Part 4 out of 10
it seems to me quite hopeless to attempt to explain why varieties are not
sterile, until we know the precise cause of sterility in species.
Reflect for a moment on how small and on what very peculiar causes the
unequal reciprocity of fertility in the same two species must depend.
Reflect on the curious case of species more fertile with foreign pollen
than their own. Reflect on many cases which could be given, and shall be
given in my larger book (independently of hybridity) of very slight changes
of conditions causing one species to be quite sterile and not affecting a
closely allied species. How profoundly ignorant we are on the intimate
relation between conditions of life and impaired fertility in pure species!
The only point which I might add to my short discussion on this subject, is
that I think it probable that the want of adaptation to uniform conditions
of life in our domestic varieties has played an important part in
preventing their acquiring sterility when crossed. For the want of
uniformity, and changes in the conditions of life, seem the only cause of
the elimination of sterility (when crossed) under domestication. (92/3.
The meaning which we attach to this obscure sentence is as follows:
Species in a state of nature are closely adapted to definite conditions of
life, so that the sexual constitution of species A is attuned, as it were,
to a condition different from that to which B is attuned, and this leads to
sterility. But domestic varieties are not strictly adapted by Natural
Selection to definite conditions, and thus have less specialised sexual
constitutions.) This elimination, though admitted by many authors, rests
on very slight evidence, yet I think is very probably true, as may be
inferred from the case of dogs. Under nature it seems improbable that the
differences in the reproductive constitution, on which the sterility of any
two species when crossed depends, can be acquired directly by Natural
Selection; for it is of no advantage to the species. Such differences in
reproductive constitution must stand in correlation with some other
differences; but how impossible to conjecture what these are! Reflect on
the case of the variations of Verbascum, which differ in no other respect
whatever besides the fluctuating element of the colour of the flower, and
yet it is impossible to resist Gartner's evidence, that this difference in
the colour does affect the mutual fertility of the varieties.
The whole case seems to me far too mysterious to rest (92/4. The word
"rest" seems to be used in place of "to serve as a foundation for.") a
valid attack on the theory of modification of species, though, as you say,
it offers excellent ground for a mere advocate.
I am surprised, considering how ignorant we are on very many points, [that]
more weak parts in my book have not as yet been pointed out to me. No
doubt many will be. H.C. Watson founds his objection in MS. on there being
no limit to infinite diversification of species: I have answered this, I
think, satisfactorily, and have sent attack and answer to Lyell and Hooker.
If this seems to you a good objection, I would send papers to you. Andrew
Murray "disposes of" the whole theory by an ingenious difficulty from the
distribution of blind cave insects (92/5. See "Life and Letters, Volume
II., page 265. The reference here is to Murray's address before the
Botanical Society, Edinburgh. Mr. Darwin seems to have read Murray's views
only in a separate copy reprinted from the "Proc. R. Soc. Edin." There is
some confusion about the date of the paper; the separate copy is dated
January 16th, while in the volume of the "Proc. R. Soc." it is February
20th. In the "Life and Letters," II., page 261 it is erroneously stated
that these are two different papers.); but it can, I think, be fairly
LETTER 93. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
Down, [February] 2nd .
I have had this morning a letter from old Bronn (93/1. See "Life and
Letters, II., page 277.) (who, to my astonishment, seems slightly staggered
by Natural Selection), and he says a publisher in Stuttgart is willing to
publish a translation, and that he, Bronn, will to a certain extent
superintend. Have you written to Kolliker? if not, perhaps I had better
close with this proposal--what do you think? If you have written, I must
wait, and in this case will you kindly let me hear as soon as you hear from
My poor dear friend, you will curse the day when you took up the "general
agency" line; but really after this I will not give you any more trouble.
Do not forget the three tickets for us for your lecture, and the ticket for
Baily, the poulterer.
Old Bronn has published in the "Year-book for Mineralogy" a notice of the
"Origin" (93/2. "Neues Jahrb. fur Min." 1860, page 112.); and says he has
himself published elsewhere a foreboding of the theory!
LETTER 94. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, February 14th .
I succeeded in persuading myself for twenty-four hours that Huxley's
lecture was a success. (94/1. At the Royal Institution. See "Life and
Letters," II., page 282.) Parts were eloquent and good, and all very bold;
and I heard strangers say, "What a good lecture!" I told Huxley so; but I
demurred much to the time wasted in introductory remarks, especially to his
making it appear that sterility was a clear and manifest distinction of
species, and to his not having even alluded to the more important parts of
the subject. He said that he had much more written out, but time failed.
After conversation with others and more reflection, I must confess that as
an exposition of the doctrine the lecture seems to me an entire failure. I
thank God I did not think so when I saw Huxley; for he spoke so kindly and
magnificently of me, that I could hardly have endured to say what I now
think. He gave no just idea of Natural Selection. I have always looked at
the doctrine of Natural Selection as an hypothesis, which, if it explained
several large classes of facts, would deserve to be ranked as a theory
deserving acceptance; and this, of course, is my own opinion. But, as
Huxley has never alluded to my explanation of classification, morphology,
embryology, etc., I thought he was thoroughly dissatisfied with all this
part of my book. But to my joy I find it is not so, and that he agrees
with my manner of looking at the subject; only that he rates higher than I
do the necessity of Natural Selection being shown to be a vera causa always
in action. He tells me he is writing a long review in the "Westminster."
It was really provoking how he wasted time over the idea of a species as
exemplified in the horse, and over Sir J. Hall's old experiment on marble.
Murchison was very civil to me over my book after the lecture, in which he
was disappointed. I have quite made up my mind to a savage onslaught; but
with Lyell, you, and Huxley, I feel confident we are right, and in the long
run shall prevail. I do not think Asa Gray has quite done you justice in
the beginning of the review of me. (94/2. "Review of Darwin's Theory on
the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection," by "A.G." ("Amer.
Jour. Sci." Volume XXIX., page 153, 1860). In a letter to Asa Gray on
February 18th, 1860, Darwin writes: "Your review seems to me admirable; by
far the best which I have read." ("Life and Letters," II., 1887, page
286.) The review seemed to me very good, but I read it very hastily.
LETTER 95. TO C. LYELL.
Down, [February] 18th .
I send by this post Asa Gray, which seems to me very good, with the stamp
of originality on it. Also Bronn's "Jahrbuch fur Mineralogie." (95/1.
See Letter 93.)
The united intellect of my family has vainly tried to make it out. I never
tried such confoundedly hard german; nor does it seem worth the labour. He
sticks to Priestley's Green Matter, and seems to think that till it can be
shown how life arises it is no good showing how the forms of life arise.
This seems to me about as logical (comparing very great things with little)
as to say it was no use in Newton showing the laws of attraction of gravity
and the consequent movement of the planets, because he could not show what
the attraction of gravity is.
The expression "Wahl der Lebens-Weise" (95/2. "Die fruchtbarste und
allgemeinste Ursache der Varietaten-Bildung ist jedoch die Wahl der Lebens-
Weise" (loc. cit., page 112).) makes me doubt whether B. understands what I
mean by Natural Selection, as I have told him. He says (if I understand
him) that you ought to be on the same side with me.
P.S. Sunday afternoon.--I have kept back this to thank you for your letter,
with much news, received this morning. My conscience is uneasy at the time
you waste in amusing and interesting me. I was very curious to hear about
Phillips. The review in the "Annals" is, as I was convinced, by Wollaston,
for I have had a very cordial letter from him this morning. (95/3. A
bibliographical Notice "On the Origin of Species by means of Natural
Selection; or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life."
("Annals and Mag." Volume V., pages 132-43, 1860). The notice is not
signed. Referring to the article, in a letter to Lyell, February 15th,
1860, Darwin writes: "I am perfectly convinced...that the review in the
"Annals" is by Wollaston; no one else in the world would have used so many
parentheses" ("Life and Letters," II., page 284).)
I send by this post an attack in the "Gardeners' Chronicle" by Harvey (a
first-rate botanist, as you probably know). (95/4. In the "Gardeners'
Chronicle" of February 18th, 1860, W.H. Harvey described a case of
monstrosity in Begonia frigida, which he argued was hostile to the theory
of Natural Selection. The passage about Harvey's attack was published in
the "Life and Letters," II., page 275.) It seems to me rather strange; he
assumes the permanence of monsters, whereas monsters are generally sterile,
and not often inheritable. But grant his case, it comes [to this], that I
have been too cautious in not admitting great and sudden variations. Here
again comes in the mischief of my abstract. In fuller MS. I have discussed
the parallel case of a normal fish like a monstrous gold-fish.
I end my discussion by doubting, because all cases of monstrosities which
resemble normal structures which I could find were not in allied groups.
Trees like Aspicarpa (95/5. Aspicarpa, an American genus of Malpighiaceae,
is quoted in the "Origin" (Edition VI., page 367) as an illustration of
Linnaeus' aphorism that the characters do not give the genus, but the genus
gives the characters. During several years' cultivation in France
Aspicarpa produced only degraded flowers, which differed in many of the
most important points of structure from the proper type of the order; but
it was recognised by M. Richard that the genus should be retained among the
Malpighiaceae. "This case," adds Darwin, "well illustrates the spirit of
our classification."), with flowers of two kinds (in the "Origin"), led me
also to speculate on the same subject; but I could find only one doubtfully
analogous case of species having flowers like the degraded or monstrous
flowers. Harvey does not see that if only a few (as he supposes) of the
seedlings inherited being monstrosities, Natural Selection would be
necessary to select and preserve them. You had better return the
"Gardeners' Chronicle," etc., to my brother's. The case of Begonia (95/6.
Harvey's criticism was answered by Sir J.D. Hooker in the following number
of the "Gardeners' Chronicle" (February 25th, 1860, page 170).) in itself
is very curious; I am tempted to answer the notice, but I will refrain, for
there would be no end to answers.
With respect to your objection of a multitude of still living simple forms,
I have not discussed it anywhere in the "Origin," though I have often
thought it over. What you say about progress being only occasional and
retrogression not uncommon, I agree to; only that in the animal kingdom I
greatly doubt about retrogression being common. I have always put it to
myself--What advantage can we see in an infusory animal, or an intestinal
worm, or coral polypus, or earthworm being highly developed? If no
advantage, they would not become highly developed: not but what all these
animals have very complex structures (except infusoria), and they may well
be higher than the animals which occupied similar places in the economy of
nature before the Silurian epoch. There is a blind snake with the
appearances and, in some respects, habits of earthworms; but this blind
snake does not tend, as far as we can see, to replace and drive out worms.
I think I must in a future edition discuss a few more such points, and will
introduce this and H.C. Watson's objection about the infinite number of
species and the general rise in organisation. But there is a directly
opposite objection to yours which is very difficult to answer--viz. how at
the first start of life, when there were only the simplest organisms, how
did any complication of organisation profit them? I can only answer that
we have not facts enough to guide any speculation on the subject.
With respect to Lepidosiren, Ganoid fishes, perhaps Ornithorhynchus, I
suspect, as stated in the "Origin," (95/7. "Origin of Species" (Edition
VI.), page 83.), that they have been preserved, from inhabiting fresh-water
and isolated parts of the world, in which there has been less competition
and less rapid progress in Natural Selection, owing to the fewness of
individuals which can inhabit small areas; and where there are few
individuals variation at most must be slower. There are several allusions
to this notion in the "Origin," as under Amblyopsis, the blind cave-fish
(95/8. "Origin," page 112.), and under Heer (95/9. "Origin," page 83.)
about Madeira plants resembling the fossil and extinct plants of Europe.
LETTER 96. TO JAMES LAMONT.
Down, March 5th [1860?].
