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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [24 September 1876]1

The Doune | Aviemore


My dear friend

I have received both your letters here, & thank you much for the details you send me; sad as they are the news that the sufferer was wholly unaware of her approaching end is wonderfully consolatory—to the survivors. I never think of my poor wife’s & child’s ends without realizing this.2

I am so glad to hear that Frank will live with you poor fellow I do most deeply feel for him.3 He is young however, of a happy disposition I believe, & above all he is one who can find occupation for his mind & take pleasure in the happyness of others.

I shall never forget the kind word about remarriage that Mrs Darwin sent to me on hearing of my being about to marry again;4 & I cannot (though so far too soon to think of such a matter at all in respect of poor Frank) but hold the prospect for him deep down in a far off corner of my heart.

For my own part I am sure that I have done right—. & that I shall feel as proud of my second wife as I ought to be— she is so gentle, sensible & so thoroughly dependable. She is also as interested in my pursuits as I could wish, & makes our walks so pleasant in all ways. A more affectionate nature I never met, & she has quite endeared herself to all my kin in Scotland.5

From Glasgow we went first to Miss Smiths (of Jordan Hill) on the Clyde, whence I think I wrote to you— Then to Oban where we joined Mrs Lyell who was travelling with Rosamund, Arthur, Miss Lyell (Sophy, Sir Charles’ youngest sister & Mr Symonds.6 We went together to Skye, spent nearly a week there & crossed to the [Garie] Loch7 where we parted company & my wife & I came on here. We have had glorious weather & a most pleasant trip.

The British Association was good on the whole, but Taits attack on Tyndall was not only unwarrantable but shameful & Wallace as Presiding Spiritualist made a black ending to a scientific meeting.8

I have been immensely struck with the Geological & especially the glacial features of the N. of Scotland, & begin to appreciate the difficult nature & the amount of work accomplished by Macculloch & subsequently by Murchison, in these regions9

Were you aware that Dickie of Aberdeen (Prof: Bot.) had examined the earth beneath the Glen Roy roads & found them to contain Fresh-water diatoms?10

We go hence on Wednesday to Stirling for 3 days & then on to my friends the Hodgsons in Gloucestershire for a few more when we shall meet Harriet &—so home to Kew—where I shall be glad to be again.: though I must confess that the prospect of another such season as last of work in councils, committees Societys, & Society is peculiarly repulsive.11

I have to get out a new Edition of the British Flora12   I need hardly ask whether you have any notes or hints to give me

Hoping that time is doing it’s great work effectually in assuaging your own & poor Franks grief. | Believe me my dear Darwin | Your ever affectionate | Jos D Hooker.

I have ventured to enclose a few lines for Frank, but pray do not give him them if you think it not good for me to write to him yet—.13


