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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   18 June 1877


June 18 / 77.

Dear Darwin

I have told the H’emperor that it is impossible.1

I should have told you before of K.C.S.I. but as I knew you kindly would excuse me, I delayed.2

As Huxley will tell you, I was taken completely by surprize at R.S. by receiving a letter from Ld Salisbury informing me that he had taken a liberty with my name, proposed it to the Queen for K.C.S.I. & that I was virtually appointed!3 It went on to imply that as I was not in the Indian Service it was somewhat irregular, but that my Himalayan work alone “entitled me technically & substantially to the rank”— It added a little about my beneficent exertions for India4—& was altogether a very “pretty letter”— Huxley told me that I could not refuse if I would, & on recovering my senses I could not but see that both the compliment & manner of paying it were the highest & most gracious that could be. I have since heard that the Cabinet discussed the thing—that they could not longer allow my services to pass unrecognized, there was no K.C.B. vacant, & as I had refused K.C.M.G. it would be risky to ask me to accept anything else;5 so they strained a point to give me K.C.S.I. & in the handsomest manner gave it, solely for India work.

I had always regarded the Star of India as the most honable of all such distinctions— it is very limited, (to 60. K.C.S.Is) is never, like K.C.B, given by court favor or on personal considerations, & it has a flavor of hard work under difficulties, of obstacles overcome, & of brilliant deeds, that is very attractive. Assuredly I would rather go down to posterity as one of the “Stars of India”, than as of any other dignity whatever that the Crown can offer. Of course it pales before P.R.S.6 but then they cannot clash. I do not know whether I told you some 5 years ago application was made to the D. of Argyll to give it me,7 on hearing of which I wrote to him begging him not, as I thought so rare an honor should be confined to actual Indian servants— He answered that he would have given it me, but implied that the Statutes of the Order forbade it! so I never thought any thing more of the matter.

It is as you say a “peculiar” honor & I may well be proud of it & of the way it came.

Is this not a jolly strain of self gratulation & glorification?

Harriet will be married on 23 & I sail on 28 from Liverpool. What commissions have you for Niagara & Colorado? that Hayden Strachey & I can execute.8

Ever yrs affy | J D Hooker


The emperor of Brazil, Pedro II, had asked Hooker to arrange a visit with CD (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 16 June [1877] and n. 3).
Hooker had been made a Knight Commander of the Star of India (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 16 June [1877] and n. 6).
Hooker refers to Thomas Henry Huxley, Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil (third marquess of Salisbury and secretary of state for India), and Queen Victoria.
On Hooker’s Himalayan expedition, see J. D. Hooker 1854. On his other contributions to Indian botany, see R. Desmond 1999 and Endersby 2008.
KCB: Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath; KCMG: Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George.
Hooker was president of the Royal Society of London.
George Douglas Campbell, eighth duke of Argyll, was secretary of state for India in 1869, when Hooker was recommended for a KCSI (see Correspondence vol. 17, letter from J. D. Hooker, 14 November 1869). Hooker had later been proposed for a KCB (see Correspondence vol. 18, letters from J. D. Hooker, 31 October 1871 and 2 November 1871). For a discussion of Hooker’s honours, see L. Huxley ed. 1918, 2: 145–51.
Harriet Anne Hooker, Hooker’s daughter, married William Turner Thiselton-Dyer on 23 June 1877. Hooker departed for New York on 28 June 1877 and travelled across the United States with a party that included Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden and Richard Strachey (see L. Huxley ed. 1918, 2: 205–17).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 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.

Endersby, Jim. 2008. Imperial nature: Joseph Hooker and the practices of Victorian science. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.


JDH recounts circumstances of his receiving Star of India (K.C.S.I.).

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 104: 90–1
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11006,” accessed on 19 September 2021,