I am much obliged for your long and interesting letter. You have indeed
good right to speak confidently about the habits of wild birds and animals;
for I should think no one beside yourself has ever sported in Spitzbergen
and Southern Africa. It is very curious and interesting that you should
have arrived at the conclusion that so-called "Natural Selection" had been
efficient in giving their peculiar colours to our grouse. I shall probably
use your authority on the similar habits of our grouse and the Norwegian
I am particularly obliged for your very curious fact of the effect produced
by the introduction of the lowland grouse on the wildness of the grouse in
your neighbourhood. It is a very striking instance of what crossing will
do in affecting the character of a breed. Have you ever seen it stated in
any sporting work that game has become wilder in this country? I wish I
could get any sort of proof of the fact, for your explanation seems to me
equally ingenious and probable. I have myself witnessed in South America a
nearly parallel [case] with that which you mention in regard to the
reindeer in Spitzbergen, with the Cervus campestris of La Plata. It feared
neither man nor the sound of shot of a rifle, but was terrified at the
sight of a man on horseback; every one in that country always riding. As
you are so great a sportsman, perhaps you will kindly look to one very
trifling point for me, as my neighbours here think it too absurd to notice
--namely, whether the feet of birds are dirty, whether a few grains of dirt
do not adhere occasionally to their feet. I especially want to know how
this is in the case of birds like herons and waders, which stalk in the
mud. You will guess that this relates to dispersal of seeds, which is one
of my greatest difficulties. My health is very indifferent, and I am
seldom able to attend the scientific meetings, but I sincerely hope that I
may some time have the pleasure of meeting you.
Pray accept my cordial thanks for your very kind letter.
LETTER 97. TO G.H.K. THWAITES.
Down, March 21st .
I thank you very sincerely for your letter, and am much pleased that you go
a little way with me. You will think it presumptuous, but I am well
convinced from my own mental experience that if you keep the subject at all
before your mind you will ultimately go further. The present volume is a
mere abstract, and there are great omissions. One main one, which I have
rectified in the foreign editions, is an explanation (which has satisfied
Lyell, who made the same objection with you) why many forms do not progress
or advance (and I quite agree about some retrograding). I have also a MS.
discussion on beauty; but do you really suppose that for instance
Diatomaceae were created beautiful that man, after millions of generations,
should admire them through the microscope? (97/1. Thwaites (1811-82)
published several papers on the Diatomaceae ("On Conjugation in the
Diatomaceae," "Ann. and Mag. Nat. Hist." Volume XX., 1847, pages 9-11, 343-
4; "Further Observations on the Diatomaceae," loc. cit., 1848, page 161).
See "Life and Letters" II., page 292.) I should attribute most of such
structures to quite unknown laws of growth; and mere repetition of parts is
to our eyes one main element of beauty. When any structure is of use (and
I can show what curiously minute particulars are often of highest use), I
can see with my prejudiced eyes no limit to the perfection of the
coadaptations which could be effected by Natural Selection. I rather doubt
whether you see how far, as it seems to me, the argument for homology and
embryology may be carried. I do not look at this as mere analogy. I would
as soon believe that fossil shells were mere mockeries of real shells as
that the same bones in the foot of a dog and wing of a bat, or the similar
embryo of mammal and bird, had not a direct signification, and that the
signification can be unity of descent or nothing. But I venture to repeat
how much pleased I am that you go some little way with me. I find a number
of naturalists do the same, and as their halting-places are various, and I
must think arbitrary, I believe they will all go further. As for changing
at once one's opinion, I would not value the opinion of a man who could do
so; it must be a slow process. (97/2. Darwin wrote to Woodward in regard
to the "Origin": "It may be a vain and silly thing to say, but I believe
my book must be read twice carefully to be fully understood. You will
perhaps think it by no means worth the labour.") Thank you for telling me
about the Lantana (97/3. An exotic species of Lantana (Verbenaceae) grows
vigorously in Ceylon, and is described as frequently making its appearance
after the firing of the low-country forests (see H.H.W. Pearson, "The
Botany of the Ceylon Patanas," "Journal Linn. Soc." Volume XXXIV., page
317, 1899). No doubt Thwaites' letter to Darwin referred to the spreading
of the introduced Lantana, comparable to that of the cardoon in La Plata
and of other plants mentioned by Darwin in the "Origin of Species" (Edition
VI., page 51).), and I should at any time be most grateful for any
information which you think would be of use to me. I hope that you will
publish a list of all naturalised plants in Ceylon, as far as known,
carefully distinguishing those confined to cultivated soils alone. I feel
sure that this most important subject has been greatly undervalued.
LETTER 98. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
(98/1. The reference here is to the review on the "Origin of Species"
generally believed to be by the late Sir R. Owen, and published in the
April number of the "Edinburgh Review," 1860. Owen's biographer is silent
on the subject, and prints, without comment, the following passage in an
undated letter from Sedgwick to Owen: "Do you know who was the author of
the article in the "Edinburgh" on the subject of Darwin's theory? On the
whole, I think it very good. I once suspected that you must have had a
hand in it, and I then abandoned that thought. I have not read it with any
care" (Owen's "Life," Volume II., page 96).
April 9th .
I never saw such an amount of misrepresentation. At page 530 (98/2.
"Lasting and fruitful conclusions have, indeed, hitherto been based only on
the possession of knowledge; now we are called upon to accept an hypothesis
on the plea of want of knowledge. The geological record, it is averred, is
so imperfect!"--"Edinburgh Review," CXI., 1860, page 530.) he says we are
called on to accept the hypothesis on the plea of ignorance, whereas I
think I could not have made it clearer that I admit the imperfection of the
Geological Record as a great difficulty.
The quotation (98/3. "We are appealed to, or at least 'the young and
rising naturalists with plastic minds,* [On the Nature of the Limbs, page
482] are adjured." It will be seen that the inverted comma after
"naturalists" is omitted; the asterisk referring, in a footnote (here
placed in square brackets), to page 482 of the "Origin," seems to have been
incorrectly assumed by Mr. Darwin to show the close of the quotation.--
Ibid., page 512.) on page 512 of the "Review" about "young and rising
naturalists with plastic minds," attributed to "nature of limbs," is a
false quotation, as I do not use the words "plastic minds."
At page 501 (98/4. The passage ("Origin," Edition I., page 483) begins,
"But do they really believe...," and shows clearly that the author
considers such a belief all but impossible.) the quotation is garbled, for
I only ask whether naturalists believe about elemental atoms flashing,
etc., and he changes it into that I state that they do believe.
At page 500 (98/5. "All who have brought the transmutation speculation to
the test of observed facts and ascertained powers in organic life, and have
published the results, usually adverse to such speculations, are set down
by Mr. Darwin as 'curiously illustrating the blindness of preconceived
opinion.'" The passage in the "Origin," page 482, begins by expressing
surprise at the point of view of some naturalists: "They admit that a
multitude of forms, which till lately they themselves thought were special
creations,...have been produced by variation, but they refuse to extend the
same view to other and very slightly different forms...They admit variation
as a vera causa in one case, they arbitrarily reject it in another, without
assigning any distinction in the two cases. The day will come when this
will be given as a curious illustration of the blindness of preconceived
opinion.") it is very false to say that I imply by "blindness of
preconceived opinion" the simple belief of creation. And so on in other
cases. But I beg pardon for troubling you. I am heartily sorry that in
your unselfish endeavours to spread what you believe to be truth, you
should have incurred so brutal an attack. (98/6. The "Edinburgh"
Reviewer, referring to Huxley's Royal Institution Lecture given February
10th, 1860, "On Species and Races and their Origin," says (page 521), "We
gazed with amazement at the audacity of the dispenser of the hour's
intellectual amusement, who, availing himself of the technical ignorance of
the majority of his auditors, sought to blind them as to the frail
foundations of 'natural selection' by such illustrations as the subjoined":
And then follows a critique of the lecturer's comparison of the supposed
descent of the horse from the Palaeothere with that of various kinds of
domestic pigeons from the Rock-pigeon.) And now I will not think any more
of this false and malignant attack.
LETTER 99. TO MAXWELL MASTERS.
Down, April 13th .
I thank you very sincerely for your two kind notes. The next time you
write to your father I beg you to give him from me my best thanks, but I am
sorry that he should have had the trouble of writing when ill. I have been
much interested by the facts given by him. If you think he would in the
least care to hear the result of an artificial cross of two sweet peas, you
can send the enclosed; if it will only trouble him, tear it up. There
seems to be so much parallelism in the kind of variation from my
experiment, which was certainly a cross, and what Mr. Masters has observed,
that I cannot help suspecting that his peas were crossed by bees, which I
have seen well dusted with the pollen of the sweet pea; but then I wish
this, and how hard it is to prevent one's wish biassing one's judgment!
I was struck with your remark about the Compositae, etc. I do not see that
it bears much against me, and whether it does or not is of course of not
the slightest importance. Although I fully agree that no definition can be
drawn between monstrosities and slight variations (such as my theory
requires), yet I suspect there is some distinction. Some facts lead me to
think that monstrosities supervene generally at an early age; and after
attending to the subject I have great doubts whether species in a state of
nature ever become modified by such sudden jumps as would result from the
Natural Selection of monstrosities. You cannot do me a greater service
than by pointing out errors. I sincerely hope that your work on
monstrosities (99/1. "Vegetable Teratology," London, 1869 (Ray Soc.).)
will soon appear, for I am sure it will be highly instructive.
Now for your notes, for which let me again thank you.
1. Your conclusion about parts developed (99/2. See "Origin of Species,"
Edition I., page 153, on the variability of parts "developed in an
extraordinary manner in any one species, compared with the other species of
the same genus." See "Life and Letters," II., pages 97, 98, also Letter
33.) not being extra variable agrees with Hooker's. You will see that I
have stated that the rule apparently does not hold with plants, though it
ought, if true, to hold good with them.
2. I cannot now remember in what work I saw the statement about Peloria
affecting the axis, but I know it was one which I thought might be trusted.
I consulted also Dr. Falconer, and I think that he agreed to the truth of
it; but I cannot now tell where to look for my notes. I had been much
struck with finding a Laburnum tree with the terminal flowers alone in each
raceme peloric, though not perfectly regular. The Pelargonium case in the
"Origin" seems to point in the same direction. (99/3. "Origin of Species,"
Edition I., page 145.)
3. Thanks for the correction about furze: I found the seedlings just
sprouting, and was so much surprised and their appearance that I sent them
to Hooker; but I never plainly asked myself whether they were cotyledons or
first leaves. (99/4. The trifoliate leaves of furze seedlings are not
cotyledons, but early leaves: see Lubbock's "Seedlings," I., page 410.)
4. That is a curious fact about the seeds of the furze, the more curious
as I found with Leguminosae that immersion in plain cold water for a very
few days killed some kinds.
If at any time anything should occur to you illustrating or opposing my
notions, and you have leisure to inform me, I should be truly grateful, for
I can plainly see that you have wealth of knowledge.
With respect to advancement or retrogression in organisation in
monstrosities of the Compositae, etc., do you not find it very difficult to
define which is which?
Anyhow, most botanists seem to differ as widely as possible on this head.
LETTER 100. TO J.S. HENSLOW.
Down, May 8th .
Very many thanks about the Elodea, which case interests me much. I wrote
to Mr. Marshall (100/1. W. Marshall was the author of "Anacharis
alsinastrum, a new water-weed": four letters to the "Cambridge Independent
Press," reprinted as a pamphlet, 1852.) at Ely, and in due time he says he
will send me whatever information he can procure.
Owen is indeed very spiteful. (100/2. Owen was believed to be the author
of the article in the "Edinburgh Review," April, 1860. See Letter 98.) He
misrepresents and alters what I say very unfairly. But I think his conduct
towards Hooker most ungenerous: viz., to allude to his essay (Australian
Flora), and not to notice the magnificent results on geographical
distribution. The Londoners say he is mad with envy because my book has
been talked about; what a strange man to be envious of a naturalist like
myself, immeasurably his inferior! From one conversation with him I really
suspect he goes at the bottom of his hidden soul as far as I do.
I wonder whether Sedgwick noticed in the "Edinburgh Review" about the
"Sacerdotal revilers,"--so the revilers are tearing each other to pieces.
I suppose Sedgwick will be very fierce against me at the Philosophical
Society. (100/3. The meeting of the "Cambridge Phil. Soc." was held on
May 7th, 1860, and fully reported in the "Cambridge Chronicle," May 19th.