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 17 September [1876]. The Sunday following 17 September 1876 was 24 September.
See letters to J. D. Hooker, 11 September [1876] and 17 September [1876]. Hooker’s first wife, Frances Harriet Hooker, had died suddenly on 13 November 1874 (Allan 1967, p. 225); his daughter Maria Elizabeth Hooker had died in 1863, aged 6 (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 2: 61).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 17 September [1876]. Francis Darwin had been living at Down Lodge with his wife, Amy, since their marriage in 1874 (Post Office directory of the six home counties 1874). Amy died at their home on 11 September 1876 (letter to J. D. Hooker, 11 September [1876]).
Hooker had married Hyacinth Jardine on 22 August 1876 (ODNB). Emma Darwin’s letter to Hooker has not been found.
Hooker’s family background was English, but he had lived in Scotland as a child when his father, William Jackson Hooker, was professor of botany at Glasgow. Hooker’s sister Maria married a Scot, Walter McGilvray, in 1846, and it is probably to her family that he refers.
Sabina Douglas Clavering Smith lived at Jordanhill house, Glasgow (Burke’s landed gentry 1914). Hooker also refers to Katharine Murray Lyell, her daughter, Rosamund Frances Ann Lyell, and her son Arthur Henry Lyell. Sophia Georgina Lyell was a sister of the late Charles Lyell. William Samuel Symonds was Hooker’s father-in-law.
Loch Garry is on the west coast of Scotland near Skye.
Peter Guthrie Tait had given an evening lecture, ‘Force’, on 8 September 1876 at the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science; much of the lecture was printed in Nature, 21 September 1876, pp. 459–63, and the full text was printed in the second edition of Tait’s Lectures on some recent advances in physical science (P. G. Tait 1876, pp. 338–63). Although John Tyndall was not mentioned in the lecture, Hooker evidently interpreted parts of it as a veiled attack on Tyndall (for more on the long-standing dispute between Tait and Tyndall concerning the earliest formulation of the principle of conservation of energy, see D. Lindley 2004, pp. 177–87). Alfred Russel Wallace had been president of the biology section at the meeting. The precise incident alluded to by Hooker has not been identified, but in his address to the biological section of the meeting, Wallace had argued that the origin of humans must have been due in part to ‘distinct and higher agencies’, given the superiority of their mental and moral nature (Report of the 46th meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1876), Transactions of the sections, p. 114). By this time, Wallace was publicly promoting spiritualism; see, for example, ‘A defence of modern spiritualism’ (Wallace 1874).
John MacCulloch and Roderick Impey Murchison (see, for example, MacCulloch 1819 and Murchison and Geikie 1861).
George Dickie examined samples collected in 1873 by Thomas Brown from different levels of the terraces or ‘roads’ of Glen Roy and identified four species of freshwater diatoms (see T. Brown 1874, p. 341). Diatoms are unicellular or colonial algae, characterised by siliceous cell walls. In one of his earliest geological papers, ‘Parallel roads of Glen Roy’, CD had suggested that the parallel roads of Glen Roy were terraces produced by changing seawater levels, but he had since accepted that they were shorelines of a diminishing ice-dammed lake (see letter to John Tyndall, 5 June [1876] and n. 2).
Brian Houghton Hodgson and Susan Hodgson lived at Alderley Grange, near Wotton under Edge, Gloucestershire (ODNB). Harriet Anne Hooker was Hooker’s daughter. Hooker had been president of the Royal Society of London since 1873 (ODNB).
A second edition of The student’s flora of the British Islands was published in 1878 (Hooker 1878).
Hooker’s note for Francis Darwin has not been found.


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

Brown, Thomas. 1874. On the parallel roads of Glen Roy. [Read 2 March 1874.] Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 8: 339–42.

Burke’s landed gentry: A genealogical and heraldic history of the commoners of Great Britain and Ireland enjoying territorial possessions or high official rank but unvisited with heritable honours. Burke’s genealogical and heraldic history of the landed gentry. By John Burke et al. 1st–18th edition. London: Henry Colburn [and others]. 1833–1969.

Geikie, Archibald. 1861. On a rise of the coast of the Firth of Forth within the historical period. Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal n.s. 14: 102–12.

Lindley, David. 2004. Degrees Kelvin: a tale of genius, invention, and tragedy. Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press.

MacCulloch, John. 1819. Description of the western islands of Scotland, including the Isle of Man: comprising an account of their geological structure; with remarks on their agriculture, scenery, and antiquities. 3 vols. Edinburgh: Archibald Constable and Co. London: Hurst, Robinson, and Co.

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.

‘Parallel roads of Glen Roy’: Observations on the parallel roads of Glen Roy, and of other parts of Lochaber in Scotland, with an attempt to prove that they are of marine origin. By Charles Darwin. [Read 7 February 1839.] Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 129: 39–81. [Shorter publications, pp. 50–88.]

Post Office directory of the six home counties: Post Office directory of the six home counties, viz., Essex, Herts, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex. London: W. Kelly & Co. 1845–78.

Tait, Peter Guthrie. 1876. Lectures on some recent advances in physical science with a special lecture on force. 2d edition. London: Macmillan and Co.


JDH again expresses his condolences.

The Glasgow BAAS meeting was good, except for Tait’s shameful attack on Tyndall.

Immensely impressed on Scottish geological and glacial features. Is CD aware that the earth beneath Glen Roy roads was found to contain freshwater diatoms?

Recounts the itinerary of his honeymoon in Scotland.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
The Doune
Source of text
DAR 104: 62–5
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10605,” accessed on 20 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24