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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [7 May 1863]1

Royal Gardens Kew


My Dear Darwin

Enclosed came this morning from Gray without address, inside cover to me, & I read on till I found myself alluded to in the second page before discovering that it was not for me.2

There is a deal of gossip afloat about on many matters, you have no doubt seen the squib of “A hard case”, also published in part, in “Public opinion”—3 no one seems to know whose it is—certainly not Sir P. Egerton)4   no copy came to me.

Falconer has his hands full & goes to Paris tomorrow to confront Quatrefage, Bouchet, & the chemists & anatomists who to a man say F. is wrong that both Flints & Jaw are ancient & perfide Albion at its old tricks of traduction.5

I met F. last night, he is beating up for allies to take over with him— I tell him he should go alone—it is his only chance of getting fair play— the more go the more opposition the more misunderstanding   the more all that is bad.6 I cannot abide this lugging of Science before the public in Times & Athenæum, & implore you my dear fellow not to do so again.7 Owens answer to you is so triumphant in the eyes of the public8 (who you wish to enlighten) as Manchesters is over Natal.9 The only party that gains by these discussions is the proprietor of the paper, the only one that loses every way, is the maintainer of truth.

Science will be much more perfected if it keeps its discussions within its own circle.

I have not had time to look at Bates’ book, which both Father & Mother pronounce capital.10

I am deep in Cameroons’ cases which I shall discuss as best I can, the results are in many respects bamboozling, & I am as dissatisfied with migration by former cold, as by former elevation or by present agencies.11

I see from an allusion in the Athenæum that Herschell has a theory of Earth passing through cold periods12

I am out almost every evening to my ennui & disgust & wish I were ill like you!

We are all uncomonly well | Ever Yours affec | Jos D Hooker


The date is established by the reference to Richard Owen’s anonymous letter in the Athenæum, 2 May 1863, pp. 586–7 (see n. 8, below), and by the relationship between this letter and the letter to J. D. Hooker, [9 May 1863]. The intervening Thursday was 7 May.
See letter from Asa Gray, 20 April 1863. The letter was probably enclosed by Asa Gray with a letter to Hooker of 18 April 1863 (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Asa Gray letters: 325)).
Hooker refers to the anonymous satirical pamphlet, A report of a sad case recently tried before the lord mayor, Owen versus Huxley (Anon. 1863a), which was also published in Public Opinion 3 (1863): 497–8 (see Correspondence vol.11, Appendix VIII). There is an annotated copy of the pamphlet, which satirised recent scientific controversies, in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Philip de Malpas Grey-Egerton was the author of a squib on scientific controversies published anonymously in Punch in May 1861 (see Correspondence vol. 9, Appendix VIII).
The reference is to Hugh Falconer and his attendance at a conference convened in Paris to decide on the authenticity of the flint tools and human jawbone discovered by the archaeologist Jacques Boucher de Perthes in a gravel pit at Moulin-Quignon, near Abbeville, France, in March 1863. Falconer had changed his original view that the remains were authentic after examining the structure of the jawbone itself, and that of a molar found with it (see letter from Hugh Falconer, 24 April [1863] and n. 6). The zoologist Armand de Quatrefages was a supporter of the case for the jawbone’s antiquity. See also Grayson 1983, pp. 213–17, and Van Riper 1993, pp. 134–9. General opinion of the validity of the remains had divided along Anglo-French lines, with the British remaining sceptical. The quotation ‘perfide Albion’ is from the French poet Augustin-Marie, marquis de Ximenès’s poem ‘L’Ere des Français’ (ODQ): ‘Attaquons dans ses eaux / La perfide Albion!’ [Let us attack in her own waters perfidious Albion!]. Albion is an ancient name for the British Isles (EB).
Falconer was accompanied by William Benjamin Carpenter, George Busk, and Joseph Prestwich (Athenæum, 23 May 1863, p. 682).
Hooker refers to Falconer’s letter in The Times, 25 April 1863, p. 14, concerning the Moulin-Quignon dispute (see letter from Hugh Falconer, 24 April [1863], n. 6), and to CD’s letter to the Athenæum of 18 April [1863] (see also Appendix VII).
Owen’s anonymous letter in the Athenæum, 2 May 1863, pp. 586–7, was a critical response to CD’s letter to the Athenæum of 18 April [1863] (see also Appendix VII).
The reference is to the public criticism by James Prince Lee, bishop of Manchester, of the views espoused by John William Colenso, bishop of Natal, in the first two parts of Colenso 1862–79 (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 20 April 1863 and n. 12).
The reference is to Bates 1863, and to Maria and William Jackson Hooker.
Hooker was describing the plants collected by Gustav Mann between 1860 and December 1862 in the Cameroons Mountains and islands off the coast of West Africa (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [15 March 1863] and n. 21). Hooker’s initial findings provided support for CD’s view that temperate plants had migrated to tropical regions during the glacial period (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, [5 May 1862], letter to J. D. Hooker, 9 May [1862] and n. 6, and letter from J. D. Hooker, 9 June 1862, and Origin 4th ed., p. 445). Hooker’s final conclusion, given before the Linnean Society on 5 November 1863 (J. D. Hooker 1863b), was that the presence of European genera in the region’s flora could be explained by two hypotheses: first, CD’s migration theory, and second, the transportation of seeds by winds and birds (see also letter from J. D. Hooker, [28 March 1863] and n. 5).
In the ‘Weekly Gossip’ column in the Athenæum, 2 May 1863, p. 587, it was stated: ‘It is already on record that Sir John Herschel considers the climate of the earth to be undergoing a change due to some cosmical cause’. John Frederick William Herschel had argued that changes in the ellipticity of the earth’s orbit were causing a decline in the annual average receipt of solar radiation, thus effecting a gradual cooling of the earth’s climate (Herschel 1830, pp. 145–8, Croll 1875, pp. 528–35).


Bates, Henry Walter. 1863. The naturalist on the River Amazons. A record of adventures, habits of animals, sketches of Brazilian and Indian life, and aspects of nature under the equator, during eleven years of travel. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

Colenso, John William. 1862–79. The Pentateuch and Book of Joshua critically examined. 5 vols. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts & Green.

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

EB: The Encyclopædia Britannica. A dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information. 11th edition. 29 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1910–11.

Grayson, Donald K. 1983. The establishment of human antiquity. New York: Academic Press.

ODQ: The Oxford dictionary of quotations. Edited by Angela Partington. 4th edition, revised. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1996.

Origin 4th ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 4th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1866.

Van Riper, A. Bowdoin. 1993. Men among the mammoths: Victorian science and the discovery of human prehistory. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.


Falconer going to France in defence of his views.

On scientific squabbling.

Herschel’s theory of the earth.

Bates’s book.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 135–6
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4144,” accessed on 23 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11