Wallace Letters Online

Share this:

Record number: WCP5320

Sent by:
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent to:
Charles Robert Darwin
20 May 1868

Sent by Joseph Dalton Hooker, Kew, Surrey to Charles Robert Darwin [none given] on 20 May 1868.

Record created:
20 May 2013 by Chillingworth, Nancy


Hooker enquires what Darwin makes of Wallace's paper on bird's nests and how he struck by Wallace's great ability.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)

View item:

LETTER (WCP5320.5864)

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

Held by:
Cambridge University Library
Finding number:
MS DAR 102: 210-13
Copyright owner:
Reproduced with kind permission of members of the Hooker family

Physical description

Transcription information





May 20th/[18]68.

Dear old Darwin

What an age it is since we have corresponded, -- I hope I have written since my little trip to Wales with Huxley1, which was perfect-- Since then I have been for 3 days to see my sister in Torquay, & nowhere else at Torquay I had a good lecture on "Kent's hole'" from Pengelly2, who does it thoroughly well.

My time has been actively employed in garden duties, out of doors & indoors, with an occasional diversion at your [[2]] volumes & Lyell's3 last. You greatly underrate the interest of your's, it is capital reading, putting aside all question of it's matter, which will, if foreigners deign to read it at all, do you more credit in their eyes than all your other works put together. (I have not read of it). Bentham4 has, & now I think, [1 word illeg.] unreservedly, acknowledged himself a convert to Darwinism! This I quite expected, would be the case with many: a few will still hold back & flaunt the "rag of protection" till your next [[3]] part appears, holding that cultivation is no argument,--when,--the said rag, being worn back to the rope, & no longer visible, they will gracefully haul it down--

It is so long since we have corresponded, that I do not know what the deuce to write about!-- We are all pretty well: my wife expects her confinement in 10 days, & is as miserable as usual, with Heart-burn, dyspepsia, palpitation & every imaginable minor evil of the coming event. Charlie has had measles lightly, at school-- The Governess & children go to Eastbourne in [[4]] a day or two.

Andrew Murrays5 2d & 3d parts are better than the first. How do you like Wallace's paper? The more I read the more struck I am with the great ability of the man.

I have finished the Reign of Law with utter disgust--& uncontrollable indignation;--considering his birth education & position, I regard him as lower than Owen6-- his suppressed sneers at you are of a far lower order of sneer than the malicious sneers of Owen. I like a man to sneer at me out of malice & envy-- but can not stand a man's [[5]] sneering at me from a top of a high Horse-- The preliminary reasoning on the principles of flight appear to me radically unsound. The idea of God being compelled to dab in rudimentary organs to keep up appearances! As it were, is very droll. The little man writes extremely well, & expresses himself with admirable facility-- in fact he has a fatal facility of for handling things he does not fully understand, & which he has not the time, & probably not the power to grasp the principles of.

Lyell's vol II. is I think a wonderful book, better than all subsequent Editions to Ed. 1. [[6]] put together-- What do you think of it? I have not had time to read all of it--yet.

I have skimmed over Smyth's7 anniversary Geological address, with great admiration— I like both tone & manner, & the way that modest able man keeps himself & his own views & [1 word illeg.] works in the background, is quite worthy of all praise.

I have a disagreeable task in reporting on a paper of Tristram's8 for R.S., which appears to be simply trash-- it is an attempt to shew that the few tropical plants of the "Ghor" [[7]] (Dead Sea valley) are the remains of a Miocene Flora! that has survived all subsequent geological &c changes—as Forbes W. Ireland plant survived the destruction of the Atlantis!--a more impotent production I never perused. I like Tristram personally & think him a most meritorious Naturalist.

Andrew Murray's 2 [2 word illeg.] are better than his first.

I am used up, & have nothing more to say-- I feel the my barrenness of scientific matter to communicate creeping over me every day now--& the tide of scientific literature [2 word illeg.] is already up to my knees. The time was [[8]] when I had now & then something to communicate that you cared to know-- that is all changed now, & I feel very low at times about it. — I begin to despair of doing any-thing--even at Insular Flora again, wherein I see that I could still do much. Perhaps when this Norwich meeting is over I shall feel more at ease. I would give 100 gs. that it were over, even with a failure a fiasco or worse. The address is nowhere yet & I look on its prospect with a loathing that cannot be uttered. Tomorrow I go to see Fergusson to encourage him about his prospective Lecture at the meeting!--God pity us both--the "blind leading the blind"-- I shall have to play the hypocrite with a vengeance--

Ever yr affec | J D Hooker [signature]


1. Huxley, Thomas Henry (1825 – 1895). An English biologist and comparative anatomist.

2. Pengelly, William (1812 – 1894). An English geologist.

3. Lyell, Charles (1797 – 1875). A British geologist.

4. Bentham, George (1800 – 1884). A British botanist.

5. Murray, Andrew Dickson (1812 – 1878). A Scottish botanist and zoologist.

6. Owen, Richard (1804 – 1892). An English biologist and comparative anatomist.

7. Smyth, Warington Wilkinson (1817 – 1890). A British geologist.

8. Tristram, Henry Baker (1822 – 1906). A British ornithologist and clergyman.

Please note that work on this transcript is not yet complete. Users are advised to study electronic image(s) of this document, if available.