skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [19 September 1864]1

Monday Night

Dear old Darwin

I have just returned from Bath,2 quite delighted with my stay there, I laid myself out to see all my friends & enjoyed it most thoroughly. Every-body was asking about you— I had my old friend Campbell of Darjeeling3 staying with me. I had a long walk with Mrs Lubbock4 on Saturday—Lubbock5 having gone to Wokey’s hole6 with Evans, where he picked up some flints-imps.7 The sections8 I eschewed, as usual, prowling about the doors, & chatting with heaps of friends— The Geographical section was the favored one, the Geological having gone down in popularity greatly, but poor Spekes death9 cast a gloom over Murchison,10 & Burtons conduct on the occasion disgusted every one.11 Crawfurd, Wallace, Bates, a young Lord Milton (a mere boy) & Livingstone were the great guns.12

The Lyells13 are fairly intoxicated with their popularity & success, & can talk of nothing else   The scientificos criticize his speech sharply—the plebs applaud it throughout.14 Lyell can think & talk of nothing else—except the cordial welcome that Colenso has had—15 Some clergy actually shook hands with him, & the Dean of Hereford was seen escorting Miss Colenso about to day.—16 in the sections he was greeted with hearty applause on entering the rooms. One parson however preached yesterday against Lyell, Colenso & the British Association!17 The Bath people showed no attention or hospitality at all, so we had delightful little breakfasts & dinners at one anothers lodgings. So my days sped swiftly, & my nights were no worse than I expected.

I made several pleasant acquaintances in primis Mr Symonds (or Simmons?) of whom the Lyells talk so much & with whose daughter my wi⁠⟨⁠fe⁠⟩⁠ ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ both fell desperately in ⁠⟨⁠love⁠⟩⁠18   John Evans, who I had just seen before—& who came up with me in the train—he seems a very sharp fellow, & spoke so well & discriminatingly of Lyell’s “Antiquity”,19 & the unworthyness of taking offence at its demerits—& of attributing sordid motives to its author.

The only drawback to my happiness is that I have got let into 2 visits, first on next Thursday to Lord Ducie, a friend of Henslows, who has asked me several times to his place, I went down with him & Lady D. on Friday20—& he made such a point of our going to visit him, that we could not get off— they were on their way home (near Bristol) from Italy & I left them at Bath.— today he came ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ to Bath to clinch us—and ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ accepted him we could ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ Dean Dawes who has been asking us ever since I can remember, & who visits us at Kew every year. I suppose I shall have a week of it between them.

My wife is supremely well & as happy as the day is long. The Lubbocks the same.

I have this night heard from Anderson of Calcutta21 that he wants a good gardener at £150 a year & house to superintend a Botanic Garden at Darjeeling, & that he will appoint any one I recommend.— here is a splendid chance for Scott!22 about whom I am writing— the salary will soon be largely increased if the Curator gives satisfaction, for the garden is not established yet; I shall be very pleased if Scott gets it;— & proud too. The last gardener I sent out (Mann of Cameroons memory)23 only this time last year, is already advanced to £240 a year & this also in the cool climate of Sikkim.

What a poor affair Herschells answer to the declaration is;24 & after a weeks notice it seems a “mons parturiens”25   Bowrings is far better.26

Well there is mighty little in this letter, & I begin to fear that my hand-writing is falling off, & not so legible as usual. I could not get Beppo,27 but Mrs Lubbock lent me Romola,28 which is ponderous.

Ever yrs affec | J D Hooker

Huxley Owen & Tyndall29 are greatly desiderated.


