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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [7–8 April 1865]1



Dear Darwin

I have a German paper for you from Grisebach on the Geog. Distrib of W. Indian plants,2** very long, also a small bottle from Thwaites with some things I forget what.3 I shall send them with Strelitzia. 4

I cannot recollect any news for you, worth sending.— We have been much occupied of late with Garden Reform, we have been robbed much by our own people, & I am putting the whole establishment on a different footing, discharged two foremen—dismissed half a dozen gardeners & labourers & clapped one fellow in jail for 6 months. All this is not very agreeable work, but we have really a first rate Curator now, & I am anxious to put every-thing straight for him to go on without troubling me.5 I am very proud of having picked him up. We have purchased £70 worth of orchids to make up our shameful losses, besides a great many other plants;6 & I am actively corresponding abroad for new plants &c.

I have been living a long while on the gratification of my last visit to Down.7

Yesterday we had one of our “small club” dinners, in Albemarle Street, Lubbock, Huxley, Spottiswood, Spenser, Busk & self,8 with Colenso9 & H B Wilson10 as guests, & a very pleasant evening it was: though I must confess I cannot go along with Colenso— his incessant prating about his own “affair” is quite wearisome: he really is in some respects a very weak man. On first coming in, he asked the name of our club— I said it has none— he replied, “I would call it the Zulu club”. & so on.11 then he told us that they have witheld his salary &c. I thought Wilson a very superior man.12

I am concerned about Lubbock, his wife seems really to be very ill, & in a bad way13—& he is going into Parliament14—for which I am no less sorry— I grudge so good a man from Science—& have a presentiment that it will inaugurate a very trying life for him. I believe I am no end of way happier in avoiding every avenue to ambitious ends in my small walk of life—& so long as one’s mind & time is fully occupied, there is nothing to regret in a life of mere drudgery. We (L & I) talk of going to Maidstone from Thursday to Monday but what with Mrs Ls. health & my father being in bed with Influenza,15 it may not come off at all!

I have actually stuck for want of something to say to you!—

Saturday Mg.

Yours of 6th. just arrived   I send the Bot: Zeit: on Monday with the other things.16

Thwaites & Christy & G. Gray are chosen for R. S.17   I do not know of anyone else we know. or care about.

