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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   23 August [1868]

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Sunday Aug 23

(Read this when at Kew.)

My dear old Friend.—

I have received your note. I can hardly say how pleased I have been at the success of your address & of the whole Meeting— I have seen the Times, Telegraph, Spectator & Athenæum;1 & have heard of other favourable newspapers & have ordered a bundle. There is a chorus of praise. The Times reported miserably, ie as far as errata were concerned, but I was very glad at the Leader, for I thought the way you brought in the megalithic monuments most happy.2 I particularly admired Tyndalls little speech; but you mistake that I was brought in: nor indeed shd. I have deserved it; but it is most true, (too true for you always neglect yourself) in regard to yourself.3 The Spectator pitches a little into you about Theology, in accordance with its usual spirit; for there is some writer in the Spectator who is the most ardent admirer of the Duke of Argyll.4 Your great success has rejoiced my heart. I have just carefully read the whole Address in the Athenæum; & though, as you know, I liked it very much when you read it to me; yet as I was trying all the time to find fault, I missed to a certain extent the effect as a whole; & this now appears to me most striking & excellent.5 How you must rejoice at all your bothering labour & anxiety having had so grand an end. I must say a word about myself: never has such a Eulogium been passed on me & it makes me very proud. I cannot get over my amazement at what you say about my Botanical work. By Jove, as far as my memory goes, you have strengthened instead of weakened some of the expressions. What is far more important, than anything personal, is the conviction which I feel that you will have immensely advanced the belief in the evolution of species. This will follow from the publicity of the occasion, your position, so responsible, as President, & your own high reputation. It will make a great step in public opinion I feel sure, & I had not thought of this before.— The Athenæum takes your snubbing with the utmost mildness.—6 I certainly do rejoice over this snubbing, & hope Owen will feel it a little.— —7 Whenever you have spare time to write again, tell me, whether any Astronomers took your remarks in ill part: as they now stand they do not seem at all too harsh or presumptuous.8 Many of your sentences strike me as extremely felicitous & eloquent. That of Lyell’s “underpinning” is capital. Tell me was Lyell pleased: I am so glad that you remembered my old Dedication.9 Was Wallace pleased?10

How about Photographs? Can you spare time for a line to our dear Mrs. Cameron. She came to see us off & loaded us with presents of Photographs, & Erasmus called after her “Mrs Cameron there are six people in this house all in love with you”. When I paid her: she cried out “oh what a lot of money” & ran to boast to her husband!!11

Tennyson talked of you in a most friendly way, & took all your snubbing most amiably.—12

I must not write any more, though I am in tremendous spirits at your brilliant success.—

