Part 5 out of 10
evening last week with my friend Mr. John Stuart Mill, and I am sure you
will be pleased to hear from such an authority that he considers that your
reasoning throughout is in the most exact accordance with the strict
principles of logic. He also says the method of investigation you have
followed is the only one proper to such a subject.
It is easy for an antagonistic reviewer, when he finds it difficult to
answer your arguments, to attempt to dispose of the whole matter by
uttering some such commonplace as "This is not a Baconian induction."
I expect shortly to be spending a few days in your neighbourhood, and if I
should not be intruding upon you, I should esteem it a great favour if you
will allow me to call on you, and have half an hour's conversation with
As far as I am personally concerned, I am sure I ought to be grateful to
you, for since my accident nothing has given me so much pleasure as the
perusal of your book. Such studies are now a great resource to me.
LETTER 130. TO C. LYELL.
2, Hesketh Terrace, Torquay [August 2nd, 1861].
I declare that you read the reviews on the "Origin" more carefully than I
do. I agree with all your remarks. The point of correlation struck me as
well put, and on varieties growing together; but I have already begun to
put things in train for information on this latter head, on which Bronn
also enlarges. With respect to sexuality, I have often speculated on it,
and have always concluded that we are too ignorant to speculate: no
physiologist can conjecture why the two elements go to form a new being,
and, more than that, why nature strives at uniting the two elements from
two individuals. What I am now working at in my orchids is an admirable
illustration of the law. I should certainly conclude that all sexuality
had descended from one prototype. Do you not underrate the degree of
lowness of organisation in which sexuality occurs--viz., in Hydra, and
still lower in some of the one-celled free confervae which "conjugate,"
which good judges (Thwaites) believe is the simplest form of true sexual
generation? (130/1. See Letter 97.) But the whole case is a mystery.
There is another point on which I have occasionally wished to say a few
words. I believe you think with Asa Gray that I have not allowed enough
for the stream of variation having been guided by a higher power. I have
had lately a good deal of correspondence on this head. Herschel, in his
"Physical Geography" (130/2. "Physical Geography of the Globe," by Sir
John F.W. Herschel, Edinburgh, 1861. On page 12 Herschel writes of the
revelations of Geology pointing to successive submersions and
reconstructions of the continents and fresh races of animals and plants.
He refers to a "great law of change" which has not operated either by a
gradually progressing variation of species, nor by a sudden and total
abolition of one race...The following footnote on page 12 of the "Physical
Geography" was added in January, 1861: "This was written previous to the
publication of Mr. Darwin's work on the "Origin of Species," a work which,
whatever its merit or ingenuity, we cannot, however, consider as having
disproved the view taken in the text. We can no more accept the principle
of arbitrary and casual variation and natural selection as a sufficient
account, per se, of the past and present organic world, than we can receive
the Laputan method of composing books (pushed a outrance) as a sufficient
one of Shakespeare and the "Principia." Equally in either case an
intelligence, guided by a purpose, must be continually in action to bias
the directions of the steps of change--to regulate their amount, to limit
their divergence, and to continue them in a definite course. We do not
believe that Mr. Darwin means to deny the necessity of such intelligent
direction. But it does not, so far as we can see, enter into the formula
of this law, and without it we are unable to conceive how far the law can
have led to the results. On the other hand, we do not mean to deny that
such intelligence may act according to a law (that is to say, on a
preconceived and definite plan). Such law, stated in words, would be no
other than the actual observed law of organic succession; a one more
general, taking that form when applied to our own planet, and including all
the links of the chain which have disappeared. BUT THE ONE LAW IS A
NECESSARY SUPPLEMENT TO THE OTHER, AND OUGHT, IN ALL LOGICAL PROPRIETY, TO
FORM A PART OF ITS ENUNCIATION. Granting this, and with some demur as to
the genesis of man, we are far from disposed to repudiate the view taken of
this mysterious subject in Mr. Darwin's book." The sentence in italics is
no doubt the one referred to in the letter to Lyell. See Letter 243.), has
a sentence with respect to the "Origin," something to the effect that the
higher law of Providential Arrangement should always be stated. But
astronomers do not state that God directs the course of each comet and
planet. The view that each variation has been providentially arranged
seems to me to make Natural Selection entirely superfluous, and indeed
takes the whole case of the appearance of new species out of the range of
science. But what makes me most object to Asa Gray's view is the study of
the extreme variability of domestic animals. He who does not suppose that
each variation in the pigeon was providentially caused, by accumulating
which variations, man made a Fantail, cannot, I think, logically argue that
the tail of the woodpecker was formed by variations providentially
ordained. It seems to me that variations in the domestic and wild
conditions are due to unknown causes, and are without purpose, and in so
far accidental; and that they become purposeful only when they are selected
by man for his pleasure, or by what we call Natural Selection in the
struggle for life, and under changing conditions. I do not wish to say
that God did not foresee everything which would ensue; but here comes very
nearly the same sort of wretched imbroglio as between freewill and
preordained necessity. I doubt whether I have made what I think clear; but
certainly A. Gray's notion of the courses of variation having been led like
a stream of water by gravity, seems to me to smash the whole affair. It
reminds me of a Spaniard whom I told I was trying to make out how the
Cordillera was formed; and he answered me that it was useless, for "God
made them." It may be said that God foresaw how they would be made. I
wonder whether Herschel would say that you ought always to give the higher
providential law, and declare that God had ordered all certain changes of
level, that certain mountains should arise. I must think that such views
of Asa Gray and Herschel merely show that the subject in their minds is in
Comte's theological stage of science...
Of course I do not want any answer to my quasi-theological discussion, but
only for you to think of my notions, if you understand them.
I hope to Heaven your long and great labours on your new edition are
drawing to a close.
LETTER 131. TO C. LYELL.
Torquay, [August 13th, 1861].
Very many thanks for the orchids, which have proved extremely useful to me
in two ways I did not anticipate, but were too monstrous (yet of some use)
for my special purpose.
When you come to "Deification" (131/1. See Letter 105, note.), ask
yourself honestly whether what you are thinking applies to the endless
variations of domestic productions, which man accumulates for his mere
fancy or use. No doubt these are all caused by some unknown law, but I
cannot believe they were ordained for any purpose, and if not so ordained
under domesticity, I can see no reason to believe that they were ordained
in a state of nature. Of course it may be said, when you kick a stone, or
a leaf falls from a tree, that it was ordained, before the foundations of
the world were laid, exactly where that stone or leaf should lie. In this
sense the subject has no interest for me.
Once again, many thanks for the orchids; you must let me repay you what you
paid the collector.
LETTER 132. TO C. LYELL.
(132/1. The first paragraph probably refers to the proof-sheets of Lyell's
"Antiquity of Man," but the passage referred to seems not to occur in the
Torquay, August 21st .
...I have really no criticism, except a trifling one in pencil near the
end, which I have inserted on account of dominant and important species
generally varying most. You speak of "their views" rather as if you were a
thousand miles away from such wretches, but your concluding paragraph shows
that you are one of the wretches.
I am pleased that you approve of Hutton's review. (132/2. "Some Remarks
on Mr. Darwin's Theory," by F.W. Hutton. "Geologist," Volume IV., page 132
(1861). See Letter 124.) It seemed to me to take a more philosophical
view of the manner of judging the question than any other review. The
sentence you quote from it seems very true, but I do not agree with the
theological conclusion. I think he quotes from Asa Gray, certainly not
from me; but I have neither A. Gray nor "Origin" with me. Indeed, I have
over and over again said in the "Origin" that Natural Selection does
nothing without variability; I have given a whole chapter on laws, and used
the strongest language how ignorant we are on these laws. But I agree that
I have somehow (Hooker says it is owing to my title) not made the great and
manifest importance of previous variability plain enough. Breeders
constantly speak of Selection as the one great means of improvement; but of
course they imply individual differences, and this I should have thought
would have been obvious to all in Natural Selection; but it has not been
I have just said that I cannot agree with "which variations are the effects
of an unknown law, ordained and guided without doubt by an intelligent
cause on a preconceived and definite plan." Will you honestly tell me (and
I should be really much obliged) whether you believe that the shape of my
nose (eheu!) was ordained and "guided by an intelligent cause?" (132/3.
It should be remembered that the shape of his nose nearly determined Fitz-
Roy to reject Darwin as naturalist to H.M.S. "Beagle" ("Life and Letters,"
I., page 60).) By the selection of analogous and less differences fanciers
make almost generic differences in their pigeons; and can you see any good
reason why the Natural Selection of analogous individual differences should
not make new species? If you say that God ordained that at some time and
place a dozen slight variations should arise, and that one of them alone
should be preserved in the struggle for life and the other eleven should
perish in the first or few first generations, then the saying seems to me
mere verbiage. It comes to merely saying that everything that is, is
Let me add another sentence. Why should you or I speak of variation as
having been ordained and guided, more than does an astronomer, in
discussing the fall of a meteoric stone? He would simply say that it was
drawn to our earth by the attraction of gravity, having been displaced in
its course by the action of some quite unknown laws. Would you have him
say that its fall at some particular place and time was "ordained and
guided without doubt by an intelligent cause on a preconceived and definite
plan"? Would you not call this theological pedantry or display? I believe
it is not pedantry in the case of species, simply because their formation
has hitherto been viewed as beyond law; in fact, this branch of science is
still with most people under its theological phase of development. The
conclusion which I always come to after thinking of such questions is that
they are beyond the human intellect; and the less one thinks on them the
better. You may say, Then why trouble me? But I should very much like to
know clearly what you think.
LETTER 133. TO HENRY FAWCETT.
(133/1. The following letter was published in the "Life" of Mr. Fawcett
(1885); we are indebted to Mrs. Fawcett and Messrs. Smith & Elder for
permission to reprint it. See Letter 129.)
September 18th .
I wondered who had so kindly sent me the newspaper (133/2. The newspaper
sent was the "Manchester Examiner" for September 9th, 1861, containing a
report of Mr. Fawcett's address given before Section D of the British
Association, "On the method of Mr. Darwin in his treatise on the origin of
species," in which the speaker showed that the "method of investigation
pursued by Mr. Darwin in his treatise on the origin of species is in strict
accordance with the principles of logic." The "A" of the letter (as
published in Fawcett's Life) is the late Professor Williamson, who is
reported to have said that "while he would not say that Mr. Darwin's book
had caused him a loss of reputation, he was sure that it had not caused a
gain." The reference to "B" is explained by the report of the late Dr.
Lankester's speech in which he said, "The facts brought forward in support
of the hypothesis had a very different value indeed from that of the
hypothesis...A great naturalist, who was still a friend of Mr. Darwin, once
said to him (Dr. Lankester), 'The mistake is, that Darwin has dealt with
origin. Why did he not put his facts before us, and let them rest?'"
Another speaker, the Rt. Hon. J.R. Napier, remarked: "I am going to speak
closely to the question. If the hypothesis is put forward to contradict
facts, and the averments are contrary to the Word of God, I say that it is
not a logical argument." At this point the chairman, Professor Babington,
wisely interfered, on the ground that the meeting was a scientific one.),
which I was very glad to see; and now I have to thank you sincerely for
allowing me to see your MS. It seems to me very good and sound; though I
am certainly not an impartial judge. You will have done good service in
calling the attention of scientific men to means and laws of
philosophising. As far as I could judge by the papers, your opponents were
unworthy of you. How miserably A. talked of my reputation, as if that had
anything to do with it!...How profoundly ignorant B must be of the very
soul of observation! About thirty years ago there was much talk that
geologists ought only to observe and not theorise; and I well remember some
one saying that at this rate a man might as well go into a gravel-pit and
count the pebbles and describe the colours. How odd it is that anyone
should not see that all observation must be for or against some view if it
is to be of any service!
I have returned only lately from a two months' visit to Torquay, which did
my health at the time good; but I am one of those miserable creatures who
are never comfortable for twenty-four hours; and it is clear to me that I
ought to be exterminated. I have been rather idle of late, or, speaking
more strictly, working at some miscellaneous papers, which, however, have
some direct bearing on the subject of species; yet I feel guilty at having
neglected my larger book. But, to me, observing is much better sport than
writing. I fear that I shall have wearied you with this long note.
Pray believe that I feel sincerely grateful that you have taken up the
cudgels in defence of the line of argument in the "Origin;" you will have
benefited the subject.
