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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   14 November 1869

Royal Gardens Kew

Nov. 14 /69.

Dear Old Darwin

I should have written to you ere this & explained the CB. The only intimation I have hitherto had is from the Times!—1 a month ago Murchison wrote to me to the effect, that the P.M. had written to him, stating that Lord Russell had recommended me for the Bath, regretting that no K.C.B was vacant, & asking if I would like C.B. The letter went on to ask, if I would accept Knighthood en attendant a K.C.B. after longer service—2 I wrote by return of post, accepting CB. for services, & declining Kthood— the latter I did on various grounds, partly—because it signifies nothing,—whilst the CB. recognizes services, which is the only recognition I care for—& because if they wanted to Knight me (& I do not wish for Knighthood) they might have offered it in an order that indicated special Services—3

This said & done, I heard no more of the CB., till I saw it in the papers, & have heard nothing since. Nor had I a word from Lord Russell, though I wrote to thank him, through my Lady.—4

Murchison & Lyell5 have however strongly recommended me to the D. of Argyll for the Knight Commandership of the Star of India—but I do not think there is the least chance of my getting the offer of it.—6 Lyell has seen the Duke several times about it, who always says that he has “set his subs to seek official information on which to act”! Can you conceive such humbug? he may look long enough & find nothing— The E.I.C. absolutely ignored me & refused me every kind of countenance & assistance. The K.C.S.I. is so rare an honor that I might well be proud to have it—for my India services;7 but I really do not desire Knighthood, & would infinitely rather be plain Dr Hooker with CB to testify to my having done my duty as well as others who have that certificate.— So if it comes I shall be proud of it, if not I shall be as well content. Please say nothing about it— The fact is the D. might do it with a stroke of his pen, but he doesn’t like my Darwinism & my Address, & I am right proud of that.!8

And now to more congenial subjects.

I have just come up from Brodie’s pretty place on the top of Box hill—& left my wife & Brian till tomorrow—9 I like B,—exceedingly; only Odling was there; we talked much of P.R.S. supposing Sabine was to retire or “slip his wind”—& we agreed upon Lyell.10 I have seen Huxley since who tells me that the subject was mooted at the last X club (I was absent) & Lyell, all agreed, was the man—11 I know that this is the Botanists opinions too, & the only difficulty is, is he able (physically) to take it for a year even?— I am to make out & shall write to Lady Lyell12 enquiring—

I am greatly disappointed with “Nature”, & so is every one I have talked to about it— I had a long talk with the publisher MacMillan about it today—13 I would recommend that they drop the articles of the style of the “Academy”, which they cannot compete with—& give 1. a Summary of week’s Scientific news like the Spectator.,14 2 Correspondence— 3 good plain descriptive reviews of books— 4 abstracts of Society’s meetings—try in fact to make it more simple & useful. There is plenty of room for a good journal of the kind— none for an inferior one.— What did you think of Huxleys rhapsody on Goethe’s ditto—15 I must say I could not share in his admiration, & the General public could not make head or tail of it.—

I saw Sylvester today who is raving about you16—also Huxley who is full of lecturing & Reptilian bones.

No news from Willy by last mail, but Hector writes that he is well, getting fatt, & that he will look out for a ship for sending him home.17

I am so glad that you liked my review of Schimper.18 I was very glad to write it, I could praise so heartily.—

I am working hard at my British Flora,19 the number of little points wanting attention is wonderful. I find that to do the descriptive part well, is all enough for one effort; & I count on doing the other for a companion volume.