Sedgwick is reported to have said that "Darwin's theory is not inductive--
is not based on a series of acknowledged facts, leading to a general
conclusion evolved, logically out of the facts...The only facts he pretends
to adduce, as true elements of proof, are the varieties produced by
domestication and the artifices of crossbreeding." Sedgwick went on to
speak of the vexatious multiplication of supposed species, and adds, "In
this respect Darwin's theory may help to simplify our classifications, and
thereby do good service to modern science. But he has not undermined any
grand truth in the constancy of natural laws, and the continuity of true
species.") Judging from his notice in the "Spectator," (100/4. March
24th, 1860; see "Life and Letters," II., page 297.) he will misrepresent
me, but it will certainly be unintentionally done. In a letter to me, and
in the above notice, he talks much about my departing from the spirit of
inductive philosophy. I wish, if you ever talk on the subject to him, you
would ask him whether it was not allowable (and a great step) to invent the
undulatory theory of light, i.e. hypothetical undulations, in a
hypothetical substance, the ether. And if this be so, why may I not invent
the hypothesis of Natural Selection (which from the analogy of domestic
productions, and from what we know of the struggle for existence and of the
variability of organic beings, is, in some very slight degree, in itself
probable) and try whether this hypothesis of Natural Selection does not
explain (as I think it does) a large number of facts in geographical
distribution--geological succession, classification, morphology,
embryology, etc. I should really much like to know why such an hypothesis
as the undulation of the ether may be invented, and why I may not invent
(not that I did invent it, for I was led to it by studying domestic
varieties) any hypothesis, such as Natural Selection.
Pray forgive me and my pen for running away with me, and scribbling on at
I can perfectly understand Sedgwick (100/5. See "Life and Letters," II.,
page 247; the letter is there dated December 24th, but must, we think, have
been written in November at latest.) or any one saying that Natural
Selection does not explain large classes of facts; but that is very
different from saying that I depart from right principles of scientific
LETTER 101. TO J.S. HENSLOW.
Down, May 14th .
I have been greatly interested by your letter to Hooker, and I must thank
you from my heart for so generously defending me, as far as you could,
against my powerful attackers. Nothing which persons say hurts me for
long, for I have an entire conviction that I have not been influenced by
bad feelings in the conclusions at which I have arrived. Nor have I
published my conclusions without long deliberation, and they were arrived
at after far more study than the public will ever know of, or believe in.
I am certain to have erred in many points, but I do not believe so much as
Sedgwick and Co. think.
Is there any Abstract or Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society
published? (101/1. Henslow's remarks are not given in the above-mentioned
report in the "Cambridge Chronicle.") If so, and you could get me a copy,
I should like to have one.
Believe me, my dear Henslow, I feel grateful to you on this occasion, and
for the multitude of kindnesses you have done me from my earliest days at
LETTER 102. TO C. LYELL.
Down, May 22nd .
Hooker has sent me a letter of Thwaites (102/1. See Letter 97.), of
Ceylon, who makes exactly the same objections which you did at first about
the necessity of all forms advancing, and therefore the difficulty of
simple forms still existing. There was no worse omission than this in my
book, and I had the discussion all ready.
I am extremely glad to hear that you intend adding new arguments about the
imperfection of the Geological Record. I always feel this acutely, and am
surprised that such men as Ramsay and Jukes do not feel it more.
I quite agree on insufficient evidence about mummy wheat. (102/2. See
notes appended to a letter to Lyell, September 1843 (Botany).
When you can spare it, I should like (but out of mere curiosity) to see
Binney on Coal marine marshes.
I once made Hooker very savage by saying that I believed the Coal plants
grew in the sea, like mangroves. (102/3. See "Life and Letters," I., page
LETTER 103. TO J.D. HOOKER.
(103/1. This letter is of interest as containing a strong expression upon
the overwhelming importance of selection.)
Many thanks for Harvey's letter (103/2. W.H. Harvey had been corresponding
with Sir J.D. Hooker on the "Origin of Species."), which I will keep a
little longer and then return. I will write to him and try to make clear
from analogy of domestic productions the part which I believe selection has
played. I have been reworking my pigeons and other domestic animals, and I
am sure that any one is right in saying that selection is the efficient
cause, though, as you truly say, variation is the base of all. Why I do
not believe so much as you do in physical agencies is that I see in almost
every organism (though far more clearly in animals than in plants)
adaptation, and this except in rare instances, must, I should think, be due
Do not forget the Pyrola when in flower. (103/3. In a letter to Hooker,
May 22nd, 1860, Darwin wrote: "Have you Pyrola at Kew? if so, for heaven's
sake observe the curvature of the pistil towards the gangway to the
nectary." The fact of the stigma in insect-visited flowers being so placed
that the visitor must touch it on its way to the nectar, was a point which
early attracted Darwin's attention and strongly impressed him.) My blessed
little Scaevola has come into flower, and I will try artificial
fertilisation on it.
I have looked over Harvey's letter, and have assumed (I hope rightly) that
he could not object to knowing that you had forwarded it to me.
LETTER 104. TO ASA GRAY.
Down, June 8th .
I have to thank you for two notes, one through Hooker, and one with some
letters to be posted, which was done. I anticipated your request by making
a few remarks on Owen's review. (104/1. "The Edinburgh Review," April,
1860.) Hooker is so weary of reviews that I do not think you will get any
hints from him. I have lately had many more "kicks than halfpence." A
review in the last Dublin "Nat. Hist. Review" is the most unfair thing
which has appeared,--one mass of misrepresentation. It is evidently by
Haughton, the geologist, chemist and mathematician. It shows immeasurable
conceit and contempt of all who are not mathematicians. He discusses bees'
cells, and puts a series which I have never alluded to, and wholly ignores
the intermediate comb of Melipona, which alone led me to my notions. The
article is a curiosity of unfairness and arrogance; but, as he sneers at
Malthus, I am content, for it is clear he cannot reason. He is a friend of
Harvey, with whom I have had some correspondence. Your article has
clearly, as he admits, influenced him. He admits to a certain extent
Natural Selection, yet I am sure does not understand me. It is strange
that very few do, and I am become quite convinced that I must be an
extremely bad explainer. To recur for a moment to Owen: he grossly
misrepresents and is very unfair to Huxley. You say that you think the
article must be by a pupil of Owen; but no one fact tells so strongly
against Owen, considering his former position at the College of Surgeons,
as that he has never reared one pupil or follower. In the number just out
of "Fraser's Magazine" (104/2. See "Life and Letters," II., page 314.)
there is an article or review on Lamarck and me by W. Hopkins, the
mathematician, who, like Haughton, despises the reasoning power of all
naturalists. Personally he is extremely kind towards me; but he evidently
in the following number means to blow me into atoms. He does not in the
least appreciate the difference in my views and Lamarck's, as explaining
adaptation, the principle of divergence, the increase of dominant groups,
and the almost necessary extinction of the less dominant and smaller
LETTER 105. TO C. LYELL.
Down, June 17th .
One word more upon the Deification (105/1. "If we confound 'Variation' or
'Natural Selection' with such creational laws, we deify secondary causes or
immeasurably exaggerate their influence" (Lyell, "The Geological Evidences
of the Antiquity of Man, with Remarks on Theories on the Origin of Species
by Variation," page 469, London, 1863). See Letter 131.) of Natural
Selection: attributing so much weight to it does not exclude still more
general laws, i.e. the ordering of the whole universe. I have said that
Natural Selection is to the structure of organised beings what the human
architect is to a building. The very existence of the human architect
shows the existence of more general laws; but no one, in giving credit for
a building to the human architect, thinks it necessary to refer to the laws
by which man has appeared.
No astronomer, in showing how the movements of planets are due to gravity,
thinks it necessary to say that the law of gravity was designed that the
planets should pursue the courses which they pursue. I cannot believe that
there is a bit more interference by the Creator in the construction of each
species than in the course of the planets. It is only owing to Paley and
Co., I believe, that this more special interference is thought necessary
with living bodies. But we shall never agree, so do not trouble yourself
I should think your remarks were very just about mathematicians not being
better enabled to judge of probabilities than other men of common-sense.
I have just got more returns about the gestation of hounds. The period
differs at least from sixty-one to seventy-four days, just as I expected.
I was thinking of sending the "Gardeners' Chronicle" to you, on account of
a paper by me on the fertilisation of orchids by insects (105/2.
"Fertilisation of British Orchids by Insect Agency." This article in the
"Gardeners' Chronicle" of June 9th, 1860, page 528, begins with a request
that observations should be made on the manner of fertilisation in the bee-
and in the fly-orchis.), as it involves a curious point, and as you cared
about my paper on kidney beans; but as you are so busy, I will not.
LETTER 106. TO C. LYELL.
Down [June?] 20th .
I send Blyth (106/1. See Letter 27.); it is a dreadful handwriting; the
passage is on page 4. In a former note he told me he feared there was
hardly a chance of getting money for the Chinese expedition, and spoke of
Many thanks for your long and interesting letter. I wonder at, admire, and
thank you for your patience in writing so much. I rather demur to
Deinosaurus not having "free will," as surely we have. I demur also to
your putting Huxley's "force and matter" in the same category with Natural
Selection. The latter may, of course, be quite a false view; but surely it
is not getting beyond our depth to first causes.
It is truly very remarkable that the gestation of hounds (106/2. In a
letter written to Lyell on June 25th, 1860, the following paragraph occurs:
"You need not believe one word of what I said about gestation of dogs.
Since writing to you I have had more correspondence with the master of
hounds, and I see his [record?] is worth nothing. It may, of course, be
correct, but cannot be trusted. I find also different statements about the
wolf: in fact, I am all abroad.") should vary so much, while that of man
does not. It may be from multiple origin. The eggs from the Musk and the
common duck take an intermediate period in hatching; but I should rather
look at it as one of the ten thousand cases which we cannot explain--
namely, when one part or function varies in one species and not in another.
Hooker has told me nothing about his explanation of few Arctic forms; I
knew the fact before. I had speculated on what I presume, from what you
say, is his explanation (106/3. "Outlines of the Distribution of Arctic
Plants," J.D. Hooker, "Trans. Linn. Soc." Volume XXIII., page 251, 1862.
[read June 21st, 1860.] In this paper Hooker draws attention to the
exceptional character of the Greenland flora; but as regards the paucity of
its species and in its much greater resemblance to the floras of Arctic
Europe than to those of Arctic America, he considers it difficult to
account for these facts, "unless we admit Mr. Darwin's hypotheses" (see
"Origin," Edition VI., 1872, Chapter XII., page 330) of a southern
migration due to the cold of the glacial period and the subsequent return
of the northern types during the succeeding warmer period. Many of the
Greenland species, being confined to the peninsula, "would, as it were, be
driven into the sea--that is exterminated" (Hooker, op. cit., pages 253-
4).); but there must have been at all times an Arctic region. I found the
speculation got too complex, as it seemed to me, to be worth following out.
I have been doing some more interesting work with orchids. Talk of
adaptation in woodpeckers (106/4. "Can a more striking instance of
adaptation be given than that of a woodpecker for climbing trees and
seizing insects in the chinks of the bark?" (Origin of Species," Edition
HAVE I., page 141).), some of the orchids beat it.
I showed the case to Elizabeth Wedgwood, and her remark was, "Now you have
upset your own book, for you won't persuade me that this could be effected
by Natural Selection."
LETTER 107. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
July 20th .
Many thanks for your pleasant letter. I agree to every word you say about
"Fraser" and the "Quarterly." (107/1. Bishop Wilberforce's review of the
"Origin" in the "Quarterly Review," July, 1860, was republished in his
"Collected Essays," 1874. See "Life and Letters, II., page 182, and II.,
page 324, where some quotations from the review are given. For Hopkins'
review in "Fraser's Magazine," June, 1860, see "Life and Letters," II.,
314.) I have had some really admirable letters from Hopkins. I do not
suppose he has ever troubled his head about geographical distribution,
classification, morphologies, etc., and it is only those who have that will
feel any relief in having some sort of rational explanation of such facts.
Is it not grand the way in which the Bishop asserts that all such facts are
explained by ideas in God's mind? The "Quarterly" is uncommonly clever;
and I chuckled much at the way my grandfather and self are quizzed. I
could here and there see Owen's hand. By the way, how comes it that you
were not attacked? Does Owen begin to find it more prudent to leave you
alone? I would give five shillings to know what tremendous blunder the
Bishop made; for I see that a page has been cancelled and a new page gummed
I am indeed most thoroughly contented with the progress of opinion. From
all that I hear from several quarters, it seems that Oxford did the subject
great good. (107/2. An account of the meeting of the British Association
at Oxford in 1860 is given in the "Life and Letters," II., page 320, and a
fuller account in the one-volume "Life of Charles Darwin," 1892, page 236.