Many are so fearful of speaking out. A German naturalist came here the
other day; and he tells me that there are many in Germany on our side, but
that all seem fearful of speaking out, and waiting for some one to speak,
and then many will follow. The naturalists seem as timid as young ladies
should be, about their scientific reputation. There is much discussion on
the subject on the Continent, even in quiet Holland; and I had a pamphlet
from Moscow the other day by a man who sticks up famously for the
imperfection of the "Geological Record," but complains that I have sadly
understated the variability of the old fossilised animals! But I must not
LETTER 134. TO H.W. BATES.
Down, September 25th .
Now for a few words on science. Many thanks for facts on neuters. You
cannot tell how I rejoice that you do not think what I have said on the
subject absurd. Only two persons have even noticed it to me--viz., the
bitter sneer of Owen in the "Edinburgh Review" (134/1. "Edinburgh Review,"
April, 1860, page 525.), and my good friend and supporter, Sir C. Lyell,
who could only screw up courage to say, "Well, you have manfully faced the
What a wonderful case of Volucella of which I had never heard. (134/2.
Volucella is a fly--one of the Syrphidae--supposed to supply a case of
mimicry; this was doubtless the point of interest with Bates. Dr. Sharp
says ["Insects," Part II. (in the Camb. Nat. Hist. series), 1899, page
500]: "It was formerly assumed that the Volucella larvae lived on the
larvae of the bees, and that the parent flies were providentially endowed
with a bee-like appearance that they might obtain entrance into the bees'
nests without being detected." Dr. Sharp goes on to say that what little
is known on the subject supports the belief that the "presence of the
Volucella in the nests is advantageous to both fly and bee.") I had no
idea such a case occurred in nature; I must get and see specimens in
British Museum. I hope and suppose you will give a good deal of Natural
History in your Travels; every one cares about ants--more notice has been
taken about slave-ants in the "Origin" than of any other passage.
I fully expect to delight in your Travels. Keep to simple style, as in
your excellent letters,--but I beg pardon, I am again advising.
What a capital paper yours will be on mimetic resemblances! You will make
quite a new subject of it. I had thought of such cases as a difficulty;
and once, when corresponding with Dr. Collingwood, I thought of your
explanation; but I drove it from my mind, for I felt that I had not
knowledge to judge one way or the other. Dr C., I think, states that the
mimetic forms inhabit the same country, but I did not know whether to
believe him. What wonderful cases yours seem to be! Could you not give a
few woodcuts in your Travels to illustrate this? I am tired with a hard
day's work, so no more, except to give my sincere thanks and hearty wishes
for the success of your Travels.
LETTER 135. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, March 18th .
Your letter discusses lots of interesting subjects, and I am very glad you
have sent for your letter to Bates. (135/1. Published in Mr. Clodd's
memoir of Bates in the "Naturalist on the Amazons," 1892, page l.) What do
you mean by "individual plants"? (135/2. In a letter to Mr. Darwin dated
March 17th, 1862, Sir J.D. Hooker had discussed a supposed difference
between animals and plants, "inasmuch as the individual animal is certainly
changed materially by external conditions, the latter (I think) never,
except in such a coarse way as stunting or enlarging--e.g. no increase of
cold on the spot, or change of individual plant from hot to cold, will
induce said individual plant to get more woolly covering; but I suppose a
series of cold seasons would bring about such a change in an individual
quadruped, just as rowing will harden hands, etc.") I fancied a bud lived
only a year, and you could hardly expect any change in that time; but if
you call a tree or plant an individual, you have sporting buds. Perhaps
you mean that the whole tree does not change. Tulips, in "breaking,"
change. Fruit seems certainly affected by the stock. I think I have
(135/3. See note, Letter 16.) got cases of slight change in alpine plants
transplanted. All these subjects have rather gone out of my head owing to
orchids, but I shall soon have to enter on them in earnest when I come
again to my volume on variation under domestication.
...In the lifetime of an animal you would, I think, find it very difficult
to show effects of external condition on animals more than shade and light,
good and bad soil, produce on a plant.
You speak of "an inherent tendency to vary wholly independent of physical
conditions"! This is a very simple way of putting the case (as Dr. Prosper
Lucas also puts it) (135/4. Prosper Lucas, the author of "Traite
philosophique et physiologique de l'heredite naturelle dans les etats de
sante et de maladie du systeme nerveux": 2 volumes, Paris, 1847-50.): but
two great classes of facts make me think that all variability is due to
change in the conditions of life: firstly, that there is more variability
and more monstrosities (and these graduate into each other) under unnatural
domestic conditions than under nature; and, secondly, that changed
conditions affect in an especial manner the reproductive organs--those
organs which are to produce a new being. But why one seedling out of
thousands presents some new character transcends the wildest powers of
conjecture. It was in this sense that I spoke of "climate," etc., possibly
producing without selection a hooked seed, or any not great variation.
(135/5. This statement probably occurs in a letter, and not in Darwin's
I have for years and years been fighting with myself not to attribute too
much to Natural Selection--to attribute something to direct action of
conditions; and perhaps I have too much conquered my tendency to lay hardly
any stress on conditions of life.
I am not shaken about "saltus" (135/6. Sir Joseph had written, March 17th,
1862: "Huxley is rather disposed to think you have overlooked saltus, but
I am not sure that he is right--saltus quoad individuals is not saltus
quoad species--as I pointed out in the Begonia case, though perhaps that
was rather special pleading in the present state of science." For the
Begonia case, see "Life and Letters," II., page 275, also letter 110, page
166.), I did not write without going pretty carefully into all the cases of
normal structure in animals resembling monstrosities which appear per
LETTER 136. TO J.D. HOOKER.
26th [March, 1862].
Thanks also for your own (136/1. See note in Letter 135.) and Bates'
letter now returned. They are both excellent; you have, I think, said all
that can be said against direct effects of conditions, and capitally put.
But I still stick to my own and Bates' side. Nevertheless I am pleased to
attribute little to conditions, and I wish I had done what you suggest--
started on the fundamental principle of variation being an innate
principle, and afterwards made a few remarks showing that hereafter,
perhaps, this principle would be explicable. Whenever my book on poultry,
pigeons, ducks, and rabbits is published, with all the measurements and
weighings of bones, I think you will see that "use and disuse" at least
have some effect. I do not believe in perfect reversion. I rather demur
to your doctrine of "centrifugal variation." (136/2. The "doctrine of
centrifugal variation" is given in Sir J.D. Hooker's "Introductory Essay to
the Flora of Tasmania" (Part III. of the Botany of the Antarctic
Expedition), 1859, page viii. In paragraph 10 the author writes: "The
tendency of varieties, both in nature and under cultivation...is rather to
depart more and more widely from the original type than to revert to it."
In Sir Joseph's letter to Bates (loc. cit., page lii) he wrote: "Darwin
also believes in some reversion to type which is opposed to my view of
variation." It may be noted in this connection that Mr. Galton has shown
reason to believe in a centripetal tendency in variation (to use Hooker's
phraseology) which is not identical with the reversion of cultivated plants
to their ancestors, the case to which Hooker apparently refers. See
"Natural Inheritance," by F. Galton, 1889.) I suppose you do not agree
with or do not remember my doctrine of the good of diversification (136/3.
Darwin usually used the word "divergence" in this connection.); this seems
to me amply to account for variation being centrifugal--if you forget it,
look at this discussion (page 117 of 3rd edition), it was the best point
which, according to my notions, I made out, and it has always pleased me.
It is really curiously satisfactory to me to see so able a man as Bates
(and yourself) believing more fully in Natural Selection than I think I
even do myself. (136/4. This refers to a very interesting passage in
Hooker's letter to Bates (loc. cit., page liii): "I am sure that with you,
as with me, the more you think the less occasion you will see for anything
but time and natural selection to effect change; and that this view is the
simplest and clearest in the present state of science is one advantage, at
any rate. Indeed, I think that it is, in the present state of the inquiry,
the legitimate position to take up; it is time enough to bother our heads
with the secondary cause when there is some evidence of it or some demand
for it--at present I do not see one or the other, and so feel inclined to
renounce any other for the present.") By the way, I always boast to you,
and so I think Owen will be wrong that my book will be forgotten in ten
years, for a French edition is now going through the press and a second
German edition wanted. Your long letter to Bates has set my head working,
and makes me repent of the nine months spent on orchids; though I know not
why I should not have amused myself on them as well as slaving on bones of
ducks and pigeons, etc. The orchids have been splendid sport, though at
present I am fearfully sick of them.
I enclose a waste copy of woodcut of Mormodes ignea; I wish you had a plant
at Kew, for I am sure its wonderful mechanism and structure would amuse
you. Is it not curious the way the labellum sits on the top of the
column?--here insects alight and are beautifully shot, when they touch a
certain sensitive point, by the pollinia.
How kindly you have helped me in my work! Farewell, my dear old fellow.
LETTER 137. TO H.W. BATES.
Down, May 4th .
Hearty thanks for your most interesting letter and three very valuable
extracts. I am very glad that you have been looking at the South Temperate
insects. I wish that the materials in the British Museum had been richer;
but I should think the case of the South American Carabi, supported by some
other case, would be worth a paper. To us who theorise I am sure the case
is very important. Do the South American Carabi differ more from the other
species than do, for instance, the Siberian and European and North American
and Himalayan (if the genus exists there)? If they do, I entirely agree
with you that the difference would be too great to account for by the
recent Glacial period. I agree, also, with you in utterly rejecting an
independent origin for these Carabi. There is a difficulty, as far as I
know, in our ignorance whether insects change quickly in time; you could
judge of this by knowing how far closely allied coleoptera generally have
much restricted ranges, for this almost implies rapid change. What a
curious case is offered by land-shells, which become modified in every sub-
district, and have yet retained the same general structure from very remote
geological periods! When working at the Glacial period, I remember feeling
much surprised how few birds, no mammals, and very few sea-mollusca seemed
to have crossed, or deeply entered, the inter-tropical regions during the
cold period. Insects, from all you say, seem to come under the same
category. Plants seem to migrate more readily than animals. Do not
underrate the length of Glacial period: Forbes used to argue that it was
equivalent to the whole of the Pleistocene period in the warmer latitudes.
I believe, with you, that we shall be driven to an older Glacial period.
I am very sorry to hear about the British Museum; it would be hopeless to
contend against any one supported by Owen. Perhaps another chance might
occur before very long. How would it be to speak to Owen as soon as your
own mind is made up? From what I have heard, since talking to you, I fear
the strongest personal interest with a Minister is requisite for a pension.
Farewell, and may success attend the acerrimo pro-pugnatori.
P.S. I deeply wish you could find some situation in which you could give
your time to science; it would be a great thing for science and for
LETTER 138. TO J.L.A. DE QUATREFAGES.
Down, July 11th .
I thank you cordially for so kindly and promptly answering my questions. I
will quote some of your remarks. The case seems to me of some importance
with reference to my heretical notions, for it shows how larvae might be
modified. I shall not publish, I daresay, for a year, for much time is
expended in experiments. If within this time you should acquire any fresh
information on the similarity of the moths of distinct races, and would
allow me to quote any facts on your authority, I should feel very grateful.
I thank you for your great kindness with respect to the translation of the
"Origin;" it is very liberal in you, as we differ to a considerable degree.
I have been atrociously abused by my religious countrymen; but as I live an
independent life in the country, it does not in the least hurt me in any
way, except indeed when the abuse comes from an old friend like Professor
Owen, who abuses me and then advances the doctrine that all birds are
probably descended from one parent.
I wish the translator (138/1. Mdlle. Royer, who translated the first
French edition of the "Origin.') had known more of Natural History; she
must be a clever but singular lady, but I never heard of her till she
proposed to translate my book.
LETTER 139. TO ASA GRAY.
Down, July 23rd .
I received several days ago two large packets, but have as yet read only
your letter; for we have been in fearful distress, and I could attend to
nothing. Our poor boy had the rare case of second rash and sore throat...;
and, as if this was not enough, a most serious attack of erysipelas, with
typhoid symptoms. I despaired of his life; but this evening he has eaten
one mouthful, and I think has passed the crisis. He has lived on port wine
every three-quarters of an hour, day and night. This evening, to our
astonishment, he asked whether his stamps were safe, and I told him of one
sent by you, and that he should see it to-morrow. He answered, "I should
awfully like to see it now"; so with difficulty he opened his eyelids and
glanced at it, and, with a sigh of satisfaction, said, "All right."
