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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   2 December [1854]

Down Farnborough Kent

Dec. 2d.

My dear Hooker

You are a pretty fellow to talk of funking the returning thanks at the Dinner for the Medal.—1 I heard that it was decidedly the best speech of the evening, given “with perfect fluency, distinctness & command of language”.— And that you showed great self-possession: was the latter the proverbially desperate courage of a coward? But you are a pretty fellow to be so desperately afraid & then to make the crack speak. Many such an ordeal may you have to go through!.— I do not know whether Sir William2 wd. be contented with Ld. Rosse’s speech on giving you the medal;3 but I was very much pleased with it; & really the roll of what you have done was, I think, splendid. What a great pity he half spoiled it by not having taken the trouble just to read it over first. Poor Hoffman came off in this respect even worse.—4 It is is really almost arrogant indolence against everyone not an astronomer.—5

The next morning I was at a very pleasant Breakfast party at Sir R. Inglis.—6

I have received, with very many thanks, the aberrant genera; but I have not had time to consider them, or your remarks on Australian Bot. Geograph.

My dear Hooker | Very truly your’s | C. Darwin

I direct to your Fathers, as I do not know your address in Richmond, which I suppose is a large place.


Hooker’s acceptance of the Royal Medal on 30 November (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 November [1854]). CD attended the meeting but not the dinner (ML 1: 79 n.4).
William Jackson Hooker.
William Parsons, Earl of Rosse, was president of the Royal Society, 1851–4. His speech describing J. D. Hooker’s achievements made no mention of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, with which Hooker and his father were so closely associated (Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 7 (1854–5): 261–2).
August Wilhelm von Hofmann, German chemist and director of the Royal College of Chemistry, was awarded the Royal Medal for his ‘Memoirs on the molecular constitution of the organic bases’ (Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 7 (1854–5): 262).
Lord Rosse was an astronomer.
Sir Robert Harry Inglis, a Tory politician, had been president of the 1847 Oxford meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at which CD was present (see Correspondence vol. 4).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

ML: More letters of Charles Darwin: a record of his work in a series of hitherto unpublished letters. Edited by Francis Darwin and Albert Charles Seward. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1903.


JDH’s "grand speech" on receiving the Royal Medal.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 158
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1609,” accessed on 21 October 2021,

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