See also the "Life and Letters of T.H. Huxley," Volume I., page 179, and
the amusing account of the meeting in Mr. Tuckwell's "Reminiscences of
Oxford," London, 1900, page 50.) It is of enormous importance the showing
the world that a few first-rate men are not afraid of expressing their
opinion. I see daily more and more plainly that my unaided book would have
done absolutely nothing. Asa Gray is fighting admirably in the United
States. He is thorough master of the subject, which cannot be said by any
means of such men as even Hopkins.
I have been thinking over what you allude to about a natural history
review. (107/3. In the "Life and Letters of T.H. Huxley," Volume I., page
209, some account of the founding of the "Natural History Review" is given
in a letter to Sir J.D. Hooker of July 17th, 1860. On August 2nd Mr.
Huxley added: "Darwin wrote me a very kind expostulation about it, telling
me I ought not to waste myself on other than original work. In reply,
however, I assured him that I MUST waste myself willy-nilly, and that the
'Review' was only a save-all.") I suppose you mean really a REVIEW and not
journal for original communications in Natural History. Of the latter
there is now superabundance. With respect to a good review, there can be
no doubt of its value and utility; nevertheless, if not too late, I hope
you will consider deliberately before you decide. Remember what a deal of
work you have on your shoulders, and though you can do much, yet there is a
limit to even the hardest worker's power of working. I should deeply
regret to see you sacrificing much time which could be given to original
research. I fear, to one who can review as well as you do, there would be
the same temptation to waste time, as there notoriously is for those who
can speak well.
A review is only temporary; your work should be perennial. I know well
that you may say that unless good men will review there will be no good
reviews. And this is true. Would you not do more good by an occasional
review in some well-established review, than by giving up much time to the
editing, or largely aiding, if not editing, a review which from being
confined to one subject would not have a very large circulation? But I
must return to the chief idea which strikes me--viz., that it would lessen
the amount of original and perennial work which you could do. Reflect how
few men there are in England who can do original work in the several lines
in which you are excellently fitted. Lyell, I remember, on analogous
grounds many years ago resolved he would write no more reviews. I am an
old slowcoach, and your scheme makes me tremble. God knows in one sense I
am about the last man in England who ought to throw cold water on any
review in which you would be concerned, as I have so immensely profited by
your labours in this line.
With respect to reviewing myself, I never tried: any work of that kind
stops me doing anything else, as I cannot possibly work at odds and ends of
time. I have, moreover, an insane hatred of stopping my regular current of
work. I have now materials for a little paper or two, but I know I shall
never work them up. So I will not promise to help; though not to help, if
I could, would make me feel very ungrateful to you. You have no idea
during how short a time daily I am able to work. If I had any regular
duties, like you and Hooker, I should do absolutely nothing in science.
I am heartily glad to hear that you are better; but how such labour as
volunteer-soldiering (all honour to you) does not kill you, I cannot
For God's sake remember that your field of labour is original research in
the highest and most difficult branches of Natural History. Not that I
wish to underrate the importance of clever and solid reviews.
LETTER 108. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
Sudbrook Park, Richmond, Thursday [July, 1860].
I must send you a line to say what a good fellow you are to send me so long
an account of the Oxford doings. I have read it twice, and sent it to my
wife, and when I get home shall read it again: it has so much interested
me. But how durst you attack a live bishop in that fashion? I am quite
ashamed of you! Have you no reverence for fine lawn sleeves? By Jove, you
seem to have done it well. If any one were to ridicule any belief of the
bishop's, would he not blandly shrug his shoulders and be inexpressibly
shocked? I am very, very sorry to hear that you are not well; but am not
surprised after all your self-imposed labour. I hope you will soon have an
outing, and that will do you real good.
I am glad to hear about J. Lubbock, whom I hope to see soon, and shall tell
him what you have said. Have you read Hopkins in the last "Fraser?"--well
put, in good spirit, except soul discussion bad, as I have told him;
nothing actually new, takes the weak points alone, and leaves out all other
I heard from Asa Gray yesterday; he goes on fighting like a Trojan.
God bless you!--get well, be idle, and always reverence a bishop.
LETTER 109. TO J.D. DANA.
Down, July 30th .
I received several weeks ago your note telling me that you could not visit
England, which I sincerely regretted, as I should most heartily have liked
to have made your personal acquaintance. You gave me an improved, but not
very good, account of your health. I should at some time be grateful for a
line to tell me how you are. We have had a miserable summer, owing to a
terribly long and severe illness of my eldest girl, who improves slightly
but is still in a precarious condition. I have been able to do nothing in
science of late. My kind friend Asa Gray often writes to me and tells me
of the warm discussions on the "Origin of Species" in the United States.
Whenever you are strong enough to read it, I know you will be dead against
me, but I know equally well that your opposition will be liberal and
philosophical. And this is a good deal more than I can say of all my
opponents in this country. I have not yet seen Agassiz's attack (109/1.
"Silliman's Journal," July, 1860. A passage from Agassiz's review is given
by Mr. Huxley in Darwin's "Life and Letters," II., page 184.), but I hope
to find it at home when I return in a few days, for I have been for several
weeks away from home on my daughter's account. Prof. Silliman sent me an
extremely kind message by Asa Gray that your Journal would be open to a
reply by me. I cannot decide till I see it, but on principle I have
resolved to avoid answering anything, as it consumes much time, often
temper, and I have said my say in the "Origin." No one person understands
my views and has defended them so well as A. Gray, though he does not by
any means go all the way with me. There was much discussion on the subject
at the British Association at Oxford, and I had many defenders, and my side
seems (for I was not there) almost to have got the best of the battle.
Your correspondent and my neighbour, J. Lubbock, goes on working at such
spare time as he has. This is an egotistical note, but I have not seen a
naturalist for months. Most sincerely and deeply do I hope that this note
may find you almost recovered.
LETTER 110. TO W.H. HARVEY.
(110/1. See Letter 95, note. This letter was written in reply to a long
one from W.H. Harvey, dated August 24th, 1860. Harvey had already
published a serio-comic squib and a review, to which references are given
in the "Life and Letters," II., pages 314 and 375; but apparently he had
not before this time completed the reading of the "Origin.")
I have read your long letter with much interest, and I thank you for your
great liberality in sending it me. But, on reflection, I do not wish to
attempt answering any part, except to you privately. Anything said by
myself in defence would have no weight; it is best to be defended by
others, or not at all. Parts of your letter seem to me, if I may be
permitted to say so, very acute and original, and I feel it a great
compliment your giving up so much time to my book. But, on the whole, I am
disappointed; not from your not concurring with me, for I never expected
that, and, indeed, in your remarks on Chapters XII. and XIII., you go much
further with me (though a little way) than I ever anticipated, and am much
pleased at the result. But on the whole I am disappointed, because it
seems to me that you do not understand what I mean by Natural Selection, as
shown at page 11 (110/2. Harvey speaks of the perpetuation or selection of
the useful, pre-supposing "a vigilant and intelligent agent," which is very
much like saying that an intelligent agent is needed to see that the small
stones pass through the meshes of a sieve and the big ones remain behind.)
of your letter and by several of your remarks. As my book has failed to
explain my meaning, it would be hopeless to attempt it in a letter. You
speak in the early part of your letter, and at page 9, as if I had said
that Natural Selection was the sole agency of modification, whereas I have
over and over again, ad nauseam, directly said, and by order of precedence
implied (what seems to me obvious) that selection can do nothing without
previous variability (see pages 80, 108, 127, 468, 469, etc.), "nothing can
be effected unless favourable variations occur." I consider Natural
Selection as of such high importance, because it accumulates successive
variations in any profitable direction, and thus adapts each new being to
its complex conditions of life. The term "selection," I see, deceives many
persons, though I see no more reason why it should than elective affinity,
as used by the old chemists. If I had to rewrite my book, I would use
"natural preservation" or "naturally preserved." I should think you would
as soon take an emetic as re-read any part of my book; but if you did, and
were to erase selection and selected, and insert preservation and
preserved, possibly the subject would be clearer. As you are not singular
in misunderstanding my book, I should long before this have concluded that
my brains were in a haze had I not found by published reviews, and
especially by correspondence, that Lyell, Hooker, Asa Gray, H.C. Watson,
Huxley, and Carpenter, and many others, perfectly comprehend what I mean.
The upshot of your remarks at page 11 is that my explanation, etc., and the
whole doctrine of Natural Selection, are mere empty words, signifying the
"order of nature." As the above-named clear-headed men, who do comprehend
my views, all go a certain length with me, and certainly do not think it
all moonshine, I should venture to suggest a little further reflection on
your part. I do not mean by this to imply that the opinion of these men is
worth much as showing that I am right, but merely as some evidence that I
have clearer ideas than you think, otherwise these same men must be even
more muddle-headed than I am; for they have no temptation to deceive
themselves. In the forthcoming September (110/3. "American Journal of
Science and Arts," September 1860, "Design versus Necessity," reprinted in
Asa Gray's "Darwiniana," 1876, page 62.) number of the "American Journal of
Science" there is an interesting and short theological article (by Asa
Gray), which gives incidentally with admirable clearness the theory of
Natural Selection, and therefore might be worth your reading. I think that
the theological part would interest you.
You object to all my illustrations. They are all necessarily conjectural,
and may be all false; but they were the best I could give. The bear case
(110/4. "Origin of Species," Edition I., page 184. See Letter 120.) has
been well laughed at, and disingenuously distorted by some into my saying
that a bear could be converted into a whale. As it offended persons, I
struck it out in the second edition; but I still maintain that there is no
especial difficulty in a bear's mouth being enlarged to any degree useful
to its changing habits,--no more difficulty than man has found in
increasing the crop of the pigeon, by continued selection, until it is
literally as big as the whole rest of the body. If this had not been
known, how absurd it would have appeared to say that the crop of a bird
might be increased till it became like a balloon!
With respect to the ostrich, I believe that the wings have been reduced,
and are not in course of development, because the whole structure of a bird
is essentially formed for flight; and the ostrich is essentially a bird.
You will see at page 182 of the "Origin" a somewhat analogous discussion.
At page 450 of the second edition I have pointed out the essential
distinction between a nascent and rudimentary organ. If you prefer the
more complex view that the progenitor of the ostrich lost its wings, and
that the present ostrich is regaining them, I have nothing to say in
With respect to trees on islands, I collected some cases, but took the main
facts from Alph. De Candolle, and thought they might be trusted. My
explanation may be grossly wrong; but I am not convinced it is so, and I do
not see the full force of your argument of certain herbaceous orders having
been developed into trees in certain rare cases on continents. The case
seems to me to turn altogether on the question whether generally herbaceous
orders more frequently afford trees and bushes on islands than on
continents, relatively to their areas. (110/5. In the "Origin," Edition
I., page 392, the author points out that in the presence of competing trees
an herbaceous plant would have little chance of becoming arborescent; but
on an island, with only other herbaceous plants as competitors, it might
gain an advantage by overtopping its fellows, and become tree-like. Harvey
writes: "What you say (page 392) of insular trees belonging to orders
which elsewhere include only herbaceous species seems to me to be
unsupported by sufficient evidence. You cite no particular trees, and I
may therefore be wrong in guessing that the orders you allude to are
Scrophularineae and Compositae; and the insular trees the Antarctic
Veronicas and the arborescent Compositae of St. Helena, Tasmania, etc. But
in South Africa Halleria (Scrophularineae) is often as large and woody as
an apple tree; and there are several South African arborescent Compositae
(Senecio and Oldenburgia). Besides, in Tasmania at least, the arborescent
Composites are not found competing with herbaceous plants alone, and
growing taller and taller by overtopping them...; for the most arborescent
of them all (Eurybia argophylla, the Musk tree) grows...in Eucalyptus
forests. And so of the South African Halleria, which is a tree among
trees. What the conditions of the arborescent Gerania of the Sandwich
Islands may be I am unable to say...I cannot remember any other instances,
nor can I accept your explanation in any other of the cases I have cited.")
In page 4 of your letter you say you give up many book-species as separate
creations: I give up all, and you infer that our difference is only in
degree and not in kind. I dissent from this; for I give a distinct reason
how far I go in giving up species. I look at all forms, which resemble
each other homologically or embryologically, as certainly descended from
the same species.