Children are one's greatest happiness, but often and often a still greater
misery. A man of science ought to have none--perhaps not a wife; for then
there would be nothing in this wide world worth caring for, and a man might
(whether he could is another question) work away like a Trojan. I hope in
a few days to get my brains in order, and then I will pick out all your
orchid letters, and return them in hopes of your making use of them...
Of all the carpenters for knocking the right nail on the head, you are the
very best; no one else has perceived that my chief interest in my orchid
book has been that it was a "flank movement" on the enemy. I live in such
solitude that I hear nothing, and have no idea to what you allude about
Bentham and the orchids and species. But I must enquire.
By the way, one of my chief enemies (the sole one who has annoyed me),
namely Owen, I hear has been lecturing on birds; and admits that all have
descended from one, and advances as his own idea that the oceanic wingless
birds have lost their wings by gradual disuse. He never alludes to me, or
only with bitter sneers, and coupled with Buffon and the "Vestiges."
Well, it has been an amusement to me this first evening, scribbling as
egotistically as usual about myself and my doings; so you must forgive me,
as I know well your kind heart will do. I have managed to skim the
newspaper, but had not heart to read all the bloody details. Good God!
What will the end be? Perhaps we are too despondent here; but I must think
you are too hopeful on your side of the water. I never believed the
"canards" of the army of the Potomac having capitulated. My good dear wife
and self are come to wish for peace at any price. Good night, my good
friend. I will scribble on no more.
One more word. I should like to hear what you think about what I say in
the last chapter of the orchid book on the meaning and cause of the endless
diversity of means for the same general purpose. It bears on design, that
endless question. Good night, good night!
LETTER 140. TO C. LYELL.
1, Carlton Terrace, Southampton, August 22nd .
You say that the Bishop and Owen will be down on you (140/1. This refers
to the "Antiquity of Man," which was published in 1863.): the latter
hardly can, for I was assured that Owen, in his lectures this spring,
advanced as a new idea that wingless birds had lost their wings by disuse.
(140/2. The first paragraph of this letter was published in "Life and
Letters," II., pages 387, 388.) Also that magpies stole spoons, etc., from
a remnant of some instinct like that of the bower-bird, which ornaments its
playing passage with pretty feathers. Indeed, I am told that he hinted
plainly that all birds are descended from one. What an unblushing man he
must be to lecture thus after abusing me so, and never to have openly
retracted, or alluded to my book!
LETTER 141. TO JOHN LUBBOCK (LORD AVEBURY).
Cliff Cottage, Bournemouth, September 5th .
Many thanks for your pleasant note in return for all my stupid trouble. I
did not fully appreciate your insect-diving case (141/1. "On two Aquatic
Hymenoptera, one of which uses its Wings in Swimming." By John Lubbock.
"Trans. Linn. Soc." Volume XXIV., 1864, pages 135-42.) [Read May 7th,
1863.] In this paper Lubbock describes a new species of Polynema--P.
natans--which swims by means of its wings, and is capable of living under
water for several hours; the other species, referred to a new genus
Prestwichia, lives under water, holds its wings motionless and uses its
legs as oars.) before your last note, nor had I any idea that the fact was
new, though new to me. It is really very interesting. Of course you will
publish an account of it. You will then say whether the insect can fly
well through the air. (141/2. In describing the habits of Polynema,
Lubbock writes, "I was unfortunately unable to ascertain whether they could
fly" (loc. cit., page 137).) My wife asked, "How did he find that it
stayed four hours under water without breathing?" I answered at once:
"Mrs. Lubbock sat four hours watching." I wonder whether I am right.
I long to be at home and at steady work, and I hope we may be in another
month. I fear it is hopeless my coming to you, for I am squashier than
ever, but hope two shower-baths a day will give me a little strength, so
that you will, I hope, come to us. It is an age since I have seen you or
any scientific friend.
I heard from Lyell the other day in the Isle of Wight, and from Hooker in
Scotland. About Huxley I know nothing, but I hope his book progresses, for
I shall be very curious to see it. (141/3. "Man's Place in Nature."
I do nothing here except occasionally look at a few flowers, and there are
very few here, for the country is wonderfully barren.
See what it is to be well trained. Horace said to me yesterday, "If every
one would kill adders they would come to sting less." I answered: "Of
course they would, for there would be fewer." He replied indignantly: "I
did not mean that; but the timid adders which run away would be saved, and
in time would never sting at all." Natural selection of cowards!
LETTER 142. H. FALCONER TO CHARLES DARWIN.
(142/1. This refers to the MS. of Falconer's paper "On the American Fossil
Elephant of the Regions bordering the Gulf of Mexico (E. Columbi, Falc.),"
published in the "Natural History Review," January, 1863, page 43. The
section dealing with the bearing of his facts on Darwin's views is at page
77. He insists strongly (page 78) on the "persistence and uniformity of
the characters of the molar teeth in the earliest known mammoth, and his
most modern successor." Nevertheless, he adds that the "inferences I draw
from these facts are not opposed to one of the leading propositions of
Darwin's theory." These admissions were the more satisfactory since, as
Falconer points out (page 77), "I have been included by him in the category
of those who have vehemently maintained the persistence of specific
21, Park Crescent, Portland Place, N.W., September 24th .
Do not be frightened at the enclosure. I wish to set myself right by you
before I go to press. I am bringing out a heavy memoir on elephants--an
omnium gatherum affair, with observations on the fossil and recent species.
One section is devoted to the persistence in time of the specific
characters of the mammoth. I trace him from before the Glacial period,
through it and after it, unchangeable and unchanged as far as the organs of
digestion (teeth) and locomotion are concerned. Now, the Glacial period
was no joke: it would have made ducks and drakes of your dear pigeons and
With all my shortcomings, I have such a sincere and affectionate regard for
you and such admiration of your work, that I should be pained to find that
I had expressed my honest convictions in a way that would be open to any
objection by you. The reasoning may be very stupid, but I believe that the
observation is sound. Will you, therefore, look over the few pages which I
have sent, and tell me whether you find any flaw, or whether you think I
should change the form of expression? You have been so unhandsomely and
uncandidly dealt with by a friend of yours and mine that I should be sorry
to find myself in the position of an opponent to you, and more particularly
with the chance of making a fool of myself.
I met your brother yesterday, who tells me you are coming to town. I hope
you will give me a hail. I long for a jaw with you, and have much to speak
to you about.
You will have seen the eclaircissement about the Eocene monkeys of England.
By a touch of the conjuring wand they have been metamorphosed--a la Darwin
--into Hyracotherian pigs. (142/2. "On the Hyracotherian Character of the
Lower Molars of the supposed Macacus from the Eocene Sand of Kyson,
Suffolk." "Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist." Volume X., 1862, page 240. In this note
Owen stated that the teeth which he had named Macacus ("Ann. Mag." 1840,
page 191) most probably belonged to Hyracotherium cuniculus. See "A
Catalogue of British Fossil Vertebrata," A.S. Woodward and C.D. Sherborn,
1890, under Hyracotherium, page 356; also Zittel's "Handbuch der
Palaeontologie" Abth. I., Bd. IV., Leipzig, 1891-93, page 703.) Would you
believe it? This even is a gross blunder. They are not pigs.
LETTER 143. TO HUGH FALCONER.
Down, October 1st .
On my return home yesterday I found your letter and MS., which I have read
with extreme interest. Your note and every word in your paper are
expressed with the same kind feeling which I have experienced from you ever
since I have had the happiness of knowing you. I value scientific praise,
but I value incomparably higher such kind feeling as yours. There is not a
single word in your paper to which I could possibly object: I should be
mad to do so; its only fault is perhaps its too great kindness. Your case
seems the most striking one which I have met with of the persistence of
specific characters. It is very much the more striking as it relates to
the molar teeth, which differ so much in the species of the genus, and in
which consequently I should have expected variation. As I read on I felt
not a little dumbfounded, and thought to myself that whenever I came to
this subject I should have to be savage against myself; and I wondered how
savage you would be. I trembled a little. My only hope was that something
could be made out of the bog N. American forms, which you rank as a
geographical race; and possibly hereafter out of the Sicilian species.
Guess, then, my satisfaction when I found that you yourself made a loophole
(143/1. This perhaps refers to a passage ("N.H. Review," 1863, page 79) in
which Falconer allows the existence of intermediate forms along certain
possible lines of descent. Falconer's reference to the Sicilian elephants
is in a note on page 78; the bog-elephant is mentioned on page 79.), which
I never, of course, could have guessed at; and imagine my still greater
satisfaction at your expressing yourself as an unbeliever in the eternal
immutability of species. Your final remarks on my work are too generous,
but have given me not a little pleasure. As for criticisms, I have only
small ones. When you speak of "moderate range of variation" I cannot but
think that you ought to remind your readers (though I daresay previously
done) what the amount is, including the case of the American bog-mammoth.
You speak of these animals as having been exposed to a vast range of
climatal changes from before to after the Glacial period. I should have
thought, from analogy of sea-shells, that by migration (or local extinction
when migration not possible) these animals might and would have kept under
nearly the same climate.
A rather more important consideration, as it seems to me, is that the whole
proboscidean group may, I presume, be looked at as verging towards
extinction: anyhow, the extinction has been complete as far as Europe and
America are concerned. Numerous considerations and facts have led me in
the "Origin" to conclude that it is the flourishing or dominant members of
each order which generally give rise to new races, sub-species, and
species; and under this point of view I am not at all surprised at the
constancy of your species. This leads me to remark that the sentence at
the bottom of page  is not applicable to my views (143/2. See Falconer
at the bottom of page 80: it is the old difficulty--how can variability
co-exist with persistence of type? In our copy of the letter the passage
is given as occurring on page 60, a slip of the pen for page 80.), though
quite applicable to those who attribute modification to the direct action
of the conditions of life. An elephant might be more individually variable
than any known quadruped (from the effects of the conditions of life or
other innate unknown causes), but if these variations did not aid the
animal in better resisting all hostile influences, and therefore making it
increase in numbers, there would be no tendency to the preservation and
accumulation of such variations--i.e. to the formation of a new race. As
the proboscidean group seems to be from utterly unknown causes a failing
group in many parts of the world, I should not have anticipated the
formation of new races.
You make important remarks versus Natural Selection, and you will perhaps
be surprised that I do to a large extent agree with you. I could show you
many passages, written as strongly as I could in the "Origin," declaring
that Natural Selection can do nothing without previous variability; and I
have tried to put equally strongly that variability is governed by many
laws, mostly quite unknown. My title deceives people, and I wish I had
made it rather different. Your phyllotaxis (143/3. Falconer, page 80:
"The law of Phyllotaxis...is nearly as constant in its manifestation as any
of the physical laws connected with the material world.") will serve as
example, for I quite agree that the spiral arrangement of a certain number
of whorls of leaves (however that may have primordially arisen, and whether
quite as invariable as you state), governs the limits of variability, and
therefore governs what Natural Selection can do. Let me explain how it
arose that I laid so much stress on Natural Selection, and I still think
justly. I came to think from geographical distribution, etc., etc., that
species probably change; but for years I was stopped dead by my utter
incapability of seeing how every part of each creature (a woodpecker or
swallow, for instance) had become adapted to its conditions of life. This
seemed to me, and does still seem, the problem to solve; and I think
Natural Selection solves it, as artificial selection solves the adaptation
of domestic races for man's use. But I suspect that you mean something
further,--that there is some unknown law of evolution by which species
necessarily change; and if this be so, I cannot agree. This, however, is
too large a question even for so unreasonably long a letter as this.
Nevertheless, just to explain by mere valueless conjectures how I imagine
the teeth of your elephants change, I should look at the change as
indirectly resulting from changes in the form of the jaws, or from the
development of tusks, or in the case of the primigenius even from
correlation with the woolly covering; in all cases Natural Selection
checking the variation. If, indeed, an elephant would succeed better by
feeding on some new kinds of food, then any variation of any kind in the
teeth which favoured their grinding power would be preserved. Now, I can
fancy you holding up your hands and crying out what bosh! To return to
your concluding sentence: far from being surprised, I look at it as
absolutely certain that very much in the "Origin" will be proved rubbish;
but I expect and hope that the framework will stand. (143/4. Falconer,
page 80: "He [Darwin] has laid the foundations of a great edifice: but he
need not be surprised if, in the progress of erection, the superstructure
is altered by his successors...")
I had hoped to have called on you on Monday evening, but was quite knocked
up. I saw Lyell yesterday morning. He was very curious about your views,
and as I had to write to him this morning I could not help telling him a
few words on your views. I suppose you are tired of the "Origin," and will
never read it again; otherwise I should like you to have the third edition,
and would gladly send it rather than you should look at the first or second
edition. With cordial thanks for your generous kindness.
