Part 6 out of 10
LETTER 170. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
June 27th [1863?]
What are you doing now? I have never yet got hold of the "Edinburgh
Review," in which I hear you are well abused. By the way, I heard lately
from Asa Gray that Wyman was delighted at "Man's Place." (170/1.
"Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature," by T.H. Huxley, 1863.) I wonder
who it is who pitches weakly, but virulently into you, in the
"Anthropological Review." How quiet Owen seems! I do at last begin to
believe that he will ultimately fall in public estimation. What nonsense
he wrote in the "Athenaeum" (170/2. "Athenaeum," March 28th, 1863. See
"Life and Letters," III., page 17.) on Heterogeny! I saw in his Aye-Aye
(170/3. See Owen in the "Trans. Zool. Soc." Volume V. The sentence
referred to seems to be the following (page 95): "We know of no changes in
progress in the Island of Madagascar, necessitating a special quest of
wood-boring larvae by small quadrupeds of the Lemurine or Sciurine types of
organisation.') paper (I think) that he sneers at the manner in which he
supposes that we should account for the structure of its limbs; and asks
how we know that certain insects had increased in the Madagascar forests.
Would it not be a good rebuff to ask him how he knows there were trees at
all on the leafless plains of La Plata for his Mylodons to tear down? But
I must stop, for if I once begin about [him] there will be no end. I was
disappointed in the part about species in Lyell. (170/4. Lyell's
"Antiquity of Man." See "Life and Letters," III., page 11.) You and
Hooker are the only two bold men. I have had a bad spring and summer,
almost constantly very unwell; but I am crawling on in my book on
"Variation under Domestication.")
LETTER 171. TO C. LYELL.
Down, August 14th .
Have you seen Bentham's remarks on species in his address to the Linnean
Society? (171/1. Presidential address before the Linnean Society by G.
Bentham ("Journ. Proc. Linn. Soc." Volume VII., page xi., 1864).) they have
pleased me more than anything I have read for some time. I have no news,
for I have not seen a soul for months, and have had a bad spring and
summer, but have managed to do a good deal of work. Emma is threatening me
to take me to Malvern, and perhaps I shall be compelled, but it is a horrid
waste of time; you must have enjoyed North Wales, I should think, it is to
me a most glorious country...
If you have not read Bates' book (171/2. Henry Walter Bates, "The
Naturalist on the River Amazons," 2 volumes, London, 1863. In a letter to
Bates, April 18th, 1863, Darwin writes, "It is the best work of natural
history travels ever published in England" ("Life and Letters," II., page
381.), I think it would interest you. He is second only to Humboldt in
describing a tropical forest. (171/3. Quoted in "Life and Letters," II.,
page 381.). Talking of reading, I have never got the "Edinburgh" (171/4.
The "Geological Evidence of the Antiquity of Man," by Sir Charles Lyell,
and works by other authors reviewed in the "Edinburgh Review." Volume
CXVIII., July 1863. The writer sums up his criticism as follows:
"Glancing at the work of Sir Charles Lyell as a whole, it leaves the
impression on our minds that we have been reading an ingenious academical
thesis, rather than a work of demonstration by an original writer...There
is no argument in it, and only a few facts which have not been stated
elsewhere by Sir C. Lyell himself or by others" (loc. cit., page 294).), in
which, I suppose, you are cut up.
LETTER 172. TO H. FALCONER.
December 26th .
Thank you for telling me about the Pliocene mammal, which is very
remarkable; but has not Owen stated that the Pliocene badger is identical
with the recent? Such a case does indeed well show the stupendous duration
of the same form. I have not heard of Suess' pamphlet (172/1. Probably
Suess's paper "Ueber die Verschiedenheit und die Aufeinanderfolge der
tertiaren Land-faunen in der Niederung von Wien." "Sitz.-Ber. Wien Akad."
XLVII., page 306, 1863.), and should much like to learn the title, if it
can be procured; but I am on different subjects just at present. I should
rather like to see it rendered highly probable that the process of
formation of a new species was short compared to its duration--that is, if
the process was allowed to be slow and long; the idea is new to me. Heer's
view that new species are suddenly formed like monsters, I feel a
conviction from many reasons is false.
CHAPTER 1.IV.--EVOLUTION, 1864-1869.
LETTER 173. TO A.R. WALLACE.
Down, January 1st, 1864.
I am still unable to write otherwise than by dictation. In a letter
received two or three weeks ago from Asa Gray he writes: "I read lately
with gusto Wallace's expose of the Dublin man on Bees' cells, etc."
(173/1. "Remarks on the Rev. S. Haughton's paper on the Bee's Cell and on
the Origin of Species" ("Ann. and Mag. Nat. Hist." XII., 1863, page 303).
Prof. Haughton's paper was read before the Natural History Society of
Dublin, November 21st, 1862, and reprinted in the "Ann. and Mag. Nat.
Hist." XI., 1863, page 415. See Letters 73, 74, 75.) Now, though I cannot
read at present, I much want to know where this is published, that I may
procure a copy. Further on, Asa Gray says (after speaking of Agassiz's
paper on Glaciers in the "Atlantic Magazine" and his recent book entitled
"Method of Study"): "Pray set Wallace upon these articles." So Asa Gray
seems to think much of your powers of reviewing, and I mention this as it
assuredly is laudari a laudato. I hope you are hard at work, and if you
are inclined to tell me, I should much like to know what you are doing. It
will be many months, I fear, before I shall do anything.
LETTER 174. TO J.L.A. DE QUATREFAGES.
Down, March 27th [1864?].
I had heard that your work was to be translated, and I heard it with
pleasure; but I can take no share of credit, for I am not an active, only
an honorary member of the Society. Since writing I have finished with
extreme interest to the end your admirable work on metamorphosis. (174/1.
Probably "Metamorphoses of Man and the Lower Animals." Translated by H.
Lawson, 1864.) How well you are acquainted with the works of English
naturalists, and how generously you bestow honour on them! Mr. Lubbock is
my neighbour, and I have known him since he was a little boy; he is in
every way a thoroughly good man; as is my friend Huxley. It gave me real
pleasure to see you notice their works as you have done.
LETTER 175. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
Down, April 11th .
I am very much obliged for your present of your "Comp. Anatomy." (175/1.
"Lectures on the Elements of Comparative Anatomy," 1864.) When strong
enough I am sure I shall read it with greatest interest. I could not
resist the last chapter, of which I have read a part, and have been much
interested about the "inspired idiot." (175/2. In reference to Oken (op.
cit., page 282) Huxley says: "I must confess I never read his works
without thinking of the epithet of 'inspired idiot' applied to our own
Goldsmith.") If Owen wrote the article "Oken" (175/3. The article on Oken
in the eighth edition of the "Encyclopaedia Britannica" is signed "R.O.":
Huxley wrote to Darwin (April 18th, 1864), "There is not the smallest
question that Owen wrote both the article 'Oken' and the 'Archetype' Book"
(Huxley's "Life," I., page 250). Mr. Huxley's statements amount to this:
(1) Prof. Owen accuses Goethe of having in 1820 appropriated Oken's theory
of the skull, and of having given an apocryphal account of how the idea
occurred to himself in 1790. (2) in the same article, page 502, Owen
stated it to be questionable whether the discoverer of the true theory of
the segmental constitution of the skull (i.e. himself) was excited to his
labours, or "in any way influenced by the a priori guesses of Oken." On
this Huxley writes, page 288: "But if he himself had not been in any way
influenced by Oken, and if the 'Programm' [of Oken] is a mere mass of 'a
priori guesses,' how comes it that only three years before Mr. Owen could
write thus? 'Oken, ce genie profond et penetrant, fut le premier qui
entrevit la verite, guide par l'heureuse idee de l'arrangement des os
craniens en segments, comme ceux du rachis, appeles vertebres...'" Later
on Owen wrote: "Cela servira pour exemple d'une examen scrupuleux des
faits, d'une appreciation philosophique de leurs relations et analogies,
etc." (From "Principes d'Osteologie comparee, ou Recherches sur
l'Archetype," etc., pages 155, 1855). (3) Finally Huxley says, page 289,
plainly: "The fact is that, so far from not having been 'in any way
influenced' by Oken, Prof. Owen's own contributions to this question are
the merest Okenism, remanie.") and the French work on the Archetype (points
you do not put quite clearly), he never did a baser act...You are so good a
Christian that you will hardly understand how I chuckle over this bit of
baseness. I hope you keep well and hearty; I honour your wisdom at giving
up at present Society for Science. But, on the other hand, I feel it in
myself possible to get to care too much for Natural Science and too little
for other things. I am getting better, I almost dare to hope permanently;
for my sickness is decidedly less--for twenty-seven days consecutively I
was sick many times daily, and lately I was five days free. I long to do a
little work again. The magnificent (by far the most magnificent, and too
magnificent) compliment which you paid me at the end of your "Origin of
Species" (175/4. A title applied to the "Lectures to Working Men," that
"green little book" referred to in Letter 156. Speaking of Mr. Darwin's
work he says (page 156): "I believe that if you strip it of its
theoretical part, it still remains one of the greatest encyclopaedias of
biological doctrine that any one man ever brought forth; and I believe
that, if you take it as the embodiment of an hypothesis, it is destined to
be the guide of biological and psychological speculation for the next three
or four generations.') I have met with reprinted from you two or three
LETTER 175A. TO ERASMUS DARWIN.
Down, June 30th, 1864.
(175A.1. The preceding letter contains a reference to the prolonged period
of ill-health which Darwin suffered in 1863 and 1864, and in this
connection the present letter is of interest.
The Copley Medal was given to him in 1864.)
I had not heard a word about the Copley Medal. Please give Falconer my
cordial thanks for his interest about me. I enclose the list of everything
published by me except a few unimportant papers. Ask Falconer not to
mention that I sent the list, as some one might say I had been canvassing,
which is an odious imputation. The origin of the Voyage in the "Beagle"
was that Fitz-Roy generously offered to give up half his cabin to any one
who would volunteer to go as naturalist. Beaufort wrote to Cambridge, and
I volunteered. Fitz-Roy never persuaded me to give up the voyage on
account of sickness, nor did I ever think of doing so, though I suffered
considerably; but I do not believe it was the cause of my subsequent ill-
health, which has lost me so many years, and therefore I should not think
the sea-sickness was worth notice. It would save you trouble to forward
this with my kindest remembrances to Falconer.
(176/1. The following letter was the beginning of a correspondence with
Mr. B.D. Walsh, whom C.V. Riley describes as "one of the ablest and most
thorough entomologists of our time.")
LETTER 176. B.D. WALSH TO CHARLES DARWIN.
Rock Island, Illinois, U.S., April 29th, 1864.