You hit me hard and fairly (110/6. Harvey writes: "You ask--were all the
infinitely numerous kinds of animals and plants created as eggs or seed, or
as full grown? To this it is sufficient to reply, was your primordial
organism, or were your four or five progenitors created as egg, seed, or
full grown? Neither theory attempts to solve this riddle, nor yet the
riddle of the Omphalos." The latter point, which Mr. Darwin refuses to
give up, is at page 483 of the "Origin," "and, in the case of mammals, were
they created bearing the false marks of nourishment from the mother's
womb?" In the third edition of the "Origin," 1861, page 517, the author
adds, after the last-cited passage: "Undoubtedly these same questions
cannot be answered by those who, under the present state of science,
believe in the creation of a few aboriginal forms, or of some one form of
life. In the sixth edition, probably with a view to the umbilicus, he
writes (page 423): "Undoubtedly some of these same questions," etc., etc.
From notes in Mr. Darwin's copy of the second edition it is clear that the
change in the third edition was chiefly due to Harvey's letter. See Letter
115.) about my question (page 483, "Origin") about creation of eggs or
young, etc., (but not about mammals with the mark of the umbilical cord),
yet I still have an illogical sort of feeling that there is less difficulty
in imagining the creation of an asexual cell, increasing by simple
Page 5 of your letter: I agree to every word about the antiquity of the
world, and never saw the case put by any one more strongly or more ably.
It makes, however, no more impression on me as an objection than does the
astronomer when he puts on a few hundred million miles to the distance of
the fixed stars. To compare very small things with great, Lingula, etc.,
remaining nearly unaltered from the Silurian epoch to the present day, is
like the dovecote pigeons still being identical with wild Rock-pigeons,
whereas its "fancy" offspring have been immensely modified, and are still
being modified, by means of artificial selection.
You put the difficulty of the first modification of the first protozoon
admirably. I assure you that immediately after the first edition was
published this occurred to me, and I thought of inserting it in the second
edition. I did not, because we know not in the least what the first germ
of life was, nor have we any fact at all to guide us in our speculations on
the kind of change which its offspring underwent. I dissent quite from
what you say of the myriads of years it would take to people the world with
such imagined protozoon. In how very short a time Ehrenberg calculated
that a single infusorium might make a cube of rock! A single cube on
geometrical progression would make the solid globe in (I suppose) under a
century. From what little I know, I cannot help thinking that you
underrate the effects of the physical conditions of life on these low
organisms. But I fully admit that I can give no sort of answer to your
objections; yet I must add that it would be marvellous if any man ever
could, assuming for the moment that my theory is true. You beg the
question, I think, in saying that Protococcus would be doomed to eternal
similarity. Nor can you know that the first germ resembled a Protococcus
or any other now living form.
Page 12 of your letter: There is nothing in my theory necessitating in
each case progression of organisation, though Natural Selection tends in
this line, and has generally thus acted. An animal, if it become fitted by
selection to live the life, for instance, of a parasite, will generally
become degraded. I have much regretted that I did not make this part of
the subject clearer. I left out this and many other subjects, which I now
see ought to have been introduced. I have inserted a discussion on this
subject in the foreign editions. (110/7. In the third Edition a
discussion on this point is added in Chapter IV.) In no case will any
organic being tend to retrograde, unless such retrogradation be an
advantage to its varying offspring; and it is difficult to see how going
back to the structure of the unknown supposed original protozoon could ever
be an advantage.
Page 13 of your letter: I have been more glad to read your discussion on
"dominant" forms than any part of your letter. (110/8. Harvey writes:
"Viewing organic nature in its widest aspect, I think it is unquestionable
that the truly dominant races are not those of high, but those of low
organisation"; and goes on to quote the potato disease, etc. In the third
edition of the "Origin," page 56, a discussion is introduced defining the
author's use of the term "dominant.") I can now see that I have not been
cautious enough in confining my definition and meaning. I cannot say that
you have altered my views. If Botrytis [Phytophthora] had exterminated the
wild potato, a low form would have conquered a high; but I cannot remember
that I have ever said (I am sure I never thought) that a low form would
never conquer a high. I have expressly alluded to parasites half
exterminating game-animals, and to the struggle for life being sometimes
between forms as different as possible: for instance, between grasshoppers
and herbivorous quadrupeds. Under the many conditions of life which this
world affords, any group which is numerous in individuals and species and
is widely distributed, may properly be called dominant. I never dreamed of
considering that any one group, under all conditions and throughout the
world, would be predominant. How could vertebrata be predominant under the
conditions of life in which parasitic worms live? What good would their
perfected senses and their intellect serve under such conditions? When I
have spoken of dominant forms, it has been in relation to the
multiplication of new specific forms, and the dominance of any one species
has been relative generally to other members of the same group, or at least
to beings exposed to similar conditions and coming into competition. But I
daresay that I have not in the "Origin" made myself clear, and space has
rendered it impossible. But I thank you most sincerely for your valuable
remarks, though I do not agree with them.
About sudden jumps: I have no objection to them--they would aid me in some
cases. All I can say is, that I went into the subject, and found no
evidence to make me believe in jumps; and a good deal pointing in the other
direction. You will find it difficult (page 14 of your letter) to make a
marked line of separation between fertile and infertile crosses. I do not
see how the apparently sudden change (for the suddenness of change in a
chrysalis is of course largely only apparent) in larvae during their
development throws any light on the subject.
I wish I could have made this letter better worth sending to you. I have
had it copied to save you at least the intolerable trouble of reading my
bad handwriting. Again I thank you for your great liberality and kindness
in sending me your criticisms, and I heartily wish we were a little nearer
in accord; but we must remain content to be as wide asunder as the poles,
but without, thank God, any malice or other ill-feeling.
LETTER 111. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
(111/1. Dr. Asa Gray's articles in the "Atlantic Monthly," July, August,
and October, 1860, were published in England as a pamphlet, and form
Chapter III. in his "Darwiniana" (1876). See "Life and Letters," II., page
338. The article referred to in the present letter is that in the August
Down, September 10th .
I send by this post a review by Asa Gray, so good that I should like you to
see it; I must beg for its return. I want to ask, also, your opinion about
getting it reprinted in England. I thought of sending it to the Editor of
the "Annals and Mag. of Nat. Hist." in which two hostile reviews have
appeared (although I suppose the "Annals" have a very poor circulation),
and asking them in the spirit of fair play to print this, with Asa Gray's
name, which I will take the responsibility of adding. Also, as it is long,
I would offer to pay expenses.
It is very good, in addition, as bringing in Pictet so largely. (111/2.
Pictet (1809-72) wrote a "perfectly fair" review opposed to the "Origin."
See "Life and Letters," II., page 297.) Tell me briefly what you think.
What an astonishing expedition this is of Hooker's to Syria! God knows
whether it is wise.
How are you and all yours? I hope you are not working too hard. For
Heaven's sake, think that you may become such a beast as I am. How goes on
the "Nat. Hist. Review?" Talking of reviews, I damned with a good grace
the review in the "Athenaeum" (111/3. Review of "The Glaciers of the Alps"
("Athenaeum," September 1, 1860, page 280).) on Tyndall with a mean, scurvy
allusion to you. It is disgraceful about Tyndall,--in fact, doubting his
I am very tired, and hate nearly the whole world. So good-night, and take
care of your digestion, which means brain.
LETTER 112. TO C. LYELL.
15, Marine Parade, Eastbourne, 26th [September 1860].
It has just occurred to me that I took no notice of your questions on
extinction in St. Helena. I am nearly sure that Hooker has information on
the extinction of plants (112/1. "Principles of Geology," Volume II.
(Edition X., 1868), page 453. Facts are quoted from Hooker illustrating
the extermination of plants in St. Helena.), but I cannot remember where I
have seen it. One may confidently assume that many insects were
By the way, I heard lately from Wollaston, who told me that he had just
received eminently Madeira and Canary Island insect forms from the Cape of
Good Hope, to which trifling distance, if he is logical, he will have to
extend his Atlantis! I have just received your letter, and am very much
pleased that you approve. But I am utterly disgusted and ashamed about the
dingo. I cannot think how I could have misunderstood the paper so grossly.
I hope I have not blundered likewise in its co-existence with extinct
species: what horrid blundering! I am grieved to hear that you think I
must work in the notes in the text; but you are so much better a judge that
I will obey. I am sorry that you had the trouble of returning the Dog MS.,
which I suppose I shall receive to-morrow.
I mean to give good woodcuts of all the chief races of pigeons. (112/2.
"The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication," 1868.)
Except the C. oenas (112/3. The Columba oenas of Europe roosts on trees
and builds its nest in holes, either in trees or the ground ("Var. of
Animals," Volume I., page 183).) (which is partly, indeed almost entirely,
a wood pigeon), there is no other rock pigeon with which our domestic
pigeon would cross--that is, if several exceedingly close geographical
races of C. livia, which hardly any ornithologist looks at as true species,
be all grouped under C. livia. (112/4. Columba livia, the Rock-pigeon.
"We may conclude with confidence that all the domestic races,
notwithstanding their great amount of difference, are descended from the
Columba livia, including under this name certain wild races" (op. cit.,
Volume I., page 223).)
I am writing higgledy-piggledy, as I re-read your letter. I thought that
my letter had been much wilder than yours. I quite feel the comfort of
writing when one may "alter one's speculations the day after." It is
beyond my knowledge to weigh ranks of birds and monotremes; in the
respiratory and circulatory system and muscular energy I believe birds are
ahead of all mammals.
I knew that you must have known about New Guinea; but in writing to you I
never make myself civil!
After treating some half-dozen or dozen domestic animals in the same manner
as I treat dogs, I intended to have a chapter of conclusions. But Heaven
knows when I shall finish: I get on very slowly. You would be surprised
how long it took me to pick out what seemed useful about dogs out of
multitudes of details.
I see the force of your remark about more isolated races of man in old
times, and therefore more in number. It seems to me difficult to weigh
probabilities. Perhaps so, if you refer to very slight differences in the
races: to make great differences much time would be required, and then,
even at the earliest period I should have expected one race to have spread,
conquered, and exterminated the others.
With respect to Falconer's series of Elephants (112/5. In 1837 Dr.
Falconer and Sir Proby Cautley collected a large number of fossil remains
from the Siwalik Hills. Falconer and Cautley, "Fauna Antiqua Sivalensis,"
1845-49.), I think the case could be answered better than I have done in
the "Origin," page 334. (112/6. "Origin of Species," Edition I., page
334. "It is no real objection to the truth of the statement that the fauna
of each period as a whole is nearly intermediate in character between the
preceding and succeeding faunas, that certain genera offer exceptions to
the rule. For instance, mastodons and elephants, when arranged by Dr.
Falconer in two series, first according to their mutual affinities and then
according to their periods of existence, do not accord in arrangement. The
species extreme in character are not the oldest, or the most recent; nor
are those which are intermediate in character intermediate in age. But
supposing for an instant, in this and other such cases, that the record of
the first appearance and disappearance of the species was perfect, we have
no reason to believe that forms successively produced necessarily endure
for corresponding lengths of time. A very ancient form might occasionally
last much longer than a form elsewhere subsequently produced, especially in
the case of terrestrial productions inhabiting separated districts" (pages
334-5). The same words occur in the later edition of the "Origin" (Edition
VI., page 306.) All these new discoveries show how imperfect the
discovered series is, which Falconer thought years ago was nearly perfect.
I will send to-day or to-morrow two articles by Asa Gray. The longer one
(now not finally corrected) will come out in the October "Atlantic
Monthly," and they can be got at Trubner's. Hearty thanks for all your
Do not hurry over Asa Gray. He strikes me as one of the best reasoners and
writers I ever read. He knows my book as well as I do myself.
LETTER 113. TO C. LYELL.
15, Marine Parade, Eastbourne, October 3rd .
Your last letter has interested me much in many ways.
I enclose a letter of Wyman's which touches on brains. Wyman is mistaken
in supposing that I did not know that the Cave-rat was an American form; I
made special enquiries. He does not know that the eye of the Tucotuco was
With respect to reviews by A. Gray. I thought of sending the Dialogue to
the "Saturday Review" in a week's time or so, as they have lately discussed
Design. (113/1. "Discussion between two Readers of Darwin's Treatise on
the Origin of Species, upon its Natural Theology" ("Amer. Journ. Sci."
