Hooker, Sir Joseph Dalton
Cragside, Rothbury, [Northumberland, United Kingdom]
JDH/2/16 f.95
Thiselton-Dyer, Sir William Turner
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
© Descendants of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker
Letters to Thiselton-Dyer
The Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Original MS
6 page letter over 2 folios

JDH writes to Sir William Turner Thiselton-Dyer [WTTD] from [Cragside], Rothbury as he forgot to mention in his last letter, the presence of ferns along with Gaultheria, Heathers & Rhododendrons in the grounds there. Inglis Palgrave has advised JDH that he can afford to retire. JDH goes on to list his reasons for wanting to retire & his reservations about leaving RBG Kew. There should be someone competent in place to assume WTTD's position as Assistant Director when he is elevated to Director. Compliments the competency of WTTD in all areas of RBG Kew's work. Already he does things beyond JDH's understanding e.g. with the [Jodrell] laboratory. Currently JDH worries what would happen to RBG Kew if one of them fell ill, his own strength is failing & he is going deaf. His own retirement is not necessarily an opportunity to get rid of Curator John Smith but would be a good lever to induce the Board to make necessary changes. JDH discusses changes to be made in the Arboretum by WTTD with the help of a good bailiff, William Truelove, & George Nicholson & JDH would help even after retirement if needed. Also mentions planting rare trees & a 'formation' by the lake. He mentions the journey from his home 'The Camp'. Overall JDH thinks it wise to offer his retirement. He insists that WTTD should stay on at RBG Kew, where his work has earned him many plaudits from Government. JDH understands WTTD's nervousness about the change & had intended to work until he was 70 but is glad he can afford to retire now. Comments on WTTD's departmental reorganisation mentioning Truelove & Binden. JDH hopes that the Government might give him a consultant position as they did with Huxley, which would allow him to continue work on his 'beloved' FLORA INDICA & spend more time on the ICONES PLANTARUM & BOTANICAL MAGAZINE. JDH has 'worked in or for Kew for near 45 years, as a Collector, Describer & Director'. The Bentham bequest & necessary supervision of the herbarium will need to be discussed.


seeing more to the drawings in process[)]*16. Then there are the reports on collections to make or supervise, & no end of other Herbarium matters.
Enough, we can talk over matters when we meet. -- I shall do nothing in a hurry.
Your account of Harriet is distressing we are exceedingly concerned; -- but she has got over similar attacks with no great suffering & we hope to find her set up on our return. It is as well she did not go to Highstone.
Ev[e]r Aff[ectionate]ly Y[ou]rs | J. D. Hooker [Signature]

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13th Oct[ober]/[18]85
My dear Dyer*2
I received yours of 11th just after I had posted one to you yesterday, in which I forgot to mention the profusion of Ferns every-where here; these being as much a feature as the Gaultheria, Heathers & Rhodod[endron]s.
You have put your, our the case quite fairly, but it you does do not meet my difficulties official or private. I should presume, or have perceived[?], that what brought the matter of retirement so suddenly up again, was that just as I was leaving for this place I had a letter from I. Palgrave*3, who had kindly promised to look into all key affairs, (not with any idea of my retiring) that I could well afford to retire & that as it appears to me I could do as well or even better for myself & family by doing so. This set me thinking over all the matters upon which I wrote to you. What I cannot get over, is the absolute necessity as it appears to me, of someone to act as, or to be in training as, the future Ass[istan]t Director. You cannot feel as I & others do, the force of the facts, that you have shown an aptitude for grasping the principles,

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mustering the details, & pushing on the ∞ spheres of usefulness of Kew in all its departments, Garden, collections, cultivations, Museum, Herbarium, Library, & this combined with genuine love of all & every one of them. You cannot carry out even your own improvements, e.g. the Reports, a sore subject with both of us, & one that of which the responsibility attaches to me. You have the common failing of men gifted like yourself, of not seeing why others have not the same quick perceptions. *4 You cannot relalize[sic] the time & trouble it will cause a man to acquire what you have obtained of Kew & its concerns. I for one cannot expect to see Kew administered as it is except by yourself. The Laboratory is beyond me, & so are many of the subjects of Reports -- Were either you or I to break down where would the Garden establishment be? You are not always strong, & dear Harriet's*5 health is a constant source of anxiety. My powers are failing -- I have been awfully deaf here, besides suffering acutely in one ear. I quite agree with you that Smith's*6 & my case are in no way parallel, & in not way bound up together & I had no thought of regarding my retirement as a help to get rid of Smith. What I did & do think is, that my retirement would enable you & the Board to put the