(176/2. The words in square brackets are restorations of parts torn off
the original letter.)
More than thirty years ago I was introduced to you at your rooms in
Christ's College by A.W. Grisebach, and had the pleasure of seeing your
noble collection of British Coleoptera. Some years afterwards I became a
Fellow of Trinity, and finally gave up my Fellowship rather than go into
Orders, and came to this country. For the last five or six years I have
been paying considerable attention to the insect fauna of the U.S., some of
the fruits of which you will see in the enclosed pamphlets. Allow me to
take this opportunity of thanking you for the publication of your "Origin
of Species," which I read three years ago by the advice of a botanical
friend, though I had a strong prejudice against what I supposed then to be
your views. The first perusal staggered me, the second convinced me, and
the oftener I read it the more convinced I am of the general soundness of
As you have called upon naturalists that believe in your views to give
public testimony of their convictions, I have directed your attention on
the outside of one or two of my pamphlets to the particular passages in
which [I] have done so. You will please accept these papers from me in
token of my respect and admiration.
As you may see from the latest of these papers, I [have] recently made the
remarkable discover that there [are the] so-called "three sexes" not only
in social insects but [also in the] strictly solitary genus Cynips.
When is your great work to make its appearance? [I should be] much pleased
to receive a few lines from you.
LETTER 177. TO B.D. WALSH.
Down, October 21st .
Ill-health has prevented me from sooner thanking you for your very kind
letter and several memoirs.
I have been very much pleased to see how boldly and clearly you speak out
on the modification of species. I thank you for giving me the pages of
reference; but they were superfluous, for I found so many original and
profound remarks that I have carefully looked through all the papers. I
hope that your discovery about the Cynips (177/1. "On Dimorphism in the
hymenopterous genus Cynips," "Proc. Entom. Soc. Philadelphia," March, 1864.
Mr. Walsh's view is that Cynips quercus aciculata is a dimorphous form of
Cynips q. spongifica, and occurs only as a female. Cynips q. spongifica
also produces spongifica females and males from other galls at a different
time of year.) will hold good, for it is a remarkable one, and I for one
have often marvelled what could be the meaning of the case. I will lend
your paper to my neighbour Mr. Lubbock, who I know is much interested in
the subject. Incidentally I shall profit by your remarks on galls. If you
have time I think a rather hopeless experiment would be worth trying;
anyhow, I should have tried it had my health permitted. It is to insert a
minute grain of some organic substance, together with the poison from bees,
sand-wasps, ichneumons, adders, and even alkaloid poisons into the tissues
of fitting plants for the chance of monstrous growths being produced.
(177/2. See "Life and Letters," III., page 346, for an account of
experiments attempted in this direction by Mr. Darwin in 1880. On the
effects of injuring plant-tissues, see Massart, "La Cicatrisation, etc." in
Tome LVII. of the "Memoires Couronnes" of the Brussels Academy.)
My health has long been poor, and I have lately suffered from a long
illness which has interrupted all work, but I am now recommencing a volume
in connection with the "Origin."
P.S.--If you write again I should very much like to hear what your life in
your new country is.
What can be the meaning or use of the great diversity of the external
generative organs in your cases, in Bombus, and the phytophagous
What can there be in the act of copulation necessitating such complex and
LETTER 178. TO W.H. FLOWER.
Down, July 11th, 1864.
I am truly obliged for all the trouble which you have taken for me, and for
your very interesting note. I had only vaguely heard it said that frogs
had a rudiment of a sixth toe; had I known that such great men had looked
to the point I should not have dreamed of looking myself. The rudiment
sent to you was from a full-grown frog; so that if these bones are the two
cuneiforms they must, I should think, be considered to be in a rudimentary
condition. This afternoon my gardener brought in some tadpoles with the
hind-legs alone developed, and I looked at the rudiment. At this age it
certainly looks extremely like a digit, for the extremity is enlarged like
that of the adjoining real toe, and the transverse articulation seems
similar. I am sorry that the case is doubtful, for if these batrachians
had six toes, I certainly think it would have thrown light on the truly
extraordinary strength of inheritance in polydactylism in so many animals,
and especially on the power of regeneration in amputated supernumerary
digits. (178/1. In the first edition of "Variation under Domestication"
the view here given is upheld, but in the second edition (Volume I., page
459) Darwin withdrew his belief that the development of supernumerary
digits in man is "a case of reversion to a lowly-organised progenitor
provided with more than five digits." See Letters 161, 270.)
LETTER 179. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down [October 22nd, 1864].
The Lyells have been here, and were extremely pleasant, but I saw them only
occasionally for ten minutes, and when they went I had an awful day [of
illness]; but I am now slowly getting up to my former standard. I shall
soon be confined to a living grave, and a fearful evil it is.
I suppose you have read Tyndall. (179/1. Probably Tyndall "On the
Conformation of the Alps" ("Phil. Mag." 1864, page 255).) I have now come
round again to Ramsay's view, (179/2. "Phil. Mag." 1864, page 293.) for
the third or fourth time; but Lyell says when I read his discussion in the
"Elements," I shall recant for the fifth time. (179/3. This refers to a
discussion on the "Connection of the predominance of Lakes with Glacial
Action" ("Elements," Edition VI., pages 168-74). Lyell adheres to the
views expressed in the "Antiquity of Man" (1863) against Ramsay's theory of
the origin of lake basins by ice action.) What a capital writer Tyndall
In your last note you ask what the Bardfield oxlip is. It is P. elatior of
Jacq., which certainly looks, when growing, to common eyes different from
the common oxlip. I will fight you to the death that as primrose and
cowslip are different in appearance (not to mention odour, habitat and
range), and as I can now show that, when they cross, the intermediate
offspring are sterile like ordinary hybrids, they must be called as good
species as a man and a gorilla.
I agree that if Scott's red cowslip grew wild or spread itself and did not
vary [into] common cowslip (and we have absolutely no proof of primrose or
cowslip varying into each other), and as it will not cross with the
cowslip, it would be a perfectly good species. The power of remaining for
a good long period constant I look at as the essence of a species, combined
with an appreciable amount of difference; and no one can say there is not
this amount of difference between primrose and oxlip.
(PLATE: HUGH FALCONER, 1844. From a photograph by Hill & Adamson.)
LETTER 180. HUGH FALCONER TO W. SHARPEY.
(180/1. Falconer had proposed Darwin for the Copley Medal of the Royal
Society (which was awarded to him in 1864), but being detained abroad, he
gave his reasons for supporting Darwin for this honour in a letter to
Sharpey, the Secretary of the Royal Society. A copy of the letter here
printed seems to have been given to Erasmus Darwin, and by him shown to his
Montauban, October 25th, 1864.
Busk and myself have made every effort to be back in London by the 27th
inst., but we have been persecuted by mishaps--through the breakdown of
trains, diligences, etc., so that we have been sadly put out in our
reckoning--and have lost some of the main objects that brought us round by
this part of France--none of which were idle or unimportant.
Busk started yesterday for Paris from Bruniquel, to make sure of being
present at the meeting of the Royal Council on Thursday. He will tell you
that there were strong reasons for me remaining behind him. But as I
seconded the proposal of Mr. Darwin for the Copley Medal, in default of my
presence at the first meeting, I beg that you will express my great regrets
to the President and Council at not being there, and that I am very
reluctantly detained. I shall certainly be in London (D.V.) by the second
meeting on the 3rd proximo. Meanwhile I solicit the favour of being heard,
through you, respecting the grounds upon which I seconded Mr. Darwin's
nomination for the Copley Medal.
Referring to the classified list which I drew up of Mr. Darwin's scientific
labours, ranging through the wide field of (1) Geology, (2) Physical
Geography, (3) Zoology, (4) physiological Botany, (5) genetic Biology, and
to the power with which he has investigated whatever subject he has taken
up,--Nullum quod tetigit non ornavit,--I am of opinion that Mr. Darwin is
not only one of the most eminent naturalists of his day, but that hereafter
he will be regarded as one of the great naturalists of all countries and of
all time. His early work on the structure and distribution of coral reefs
constitutes an era in the investigation of the subject. As a monographic
labour, it may be compared with Dr. Wells' "Essay upon Dew," as original,
exhaustive, and complete--containing the closest observation with large and
Among the zoologists his monographs upon the Balanidae and Lepadidae,
Fossil and Recent, in the Palaeontographical and Ray Societies'
publications, are held to be models of their kind.
In physiological Botany, his recent researches upon the dimorphism of the
genital organs in certain plants, embodied in his papers in the "Linnean
Journal," on Primula, Linum, and Lythrum, are of the highest order of
importance. They open a new mine of observation upon a field which had
been barely struck upon before. The same remark applies to his researches
on the structure and various adaptations of the orchideous flower to a
definite object connected with impregnation of the plants through the
agency of insects with foreign pollen. There has not yet been time for
their due influence being felt in the advancement of the science. But in
either subject they constitute an advance per saltum. I need not dwell
upon the value of his geological researches, which won for him one of the
earlier awards of the Wollaston Medal from the Geological Society, the best
of judges on the point.
And lastly, Mr. Darwin's great essay on the "Origin of Species" by Natural
Selection. This solemn and mysterious subject had been either so lightly
or so grotesquely treated before, that it was hardly regarded as being
within the bounds of legitimate philosophical investigation. Mr. Darwin,
after twenty years of the closest study and research, published his views,
and it is sufficient to say that they instantly fixed the attention of
mankind throughout the civilised world. That the efforts of a single mind
should have arrived at success on a subject of such vast scope, and
encompassed with such difficulties, was more than could have been
reasonably expected, and I am far from thinking that Charles Darwin has
made out all his case. But he has treated it with such power and in such a
philosophical and truth-seeking spirit, and illustrated it with such an
amount of original and collated observation as fairly to have brought the
subject within the bounds of rational scientific research. I consider this
great essay on genetic Biology to constitute a strong additional claim on
behalf of Mr. Darwin for the Copley Medal. (180/2. The following letter
(December 3rd, 1864), from Mr. Huxley to Sir J.D. Hooker, is reprinted, by
the kind permission of Mr. L. Huxley, from his father's "Life," I., page
255. Sabine's address (from the "Reader") is given in the "Life and
Letters," III., page 28. In the "Proceedings of the Royal Society" the
offending sentence is slightly modified. It is said, in Huxley's "Life"
(loc. cit., note), that the sentence which follows it was introduced to
mitigate the effect:--
"I wish you had been at the anniversary meeting and dinner, because the
latter was very pleasant, and the former, to me, very disagreeable. My
distrust of Sabine is, as you know, chronic; and I went determined to keep
careful watch on his address, lest some crafty phrase injurious to Darwin
should be introduced. My suspicions were justified, the only part of the
address [relating] to Darwin written by Sabine himself containing the
"'Speaking generally and collectively, we have expressly omitted it
[Darwin's theory] from the grounds of our award.'
