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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   6 October 1865

7 Terrace Road | Buxton

Oct 6th /65.

Dear Darwin

I should have answered your last ere this, if only to say how glad I am that Jones has done some good,1 Oh that it may last— First as to my ignoble self, I really improve fast & steadily & if I could but get rid of the slight stiffness & pains in all my joints would be well— they go slowly & will all be gone in time2   I wrote to the Board asking an extension of leave till 20th & they volunteer till end of month—3 this good feeling is unusual in Boards & gratifies me proportionally, it is a good augury (or whatever it is called)

Now for Novels— I read Silas Marner the other day & did not enjoy it—4 after the quaking excitement of Uncle Silas & the love scenes of Mill on Floss, S.M, read flat & awfully Eliotian: too didactic & prosy without plot enough or incident enough— (how comparative all our feelings are!).5 Have you read “Trevlyn Hold”6   it is really very good: we both tried Scarsdale,7 & found it execrable trash—& now for a confession   I have read Clarissa Harlowe!8 I feel that this is self damnatory & can only plead my illness & the tedium of a Watering place. as however “frank confession is good for the soul,” I will tell you   The first 5 volumes are simply illegible, so dull so poor, so attenuated; that had I stopped there I should have considered the former popularity of the book as one of those things which “no fellow can be expected to understand” as Uncle Sam has it:9 the 6th & 7th (horresco referens)10 opened my eyes however; though to me they had no merit or interest whatever as a tale, I could quite understand the deep interest they must have had in an artificial & vicious age when alone such compositions could be put by mothers into the hands of virtuous daughters, with injunctions to study them & the immense good they may have done. In an age when men of fashion had no honor & when the prejudices of Education or absence of it & want of public journals kept women in the dark as to the means men employed, & when maudlin sensational writing did act on the brain in a way it does not now; it is obvious to me that Richardsons works must have frightened hosts of young women into caution at any rate, & stimulated a few to good works.11 Be this as it may, there is no doubt I suppose that his works were perused by thousands as standard literature for young ladies in 1750–1770; & that the change of manners was so rapid, that in 1780 I find by the life of Reynolds (I am ashamed of owning that I have been reading a solid book) both Richardsons & Fieldings works were considered as too coarse for young ladies.12

I could not get beyond the first volume of Palgraves book, he is awaiting orders still at Cairo.13 I must read Millers address,14 I missed it. Trollope is the only Novelist I know who talks of Parliament as such a stunning walk & enviable life.15 I can quite feel the abounding self-love that would follow a telling speech (& oh how nice self-love is) & that to rise to Gladstones, or Derbys or even Dizzys heights would be irresistable to most men;16 but for a really able man, like Lubbock, to be 3d rate in the house is to me an intolerable idea, & I do not see how he can be anything higher without he actually proposes to abandon business, science, & domestic happyness.17 As to Jeffrey he speaks from Edinbro’ & no doubt thought, in common with his townsmen that the Edinbro law court, (I forget its name) where he was at the top of the tree, was next thing to the H. of Commons.18 There local allusions & local ideas & prejudices, expressed in strong broad Scotch, carried the day. Had he gone into Parliament he would have had to unlearn for 3 years; he never suspected this.19 I quite agree that his view is poor & short-sighted

Many thanks for enclosed of Wallaces20   I did not think either “Simeon & Simony” nor “France & Mexico” very good,21 the first my wife condemned, the second I thought actually poor & pointless.— so much for opinions   I thought the old Reader bad enough & this worse in as much as it has less real Science22   As to calling Anthropologists a bete noire to Reader why so it is, only last number they had some 3 or 4 columns of Review of the Anthrops publications, & in a former No condemned the Brit. Assoc for refusing an Anthrop. section.23 Wallaces judgment of Tylor is unfair, the work is confessedly imperfect & fragmentary & must be so in present state of knowledge24   I doubt if Buckle will liberalise opinion so much as Lecky.25 It is all very easy for Wallace to wonder at Scientific men being afraid of saying what they think—26 he has all “the freedom of motion in vacuo” in one sense, had he as many kind & good relations as I have, who would be grieved & pained to hear me say all I think, & had he children who would be placed in predicaments most detrimental to childrens minds by such avowals on my part, he would not wonder so much. Wallace is not a man of large sympathies, nor very charitable I think, & is certainly awfully cold & dry at times; yet he is essentially large minded, & very able   I hope you saw Seemann’s sneers at the “Origin” in his Report of the German Congress,27 & trembled accordingly.