The date is established by the relationship between this letter, the letter from J. D. Hooker, 16 September 1864, and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 September [1864]; the intervening Monday was 19 September.
Hooker was attending the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Bath that was held from 14 to 21 September 1864 (Report of the thirty-fourth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, p. lix).
Archibald Campbell had been Hooker’s companion on several expeditions from Darjeeling; Hooker explored and collected plants in Sikkim and Nepal in 1848 and 1849 (see J. D. Hooker 1854, L. Huxley ed. 1918, and R. Desmond 1999).
Wokey (Wookey) hole near Wells, Somerset, was the site of a former hyena den in which many fossil bones and flint implements had been found (see C. Lyell 1863a, pp. 170–2).
John Evans was an acknowledged expert on flint implements (see Evans 1943, p. 119, Grayson 1983, and Van Riper 1993). In recent years Evans had visited several sites with flint implements in England and France (see Evans 1943, pp. 105–7, Correspondence vol. 10, letters from John Lubbock, 17 April 1862 and n. 1, and 15 May 1862, and Correspondence vol. 11, letter from Hugh Falconer, 20 April [1863]).
The programme of lectures at the British Association annual meetings was divided into sections by subject; in 1864, there were seven separate sections (Report of the thirty-fourth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science).
John Hanning Speke, the explorer and discoverer of the source of the Nile, had shot himself while partridge-hunting on the morning of 18 September 1864 (DNB).
Roderick Impey Murchison was the president of the geography and ethnology section (Report of the thirty-fourth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Transactions of the sections, p. 130).
Richard Francis Burton had been leader, and Speke second-in-command, of the expedition that discovered Lake Tanganyika. Speke later independently discovered Lake Victoria Nyanza, in recognition of which he was awarded the founders’ medal of the Royal Geographical Society (DNB). Speke had been scheduled to debate with Burton at the British Association meeting on 18 September 1864; Burton intended to challenge Speke’s claim that Lake Victoria was the source of the Nile. After receiving the news of Speke’s death, Burton was observed to be in great distress, and was rumoured to have said, ‘By God he’s killed himself!’ (see Hastings 1978, pp. 154–7, and Lovell 1999, pp. 443–9).
Hooker refers to John Crawfurd, Alfred Russel Wallace, Henry Walter Bates, William Wentworth Fitzwilliam (Viscount Milton), and David Livingstone. In his presidential address to the geography and ethnology section, Murchison praised Crawfurd and Wallace for their respective expeditions to the Malay Archipelago, Bates for his work on the natural history of the Amazon, Fitzwilliam and Walter Butler Cheadle for their expedition across the Rocky Mountains into British Columbia, and Livingstone for his most recent explorations and missionary work in South Africa (see Murchison 1864c, pp. 131–4). Crawfurd, Wallace, Bates, and Fitzwilliam also presented papers at the meeting drawing on their experiences (see Report of the thirty-fourth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Transactions of the sections, pp. 137, 141–3, 149–50). Crawfurd’s and Fitzwilliam’s papers (Crawfurd 1864 and Fitzwilliam and Cheadle 1864) caused particular excitement amongst the audience (see The Times, 19 September 1864, p. 9).
Hooker refers to Lyell’s presidential address to the British Association, delivered at Bath on the evening of 14 September 1864 (C. Lyell 1864). For Hooker’s and CD’s criticisms of the address, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, 16 September 1864, and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 September [1864].
The reference is to John William Colenso, bishop of Natal. The first part of Colenso’s book on the Pentateuch (Colenso 1862–79) had sparked religious controversy concerning rationalist biblical criticism. For a discussion of Colenso’s subsequent legal battles and the public movement supporting Colenso’s right to freedom of opinion, see the letter from E. A. Darwin, 1 February [1864] and nn. 3 and 5. See also letter from J. D. Hooker, 16 February 1864. For a discussion of Colenso’s reception at Bath, see Barton 1998, p. 437.
Hooker refers to Richard Dawes, dean of Hereford, and probably to Colenso’s eldest daughter Harriette Emily, who was 18 years old (Guy 1983, pp. 33, 154). In 1864, Dawes was vice-president of the British Association (DNB).
The parson has not been identified. However, on local opposition to Colenso’s religious doctrines see the Bath Daily Chronicle, 23 September 1864 (reprinted in British Association for the Advancement of Science. Bath 1864, p. 5).
The reference is to William Samuel Symonds, who accompanied Charles Lyell on a geological visit to North Wales in 1863 (see K. M. Lyell 1881, 2: 376–7), and his daughter Hyacinth. Hooker’s wife was Frances Harriet Hooker. In 1876, two years after Frances’s death, Hooker married Hyacinth (Turrill 1963, pp. 163, 165).
Hooker refers to Lyell’s Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863a), the publication of which had sparked controversy after Hugh Falconer alleged that the book had appropriated the findings of others without due acknowledgement, including Evans’s work on human antiquity (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 11, letter from J. D. Hooker, [23 February 1863] and n. 5).
Henry John Reynolds–Moreton, third earl of Ducie, and his wife, Julia, lived at Tortworth Court, Wootton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire (Burke’s peerage 1864). See also letter from J. H. Balfour, 22 September 1864. Hooker also refers to his late father-in-law, John Stevens Henslow.
Thomas Anderson was superintendent of the Calcutta botanic garden.
John Scott. Since Scott resigned his post at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, in March 1864 (see, for example, letters from John Scott, 10 March 1864 and 28 March 1864), Hooker and CD had been considering what might be a suitable appointment for him (see letter to J. D. Hooker, [1 April 1864], and letter from J. D. Hooker, 8 April 1864). For Hooker’s earlier reference to Anderson and possible employment in India, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, 19 May 1864.
Between 1860 and 1863 Gustav Mann collected plants for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in the Cameroons Mountains and islands off the coast of West Africa; Hooker prepared descriptions of the plants (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 11, letter from J. D. Hooker, 10 June 1863 and n. 13). On Mann’s expedition and the significance of his plant collections see also L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 406 n. and 2: 28. CD had been interested in the evidence these collections provided concerning the historical causes of the prevailing geographical distribution of plant species in tropical areas (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to J. D. Hooker, 9 May [1862] and n. 6).
On 5 September 1864 John Frederick William Herschel had been sent a declaration that had been drafted in April 1864 by a group of London chemists, signed by over 200 ‘Students of the Natural Sciences’, expressing regret that scientific researches were being ‘perverted by some … into occasion for casting doubt upon the Truth and Authenticity of the Holy Scriptures’, and claiming that if scientific results appeared to contradict the Bible, investigators ought to ‘leave the two side by side till it shall please God to allow us to see the manner in which they may be reconciled’. The document was widely circulated to members of learned societies in Britain, eventually receiving 717 signatures; it was published in May 1865 as The declaration of students of the natural and physical sciences (London: Simpkin, Marshall & Co., [n.d.]). Herschel wrote to the Athenæum to protest against being pressed to sign a ‘religious manifesto’, on the grounds that it was both an infringement of his freedom of religious opinion, and an action likely to sow discord in the Christian world. He also insisted that his refusal to sign should not be seen as a profession of atheism or infidelity (see Athenæum, 17 September 1864, p. 375). For the full text and a discussion of the declaration, see Brock and Macleod 1976. A copy of the declaration, together with reviews and correspondence from over 100 practitioners, is in Cambridge University Library (Add MS 5989).
Mons parturiens: ‘a mountain giving birth’, said where much is promised but little produced (see Stevenson ed. 1949, pp. 1629–30).
In the issue of the Athenæum for 17 September 1864, p. 375, John Bowring gave as his reason for declining to sign the declaration (see n. 24, above) that, while he agreed with its general spirit, he felt the time had come when people should endeavour to emancipate themselves from ‘the tyranny of all dogmatizing creeds’.
Hooker refers to George Eliot’s novel Romola (Eliot 1863).