"Of course this would be interpreted by everybody as meaning that after due
discussion, the council had formally resolved not only to exclude Darwin's
theory from the grounds of the award, but to give public notice through the
president that they had done so, and, furthermore, that Darwin's friends
had been base enough to accept an honour for him on the understanding that
in receiving it he should be publicly insulted!
"I felt that this would never do, and therefore, when the resolution for
printing the address was moved, I made a speech, which I took care to keep
perfectly cool and temperate, disavowing all intention of interfering with
the liberty of the president to say what he pleased, but exercising my
constitutional right of requiring the minutes of council making the award
to be read, in order that the Society might be informed whether the
conditions implied by Sabine had been imposed or not.
"The resolution was read, and of course nothing of the kind appeared.
Sabine didn't exactly like it, I believe. Both Busk and Falconer
remonstrated against the passage to him, and I hope it will be withdrawn
when the address is printed. If not, there will be an awful row, and I for
one will show no mercy.")
In forming an estimate of the value and extent of Mr. Darwin's researches,
due regard ought to be had to the circumstances under which they have been
carried out--a pressure of unremitting disease, which has latterly left him
not more than one or two hours of the day which he could call his own.
LETTER 181. TO HUGH FALCONER.
Down, November 4th .
What a good kind friend you are! I know well that this medal must have
cost you a deal of trouble. It is a very great honour to me, but I declare
the knowledge that you and a few other friends have interested themselves
on the subject is the real cream of the enjoyment to me; indeed, it is to
me worth far more than many medals. So accept my true and cordial thanks.
I hope that I may yet have strength to do a little more work in Natural
Science, shaky and old though I be. I have chuckled and triumphed over
your postscript about poor M. Brulle and his young pupils (181/1. The
following is the postscript in a letter from Falconer to Darwin November
3rd : "I returned last night from Spain via France. On Monday I was
at Dijon, where, while in the Museum, M. Brulle, Professor of Zoology,
asked me what was my frank opinion of Charles Darwin's doctrine? He told
me in despair that he could not get his pupils to listen to anything from
him except a la Darwin! He, poor man, could not comprehend it, and was
still unconvinced, but that all young Frenchmen would hear or believe
nothing else.") About a week ago I had a nearly similar account from
Germany, and at the same time I heard of some splendid converts in such men
as Leuckart, Gegenbauer, etc. You may say what you like about yourself,
but I look at a man who treats natural history in the same spirit with
which you do, exactly as good, for what I believe to be the truth, as a
LETTER 182. TO HUGH FALCONER.
Down, November 8th .
Your remark on the relation of the award of the medal and the present
outburst of bigotry had not occurred to me. It seems very true, and makes
me the more gratified to receive it. General Sabine (182/1. See "Life and
Letters," III., page 28.) wrote to me and asked me to attend at the
anniversary, but I told him it was really impossible. I have never been
able to conjecture the cause; but I find that on my good days, when I can
write for a couple of hours, that anything which stirs me up like talking
for half or even a quarter of an hour, generally quite prostrates me,
sometimes even for a long time afterwards. I believe attending the
anniversary would possibly make me seriously ill. I should enjoy attending
and shaking you and a few of my other friends by the hand, but it would be
folly even if I did not break down at the time. I told Sabine that I did
not know who had proposed and seconded me for the medal, but that I
presumed it was you, or Hooker or Busk, and that I felt sure, if you
attended, you would receive the medal for me; and that if none of you
attended, that Lyell or Huxley would receive it for me. Will you receive
it, and it could be left at my brother's?
Again accept my cordial and enduring thanks for all your kindness and
LETTER 183. TO B.D. WALSH.
Down, December 4th .
I have been greatly interested by your account of your American life. What
an extraordinary and self-contained life you have led! and what vigour of
mind you must possess to follow science with so much ardour after all that
you have undergone! I am very much obliged to you for your pamphlet on
Geographical Distribution, on Agassiz, etc. (183/1. Mr. Walsh's paper "On
certain Entomological Speculations of the New England School of
Entomologists" was published in the "Proc. Entomolog. Soc. of
Philadelphia," September 1864, page 207.) I am delighted at the manner in
which you have bearded this lion in his den. I agree most entirely with
all that you have written. What I meant when I wrote to Agassiz to thank
him for a bundle of his publications, was exactly what you suppose.
(183/2. Namely, that Mr. Darwin, having been abused as an atheist, etc.,
by other writers, probably felt grateful to a writer who was willing to
allow him "a spirit as reverential as his own." ("Methods of Study,"
Preface, page iv.) I confess, however, I did not fully perceive how he had
misstated my views; but I only skimmed through his "Methods of Study," and
thought it a very poor book. I am so much accustomed to be utterly
misrepresented that it hardly excites my attention. But you really have
hit the nail on the head capitally. All the younger good naturalists whom
I know think of Agassiz as you do; but he did grand service about glaciers
and fish. About the succession of forms, Pictet has given up his whole
views, and no geologist now agrees with Agassiz. I am glad that you have
attacked Dana's wild notions; [though] I have a great respect for Dana...If
you have an opportunity, read in "Trans. Linn. Soc." Bates on "Mimetic
Lepidoptera of Amazons." I was delighted with his paper.
I have got a notice of your views about the female Cynips inserted in the
"Natural History Review" (183/3. "Nat. Hist. Review," January 1865, page
139. A notice by "J.L." (probably Lord Avebury) on Walsh's paper "On
Dimorphism in the Hymenopterous Genus Cynips," in the "Proc. Entomolog.
Soc. of Philadelphia," March, 1864.): whether the notice will be
favourable, I do not know, but anyhow it will call attention to your
As you allude in your paper to the believers in change of species, you will
be glad to hear that very many of the very best men are coming round in
Germany. I have lately heard of Hackel, Gegenbauer, F. Muller, Leuckart,
Claparede, Alex. Braun, Schleiden, etc. So it is, I hear, with the younger
LETTER 184. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, January 19th .
It is working hours, but I am trying to take a day's holiday, for I
finished and despatched yesterday my Climbing paper. For the last ten days
I have done nothing but correct refractory sentences, and I loathe the
whole subject like tartar emetic. By the way, I am convinced that you want
a holiday, and I think so because you took the devil's name in vain so
often in your last note. Can you come here for Sunday? You know how I
should like it, and you will be quiet and dull enough here to get plenty of
rest. I have been thinking with regret about what you said in one of your
later notes, about having neglected to make notes on the gradation of
character in your genera; but would it be too late? Surely if you looked
over names in series the facts would come back, and you might surely write
a fine paper "On the gradation of important characters in the genera of
plants." As for unimportant characters, I have made their perfect
gradation a very prominent point with respect to the means of climbing, in
my paper. I begin to think that one of the commonest means of transition
is the same individual plant having the same part in different states:
thus Corydalis claviculata, if you look to one leaf, may be called a
tendril-bearer; if you look to another leaf it may be called a leaf-
climber. Now I am sure I remember some cases with plants in which
important parts such as the position of the ovule differ: differences in
the spire of leaves on lateral and terminal branches, etc.
There was not much in last "Natural History Review" which interested me
except colonial floras (184/1. "Nat. Hist. Review," 1865, page 46. A
review of Grisebach's "Flora of the British West Indian Islands" and
Thwaites' "Enumeratio Plantarum Zeylaniae." The point referred to is given
at page 57: "More than half the Flowering Plants belong to eleven Orders
in the case of the West Indies, and to ten in that of Ceylon, whilst with
but one exception the Ceylon Orders are the same as the West Indian." The
reviewer speculates on the meaning of the fact "in relation to the
hypothesis of an intertropical cold epoch, such as Mr. Darwin demands for
the migration of the Northern Flora to the Southern hemisphere.") and the
report on the sexuality of cryptogams. I suppose the former was by Oliver;
how extremely curious is the fact of similarity of Orders in the Tropics!
I feel a conviction that it is somehow connected with Glacial destruction,
but I cannot "wriggle" comfortably at all on the subject. I am nearly sure
that Dana makes out that the greatest number of crustacean forms inhabit
warmer temperate regions.
I have had an enormous letter from Leo Lesquereux (after doubts, I did not
think it worth sending you) on Coal Flora: he wrote some excellent
articles in "Silliman" again [my] "Origin" views; but he says now after
repeated reading of the book he is a convert! But how funny men's minds
are! he says he is chiefly converted because my books make the Birth of
Christ, Redemption by Grace, etc., plain to him!
LETTER 185. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, February 9th .
I quite agree how humiliating the slow progress of man is, but every one
has his own pet horror, and this slow progress or even personal
annihilation sinks in my mind into insignificance compared with the idea or
rather I presume certainty of the sun some day cooling and we all freezing.
To think of the progress of millions of years, with every continent
swarming with good and enlightened men, all ending in this, and with
probably no fresh start until this our planetary system has been again
converted into red-hot gas. Sic transit gloria mundi, with a vengeance...
LETTER 186. TO B.D. WALSH.
Down, March 27th .
I have been much interested by your letter. I received your former paper
on Phytophagic variety (186/1. For "Phytophagic Varieties and Phytophagic
Species" see "Proc. Entomolog. Soc. Philadelphia," November 1864, page 403,
also December 1865. The part on gradation is summarised at pages 427, 428.
Walsh shows that a complete gradation exists between species which are
absolutely unaffected by change of food and cases where "difference of food
is accompanied by marked and constant differences, either colorational, or
structural, or both, in the larva, pupa and imago states."), most of which
was new to me. I have since received your paper on willow-galls; this has
been very opportune, as I wanted to learn a little about galls. There was
much in this paper which has interested me extremely, on gradations, etc.,
and on your "unity of coloration." (186/2. "Unity of coloration": this
expression does not seem to occur in the paper of November 1864, but is
discussed at length in that of December 1865, page 209.) This latter
subject is nearly new to me, though I collected many years ago some such
cases with birds; but what struck me most was when a bird genus inhabits
two continents, the two sections sometimes display a somewhat different
type of colouring. I should like to hear whether this does not occur with
widely ranging insect-genera? You may like to hear that Wichura (186/3.
Max Wichura's "Die Bastarde befruchtung im Pflanzenreich, etc:" Breslau
1865. A translation appeared in the "Bibliotheque Universelle," xxiii.,
page 129: Geneva 1865.) has lately published a book which has quite
convinced me that in Europe there is a multitude of spontaneous hybrid
willows. Would it not be very interesting to know how the gall-makers
behaved with respect to these hybrids? Do you think it likely that the
ancestor of Cecidomyia acquired its poison like gnats (which suck men) for
no especial purpose (at least not for gall-making)? Such notions make me
wish that some one would try the experiments suggested in my former letter.
