From Joseph Hooker   2 December 1864

Kew Decr 2d/64.

My dear Mueller

Many thanks for your little volume on the Chatham Island plants;1 I am sure that Mr Travers must be much pleased to see his exertions so fully recognized & his son too. I agree with you that there must still be a great deal more to do on the Islands, especially amongst the grasses & Cyperaceae.

I have not gone over the specimens with the book, which I shall do for the Supplement to my Handbook2 & quote you throughout.

I am much concerned to find from the tone of your letter to me, from the absence of any to my father & from your very angry letter to Mr Bentham that you are much incensed with all parties here.3

To begin then with myself, I had nothing to do with sending Cork Oaks to Australia; though, had the duty fallen on me, I should assuredly have acted as Sir William did in that matter. Acting as he did under orders, & after [also] seeing that you have on the one hand hundreds of Cork Oaks in the garden & on the other that you are yourself the active head of the acclimatization Socy., I cannot understand in what matter you are officially or personally offended, or have reason to blame my father through me — a course which is painful to me, & wanting in official courtesy to him: who abounds in friendly feelings to you & has never felt or shown any other.

In the matter of the cases being sent unpaid to you, I am wholly or chiefly to blame; — the accident is due to the change of Curators, a change of which I have informed you, & which, considering its magnitude & importance, & the revolution it causes in internal organization, must be held to make allowance for accidents. I had myself wholly forgotten, which way we paid (out or home) & when our new Curator asked me I said, find out how it was before & do as before. As it is you cannot suppose that it was intended by us to do you wrong or injustice as the tone of your letter implies. At any rate I might have expected the courtesy of being asked how it happened. Again, you allude with acrimony to our wealth in pecuniary matters compared with your establishment, wherein I think you err. You have no idea how sharply every shilling every halfpenny we spend is criticized & especially over amounts & charges for carriage &c &c &c — knowing as the Audit Office does, that in respect of most foreign countries, we have to pay both ways of necessity: it insists on our never doing it when possible to avoid it. The comparative wealth of a public office, does not depend on its Expenditure, but on the account required to be kept of that Expenditure, & every account of ours is scrutinized by 1. The Board of Works, 2 the Audit office, 3 the Treasury & we have letters of enquiry every month. We are allowed no margin at all. I doubt if this is the case with you. Our correspondence in the matter of exchange with you has always been behind what I should have liked & wished, but in the first place, our late Curator Mr Smith4 was a very old man, nearly blind and quite unequal to the heavy duties of his post, & secondly my Father is quite disheartened at the cost of the transport of cases of live plants & the dismally bad condition they arrive in both out and home.

With regard to your seeds a vast number are now coming up in the Garden, but it will be a year or two yet before we can make out what will be useful and ornamental and what not. You must please to remember that we cannot grow half the things we get, and that if the whole garden was under glass we could cover it all in a few years. We are therefore obliged to select types of genera and species together with handsome, useful &c &c plants, and discard the rest whether we like or no.

Pray do not be annoyed at what I say, and pray remember that we are here absolutely overwhelmed with work in the Garden, Museum & Herbarium, and that being the Referees on all manner of subjects, for the Treasury, Admiralty, Board of Works, India Office, Board of Trade and innumerable private bodies Gardens & Institutions all over the world, we are hard put to, to get along with our correspondence especially. Then too we are exposed to incessant collisions with our brother Botanists, which is a very wholesome though not always agreeable discipline to which you are not exposed. Lastly let me beseech you to remember that Mr Bentham is a peculiarly sensitive person, who shrinks exceedingly from unpleasant correspondence: he has never yet had any unpleasantness with any Botanist British or foreign, & is a gentleman of unbounded liberality of sentiment, delicacy of feeling, & great judgement. Born as he was, a gentleman of private means, and giving his whole time & means to science for no pecuniary reward & regardless of praise or worldly flattery, his position is the most highly respected of any Botanist in Europe, because the most independent & most unselfish. Such a person must feel the tone of your letter most deeply grieving.5

Believe me my dear Dr Mueller

most sincerely yr

J. D. Hooker.


Harvey is no worse but confined to the house for the winter – busy at Cape Flora6 & the new Edition of Genera of Cape plants.7



'Additions and corrections,' in J. Hooker (1864-7), vol. 2, pp. 722-56.
See M to J. Hooker, 24 September 1864 (in this edition as 64-09-24a), and M to G. Bentham, 24 September 1864. In his letter to Hooker, M complained that a shipment of cork oaks from Kew has been addressed to him for the Acclimatisation Society, rather than to him as director of the Botanic Garden — thereby effectively ensuring that the Society rather than the Garden would get the credit when specimens were distributed.
John Smith (1798-1888) retired as curator at Kew in 1864.
M had become very dispirited about his role in Flora Australiensis and his relationship with Bentham. In late 1864 he wrote to Henry Barkly, who in a letter to William Hooker, 5 January 1865 (extract in this edition as M65-01-05) suggested that Hooker have a word with Bentham about M's feeling that Bentham treated him as the 'veriest tyro in the science'. Joseph Hooker is probably here referring to a letter of November 1864, which has not been found, in which M apparently told Bentham that his genera were miserable, his distinction of species often ridiculous, and his diagnoses unavailable for practical use (See G. Bentham to M, 26 February 1865, and M's apology in M to G. Bentham, 21 April 1865).
Harvey & Sonder (1860-5).
Harvey (1868), brought to press by Joseph Hooker after Harvey's death.

Please cite as “FVM-64-12-02,” in Ɛpsilon: The Ferdinand von Mueller Collection accessed on 27 October 2021,