LETTER 144. J.D. HOOKER TO CHARLES DARWIN.
Royal Gardens, Kew, November 7th, 1862.
I am greatly relieved by your letter this morning about my Arctic essay,
for I had been conjuring up some egregious blunder (like the granitic
plains of Patagonia).. Certes, after what you have told me of Dawson, he
will not like the letter I wrote to him days ago, in which I told him that
it was impossible to entertain a strong opinion against the Darwinian
hypothesis without its giving rise to a mental twist when viewing matters
in which that hypothesis was or might be involved. I told him I felt that
this was so with me when I opposed you, and that all minds are subject to
such obliquities!--the Lord help me, and this to an LL.D. and Principal of
a College! I proceeded to discuss his Geology with the effrontery of a
novice; and, thank God, I urged the very argument of your letter about
evidence of subsidence--viz., not all submerged at once, and glacial action
being subaerial and not oceanic. Your letter hence was a relief, for I
felt I was hardly strong enough to have launched out as I did to a
(144/1. [On the subject of the above letter, see one of earlier date by
Sir J.D. Hooker (November 2nd, 1862) given in the present work (Letter 354)
with Darwin's reply (Letter 355).])
LETTER 145. TO HUGH FALCONER.
Down, November 14th .
I have read your paper (145/1. "On the disputed Affinity of the Mammalian
Genus Plagiaulax, from the Purbeck beds."--"Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc."
Volume XVIII., page 348, 1862.) with extreme interest, and I thank you for
sending it, though I should certainly have carefully read it, or anything
with your name, in the Journal. It seems to me a masterpiece of close
reasoning: although, of course, not a judge of such subjects, I cannot
feel any doubt that it is conclusive. Will Owen answer you? I expect that
from his arrogant view of his own position he will not answer. Your paper
is dreadfully severe on him, but perfectly courteous, and polished as the
finest dagger. How kind you are towards me: your first sentence (145/2.
"One of the most accurate observers and original thinkers of our time has
discoursed with emphatic eloquence on the Imperfection of the Geological
Record.") has pleased me more than perhaps it ought to do, if I had any
modesty in my composition. By the way, after reading the first whole
paragraph, I re-read it, not for matter, but for style; and then it
suddenly occurred to me that a certain man once said to me, when I urged
him to publish some of his miscellaneous wealth of knowledge, "Oh, he could
not write,--he hated it," etc. You false man, never say that to me again.
Your incidental remark on the remarkable specialisation of Plagiaulax
(145/3. "If Plagiaulax be regarded through the medium of the view
advocated with such power by Darwin, through what a number of intermediate
forms must not the genus have passed before it attained the specialised
condition in which the fossils come before us!") (which has stuck in my
gizzard ever since I read your first paper) as bearing on the number of
preceding forms, is quite new to me, and, of course, is in accordance to my
notions a most impressive argument. I was also glad to be reminded of
teeth of camel and tarsal bones. (145/4. Op. cit. page 353. A reference
to Cuvier's instance "of the secret relation between the upper canine-
shaped incisors of the camel and the bones of the tarsus.") Descent from
an intermediate form, Ahem!
Well, all I can say is that I have not been for a long time more interested
with a paper than with yours. It gives me a demoniacal chuckle to think of
Owen's pleasant countenance when he reads it.
I have not been in London since the end of September; when I do come I will
beat up your quarters if I possibly can; but I do not know what has come
over me. I am worse than ever in bearing any excitement. Even talking of
an evening for less than two hours has twice recently brought on such
violent vomiting and trembling that I dread coming up to London. I hear
that you came out strong at Cambridge (145/5. Prof. Owen, in a
communication to the British Association at Cambridge (1862) "On a tooth of
Mastodon from the Tertiary marls, near Shanghai," brought forward the case
of the Australian Mastodon as a proof of the remarkable geographical
distribution of the Proboscidia. In a subsequent discussion he frankly
abandoned it, in consequence of the doubts then urged regarding its
authenticity. (See footnote, page 101, in Falconer's paper "On the
American Fossil Elephant," "Nat. Hist. Review," 1863.)), and am heartily
glad you attacked the Australian Mastodon. I never did or could believe in
him. I wish you would read my little Primula paper in the "Linnean
Journal," Volume VI. Botany (No. 22), page 77 (I have no copy which I can
spare), as I think there is a good chance that you may have observed
similar cases. This is my real hobby-horse at present. I have re-tested
this summer the functional difference of the two forms in Primula, and find
all strictly accurate. If you should know of any cases analogous, pray
inform me. Farewell, my good and kind friend.
LETTER 146. TO J.D. HOOKER.
(146/1. The following letter is interesting in connection with a letter
addressed to Sir J.D. Hooker, March 26th, 1862, No. 136, where the value of
Natural Selection is stated more strongly by Sir Joseph than by Darwin. It
is unfortunate that Sir Joseph's letter, to which this is a reply, has not
Down, November 20th .
Your last letter has interested me to an extraordinary degree, and your
truly parsonic advice, "some other wise and discreet person," etc., etc.,
amused us not a little. I will put a concrete case to show what I think A.
Gray believes about crossing and what I believe. If 1,000 pigeons were
bred together in a cage for 10,000 years their number not being allowed to
increase by chance killing, then from mutual intercrossing no varieties
would arise; but, if each pigeon were a self-fertilising hermaphrodite, a
multitude of varieties would arise. This, I believe, is the common effect
of crossing, viz., the obliteration of incipient varieties. I do not deny
that when two marked varieties have been produced, their crossing will
produce a third or more intermediate varieties. Possibly, or probably,
with domestic varieties, with a strong tendency to vary, the act of
crossing tends to give rise to new characters; and thus a third or more
races, not strictly intermediate, may be produced. But there is heavy
evidence against new characters arising from crossing wild forms; only
intermediate races are then produced. Now, do you agree thus far? if not,
it is no use arguing; we must come to swearing, and I am convinced I can
swear harder than you, therefore I am right. Q.E.D.
If the number of 1,000 pigeons were prevented increasing not by chance
killing, but by, say, all the shorter-beaked birds being killed, then the
WHOLE body would come to have longer beaks. Do you agree?
Thirdly, if 1,000 pigeons were kept in a hot country, and another 1,000 in
a cold country, and fed on different food, and confined in different-size
aviary, and kept constant in number by chance killing, then I should expect
as rather probable that after 10,000 years the two bodies would differ
slightly in size, colour, and perhaps other trifling characters; this I
should call the direct action of physical conditions. By this action I
wish to imply that the innate vital forces are somehow led to act rather
differently in the two cases, just as heat will allow or cause two elements
to combine, which otherwise would not have combined. I should be
especially obliged if you would tell me what you think on this head.
But the part of your letter which fairly pitched me head over heels with
astonishment, is that where you state that every single difference which we
see might have occurred without any selection. I do and have always fully
agreed; but you have got right round the subject, and viewed it from an
entirely opposite and new side, and when you took me there I was astounded.
When I say I agree, I must make the proviso, that under your view, as now,
each form long remains adapted to certain fixed conditions, and that the
conditions of life are in the long run changeable; and second, which is
more important, that each individual form is a self-fertilising
hermaphrodite, so that each hair-breadth variation is not lost by
intercrossing. Your manner of putting the case would be even more striking
than it is if the mind could grapple with such numbers--it is grappling
with eternity--think of each of a thousand seeds bringing forth its plant,
and then each a thousand. A globe stretching to the furthest fixed star
would very soon be covered. I cannot even grapple with the idea, even with
races of dogs, cattle, pigeons, or fowls; and here all admit and see the
accurate strictness of your illustration.
Such men as you and Lyell thinking that I make too much of a Deus of
Natural Selection is a conclusive argument against me. Yet I hardly know
how I could have put in, in all parts of my book, stronger sentences. The
title, as you once pointed out, might have been better. No one ever
objects to agriculturalists using the strongest language about their
selection, yet every breeder knows that he does not produce the
modification which he selects. My enormous difficulty for years was to
understand adaptation, and this made me, I cannot but think, rightly,
insist so much on Natural Selection. God forgive me for writing at such
length; but you cannot tell how much your letter has interested me, and how
important it is for me with my present book in hand to try and get clear
ideas. Do think a bit about what is meant by direct action of physical
conditions. I do not mean whether they act; my facts will throw some light
on this. I am collecting all cases of bud-variations, in contradistinction
to seed-variations (do you like this term, for what some gardeners call
"sports"?); these eliminate all effects of crossing. Pray remember how
much I value your opinion as the clearest and most original I ever get.
I see plainly that Welwitschia (146/2. Sir Joseph's great paper on
Welwitschia mirabilis was published in the "Linn. Soc. Trans." 1863.) will
be a case of Barnacles.
I have another plant to beg, but I write on separate paper as more
convenient for you to keep. I meant to have said before, as an excuse for
asking for so much from Kew, that I have now lost TWO seasons, by accursed
nurserymen not having right plants, and sending me the wrong instead of
saying that they did not possess.
LETTER 147. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, 24th [November, 1862].
I have just received enclosed for you, and I have thought that you would
like to read the latter half of A. Gray's letter to me, as it is political
and nearly as mad as ever in our English eyes. You will see how the loss
of the power of bullying is in fact the sore loss to the men of the North
I return with thanks Bates' letter, which I was glad to see. It was very
good of you writing to him, for he is evidently a man who wants
encouragement. I have now finished his paper (but have read nothing else
in the volume); it seems to me admirable. To my mind the act of
segregation of varieties into species was never so plainly brought forward,
and there are heaps of capital miscellaneous observations.
I hardly know why I am a little sorry, but my present work is leading me to
believe rather more in the direct action of physical conditions. I presume
I regret it, because it lessens the glory of Natural Selection, and is so
confoundedly doubtful. Perhaps I shall change again when I get all my
facts under one point of view, and a pretty hard job this will be. (147/1.
This paragraph was published in "Life and Letters," II., page 390. It is
not clear why a belief in "direct action" should diminish the glory of
Natural Selection, since the changes so produced must, like any other
variations, pass through the ordeal of the survival of the fittest. On the
whole question of direct action see Mr. Adam Sedgwick's "Presidential
Address to the Zoological Section of the British Association," 1899.)
LETTER 148. TO H.W. BATES.
Down, November 25th [1862?].
I should think it was not necessary to get a written agreement. (148/1.
Mr. Bates' book, "A Naturalist on the Amazons," was published in 1863.) I
have never had one from Murray. I suppose you have a letter with terms; if
not, I should think you had better ask for one to prevent
misunderstandings. I think Sir C. Lyell told me he had not any formal
agreements. I am heartily glad to hear that your book is progressing.
Could you find me some place, even a footnote (though these are in nine
cases out of ten objectionable), where you could state, as fully as your
materials permit, all the facts about similar varieties pairing,--at a
guess how many you caught, and how many now in your collection? I look at
this fact as very important; if not in your book, put it somewhere else, or
let me have cases.
I entirely agree with you on the enormous advantage of thoroughly studying
I really have no criticism to make. (148/2. Mr. Bates' paper on mimetic
butterflies was read before the Linnean Society, November 21st, 1861, and
published in the "Linn. Soc. Trans." XXIII., 1862, page 495, under the
title of "Contributions to an Insect Fauna of the Amazon Valley.") Style
seems to me very good and clear; but I much regret that in the title or
opening passage you did not blow a loud trumpet about what you were going
to show. Perhaps the paper would have been better more divided into
sections with headings. Perhaps you might have given somewhere rather more
of a summary on the progress of segregation of varieties, and not referred
your readers to the descriptive part, excepting such readers as wanted
minute detail. But these are trifles: I consider your paper as a most
admirable production in every way. Whenever I come to variation under
natural conditions (my head for months has been exclusively occupied with
domestic varieties), I shall have to study and re-study your paper, and no
doubt shall then have to plague you with questions. I am heartily glad to
hear that you are well. I have been compelled to write in a hurry; so
LETTER 149. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
Down, December 7th .
