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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   28 November 1874


Nov 28/74

Dear Darwin

I saw Huxley yesterday— he declares that the Lecturing in Edinburgh will be less severe than those in S. Kensington & the examination there— both of which, & the Secy RS. duties, he will be free of for the time.1

He cites the “pot of Gold” as a strong inducement,—& the desire to show the Edinburgh folk what a course of good Lectures should be is I suspect the strongest stimulus of any.2 I couple the latter with another matter he told me of, that he was preparing for the Linnæan Soy, a paper on the classification of animals, which will uphold Evolution & go to show that there are no sharp lines of demarcation throughout: that the Kingdom consisted of series, each with its degraded types. He added that he had thrown overboard all his old ideas of definite lines of demarcation & would make a clean breast of it. His conversation was most interesting he is going to bear hard on the necessity of abandoning all such ideas as Hæckel’s in dealing with systematic zoology.—3

I enclose documents referring to my excessive duties at Kew—& have given you them quite informally.4 I could of course put them into official language if required.

We are getting on quite smoothly.

Ever yours affec | J D Hooker


See letter from J. D. Hooker, 25 November 1874 and n. 1. Hooker refers to Thomas Henry Huxley.
For an account of the fifty-four zoology lectures delivered by Huxley in the summer sessions of 1875 and 1876, see University of Edinburgh Journal 10 (1939–40): 210–12. Huxley, like Julius Victor Carus before him, was standing in for Charles Wyville Thomson, who was away on the Challenger expedition from 1872 to 1876. The custom in Scottish Universities was for the lecturer to collect the fees himself; Carus had earned in excess of £2350 for teaching 488 students in total (ibid., p. 208) but Huxley would have earned far more, having attracted a total of 671 students (ibid., p. 212).
On 3 December 1874, Huxley read a paper before the Linnean Society on the classification of the animal kingdom in which he attempted to produce a classification ‘without reference to phylogeny’ (T. H. Huxley 1874c, p. 201), thereby implicitly criticising classifications based on the use of Ernst Haeckel’s biogenetic law that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny (Haeckel 1866; see also S. J. Gould 1977). Although in Huxley’s view the logical value of phylogeny was unquestionable, it was unfortunate that there was little real knowledge of the phylogeny even of small groups, while of that of the larger groups of animals there was absolute ignorance (T. H. Huxley 1874c, p. 200).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 26 November [1874] and n. 3. The enclosures have not been found; they were sent to Thomas Henry Farrer (letter to T. H. Farrer, 29 November [1874]).


Gould, Stephen Jay. 1977. Ontogeny and phylogeny. Cambridge, Mass.; London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Haeckel, Ernst. 1866. Generelle Morphologie der Organismen. Allgemeine Grundzüge der organischen Formen-Wissenschaft, mechanisch begründet durch die von Charles Darwin reformirte Descendenz-Theorie. 2 vols. Berlin: Georg Reimer.


Huxley feels he can accept the Edinburgh lecture invitation.

Also tells JDH he is preparing a paper for Linnean Society on classification which will uphold evolution ["On the classification of the animal kingdom", J. Linn. Soc. Lond. (Zool.) 12 (1876): 199–226]. He has thrown overboard all his old ideas of definite demarcation. He will make a clean breast of it, and will bear hard on necessity of all such ideas as Haeckel’s in dealing with systematic zoology.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 103: 230–1
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9736,” accessed on 27 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22