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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   29 December 1874


Dec 29/74

Dear Darwin

You need not fear my moving a muscle towards inducing Mivart to apologize, nor forgiving him if he was to do so, with all publicity.1

My only difficulty was how to act publicly if he was to do all that he could and should.— He would then be assoilzied2 in the eyes of the world, but not a bit reinstated in my opinion. My feeling is that if he does not retract it is no longer possible to keep him as Secy of the Linnæan.3 The backing or rather recommending him for that post is the greatest blunder that I ever committed, & I cannot tell you how I deplore it.

Allman must be fully informed before any steps are taken in that direction.4 When allowed to take action my idea is to write very briefly, stating what I have heard—that I have verified the worst features of the case by a careful reference to the Contemporary, Quarterly & Origin,5 & express my regrets that an acquaintanceship very pleasantly commenced must come to an abrupt end.

I cannot but think that the course you propose for yourself is the best for you to adopt but you must wait lest you hear further from Huxley, or from Mivart.

Thank George much for his note— I hope that he does not “take on” as they say about it— I sincerely wish the matter was done with.

Ever yr affec | J D Hooker

A Drosophyllum shall be sent when the weather permits.6


See letter to J. D. Hooker, 27 December [1874]. CD, Hooker, and Thomas Henry Huxley had been debating a response to St George Jackson Mivart’s anonymous attack on an article by George Howard Darwin (G. H. Darwin 1873a, [Mivart] 1874, p. 70).
Assoilzied: absolved (Scottish; Chambers).
Mivart was secretary of the Linnean Society from 1874 until 1880 (ODNB).
George James Allman was president of the Linnean Society (ODNB).
George’s paper on marriage was published in the Contemporary Review (G. H. Darwin 1873a), and Mivart’s review of works by John Tyndall and John Lubbock, which also criticised George’s paper, in the Quarterly Review ([Mivart] 1874). Hooker presumably refers also to Lubbock’s Origin of civilisation and the primitive condition of man (Lubbock 1870), one of the works reviewed by Mivart, not to CD’s Origin of species.
Hooker refers to Drosophyllum lusitanicum (Portuguese sundew or dewy pine). See letter from J. D. Hooker, 21 December 1874.


Chambers: The Chambers dictionary. Edinburgh: Chambers Harrap Publishers. 1998.

[Mivart, St George Jackson.] 1874b. Primitive man: Tylor and Lubbock. [Essay review of the works of John Lubbock and Edward Burnett Tylor.] Quarterly Review 137 (1874): 40–77.

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.


Explains that his letter had to do with how he should act publicly to Mivart if he retracted. He would not forgive him. If he does not retract, it would no longer be possible to keep him Secretary of the Linnean Society.

Drosophyllum will be sent when weather permits.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 103: 243–4
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9788,” accessed on 31 July 2021,

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