think Mivart will apologise. Still thinks the simple, most manly thing, is to write to Mivart directly and tell him what he thinks of him.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 95: 360–2
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9785,” accessed on 21 February 2024,

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