Is it not probable that guest-flies were aboriginally gall-makers, and bear
the same relation to them which Apathus probably does to Bombus? (186/4.
Apathus (= Psithyrus) lives in the nests of Bombus. These insects are said
to be so like humble bees that "they were not distinguished from them by
the early entomologists:" Dr. Sharp in "Cambridge Nat. Hist. (Insects,"
Part II.), page 59.) With respect to dimorphism, you may like to hear that
Dr. Hooker tells me that a dioecious parasitic plant allied to Rafflesia
has its two sexes parasitic on two distinct species of the same genus of
plants; so look out for some such case in the two forms of Cynips. I have
posted to you copies of my papers on dimorphism. Leersia (186/5. Leersia
oryzoides was for a long time thought to produce only cleistogamic and
therefore autogamous flowers. See "Variation of Animals and Plants,"
Edition II., Volume II., page 69.) does behave in a state of nature in the
provoking manner described by me. With respect to Wagner's curious
discovery my opinion is worth nothing; no doubt it is a great anomaly, but
it does not appear to me nearly so incredible as to you. Remember how
allied forms in the Hydrozoa differ in their so-called alternate
generations; I follow those naturalists who look at all such cases as forms
of gemmation; and a multitude of organisms have this power or traces of
this power at all ages from the germ to maturity. With respect to
Agassiz's views, there were many, and there are still not a few, who
believe that the same species is created on many spots. I wrote to Bates,
and he will send you his mimetic paper; and I dare say others: he is a
Your case of the wingless insects near the Rocky Mountains is extremely
curious. I am sure I have heard of some such case in the Old World: I
think on the Caucasus. Would not my argument about wingless insular
insects perhaps apply to truly Alpine insects? for would it not be
destruction to them to be blown from their proper home? I should like to
write on many points at greater length to you, but I have no strength to
LETTER 187. TO A.R. WALLACE.
Down, September 22nd .
I am much obliged for your extract (187/1. Mr. Wallace had sent Darwin a
note about a tufted cock-blackbird, which transmitted the character to some
of its offspring.); I never heard of such a case, though such a variation
is perhaps the most likely of any to occur in a state of nature, and to be
inherited, inasmuch as all domesticated birds present races with a tuft or
with reversed feathers on their heads. I have sometimes thought that the
progenitor of the whole class must have been a crested animal.
Do you make any progress with your journal of travels? I am the more
anxious that you should do so as I have lately read with much interest some
papers by you on the ourang-outan, etc., in the "Annals," of which I have
lately been reading the later volumes. I have always thought that journals
of this nature do considerable good by advancing the taste for Natural
History: I know in my own case that nothing ever stimulated my zeal so
much as reading Humboldt's "Personal Narrative." I have not yet received
the last part of the "Linnean Transactions," but your paper (187/2.
Probably on the variability and distribution of the butterflies of the
Malayan region: "Linn. Soc. Trans." XXV., 1866.) at present will be rather
beyond my strength, for though somewhat better, I can as yet do hardly
anything but lie on the sofa and be read aloud to. By the way, have you
read Tylor and Lecky? (187/3. Tylor, "Early History of Mankind;" Lecky's
"Rationalism.") Both these books have interested me much. I suppose you
have read Lubbock. (187/4. Lubbock, "Prehistoric Times," page 479:
"...the theory of Natural Selection, which with characteristic
unselfishness he ascribes unreservedly to Mr. Darwin.") In the last
chapter there is a note about you in which I most cordially concur. I see
you were at the British Association but I have heard nothing of it except
what I have picked up in the "Reader." I have heard a rumour that the
"Reader" is sold to the Anthropological Society. If you do not begrudge
the trouble of another note (for my sole channel of news through Hooker is
closed by his illness) I should much like to hear whether the "Reader" is
thus sold. I should be very sorry for it, as the paper would thus become
sectional in its tendency. If you write, tell me what you are doing
yourself. The only news which I have about the "Origin" is that Fritz
Muller published a few months ago a remarkable book (187/5. "Fur Darwin.")
in its favour, and secondly that a second French edition is just coming
LETTER 188. TO F. MULLER.
Down, January 11th .
I received your interesting letter of November 5th some little time ago,
and despatched immediately a copy of my "Journal of Researches." I fear
you will think me troublesome in my offer; but have you the second German
edition of the "Origin?" which is a translation, with additions, of the
third English edition, and is, I think, considerably improved compared with
the first edition. I have some spare copies which are of no use to me, and
it would be a pleasure to me to send you one, if it would be of any use to
you. You would never require to re-read the book, but you might wish to
refer to some passage. I am particularly obliged for your photograph, for
one likes to have a picture in one's mind of any one about whom one is
interested. I have received and read with interest your paper on the
sponge with horny spicula. (188/1. "Ueber Darwinella aurea, einen Schwamm
mit sternformigen Hornnadeln."--"Archiv. Mikrosk. Anat." I., page 57,
1866.) Owing to ill-health, and being busy when formerly well, I have for
some years neglected periodical scientific literature, and have lately been
reading up, and have thus read translations of several of your papers;
amongst which I have been particularly glad to read and see the drawings of
the metamorphoses of Peneus. (188/2. "On the Metamorphoses of the Prawns,"
by Dr. Fritz Muller.--"Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist." Volume XIV., page 104 (with
plate), 1864. Translated by W.S. Dallas from "Wiegmann's Archiv," 1863
(see also "Facts and Arguments for Darwin," passim, translated by W.S.
Dallas: London, 1869).) This seems to me the most interesting discovery
in embryology which has been made for years.
I am much obliged to you for telling me a little of your plans for the
future; what a strange, but to my taste interesting life you will lead when
you retire to your estate on the Itajahy!
You refer in your letter to the facts which Agassiz is collecting, against
our views, on the Amazons. Though he has done so much for science, he
seems to me so wild and paradoxical in all his views that I cannot regard
his opinions as of any value.
LETTER 189. TO A.R. WALLACE.
Down, January 22nd, 1866.
I thank you for your paper on pigeons (189/1. "On the Pigeons of the Malay
Archipelago" (The "Ibis," October, 1865). Mr. Wallace points out (page
366) that "the most striking superabundance of pigeons, as well as of
parrots, is confined to the Australo-Malayan sub-region in which...the
forest-haunting and fruit-eating mammals, such as monkeys and squirrels,
are totally absent." He points out also that monkeys are "exceedingly
destructive to eggs and young birds."), which interested me, as everything
that you write does. Who would ever have dreamed that monkeys influenced
the distribution of pigeons and parrots! But I have had a still higher
satisfaction, for I finished your paper yesterday in the "Linnean
Transactions." (189/2. "Linn. Soc. Trans." XXV.: a paper on the
geographical distribution and variability of the Malayan Papilionidae.) It
is admirably done. I cannot conceive that the most firm believer in
species could read it without being staggered. Such papers will make many
more converts among naturalists than long-winded books such as I shall
write if I have strength. I have been particularly struck with your
remarks on dimorphism; but I cannot quite understand one point (page 22),
(189/3. The passage referred to in this letter as needing further
explanation is the following: "The last six cases of mimicry are
especially instructive, because they seem to indicate one of the processes
by which dimorphic forms have been produced. When, as in these cases, one
sex differs much from the other, and varies greatly itself, it may happen
that individual variations will occasionally occur, having a distant
resemblance to groups which are the objects of mimicry, and which it is
therefore advantageous to resemble. Such a variety will have a better
chance of preservation; the individuals possessing it will be multiplied;
and their accidental likeness to the favoured group will be rendered
permanent by hereditary transmission, and each successive variation which
increases the resemblance being preserved, and all variations departing
from the favoured type having less chance of preservation, there will in
time result those singular cases of two or more isolated and fixed forms
bound together by that intimate relationship which constitutes them the
sexes of a single species. The reason why the females are more subject to
this kind of modification than the males is, probably, that their slower
flight, when laden with eggs, and their exposure to attack while in the act
of depositing their eggs upon leaves, render it especially advantageous for
them to have some additional protection. This they at once obtain by
acquiring a resemblance to other species which, from whatever cause, enjoy
a comparative immunity from persecution." Mr. Wallace has been good enough
to give us the following note on the above passage: "The above quotation
deals solely with the question of how certain females of the polymorphic
species (Papilio Memnon, P. Pammon, and others) have been so modified as to
mimic species of a quite distinct section of the genus; but it does not
attempt to explain why or how the other very variable types of female
arose, and this was Darwin's difficulty. As the letter I wrote in reply is
lost, and as it is rather difficult to explain the matter clearly without
reference to the coloured figures, I must go into some little detail, and
give now what was probably the explanation I gave at the time. The male of
Papilio Memnon is a large black butterfly with the nervures towards the
margins of the wings bordered with bluish gray dots. It is a forest
insect, and the very dark colour renders it conspicuous; but it is a strong
flier, and thus survives. To the female, however, this conspicuous mass of
colour would be dangerous, owing to her slower flight, and the necessity
for continually resting while depositing her eggs on the leaves of the
food-plant of the larva. She has accordingly acquired lighter and more
varied tints. The marginal gray-dotted stripes of the male have become of
a brownish ash and much wider on the fore wings, while the margin of the
hind wings is yellowish, with a more defined spot near the anal angle.
This is the form most nearly like the male, but it is comparatively rare,
the more common being much lighter in colour, the bluish gray of the hind
wings being often entirely replaced by a broad band of yellowish white.
The anal angle is orange-yellow, and there is a bright red spot at the base
of the fore wings. Between these two extremes there is every possible
variation. Now, it is quite certain that this varying mixture of brown,
black, white, yellow, and red is far less conspicuous amid the ever-
changing hues of the forest with their glints of sunshine everywhere
penetrating so as to form strong contrasts and patches of light and shade.
Hence ALL the females--one at one time and one at another--get SOME
protection, and that is sufficient to enable them to live long enough to
lay their eggs, when their work is finished. Still, under bad conditions
they only just managed to survive, and as the colouring of some of these
varying females very much resembled that of the protected butterflies of
the P. coon group (perhaps at a time when the tails of the latter were not
fully developed) any rudiments of a prolongation of the wing into a tail
added to the protective resemblance, and was therefore preserved. The
woodcuts of some of these forms in my "Malay Archipelago" (i., page 200)
will enable those who have this book at hand better to understand the
foregoing explanation."), and should be grateful for an explanation, for I
want fully to understand you. How can one female form be selected and the
intermediate forms die out, without also the other extreme form also dying
out from not having the advantages of the first selected form? for, as I
understand, both female forms occur on the same island. I quite agree with
your distinction between dimorphic forms and varieties; but I doubt whether
your criterion of dimorphic forms not producing intermediate offspring will
suffice, for I know of a good many varieties which must be so called that
will not blend or intermix, but produce offspring quite like either parent.
