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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   4 August [1872]

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Aug. 4th

My dear Hooker

I was very glad to see in the Times a sort of abstract of the minutes of the Lords of the Treasury;1 as I hope this will make your position more comfortable; but the Ministers have been immeasurably shabby in not having taken more active steps.2 Everyone seems to think so. What a wretched life you must have led of late, my dear old friend.

I cannot tell you how interested I have been in reading numberless articles on your case, & how indignant I have been with those wretched Lords.3 But after all, as far as I understand things, nothing equals Owen’s conduct.—4 I used to be ashamed of hating him so much, but now I will carefully cherish my hatred & contempt to the last day of my life.5

Farewell, excuse this rigmarole. Of course do not answer— Farewell | Your affectionate friend | Charles Darwin

P.S I received safely the boxes, forwarded, I presume from Kew.—6


A discussion in the House of Lords regarding the dispute between Hooker and his superior, Acton Smee Ayrton, was reported in The Times, 30 July 1872, including an abstract of the minutes (p. 5), and an editorial (p. 9). The abstract of the minutes contained a quotation from the Treasury ministers dated 24 July 1872 that praised Hooker’s work at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and stipulated, ‘no alteration in existing arrangements in the scientific branch of the department shall be made without the Director’s concurrence’. For more on the controversy, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, 1 January 1872 and n. 1.
On the conduct of the Treasury ministers, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, 14 May 1872.
Beginning in July 1872, a number of newspapers had taken up Hooker’s case, including The Times, the Daily News, and the Guardian (an Anglican weekly: North 1997). For details, see Drayton 2000, pp. 215 and 317 n. 257, and Endersby 2008, pp. 286–9.
Richard Owen had written a report that was critical of Hooker and the Kew herbarium. Owen called for the transfer of the herbarium to the British Museum, where he was the director of the natural history collections (The Times, 30 July 1872, p. 5; see also the letter from Thomas Henry Huxley to the editor, The Times, 31 July 1872, p. 7). Owen’s report was part of a long-running dispute over the management of botanical collections, and also part of a larger controversy surrounding the creation of the new Natural History Museum at South Kensington (see Drayton 2000, pp. 215–18, and Endersby 2008, pp. 293–300). For Owen’s report, see Parliamentary Papers 1872 (335): Appendix III, pp. 169–75.
CD had come to regard Owen as a bitter enemy after his anonymous review of Origin ([Owen] 1860; see Correspondence vol. 8).
The boxes contained worm castings from India; see letter to John Scott, 12 August 1872.


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

Drayton, Richard. 2000. Nature’s government: science, imperial Britain, and the ‘improvement’ of the world. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

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

North, John S. 1997. The Waterloo directory of English newspapers and periodicals, 1800–1900. 10 vols. Waterloo, Ontario: North Waterloo Academic Press.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

[Owen, Richard.] 1860b. [Review of Origin & other works.] Edinburgh Review 111: 487–532.


CD hopes the Times abstract of minutes of Lords of the Treasury will make JDH’s position more comfortable.

The "wretched Lords" make CD indignant, but "nothing equals Owen’s conduct. – I used to be ashamed of hating him so much, but now I will carefully cherish my hatred & contempt to the last day of my life."

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 94: 225–6
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8449,” accessed on 26 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20