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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   14 January 1875


Jany 14th/75.

Dear Darwin

Have you seen the pamphlets I send herewith   I fear that they are hardly worth your attention—1

I have for a fortnight past been on the eve of another official row. Lord Henry Lennox has burked my official application for assistance.—after encouraging me to send it in!— and Galton or I must go— I have told the Treasury that I would prefer retirement to another row, & that I can stand it no longer.2

Mr W. R. Smith, the financial Secretary of the T., who I saw on the subject—told me* that L. S. Northcote, & indeed all the Lords of the T., wished me to know, that they had only indirectly heard from other quarters (of course Farrer) of my great need of an assistant, & that I had officially applied for one.— that my application had never been forwarded from the office of Works,— that if it had it would have been instantly attended to, & that it would have received the most favorable consideration—& he proceeded to talk of Dyer’s appt. & so forth—3 In fact, in so far as the T. is concerned, that matter is as good as granted; & no doubt the T. will send to Lord H., & insist on his forwarding my official application. He spoke in Sir S. Northcote’s & Mr Disraeli’s4 names.

Then I proceeded to open my grievance about Galton & he said that if I would write to him privately a brief account of his conduct, he would lay it before Sir S. Northcote & Mr D’Israeli—5 this he hinted might “help them much”—for that “the O. of W. was a public scandal that could not be tolerated”.

I cannot doubt but that some action is determined on, & that I am not to be the sufferer: & I feel satisfied that I have to thank Farrer for this.

I must ask you not to breathe a syllable of it to any one. I shall hear more soon & let you know. Meanwhile I ask myself “Why shoulds’t thou be disquieted Oh my soul”—6 but I am very weary, & begin to look forward to a holiday at Easter as a necessity, with Harriet7 if possible.

We have put Reginald to a very nice school at Wimbledon (Miss Palmer’s.)— Charlie will live at home for 6 months, preparing for Prely. Scientific Examination of L.U.—8

I have 15 Committees of the R.S. to attend to—9 I cannot tell you what a relief they are to me—matters are so quietly & ably conducted by Stokes Huxley & Spottiswoode—that to me they are the same sort of relaxation that Metaphysics are to Huxley.—10 I have no sense of wearyness after them— of course I must expect some rows & difficulties in the Society, & they will come when least expected you will say—but meanwhile let me enjoy my illusions.—

Ever yr affecte growler | J D Hooker

*On entering his room,—he did not know that I was come upon these matters   it was a volunteered statement.


The pamphlets have not been identified; for more on them, see the letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 January [1875].
Hooker was seeking to have an assistant appointed at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Henry Gordon-Lennox was the first commissioner of the Office of Works, thus Hooker’s immediate superior. See also Correspondence vol. 22, letter from J. D. Hooker, 8 December 1874. Douglas Strutt Galton was director of works and buildings at the Office of Works (ODNB). He had come into conflict with Hooker in 1870, when he insisted that contracts for the new plant houses at Kew be put out to tender, instead of Hooker having his own contractors build them (Endersby 2008, p. 284). Hooker had also been involved in an extended dispute with Acton Smee Ayrton, the previous first commissioner of works (see Correspondence vols. 19 and 20).
William Henry Smith was financial secretary to the Treasury (ODNB). CD had written to Thomas Henry Farrer to ask him to intercede with Stafford Northcote, the chancellor of the Exchequer, to have an assistant appointed to Hooker at Kew (see Correspondence vol. 22, letter to T. H. Farrer, 29 November [1874]). Hooker had engaged William Turner Thiselton-Dyer as his private secretary in 1872; Thiselton-Dyer became assistant director at Kew in 1875 (Allan 1967, pp. 224, 228; letter from J. D. Hooker, 20 June 1875).
Benjamin Disraeli was the prime minister.
It is not known what Hooker’s recent dispute with Galton was, but see n. 2, above.
Probably an allusion to Psalm 42: 5, ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me?’
Harriet Anne Hooker was Hooker’s eldest daughter.
Reginald Hawthorn Hooker was 8 years old; his school was run by Elizabeth Palmer of 5 Lansdowne Road, Wimbledon (Post Office London suburban directory 1868). Charles Paget Hooker was 19, and studying medicine at London University (Allan 1967, p. 225).
Hooker was president of the Royal Society of London.
Thomas Henry Huxley and George Gabriel Stokes were secretaries of the Royal Society; William Spottiswoode was treasurer (ODNB). Metaphysics: probably a reference to the Metaphysical Society, which Huxley joined in 1869 (see A. W. Brown 1947, p. 25).


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

Brown, Alan Willard. 1947. The Metaphysical Society; Victorian minds in crisis, 1869–1880. New York: Columbia University Press.

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

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

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.

Post Office London suburban directory: The Post Office London suburban directory. Kelly’s London suburban directory. London: Kelly & Co. 1860–1903.


Is on the eve of another row with the Office of Works about his application for assistance.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 104: 6–8
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9815,” accessed on 4 August 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23