The Life and Letters of Darwin, Vol. 1 HTML version

The Growth Of The 'Origin Of Species'
LETTERS, 1843-1856.
[The history of my father's life is told more completely in his correspondence with Sir
J.D. Hooker than in any other series of letters; and this is especially true of the history of
the growth of the 'Origin of Species.' This, therefore, seems an appropriate place for the
following notes, which Sir Joseph Hooker has kindly given me. They give, moreover, an
interesting picture of his early friendship with my father:--
"My first meeting with Mr. Darwin was in 1839, in Trafalgar Square. I was walking with
an officer who had been his shipmate for a short time in the "Beagle" seven years before,
but who had not, I believe, since met him. I was introduced; the interview was of course
brief, and the memory of him that I carried away and still retain was that of a rather tall
and rather broad-shouldered man, with a slight stoop, an agreeable and animated
expression when talking, beetle brows, and a hollow but mellow voice; and that his
greeting of his old acquaintance was sailor-like--that is, delightfully frank and cordial. I
observed him well, for I was already aware of his attainments and labours, derived from
having read various proof-sheets of his then unpublished 'Journal.' These had been
submitted to Mr. (afterwards Sir Charles) Lyell by Mr. Darwin, and by him sent to his
father, Ch. Lyell, Esq., of Kinnordy, who (being a very old friend of my father and taking
a kind interest in my projected career as a naturalist) had allowed me to peruse them. At
this time I was hurrying on my studies, so as to take my degree before volunteering to
accompany Sir James Ross in the Antarctic Expedition, which had just been determined
on by the Admiralty; and so pressed for time was I, that I used to sleep with the sheets of
the 'Journal' under my pillow, that I might read them between waking and rising. They
impressed me profoundly, I might say despairingly, with the variety of acquirements,
mental and physical, required in a naturalist who should follow in Darwin's footsteps,
whilst they stimulated me to enthusiasm in the desire to travel and observe.
"It has been a permanent source of happiness to me that I knew so much of Mr. Darwin's
scientific work so many years before that intimacy began which ripened into feelings as
near to those of reverence for his life, works, and character as is reasonable and proper. It
only remains to add to this little episode that I received a copy of the 'Journal' complete,--
a gift from Mr. Lyell,--a few days before leaving England.
"Very soon after the return of the Antarctic Expedition my correspondence with Mr.
Darwin began (December, 1843) by his sending me a long letter, warmly congratulating
me on my return to my family and friends, and expressing a wish to hear more of the
results of the expedition, of which he had derived some knowledge from private letters of
my own (written to or communicated through Mr. Lyell). Then, plunging at once into
scientific matters, he directed my attention to the importance of correlating the Fuegian
Flora with that of the Cordillera and of Europe, and invited me to study the botanical
collections which he had made in the Galapagos Islands, as well as his Patagonian and
Fuegian plants.