British Association for the Advancement of Science. Bath 1864.: The British Association for the Advancement of Science. Bath 1864. Authorised reprint of the reports in the special daily editions of the ‘Bath Chronicle’. Bath: T. D. Taylor, ‘Chronicle’ Office. London: W. Kent & Co.

Burke’s peerage: A genealogical and heraldic dictionary of the peerage and baronetage of the United Kingdom. Burke’s peerage and baronetage. 1st– edition. London: Henry Colburn [and others]. 1826–.

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–.

Crawfurd, John. 1864. On the supposed Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages of society. Report of the thirty-fourth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science; held at Bath, Transactions of the sections, p. 143.

Desmond, Ray. 1999. Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, traveller and plant collector. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Antique Collectors’ Club with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

Eliot, George. 1863. Romola. 3 vols. London: Smith, Elder and Co.

Evans, Joan. 1943. Time and chance. The story of Arthur Evans and his forebears. London: Longmans, Green & Co.

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

Guy, Jeff. 1983. The heretic. A study of the life of John William Colenso 1814–1883. Pietermaritzberg, South Africa: University of Natal Press. Johannesburg, South Africa: Ravan Press.

Hastings, Michael. 1978. Sir Richard Burton: a biography. London: Hodder and Stoughton.

Lovell, Mary S. 1999. A rage to live: a biography of Richard and Isabel Burton. London: Abacus.

Lyell, Charles. 1864. Presidential address. Report of the thirty-fourth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science; held at Bath, pp. lx–lxxv.

Lyell, Katharine Murray, ed. 1881. Life, letters and journals of Sir Charles Lyell, Bart. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

Turrill, William Bertram. 1963. Joseph Dalton Hooker. Botanist, explorer, and administrator. London: Thomas Nelson and Sons.

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


Reports on personalities at the Bath meeting of BAAS [Sept 1864].

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 240–2
Physical description
ALS 6pp damaged

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4616,” accessed on 25 February 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 12