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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   1 October 1863


Oct 1. 1863

Dear old Darwin

I have just buried my darling little girl & read your kind note.1 I tried hard to make no difference between her & the other children, but she was my very own, the flower of my flock in everyone’s eyes, the companion of my walks, the first of my children who has shown any love for Music and flowers, & the sweetest tempered affectionate little thing that ever I knew. it will be long before I cease to hear her voice in my ears—or feel her little hand stealing into mine, by the fire side & in the Garden.— wherever I go she is there—

The Funeral service had no more effect on me than on her— the association with her personally snapped as the ceremonial left my door, & oddly enough I felt nothing at seeing the little white coffin go into the vault, my mind was wandering amongst sweeter memories elsewhere.

And now I can calmly think of what sorrows I am spared— Her’s was no contagious disease threatening the whole family for weeks afterwards.— she suffered comparatively little—& above all do I rejoice, that she was yet so young & happy, that death did not enter her little head during her illness—& I was spared the agony of seeing my darling pass through the “Valley of the shadow of death”—2 Then too strangely enough I never knew she was dying till 3 minutes before the breath left her body   For 3 hours I was blind to every one of those symptoms of rapidly approaching dissolution that every nurse knows & every novelist describes—& I have seen myself so often.3 The doctor came in just 3 minutes before she died & told me to my horror she was dying. I knew the extreme danger, but assumed she had many hours to live. The retrospect of that last night is thus in some respects comforting in others hideous, & I can still feel the cold shudder that every misinterpreted symptom still sent through me, during that long night of agony & suspense.

My wife is still very ill, with rheumatism & neuralgia, weakness & sorrow—& but for the presence of her friend Miss Hawthorn4 I do not know what I should have done—during the last 5 days.

I do hope to be able to move her by Monday to my Uncle Gunn’s in Norfolk.5 poor thing she has now no Uncle or Aunts house or other of the many resorts she once had to fall back upon.6 Since we married her family has foundered like an ill equipped fleet in an open roadstead.

And now I must go about my work till Monday—& have heaps to do till then.

I had hoped that you were back at Down & better— Kindly let Henrietta write & tell me how you all are.—7 your last bulletin was a very sad one— my address will be

Revd. J. Gunn.

Irstead Neattishead8


Ever yrs affec | J D Hooker


CD’s note, in response to the letter from J. D. Hooker, [28 September 1863], has not been found. Maria Elizabeth Hooker died on 28 September 1863, aged 6 (Allan 1967, ‘Hooker pedigree’). See also Jalland 1996, pp. 350–1.
Psalms 23:4.
Hooker had been medically trained and served as a naval surgeon between 1839 and 1843 (DNB).
Miss Hawthorn has not been identified. She may be Grace Agnew Hawthorn, sister of Sarah Hawthorn, who married Leonard Jenyns in 1862 (DNB s.v. Blomefield [Jenyns], Leonard).
John Gunn, the husband of Hooker’s maternal aunt Harriet, was vicar of Barton Turf, and rector of Irstead in Norfolk (Clergy list, L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 18–19).
Frances Harriet Hooker’s aunt, Anne Frances Henslow, died in September 1863 (see letters from J. D. Hooker, 26 August 1863 and 15 September 1863). Her father, John Stevens Henslow, died in 1861 (see Correspondence vol. 9).
Henrietta Emma Darwin.
Irstead and Neatishead are villages in Norfolk, ten miles north-east of Norwich (Survey gazetteer of the British Isles).


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

Clergy list: The clergy list … containing an alphabetical list of the clergy. London: C. Cox [and others]. 1841–89.

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

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

Jalland, Pat. 1996. Death in the Victorian family. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Survey gazetteer of the British Isles: The survey gazetteer of the British Isles including summary of 1951 census. By John Bartholomew. 9th edition. Edinburgh: John Bartholomew & Son at the Geographical Institute.


Sorrow at loss of his daughter.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 160–2
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4317,” accessed on 20 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11