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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [7 February 1875]1



My dear Darwin

You have no doubt heard of Col. Lyells death   Harriet & I have just called on Mrs Lyell—who tells me that he died of inflammation of the lungs, which seems to be a not uncommon result of Paralysis.2 he was ill only 2 days & did not suffer. Sir Charles has borne the shock with great composure, as old men happily do— Miss Lyell was there & said her brother was decidedly better—3 I saw him a week ago, very feeble, in bed, with speech very indistinct:—but mind as active as ever, & as clear.

I suppose we shall see the Drosera paper soon— we are all impatience4

Nothing is yet settled at my office, but I have Mr W. H. Smiths assurance that if my Lord does not send up my application with the Estimates, the T. will send to him for it5

I dined at Huxley’s two days ago, only to meet Nares, who appears to be a fine intelligent fellow, full of life & has very evidently profited much by the Science of the Challenger:6 he speaks most warmly of Thomson, Sulivan & Murray:7 Huxley is full of Globigerina & is quite at a loss to explain the red clay of the deep sea bottom—8 His lecture at the R. S is said to have been excellent, I hear that he utilized my long forgotten observations on the diatom sea-bottom of the Antarctic—& paid me the compliment of calling it a philosophical treatise!9 No small honor from him.— he is beginning to look over-worked & I fear smokes too much.

We are all well, but Harriet is doing too much. & I am in doubt what to do— I have long ago promised to take her to Algeria on a visit to Col & Mrs Playfair10 this spring, & I need not say she has set her heart on going—but I find I can only get away from 16 April (day after Soirée)11 till 24th. May. & I shall not be able to travel fast with her, so I am thinking of accepting an offer of Lady Jardine12 (a great friend of her’s) to take her to Cannes next month, & I would then pick her up at Marseilles—in April.

We both of us want a holiday very badly, but I can’t get away, with my arrears of work pressing, & Bentham craving for Gen. Plant.!13

I met two Ladies in the Garden yesterday who accosted me from having met me at Down— one is a Mrs or Miss Forster,14 (a Lady with a very long nose)— pray is she Mrs or Miss— please send Post Card as Harriet has to write to her, she is staying with Lady Leven at Roehampton—15

Ever yr affec | J D Hooker

CD annotations

7.2 pray … her, 7.3] double scored ink


The date is established by the reference to the death of Henry Lyell, who died on 5 February 1875 (The Times, 10 February 1875, p. 1). The Sunday following 5 February 1875 was 7 February.
Harriet Anne Hooker was Hooker’s eldest daughter; Henry Lyell’s widow was Katherine Murray Lyell.
Charles Lyell had been in poor health since the end of 1874; Marianne Lyell had lived with Charles since the death of his wife, Mary Elizabeth Lyell, in 1873 (K. M. Lyell ed. 1890, 2: 438–9).
CD’s research on Drosera (sundew) was published in Insectivorous plants, which was published in July 1875 (Publishers’ circular, 16 July 1875, p. 498).
Hooker had asked for an assistant to help with his work at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; the gardens were under the jurisdiction of the Office of Works, whose head, the first commissioner of works, was Lord Henry Gordon-Lennox (ODNB). William Henry Smith was financial secretary to the Treasury (ODNB).
Thomas Henry Huxley had written on some of the early results of the Challenger expedition (see n. 9, below). George Strong Nares was captain of HMS Challenger from December 1872 until November 1874, when he was recalled to lead the Arctic expedition of 1875–6 (ODNB). The Challenger expedition was mounted under the auspices of the Royal Society of London; the ship was modified to provide on-board laboratories and a dredging platform, and new equipment was used to explore deeper into the ocean than had been done before.
Charles Wyville Thomson, Bartholomew James Sulivan, and John Murray (1841–1914), the naturalist to the Challenger expedition.
Globigerina is a genus of marine foraminifer, which has a calcareous test or shell; the name globigerina ooze was used by Murray to characterise sediment on parts of the ocean floor containing shells of this and related genera. Murray discussed red clay pelagic deposits in J. Murray and Renard 1891, pp. 253–4.
Huxley had given a lecture at the Royal Institution of Great Britain (not the Royal Society) on 29 January 1875, entitled ‘Some results of the Challenger expedition’ (L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 442). A printed version, including long passages quoting Hooker’s observations on the distribution of Antarctic Diatomaceae, appeared in the Contemporary Review in March 1875 (T. H. Huxley 1875, pp. 642–4). Diatoms are mostly pelagic unicellular or colonial algae, characterised by siliceous cell walls.
Robert Lambert Playfair was consul-general in Algeria; his wife was Agnes Playfair (ODNB).
The Royal Society annual soirée took place on 7 April 1875 (The Times, 8 April 1875, p. 5).
Hyacinth Jardine.
George Bentham and Hooker were co-authors of Genera plantarum (Bentham and Hooker 1862–83).
Laura Mary Forster.
Sophia Leslie-Melville, countess of Leven and Melville, lived at Roehampton House, Roehampton.


Huxley, Thomas Henry. 1875. On some of the results of the expedition of H.M.S. ‘Challenger’. Contemporary Review 25 (1874–5): 639–60.

Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

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.


Has met Capt. George Strong Nares of the Challenger expedition at Huxley’s.

Huxley much at a loss to explain red clay at deep sea-bottom.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 104: 11–13
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9843,” accessed on 27 July 2021,

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