Volume XXX, page 226, 1860). Reprinted in "Darwiniana," 1876, page 62.
The article begins with the following question: "First Reader--Is Darwin's
theory atheistic or pantheistic? Or does it tend to atheism or pantheism?"
The discussion is closed by the Second Reader, who thus sums up his views:
"Wherefore we may insist that, for all that yet appears, the argument for
design, as presented by the natural theologians, is just as good now, if we
accept Darwin's theory, as it was before the theory was promulgated; and
that the sceptical juryman, who was about to join the other eleven in an
unanimous verdict in favour of design, finds no good excuse for keeping the
Court longer waiting.") I have sent the second, or August, "Atlantic"
article to the "Annals and Mag. of Nat. History." (113/2. "Annals and
Mag. Nat. Hist." Volume VI., pages 373-86, 1860. (From the "Atlantic
Monthly," August, 1860.)) The copy which you have I want to send to
Pictet, as I told A. Gray I would, thinking from what he said he would like
this to be done. I doubt whether it would be possible to get the October
number reprinted in this country; so that I am in no hurry at all for this.
I had a letter a few weeks ago from Symonds on the imperfection of the
Geological Record, less clear and forcible than I expected. I answered him
at length and very civilly, though I could hardly make out what he was
driving at. He spoke about you in a way which it did me good to read.
I am extremely glad that you like A. Gray's reviews. How generous and
unselfish he has been in all his labour! Are you not struck by his
metaphors and similes? I have told him he is a poet and not a lawyer.
I should altogether doubt on turtles being converted into land tortoises on
any one island. Remember how closely similar tortoises are on all
continents, as well as islands; they must have all descended from one
ancient progenitor, including the gigantic tortoise of the Himalaya.
I think you must be cautious in not running the convenient doctrine that
only one species out of very many ever varies. Reflect on such cases as
the fauna and flora of Europe, North America, and Japan, which are so
similar, and yet which have a great majority of their species either
specifically distinct, or forming well-marked races. We must in such cases
incline to the belief that a multitude of species were once identically the
same in all the three countries when under a warmer climate and more in
connection; and have varied in all the three countries. I am inclined to
believe that almost every species (as we see with nearly all our domestic
productions) varies sufficiently for Natural Selection to pick out and
accumulate new specific differences, under new organic and inorganic
conditions of life, whenever a place is open in the polity of nature. But
looking to a long lapse of time and to the whole world, or to large parts
of the world, I believe only one or a few species of each large genus
ultimately becomes victorious, and leaves modified descendants. To give an
imaginary instance: the jay has become modified in the three countries
into (I believe) three or four species; but the jay genus is not,
apparently, so dominant a group as the crows; and in the long run probably
all the jays will be exterminated and be replaced perhaps by some modified
I merely give this illustration to show what seems to me probable.
But oh! what work there is before we shall understand the genealogy of
With respect to the Apteryx, I know not enough of anatomy; but ask Dr. F.
whether the clavicle, etc., do not give attachment to some of the muscles
of respiration. If my views are at all correct, the wing of the Apteryx
(113/3. "Origin of Species," Edition VI., page 140.) cannot be (page 452
of the "Origin") a nascent organ, as these wings are useless. I dare not
trust to memory, but I know I found the whole sternum always reduced in
size in all the fancy and confined pigeons relatively to the same bones in
the wild Rock-pigeon: the keel was generally still further reduced
relatively to the reduced length of the sternum; but in some breeds it was
in a most anomalous manner more prominent. I have got a lot of facts on
the reduction of the organs of flight in the pigeon, which took me weeks to
work out, and which Huxley thought curious.
I am utterly ashamed, and groan over my handwriting. It was "Natural
Preservation." Natural persecution is what the author ought to suffer. It
rejoices me that you do not object to the term. Hooker made the same
remark that it ought to have been "Variation and Natural Selection." Yet
with domestic productions, when selection is spoken of, variation is always
implied. But I entirely agree with your and Hooker's remark.
Have you begun regularly to write your book on the antiquity of man?
(113/4. Published in 1863.)
I do NOT agree with your remark that I make Natural Selection do too much
work. You will perhaps reply that every man rides his hobby-horse to
death; and that I am in the galloping state.
LETTER 114. TO C. LYELL.
15, Marine Parade, Eastbourne, Friday 5th [October, 1860].
I have two notes to thank you for, and I return Wollaston. It has always
seemed to me rather strange that Forbes, Wollaston and Co. should argue,
from the presence of allied, and not identical species in islands, for the
former continuity of land.
They argue, I suppose, from the species being allied in different regions
of the same continent, though specifically distinct. But I think one might
on the creative doctrine argue with equal force in a directly reverse
manner, and say that, as species are so often markedly distinct, yet
allied, on islands, all our continents existed as islands first, and their
inhabitants were first created on these islands, and since became mingled
together, so as not to be so distinct as they now generally are on islands.
LETTER 115. TO H.G. BRONN.
Down, October 5th .
I ought to apologise for troubling you, but I have at last carefully read
your excellent criticisms on my book. (115/1. Bronn added critical
remarks to his German translation of the "Origin": see "Life and Letters,"
II., page 279.) I agree with much of them, and wholly with your final
sentence. The objections and difficulties which may be urged against my
view are indeed heavy enough almost to break my back, but it is not yet
broken! You put very well and very fairly that I can in no one instance
explain the course of modification in any particular instance. I could
make some sort of answer to your case of the two rats; and might I not turn
round and ask him who believes in the separate creation of each species,
why one rat has a longer tail or shorter ears than another? I presume that
most people would say that these characters were of some use, or stood in
some connection with other parts; and if so, Natural Selection would act on
them. But as you put the case, it tells well against me. You argue most
justly against my question, whether the many species were created as eggs
(115/2. See Letter 110.) or as mature, etc. I certainly had no right to
ask that question. I fully agree that there might have been as well a
hundred thousand creations as eight or ten, or only one. But then, on the
view of eight or ten creations (i.e. as many as there are distinct types of
structure) we can on my view understand the homological and embryological
resemblance of all the organisms of each type, and on this ground almost
alone I disbelieve in the innumerable acts of creation. There are only two
points on which I think you have misunderstood me. I refer only to one
Glacial period as affecting the distribution of organic beings; I did not
wish even to allude to the doubtful evidence of glacial action in the
Permian and Carboniferous periods. Secondly, I do not believe that the
process of development has always been carried on at the same rate in all
different parts of the world. Australia is opposed to such belief. The
nearly contemporaneous equal development in past periods I attribute to the
slow migration of the higher and more dominant forms over the whole world,
and not to independent acts of development in different parts. Lastly,
permit me to add that I cannot see the force of your objection, that
nothing is effected until the origin of life is explained: surely it is
worth while to attempt to follow out the action of electricity, though we
know not what electricity is.
If you should at any time do me the favour of writing to me, I should be
very much obliged if you would inform me whether you have yourself examined
Brehm's subspecies of birds; for I have looked through some of his
writings, but have never met an ornithologist who believed in his
[illegible]. Are these subspecies really characteristic of certain
different regions of Germany?
Should you write, I should much like to know how the German edition sells.
LETTER 116. TO J.S. HENSLOW.
October 26th .
Many thanks for your note and for all the trouble about the seeds, which
will be most useful to me next spring. On my return home I will send the
shillings. (116/1. Shillings for the little girls in Henslow's parish who
collected seeds for Darwin.) I concluded that Dr. Bree had blundered about
the Celts. I care not for his dull, unvarying abuse of me, and singular
misrepresentation. But at page 244 he in fact doubts my deliberate word,
and that is the act of a man who has not the soul of a gentleman in him.
Kingsley is "the celebrated author and divine" (116/2. "Species not
Transmutable," by C.R. Bree. After quoting from the "Origin," Edition II.,
page 481, the words in which a celebrated author and divine confesses that
"he has gradually learnt to see that it is just as noble a conception of
the Deity to believe that He created a few original forms, etc.," Dr. Bree
goes on: "I think we ought to have had the name of this divine given with
this remarkable statement. I confess that I have not yet fully made up my
mind that any divine could have ever penned lines so fatal to the truths he
is called upon to teach.") whose striking sentence I give in the second
edition with his permission. I did not choose to ask him to let me use his
name, and as he did not volunteer, I had of course no choice. (116/3. We
are indebted to Mr. G.W. Prothero for calling our attention to the
following striking passage from the works of a divine of this period:--
"Just a similar scepticism has been evinced by nearly all the first
physiologists of the day, who have joined in rejecting the development
theories of Lamarck and the 'Vestiges'...Yet it is now acknowledged under
the high sanction of the name of Owen that 'creation' is only another name
for our ignorance of the mode of production...while a work has now appeared
by a naturalist of the most acknowledged authority, Mr. Darwin's masterly
volume on the 'Origin of Species,' by the law of 'natural selection,' which
now substantiates on undeniable grounds the very principle so long
denounced by the first naturalists--the origination of new species by
natural causes: a work which must soon bring about an entire revolution of
opinion in favour of the grand principle of the self-evolving powers of
nature."--Prof. Baden Powell's "Study of the Evidences of Christianity,"
"Essays and Reviews," 7th edition, 1861 (pages 138, 139).)
Dr. Freke has sent me his paper, which is far beyond my scope--something
like the capital quiz in the "Anti-Jacobin" on my grandfather, which was
quoted in the "Quarterly Review."
LETTER 117. TO D.T. ANSTED.
(117/1. The following letter was published in Professor Meldola's
presidential address to the Entomological Society, 1897, and to him we are
indebted for a copy.)
15, Marine Parade, Eastbourne, October 27th .
As I am away from home on account of my daughter's health, I do not know
your address, and fly this at random, and it is of very little consequence
if it never reaches you.
I have just been reading the greater part of your "Geological Gossip," and
have found part very interesting; but I want to express my admiration at
the clear and correct manner in which you have given a sketch of Natural
Selection. You will think this very slight praise; but I declare that the
majority of readers seem utterly incapable of comprehending my long
argument. Some of the reviewers, who have servilely stuck to my
illustrations and almost to my words, have been correct, but
extraordinarily few others have succeeded. I can see plainly, by your new
illustrations and manner and order of putting the case, that you thoroughly
comprehend the subject. I assure you this is most gratifying to me, and it
is the sole way in which the public can be indoctrinated. I am often in
despair in making the generality of NATURALISTS even comprehend me.
Intelligent men who are not naturalists and have not a bigoted idea of the
term species, show more clearness of mind. I think that you have done the
subject a real service, and I sincerely thank you. No doubt there will be
much error found in my book, but I have great confidence that the main view
will be, in time, found correct; for I find, without exception, that those
naturalists who went at first one inch with me now go a foot or yard with
This note obviously requires no answer.
LETTER 118. TO H.W. BATES.
Down, November 22nd .
I thank you sincerely for writing to me and for your very interesting
letter. Your name has for very long been familiar to me, and I have heard
of your zealous exertions in the cause of Natural History. But I did not
know that you had worked with high philosophical questions before your
mind. I have an old belief that a good observer really means a good
theorist (118/1. For an opposite opinion, see Letter 13.), and I fully
expect to find your observations most valuable. I am very sorry to hear
that your health is shattered; but I trust under a healthy climate it may
be restored. I can sympathise with you fully on this score, for I have had
bad health for many years, and fear I shall ever remain a confirmed
invalid. I am delighted to hear that you, with all your large practical
knowledge of Natural History, anticipated me in many respects and concur
with me. As you say, I have been thoroughly well attacked and reviled
(especially by entomologists--Westwood, Wollaston, and A. Murray have all
reviewed and sneered at me to their hearts' content), but I care nothing
about their attacks; several really good judges go a long way with me, and
I observe that all those who go some little way tend to go somewhat
further. What a fine philosophical mind your friend Mr. Wallace has, and
he has acted, in relation to me, like a true man with a noble spirit. I
see by your letter that you have grappled with several of the most
difficult problems, as it seems to me, in Natural History--such as the
distinctions between the different kinds of varieties, representative
species, etc. Perhaps I shall find some facts in your paper on
intermediate varieties in intermediate regions, on which subject I have
found remarkably little information. I cannot tell you how glad I am to
hear that you have attended to the curious point of equatorial
refrigeration. I quite agree that it must have been small; yet the more I
go into that question the more convinced I feel that there was during the
Glacial period some migration from north to south. The sketch in the
"Origin" gives a very meagre account of my fuller MS. essay on this
I shall be particularly obliged for a copy of your paper when published
(118/2. Probably a paper by Bates entitled "Contributions to an Insect
Fauna of the Amazon Valley" ("Trans. Entomol. Soc." Volume V., page 335,
1858-61).); and if any suggestions occur to me (not that you require any)
or questions, I will write and ask.