I was on the point of adding to an order to Williams & Norgate for your
Lectures (149/1. "A Course of Six Lectures to Working Men," published in
six pamphlets by Hardwicke, and later as a book. See Letter 156.) when
they arrived, and much obliged I am. I have read them with interest, and
they seem to me very good for this purpose and capitally written, as is
everything which you write. I suppose every book nowadays requires some
pushing, so that if you do not wish these lectures to be extensively
circulated, I suppose they will not; otherwise I should think they would do
good and spread a taste for the natural sciences. Anyhow, I have liked
them; but I get more and more, I am sorry to say, to care for nothing but
Natural History; and chiefly, as you once said, for the mere species
question. I think I liked No. III. the best of all. I have often said and
thought that the process of scientific discovery was identical with
everyday thought, only with more care; but I never succeeded in putting the
case to myself with one-tenth of the clearness with which you have done. I
think your second geological section will puzzle your non-scientific
readers; anyhow, it has puzzled me, and with the strong middle line, which
must represent either a line of stratification or some great mineralogical
change, I cannot conceive how your statement can hold good.
I am very glad to hear of your "three-year-old" vigour [?]; but I fear,
with all your multifarious work, that your book on Man will necessarily be
delayed. You bad man; you say not a word about Mrs. Huxley, of whom my
wife and self are always truly anxious to hear.
P.S. I see in the "Cornhill Magazine" a notice of a work by Cohn, which
apparently is important, on the contractile tissue of plants. (149/2.
"Ueber contractile Gewebe im Pflanzenreiche." "Abhand. der Schlesischen
Gesellschaft fur vaterlandische Cultur," Heft I., 1861.) You ought to have
it reviewed. I have ordered it, and must try and make out, if I can, some
of the accursed german, for I am much interested in the subject, and
experimented a little on it this summer, and came to the conclusion that
plants must contain some substance most closely analogous to the supposed
diffused nervous matter in the lower animals; or as, I presume, it would be
more accurate to say with Cohn, that they have contractile tissue.
Lecture VI., page 151, line 7 from top--wetting FEET or bodies? (Miss
Henrietta Darwin's criticism.) (149/3. Lecture VI., page 151: Lamarck
"said, for example, that the short-legged birds, which live on fish, had
been converted into the long-legged waders by desiring to get the fish
without wetting their feet."
Their criticisms on Lectures IV. and VI. are on a separate piece of undated
paper, and must belong to a letter of later date; only three lectures were
published by December 7th, 1862.)
Lecture IV., page 89--Atavism.
You here and there use atavism = inheritance. Duchesne, who, I believe,
invented the word, in his Strawberry book confined it, as every one has
since done, to resemblance to grandfather or more remote ancestor, in
contradistinction to resemblance to parents.
LETTER 150. TO JOHN SCOTT.
(150/1. The following is the first of a series of letters addressed to the
late John Scott, of which the major part is given in our Botanical
chapters. We have been tempted to give this correspondence fully not only
because of its intrinsic scientific interest, but also because they are
almost the only letters which show Darwin in personal relation with a
younger man engaged in research under his supervision.)
To the best of my judgment, no subject is so important in relation to
theoretical natural science, in several respects, and likewise in itself
deserving investigation, as the effects of changed or unnatural conditions,
or of changed structure on the reproductive system. Under this point of
view the relation of well-marked but undoubted varieties in fertilising
each other requires far more experiments than have been tried. See in the
"Origin" the brief abstract of Gartner on Verbascum and Zea. Mr. W.
Crocker, lately foreman at Kew and a very good observer, is going at my
suggestion to work varieties of hollyhock. (150/2. Altheae species.
These experiments seem not to have been carried out.) The climate would be
too cold, I suppose, for varieties of tobacco. I began on cabbages, but
immediately stopped from early shedding of their pollen causing too much
trouble. Your knowledge would suggest some [plants]. On the same
principle it would be well to test peloric flowers with their own pollen,
and with pollen of regular flowers, and try pollen of peloric on regular
flowers--seeds being counted in each case. I have now got one seedling
from many crosses of a peloric Pelargonium by peloric pollen; I have two or
three seedlings from a peloric flower by pollen of regular flower. I have
ordered a peloric Antirrhinum (150/3. See "Variation of Animals and
Plants," Edition I., Volume II., page 70.) and the peloric Gloxinia, but I
much fear I shall never have time to try them. The Passiflora cases are
truly wonderful, like the Crinum cases (see "Origin"). (150/4. "Origin,"
Edition VI., page 238.) I have read in a German paper that some varieties
of potatoes (name not given) cannot be fertilised by [their] own pollen,
but can by pollen of other varieties: well worth trying. Again, fertility
of any monster flower, which is pretty regularly produced; I have got the
wonderful Begonia frigida (150/5. The species on which Sir J.D. Hooker
wrote in the "Gardeners' Chronicle," February 25th, 1860. See "Life and
Letters," II., page 275.) from Kew, but doubt whether I have heat to set
its seeds. If an unmodified Celosia could be got, it would be well to test
with the modified cockscomb. There is a variation of columbine [Aquilegia]
with simple petals without nectaries, etc., etc. I never could think what
to try; but if one could get hold of a long-cultivated plant which crossed
with a distinct species and yielded a very small number of seeds, then it
would be highly good to test comparatively the wild parent-form and its
varying offspring with this third species: for instance, if a polyanthus
would cross with some species of Primula, then to try a wild cowslip with
it. I believe hardly any primulas have ever been crossed. If we knew and
could get the parent of the carnation (150/6. Dianthus caryophyllus,
garden variety.), it would be very good for this end. Any member of the
Lythraceae raised from seed ought to be well looked after for dimorphism.
I have wonderful facts, the result of experiment, on Lythrum salicaria.
LETTER 151. TO JOHN SCOTT.
Down, December 11th .
I have read your paper with much interest. (151/1. "On the Nature and
Peculiarities of the Fern-spore." "Bot. Soc. Edin." Read June 12th,
1862.) You ask for remarks on the matter, which is alone really important.
Shall you think me impertinent (I am sure I do not mean to be so) if I
hazard a remark on the style, which is of more importance than some think?
In my opinion (whether or no worth much) your paper would have been much
better if written more simply and less elaborated--more like your letters.
It is a golden rule always to use, if possible, a short old Saxon word.
Such a sentence as "so purely dependent is the incipient plant on the
specific morphological tendency" does not sound to my ears like good
mother-English--it wants translating. Here and there you might, I think,
have condensed some sentences. I go on the plan of thinking every single
word which can be omitted without actual loss of sense as a decided gain.
Now perhaps you will think me a meddling intruder: anyhow, it is the
advice of an old hackneyed writer who sincerely wishes you well. Your
remark on the two sexes counteracting variability in product of the one is
new to me. (151/2. Scott (op. cit., page 214): "The reproductive organs
of phoenogams, as is well-known, are always products of two morphologically
distinct organs, the stamens producing the pollen, the carpels producing
the ovules...The embryo being in this case the modified resultant of two
originally distinct organs, there will necessarily be a greater tendency to
efface any individual peculiarities of these than would have been the case
had the embryo been the product of a single organ." A different idea seems
to have occurred to Mr. Darwin, for in an undated letter to Scott he wrote:
"I hardly know what to say on your view of male and female organs and
variability. I must think more over it. But I was amused by finding the
other day in my portfolio devoted to bud-variation a slip of paper dated
June, 1860, with some such words as these, 'May not permanence of grafted
buds be due to the two sexual elements derived from different parts not
having come into play?' I had utterly forgotten, when I read your paper
that any analogous notion had ever passed through my mind--nor can I now
remember, but the slip shows me that it had." It is interesting that
Huxley also came to a conclusion differing from Scott's; and, curiously
enough, Darwin confused the two views, for he wrote to Scott (December
19th): "By an odd chance, reading last night some short lectures just
published by Prof. Huxley, I find your observation, independently arrived
at by him, on the confluence of the two sexes causing variability."
Professor Huxley's remarks are in his "Lectures to Working Men on our
Knowledge, etc." No. 4, page 90: "And, indeed, I think that a certain
amount of variation from the primitive stock is the necessary result of the
method of sexual propagation itself; for inasmuch as the thing propagated
proceeds from two organisms of different sexes and different makes and
temperaments, and, as the offspring is to be either of one sex or the
other, it is quite clear that it cannot be an exact diagonal of the two, or
it would be of no sex at all; it cannot be an exact intermediate form
between that of each of its parents--it must deviate to one side or the
other.") But I cannot avoid thinking that there is something unknown and
deeper in seminal generation. Reflect on the long succession of
embryological changes in every animal. Does a bud ever produce cotyledons
or embryonic leaves? I have been much interested by your remark on
inheritance at corresponding ages; I hope you will, as you say, continue to
attend to this. Is it true that female Primula plants always produce
females by parthenogenesis? (151/3. It seems probable that Darwin here
means vegetative reproduction.) If you can answer this I should be glad;
it bears on my Primula work. I thought on the subject, but gave up
investigating what had been observed, because the female bee by
parthenogenesis produces males alone. Your paper has told me much that in
my ignorance was quite new to me. Thanks about P. scotica. If any
important criticisms are made on the Primula to the Botanical Society, I
should be glad to hear them. If you think fit, you may state that I
repeated the crossing experiments on P. sinensis and cowslip with the same
result this spring as last year--indeed, with rather more marked difference
in fertility of the two crosses. In fact, had I then proved the Linum
case, I would not have wasted time in repetition. I am determined I will
at once publish on Linum...
I was right to be cautious in supposing you in error about Siphocampylus
(no flowers were enclosed). I hope that you will make out whether the
pistil presents two definite lengths; I shall be astounded if it does. I
do not fully understand your objections to Natural Selection; if I do, I
presume they would apply with full force to, for instance, birds. Reflect
on modification of Arab-Turk horse into our English racehorse. I have had
the satisfaction to tell my publisher to send my "Journal" and "Origin" to
your address. I suspect, with your fertile mind, you will find it far
better to experiment on your own choice; but if, on reflection, you would
like to try some which interest me, I should be truly delighted, and in
this case would write in some detail. If you have the means to repeat
Gartner's experiments on variations of Verbascum or on maize (see the
"Origin"), such experiments would be pre-eminently important. I could
never get variations of Verbascum. I could suggest an experiment on
potatoes analogous with the case of Passiflora; even the case of
Passiflora, often as it has been repeated, might be with advantage
repeated. I have worked like a slave (having counted about nine thousand
seeds) on Melastoma, on the meaning of the two sets of very different
stamens, and as yet have been shamefully beaten, and I now cry for aid. I
could suggest what I believe a very good scheme (at least, Dr. Hooker
thought so) for systematic degeneration of culinary plants, and so find out
their origin; but this would be laborious and the work of years.
LETTER 152. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, 12th [December, 1862].
My good old Friend--
How kind you have been to give me so much of your time! Your letter is of
real use, and has been and shall be well considered. I am much pleased to
find that we do not differ as much as I feared. I begin my book with
saying that my chief object is to show the inordinate scale of variation; I
have especially studied all sorts of variations of the individual. On
crossing I cannot change; the more I think, the more reason I have to
believe that my conclusion would be agreed to by all practised breeders. I
also greatly doubt about variability and domestication being at all
necessarily correlative, but I have touched on this in "Origin." Plants
being identical under very different conditions has always seemed to me a
very heavy argument against what I call direct action. I think perhaps I
will take the case of 1,000 pigeons (152/1. See Letter 146.) to sum up my
volume; I will not discuss other points, but, as I have said, I shall recur
to your letter. But I must just say that if sterility be allowed to come
into play, if long-beaked be in the least degree sterile with short-beaked,
my whole case is altered. By the way, my notions on hybridity are becoming
considerably altered by my dimorphic work. I am now strongly inclined to
believe that sterility is at first a selected quality to keep incipient
species distinct. If you have looked at Lythrum you will see how pollen
can be modified merely to favour crossing; with equal readiness it could be
modified to prevent crossing.
It is this which makes me so much interested with dimorphism, etc. (152/2.
This gives a narrow impression of Darwin's interest in dimorphism. The
importance of his work was (briefly put) the proof that sterility has no
necessary connection with specific difference, but depends on sexual
differentiation independent of racial differences. See "Life and Letters,"
III., page 296. His point of view that sterility is a selected quality is
again given in a letter to Huxley ("Life and Letters," II., page 384), but
was not upheld in his later writings (see "Origin of Species," Edition VI.,
page 245). The idea of sterility being a selected quality is interesting
in connection with Romanes' theory of physiological selection. (See
One word more. When you pitched me head over heels by your new way of
looking at the back side of variation, I received assurance and strength by
considering monsters--due to law: horribly strange as they are, the
monsters were alive till at least when born. They differ at least as much
from the parent as any one mammal from another.