Ever Yr affectionate | Jos D Hooker


Hooker refers to Roderick Impey Murchison; William Ewart Gladstone, the prime minister; John Russell, first Earl Russell, and two different classes of the Order of the Bath; see letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 November [1869] and nn. 2 and 3.
See also L. Huxley ed. 1918, pp. 145–7.
The reference is probably to Fanny Russell, wife of John Russell.
The Star of India was an order founded in 1861; it had three classes: Companion, Knight Commander (KCSI), and Knight Grand Commander (EB). George Douglas Campbell, eighth duke of Argyll, was the secretary of state for India.
For more on Hooker’s frustrations with the East India Company during and after his India expedition, and on Hooker’s eventual recognition by the Order of the Star of India, see R. Desmond 1999, pp. 201, 217–19, 250–2. See also Correspondence vol. 13, letter from J. D. Hooker, [17 February 1865] and n. 8.
Hooker refers to his 19 August 1868 presidential address at the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Norwich; see J. D. Hooker 1868, and Correspondence vol. 16, letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 August [1868], and letter from J. D. Hooker, 5 September 1868.
Benjamin Collins Brodie owned a house on Box Hill in the North Downs of Surrey (ODNB). Brian Harvey Hodgson Hooker was a son of Hooker and Frances Harriet Hooker.
Hooker refers to William Odling and to Edward Sabine. Sabine been president of the Royal Society of London since 1861 (ODNB).
The X Club met informally for dinner on the first Thursday of every month, and was established primarily for younger men of science united by friendship, and what one member called a ‘devotion to science, pure and free, untrammelled by religious dogmas’ (quoted in Barton 1998, p. 411; see also Correspondence vol. 13). For the club’s efforts to change the Royal Society president in 1869, see Barton 1990, p. 64. Hooker refers to Thomas Henry Huxley.
The first issue of Nature, a ‘weekly illustrated journal of science’, was dated 4 November 1869. The publisher was Alexander Macmillan. For the criticism by X-Club members, including Hooker, of Nature, see Barton 2004.
The Academy was a monthly review of literature, science, and art, established in October 1869 (see letter from John Murray, 18 September [1869]). On the Spectator, see Correspondence vol. 12, letter from J. D. Hooker, 29 March 1864, n. 32.
The opening article in the first number of Nature was entitled ‘Nature: Aphorisms by Goethe’, and included a commentary by Huxley (T. H. Huxley 1869b). The essay has often been attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, but was in fact written by the Swiss theologian Johann Georg Christoph Tobler in 1783 (McVaugh 2004, p. 792; see also Miller ed. and trans. 1988, pp. 3–7, and Harrison et al. eds. 2000, pp. 846–8).
James Hector had taken some responsibility for Hooker’s son, William Henslow Hooker, while he was in New Zealand (see letters from J. D. Hooker, 24 June 1869, 17 July 1869, and 13 August 1869).
Hooker was working on The student’s flora of the British Islands (J. D. Hooker 1870); see letter from J. D. Hooker, 11 March 1869.


Barton, Ruth. 1990. ‘An influential set of chaps’: The X-Club and Royal Society politics 1864–85. British Journal for the History of Science 23: 53–81.

Barton, Ruth. 2004. Scientific authority and scientific controversy in Nature: North Britain against the X Club. In Culture and science in the nineteenth-century media, edited by Louise Henson et al. Aldershot: Ashgate.

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

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

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

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1868. Address of the president. Report of the thirty-eighth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, held at Norwich, pp. lviii–lxxv.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1870. The student’s flora of the British Islands. London: Macmillan.

McVaugh, Robert. 2004. Nature. In Encyclopedia of the romantic era, 1760–1850, edited by John Christopher Murray. New York: Fitzroy Dearborn.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


Describes how the offer of C.B. was made. He declined a knighthood. Murchison and Lyell are trying to get him made Knight Commander of the Star of India, but he does not think there is a chance. The Duke [of Argyll?] might do it, but does not like JDH’s Darwinism.

Next Presidency of Royal Society discussed: all (Brodie, the X Club botanists, et al.) are agreed on Lyell.

Everyone is disappointed with Nature.

What did CD think of "Huxley’s rhapsody on Goethe’s ditto" [Nature 1 (1869): 9–11]?

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 103: 35—8
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6988,” accessed on 14 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17