I have at once to prepare a new edition of the "Origin," (118/3. Third
Edition, March, 1861.), and I will do myself the pleasure of sending you a
copy; but it will be only very slightly altered.
Cases of neuter ants, divided into castes, with intermediate gradations
(which I imagine are rare) interest me much. See "Origin" on the driver-
ant, page 241 (please look at the passage.)
LETTER 119. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
(119/1. This refers to the first number of the new series of the "Natural
History Review," 1861, a periodical which Huxley was largely instrumental
in founding, and of which he was an editor (see Letter 107). The first
series was published in Dublin, and ran to seven volumes between 1854 and
1860. The new series came to an end in 1865.)
Down, January, 3rd .
I have just finished No. 1 of the "Natural History Review," and must
congratulate you, as chiefly concerned, on its excellence. The whole seems
to me admirable,--so admirable that it is impossible that other numbers
should be so good, but it would be foolish to expect it. I am rather a
croaker, and I do rather fear that the merit of the articles will be above
the run of common readers and subscribers. I have been much interested by
your brain article. (119/2. The "Brain article" of Huxley bore the title
"On the Zoological Relations of Man with the Lower Animals," and appeared
in No. 1, January 1861, page 67. It was Mr. Huxley's vindication of the
unqualified contradiction given by him at the Oxford meeting of the British
Association to Professor Owen's assertions as to the difference between the
brains of man and the higher apes. The sentence omitted by Owen in his
lecture before the University of Cambridge was a footnote on the close
structural resemblance between Homo and Pithecus, which occurs in his paper
on the characters of the class Mammalia in the "Linn. Soc. Journal," Volume
II., 1857, page 20. According to Huxley the lecture, or "Essay on the
Classification of the Mammalia," was, with this omission, a reprint of the
Linnean paper. In "Man's Place in Nature," page 110, note, Huxley remarks:
"Surely it is a little singular that the 'anatomist,' who finds it
'difficult' to 'determine the difference' between Homo and Pithecus, should
yet range them, on anatomical grounds, in distinct sub-classes.") What a
complete and awful smasher (and done like a "buttered angel") it is for
Owen! What a humbug he is to have left out the sentence in the lecture
before the orthodox Cambridge dons! I like Lubbock's paper very much: how
well he writes. (119/3. Sir John Lubbock's paper was a review of Leydig
on the Daphniidae. M'Donnell's was "On the Homologies of the Electric
Organ of the Torpedo," afterwards used in the "Origin" (see Edition VI.,
page 150).) M'Donnell, of course, pleases me greatly. But I am very
curious to know who wrote the Protozoa article: I shall hear, if it be not
a secret, from Lubbock. It strikes me as very good, and, by Jove, how Owen
is shown up--"this great and sound reasoner"! By the way, this reminds me
of a passage which I have just observed in Owen's address at Leeds, which a
clever reviewer might turn into good fun. He defines (page xc) and further
on amplifies his definition that creation means "a process he knows not
what." And in a previous sentence he says facts shake his confidence that
the Apteryx in New Zealand and Red Grouse in England are "distinct
creations." So that he has no confidence that these birds were produced by
"processes he knows not what!" To what miserable inconsistencies and
rubbish this truckling to opposite opinions leads the great generaliser!
(119/4. In the "Historical Sketch," which forms part of the later editions
of the "Origin," Mr. Darwin made use of Owen's Leeds Address in the manner
sketched above. See "Origin," Edition VI., page xvii.)
Farewell: I heartily rejoice in the clear merit of this number. I hope
Mrs. Huxley goes on well. Etty keeps much the same, but has not got up to
the same pitch as when you were here. Farewell.
LETTER 120. TO JAMES LAMONT.
Down, February 25th .
I am extremely much obliged for your very kind present of your beautiful
work, "Seasons with the Sea-Horses;" and I have no doubt that I shall find
much interesting from so careful and acute an observer as yourself.
(120/1. "Seasons with the Sea-Horses; or, Sporting Adventures in the
Northern Seas." London, 1861. Mr. Lamont (loc. cit., page 273) writes:
"The polar bear seems to me to be nothing more than a variety of the bears
inhabiting Northern Europe, Asia, and America; and it surely requires no
very great stretch of the imagination to suppose that this variety was
originally created, not as we see him now, but by individuals of Ursus
arctos in Siberia, who, finding their means of subsistence running short,
and pressed by hunger, ventured on the ice and caught some seals. These
individuals would find that they could make a subsistence in this way, and
would take up their residence on the shore and gradually take to a life on
the ice...Then it stands to reason that those individuals who might happen
to be palest in colour would have the best chance of succeeding in
surprising seals...The process of Natural Selection would do the rest, and
Ursus arctos would in the course of a few thousands, or a few millions of
years, be transformed into the variety at present known as Ursus
maritimus." The author adds the following footnote (op. cit., page 275):
"It will be obvious to any one that I follow Mr. Darwin in these remarks;
and, although the substance of this chapter was written in Spitzbergen,
before "The Origin of Species" was published, I do not claim any
originality for my views; and I also cheerfully acknowledge that, but for
the publication of that work in connection with the name of so
distinguished a naturalist, I never would have ventured to give to the
world my own humble opinions on the subject.")
P.S. I have just been cutting the leaves of your book, and have been very
much pleased and surprised at your note about what you wrote in
Spitzbergen. As you thought it out independently, it is no wonder that you
so clearly understand Natural Selection, which so few of my reviewers do or
pretend not to do.
I never expected to see any one so heroically bold as to defend my bear
illustration. (120/2. "In North America the black bear was seen by Hearne
swimming for hours with widely open mouth, thus catching, almost like a
whale, insects in the water."--"Origin," Edition VI., page 141. See Letter
110.) But a man who has done all that you have done must be bold! It is
laughable how often I have been attacked and misrepresented about this
bear. I am much pleased with your remarks, and thank you cordially for
coming to the rescue.
LETTER 121. TO W.B. TEGETMEIER.
(121/1. Mr. Darwin's letters to Mr. Tegetmeier, taken as a whole, give a
striking picture of the amount of assistance which Darwin received from him
during many years. Some citations from these letters given in "Life and
Letters," II., pages 52, 53, show how freely and generously Mr. Tegetmeier
gave his help, and how much his co-operation was valued.
The following letter is given as an example of the questions on which
Darwin sought Mr. Tegetmeier's opinion and guidance.)
Down, March 22 .
I ought to have answered your last note sooner; but I have been very busy.
How wonderfully successful you have been in breeding Pouters! You have a
good right to be proud of your accuracy of eye and judgment. I am in the
thick of poultry, having just commenced, and shall be truly grateful for
the skulls, if you can send them by any conveyance to the Nag's Head next
You ask about vermilion wax: positively it was not in the state of comb,
but in solid bits and cakes, which were thrown with other rubbish not far
from my hives. You can make any use of the fact you like. Combs could be
concentrically and variously coloured and dates recorded by giving for a
few days wax darkly coloured with vermilion and indigo, and I daresay other
substances. You ask about my crossed fowls, and this leads me to make a
proposition to you, which I hope cannot be offensive to you. I trust you
know me too well to think that I would propose anything objectionable to
the best of my judgment. The case is this: for my object of treating
poultry I must give a sketch of several breeds, with remarks on various
points. I do not feel strong on the subject. Now, when my MS. is fairly
copied in an excellent handwriting, would you read it over, which would
take you at most an hour or two, and make comments in pencil on it; and
accept, like a barrister, a fee, we will say, of a couple of guineas. This
would be a great assistance to me, specially if you would allow me to put a
note, stating that you, a distinguished judge and fancier, had read it
over. I would state that you doubted or concurred, as each case might be,
of course striking out what you were sure was incorrect. There would be
little new in my MS. to you; but if by chance you used any of my facts or
conclusions before I published, I should wish you to state that they were
on my authority; otherwise I shall be accused of stealing from you. There
will be little new, except that perhaps I have consulted some out-of-the-
way books, and have corresponded with some good authorities. Tell me
frankly what you think of this; but unless you will oblige me by accepting
remuneration, I cannot and will not give you such trouble. I have little
doubt that several points will arise which will require investigation, as I
care for many points disregarded by fanciers; and according to any time
thus spent, you will, I trust, allow me to make remuneration. I hope that
you will grant me this favour. There is one assistance which I will now
venture to beg of you--viz., to get me, if you can, another specimen of an
old white Angora rabbit. I want it dead for the skeleton; and not knocked
on the head. Secondly, I see in the "Cottage Gardener" (March 19th, page
375) there are impure half-lops with one ear quite upright and shorter than
the other lopped ear. I much want a dead one. Baker cannot get one.
Baily is looking out; but I want two specimens. Can you assist me, if you
meet any rabbit-fancier? I have had rabbits with one ear more lopped than
the other; but I want one with one ear quite upright and shorter, and the
other quite long and lopped.
LETTER 122. TO H.W. BATES.
Down, March 26th .
I have read your papers with extreme interest, and I have carefully read
every word of them. (122/1. "Contributions to an Insect Fauna of the
Amazon Valley." (Read March 5th and November 24th, 1860). "Entomological
Soc. Trans." V., pages 223 and 335).) They seem to me to be far richer in
facts of variation, and especially on the distribution of varieties and
subspecies, than anything which I have read. Hereafter I shall re-read
them, and hope in my future work to profit by them and make use of them.
The amount of variation has much surprised me. The analogous variation of
distinct species in the same regions strikes me as particularly curious.
The greater variability of the female sex is new to me. Your Guiana case
seems in some degree analogous, as far as plants are concerned, with the
modern plains of La Plata, which seem to have been colonised from the
north, but the species have been hardly modified. (122/2. Mr. Bates (page
349) gives reason to believe that the Guiana region should be considered "a
perfectly independent province," and that it has formed a centre "whence
radiated the species which now people the low lands on its borders.")
Would you kindly answer me two or three questions if in your power? When
species A becomes modified in another region into a well-marked form C,
but is connected with it by one (or more) gradational forms B inhabiting an
intermediate region; does this form B generally exist in equal numbers with
A and C, OR INHABIT AN EQUALLY LARGE AREA? The probability is that you
cannot answer this question, though one of your cases seems to bear on
You will, I think, be glad to hear that I now often hear of naturalists
accepting my views more or less fully; but some are curiously cautious in
running the risk of any small odium in expressing their belief.
LETTER 123. TO H.W. BATES.
Down, April 4th .
I have been unwell, so have delayed thanking you for your admirable letter.
I hope you will not think me presumptuous in saying how much I have been
struck with your varied knowledge, and with the decisive manner in which
you bring it to bear on each point,--a rare and most high quality, as far
as my experience goes. I earnestly hope you will find time to publish
largely: before the Linnean Society you might bring boldly out your views
on species. Have you ever thought of publishing your travels, and working
in them the less abstruse parts of your Natural History? I believe it
would sell, and be a very valuable contribution to Natural History. You
must also have seen a good deal of the natives. I know well it would be
quite unreasonable to ask for any further information from you; but I will
just mention that I am now, and shall be for a long time, writing on
domestic varieties of all animals. Any facts would be useful, especially
any showing that savages take any care in breeding their animals, or in
rejecting the bad and preserving the good; or any fancies which they may
have that one coloured or marked dog, etc., is better than another. I have
already collected much on this head, but am greedy for facts. You will at
once see their bearing on variation under domestication.
