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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [26 February 1854]



My dear Darwin

Now that my book has been publicly acknowledged to be of some value, I feel bold to write to you; for to tell you the truth I have never been without a misgiving that the dedication might prove a very bad compliment however kindly I knew you wd receive it.—1 The idea of the dedication has been present to me from a very early date— it was formed during the Antarctic voyage, out of love for your own “Journal”—2 & has never deserted me since, nor would it I think had I never known more of you than by report & as the author of the said Naturalists Journal. Short of the gratification I felt in getting the book out, I know no greater than your kind hearty acceptation of the dedication, & had the reviewers gibbeted me, the dedication would alone have given me real pain. I have no wish to assume a stoical indifference to public opinion, for I am well alive to it, & the critics might have irritated me sorely, but they could never have caused me the regret that the association of your name with a bad book of mine would have.

You will laugh when I tell you, that my book out, I feel past the meridian of life!—but you do not know how from my earliest childhood I nourished & cherished the desire to make a creditable Journey in a new country, & with such a respectable amount of its natural features, as should give me a niche amongst the scientific explorers of the globe I inhabit, & hand my name down as a useful contributor of original matter. A combination of most rare advantages has enabled me to gain as much of my object as contents me, for I never wished to be greatest amongst you, nor did rivalry ever enter my thoughts. No ulterior object has ever been present to me in this pursuit, my ambition is fully gratified by the satisfactory completion of my task, & I am now happy to go on jog-trot at Botany till the end of my days—down hill in one sense all the way— I shall never have such another object to work for, nor shall I feel the want of it— what marriage or the first-child is to most men, this my book is to me, & though I have never attached the same importance to it as I have to wife & child, of kind degree or any thing else; in short though the journey & book are chaff compared to my two belongings, still in so far as the latter have been after thoughts & did not divert me from the former, their arrival did not mark the era in my life—that this has. In one point of view there is something intensely selfish in all this, & all I can say in justification is, that had I to begin life again, with such a wife in view, the case would be widely different: & neither journey nor book would ever have appeared. As it is the craving of 30 years is satisfied & I now look back on life in a way I never could previously, there never was a past hitherto to me, the phantom was always in view,—may-hap it is only a “ridiculus mus”3 after all, but it is big enough for me.

And now for the wife about whom you will like much better to hear— She is very well indeed lately;4 we spent yesterday afternoon at the Horner’s, visiting the Zoolog. Gardens, & not getting back here till dark, so that she had fully 4 or 5 miles walk & is rather tired today but none the worse. I was greatly pleased with Lyells letter from Madeira, how does it agree with you?— I do not see why he should insist upon very gentle slopes only for Lava to flow on,5 so much must depend on its Sp. Grav. fluidity heat—, homogeneity & plasticity

Henslow comes up this week for a day & brings Louisa6 to stay with us.

What do you think of the Executive Council of V. D Land7 voting me £350 in acknowledgement of my past & coming services to Tasmanian Botany, with the request that I will send them 6 copies of Flora Tasmaniæ, when published,8 & put the rest in my pocket (fully £280) I do not know a soul on the Council, nor ever had direct or indirect communication with them— transportation is certainly a capital system!—9

Murray has sold off all the “travels”—but I have not heard any-thing about the profits yet.10

With united regards | Yours | J. D Hooker

CD annotations

scored pencil
scored pencil
6.1 Murray … “travels”] cross added pencil


The dedication in Hooker’s Himalayan journals (J. D. Hooker 1854a, 1: v) reads: ‘To Charles Darwin, F.R.S., &c. These Volumes are Dedicated, by his affectionate friend, J. D. Hooker. Kew, Jan. 12th, 1854.’ CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL and is inscribed: ‘To C. Darwin Esq from the Author.’
Hooker had taken CD’s Journal of researches (1839) with him on the voyage of the Erebus and Terror (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 66).
‘Mountains will labour, to birth will come a laughter-raising mouse!’ (Quintus Horatius Flaccus Ars poetica: 139).
Frances Hooker was pregnant. Her second child was expected in June 1854.
Charles Lyell’s letter from Madeira, dated January 1854, was read at a meeting of the Philosophical Club of the Royal Society on 23 February by Leonard Horner (see letter to Charles Lyell, 18 February [1854], n. 2). There is, however, no passage in the printed version that shows Lyell as ‘insistent’ on gentle slopes (K. M. Lyell ed. 1881, 2: 191–3). During his visit to the Horner family mentioned in the letter, Hooker may have seen a second letter from Lyell, dated 21 February 1854 from Tenerife, in which the geological structure of Madeira was described in greater detail (K. M. Lyell ed. 1881, 2: 193–6).
Louisa Mary Henslow, Frances Hooker’s younger sister.
Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania).
Hooker’s Flora Tasmaniæ (J. D. Hooker 1855–60) was published in parts between 1855 and 1860.
Tasmania had been a penal settlement until transportation of convicts ceased in 1853.
John Murray was the publisher of J. D. Hooker 1854a.


Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1855–60. Flora Tasmaniæ. Pt 3 of The botany of the Antarctic voyage of HM Discovery Ships Erebus and Terror, in the years 1839–1843, under the command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross. 2 vols. London.

Journal of researches: Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, RN, from 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.


Is relieved his book [Himalayan journals] has been well received and glad he has successfully completed it.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 100: 86–9
Physical description
8pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1557,” accessed on 29 November 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 5