I have just finished a long, weary chapter on simple facts of variation of
cultivated plants, and am now refreshing myself with a paper on Linum for
the Linnean Society.
LETTER 153. TO W.B. TEGETMEIER.
(153/1. The following letter also bears on the question of the artificial
production of sterility.)
Down, 27th [December, 1862].
The present plan is to try whether any existing breeds happen to have
acquired accidentally any degree of sterility; but to this point hereafter.
The enclosed MS. will show what I have done and know on the subject.
Please at some future time carefully return the MS. to me. If I were going
to try again, I would prefer Turbit with Carrier or Dragon.
I will suggest an analogous experiment, which I have had for two years in
my experimental book with "be sure and try," but which, as my health gets
yearly weaker and weaker and my other work increases, I suppose I shall
never try. Permit me to add that if 5 pounds would cover the expenses of
the experiment, I should be delighted to give it, and you could publish the
result if there be any result. I crossed the Spanish cock (your bird) and
white Silk hen and got plenty of eggs and chickens; but two of them seemed
to be quite sterile. I was then sadly overdone with work, but have ever
since much reproached myself that I did not preserve and carefully test the
procreative power of these hens. Now, if you are inclined to get a Spanish
cock and a couple of white Silk hens, I shall be most grateful to hear
whether the offspring breed well: they will prove, I think, not hardy; if
they should prove sterile, which I can hardly believe, they will anyhow do
for the pot. If you do try this, how would it do to put a Silk cock to
your curious silky Cochin hen, so as to get a big silk breed; it would be
curious if you could get silky fowl with bright colours. I believe a Silk
hen crossed by any other breed never gives silky feathers. A cross from
Silk cock and Cochin Silk hen ought to give silky feathers and probably
I have been led lately from experiments (not published) on dimorphism to
reflect much on sterility from hybridism, and partially to change the
opinion given in "Origin." I have now letters out enquiring on the
following point, implied in the experiment, which seems to me well worth
trying, but too laborious ever to be attempted. I would ask every pigeon
and fowl fancier whether they have ever observed, in the same breed, a cock
A paired to a hen B which did not produce young. Then I would get cock A
and match it to a hen of its nearest blood; and hen B to its nearest blood.
I would then match the offspring of A (viz., a, b, c, d, e) to the
offspring of B (viz., f, g, h, i, j), and all those children which were
fertile together should be destroyed until I found one--say a, which was
not quite fertile with--say, i. Then a and i should be preserved and
paired with their parents A and B, so as to try and get two families which
would not unite together; but the members WITHIN each family being fertile
together. This would probably be quite hopeless; but he who could effect
this would, I believe, solve the problem of sterility from hybridism. If
you should ever hear of individual fowls or pigeons which are sterile
together, I should be very grateful to hear of the case. It is a parallel
case to those recorded of a man not impotent long living with a woman who
remained childless; the husband died, and the woman married again and had
plenty of children. Apparently (by no means certainly) this first man and
woman were dissimilar in their sexual organisation. I conceive it possible
that their offspring (if both had married again and both had children)
would be sexually dissimilar, like their parents, or sterile together.
Pray forgive my dreadful writing; I have been very unwell all day, and have
no strength to re-write this scrawl. I am working slowly on, and I suppose
in three or four months shall be ready.
I am sure I do not know whether any human being could understand or read
this shameful scrawl.
LETTER 154. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
Down, December, 28th .
I return enclosed: if you write, thank Mr. Kingsley for thinking of
letting me see the sound sense of an Eastern potentate. (154/1.
Kingsley's letter to Huxley, dated December 20th, 1862, contains a story or
parable of a heathen Khan in Tartary who was visited by a pair of
proselytising Moollahs. The first Moollah said: "Oh! Khan, worship my
God. He is so wise that he made all things." But Moollah No. 2 won the
day by pointing out that his God is "so wise that he makes all things make
themselves.") All that I said about the little book (154/2. The six
"Lectures to Working Men," published in six pamphlets and in book-form in
1863. Mr. Huxley considered that Mr. Darwin's argument required the
production by man's selection of breeds which should be mutually infertile,
and thus resemble distinct species physiologically as well as
morphologically.) is strictly my opinion; it is in every way excellent, and
cannot fail to do good the wider it is circulated. Whether it is worth
your while to give up time to it is another question for you alone to
decide; that it will do good for the subject is beyond all question. I do
not think a dunce exists who could not understand it, and that is a bold
saying after the extent to which I have been misunderstood. I did not
understand what you required about sterility: assuredly the facts given do
not go nearly so far. We differ so much that it is no use arguing. To get
the degree of sterility you expect in recently formed varieties seems to me
simply hopeless. It seems to me almost like those naturalists who declare
they will never believe that one species turns into another till they see
every stage in process.
I have heard from Tegetmeier, and have given him the result of my crosses
of the birds which he proposes to try, and have told him how alone I think
the experiment could be tried with the faintest hope of success--namely, to
get, if possible, a case of two birds which when paired were unproductive,
yet neither impotent. For instance, I had this morning a letter with a
case of a Hereford heifer, which seemed to be, after repeated trials,
sterile with one particular and far from impotent bull, but not with
another bull. But it is too long a story--it is to attempt to make two
strains, both fertile, and yet sterile when one of one strain is crossed
with one of the other strain. But the difficulty...would be beyond
calculation. As far as I see, Tegetmeier's plan would simply test whether
two existing breeds are now in any slight degree sterile; which has already
been largely tested: not that I dispute the good of re-testing.
LETTER 155. TO HUGH FALCONER.
(155/1. The original letter is dated "December 10th," but this must, we
think, be a slip of the pen for January 10th. It contains a reference to
No. VI. of the "Lectures to Working Men" which, as Mr. Leonard Huxley is
good enough to inform us, was not delivered until December 15th, and
therefore could not have been seen by Mr. Darwin on December 10th. The
change of date makes comprehensible the reference to Falconer's paper "On
the American Fossil Elephant of the Regions bordering the Gulf of Mexico
(E. Columbi, Falc.)," which appeared in the January number of the "Natural
History Review." It is true that he had seen advanced sheets of Falconer's
paper ("Life and Letters," II., page 389), but the reference here is to the
In the present volume we have thought it right to give some expression to
the attitude of Darwin towards Owen. Professor Owen's biographer has
clearly felt the difficulty of making a statement on Owen's attitude
towards Darwinism, and has ("Life of Sir Richard Owen," Volume II., page
92) been driven to adopt the severe indictment contained in the "Origin of
Species," Edition VI., page xviii. Darwin was by no means alone in his
distrust of Owen; and to omit altogether a reference to the conduct which
led up to the isolation of Owen among his former friends and colleagues
would be to omit a part of the history of science of the day. And since we
cannot omit to notice Darwin's point of view, it seems right to give the
facts of a typical case illustrating the feeling with which he regarded
Owen. This is all the more necessary since the recently published
biography of Sir R. Owen gives no hint, as far as we are aware, of even a
difference of opinion with other scientific men.
The account which Falconer gives in the above-mentioned paper in the "Nat.
Hist. Review" (January, 1863) would be amusing if the matter were less
serious. In 1857 Falconer described ("Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc." XIII.) a
new species of fossil elephant from America, to which he gave the name
Elephas Columbi, a designation which was recognised and adopted by
Continental writers. In 1858 (Brit. Assoc. Leeds) Owen made use of the
name "Elephas texianus," Blake" for the species which Falconer had
previously named E. Columbi, but without referring to Falconer's
determination; he gave no authority, "thus by the established usage in
zoology producing it as his own." In 1861 Owen in his Palaeontology, 2nd
edition, 1861, describes the elephant as E. texianus, Blake. To Mr.
Blake's name is appended an asterisk which refers to a footnote to
Bollaert's "Antiquities of S. America," 2nd edition. According to Falconer
(page 46) no second edition of Bollaert had appeared at the time of writing
(August, 1862), and in the first edition (1860) he was "unable to detect
the occurrence of the name even, of E. texianus, anywhere throughout the
volume"; though Bollaert mentions the fact that he had deposited, in the
British Museum, the tooth of a fossil elephant from Texas.
In November, 1861, Blake wrote a paper in the "Geologist" in which the new
elephant no longer bears his own name as authority, but is described as
"Elephas texianus, Owen, E. Columbi, Falconer." Finally, in another paper
the name of Owen is dropped and the elephant is once more his own. As
Falconer remarks, "the usage of science does not countenance such
accommodating arrangements, when the result is to prejudice a prior right."
It may be said, no doubt, that the question who first described a given
species is a petty one; but this view has a double edge, and applies most
strongly to those who neglect the just claims of their predecessors.
Down, January 5th .
I finished your Elephant paper last night, and you must let me express my
admiration at it. (155/2. "On the American Fossil Elephant of the Regions
bordering the Gulf of Mexico (E. Columbi, Falc.), etc." "Nat. Hist. Rev."
1863, page 81. (Cf. Letter to Lyell. "Life and Letters," II., page 389;
also "Origin," Edition VI., page 306.) See Letter 143.) All the points
strike me as admirably worked out, and very many most interesting. I was
particularly struck with your remarks on the character of the ancient
Mammalian Fauna of N. America (155/3. Falconer, page 62. This passage is
marked in Darwin's copy.); it agrees with all I fancied was the case,
namely a temporary irruption of S. American forms into N. America, and
conversely, I chuckled a little over the specimen of M. Andium "hesitating"
between the two groups. (155/4. In speaking of the characters of Mastodon
Andium, Falconer refers to a former paper by himself ("Quart. Journ. Geol.
Soc." Volume XIII. 1857, page 313), in which he called attention "to the
exceptional character of certain specimens of M. Andium, as if hesitating
between [the groups] Tetralophodon and Trilophodon" (ibid., page 100).) I
have been assured by Mr. Wallace that abundant Mastodon remains have been
found at Timor, and that is rather close to Australia. I rejoice that you
have smashed that case. (155/5. In the paper in the "Nat. Hist. Review"
(loc. cit.) Falconer writes: "It seems more probable that some
unintentional error has got mixed up with the history of this remarkable
fossil; and until further confirmatory evidence is adduced, of an
unimpeachable character, faith cannot be reposed in the reality of the
asserted Australian Mastodon" (page 101).) It is indeed a grand paper. I
will say nothing more about your allusions to me, except that they have
pleased me quite as much in print as in MS. You must have worked very
hard; the labour must have been extreme, but I do hope that you will have
health and strength to go on. You would laugh if you could see how
indignant all Owen's mean conduct about E. Columbi made me. (155/6. See
Letter 157.) I did not get to sleep till past 3 o'clock. How well you
lash him, firmly and severely, with unruffled temper, as if you were
performing a simple duty. The case is come to such a pass, that I think
every man of science is bound to show his feelings by some overt act, and I
shall watch for a fitting opportunity.
P.S.--I have kept back for a day the enclosed owing to the arrival of your
most interesting letter. I knew it was a mere chance whether you could
inform me on the points required; but no one other person has so often
responded to my miscellaneous queries. I believe I have now in my
greenhouse L. trigynum (155/7. Linum trigynum.), which came up from seed
purchased as L. flavum, from which it is wholly different in foliage. I
have just sent in a paper on Dimorphism of Linum to the Linnean Society
(155/8. "On the Existence of the Forms, and on their reciprocal Sexual
Relation, in several species of the genus Linum.--"Journ. Linn. Soc."
Volume VII., page 69, 1864.), and so I do not doubt your memory is right
about L. trigynum: the functional difference in the two forms of Linum is
really wonderful. I assure you I quite long to see you and a few others in
London; it is not so much the eczema which has taken the epidermis a dozen
times clean off; but I have been knocked up of late with extraordinary
facility, and when I shall be able to come up I know not. I particularly
wish to hear about the wondrous bird: the case has delighted me, because
no group is so isolated as Birds. I much wish to hear when we meet which
digits are developed; when examining birds two or three years ago, I
distinctly remember writing to Lyell that some day a fossil bird would be
found with the end of wing cloven, i.e. the bastard-wing and other part,
both well developed. Thanks for Von Martius, returned by this post, which
I was glad to see. Poor old Wagner (Probably Johann Andreas Wagner, author
of "Zur Feststellung des Artbegriffes, mit besonderer Bezugnahme auf die
Ansichten von Nathusius, Darwin, Is. Geoffroy and Agassiz," "Munchen
Sitzungsb." (1861), page 301, and of numerous papers on zoological and
palaeozoological subjects.) always attacked me in a proper spirit, and sent
me two or three little brochures, and I thanked him cordially. The Germans
seem much stirred up on the subject. I received by the same post almost a
little volume on the "Origin."
