From Joseph Hooker1    15 January 1873

Kew Jay 15 /73.2

My dear Mueller

I am in receipt of your’s of 4/11/72. & much distressed to hear of your trials & vexations. It is not easy for me to indicate or even suggest a course of action — but judging from what I gather from your friends here, of whom I have seen many & warm ones — I am disposed so far to run the risk of intruding with the suggestion, that you should let matters rest for a few months; making no complaint & no stir — & when public attention is withdrawn from your present painful position, quietly consult a few of your many powerful friends about your future course; with a view to getting a thoroughly good active horticulturalist & decorative gardener, to whom I should delegate the ornamenting & practical gardening; you only interfering in the matter of general directions, Estimates & so forth. This is the way in which I conduct this Garden, & it is the only way that could answer — I am not a practical Gardener, nor a Florist; — I am a Botanist & Landscape Gardener. I look to my Curator for growing all plants, & for the amount & kind of decoration required to gratify the public — He looks to me for 1. The general plan of the Garden; 2, the amount to be spent on decoration, — 3 power to cultivate according to his judgment. All internal arrangements of plants in stoves Houses & beds, I order — subject to his assurance that they will grow well where I place them. He looks to me to provide seeds & plants (except the merely decorative which he gets himself by orders countersigned by me) — & for all information as to locations, climates & conditions that the Botanical collections require.

I can truly say that since I became Director, in 1865 not an unpleasant word has passed between us: & that we have worked in perfect harmony — Just think over this — I really do not see how you can gratify the public without a floral display of the kind they like — nor how you can accomplish this without a Gardener skilled in the modern fashion of Gardening & who should have a good deal of freedom of action. I set aside a specific sum for this purpose, & the Curator has absolute control over it, subject to my approval of his plans & action. So many men are allotted to it, who he engages & dismisses, simply informing me of it, lest I should find reason to disapprove of his course.

I shall take care to keep your documents private & if I could suggest any course of action that would help you I should be only too happy. — My motto in all such trials is: "servate animam aequam".3

Thank you a thousand times for your continued thoughts of us under your trials & difficulties. Capt Stacpoole has arrived with the Todea which I have to day sent for.4

The two Cycas — Booths & mine are both in our trop: tree fern House — they have as yet shown no signs of life. The tall Alsophila has shot forth a few fronds & I have every hope of it. The shorter but still grand Dicksonia is pushing vigorously.

Cycas takes long to push I find, often 2 years & so I shall not despair of it for so long.

George MacLeay has sailed by the Somersetshire — he takes a box of rooted variegated forest trees for you. These I got from Paul of Walham5 Cross, & got him to pack them too. I am glad that the case by Niagara arrived well.6

You seem to be surprised at Owen's conduct to me — I assure you it is no worse than to other people — he has hardly a friend in the scientific world, nor has had for years!

The British Museum is still striving to get the Kew Herbarium & Library transferred to itself: & a powerful memorial against the transfer is being addressed to Mr Gladstone by the Botanists of England.7

Mr Carruthers is acting a most unworthy part, & by his most insolent demeanour & ungentlemanly conduct is disgusting his former friends. This of course is private.

Ever my dear Mueller with best wishes for your prospects & earnest advice to say as little as possible

Ever most truly yr

Jos D. Hooker






MS black edged; Hooker's mother had died in the previous October.
MS annotation by M: 'G. M'Leay Squatting'.
'Keep a calm spirit' — though 'servate animum aequum' would be better Latin. See Horace, Odes, II, 3, 1-2. But see also Darwin’s analysis of Hooker’s temperament: ‘He is in all ways very impulsive and somewhat peppery in temper; but the clouds pass away almost immediately’ (Barlow [1958], p. 105).
V. R. C. Stacpoole was Captain of Shannon ; see M to J. Hooker, 6 October 1872.
See M to J. Hooker, 6 October 1872.
‘The national herbaria’, Gardeners’ chronicle , 18 January 1873, pp 72–3.

Please cite as “FVM-73-01-15,” in Correspondence of Ferdinand von Mueller, edited by R.W. Home, Thomas A. Darragh, A.M. Lucas, Sara Maroske, D.M. Sinkora, J.H. Voigt and Monika Wells accessed on 25 September 2022,