I have been particularly struck with your remarks on geographical
distribution in Celebes. It is impossible that anything could be better
put, and would give a cold shudder to the immutable naturalists.
And now I am going to ask a question which you will not like. How does
your journal get on? It will be a shame if you do not popularise your
LETTER 190. A.R. WALLACE TO CHARLES DARWIN.
Hurstpierpoint, Sussex, July 2nd, 1866.
I have been so repeatedly struck by the utter inability of numbers of
intelligent persons to see clearly, or at all, the self-acting and
necessary effects of Natural Selection, that I am led to conclude that the
term itself, and your mode of illustrating it, however clear and beautiful
to many of us, are yet not the best adapted to impress it on the general
naturalist public. The two last cases of the misunderstanding are: (1)
the article on "Darwin and his Teachings" in the last "Quarterly Journal of
Science," which, though very well written and on the whole appreciative,
yet concludes with a charge of something like blindness, in your not seeing
that Natural Selection requires the constant watching of an intelligent
"chooser," like man's selection to which you so often compare it; and (2)
in Janet's recent work on the "Materialism of the Present Day," reviewed in
last Saturday's "Reader," by an extract from which I see that he considers
your weak point to be that you do not see that "thought and direction are
essential to the action of Natural Selection." The same objection has been
made a score of times by your chief opponents, and I have heard it as often
stated myself in conversation. Now, I think this arises almost entirely
from your choice of the term "Natural Selection" and so constantly
comparing it in its effects to Man's Selection, and also your so frequently
personifying nature as "selecting," as "preferring," as "seeking only the
good of the species," etc., etc. To the few this is as clear as daylight,
and beautifully suggestive, but to many it is evidently a stumbling-block.
I wish, therefore, to suggest to you the possibility of entirely avoiding
this source of misconception in your great work (if not now too late), and
also in any future editions of the "Origin," and I think it may be done
without difficulty and very effectually by adopting Spencer's term (which
he generally uses in preference to Natural Selection)--viz., "survival of
This term is the plain expression of the fact; Natural Selection is a
metaphorical expression of it, and to a certain degree indirect and
incorrect, since, even personifying Nature, she does not so much select
special variations as exterminate the most unfavourable ones.
Combined with the enormous multiplying powers of all organisms, and the
"struggle for existence" leading to the constant destruction of by far the
largest proportion--facts which no one of your opponents, as far as I am
aware, has denied or misunderstood--"the survival of the fittest" rather
than of those who were less fit could not possibly be denied or
misunderstood. Neither would it be possible to say that to ensure the
"survival of the fittest" any intelligent chooser was necessary; whereas
when you say Natural Selection acts so as to choose those that are fittest,
it IS misunderstood, and apparently always will be. Referring to your
book, I find such expressions as "Man selects only for his own good; Nature
only for that of the being which she tends." This, it seems, will always
be misunderstood; but if you had said "Man selects only for his own good;
Nature, by the inevitable 'survival of the fittest,' only for that of the
being she tends," it would have been less liable to be so.
I find you use the term "Natural Selection" in two senses: (1) for the
simple preservation of favourable and rejection of unfavourable variations,
in which case it is equivalent to "survival of the fittest"; and (2) for
the effect or change produced by this preservation, as when you say, "To
sum up the circumstances favourable or unfavourable to Natural Selection,"
and again, "Isolation, also, is an important element in the process of
Natural Selection." Here it is not merely "survival of the fittest," but
change produced by survival of the fittest, that is meant. On looking over
your fourth chapter, I find that these alterations of terms can be in most
cases easily made, while in some cases the addition of "or survival of the
fittest" after "Natural Selection" would be best; and in others, less
likely to be misunderstood, the original term may stand alone.
I could not venture to propose to any other person so great an alteration
of terms, but you, I am sure, will give it an impartial consideration, and
if you really think the change will produce a better understanding of your
work, will not hesitate to adopt it.
It is evidently also necessary not to personify "Nature" too much--though I
am very apt to do it myself--since people will not understand that all such
phrases are metaphors. Natural Selection is, when understood, so necessary
and self-evident a principle, that it is a pity it should be in any way
obscured; and it therefore seems to me that the free use of "survival of
the fittest," which is a compact and accurate definition of it, would tend
much to its being more widely accepted, and prevent it being so much
misrepresented and misunderstood.
There is another objection made by Janet which is also a very common one.
It is that the chances are almost infinite against the particular kind of
variation required being coincident with each change of external
conditions, to enable an animal to become modified by Natural Selection in
harmony with such changed conditions; especially when we consider that, to
have produced the almost infinite modifications of organic beings, this
coincidence must have taken place an almost infinite number of times.
Now, it seems to me that you have yourself led to this objection being
made, by so often stating the case too strongly against yourself. For
example, at the commencement of Chapter IV. you ask if it is "improbable
that useful variations should sometimes occur in the course of thousands of
generations"; and a little further on you say, "unless profitable
variations do occur, Natural Selection can do nothing." Now, such
expressions have given your opponents the advantage of assuming that
favourable variations are rare accidents, or may even for long periods
never occur at all, and thus Janet's argument would appear to many to have
great force. I think it would be better to do away with all such
qualifying expressions, and constantly maintain (what I certainly believe
to be the fact) that variations of every kind are always occurring in every
part of every species, and therefore that favourable variations are always
ready when wanted. You have, I am sure, abundant materials to prove this;
and it is, I believe, the grand fact that renders modification and
adaptation to conditions almost always possible. I would put the burthen
of proof on my opponents to show that any one organ, structure, or faculty
does not vary, even during one generation, among all the individuals of a
species; and also to show any mode or way in which any such organ, etc.,
does not vary. I would ask them to give any reason for supposing that any
organ, etc., is ever absolutely identical at any one time in all the
individuals of a species, and if not then it is always varying, and there
are always materials which, from the simple fact that "the fittest
survive," will tend to the modification of the race into harmony with
I hope these remarks may be intelligible to you, and that you will be so
kind as to let me know what you think of them.
I have not heard for some time how you are getting on. I hope you are
still improving in health, and that you will now be able to get on with
your great work, for which so many thousands are looking with interest.
LETTER 191. TO A.R. WALLACE.
(191/1. From "Life and Letters," III., page 45.)
Down, July 5th .
I have been much interested by your letter, which is as clear as daylight.
I fully agree with all that you say on the advantages of H. Spencer's
excellent expression of "the survival of the fittest." This, however, had
not occurred to me till reading your letter. It is, however, a great
objection to this term that it cannot be used as a substantive governing a
verb; and that this is a real objection I infer from H. Spencer continually
using the words Natural Selection. I formerly thought, probably in an
exaggerated degree, that it was a great advantage to bring into connection
natural and artificial selection; this indeed led me to use a term in
common, and I still think it some advantage. I wish I had received your
letter two months ago, for I would have worked in "the survival," etc.,
often in the new edition of the "Origin," which is now almost printed off,
and of which I will of course send you a copy. I will use the term in my
next book on domestic animals, etc., from which, by the way, I plainly see
that you expect MUCH too much. The term Natural Selection has now been so
largely used abroad and at home that I doubt whether it could be given up,
and with all its faults I should be sorry to see the attempt made. Whether
it will be rejected must now depend "on the survival of the fittest." As
in time the term must grow intelligible the objections to its use will grow
weaker and weaker. I doubt whether the use of any term would have made the
subject intelligible to some minds, clear as it is to others; for do we not
see even to the present day Malthus on Population absurdly misunderstood?
This reflection about Malthus has often comforted me when I have been vexed
at this misstatement of my views. As for M. Janet, he is a metaphysician,
and such gentlemen are so acute that I think they often misunderstand
common folk. Your criticism on the double sense in which I have used
Natural Selection is new to me and unanswerable; but my blunder has done no
harm, for I do not believe that any one, excepting you, has ever observed
it. Again, I agree that I have said too much about "favourable
variations," but I am inclined to think that you put the opposite side too
strongly: if every part of every being varied, I do not think we should
see the same end or object gained by such wonderfully diversified means.
I hope you are enjoying the country, and are in good health, and are
working hard at your "Malay Archipelago" book, for I will always put this
wish in every note I write to you, as some good people always put in a
text. My health keeps much the same, or rather improves, and I am able to
work some hours daily.
LETTER 192. TO C. LYELL.
Down, October 9th .
One line to say that I have received your note and the proofs safely, and
will read them with the greatest pleasure; but I am certain I shall not be
able to send any criticism on the astronomical chapter (192/1. "Principles
of Geology," by Sir Charles Lyell; Edition X., London, 1867. Chapter XIII.
deals with "Vicissitudes in Climate how far influenced by Astronomical
Causes."), as I am as ignorant as a pig on this head. I shall require some
days to read what has been sent. I have just read Chapter IX. (192/2.
Chapter IX., "Theory of the Progressive Development of Organic Life at
Successive Geological Periods."), and like it extremely; it all seems to me
very clear, cautious, and sagacious. You do not allude to one very
striking point enough, or at all--viz., the classes having been formerly
less differentiated than they now are; and this specialisation of classes
must, we may conclude, fit them for different general habits of life as
well as the specialisation of particular organs.
Page 162 (192/3. On page 163 Lyell refers to the absence of Cetacea in
Secondary rocks, and expresses the opinion that their absence "is a
negative fact of great significance, which seems more than any other to
render it highly improbable that we shall ever find air-breathers of the
highest class in any of the Primary strata, or in any of the older members
of the Secondary series.") I rather demur to your argument from Cetacea:
as they are such greatly modified mammals, they ought to have come in
rather later in the series. You will think me rather impudent, but the
discussion at the end of Chapter IX. on man (192/4. Loc. cit., pages 167-
73, "Introduction of Man, to what extent a Change of the System."), who
thinks so much of his fine self, seems to me too long, or rather
superfluous, and too orthodox, except for the beneficed clergy.
LETTER 193. TO V. CARUS.
(193/1. The following letter refers to the 4th edition of the "Origin,"
1866, which was translated by Professor Carus, and formed the 3rd German
edition. Carus continued to translate Darwin's books, and a strong bond of
friendship grew up between author and translator (see "Life and Letters,"
III., page 48). Nageli's pamphlet was first noticed in the 5th English
Down, November 21st, 1866.
