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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [27 or 28 December 1862]1


〈    〉

Dr Darwin

I send Mr Oldfields answer to your questions— he has misunderstood me about Lythrum.2

Do you know that I very much agree with J. E. Gray about collecting—& its interest3   Our greatest interest in Nat. Hist specimens is the knowledge we obtain thereby of function, affinity, distribution &c—but there is a much more catholic view of specimens than this, which none but a very few of the very ablest 〈naturalists have e〉ntertained 〈two words missing〉 higher interest 〈    〉 & which 〈inclu〉des a love of all 〈the〉 artistic pleasure they afford, the pleasure of classyfying by eye, & not by knowledge, the historic interest attached to them, & the pleasure of being successful in obtaining, as well as the love of possessing, without which much of all the rest is nothing. R. Brown4 was one of those few rare great men, who loved specimens for all that Gray loved them for, & did not despise the springs of that love; & who besides loved them for all that we should. His fault was, not that he loved too wisely, but too much, & was cursedly selfish.

Henslow was another.5 This interest is neither less useful nor good nor worthy of cultivation because it is often perverted. it made Brown selfish; it frittered away Henslows energies, it obfuscates all Grays good qualities, & it leads to many vices; but then look at the grist it brings to the Mill-Scientific—& look on the other-hand to the effects of the love of specimens for the higher objects alone— in 99100 cases it leads to nothing, in some others to indolence, jealousy, very narrow-mindedness & as many evils of a less docile nature   What a mess poor J. E. G. has made of Rowland Hill, & what a Jesuitical letter is his last;6 how du Chaillu will chuckle.7

By the way—now don’t despise me—I am collecting Wedgewoods simply & solely because they are pretty & I love them— I have not even a Grayan Excuse, they afford me pleasure—voila tout—

I saw Boott yesterday, first time for ages—looks more old & thin, but was in great force.8 F. Palgrave is to be married on Tuesday, to a Miss Gaskell, who rejoices in the name Cecil;—he was author of “Passionate Pilgrim” & so I was all wrong together, in every conceivable way9

I should like to turn the water-spout of Herbert Spencers abstract philosophy on the subject of Nat: Selection as applied to Politics, Govt, & Society:—10 By the way what splendid books Jeremy Bentham might have written had he clearer notions & read the Origin.11

I will take care of your note for Naudin.12

Ever yours affec | J D Hooker

Nothing to pay for Bees.13


Dated by the reference to John Edward Gray’s letter to the Athenæum (see n. 6, below), and by the mention of the forthcoming marriage between Francis Turner Palgrave and Cecil Grenville Milnes Gaskell (see n. 9, below).
Augustus Frederick Oldfield’s communication has not been found; however, see the letter to J. D. Hooker, 24 December [1862] and n. 9.
John Edward Gray discussed the value and purpose of collecting in the introduction to his Hand catalogue of postage stamps (J. E. Gray 1862c). See Gunther 1975, p. 192.
Robert Brown was keeper of the botanical collections at the British Museum from 1827 to 1858.
John Stevens Henslow was professor of botany at Cambridge from 1825 to 1861, with responsibility for the University Botanic Garden.
In the introduction to his Hand catalogue of postage stamps, Gray had claimed to be the first to propose ‘the system of a small uniform rate of postage to be pre-paid by stamps’ (J. E. Gray 1862c, p. viii). Repeated in the Athenæum, 13 December 1862, p. 768, the claim elicited a letter of complaint from Rowland Hill, the instigator of the penny postage, who was angered by the implication that his scheme had originated with Gray (Athenæum, 20 December 1863, p. 806). In a letter to the Athenæum, 27 December 1863, pp. 845–6, Gray sought to distance himself from any such claim, and to confirm the independence, though not the priority, of Hill’s scheme. The controversy continued into January 1863 with an exchange of letters in the Athenæum between Gray and the publisher Charles Knight. See Gunther 1975, pp. 192–4.
The reference is to Gray’s attack during the summer of 1861 on Explorations & adventures in equatorial Africa by the explorer Paul Belloni Du Chaillu (Du Chaillu 1861). In a series of letters to the Athenæum, and in papers in the Annals and Magazine of Natural History and the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, Gray challenged the accuracy of Du Chaillu’s account of his travels and the identification and description of the animals he collected, sparking a public controversy that spilled over into the pages of The Times and other periodicals. See Correspondence vol. 9, letter to Edward Cresy, 28 May [1861], Gunther 1975, pp. 132–4, and Rupke 1994, pp. 314–22.
The physician and botanist, Francis Boott, was seventy years old; he had resigned as treasurer of the Linnean Society of London in May 1861 (DNB).
Hooker’s cousin, the poet and critic Francis Turner Palgrave, married Cecil Grenville Milnes Gaskell on 30 December 1862 (Gentleman’s Magazine n.s. 14 (1863): 231). The passionate pilgrim was a pseudonymous romantic novel (Thurstan 1858) about which CD and Hooker had exchanged comments in 1858 (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to J. D. Hooker, 12 [October 1858]).
Hooker refers to his whimsical suggestion that he would write a book arguing that aristocracy was the result of natural selection (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [21 December 1862], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 24 December [1862]). The sixth number of Herbert Spencer’s First principles (Spencer 1860–2) was published in June 1862, completing the first volume of his projected five-part series entitled ‘A System of philosophy’. The volume presented Spencer’s philosophy in abstract terms, and the remaining four divisions promised to deal with its application to biology, psychology, sociology, and morality. CD had subscribed to the First principles (see Correspondence vol. 8, letter to Herbert Spencer, 2 February [1860]), but the last two numbers of his unannotated copy, which is in the Darwin Library–CUL, are uncut.
The reference is to the utilitarian writer on jurisprudence and economics, Jeremy Bentham.
In his letter of 24 December [1862], CD had sent Hooker a ‘memorandum of enquiry’ for the French botanist and plant hybridiser, Charles Victor Naudin, whom he expected Hooker to see on his forthcoming visit to Paris.


Hostile to Spencer’s application of natural selection to society.

JDH on J. E. Gray’s views on collecting.

JDH collecting Wedgwood ware.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 93–5
Physical description
5pp damaged

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3891,” accessed on 16 February 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10