I cannot work above a couple of hours daily, and this plays the deuce with
P.S. 2nd.--I have worked like a slave and been baffled like a slave in
trying to make out the meaning of two very different sets of stamens in
some Melastomaceae. (155/9. Several letters on the Melastomaceae occur in
our Botanical section.) I must tell you one fact. I counted 9,000 seeds,
one by one, from my artificially fertilised pods. There is something very
odd, but I am as yet beaten. Plants from two pollens grow at different
rates! Now, what I want to know is, whether in individuals of the same
species, growing together, you have ever noticed any difference in the
position of the pistil or in the size and colour of the stamens?
LETTER 156. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
Down, December 18th .
I have read Nos. IV, and V. (156/1. "On our Knowledge of the Causes of
the Phenomena of Organic Nature," being six Lectures to Working Men
delivered at the Museum of Practical Geology by Prof. Huxley, 1863. These
lectures, which were given once a week from November 10th, 1862, onwards,
were printed from the notes of Mr. J.A. Mays, a shorthand writer, who asked
permission to publish them on his own account; Mr. Huxley stating in a
prefatory "Notice" that he had no leisure to revise the lectures.) They
are simply perfect. They ought to be largely advertised; but it is very
good in me to say so, for I threw down No. IV. with this reflection, "What
is the good of writing a thundering big book, when everything is in this
green little book, so despicable for its size?" In the name of all that is
good and bad, I may as well shut up shop altogether. You put capitally and
most simply and clearly the relation of animals and plants to each other at
Be careful about Fantails: their tail-feathers are fixed in a radiating
position, but they can depress and elevate them. I remember in a pigeon-
book seeing withering contempt expressed at some naturalist for not knowing
this important point! Page 111 (156/2. The reference is to the original
little green paper books in which the lectures first appeared; the paging
in the bound volume dated 1863 is slightly different. The passage here is,
"...If you couple a male and female hybrid...the result is that in ninety-
nine cases out of a hundred you will get no offspring at all." Darwin
maintains elsewhere that Huxley, from not knowing the botanical evidence,
made too much of this point. See "Life and Letters," II., page 384.) seems
a little too strong--viz., ninety-nine out of a hundred, unless you except
Page 118: You say the answer to varieties when crossed being at all
sterile is "absolutely a negative." (156/3. Huxley, page 112: "Can we
find any approximation to this [sterility of hybrids] in the different
races known to be produced by selective breeding from a common stock? Up
to the present time the answer to that question is absolutely a negative
one.") Do you mean to say that Gartner lied, after experiments by the
hundred (and he a hostile witness), when he showed that this was the case
with Verbascum and with maize (and here you have selected races): does
Kolreuter lie when he speaks about the varieties of tobacco? My God, is
not the case difficult enough, without its being, as I must think, falsely
made more difficult? I believe it is my own fault--my d--d candour: I
ought to have made ten times more fuss about these most careful
experiments. I did put it stronger in the third edition of the "Origin."
If you have a new edition, do consider your second geological section: I
do not dispute the truth of your statement; but I maintain that in almost
every case the gravel would graduate into the mud; that there would not be
a hard, straight line between the mass of gravel and mud; that the gravel,
in crawling inland, would be separated from the underlying beds by oblique
lines of stratification. A nice idea of the difficulty of Geology your
section would give to a working man! Do show your section to Ramsay, and
tell him what I say; and if he thinks it a fair section for a beginner I am
shut up, and "will for ever hold my tongue." Good-night.
LETTER 157. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
Down, [January] 10th .
You will be weary of notes from me about the little book of yours. It is
lucky for me that I expressed, before reading No. VI. (157/1. "Lectures to
Working Men," No. VI., is a critical examination of the position of the
"Origin of Species" in relation to the complete theory of the "causes of
the phenomena of organic nature."), my opinion of its absolute excellence,
and of its being well worth wide distribution and worth correction (not
that I see where you could improve), if you thought it worth your valuable
time. Had I read No. VI., even a rudiment of modesty would, or ought to,
have stopped me saying so much. Though I have been well abused, yet I have
had so much praise, that I have become a gourmand, both as to capacity and
taste; and I really did not think that mortal man could have tickled my
palate in the exquisite manner with which you have done the job. So I am
an old ass, and nothing more need be said about this. I agree entirely
with all your reservations about accepting the doctrine, and you might have
gone further with further safety and truth. Of course I do not wholly
agree about sterility. I hate beyond all things finding myself in
disagreement with any capable judge, when the premises are the same; and
yet this will occasionally happen. Thinking over my former letter to you,
I fancied (but I now doubt) that I had partly found out the cause of our
disagreement, and I attributed it to your naturally thinking most about
animals, with which the sterility of the hybrids is much more conspicuous
than the lessened fertility of the first cross. Indeed, this could hardly
be ascertained with mammals, except by comparing the products of [their]
whole life; and, as far as I know, this has only been ascertained in the
case of the horse and ass, which do produce fewer offspring in [their]
lifetime than in pure breeding. In plants the test of first cross seems as
fair as test of sterility of hybrids. And this latter test applies, I will
maintain to the death, to the crossing of varieties of Verbascum, and
varieties, selected varieties, of Zea. (157/2. See Letter 156.) You will
say Go to the Devil and hold your tongue. No, I will not hold my tongue;
for I must add that after going, for my present book, all through domestic
animals, I have come to the conclusion that there are almost certainly
several cases of two or three or more species blended together and now
perfectly fertile together. Hence I conclude that there must be something
in domestication,--perhaps the less stable conditions, the very cause which
induces so much variability,--which eliminates the natural sterility of
species when crossed. If so, we can see how unlikely that sterility should
arise between domestic races. Now I will hold my tongue. Page 143: ought
not "Sanscrit" to be "Aryan"? What a capital number the last "Natural
History Review" is! That is a grand paper by Falconer. I cannot say how
indignant Owen's conduct about E. Columbi has made me. I believe I hate
him more than you do, even perhaps more than good old Falconer does. But I
have bubbled over to one or two correspondents on this head, and will say
no more. I have sent Lubbock a little review of Bates' paper in "Linn.
Transact." (157/3. The unsigned review of Mr. Bates' work on mimetic
butterflies appeared in the "Nat. Hist. Review" (1863), page 219.) which L.
seems to think will do for your "Review." Do inaugurate a great
improvement, and have pages cut, like the Yankees do; I will heap blessings
on your head. Do not waste your time in answering this.
LETTER 158. TO JOHN LUBBOCK [LORD AVEBURY].
Down, January 23rd .
I have no criticism, except one sentence not perfectly smooth. I think
your introductory remarks very striking, interesting, and novel. (158/1.
"On the Development of Chloeon (Ephemera) dimidiatum, Part I. By John
Lubbock. "Trans. Linn. Soc." Volume XXIV., pages 61-78, 1864 [Read January
15th, 1863].) They interested me the more, because the vaguest thoughts of
the same kind had passed through my head; but I had no idea that they could
be so well developed, nor did I know of exceptions. Sitaris and Meloe
(158/2. Sitaris and Meloe, two genera of coleopterous insects, are
referred to by Lubbock (op. cit., pages 63-64) as "perhaps...the most
remarkable cases...among the Coleoptera" of curious and complicated
metamorphoses.) seem very good. You have put the whole case of
metamorphosis in a new light; I dare say what you remark about poverty of
fresh-water is very true. (158/3. "We cannot but be struck by the poverty
of the fresh-water fauna when compared with that of the ocean" (op. cit.,
page 64).) I think you might write a memoir on fresh-water productions. I
suggest that the key-note is that land-productions are higher and have
advantage in general over marine; and consequently land-productions have
generally been modified into fresh-water productions, instead of marine
productions being directly changed into fresh-water productions, as at
first seems more probable, as the chance of immigration is always open from
sea to rivers and ponds.
My talk with you did me a deal of good, and I enjoyed it much.
LETTER 159. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, January 13th .
I send a very imperfect answer to [your] question, which I have written on
foreign paper to save you copying, and you can send when you write to
Thomson in Calcutta. Hereafter I shall be able to answer better your
question about qualities induced in individuals being inherited; gout in
man--loss of wool in sheep (which begins in the first generation and takes
two or three to complete); probably obesity (for it is rare with poor);
probably obesity and early maturity in short-horn cattle, etc., etc.
LETTER 160. TO A. DE CANDOLLE.
Down, January 14th .
I thank you most sincerely for sending me your Memoir. (160/1. Etude sur
l'Espece a l'occasion d'une revision de la Famille des Cupuliferes.
"Biblioth. Univ. (Arch. des Sc. Phys. et Nat.)," Novembre 1862.) I have
read it with the liveliest interest, as is natural for me; but you have the
art of making subjects, which might be dry, run easily. I have been fairly
astonished at the amount of individual variability in the oaks. I never
saw before the subject in any department of nature worked out so carefully.
What labour it must have cost you! You spoke in one letter of advancing
years; but I am very sure that no one would have suspected that you felt
this. I have been interested with every part; though I am so unfortunate
as to differ from most of my contemporaries in thinking that the vast
continental extensions (160/2. See Letters 47, 48.) of Forbes, Heer, and
others are not only advanced without sufficient evidence, but are opposed
to much weighty evidence. You refer to my work in the kindest and most
generous spirit. I am fully satisfied at the length in belief to which you
go, and not at all surprised at the prudent reservations which you make. I
remember well how many years it cost me to go round from old beliefs. It
is encouraging to me to observe that everyone who has gone an inch with me,
after a period goes a few more inches or even feet. But the great point,
as it seems to me, is to give up the immutability of specific forms; as
long as they are thought immutable, there can be no real progress in
"Epiontology." (160/3. See De Candolle, loc. cit., page 67: he defines
"Epiontologie" as the study of the distribution and succession of organised
beings from their origin up to the present time. At present Epiontology is
divided into geography and palaeontology, "mais cette division trop inegale
et a limites bien vagues disparaitra probablement.") It matters very
little to any one except myself, whether I am a little more or less wrong
on this or that point; in fact, I am sure to be proved wrong in many
points. But the subject will have, I am convinced, a grand future.
Considering that birds are the most isolated group in the animal kingdom,
what a splendid case is this Solenhofen bird-creature with its long tail
and fingers to its wings! I have lately been daily and hourly using and
quoting your "Geographical Botany" in my book on "Variation under
LETTER 161. TO HORACE DOBELL.
Down, February 16th .
Absence from home and consequent idleness are the causes that I have not
sooner thanked you for your very kind present of your Lectures. (161/1.
"On the Germs and Vestiges of Disease," (London) 1861.) Your reasoning
seems quite satisfactory (though the subject is rather beyond my limit of
thought and knowledge) on the V.M.F. not being "a given quantity." (161/2.
"It has been too common to consider the force exhibited in the operations
of life (the V.M.F.) as a given quantity, to which no accessions can be
made, but which is apportioned to each living being in quantity sufficient
for its necessities, according to some hidden law" (op. cit., page 41.)
And I can see that the conditions of life must play a most important part
in allowing this quantity to increase, as in the budding of a tree, etc.
How far these conditions act on "the forms of organic life" (page 46) I do
not see clearly. In fact, no part of my subject has so completely puzzled
me as to determine what effect to attribute to (what I vaguely call) the
direct action of the conditions of life. I shall before long come to this
subject, and must endeavour to come to some conclusion when I have got the
mass of collected facts in some sort of order in my mind. My present
impression is that I have underrated this action in the "Origin." I have
no doubt when I go through your volume I shall find other points of
interest and value to me. I have already stumbled on one case (about which
I want to consult Mr. Paget)--namely, on the re-growth of supernumerary
digits. (161/3. See Letters 178, 270.) You refer to "White on
Regeneration, etc., 1785." I have been to the libraries of the Royal and
the Linnean Societies, and to the British Museum, where the librarians got
out your volume and made a special hunt, and could discover no trace of
such a book. Will you grant me the favour of giving me any clue, where I
could see the book? Have you it? if so, and the case is given briefly,
would you have the great kindness to copy it? I much want to know all
particulars. One case has been given me, but with hardly minute enough
details, of a supernumerary little finger which has already been twice cut
off, and now the operation will soon have to be done for the third time. I
am extremely much obliged for the genealogical table; the fact of the two
cousins not, as far as yet appears, transmitting the peculiarity is
extraordinary, and must be given by me.
LETTER 162. TO C. LYELL.