...With respect to a note on Nageli (193/2. "Entstehung und Begriff der
Naturhistorischen Art," an Address given before the Royal Academy of
Sciences at Munich, March 28th, 1865. See "Life and Letters," III., page
50, for Mr. Darwin's letter to the late Prof. Nageli.) I find on
consideration it would be too long; for so good a pamphlet ought to be
discussed at full length or not at all. He makes a mistake in supposing
that I say that useful characters are always constant. His view about
distinct species converging and acquiring the same identical structure is
by implication answered in the discussion which I have given on the endless
diversity of means for gaining the same end.
The most important point, as it seems to me, in the pamphlet is that on the
morphological characters of plants, and I find I could not answer this
without going into much detail.
The answer would be, as it seems to me, that important morphological
characters, such as the position of the ovules and the relative position of
the stamens to the ovarium (hypogynous, perigynous, etc.) are sometimes
variable in the same species, as I incidentally mention when treating of
the ray-florets in the Compositae and Umbelliferae; and I do not see how
Nageli could maintain that differences in such characters prove an inherent
tendency towards perfection. I see that I have forgotten to say that you
have my fullest consent to append any discussion which you may think fit to
the new edition. As for myself I cannot believe in spontaneous generation,
and though I expect that at some future time the principle of life will be
rendered intelligible, at present it seems to me beyond the confines of
LETTER 194. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
Down, December 22nd [1866?].
I suppose that you have received Hackel's book (194/1. "Generelle
Morphologie," 1866.) some time ago, as I have done. Whenever you have had
time to read through some of it, enough to judge by, I shall be very
curious to hear your judgment. I have been able to read a page or two here
and there, and have been interested and instructed by parts. But my vague
impression is that too much space is given to methodical details, and I can
find hardly any facts or detailed new views. The number of new words, to a
man like myself, weak in his Greek, is something dreadful. He seems to
have a passion for defining, I daresay very well, and for coining new
words. From my very vague notions on the book, and from its immense size,
I should fear a translation was out of the question. I see he often quotes
both of us with praise. I am sure I should like the book much, if I could
read it straight off instead of groaning and swearing at each sentence. I
have not yet had time to read your Physiology (194/2. "Lessons in
Elementary Physiology," 1866.) book, except one chapter; but I have just
re-read your book on "Man's Place, etc.," and I think I admire it more this
second time even than the first. I doubt whether you will ever have time,
but if ever you have, do read the chapter on hybridism in the new edition
of the "Origin" (194/3. Fourth Edition (1866).), for I am very anxious to
make you think less seriously on that difficulty. I have improved the
chapter a good deal, I think, and have come to more definite views. Asa
Gray and Fritz Muller (the latter especially) think that the new facts on
illegitimate offspring of dimorphic plants, throw much indirect light on
the subject. Now that I have worked up domestic animals, I am convinced of
the truth of the Pallasian (194/4. See Letter 80.) view of loss of
sterility under domestication, and this seems to me to explain much. But I
had no intention, when I began this note, of running on at such length on
hybridism; but you have been Objector-General on this head.
LETTER 195. TO T. RIVERS.
(195/1. For another letter of Mr. Darwin's to him see "Life and Letters,"
III., page 57.)
Down, December 23rd [1866?].
I do not know whether you will forgive a stranger addressing you. My name
may possibly be known to you. I am now writing a book on the variation of
animals and plants under domestication; and there is one little piece of
information which it is more likely that you could give me than any man in
the world, if you can spare half an hour from your professional labours,
and are inclined to be so kind. I am collecting all accounts of what some
call "sports," that is, of what I shall call "bud-variations," i.e. a moss-
rose suddenly appearing on a Provence rose--a nectarine on a peach, etc.
Now, what I want to know, and which is not likely to be recorded in print,
is whether very slight differences, too slight to be worth propagating,
thus appear suddenly by buds. As every one knows, in raising seedlings you
may have every gradation from individuals identical with the parent, to
slight varieties, to strongly marked varieties. Now, does this occur with
buds or do only rather strongly marked varieties thus appear at rare
intervals of time by buds? (195/2. Mr. Rivers could not give a decided
answer, but he did not remember to have seen slight bud-variations. The
question is discussed in "Variation under Domestication," Edition II.,
Volume I., page 443.) I should be most grateful for information. I may
add that if you have observed in your enormous experience any remarkable
"bud-variations," and could spare time to inform me, and allow me to quote
them on your authority, it would be the greatest favour. I feel sure that
these "bud-variations" are most interesting to any one endeavouring to make
out what little can be made out on the obscure subject of variation.
LETTER 196. TO T. RIVERS.
Down, January 7th [1867?].
I thank you much for your letter and the parcel of shoots. The case of the
yellow plum is a treasure, and is now safely recorded on your authority in
its proper place, in contrast with A. Knight's case of the yellow magnum
bonum sporting into red. (196/1. See "Variation under Domestication,"
Edition II., Volume I., page 399.) I could see no difference in the
shoots, except that those of the yellow were thicker, and I presume that
this is merely accidental: as you do not mention it, I further presume
that there are no further differences in leaves or flowers of the two
plums. I am very glad to hear about the yellow ash, and that you yourself
have seen the jessamine case. I must confess that I hardly fully believed
in it; but now I do, and very surprising it is.
In an old French book, published in Amsterdam in 1786 (I think), there is
an account, apparently authentic and attested by the writer as an eye-
witness, of hyacinth bulbs of two colours being cut in two and grafted, and
they sent up single stalks with differently coloured flowers on the two
sides, and some flowers parti-coloured. I once thought of offering 5
pounds reward in the "Cottage Gardener" for such a plant; but perhaps it
would seem too foolish. No instructions are given when to perform the
operation; I have tried two or three times, and utterly failed. I find
that I have a grand list of "bud-variations," and to-morrow shall work up
such cases as I have about rose-sports, which seem very numerous, and which
I see you state to occur comparatively frequently.
When a person is very good-natured he gets much pestered--a discovery which
I daresay you have made, or anyhow will soon make; for I do want very much
to know whether you have sown seed of any moss-roses, and whether the
seedlings were moss-roses. (196/2. Moss-roses can be raised from seed
("Variation under Domestication," Edition II., Volume I., page 405.) Has a
common rose produced by SEED a moss-rose?
If any light comes to you about very slight changes in the buds, pray have
the kindness to illuminate me. I have cases of seven or eight varieties of
the peach which have produced by "bud-variation" nectarines, and yet only
one single case (in France) of a peach producing another closely similar
peach (but later in ripening). How strange it is that a great change in
the peach should occur not rarely and slighter changes apparently very
rarely! How strange that no case seems recorded of new apples or pears or
apricots by "bud-variation"! How ignorant we are! But with the many good
observers now living our children's children will be less ignorant, and
that is a comfort.
LETTER 197. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
Down, January 7th .
Very many thanks for your letter, which has told me exactly what I wanted
to know. I shall give up all thoughts of trying to get the book (197/1.
Hackel's "Generelle Morphologie," 1866. See "Life and Letters," III.,
pages 67, 68.) translated, for I am well convinced that it would be
hopeless without too great an outlay. I much regret this, as I should
think the work would be useful, and I am sure it would be to me, as I shall
never be able to wade through more than here and there a page of the
original. To all people I cannot but think that the number of new terms
would be a great evil. I must write to him. I suppose you know his
address, but in case you do not, it is "to care of Signor Nicolaus Krohn,
Madeira." I have sent the MS. of my big book (197/2. "The Variation of
Animals and Plants under Domestication," 1868.), and horridly, disgustingly
big it will be, to the printers, but I do not suppose it will be published,
owing to Murray's idea on seasons, till next November. I am thinking of a
chapter on Man, as there has lately been so much said on Natural Selection
in relation to man. I have not seen the Duke's (or Dukelet's? how can you
speak so of a living real Duke?) book, but must get it from Mudie, as you
say he attacks us. (197/3. "The Reign of Law" (1867), by the late Duke of
Argyll. See "Life and Letters," III., page 65.)
P.S.--Nature never made species mutually sterile by selection, nor will
LETTER 197. TO E. HACKEL.
Down, January 8th .
I received some weeks ago your great work (198/1. "Generelle Morphologie,"
1866.); I have read several parts, but I am too poor a German scholar and
the book is too large for me to read it all. I cannot tell you how much I
regret this, for I am sure that nearly the whole would interest me greatly,
and I have already found several parts very useful, such as the discussion
on cells and on the different forms of reproduction. I feel sure, after
considering the subject deliberately and after consulting with Huxley, that
it would be hopeless to endeavour to get a publisher to print an English
translation; the work is too profound and too long for our English
countrymen. The number of new terms would also, I am sure, tell much
against its sale; and, indeed, I wish for my own sake that you had printed
a glossary of all the new terms which you use. I fully expect that your
book will be highly successful in Germany, and the manner in which you
often refer to me in your text, and your dedication and the title, I shall
always look at as one of the greatest honours conferred on me during my
life. (198/2. As regards the dedication and title this seems a strong
expression. The title is "Generelle Morphologie der Organismen.
Allgemeine Grundzuge der organischen Formen-Wissenschaft mechanisch
begrundet durch die von Charles Darwin reformirte Descendenz-Theorie." The
dedication of the second volume is "Den Begrundern der Descendenz-Theorie,
den denkenden Naturforschern, Charles Darwin, Wolfgang Goethe, Jean Lamarck
widmet diese Grundzuge der Allgemeinen Entwickelungsgeschichte in
vorzuglicher Verehrung, der Verfasser.")
I sincerely hope that you have had a prosperous expedition, and have met
with many new and interesting animals. If you have spare time I should
much like to hear what you have been doing and observing. As for myself, I
have sent the MS. of my book on domestic animals, etc., to the printers.
It turns out to be much too large; it will not be published, I suppose,
until next November. I find that we have discussed several of the same
subjects, and I think we agree on most points fairly well. I have lately
heard several times from Fritz Muller, but he seems now chiefly to be
working on plants. I often think of your visit to this house, which I
enjoyed extremely, and it will ever be to me a real pleasure to remember
our acquaintance. From what I heard in London I think you made many
friends there. Shall you return through England? If so, and you can spare
the time, we shall all be delighted to see you here again.
LETTER 199. TO T. RIVERS.
Down, January 11th [1867?].
How rich and valuable a letter you have most kindly sent me! The case of
Baronne Prevost (199/1. See "Variation under Domestication," Edition II.,
Volume I., page 406. Mr. Rivers had a new French rose with a delicate
smooth stem, pale glaucous leaves and striped flesh-coloured flowers; on
branches thus characterised there appeared "the famous old rose called
'Baronne Prevost,'" with its stout thorny stem and uniform rich-coloured
double flowers.), with its different shoots, foliage, spines, and flowers,
will be grand to quote. I am extremely glad to hear about the seedling
moss-roses. That case of a seedling like a Scotch rose, unless you are
sure that no Scotch rose grew near (and it is unlikely that you can
remember), must, one would think, have been a cross.
