The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 119 of 188

Charles Darwin to J.D. Hooker.

Down, November 5th [1853].

My dear Hooker,

Amongst my letters received this morning, I opened first one from Colonel Sabine; the contents certainly surprised me very much, but, though the letter was a very kind one, somehow, I cared very little indeed for the announcement it contained. I then opened yours, and such is the effect of warmth, friendship, and kindness from one that is loved, that the very same fact, told as you told it, made me glow with pleasure till my very heart throbbed. Believe me, I shall not soon forget the pleasure of your letter. Such hearty, affectionate sympathy is worth more than all the medals that ever were or will be coined. Again, my dear Hooker, I thank you. I hope Lindley (John Lindley, 1799-1865, was the son of a nurseryman near Norwich, through whose failure in business he was thrown at the age of twenty on his own resources. He was befriended by Sir W. Hooker, and employed as assistant librarian by Sir J. Banks. He seems to have had enormous capacity of work, and is said to have translated Richard’s ‘Analyse du Fruit’ at one sitting of two days and three nights. He became Assistant-Secretary to the Horticultural Society, and in 1829 was appointed Professor of Botany at University College, a post which he held for upwards of thirty years. His writings are numerous: the best known being perhaps his ‘Vegetable Kingdom,’ published in 1846. His influence in helping to introduce the natural system of classification was considerable, and he brought “all the weight of his teaching and all the force of his controversial powers to support it,” as against the Linnean system universally taught in the earlier part of his career. Sachs points out (Geschichte der Botanik, 1875, page 161), that though Lindley adopted in the main a sound classification of plants, he only did so by abandoning his own theoretical principle that the physiological importance of an organ is a measure of its classificatory value.) will never hear that he was a competitor against me; for really it is almost ridiculous (of course you would never repeat that I said this, for it would be thought by others, though not, I believe, by you, to be affectation) his not having the medal long before me; I must feel sure that you did quite right to propose him; and what a good, dear, kind fellow you are, nevertheless, to rejoice in this honour being bestowed on me.

What pleasure I have felt on the occasion, I owe almost entirely to you.

Farewell, my dear Hooker, yours affectionately,
C. Darwin.

P.S.–You may believe what a surprise it was, for I had never heard that the medals could be given except for papers in the ‘Transactions.’ All this will make me work with better heart at finishing the second volume.

Charles Darwin to C. Lyell.

Down, February 18th [1854].

My dear Lyell,

I should have written before, had it not seemed doubtful whether you would go on to Teneriffe, but now I am extremely glad to hear your further progress is certain; not that I have much of any sort to say, as you may well believe when you hear that I have only once been in London since you started. I was particularly glad to see, two days since, your letter to Mr. Horner, with its geological news; how fortunate for you that your knees are recovered. I am astonished at what you say of the beauty, though I had fancied it great. It really makes me quite envious to think of your clambering up and down those steep valleys. And what a pleasant party on your return from your expeditions. I often think of the delight which I felt when examining volcanic islands, and I can remember even particular rocks which I struck, and the smell of the hot, black, scoriaceous cliffs; but of those hot smells you do not seem to have had much. I do quite envy you. How I should like to be with you, and speculate on the deep and narrow valleys.

How very singular the fact is which you mention about the inclination of the strata being greater round the circumference than in the middle of the island; do you suppose the elevation has had the form of a flat dome? I remember in the Cordillera being often struck with the greater abruptness of the strata in the low extreme outermost ranges, compared with the great mass of inner mountains. I dare say you will have thought of measuring exactly the width of any dikes at the top and bottom of any great cliff (which was done by Mr. Searle [?] at St. Helena), for it has often struck me as very odd that the cracks did not die out oftener upwards. I can think of hardly any news to tell you, as I have seen no one since being in London, when I was delighted to see Forbes looking so well, quite big and burly. I saw at the Museum some of the surprisingly rich gold ore from North Wales. Ramsay also told me that he has lately turned a good deal of New Red Sandstone into Permian, together with the Labyrinthodon. No doubt you see newspapers, and know that E. de Beaumont is perpetual Secretary, and will, I suppose, be more powerful than ever; and Le Verrier has Arago’s place in the Observatory. There was a meeting lately at the Geological Society, at which Prestwich (judging from what R. Jones told me) brought forward your exact theory, viz. that the whole red clay and flints over the chalk plateau hereabouts is the residuum from the slow dissolution of the chalk!

As regards ourselves, we have no news, and are all well. The Hookers, sometime ago, stayed a fortnight with us, and, to our extreme delight, Henslow came down, and was most quiet and comfortable here. It does one good to see so composed, benevolent, and intellectual a countenance. There have been great fears that his heart is affected; but, I hope to God, without foundation. Hooker’s book (Sir J. Hooker’s ‘Himalayan Journal.’) is out, and most beautifully got up. He has honoured me beyond measure by dedicating it to me! As for myself, I am got to the page 112 of the Barnacles, and that is the sum total of my history. By-the-way, as you care so much about North America, I may mention that I had a long letter from a shipmate in Australia, who says the Colony is getting decidedly republican from the influx of Americans, and that all the great and novel schemes for working the gold are planned and executed by these men. What a go-a-head nation it is! Give my kindest remembrances to Lady Lyell, and to Mrs. Bunbury, and to Bunbury. I most heartily wish that the Canaries may be ten times as interesting as Madeira, and that everything may go on most prosperously with your whole party.

My dear Lyell,
Yours most truly and affectionately,
C. Darwin.

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