[February 17th, 1863.]
The same post that brought the enclosed brought Dana's pamphlet on the same
subject. (162/1. The pamphlet referred to was published in "Silliman's
Journal," Volume XXV., 1863, pages 65 and 71, also in the "Annals and
Magazine of Natural History," Volume XI., pages 207-14, 1863: "On the
Higher Subdivisions in the Classification of Mammals." In this paper Dana
maintains the view that "Man's title to a position by himself, separate
from the other mammals in classification, appears to be fixed on structural
as well as physical grounds" (page 210). His description is as follows:--
I. ARCHONTIA (vel DIPODA) Man (alone).
II. MEGASTHENA. III. MICROSTHENA.
Mutilata. Bruta (Edentata).
The whole seems to me utterly wild. If there had not been the foregone
wish to separate men, I can never believe that Dana or any one would have
relied on so small a distinction as grown man not using fore-limbs for
locomotion, seeing that monkeys use their limbs in all other respects for
the same purpose as man. To carry on analogous principles (for they are
not identical, in crustacea the cephalic limbs are brought close to mouth)
from crustacea to the classification of mammals seems to me madness. Who
would dream of making a fundamental distinction in birds, from fore-limbs
not being used at all in [some] birds, or used as fins in the penguin, and
for flight in other birds?
I get on slowly with your grand work, for I am overwhelmed with odds and
ends and letters.
LETTER 163. TO J.D. HOOKER.
(163/1. The following extract refers to Owen's paper in the "Linn. Soc.
Journal," June, 1857, in which the classification of the Mammalia by
cerebral characters was proposed. In spite of the fact that men and apes
are placed in distinct Sub-Classes, Owen speaks (in the foot-note of which
Huxley made such telling effect) of the determination of the difference
between Homo and Pithecus as the anatomist's difficulty. (See Letter
July 5th, 1857.
What a capital number of the "Linnean Journal!" Owen's is a grand paper;
but I cannot swallow Man making a division as distinct from a chimpanzee as
an Ornithorhynchus from a horse; I wonder what a chimpanzee would say to
this? (163/2. According to Owen the sub-class Archencephala contains only
the genus Homo: the Gyrencephala contains both chimpanzee and horse, the
Lyencephala contains Ornithorhynchus.)
LETTER 164. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
Down [February?] 26th, 1863.
I have just finished with very great interest "Man's Place." (164/1.
"Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature," 1863 (preface dated January 1863).)
I never fail to admire the clearness and condensed vigour of your style, as
one calls it, but really of your thought. I have no criticisms; nor is it
likely that I could have. But I think you could have added some
interesting matter on the character or disposition of the young ourangs
which have been kept in France and England. I should have thought you
might have enlarged a little on the later embryological changes in man and
on his rudimentary structure, tail as compared with tail of higher monkeys,
intermaxillary bone, false ribs, and I daresay other points, such as
muscles of ears, etc., etc. I was very much struck with admiration at the
opening pages of Part II. (and oh! what a delicious sneer, as good as a
dessert, at page 106) (164/2. Huxley, op. cit., page 106. After saying
that "there is but one hypothesis regarding the origin of species of
animals in general which has any scientific existence--that propounded by
Mr. Darwin," and after a few words on Lamarck, he goes on: "And though I
have heard of the announcement of a formula touching 'the ordained
continuous becoming of organic forms,' it is obvious that it is the first
duty of a hypothesis to be intelligible, and that a qua-qua-versal
proposition of this kind, which may be read backwards or forwards, or
sideways, with exactly the same amount of significance, does not really
exist, though it may seem to do so." The "formula" in question is
Owen's.): but my admiration is unbounded at pages 109 to 112. I declare I
never in my life read anything grander. Bacon himself could not have
charged a few paragraphs with more condensed and cutting sense than you
have done. It is truly grand. I regret extremely that you could not, or
did not, end your book (not that I mean to say a word against the
Geological History) with these pages. With a book, as with a fine day, one
likes it to end with a glorious sunset. I congratulate you on its
publication; but do not be disappointed if it does not sell largely: parts
are highly scientific, and I have often remarked that the best books
frequently do not get soon appreciated: certainly large sale is no proof
of the highest merit. But I hope it may be widely distributed; and I am
rejoiced to see in your note to Miss Rhadamanthus (164/3. This refers to
Mr. Darwin's daughter (now Mrs. Litchfield), whom Mr. Huxley used to laugh
at for the severity of her criticisms.) that a second thousand is called
for of the little book. What a letter that is of Owen's in the "Athenaeum"
(164/4. A letter by Owen in the "Athenaeum," February 21st, 1863, replying
to strictures on his treatment of the brain question, which had appeared in
Lyell's "Antiquity of Man."); how cleverly he will utterly muddle and
confound the public. Indeed he quite muddled me, till I read again your
"concise statement" (164/5. This refers to a section (pages 113-18) in
"Man's Place in Nature," headed "A succinct History of the Controversy
respecting the Cerebral Structure of Man and the Apes." Huxley follows the
question from Owen's attempt to classify the mammalia by cerebral
characters, published by the "Linn. Soc." in 1857, up to his revival of the
subject at the Cambridge meeting of the British Association in 1862. It is
a tremendous indictment of Owen, and seems to us to conclude not
unfittingly with a citation from Huxley's article in the "Medical Times,"
October 11th, 1862. Huxley here points out that special investigations
have been made into the question at issue "during the last two years" by
Allen Thomson, Rolleston, Marshall, Flower, Schroeder van der Kolk and
Vrolik, and that "all these able and conscientious observers" have
testified to the accuracy of his statements, "while not a single anatomist,
great or small, has supported Professor Owen." He sums up the case once
more, and concludes: "The question has thus become one of personal
veracity. For myself I will accept no other issue than this, grave as it
is, to the present controversy.") (which is capitally clear), and then I
saw that my suspicion was true that he has entirely changed his ground to
size of Brain. How candid he shows himself to have taken the slipped
Brain! (164/6. Owen in the "Athenaeum," February 21st, 1863, admits that
in the brain which he used in illustration of his statements "the cerebral
hemispheres had glided forward and apart behind so as to expose a portion
of the cerebellum.") I am intensely curious to see whether Lyell will
answer. (164/7. Lyell's answer was in the "Athenaeum" March 7th, 1863.)
Lyell has been, I fear, rather rash to enter on a subject on which he of
course knows nothing by himself. By heavens, Owen will shake himself, when
he sees what an antagonist he has made for himself in you. With hearty
I am fearfully disappointed at Lyell's excessive caution (164/8. In the
"Antiquity of Man": see "Life and Letters," III., page 8.) in expressing
any judgment on Species or [on the] origin of Man.
LETTER 165. TO JOHN SCOTT.
Down, March 6th, 1863.
I thank you for your criticisms on the "Origin," and which I have not time
to discuss; but I cannot help doubting, from your expression of an
"INNATE...selective principle," whether you fully comprehend what is meant
by Natural Selection. Certainly when you speak of weaker (i.e. less well
adapted) forms crossing with the stronger, you take a widely different view
from what I do on the struggle for existence; for such weaker forms could
not exist except by the rarest chance. With respect to utility, reflect
that 99/100ths part of the structure of each being is due to inheritance of
formerly useful structures. Pray read what I have said on "correlation."
Orchids ought to show us how ignorant we are of what is useful. No doubt
hundreds of cases could be advanced of which no explanation could be
offered; but I must stop. Your letter has interested me much. I am very
far from strong, and have great fear that I must stop all work for a couple
of months for entire rest, and leave home. It will be ruin to all my work.
LETTER 166. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, April 23rd .
The more I think of Falconer's letter (166/1. Published in the "Athenaeum"
April 4th, 1863, page 459. The writer asserts that Lyell did not make it
clear that certain material made use of in the "Antiquity of Man" was
supplied by the original work of Mr. Prestwich and himself. (See "Life and
Letters," III., page 19.)) the more grieved I am; he and Prestwich (the
latter at least must owe much to the "Principles") assume an absurdly
unwarrantable position with respect to Lyell. It is too bad to treat an
old hero in science thus. I can see from a note from Falconer (about a
wonderful fossil Brazilian Mammal, well called Meso- or Typo-therium) that
he expects no sympathy from me. He will end, I hope, by being sorry.
Lyell lays himself open to a slap by saying that he would come to show his
original observations, and then not distinctly doing so; he had better only
have laid claim, on this one point of man, to verification and compilation.
Altogether, I much like Lyell's letter. But all this squabbling will
greatly sink scientific men. I have seen a sneer already in the "Times."
LETTER 167. TO H.W. BATES.
At Rev. C. Langton, Hartfield, Tunbridge Wells, April 30th .
You will have received before this the note which I addressed to Leicester,
after finishing Volume I., and you will have received copies of my little
review (167/1. "Nat. Hist. Review," 1863, page 219. A review of Bates'
paper on Mimetic Butterflies.) of your paper...I have now finished Volume
II., and my opinion remains the same--that you have written a truly
admirable work (167/2. "The Naturalist on the Amazons," 1863.), with
capital original remarks, first-rate descriptions, and the whole in a style
which could not be improved. My family are now reading the book, and
admire it extremely; and, as my wife remarks, it has so strong an air of
truthfulness. I had a letter from a person the other day, unknown to you,
full of praise of the book. I do hope it may get extensively heard of and
circulated; but to a certain extent this, I think, always depends on
I suppose the clicking noise of surprise made by the Indian is that which
the end of the tongue, applied to the palate of the mouth and suddenly
I have not written since receiving your note of April 20th, in which you
confided in me and told me your prospects. I heartily wish they were
better, and especially more certain; but with your abilities and powers of
writing it will be strange if you cannot add what little you require for
your income. I am glad that you have got a retired and semi-rural
situation. What a grand ending you give to your book, contrasting
civilisation and wild life! I quite regret that I have finished it: every
evening it was a real treat to me to have my half-hour in the grand
Amazonian forest, and picture to myself your vivid descriptions. There are
heaps of facts of value to me in a natural history point of view. It was a
great misfortune that you were prevented giving the discussion on species.
But you will, I hope, be able to give your views and facts somewhere else.
LETTER 168. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, May 15th .
Your letter received this morning interested me more than even most of your
letters, and that is saying a good deal. I must scribble a little on
several points. About Lyell and species--you put the whole case, I do
believe, when you say that he is "half-hearted and whole-headed." (168/1.
Darwin's disappointment with the cautious point of view taken up by Lyell
in the "Antiquity of Man" is illustrated in the "Life and Letters," III.,
pages 11, 13. See also Letter 164, page 239.) I wrote to A. Gray that,
when I saw such men as Lyell and he refuse to judge, it put me in despair,
and that I sometimes thought I should prefer that Lyell had judged against
modification of species rather than profess inability to decide; and I left
him to apply this to himself. I am heartily rejoiced to hear that you
intend to try to bring L. and F. (168/2. Falconer claimed that Lyell had
not "done justice to the part he took in resuscitating the cave question."
See "Life and Letters," III., page 14.) together again; but had you not
better wait till they are a little cooled? You will do Science a real good
service. Falconer never forgave Lyell for taking the Purbeck bones from
him and handing them over to Owen.
With respect to island floras, if I understand rightly, we differ almost
solely how plants first got there. I suppose that at long intervals, from
as far back as later Tertiary periods to the present time, plants
occasionally arrived (in some cases, perhaps, aided by different currents
from existing currents and by former islands), and that these old arrivals
have survived little modified on the islands, but have become greatly
modified or become extinct on the continent. If I understand, you believe
that all islands were formerly united to continents, and then received all
their plants and none since; and that on the islands they have undergone
less extinction and modification than on the continent. The number of
animal forms on islands, very closely allied to those on continents, with a
few extremely distinct and anomalous, does not seem to me well to harmonise
with your supposed view of all having formerly arrived or rather having
been left together on the island.
LETTER 169. TO ASA GRAY.
Down, May 31st [1863?].
I was very glad to receive your review (169/1. The review on De Candolle's
work on the Oaks (A. Gray's "Scientific Papers," I., page 130).) of De
Candolle a week ago. It seems to me excellent, and you speak out, I think,
more plainly in favour of derivation of species than hitherto, though
doubtfully about Natural Selection. Grant the first, I am easy about the
second. Do you not consider such cases as all the orchids next thing to a
demonstration against Heer's view of species arising suddenly by
monstrosities?--it is impossible to imagine so many co-adaptations being
formed all by a chance blow. Of course creationists would cut the enigma.