Hardly anything in your letter has pleased me more than about sexual
selection. In my larger MS. (and indeed in the "Origin" with respect to
the tuft of hairs on the breast of the cock-turkey) I have guarded myself
against going too far; but I did not at all know that male and female
butterflies haunted rather different sites. If I had to cut up myself in a
review I would have [worried?] and quizzed sexual selection; therefore,
though I am fully convinced that it is largely true, you may imagine how
pleased I am at what you say on your belief. This part of your letter to
me is a quintessence of richness. The fact about butterflies attracted by
coloured sepals is another good fact, worth its weight in gold. It would
have delighted the heart of old Christian C. Sprengel--now many years in
I am glad to hear that you have specially attended to "mimetic" analogies--
a most curious subject; I hope you publish on it. I have for a long time
wished to know whether what Dr. Collingwood asserts is true--that the most
striking cases generally occur between insects inhabiting the same country.
LETTER 124. TO F.W. HUTTON.
Down, April 20th .
I hope that you will permit me to thank you for sending me a copy of your
paper in "The Geologist" (124/1. In a letter to Hooker (April 23rd?, 1861)
Darwin refers to Hutton's review as "very original," and adds that Hutton
is "one of the very few who see that the change of species cannot be
directly proved..." ("Life and Letters," II., page 362). The review
appeared in "The Geologist" (afterwards known as "The Geological Magazine")
for 1861, pages 132-6 and 183-8. A letter on "Difficulties of Darwinism"
is published in the same volume of "The Geologist," page 286.), and at the
same time to express my opinion that you have done the subject a real
service by the highly original, striking, and condensed manner with which
you have put the case. I am actually weary of telling people that I do not
pretend to adduce direct evidence of one species changing into another, but
that I believe that this view in the main is correct, because so many
phenomena can be thus grouped together and explained. But it is generally
of no use; I cannot make persons see this. I generally throw in their
teeth the universally admitted theory of the undulation of light,--neither
the undulation nor the very existence of ether being proved, yet admitted
because the view explains so much. You are one of the very few who have
seen this, and have now put it most forcibly and clearly. I am much
pleased to see how carefully you have read my book, and, what is far more
important, reflected on so many points with an independent spirit. As I am
deeply interested in the subject (and I hope not exclusively under a
personal point of view) I could not resist venturing to thank you for the
right good service which you have done.
I need hardly say that this note requires no answer.
LETTER 125. TO J.D. HOOKER.
(125/1. Parts of this letter are published in "Life and Letters," II.,
Down, [April] 23rd, .
I have been much interested by Bentham's paper in the "Natural History
Review," but it would not, of course, from familiarity, strike you as it
did me. (125/2. This refers to Bentham's paper "On the Species and Genera
of Plants, etc." "Nat. Hist. Review," April, 1861, page 133, which is
founded on, or extracted from, a paper read before the Linn. Soc., November
15th, 1858. It had been originally set down to be read on July 1st, 1858,
but gave way to the papers of Darwin and Wallace. Mr. Bentham has
described ("Life and Letters," II., page 294) how he reluctantly cancelled
the parts urging "original fixity" of specific type, and the remainder
seems not to have been published except in the above-quoted paper in the
"Nat. Hist. Review.") I liked the whole--all the facts on the nature of
close and varying species. Good Heavens! to think of the British botanists
turning up their noses and saying that he knows nothing of British plants!
I was also pleased at his remarks on classification, because it showed me
that I wrote truly on this subject in the "Origin." I saw Bentham at the
Linnean Society, and had some talk with him and Lubbock and Edgeworth,
Wallich, and several others. I asked Bentham to give us his ideas of
species; whether partially with us or dead against us, he would write
excellent matter. He made no answer, but his manner made me think he might
do so if urged--so do you attack him. Every one was speaking with
affection and anxiety of Henslow. I dined with Bell at the Linnean Club,
and liked my dinner...dining-out is such a novelty to me that I enjoyed it.
Bell has a real good heart. I liked Rolleston's paper, but I never read
anything so obscure and not self-evident as his "canons." (125/3. See
"Nat. Hist. Review," 1861, page 206. The paper is "On the Brain of the
Orang Utang," and forms part of the bitter controversy of this period to
which reference occurs in letters to Huxley and elsewhere in these volumes.
Rolleston's work is quoted by Huxley ("Man's Place in Nature," page 117) as
part of the crushing refutation of Owen's position. Mr. Huxley's letter
referred to above is no doubt that in the "Athenaeum," April 13th, 1861,
page 498; it is certainly severe, but to those who know Mr. Huxley's
"Succinct History of the Controversy," etc. ("Man's Place in Nature," page
113), it will not seem too severe.) I had a dim perception of the truth of
your profound remark--that he wrote in fear and trembling "of God, man, and
monkeys," but I would alter it into "God, man, Owen, and monkeys."
Huxley's letter was truculent, and I see that every one thinks it too
truculent; but in simple truth I am become quite demoniacal about Owen--
worse than Huxley; and I told Huxley that I should put myself under his
care to be rendered milder. But I mean to try and get more angelic in my
feelings; yet I never shall forget his cordial shake of the hand, when he
was writing as spitefully as he possibly could against me. But I have
always thought that you have more cause than I to be demoniacally inclined
towards him. Bell told me that Owen says that the editor mutilated his
article in the "Edinburgh Review" (125/4. This is the only instance, with
which we are acquainted, of Owen's acknowledging the authorship of the
"Edinburgh Review" article.), and Bell seemed to think it was rendered more
spiteful by the Editor; perhaps the opposite view is as probable. Oh,
dear! this does not look like becoming more angelic in my temper!
I had a splendid long talk with Lyell (you may guess how splendid, for he
was many times on his knees, with elbows on the sofa) (125/5. Mr. Darwin
often spoke of Sir Charles Lyell's tendency to take curious attitudes when
excited.) on his work in France: he seems to have done capital work in
making out the age of the celt-bearing beds, but the case gets more and
more complicated. All, however, tends to greater and greater antiquity of
man. The shingle beds seem to be estuary deposits. I called on R.
Chambers at his very nice house in St. John's Wood, and had a very pleasant
half-hour's talk--he is really a capital fellow. He made one good remark
and chuckled over it: that the laymen universally had treated the
controversy on the "Essays and Reviews" as a merely professional subject,
and had not joined in it but had left it to the clergy. I shall be
anxious for your next letter about Henslow. Farewell, with sincere
sympathy, my old friend.
P.S.--We are very much obliged for "London Review." We like reading much
of it, and the science is incomparably better than in the "Athenaeum." You
shall not go on very long sending it, as you will be ruined by pennies and
trouble; but I am under a horrid spell to the "Athenaeum" and "Gardeners'
Chronicle," both of which are intolerably dull, but I have taken them in
for so many years that I cannot give them up. The "Cottage Gardener," for
my purpose, is now far better than the "Gardeners' Chronicle."
LETTER 126. TO J.L.A. DE QUATREFAGES.
Down, April 25 .
I received this morning your "Unite de l'Espece Humaine" [published in
1861], and most sincerely do I thank you for this your very kind present.
I had heard of and been recommended to read your articles, but, not knowing
that they were separately published, did not know how to get them. So your
present is most acceptable, and I am very anxious to see your views on the
whole subject of species and variation; and I am certain to derive much
benefit from your work. In cutting the pages I observe that you have most
kindly mentioned my work several times. My views spread slowly in England
and America; and I am much surprised to find them most commonly accepted by
geologists, next by botanists, and least by zoologists. I am much pleased
that the younger and middle-aged geologists are coming round, for the
arguments from Geology have always seemed strongest against me. Not one of
the older geologists (except Lyell) has been even shaken in his views of
the eternal immutability of species. But so many of the younger men are
turning round with zeal that I look to the future with some confidence. I
am now at work on "Variation under Domestication," but make slow progress--
it is such tedious work comparing skeletons.
With very sincere thanks for the kind sympathy which you have always shown
me, and with much respect,...
P.S.--I have lately read M. Naudin's paper (126/1. Naudin's paper ("Revue
Horticole," 1852) is mentioned in the "Historical Sketch" prefixed to the
later editions of the "Origin" (Edition VI., page xix). Naudin insisted
that species are formed in a manner analogous to the production of
varieties by cultivators, i.e., by selection, "but he does not show how
selection acts under nature." In the "Life and Letters," II., page 246,
Darwin, speaking of Naudin's work, says: "Decaisne seems to think he gives
my whole theory."), but it does not seem to me to anticipate me, as he does
not show how selection could be applied under nature; but an obscure writer
(126/2. The obscure writer is Patrick Matthew (see the "Historical Sketch"
in the "Origin.") on forest trees, in 1830, in Scotland, most expressly and
clearly anticipated my views--though he put the case so briefly that no
single person ever noticed the scattered passages in his book.
LETTER 127. TO L. HINDMARSH.
(127/1. The following letter was in reply to one from Mr. Hindmarsh, to
whom Mr. Darwin had written asking for information on the average number of
animals killed each year in the Chillingham herd. The object of the
request was to obtain information which might throw light on the rate of
increase of the cattle relatively to those on the pampas of South America.
Mr. Hindmarsh had contributed a paper "On the Wild Cattle of Chillingham
Park" to the "Annals and Mag. Nat. Hist." Volume II., page 274, 1839.)
Down, May 12th .
I thank you sincerely for your prompt and great kindness, and return the
letter, which I have been very glad to see and have had copied. The
increase is more rapid than I anticipated, but it seems rather conjectural;
I had hoped that in so interesting a case some exact record had been kept.
The number of births, or of calves reared till they followed their mothers,
would perhaps have been the best datum. From Mr. Hardy's letter I infer
that ten must be annually born to make up the deaths from various causes.
In Paraguay, Azara states that in a herd of 4,000, from 1,000 to 1,300 are
reared; but then, though they do not kill calves, but castrate the young
bulls, no doubt the oxen would be killed earlier than the cows, so that the
herd would contain probably more of the female sex than the herd at
Chillingham. There is not apparently any record whether more young bulls
are killed than cows. I am surprised that Lord Tankerville does not have
an exact record kept of deaths and sexes and births: after a dozen years
it would be an interesting statistical record to the naturalist and
(PLATE: PROFESSOR HENSLOW.)
LETTER 128. TO J.D. HOOKER.
(128/1. The death of Professor Henslow (who was Sir J.D. Hooker's father-
in-law) occurred on May 16th, 1861.)
Down, May 24th .
Thanks for your two notes. I am glad that the burial is over, and
sincerely sympathise and can most fully understand your feelings at your
I grieve to think how little I saw of Henslow for many years. With respect
to a biography of Henslow, I cannot help feeling rather doubtful, on the
principle that a biography could not do him justice. His letters were
generally written in a hurry, and I fear he did not keep any journal or
diary. If there were any vivid materials to describe his life as parish
priest, and manner of managing the poor, it would be very good.
I am never very sanguine on literary projects. I cannot help fearing his
Life might turn out flat. There can hardly be marked incidents to
describe. I sincerely hope that I take a wrong and gloomy view, but I
cannot help fearing--I would rather see no Life than one that would
interest very few. It will be a pleasure and duty in me to consider what I
can recollect; but at present I can think of scarcely anything. The
equability and perfection of Henslow's whole character, I should think,
would make it very difficult for any one to pourtray him. I have been
thinking about Henslow all day a good deal, but the more I think the less I
can think of to write down. It is quite a new style for me to set about,
but I will continue to think what I could say to give any, however
imperfect, notion of him in the old Cambridge days.
Pray give my kindest remembrances to L. Jenyns (128/2. The Rev. Leonard
Jenyns (afterwards Blomefield) undertook the "Life" of Henslow, to which
Darwin contributed a characteristic and delightful sketch. See Letter
17.), who is often associated with my recollection of those old happy days.
LETTER 129. HENRY FAWCETT TO CHARLES DARWIN.
(129/1. It was in reply to the following letter that Darwin wrote to
Fawcett: "You could not possibly have told me anything which would have
given me more satisfaction than what you say about Mr. Mill's opinion.
Until your review appeared I began to think that perhaps I did not
understand at all how to reason scientifically." ("Life of Henry Fawcett,"
by Leslie Stephen, 1885, page 100.)
Bodenham, Salisbury, July 16th .
I feel that I ought not to have so long delayed writing to thank you for
your very kind letter to me about my article on your book in "Macmillan's
I was particularly anxious to point out that the method of investigation
pursued was in every respect philosophically correct. I was spending an