We leave this on Friday next for Lea Hurst, near Matlock, Mr Nightingale’s where we stay quietly till Monday,28 it is warmer than this: then we go to Liverpool to visit an Uncle & home by Chester, to Kew about the 20th. What a heap of Darwins & Wedgwoods are here!29

I am gratified by your expressions about my father—30 he was one of the most truly liberal & modest men I ever knew— he had not an atom of self in him, always thought nothing of himself & never took any self seeking steps to raise himself in the estimation of the Government or of scientific men. With 110 th. of the exertion that Murchison displayed, he would have had honors & titles showered on him: & I hate the Rl. Socy for never recognizing the obligations science is under to him.31 He never received any honor distinction or reward from the Crown or Govt. for all his public services, because he never would put himself into the way of them.32 I thought the boast of the R. S. was that they sought out such as had similar claims upon science. I know I am not agreed with but I will not give in

Send Fritz Mueller paper to Kew & I will see to it, if I can.33

Ever Yr affec | J D Hooker


In his last letter, CD had informed Hooker of the improvement in his health since he consulted Henry Bence Jones (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 27 [or 28 September 1865] and n. 14).
Hooker was recovering from a severe attack of rheumatic fever (see letter from F. H. Hooker, [17 August 1865], and letter from J. D. Hooker, [26 September 1865]).
The Board of Works and Public Buildings had jurisdiction over the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Hooker took up his appointment as director of Kew on 1 November 1865 (Allan 1967, p. 211; R. Desmond 1995, p. 223). He succeeded his father, William Jackson Hooker, who had died on 12 August 1865 (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 16 August [1865] and n. 1).
Hooker refers to Eliot 1861. CD had recommended the novel to Hooker, offering to lend his copy (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 27 [or 28 September 1865]).
Hooker refers to Le Fanu 1864 and Eliot 1860 (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [26 September 1865] and nn. 3 and 4). In contrast to Hooker, CD preferred Silas Marner (Eliot 1861) to Mill on the Floss (Eliot 1860); see letter to J. D. Hooker, 27 [or 28 September 1865].
Hooker refers to Clarissa (S. Richardson 1747–8). CD had read Samuel Richardson’s seven-volume work as an undergraduate at Cambridge and thought it ‘the most glorious novel ever written’. See Correspondence vol. 1, letter to W. D. Fox, [3 January 1830].
‘Uncle Sam’ may be a reference to Samuel Richardson.
Horresco referens: I shudder to relate.
For more on the cautionary themes in Richardson’s novels, see Doody 1974, pp. 128–50.
Hooker refers to a passage in a biography of Joshua Reynolds (Leslie and Taylor 1865, 2: 203) in which the works of Richardson and Henry Fielding are mentioned.
Hooker refers to Palgrave 1865, and to his cousin, William Gifford Palgrave. See letter to J. D. Hooker, 27 [or 28 September 1865] and n. 19. Palgrave was in the British diplomatic service and travelled extensively in the Middle East (DNB).
William Hallowes Miller delivered the presidential address to the chemical section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting at Birmingham in 1865 (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 27 [or 28 September 1865] and n. 21).
CD had remarked on the view expressed in Can you forgive her? (Trollope 1864–5) that attaining a seat in parliament was the highest earthly ambition (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 27 [or 28 September 1865] and n. 29). Parliamentary life was a central theme of a number of Anthony Trollope’s novels, many of which were written around the time of his own failed attempt to enter parliament (DNB).
William Ewart Gladstone was chancellor of the Exchequer and, from October 1865, leader of the House of Commons; Edward George Geoffrey Smith Stanley, fourteenth earl of Derby, was leader of the Conservative party and had been prime minister from 1858 to 1859; Benjamin Disraeli was leader of the opposition, and had been chancellor of the Exchequer and leader of the House of Commons during Stanley’s ministry (DNB).
John Lubbock stood for West Kent in the general election of 1865. He was defeated on 22 July (The Times, 24 July 1865). Both Hooker and CD were dismayed at the thought of Lubbock entering politics, thinking that his work in science would suffer (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [7–8 April 1865] and n. 14, letter to John Lubbock, 11 June [1865], and letter to J. D. Hooker, [29 July 1865]).
Hooker refers to Francis Jeffrey, who was judge of the Court of Sessions in Edinburgh from 1834 to 1850 (DNB). See letter to J. D. Hooker, 27 [or 28 September 1865] and n. 30.
Jeffrey had, in fact, been a member of parliament and lord advocate from 1831 to 1834 (DNB; see letter to J. D. Hooker, 27 [or 28 September 1865]). Jeffrey’s biographer records that he was not considered an effective speech-maker in parliament because of the weakness of his voice and tendency to speak either too quickly or too slowly (Cockburn 1852, 1: 314, 356–8).
Hooker refers to two of the articles in the Reader mentioned by Wallace as probably the work of Thomas Bendyshe (see letter from A. R. Wallace, 2 October 1865 and n. 4).
Wallace had informed CD that the new editorial policies of the Reader under Bendyshe would apparently include equal emphasis on political, literary, and scientific articles (see letter from A. R. Wallace, 2 October 1865). In fact, the scientific content declined noticeably during Bendyshe’s editorship (Byrne 1964, p. 113).
The first volume of the periodical publication Memoirs read before the Anthropological Society of London, which was published in 1865, was reviewed in the Reader, 30 September 1865, pp. 377–80. In a review of the events at the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, the rejection of the proposal of a new anthropological section was critically discussed in the Reader, 9 September 1865, pp. 292–3. The article, signed J.N.L., was probably by Norman Lockyer (North 1997, 5: 4066). Lockyer had reported on British Association meetings for the Reader since 1863 (Byrne 1964, p. 85).
Wallace had given a negative opinion of Tylor 1865 in his letter to CD of 2 October 1865. For Hooker’s earlier recommendation of Tylor 1865, see the letters from J. D. Hooker, [26 May 1865] and n. 13, and [15 June 1865].
Wallace’s complaint had been particularly directed at the final chapter of Lubbock 1865 (see letter from A. R. Wallace, 2 October 1865).
A report of the meeting of German natural scientists and physicians at Hanover from 18 to 24 September 1865 appeared in the Athenæum, 30 September 1865, pp. 435–6. Hooker evidently surmised that the article, signed ‘B.’, was by Berthold Carl Seemann. Seemann’s name appears on the list of members attending the meeting (Amtlicher Bericht über die vierzigste Versammlung deutscher Naturforscher und Ärzte zu Hannover im September 1865, p. 26), and he reported on the meeting in the Journal of Botany, November 1865, p. 359. The Athenæum article noted the popularity of an anti-Darwinian talk and remarked that other ‘independent speakers’ were ‘beginning to perceive the fallacy of the Darwinian hypothesis’ (Athenæum, 30 September 1865, p. 435).
Lea Hurst, about two miles from the spa town of Matlock, Derbyshire, was the seat of William Edward Nightingale (DNB).
Hooker’s Liverpool uncle was his mother’s brother Dawson William Turner, headmaster of the Royal Institution School in Liverpool (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 19). CD’s grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, had settled in Derby, near Buxton, in 1783 after his second marriage. Two of CD’s half cousins, Edward Levett Darwin and Reginald Darwin, lived in Buxton (Post Office directory of Cambridgeshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, & Rutlandshire 1864). Since Erasmus Darwin had recommended the waters at both Buxton and Matlock to Josiah Wedgwood I, the area had been a popular retreat for the Wedgwood family (King-Hele 1999, p. 110).
In his letter to J. D. Hooker of 27 [or 28 September 1865], CD wrote of his admiration for William Jackson Hooker, Hooker’s father, who had died in August (see letter from F. H. Hooker, [17 August 1865]).
W. J. Hooker was never honoured by the Royal Society of London, unlike Roderick Impey Murchison, who received the Copley Medal in 1849. For Hooker’s opinion of Murchison, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, 3 February 1865 and n. 8.
W. J. Hooker was honoured for his services to botany in 1836 when he was made Knight of the Order of Hanover (Allan 1967, pp. 94–5).
CD had asked whether Hooker would review a letter he had recently received from Fritz Müller, which contained observations on climbing plants (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 3 October [1865] and n. 2; see also letter from Fritz Müller, [12 and 31 August, and 10 October 1865]).


