The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 139 of 188

Charles Darwin to J.D. Hooker.

Down, May 11th [1855].

My dear Hooker,–I have just received your note. I am most sincerely and heartily glad at the news (The appointment of Sir J.D. Hooker as Assistant Director of the Royal Gardens at Kew.) it contains, and so is my wife. Though the income is but a poor one, yet the certainty, I hope, is satisfactory to yourself and Mrs. Hooker. As it must lead in future years to the Directorship, I do hope you look at it, as a piece of good fortune. For my own taste I cannot fancy a pleasanter position, than the Head of such a noble and splendid place; far better, I should think, than a Professorship in a great town. The more I think of it, the gladder I am. But I will say no more; except that I hope Mrs. Hooker is pretty well pleased…

As the “Gardeners’ Chronicle” put in my question, and took notice of it, I think I am bound to send, which I had thought of doing next week, my first report to Lindley to give him the option of inserting it; but I think it likely that he may not think it fit for a Gardening periodical. When my experiments are ended (should the results appear worthy) and should the ‘Linnean Journal’ not object to the previous publication of imperfect and provisional reports, I should be delighted to insert the final report there; for it has cost me so much trouble, that I should think that probably the result was worthy of more permanent record than a newspaper; but I think I am bound to send it first to Lindley.

I begin to think the floating question more serious than the germinating one; and am making all the inquiries which I can on the subject, and hope to get some little light on it…

I hope you managed a good meeting at the Club. The Treasurership must be a plague to you, and I hope you will not be Treasurer for long: I know I would much sooner give up the Club than be its Treasurer.

Farewell, Mr. Assistant Director and dear friend,
C. Darwin.

Charles Darwin to J.D. Hooker.

June 5th, 1855.

…Miss Thorley (A lady who was for many years a governess in the family.) and I are doing a little botanical work! for our amusement, and it does amuse me very much, viz., making a collection of all the plants, which grow in a field, which has been allowed to run waste for fifteen years, but which before was cultivated from time immemorial; and we are also collecting all the plants in an adjoining and similar but cultivated field; just for the fun of seeing what plants have survived or died out. Hereafter we shall want a bit of help in naming puzzlers. How dreadfully difficult it is to name plants.

What a remarkably nice and kind letter Dr. A. Gray has sent me in answer to my troublesome queries; I retained your copy of his ‘Manual’ till I heard from him, and when I have answered his letter, I will return it to you.

I thank you much for Hedysarum: I do hope it is not very precious, for as I told you it is for probably a most foolish purpose. I read somewhere that no plant closes its leaves so promptly in darkness, and I want to cover it up daily for half an hour, and see if I can teach it to close by itself, or more easily than at first in darkness…I cannot make out why you would prefer a continental transmission, as I think you do, to carriage by sea. I should have thought you would have been pleased at as many means of transmission as possible. For my own pet theoretic notions, it is quite indifferent whether they are transmitted by sea or land, as long as some tolerably probable way is shown. But it shocks my philosophy to create land, without some other and independent evidence. Whenever we meet, by a very few words I should, I think, more clearly understand your views…

I have just made out my first grass, hurrah! hurrah! I must confess that fortune favours the bold, for, as good luck would have it, it was the easy Anthoxanthum odoratum: nevertheless it is a great discovery; I never expected to make out a grass in all my life, so hurrah! It has done my stomach surprising good…

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