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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   27 [or 28 September 1865]1

Down. Bromley Kent

Thursday 27th

My dear Hooker

I had intended writing this morning to thank Mrs. Hooker most sincerely for her last & several notes about you,2 & now your own note in your hand has rejoiced me.3 To walk between 5 & 6 miles is splendid, & with a little patience you must soon be well. I knew you had been very ill, but I hardly knew how ill, until yesterday, when Bentham (from the Cranworths) called here & I was able to see him for 10 minutes.4 He told me, also, a little about the last days of your Father.5 I wish I had known your Father better; my impression is confined to his remarkably cordial, courteous & frank bearing.6 I fully concur & understand what you say about the difference of feeling in the loss of a father & child.7 I do not think anyone could love a Father much more than I did mine & I do not believe three or four days ever pass without my still thinking of him, but his death at 84 caused me nothing of that insufferable grief, which the loss of poor dear Annie caused.8 And this seems to me perfectly natural, for one knows for years previously that one’s Father’s death is drawing slowly nearer & nearer; whilst the death of one’s child is a sudden & dreadful wrench.

What a wonderful deal you read: it is a horrid evil for me that I cannot read hardly anything, for it makes my head almost immediately begin to sing violently.9 My good women-kind read to me a great deal, but I dare not ask for much science & am not sure that I could stand it.10 I enjoyed Tylor extremely & the first part of Lecky; but I think the latter is often vague & gives a false appearance of throwing light on his subject, by such phrases, as “spirit of the age” “spread of civilization” &c.—11 I confine my reading to 14 or 12 hour per day in skimming through the back volumes of the Annals & Mag. of N. H. & find much that interests me.—12 I miss my climbing plants very much, as I could observe them when very poorly. By the way Asa Gray approves of my paper on them.13 Did I ever tell you that I have put myself under Bence Jones, & I am sure he has done me good by rigorous diet. I have been half starved to death & am 15 lb lighter, but I have gained in walking power & my vomiting is immensely reduced.14 I have now hopes of again some day resuming scientific work, which is my sole enjoyment in life.—

I did not enjoy the “Mill on the Floss” so much as you, but from what you say we will read it again.15 Do you know Silas Marner:16 it is a charming little17   It is a charming little story if you run short & like to have it we cd send it by post.

We are now reading some American novels viz. Rutledge & Christine.18 The latter we cd lend you. We like them much but I think they are of too mild a nature for you, for I remember you were once awfully indignant at some novel I recommended. We have almost finished the first vol of Palgrave & I like it much; but did you ever see a book so badly arranged.19 The frequently of the allusions to what will be told in the future are quite laughable. I know nothing about the Reader but hope soon to hear something from Wallace on the subject.20 Did you read Miller’s address to the chemical section at Birm.?21 it seemed to me very good. I have not attempted Jamieson or Geikie or Frost & Fire;22 perhaps the latter may not be too strong a dose for Emma,23 who, however, is not very tolerant of science; Jamieson some day I shall certainly read to myself, & then there is Wallace’s great paper,24 which will be a tough job. By the way I was very much pleased by the footnote about Wallace in Lubbock’s last chapter.25 I had not heard that Huxley had backed up Lubbock about parliament.26 I suspect Lady L.27 is very ambitious, & to the world how grand parliament & politicks appear. Did you see a sneer some time ago in the Times, about how incomparably more interesting Politicks were compared with Science even to scientific men.28 Remember what Trollope says in “Can you Forgive her” about getting into parliament, as the highest earthly ambition.29 Jeffreys in one of his letters, I remember, says that making an effective speech in parliament is a far grander thing than writing the grandest History.30 All this seems to me a poor short-sighted view. I cannot tell you how it has rejoiced me once again seeing your hand-writing, my best of old friends.