I have little compunction for being so troublesome--not more than a grand
Inquisitor has in torturing a heretic--for am I not doing a real good
public service in screwing crumbs of knowledge out of your wealth of
P.S. Since the above was written I have read your paper in the "Gardeners'
Chronicle": it is admirable, and will, I know, be a treasure to me. I did
not at all know how strictly the character of so many flowers is inherited.
On my honour, when I began this note I had no thought of troubling you with
a question; but you mention one point so interesting, and which I have had
occasion to notice, that I must supplicate for a few more facts to quote on
your authority. You say that you have one or two seedling peaches (199/2.
"On raising Peaches, Nectarines, and other Fruits from Seed." By Thomas
Rivers, Sawbridgeworth.--"Gard. Chron." 1866, page 731.) approaching very
nearly to thick-fleshed almonds (I know about A. Knight and the Italian
hybrid cases). Now, did any almond grow near your mother peach? But
especially I want to know whether you remember what shape the stone was,
whether flattened like that of an almond; this, botanically, seems the most
important distinction. I earnestly wish to quote this. Was the flesh at
Forgive if you can.
Have you kept these seedling peaches? if you would give me next summer a
fruit, I want to have it engraved.
LETTER 200. TO I. ANDERSON-HENRY.
May 22nd .
You are so kind as to offer to lend me Maillet's (200/1. For De Maillet
see Mr. Huxley's review on "The Origin of Species" in the "Westminster
Review," 1860, reprinted in "Lay Sermons," 1870, page 314. De Maillet's
evolutionary views were published after his death in 1748 under the name of
Telliamed (De Maillet spelt backwards).) work, which I have often heard of,
but never seen. I should like to have a look at it, and would return it to
you in a short time. I am bound to read it, as my former friend and
present bitter enemy Owen generally ranks me and Maillet as a pair of equal
LETTER 201. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, April 4th .
You have done me a very great service in sending me the pages of the
"Farmer." I do not know whether you wish it returned; but I will keep it
unless I hear that you want it. Old I. Anderson-Henry passes a magnificent
but rather absurd eulogium on me; but the point of such extreme value in my
eyes is Mr. Traill's (201/1. Mr. Traill's results are given at page 420 of
"Animals and Plants," Edition II., Volume I. In the "Life and Letters of
G.J. Romanes," 1896, an interesting correspondence is published with Mr.
Darwin on this subject. The plan of the experiments suggested to Romanes
was to raise seedlings from graft-hybrids: if the seminal offspring of
plants hybridised by grafting should show the hybrid character, it would be
striking evidence in favour of pangenesis. The experiment, however, did
not succeed.) statement that he made a mottled mongrel by cutting eyes
through and joining two kinds of potatoes. (201/2. For an account of
similar experiments now in progress, see a "Note on some Grafting
Experiments" by R. Biffen in the "Annals of Botany," Volume XVI., page 174,
1902.) I have written to him for full information, and then I will set to
work on a similar trial. It would prove, I think, to demonstration that
propagation by buds and by the sexual elements are essentially the same
process, as pangenesis in the most solemn manner declares to be the case.
LETTER 202. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
Down, June 12th [1867?].
We come up on Saturday, the 15th, for a week. I want much to see you for a
short time to talk about my youngest boy and the School of Mines. I know
it is rather unreasonable, but you must let me come a little after 10
o'clock on Sunday morning, the 16th. If in any way inconvenient, send me a
line to "6, Queen Anne Street W.,"; but if I do not hear, I will (stomacho
volente) call, but I will not stay very long and spoil your whole morning
as a holiday. Will you turn two or three times in your mind this question:
what I called "pangenesis" means that each cell throws off an atom of its
contents or a gemmule, and that these aggregated form the true ovule or
bud, etc.? Now I want to know whether I could not invent a better word.
"Cyttarogenesis" (202/1. From kuttaros, a bee's-cell: cytogenesis would
be a natural form of the word from kutos.)--i.e. cell-genesis--is more true
and expressive, but long. "Atomogenesis" sounds rather better, I think,
but an "atom" is an object which cannot be divided; and the term might
refer to the origin of atoms of inorganic matter. I believe I like
"pangenesis" best, though so indefinite; and though my wife says it sounds
wicked, like pantheism; but I am so familiar now with this word, that I
cannot judge. I supplicate you to help me.
LETTER 203. TO A.R. WALLACE.
Down, October, 12th and 13th .
I ordered the journal (203/1. "Quarterly Journal of Science," October,
1867, page 472. A review of the Duke of Argyll's "Reign of Law.") a long
time ago, but by some oversight received it only yesterday, and read it.
You will think my praise not worth having, from being so indiscriminate;
but if I am to speak the truth, I must say I admire every word. You have
just touched on the points which I particularly wished to see noticed. I
am glad you had the courage to take up Angraecum (203/2. Angraecum
sesquipedale, a Madagascan orchid, with a whiplike nectary, 11 to 12 inches
in length, which, according to Darwin ("Fertilisation of Orchids," Edition
II., page 163), is adapted to the visits of a moth with a proboscis of
corresponding length. He points out that there is no difficulty in
believing in the existence of such a moth as F. Muller has described
("Nature," 1873, page 223)--a Brazilian sphinx-moth with a trunk of 10 to
11 inches in length. Moreover, Forbes has given evidence to show that such
an insect does exist in Madagascar ("Nature," VIII., 1873, page 121). The
case of Angraecum was put forward by the Duke of Argyll as being
necessarily due to the personal contrivance of the Deity. Mr. Wallace
(page 476) shows that both proboscis and nectary might be increased in
length by means of Natural Selection. It may be added that Hermann Muller
has shown good grounds for believing that mutual specialisation of this
kind is beneficial both to insect and plant.) after the Duke's attack; for
I believe the principle in this case may be widely applied. I like the
figure, but I wish the artist had drawn a better sphinx. With respect to
beauty, your remarks on hideous objects and on flowers not being made
beautiful except when of practical use to them, strike me as very good. On
this one point of beauty I can hardly think that the Duke was quite candid.
I have used in the concluding paragraph of my present book precisely the
same argument as you have, even bringing in the bull-dog (203/3.
"Variation of Animals and Plants," Edition I., Volume II., page 431: "Did
He cause the frame and mental qualities of the dog to vary in order that a
breed might be formed of indomitable ferocity, with jaws fitted to pin down
the bull for man's brutal sport?"), with respect to variations not having
been specially ordained. Your metaphor of the river (203/4. See Wallace,
op. cit., pages 477-8. He imagines an observer examining a great river-
system, and finding everywhere adaptations which reveal the design of the
Creator. "He would see special adaptation to the wants of man in broad,
quiet, navigable rivers, through fertile alluvial plains that would support
a large population, while the rocky streams and mountain torrents were
confined to those sterile regions suitable only for a small population of
shepherds and herdsmen.') is new to me, and admirable; but your other
metaphor, in which you compare classification and complex machines, does
not seem to me quite appropriate, though I cannot point out what seems
deficient. The point which seems to me strong is that all naturalists
admit that there is a natural classification, and it is this which descent
explains. I wish you had insisted a little more against the "North
British" (203/5. At page 485 Mr. Wallace deals with Fleeming Jenkin's
review in the "North British Review," 1867. The review strives to show
that there are strict limits to variation, since the most rigorous and
long-continued selection does not indefinitely increase such a quality as
the fleetness of a racehorse. On this Mr. Wallace remarks that "this
argument fails to meet the real question," which is, not whether indefinite
change is possible, "but whether such differences as do occur in nature
could have been produced by the accumulation of variations by selection.")
on the reviewer assuming that each variation which appears is a strongly
marked one; though by implication you have made this very plain. Nothing
in your whole article has struck me more than your view with respect to the
limit of fleetness in the racehorse and other such cases: I shall try and
quote you on this head in the proof of my concluding chapter. I quite
missed this explanation, though in the case of wheat I hit upon something
analogous. I am glad you praise the Duke's book, for I was much struck
with it. The part about flight seemed to me at first very good; but as the
wing is articulated by a ball-and-socket joint, I suspect the Duke would
find it very difficult to give any reason against the belief that the wing
strikes the air more or less obliquely. I have been very glad to see your
article and the drawing of the butterfly in "Science Gossip." By the way,
I cannot but think that you push protection too far in some cases, as with
the stripes on the tiger. I have also this morning read an excellent
abstract in the "Gardeners' Chronicle" of your paper on nests. (203/6. An
abstract of a paper on "Birds' Nests and Plumage," read before the British
Association: see "Gard. Chron." 1867, page 1047.) I was not by any means
fully converted by your letter, but I think now I am so; and I hope it will
be published somewhere in extenso. It strikes me as a capital
generalisation, and appears to me even more original than it did at
I have finished Volume I. of my book ["Variation of Animals and Plants"],
and I hope the whole will be out by the end of November. If you have the
patience to read it through, which is very doubtful, you will find, I
think, a large accumulation of facts which will be of service to you in
future papers; and they could not be put to better use, for you certainly
are a master in the noble art of reasoning.
LETTER 204. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
Down, October 3rd [no date].
I know you have no time for speculative correspondence; and I did not in
the least expect an answer to my last. But I am very glad to have had it,
for in my eclectic work the opinions of the few good men are of great value
I knew, of course, of the Cuvierian view of classification (204/1. Cuvier
proved that "animals cannot be arranged in a single series, but that there
are several distinct plans of organisation to be observed among them, no
one of which, in its highest and most complicated modification, leads to
any of the others" (Huxley's "Darwiniana," page 215).); but I think that
most naturalists look for something further, and search for "the natural
system,"--"for the plan on which the Creator has worked," etc., etc. It is
this further element which I believe to be simply genealogical.
But I should be very glad to have your answer (either when we meet or by
note) to the following case, taken by itself, and not allowing yourself to
look any further than to the point in question. Grant all races of man
descended from one race--grant that all the structure of each race of man
were perfectly known--grant that a perfect table of the descent of each
race was perfectly known--grant all this, and then do you not think that
most would prefer as the best classification, a genealogical one, even if
it did occasionally put one race not quite so near to another, as it would
have stood, if collocated by structure alone? Generally, we may safely
presume, that the resemblance of races and their pedigrees would go
I should like to hear what you would say on this purely theoretical case.
It might be asked why is development so all-potent in classification, as I
fully admit it is? I believe it is because it depends on, and best
betrays, genealogical descent; but this is too large a point to enter on.
LETTER 205. TO C. LYELL.
Down, December 7th .