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establishment on a good all round footing & to introduce[?] the great changes which you agree with me in thinking politic, but which nothing but such such a lever as my retirement would be likely to induce the Board to undertake.
Then with regard to the Arboretum, whatever is done there now should have your cordial approval. The transplanting of a large proportion of the collection trees should have been effected 4--6 years ago & but for Smith’s break down would I hope have been. The work I & Smith had for 10 years in undoing what my father had done, is a warning to me not to tread on the heels of my successor. My idea is that when you shall have done up the Garden, you should direct the replanting of the Arboretum, which with a good bailiff, [William] Truelove*7, & [George] Nicholson*8, should not be difficult -- Of course I should give every aid (esped even if retired). -- Then there is the formation of this side of the Lake upon which so much depends, & the utilizing many parts of the grounds by planting clumps of rare trees. For all the above taste & skill are required, & had we equal taste & skill we should still do all

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differently, & I should do much that you would not like; & which could not be altered without a sacrifice of specimens which you would shrink from.
Nor do I see how you get over the difficulty of Flora Indica*9 -- which will either occupy by far the best of my time & ability for the rest of my life or be abandoned. As to living at The Camp*10 I am in quite the same predicament as [George] Bentham*11 was. I have 12’ drive to the station; he had 20’ -- & I have rather longer in the train, but very little.
Under all circumstances I believe my duty to be to write to the Board stating what I believe to be the requirements of the place establishment & stating giving my own views as to my own occupation in future, offering my retirement.
As to your breaking away it is impossible, after the recognition of your services & the position & influence awarded to you by the Board, Treasury, I[ndia] O[ffice], F[oreign] O[ffice], C[olonial] O[ffice], & all foreign correspondents. It is would not be a mere case of having put your hand to the plough & turning back, but desertion of the most complete satisfactory useful & popular scientific department of Gov[ernmen]t. Though I wish to retire, it will not be without many regrets & none greater than would attend the idea of abandoning you in time of need.
My Camp home is very comfortable, far more so than

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the Kew one, which is in many ways a burthen to me.
With regard to your objections to making a new start -- I quite understand them -- It was the same with me when my father died -- We are all liable to learn to make new starts in life. You could not have anticipated my living for ever when you became Ass[istan]t Director!
Of late I had given up the idea of immediate retirement, not supposing I could afford it after the expenses of the Camp. -- & looked to 70 as the date -- As it is, the lure of liberty within grasp, & of devoting myself to Flora Indica are irresistible.
Your departmental changes are all good but you forget that Truelove has a sufficiently good Garden, as well as Binden[?].
Then as to my being a prop[?] to the Institutions of the Gov[ernmen]t to consider it me, they are free to deal with me as with Balfour*12 or Huxley*13, make for me a consultative position without direct responsibility & with time for my beloved Flora. I have worked in or for Kew for near 45 years, as a Collector, Describer & Director.
Lastly I see no prospect of the utilisation of the Bentham bequest except under my supervision. The Icones [Plantarum]*14 want for better & closer editing than they get – then there are your "occasional papers" to bring out, the Bot[anical] Mag[azine]*15 (which suffers badly from my haste, & my mind being too full of other matters, & my work

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seeing more to the drawings in process[)]*16. Then there are the reports on collections to make or supervise, & no end of other Herbarium matters.
Enough, we can talk over matters when we meet. -- I shall do nothing in a hurry.
Your account of Harriet is distressing we are exceedingly concerned; -- but she has got over similar attacks with no great suffering & we hope to find her set up on our return. It is as well she did not go to Highstone.
Ev[e]r Aff[ectionate]ly Y[ou]rs | J. D. Hooker [Signature]