Yours affectionately | Ch. Darwin


The date is established by the endorsement. In 1865, 27 September was a Wednesday, not a Thursday.
George Bentham, a colleague of Hooker’s at Kew, had been visiting CD’s neighbours, Robert Monsey and Laura Rolfe (Lord and Lady Cranworth; Jackson 1906, p. 204).
Bentham visited the Hookers at Kew on 16 August 1865; Hooker’s father, William Jackson Hooker had died on 12 August 1865 (Jackson 1906, p. 203).
CD had maintained a cordial acquaintance with W. J. Hooker (see Correspondence vol. 4, letter to W. J. Hooker, [c. February 1849], and Correspondence vol. 7, letter to W. J. Hooker [30 July 1858]).
CD’s father, Robert Waring Darwin, died in 1848 (see Correspondence vol. 4, letter from Catherine Darwin, [13 November 1848]). Anne Elizabeth, CD’s eldest daughter, died in 1851, aged 10 (see Correspondence vol. 5). For more on the effect of her death on CD, see Bowlby 1990, pp. 291–8, A. Desmond and Moore 1991, pp. 275–87, and R. Keynes 2001, pp. 180–98.
For more on CD’s symptoms brought on by reading, see Correspondence vol. 13, Appendix IV.
Emma, Henrietta Emma, and Elizabeth Darwin often read to CD (see letter to Asa Gray, 15 August [1865] and n. 9, and letter to A. R. Wallace, 22 September [1865]).
CD refers to Tylor 1865 and Lecky 1865; Hooker had recommended them in his letters of [26 May 1865] and 13 July 1865.
CD’s bound volumes, many with annotations, of the Annals and Magazine of Natural History, ser. 1: vols. 1–20 (1838–47); ser. 2: vols. 1–14 (1848–54), ser. 3: vols. 15–16 (1865), are in the Darwin Library–CUL. In addition, there are unbound issues for the years 1855 and 1866 to 1873 in the collection of unbound pamphlets, Darwin Library–CUL, many of which are annotated.
CD refers to ‘Climbing plants’. For Gray’s comments on the paper, see the letter from Asa Gray, 24 July 1865.
CD first consulted Henry Bence Jones in July 1865 (see letter to Asa Gray, 15 August [1865], n. 12). From 22 August 1865, Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242) records CD’s weight at weekly intervals. His weight on 22 August was 11 st. 4 lb and on 26 September it was 10 st. 10 12 lb. He had numerous bouts of sickness in August but only two in September. See also Appendix IV.
The letter is in CD’s hand until this point, and is the first known letter in his own hand since his letter to Hooker of 16 August, which he curtailed complaining of ill health. Emma Darwin continued the letter, repeating the words ‘It is a charming little’; CD resumed writing and completed the letter from the words ‘I have not attempted Jamieson or Geikie’.
Palgrave 1865. For Hooker’s opinion of the book, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, 13 July 1865 and n. 19.
On the purchase of the Reader, see the letter from F. H. Hooker, 6 September [1865] and n. 7. After hearing about the sale, CD had asked for more information from Alfred Russel Wallace (see letter to A. R. Wallace, 22 September [1865]).
An abstract of William Hallowes Miller’s address as president of the chemical section of the British Association meeting at Birmingham in 1865 was printed in the Reader, 23 September 1865, pp. 350–2. Miller had discussed the place of science in modern education and reviewed recent developments in chemistry (Report of the thirty-fifth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science; held at Birmingham in September 1865, Transactions of the sections, pp. 22–7).
CD refers to ‘On the phenomena of variation and geographical distribution as illustrated by the Papilionidae of the Malayan region’ (A. R. Wallace 1864d). See letter to A. R. Wallace, 22 September [1865] and n. 6.
CD refers to Lubbock 1865. For the text of the note, see the letter to A. R. Wallace, 22 September [1865], n. 9.
CD may be referring to an article in The Times, 11 September 1865, p. 6, that reported on a meeting of the statistics and political economy section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting held at Birmingham (referred to in the article as the British Association for the Promotion of Science). The author of the article wrote: It is curious to see the avidity with which every opportunity is laid hold of to quit the passionless domain of pure science, and to plunge into the stormy hemisphere of politics.
The passage to which CD refers is probably the following, in which Alice Vavasor writes to accept the marriage proposal of her cousin (Trollope 1864–5, 1: 256): Dear George, let me have the honour and glory of marrying a man who has gained a seat in the Parliament of Great Britain! Of all positions which a man may attain that, to me, is the grandest.
CD refers to Francis Jeffrey. CD read the Life of Lord Jeffrey (Cockburn 1852) in 1853 (see CD’s reading notebooks, Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, 128: 5). The second volume of Cockburn 1852 contains a large selection of letters; however, the letter to which CD refers has not been identified.


Bowlby, John. 1990. Charles Darwin: a biography. London: Hutchinson.

Bullard, Laura Curtis. 1856. Christine; or, woman’s trials and triumphs. New York: Dewitt & Davenport.

‘Climbing plants’: On the movements and habits of climbing plants. By Charles Darwin. [Read 2 February 1865.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 9 (1867): 1–118.

Cockburn, Henry. 1852. Life of Lord Jeffrey, with a selection from his correspondence. 2 vols. Edinburgh: A. and C. Black.

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

Eliot, George. 1860. The mill on the Floss. 3 vols. Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons.

Eliot, George. 1861. Silas Marner: the weaver of Raveloe. Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons.

Geikie, Archibald. 1865. The scenery of Scotland viewed in connexion with its physical geology. London and Cambridge: Macmillan & Co.

Harris, Miriam Coles. 1860. Rutledge. New York: Derby & Jackson.

Jackson, Benjamin Daydon. 1906. George Bentham. London: J. M. Dent. New York: E. P. Dutton.

Jamieson, Thomas Francis. 1865. On the history of the last geological changes in Scotland. [Read 11 January 1865.] Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society 21 (1865): 161–203.

Keynes, Randal. 2001. Annie’s box. Charles Darwin, his daughter and human evolution. London: Fourth Estate.

Lecky, William Edward Hartpole. 1865. History of the rise and influence of the spirit of rationalism in Europe. 2 vols. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, & Green.

Palgrave, William Gifford. 1865. Narrative of a year’s journey through central and eastern Arabia (1862–63). 2 vols. London and Cambridge: Macmillan and Co.

Trollope, Anthony. 1864–5. Can you forgive her? 2 vols. London: Chapman & Hall.

Tylor, Edward Burnett. 1865. Researches into the early history of mankind and the development of civilization. London: John Murray.


Agrees with JDH on difference in grief over loss of father and of child. His love of his father.

The Reader.

Politics and science.

Health improved by Bence Jones’s diet.

[Dated "Thursday 27th" by CD.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 275
Physical description
ALS 7pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4901,” accessed on 8 December 2022,

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