Queen Victoria opened the Crystal Palace at Sydenham on June 10th, 1854.) How I wish there was any chance of your being there! The last grand thing we were at together answered, I am sure, very well, and that was the Duke's funeral.
Have you seen Forbes' introductory lecture (37/2. Edward Forbes was appointed to a Professorship at Edinburgh in May, 1854.) in the "Scotsman" (lent me by Horner)? it is really ADMIRABLY done, though without anything, perhaps, very original, which could hardly be expected: it has given me even a higher opinion than I before had, of the variety and polish of his intellect. It is, indeed, an irreparable loss to London natural history society. I wish, however, he would not praise so much that old brown dry stick Jameson. Altogether, to my taste, it is much the best introductory lecture I have ever read. I hear his anniversary address is very good.
Adios, my dear Hooker; do be wise and good, and be careful of your stomach, within which, as I know full well, lie intellect, conscience, temper, and the affections.
LETTER 38. TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, December 2nd .
You are a pretty fellow to talk of funking the returning thanks at the dinner for the medal. (38/1. The Royal medal was given to Sir Joseph in 1854.) I heard that it was decidedly the best speech of the evening, given "with perfect fluency, distinctness, and command of language," and that you showed great self-possession: was the latter the proverbially desperate courage of a coward? But you are a pretty fellow to be so desperately afraid and then to make the crack speech. Many such an ordeal may you have to go through! I do not know whether Sir William [Hooker] would be contented with Lord Rosse's (38/2. President of the Royal Society 1848- 54.) speech on giving you the medal; but I am very much pleased with it, and really the roll of what you have done was, I think, splendid. What a great pity he half spoiled it by not having taken the trouble just to read it over first. Poor Hofmann (38/3. August Wilhelm Hofmann, the other medallist of 1854.) came off in this respect even worse. It is really almost arrogant insolence against every one not an astronomer.
The next morning I was at a very pleasant breakfast party at Sir R. Inglis's. (38/4. Sir Robert Inglis, President of the British Association in 1847. Apparently Darwin was present at the afternoon meeting, but not at the dinner.) I have received, with very many thanks, the aberrant genera; but I have not had time to consider them, nor your remarks on Australian botanical geography.
LETTER 39. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
(39/1. The following letter shows Darwin's interest in the adjudication of the Royal medals. The year 1855 was the last during which he served on the Council of the Society. He had previously served in 1849-50.)
Down, March 31st, 1855.
I have thought and enquired much about Westwood, and I really think he amply deserves the gold medal. But should you think of some one with higher claim I am quite ready to give up. Indeed, I suppose without I get some one to second it, I cannot propose him.
Will you be so kind as to read the enclosed, and return it to me? Should I send it to Bell? That is, without you demur or convince me. I had thought of Hancock, a higher class of labourer; but, as far as I can weigh, he has not, as yet, done so much as Westwood. I may state that I read the whole "Classification" (39/2. Possibly Westwood's "Introduction to the Modern Classification of Insects" (1839).) before I was on the Council, and ever thought on the subject of medals. I fear my remarks are rather lengthy, but to do him justice I could not well shorten them. Pray tell me frankly whether the enclosed is the right sort of thing, for though I was once on the Council of the Royal, I never attended any meetings, owing to bad health.
With respect to the Copley medal (39/3. The Copley Medal was given to Lyell in 1858.), I have a strong feeling that Lyell has a high claim, but as he has had the Royal Medal I presume that it would be thought objectionable to propose him; and as I intend (you not objecting and converting me) to propose W.