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

Buckle, Henry Thomas. 1857–61. History of civilization in England. 2 vols. London: John W. Parker & Son.

Byrne, John Francis. 1964. The Reader: a review of literature, science and the arts, 1863–1867. PhD thesis. Northwestern University.

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–.

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.

Doody, Margaret Anne. 1974. A natural passion; a study of the novels of Samuel Richardson. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

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.

Kay-Shuttleworth, James Phillips. 1860. Scarsdale; or, life on the Lancashire and Yorkshire border, thirty years ago. 3 vols. London: Smith, Elder & Co.

King-Hele, Desmond. 1999. Erasmus Darwin. A life of unequalled achievement. London: Giles de la Mare Publishers.

Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan. 1864. Uncle Silas: a tale of Bartram-Haugh. London: Richard Bentley.

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.

North, John S. 1997. The Waterloo directory of English newspapers and periodicals, 1800–1900. 10 vols. Waterloo, Ontario: North Waterloo Academic Press.

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.

Post Office directory of Cambridgeshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, & Rutlandshire. London: Kelly & Co. 1864.

Richardson, Samuel. 1747–8. Clarissa; or, the history of a young lady. 7 vols. London: [the author].

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.

Wood, Ellen (Mrs Henry). 1864. Trevlyn Hold; or, Squire Trevlyn’s heir. London: Tinsley Brothers.


On novels he has been reading: Eliot, Richardson, etc.

On Wallace, the Reader, and anthropology.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 102: 37–42
Physical description
ALS 12pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4910,” accessed on 18 April 2024,

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