I have written to Busk being utterly ashamed of always forgetting to ask him.18

Ever Yrs affec | J D Hooker

**Thomson19 is digging out its essence so do not trouble to read it yet.

CD annotations

5.1 I am … Parliament— 5.2] double scored pencil
10.1 I have … him.] scored pencil


The date is established by the endorsement and by the reference to the arrival of CD’s letter to Hooker of 6 April [1865]. The Friday after 6 April 1864 was 7 April.
Hooker refers to August Heinrich Rudolf Grisebach and to Grisebach 1864; there is a copy of this work, with most of its pages uncut, in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Grisebach had completed a flora of the British West Indies in 1864 (Grisebach 1859–64); this was one of a series of colonial floras initiated by William Jackson Hooker, director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, with the sponsorship of the Colonial Office (see R. Desmond 1995, pp. 216–17, 370). CD was interested in new colonial floras for their potential to provide information on the history of plant distribution (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 19 January [1865] and nn. 7 and 8).
The items sent by George Henry Kendrick Thwaites have not been identified; however, Thwaites was aware of CD’s interest in dimorphic flowers and had earlier sent him specimens in spirits from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka; see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from G. H. K. Thwaites, 17 February 1863).
CD had received information on the pollination of Strelitzia reginae from Roland Trimen in 1864 (see Correspondence vol. 12, letters to Roland Trimen, 13 May 1864 and 25 November 1864); during Hooker’s last visit to Down (see n. 7, below), CD had probably asked for specimens to provide further evidence that this genus was pollinated by birds (see Cross and self fertilisation, p. 371 n., and letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 April [1865]).
Hooker also referred to problems with employees, and to his new curator, John Smith (1821–88), in his letters of [2 April 1864] and 8 April 1864 (Correspondence vol. 12). Smith became curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in 1864 (see R. Desmond 1995, p. 430). The former curator, John Smith (1798–1888), had resented being overruled by Hooker and his father, William Jackson Hooker, in gardening matters; Hooker was assistant director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (see R. Desmond and Hepper 1993, pp. 18–19, and R. Desmond 1995, pp. 221, 425, 430). For more on Hooker’s opinion of the new curator, see also Correspondence vol. 12, letters from J. D. Hooker, [4 June 1864] and 26[–8] October 1864.
Hooker discussed orchid poisoning and other horticultural problems that had developed at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in his letters of [2 April 1864], [4 June 1864], and 15 June 1864 (Correspondence vol. 12).
Hooker spent from 4 to 6 March at Down House (Emma Darwin’s diary, DAR 242). See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 16 [March 1865].
The reference is to the dining club, later called the X Club, established on 3 November 1864 at St George’s Hotel, Albemarle Street, London, by Hooker and a group of close friends. The initial membership consisted of Hooker, John Tyndall, Thomas Henry Huxley, George Busk, Edward Frankland, Herbert Spencer, John Lubbock, and Thomas Archer Hirst; William Spottiswoode joined at the December meeting. The members were united by friendship and a ‘devotion to science, pure and free, untrammelled by religious dogmas’ (quoted in Barton 1998, p. 411; see ibid. for an account of the club’s history and significance).
Between 1862 and 1865 Colenso, the bishop of Natal, had published five parts of a seven-part work of biblical criticism (Colenso 1862–79). In response to Colenso’s questioning of church doctrine, Robert Gray, the bishop of Cape Town, tried him, found him guilty of erroneous teaching, and deposed him in 1863. Using the secular courts, Colenso defended his position within the Anglican Church and his right to publish his opinions. On 20 March 1865 Colenso won his appeal against his deposition and he later returned to his diocese; however, Gray refused to reinstate him (see Guy 1983, pp. 95, 122–144). Hooker and CD had supported Colenso’s right to freedom of opinion and in 1864 had contributed to his defence funds. See Correspondence vol. 12, letter from E. A. Darwin, 1 February [1864], and letters from J. D. Hooker, 5 February 1864 and 16 February 1864 and nn. 17 and 18. For Colenso’s connections with Hooker and other members of the X Club, see Correspondence vol. 12, letter from J. D. Hooker, 16 February 1864 and n. 19; see also Barton 1998, pp. 435–7.
Wilson was a liberal Anglican clergyman who had been accused of heresy as a result of the opinions he expressed in his contribution to the controversial volume Essays and reviews; he was eventually cleared of the charge. On the history of this controversy and the involvement of X Club members, see Correspondence vol. 9, Appendix VI, Brock and MacLeod 1976, Ellis 1980, and Barton 1998, pp. 434–5. CD had contributed to a fund organised for the defence of the essayists in 1861 (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to John Lubbock, 1 [and 2] August [1861] and n. 5).
Ellen Frances Lubbock was pregnant; she had her sixth child, Rolfe Arthur Lubbock, in September 1865 (Burke’s peerage).
On 29 March 1865 Lubbock was requested by the Liberal Registration Committee to stand as a parliamentary candidate for West Kent at the General Election to be held in July. Lubbock was confirmed as a Liberal candidate for this constituency at a meeting in Maidstone, Kent, on 20 April 1865 (John Lubbock’s diary (British Library, Add. Ms. 62679)).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 6 April [1865] and n. 1, and nn. 2–4, above.
Hooker refers to Thwaites, Henry Christy, and George Robert Gray; they had been nominated for election as fellows of the Royal Society at a council meeting on 6 April 1865. The membership of Thwaites and Gray was formally approved at the annual general meeting held on 1 June 1865; Christy died before his election could be confirmed (Royal Society, council minutes, 6 April 1865; Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 14 (1865): 482; DNB).
Thomas Thomson.


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–.

Cross and self fertilisation: The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1876.

Desmond, Ray. 1995. Kew: the history of the Royal Botanic Gardens. London: Harvill Press 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.

Ellis, Ieuan. 1980. Seven against Christ. A study of "Essays and reviews". Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill.

Essays and reviews. London: John W. Parker. 1860.

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.


Reforms at Kew.

X Club Dinner. H. B. Wilson and J. W. Colenso as guests.

Troubled by Lubbock’s going into Parliament – loss to science.

Has written to Busk.

Sending Botanische Zeitung.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 102: 15–16
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4807,” accessed on 13 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13