1. Cragside, Rothbury, Northumberland. The home of Sir (later Lord) William Armstrong, engineer and arms manufacturer. The house, designed by Richard Norman Shaw in the arts and crafts style, has extensive wooded grounds and is now owned by the National Trust.
2. Sir William Thiselton-Dyer (1843--1928). British botanist and third Director of the Royal Botanic gardens, Kew (1885--1905). He succeeded Joseph Hooker in the role after serving as his Assistant Director for ten years. He also married Hooker's eldest daughter Harriet in 1877.
3. Sir Robert Harry Inglis Palgrave (1827--1919). British economist. Joseph Hooker's cousin. Son of Francis Palgrave and Elizabeth Turner; Joseph Hooker's maternal aunt.
4. The following sentence is added above the line and down the right-hand margin.
5. Harriet Anne Thiselton-Dyer née Hooker (1854--1945). Oldest child of Joseph Hooker and his first wife Frances. Botanical illustrator and wife of William Turner Thiselton--Dyer. Her husband was Assistant Director of RBG Kew (1875--1885) and later Director (1885--1905), succeeding her father.
6. John Smith (1821--1888). Curator or 'head gardener' of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew from 1864--1886. His predecessor as Curator was also named John Smith.
7. William Truelove (1852--1920). Entered Kew in 1866, when only 14, his father foreman of the Pleasure Grounds. After five years at Kew he devoted his time to commercial growing. In 1878 he was engaged by William Bull, of Chelsea, as foreman of the greenhouse and hardy plant Department, where he remained for 32 years. Subsequently he devoted his time to disseminating knowledge of cultivated plants through the medium of the horticultural journals. http://www.kewguild.org.uk/media/pdfs/v4s28p1-42.pdf
8. George Nicholson (1847--1908). English botanist and horticulturalist, started work at Kew in 1873, succeeding the late John Smith as Curator of the Gardens in 1886 and staying on until 1901. Edited The Illustrated Dictionary of Gardening, produced as an eight-part alphabetical series between 1884 and 1888 with a supplement, published by L. Upcott Gill of London.
9. Flora Indica. vol. 1 (1855) by Hooker, Joseph Dalton, & Thomson, Thomas. London: W. Pamplin.
10. The Camp was the residence Joseph Hooker had built in Sunningdale, Berkshire. Completed in 1882 he lived there full time, with his second wife Hyacinth and their family, after retiring from RBG Kew in 1885.
11. George Bentham (1800--1884). British botanist who donated his herbarium of more than 100,000 specimens to Kew. He spent 27 years with Joseph Hooker in research and examination of specimens for the work Genera Plantarum, an influential work on plant taxonomy which is the foundation of many modern systems of classification.
12. Possibly John Hutton Balfour (1808--1884). Scottish botanist, Professor of Botany, first at the University of Glasgow in 1841, moving to Edinburgh University and also becoming Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Her Majesty's Botanist in 1845, holding these posts until his retirement in 1879.
13. Possibly Thomas Henry Huxley (1825--1895). Biologist, teacher, and promoter of science. Best remembered for his defense of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, his support earning him the nickname 'Darwin’s bulldog'.
14. Icones Plantarum, initiated by Sir William Jackson Hooker. The illustrations are drawn from herbarium specimens of Hooker's herbarium, and subsequently the herbarium of Kew Gardens. W. Hooker was the author of the first ten volumes, produced 1837--1854, Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, was responsible for Volumes X-XIX (most of Series III). Daniel Oliver was the editor of Volumes XX-XXIV. His successor was William Turner Thiselton-Dyer. The series now comprises forty volumes.
15. The Botanical Magazine; or Flower-Garden Displayed, an illustrated publication which began in 1787. The longest running botanical magazine, it is widely referred to by the subsequent name Curtis's Botanical Magazine. William Hooker was the editor from 1826, and brought the artist Walter Hood Fitch to Kew who became the magazines principal artist for forty years. Joseph Dalton Hooker followed his father as editor, and after Fitch retired Harriet Thiselton-Dyer (nee Hooker) provided illustrations.
16. Brackets not closed.

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