Yours ever Affect | C. Darwin


Hooker’s presidential address at the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science was reported or discussed in The Times, 20 August 1868, p. 6, 21 August 1868, p. 4, and 22 August 1868, pp. 4–5; the Daily Telegraph, 20 August 1868, p. 2, and 21 August 1868, p. 6; the Spectator, 22 August 1868, pp. 986–7; and the Athenæum, 22 August 1868, pp. 242–8.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, [20 August 1868] and n. 5. An editorial article in The Times, 22 August 1868, pp. 4–5, drew attention to Hooker’s reference in his address to the International Congress for Prehistoric Archaeology, which was meeting in Norwich at the same time as the British Association, and his discussion of megalithic monuments.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, [20 August 1868]. According to The Times, 21 August 1868, p. 4, John Tyndall, seconding Thomas Henry Huxley’s vote of thanks, said that Ralph Waldo Emerson, in speaking of the works of Shakespeare dwelt upon the sublime self-renunciation shown in those works, and said that Shakespeare, notwithstanding all his greatness and his grandeur, never showed a trace of littleness in thrusting himself forward. And so it was with this address; filled as it was with the genius of the man who had uttered it, he had made himself simply the lens which conveyed the light upon his hearers.
The author of the article in the Spectator (see n. 1, above), while deprecating the bitterness of the dispute between religion and science that he saw reflected in Hooker’s address, argued that enquiries into the non-physical domain should be given equal standing with the physical sciences. For CD’s comments on the Spectator’s review of The reign of law, by George Douglas Campbell, the duke of Argyll, see Correspondence vol. 15, letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 February [1867] and n. 5.
Hooker’s address was printed in full in the Athenæum, 22 August 1868, pp. 243–8. Hooker had visited CD at Freshwater on the Isle of Wight before the Norwich meeting (see letter to Asa Gray, 15 August [1868]).
In his address (J. D. Hooker 1868, p. lxx), Hooker referred to the Athenæum’s view, as he saw it, that CD’s theory was a thing of the past, and that Variation contained nothing more in support of the theory than a more detailed reiteration of his ‘guesses’ about pigeons (see Athenæum, 15 February 1868, p. 243 ([Robertson] 1868a)). In a report of his address (Athenæum, 22 August 1868, p. 242), the editor wrote, ‘although we had the disadvantage of being regarded as, to some extent, an adversary of his views, we have nothing to allege against his way of putting his case’.
CD thought that Richard Owen had written the review of Variation in the Athenæum ([Robertson] 1868a; see letter to John Lubbock, 15 February [1868] and n. 10).
Hooker discussed astronomers’ objections to CD’s theory, which had been raised in Henry Charles Fleeming Jenkin’s anonymous article in the North British Review ([Jenkin] 1867), in his address (J. D. Hooker 1868, pp. lxxi–lxxii).
In his address (J. D. Hooker 1868, p. lxxi), Hooker spoke of how Charles Lyell had devoted ‘whole chapters’ of the first edition of his Principles of geology (Lyell 1830–3) to establishing the doctrine of special creations, and yet abandoned it in his tenth edition (Lyell 1867–8). Hooker commented: Well may he be proud of a superstructure, raised on the foundations of an insecure doctrine, when he finds that he can underpin it and substitute a new foundation; and after all is finished, survey his edifice, not only more secure, but more harmonious in its proportions than it was before … Hooker also mentioned that CD had dedicated his Journal of researches to Lyell.
Hooker referred to Alfred Russel Wallace as the ‘champion of Natural Selection, Mr. Darwin’s true knight’, and praised his modesty in setting aside his claim to have been an independent originator of the theory (J. D. Hooker 1868, p. lxxi).
The Darwins, including Erasmus Alvey Darwin, had stayed at a house owned by Julia Margaret Cameron at Freshwater on the Isle of Wight from 17 July to 20 August 1868 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)). Cameron’s husband was Charles Hay Cameron. For copies of photographs taken by Cameron of CD, Hooker, Horace Darwin, and Erasmus, see plates facing pp. 630 and 631.
According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), the Darwins met Alfred Tennyson at Julia Margaret Cameron’s house on 10 August 1868, while Hooker was visiting them.


Athenæum. 1844. A few words by way of comment on Miss Martineau’s statement. No. 896 (28 December): 1198–9.

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

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1868. Address of the president. Report of the thirty-eighth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, held at Norwich, pp. lviii–lxxv.

[Jenkin, Henry Charles Fleeming.] 1867. The origin of species. North British Review 46: 277–318.

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.

Lyell, Charles. 1830–3. Principles of geology, being an attempt to explain the former changes of the earth’s surface, by reference to causes now in operation. 3 vols. London: John Murray.

Lyell, Charles. 1867–8. Principles of geology or the modern changes of the earth and its inhabitants considered as illustrative of geology. 10th edition. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Pleased at success of JDH’s address. Has read several press reports.

Spectator pitches into JDH about theology ["Dr Hooker on the evidences", 22 Aug 1868, pp. 986–7].

Feels JDH has "immensely advanced the belief in evolution of species".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 94: 85–8
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6327,” accessed on 4 August 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16