Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP5302

Sent by:
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent to:
Charles Robert Darwin
6 October 1865

Sent by Joseph Dalton Hooker, 7 Terrace Road, Buxton to Charles Robert Darwin [none given] on 6 October 1865.

Record created:
17 May 2013 by Chillingworth, Nancy


Refers to Wallace letters that Darwin had forwarded to Hooker. Criticises Wallace for saying that Scientific men are afraid to say what they think.

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  • letter (1)

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LETTER (WCP5302.5846)

A typical letter handwritten by author in English and signed by author.

Held by:
Cambridge University Library
Finding number:
MS DAR 102: 37-42
Copyright owner:
Reproduced with kind permission of members of the Hooker family

Physical description

Transcription information




7 Terrace Road | Buxton

Oct. 6/65

Dear Darwin

I should have answered your last ere this1, if only to say how glad I am that Jones2 has done some good, Oh that it may last. First as to my ignoble self. I really improve fast and steadily and if I could but get rid of the slight stiffness and pain in my joint--would be well--they go slowly & will be gone in time. I wrote to the Board asking an extension of leave till 20th & they volunteer till end of [[2]] month--this good feeling is unusual in Boards & gratifies me proportionally, it is a good augury (or whatever it is called)

Now for novels -- I read Silas Marner3 the other day & did not enjoy it--after the quaking excitement of Uncle Silas & the love scenes of Mill on Floss, S.M, read flat & awfully Eliotian: too didactic & prosy without plot enough or incident enough--(how comparative all our feelings are!). Have you read "Trevlyn Hold"4 it is really very good: we both tried Scarsdale5, & found it execrable trash--& now for a confession I have read Clarissa Harlowe!6 I feel that this is self damnatory [[3]] & can only plead my illness & the tedium of a Watering place. As however "frank confession is good for the soul." I will tell you the first 5 volumes are simply illegible, so dull so poor, so attenuated: that had I stopped there I should have considered the former popularity of the book as one of those things which "no fellow can be expected to understand" as Uncle Sam has it; the 6th & 7th (horresco referens) opened my eyes however; though to me they had no merit or interest whatever as a tale, [4 words illeg. crossed out] I could quite understand the deep interest they must have had in artificial & vicious age [[4]] when alone such compositions could be put by mothers into the hands of virtuous daughters, with injunctions to study them the immense good they may have done. In an age when men of fashion had no honor & when the prejudices of Education or absence of it & want of public journals kept women in the dark as to the means men employed, & when maudlin sensational writing did act on the brain in a way it does not now; it is obvious to me that Richardsons works must have frightened hosts of young women into caution at any rate, & stimulated a few to good works. Be this as it may, there is no doubt I suppose that his works were [[5]] perused by thousands as standard literature for young ladies in 1750-1770; & that the change of manners was so rapid, that in 1780 I find by the life of Reynolds (I am ashamed of owning that I have been reading a solid book) both Richardsons & Fieldings7 works were considered as too coarse for young ladies.

I could not get beyond the first volume of Palgraves book, he is awaiting orders still at Cairo.8 I must read Millers address, I missed it. Trollope is the only Novelist I know who talks of Parliament as such a stunning walk & [[6]] enviable life.9 I can quite feel the abounding self-love that would follow a telling speech (& oh how nice self-love is) & that to rise to Gladstones, [1 word illeg. crossed out] or Derbys or even Dizzys heights would be irresistable[sic] to most men; but for a really able man, like Lubbock, to be 3d rate in the house is to me an intolerable idea, & I do not see how he can be anything higher without he actually proposes to abandon business, science, & domestic happyness. As to Jeffrey he speaks from Edinbro' & no doubt thought, in common with his townsmen [[7]] that the Edinbro law court, (I forget its name) where he was at the top of the tree, was next [2 words illeg. crossed out] thing to the H. of Commons. There local allusions & local ideas & prejudices, expressed in strong broad Scotch, carried the day. Had he gone into Parliament he would have had to unlearn for 3 years; [1 word illeg. crossed out] he never suspected this. I quite agree that his view is poor & short-sighted.

Many thanks for enclosed of Wallaces I did not think either "Simeon & Simony" nor "France & Mexico" very good, the first my wife condemned, the second I thought actually poor & pointless.--so much for opinions I thought the old reading bad [[8]] enough & this worse in as much as it has less real Science. As to calling anthropologists a bete noire to Reader why so it is, only last number they had some 3 or 4 columns of Review of the Anthrops publications, & in a former No condemned the Brit. Assoc for refusing an Anthrop. Section. Wallaces judgment of Tylor is unfair, the work is confessedly imperfect & fragmentary & must be so in present state of knowledge I doubt if Buckle will liberalise opinion so much as Lecky. It is all very easy for Wallace to wonder at Scientific men being afraid of saying what they think--he has all "the freedom of motion in vacuo" in one sense, had he as many [[9]] kind & good relations as I have, who would be grieved & pained to hear me say all I think, & had he children who would be placed in predicaments most detrimental to childrens minds by such avowals on my part, he would not wonder so much. Wallace is not a man of large sympathies, nor very charitable I think, & is certainly awfully cold & dry at times; yet he is essentially large minded, & very able I hope you saw Seemann's10 sneers at the "Origin" in his Report of the German Congress, & [[10]] trembled accordingly.

We leave this on Friday next for Lea Hurst, near Matlock, My Nightingale's where we stay quietly till Monday, it is warmer than this: then we go to Liverpool to visit an Uncle & home by Chester, to Kew about the 20th, What a heap of Darwins & Wedgwoods are here! I am gratified by your expressions about my father. He was one of the most truly liberal & modest men I ever knew. He had not an atom of self in him, always thought nothing of [[11]] himself & never took any self seeking steps to raise himself in the estimation of the Government or of scientific men. With 1/10th of the exertion that Murchison11 displayed, he would have had honors & titles showered on him: & I hate the RI. Socy for never recognizing the obligations science is under to him. He never received any honor distinction or reward from the Crown or Govt. for all his public services, because he never would put himself into the way of them. I thought the boast of the R.S. was that [[12]] they sought out such as had similar claims upon science. I know I am not agreed with but I will not give in

Send Fritz Mueller [sic]12 paper to Kew & I will see to it, if I can.

Ever Yr affec | JD Hooker [signature]


1. Hooker refers to the letter CD sent on 16 Aug before answering the letter sent on 26 [or 28 Sept].

2. Jones, Henry Bence (1813 – 1873). English physician whose extensive list of patients included CD.

3. Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe, a novel by George Eliot published in 1861.

4. Trevlyn Hold, a novel by Mrs. Henry Wood published in 1864.

5. Scarsdale, or Life on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Border, a novel by Sir J.P. Kay-Shuttleworth published in 1860.

6. Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady, a novel by Samuel Richardson published in 1748 in many volumes due to its length.

7. Fielding, Henry (1707 – 1754). An English novelist best known for the novel Tom Jones.

8. Narrative of a Year's Journey Through Central and Eastern Arabia, a novel by William Gifford Palgrave published in 1865.

9. The Palliser novels, also known as the "Parliamentary Novels", by Anthony Trollope published throughout 1864 – 1879.

10. Seemann, Bethold Carl (1825 – 1871). A German botanist.

11. Murchison, Sir Roderick (1792 – 1871). A Scottish geologist.

12. Müller, Fritz (1821 – 1897). A German biologist.

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