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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   2 December 1875

Royal Gardens Kew

Dec 2/75

Dear Darwin

Thanks for your kind congratulations— thank God it is over; though what with nervousness & bad wine I am done up with headache & had a purging today.— It is dreary work. It was the largest dinner ever known (150) but we were bored out of our lives by the speeches of Ramsay, Stokes, Hoffman & Brodie. 1 Tyndall2 writes “I never heard from the chair of the R. S. so good an Address, as your’s of yesterday”—but adds,—“The speeches at the dinner were most intolerable”— I believe the last part, but cannot swallow the first.

I will see that Lawson Taits paper is not sent to you, but I shall have to consult you about it.—3

Dyer shall see to Byblis at once— he is overtroubled with “much serving”— he gets on capitally with Smith & the men—4

He is in an awful way— the beasts of the Brit. Mus: have taken it into their heads to oppose Lankesters election because the Council has put him forward for remission of fees, & there are some who would actually black-ball him on that account.!.5 The Election came off tonight. In the first place the suggestion, it is no more, of remission of fees should never have been mentioned outside the Council!. My views are that it is a matter which should be left wholly in the hands of Zoologists, who are unanimous. & in the council the minority is of one only—& he a Botanist I am ashamed to say—but a most disagreeable fellow.

My impression is that it was a mistake to bring Lankester forward. The action is one of pure charity towards the individual.— it is very rarely taken & only in cases of patent inability on the part of the candidate to pay without serious inconvenience— Such 〈as〉 the case of Owen, Huxley, Bates, Hancock Wallace & Parker.6 These are all who ever had their fees remitted by the Council. Now with regard to Lankester, he is an unmarried man, a Fellow of an Oxford College, & Professor in U. College; and could find the money to join the Royal!—7 added to this his manners are not enticing, & have made him personal enemies: for though I am strong for the election & remission of fees—I am of opinion that his case is not at all a good one. If you add to this that all the cases hitherto acted on are those of Zoologists,—& that zoologists have never been liberal to the Society in gifts or paying for their plates &c I cannot wonder that Lankesters case has excited the odium of the Brit. Mus. Botanists. & in short that poor Dyer with the very best intentions has “put his foot in it”.—

Dyer rather mistook the whole thing— he regarded the remission of fees as an honour whereas it is only a mark of “consideration”—& he was loyally anxious to attach a first rate man to the Society to whom it was not convenient to pay the fees.

Ever aff yrs | J D Hooker.


CD had written to congratulate Hooker on the success of his presidential address at the anniversary meeting of the Royal Society of London on 30 November (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 1 December [1875] and n. 2). Andrew Crombie Ramsay received a Royal Medal on behalf of Thomas Oldham. George Gabriel Stokes was a secretary of the Royal Society. August Wilhelm von Hofmann had been awarded the society’s Copley Medal. Benjamin Collins Brodie Jr attended the anniversary dinner. See The Times, 1 December 1875, p. 11.
John Tyndall.
CD had sent a paper by Lawson Tait to the Royal Society for possible publication (see letter to the secretary of the Royal Society of London, 27 November 1875).
CD had asked for a scrap of the Australian insectivorous plant Byblis for Francis Darwin (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 1 December [1875] and n. 6). William Turner Thiselton-Dyer had been appointed assistant director of the Royal Botanic Gardens on 12 June 1875 (R. Desmond 1995, p. 251). John Smith was the curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Thiselton-Dyer had proposed Edwin Ray Lankester for fellowship of the Linnean Society of London; Lankester, however, was blackballed at the meeting on 2 December 1875 (see letter to J. D. Hooker, [12 December 1875]). The ‘beasts of the Brit. Mus:’ probably refers to the botanists employed by the British Museum who, as Hooker states later in the letter, may have opposed Lankester because of the favouritism shown to zoologists by the Linnean Society in cases where fees had been remitted.
Richard Owen, Thomas Henry Huxley, Henry Walter Bates, Albany Hancock, Alfred Russel Wallace, and William Kitchen Parker.
Lankester was a fellow of Exeter College, Oxford, and professor of zoology at University College, London. He had been elected a fellow of the Royal Society on 3 June 1875 (Record of the Royal Society of London).


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

Record of the Royal Society of London: The record of the Royal Society of London for the promotion of natural knowledge. 4th edition. London: Royal Society. 1940.


E. R. Lankester is in danger of being black-balled for admission to the Linnean Society; Thiselton-Dyer is in the midst of the fight.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 104: 45–8
Physical description
8pp damaged

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10286,” accessed on 28 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23