From Joseph Hooker1    17 January 1884

Jany 17/1/84

My dear Baron

I am much concerned to hear of your illness & do indeed hope that your fears may not be realized, & that a sojourn in the mountain air of Victoria will prove a complete restorative.2

Thanks many for your vindication of the rights of nomenclature of the Gen Plant.3 There is much difference of opinion upon the matter here, & I naturally hold aloof from saying what should be done in the new Nomenclator4 which Mr D. Jackson is at work upon at Kew on Mr Darwin's munificent fund. I propose that Mr Dyer, Ball, Oliver & […]5 should form a committee to decide,6 & I will assent to whatever they may rule. I am not myself very enamoured of rules, which must be arbitrary & which applied to the letter rather than to the spirit of the law is the mark of the small fry of botanists who make more fuss about a wrong specific synonym than over a plant they put in a wrong [Nat] Order!

Mr Gray in his last contribution to this subject7 winds up by saying that those who readjust genera are bound to name the Species. This is all very well for those who do an Order or two, but when it is a matter of a Genera Plantarum it is impossible for two lives to overtake it. Especially if the unlucky authors have like myself a family of 7 to work for, & &8 laborious official duties to perform.

I am very averse to making the new Nomenclator an exponent of Kew, or Candollean or other "laws" so called.

Mr Bentham is exceedingly weak & quite incapable of any work — he now cannot walk across the room, & spends his whole time in a chair before the fire — he is unable to read more than a few minutes at a time or write more than a line or two — his is not the lusty old age, but a loss of physical power that never can be recovered; he is exceedingly attenuated too. He takes no interest in Science & sees hardly any one but myself, I see him weekly & yesterday I gave him your message,9 for which he sends his thanks. I told him of your discovery of Centunculus.

The Herbarium at Kew advances rapidly of late in plants of Madagascar abounding in novelty, & from the Malay Peninsula where Perak seems to be a very rich and novel field. From Central Africa too we get small consignments, but they are not so interesting as I would have expected. We are sending an expedition to Kilimanjaro10 which may do good service

We are also about to get up a list of all that is known of Chinese Botany11 which will be useful as ground work In fact there are many countries which want cataloging prior to elaborating.

I hope that you will work New Guinea from your continent & also the New Hebrides & indeed the Pacific generally — Australia should send out a Scientific exploring Expedition to some of the Groups. I wonder that it has not fitted out an Antarctic one!12

I am very busy with the Flora of British India,13 a new Edition of the British Flora,14 & a new guide to the Garden & the Arboretum.15 We are also getting out a new Museum Guide16 which Dyer undertakes & the Report for 1884 very delayed by press of other work & the Curators17 3 months illness followed by 6 months absence on leave. We will have a very heavy year of it.

Ever sincerely yr

Jos D Hooker


MS annotation by M: 'Answ 11/3/84. F.v.M'. See M to J. Hooker, 11 March 1884. See also M to T. Wilson, 3 April 1884, in which M drew the Victorian Government's attention to Hooker's comment about the exploration of New Guinea and the New Hebrides.
See M to J. Hooker, 3 December 1883, written from Mt Macedon, Vic., where M had gone seeking relief from a protracted bout of bronchial catarrh.
Bentham & Hooker (1862-83). See B84.13.03 and M to J. Hooker, 3 December 1883.
Index Kewenisis.
Illegible name .
In his account of the compiling of Index Kewensis Jackson (1924), p. 226, wrote that 'a committee, consisting at first of Sir Joseph Hooker, Professor Daniel Oliver, and John Ball the alpinist, used to meet occasionally to discuss knotty points and take stock of progress'.
A. Gray (1883).
Repetition in going from one line to the next.
In his letter of 3 December 1883, M had asked Hooker to pass on his best wishes to Bentham.
Royal Society and British Association Kilimanjaro expedition of 1884-5, led by H. H. Johnston (ODNB); Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.
The Royal Society and the British Association made grants ‘for payment of an experienced Botanist to draw up a report on our present knowledge of the Flora of China, and for expense in printing the same’ (see, for example, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 37 (1884), p. 458; Report of the 57th Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1888), p. 95). Forbes & Hemsley (1886-1905).
See Home et al. (1992).
J. Hooker (1875-97).
J. Hooker (1884).
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (1885).
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (1886).
John Smith (1821-88).

Please cite as “FVM-84-01-17,” in Ɛpsilon: The Ferdinand von Mueller Collection accessed on 28 September 2021,