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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   17 March 1875


March 17/75

Dear Darwin

Mrs Barber’s last address is Kimberley Gold fields. Whither the old Lady has gone prospecting! If you will send me the copies I will put them in the Govt. despatch bag & send one to Sir H Barkly who will be interested in it.1

Harriet & Willy are gone to Algiers, whither I hope to follow them on 15th April, returning about 20th May.2 I have an aunt with her son & daughter staying with me—Mrs Turner—My Liverpool Uncle’s wife— he is ill has had to throw up his school & is going a long voyage for his health—3 she is very nice & fond of reading Spencer!, Greg4 & so forth— I was getting so dreadfully hungry for conversation at table—Harriet & the boys being no readers or thinkers.5 Harriet could not shake off her mother’s death, & was very poorly, every one (Sibson, Paget &c) advised my sending her away & as a visit to the Playfair’s in Algiers had long been promised I took advantage of it—.6

No Secretary yet but I have a private note from Disraeli “asking” if Prof Dyer is the “person I recommend.” which looks as if the matter was taken clear out of my Lords’ hands.7 Curiously enough by the very same post came a letter from Galton, asking me to back Ld. Henry in contesting the Treasury—to prevent the new Secretary (Mitford) being made head of the Office.!8 I sent him a scratching answer that nonplussed him. I can’t conceive what they are about: it is impossible my Lord can be kept on— complaints are pouring in from the other public Offices— By Jove, ingenious wriggling in official administration beats our’s!—9 I am in despair over my work & have taken up the Primer as being the least pressing of my duties—or rather no duty at all— it distracts the brain.10 I am bothered with Lumbago, bronchitis headache & disordered stomach. one off & the other on, up & down, not very bad of any—just enough to grumble at.

Ever yrs affec | J D Hooker.


CD had communicated a paper by Mary Elizabeth Barber to the Entomological Society of London; the paper, ‘Notes on the peculiar habits and changes which take place in the larva and pupa of Papilio nireus’, was read at a meeting in November 1874 and published in the society’s transactions (Barber 1874; see Correspondence vol 22, letter from H. W. Bates, 1 October 1874). Henry Barkly was the governor of Cape Colony (South Africa). Kimberley is now in Northern Cape province, South Africa; for more on Barber’s involvement in prospecting, see Cohen 2000.
For more on Hooker’s plans to visit Algeria with his elder daughter, Harriet Anne Hooker, and his eldest son, William Henslow Hooker, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, [24 February 1875] and n. 10. Algiers, the capital of Algeria, was then under French rule.
Ophelia Turner, Effie Elizabeth Turner, and Dawson Fyers Duckworth Turner lived with Hooker until 1876 (see Allan 1967, pp. 225–7). Dawson William Turner, Hooker’s uncle, had been headmaster of the Royal Institution School, Liverpool (ODNB s.v. Turner, Dawson).
Frances Harriet Hooker died in 1874. Francis Sibson was the Hooker family physician; the surgeon James Paget was a friend of the family. Robert Lambert Playfair was consul-general in Algeria; his wife was Agnes Playfair (ODNB).
Hooker had applied to have an assistant appointed to help with his work at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The Botanic Gardens were under the jurisdiction of the Office of Works, whose head, the first commissioner of works, was Lord Henry Gordon-Lennox (ODNB). Gordon-Lennox had impeded Hooker’s application, so Hooker had taken his case to Gordon-Lennox’s superiors at the Treasury (see letters from J. D. Hooker, 14 January 1875 and [7 February 1875]). Benjamin Disraeli was prime minister. William Turner Thiselton-Dyer worked part-time as Hooker’s private secretary from 1872 until September 1874 (see Correspondence vol. 22, letter from J. D. Hooker, 15 September 1874).
Douglas Strutt Galton was director of public works and buildings in the Office of Works. Algernon Bertram Mitford was appointed secretary to the Office of Works in May 1874 (ODNB).
Joseph Dalton Hooker and CD had long joked about CD’s ability to ‘wriggle’ out of difficulties; see, for example, Correspondence vol. 18, letter to Asa Gray, 15 March [1870].
Hooker was writing Botany (Hooker 1876) for Macmillan and Co.’s ‘Science primers’ series.


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

Barber, Mary Elizabeth. 1874. Notes on the peculiar habits and changes which take place in the larva and pupa of Papilio nireus. [Read 2 November 1874.] Transactions of the Entomological Society of London 22: 519–21.

Cohen, Alan. 2000. Mary Elizabeth Barber: South Africa’s first lady natural historian. Archives of Natural History 27: 187–208.

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

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.


No action on assistance yet, but has had a private note from Disraeli asking whether Thiselton-Dyer is his recommendation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 104: 20–1
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9891,” accessed on 12 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23