I send by this post the article in the Victorian Institute with respect to
frogs' spawn. If you remember in your boyhood having ever tried to take a
small portion out of the water, you will remember that it is most
difficult. I believe all the birds in the world might alight every day on
the spawn of batrachians, and never transport a single ovum. With respect
to the young of molluscs, undoubtedly if the bird to which they were
attached alighted on the sea, they would be instantly killed; but a land-
bird would, I should think, never alight except under dire necessity from
fatigue. This, however, has been observed near Heligoland (205/1.
Instances are recorded by Gatke in his "Heligoland as an Ornithological
Observatory" (translated by Rudolph Rosenstock, Edinburgh, 1895) of land-
birds, such as thrushes, buntings, finches, etc., resting for a short time
on the surface of the water. The author describes observations made by
himself about two miles west of Heligoland (page 129).); and land-birds,
after resting for a time on the tranquil sea, have been seen to rise and
continue their flight. I cannot give you the reference about Heligoland
without much searching. This alighting on the sea may aid you in your
unexpected difficulty of the too-easy diffusion of land-molluscs by the
agency of birds. I much enjoyed my morning's talk with you.
LETTER 206. TO F. HILDEBRAND.
Down, January 5th .
I thank you for your letter, which has quite delighted me. I sincerely
congratulate you on your success in making a graft-hybrid (206/1. Prof.
Hildebrand's paper is in the "Bot. Zeitung," 1868: the substance is given
in "Variation of Animals and Plants," Edition II., Volume I., page 420.),
for I believe it to be a most important observation. I trust that you will
publish full details on this subject and on the direct action of pollen
(206/2. See Prof. Hildebrand, "Bot. Zeitung," 1868, and "Variation of
Animals and Plants," Edition II., Volume I., page 430. A yellow-grained
maize was fertilised with pollen from a brown-grained one; the result was
that ears were produced bearing both yellow and dark-coloured grains.): I
hope that you will be so kind as to send me a copy of your paper. If I had
succeeded in making a graft-hybrid of the potato, I had intended to raise
seedlings from the graft-hybrid and from the two parent-forms (excluding
insects) and carefully compare the offspring. This, however, would be
difficult on account of the sterility and variability of the potato. When
in the course of a few months you receive my second volume (206/3. This
sentence may be paraphrased--"When you receive my book and read the second
volume."), you will see why I think these two subjects so important. They
have led me to form a hypothesis on the various forms of reproduction,
development, inheritance, etc., which hypothesis, I believe, will
ultimately be accepted, though how it will be now received I am very
Once again I congratulate you on your success.
LETTER 207. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, January 6th .
Many thanks about names of plants, synonyms, and male flowers--all that I
I have been glad to see Watson's letter, and am sorry he is a renegade
about Natural Selection. It is, as you say, characteristic, with the final
fling at you.
His difficulty about the difference between the two genera of St. Helena
Umbellifers is exactly the same as what Nageli has urged in an able
pamphlet (207/1. "Ueber Entstehung und Begriff der naturhist. Art."
"Sitz. der K. Bayer. Akad. Der Wiss. zu Munchen," 1865. Some of Nageli's
points are discussed in the "Origin," Edition V., page 151.), and who in
consequence maintains that there is some unknown innate tendency to
progression in all organisms. I said in a letter to him that of course I
could not in the least explain such cases; but that they did not seem to me
of overwhelming force, as long as we are quite ignorant of the meaning of
such structures, whether they are of any service to the plants, or
inevitable consequences of modifications in other parts.
I cannot understand what Watson means by the "counter-balance in nature" to
divergent variation. There is the counterbalance of crossing, of which my
present work daily leads me to see more and more the efficiency; but I
suppose he means something very different. Further, I believe variation to
be divergent solely because diversified forms can best subsist. But you
will think me a bore.
I enclose half a letter from F. Muller (which please return) for the chance
of your liking to see it; though I have doubted much about sending it, as
you are so overworked. I imagine the Solanum-like flower is curious.
I heard yesterday to my joy that Dr. Hildebrand has been experimenting on
the direct action of pollen on the mother-plant with success. He has also
succeeded in making a true graft-hybrid between two varieties of potatoes,
in which I failed. I look at this as splendid for pangenesis, as being
strong evidence that bud-reproduction and seminal reproduction do not
My book is horribly delayed, owing to the accursed index-maker. (207/2.
Darwin thoroughly appreciated the good work put into the index of "The
Variation of Animals and Plants.") I have almost forgotten it!
LETTER 208. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
Down, January 30th .
Most sincere thanks for your kind congratulations. I never received a note
from you in my life without pleasure; but whether this will be so after you
have read pangenesis (208/1. In Volume II. of "Animals and Plants, 1868.),
I am very doubtful. Oh Lord, what a blowing up I may receive! I write now
partly to say that you must not think of looking at my book till the
summer, when I hope you will read pangenesis, for I care for your opinion
on such a subject more than for that of any other man in Europe. You are
so terribly sharp-sighted and so confoundedly honest! But to the day of my
death I will always maintain that you have been too sharp-sighted on
hybridism; and the chapter on the subject in my book I should like you to
read: not that, as I fear, it will produce any good effect, and be hanged
I rejoice that your children are all pretty well. Give Mrs. Huxley the
enclosed (208/2. Queries on Expression.), and ask her to look out when one
of her children is struggling and just going to burst out crying. A dear
young lady near here plagued a very young child for my sake, till it cried,
and saw the eyebrows for a second or two beautifully oblique, just before
the torrent of tears began.
The sympathy of all our friends about George's success (it is the young
Herald) (208/3. His son George was Second Wrangler in 1868; as a boy he
was an enthusiast in heraldry.) has been a wonderful pleasure to us.
George has not slaved himself, which makes his success the more
satisfactory. Farewell, my dear Huxley, and do not kill yourself with
(209/1. The following group of letters deals with the problem of the
causes of the sterility of hybrids. Mr. Darwin's final view is given in
the "Origin," sixth edition (page 384, edition 1900). He acknowledges that
it would be advantageous to two incipient species, if by physiological
isolation due to mutual sterility, they could be kept from blending: but
he continues, "After mature reflection it seems to me that this could not
have been effected through Natural Selection." And finally he concludes
"But it would be superfluous to discuss this question in detail; for with
plants we have conclusive evidence that the sterility of crossed species
must be due to some principle quite independent of Natural Selection. Both
Gartner and Kolreuter have proved that in genera including numerous
species, a series can be formed from species which when crossed yield fewer
and fewer seeds, to species which never produce a single seed, but yet are
affected by the pollen of certain other species, for the germen swells. It
is here manifestly impossible to select the more sterile individuals, which
have already ceased to yield seeds; so that this acme of sterility, when
the germen alone is affected, cannot have been gained through selection;
and from the laws governing the various grades of sterility being so
uniform throughout the animal and vegetable kingdoms, we may infer that the
cause, whatever it may be, is the same or nearly the same in all cases."
Mr. Wallace, on the other hand, still adheres to his view: see his
"Darwinism," 1889, page 174, and for a more recent statement see page 292,
note 1, Letter 211, and page 299.
The discussion of 1868 began with a letter from Mr. Wallace, written
towards the end of February, giving his opinion on the "Variation of
Animals and Plants;" the discussion on the sterility of hybrids is at page
185, Volume II., of the first edition.)
LETTER 209. A.R. WALLACE TO CHARLES DARWIN.
The only parts I have yet met with where I somewhat differ from your views,
are in the chapter on the causes of variability, in which I think several
of your arguments are unsound: but this is too long a subject to go into
now. Also, I do not see your objection to sterility between allied species
having been aided by Natural Selection. It appears to me that, given a
differentiation of a species into two forms, each of which was adapted to a
special sphere of existence, every slight degree of sterility would be a
positive advantage, not to the individuals who were sterile, but to each
form. If you work it out, and suppose the two incipient species a...b to
be divided into two groups, one of which contains those which are fertile
when the two are crossed, the other being slightly sterile, you will find
that the latter will certainly supplant the former in the struggle for
existence; remembering that you have shown that in such a cross the
offspring would be more vigorous than the pure breed, and therefore would
certainly soon supplant them, and as these would not be so well adapted to
any special sphere of existence as the pure species a and b, they would
certainly in their turn give way to a and b.
LETTER 210. TO A.R. WALLACE.
February 27th .
I shall be very glad to hear, at some future day, your criticisms on the
"causes of variability." Indeed, I feel sure that I am right about
sterility and Natural Selection. Two of my grown-up children who are acute
reasoners have two or three times at intervals tried to prove me wrong; and
when your letter came they had another try, but ended by coming back to my
side. I do not quite understand your case, and we think that a word or two
is misplaced. I wish some time you would consider the case under the
following point of view. If sterility is caused or accumulated through
Natural Selection, then, as every degree exists up to absolute barrenness,
Natural Selection must have the power of increasing it. Now take two
species A and B, and assume that they are (by any means) half-sterile,
i.e., produce half the full number of offspring. Now try and make (by
Natural Selection) A and B absolutely sterile when crossed, and you will
find how difficult it is. I grant, indeed it is certain, that the degree
of the sterility of the individuals of A and B will vary; but any such
extra-sterile individuals of, we will say A, if they should hereafter breed
with other individuals of A, will bequeath no advantage to their progeny,
by which these families will tend to increase in number over other families
of A, which are not more sterile when crossed with B. But I do not know
that I have made this any clearer than in the chapter in my book. It is a
most difficult bit of reasoning, which I have gone over and over again on
paper with diagrams. (210/1. This letter appeared in "Life and Letters,"
III., page 80.)
LETTER 211. A.R. WALLACE TO CHARLES DARWIN.
March 1st, 1868.
I beg to enclose what appears to me a demonstration on your own principles,
that Natural Selection could produce sterility of hybrids. If it does not
convince you, I shall be glad if you will point out where the fallacy lies.
I have taken the two cases of a slight sterility overcoming perfect
fertility, and of a perfect sterility overcoming a partial fertility,--the
beginning and end of the process. You admit that variations in fertility
and sterility occur, and I think you will also admit that if I demonstrate
that a considerable amount of sterility would be advantageous to a variety,
that is sufficient proof that the slightest variation in that direction
would be useful also, and would go on accumulating.
1. Let there be a species which has varied into two forms, each adapted to
existing conditions (211/1. "Existing conditions," means of course new
conditions which have now come into existence. And the "two" being both
better adapted than the parent form, means that they are better adapted
each to a special environment in the same area--as one to damp, another to
dry places; one to woods, another to open grounds, etc., etc., as Darwin
had already explained. A.R.W. (1899).) better than the parent form, which
2. If these two forms, which are supposed to co-exist in the same
district, do not intercross, Natural Selection will accumulate favourable
variations, till they become sufficiently well adapted to their conditions
of life and form two allied species.
3. But if these two forms freely intercross with each other and produce
hybrids which are also quite fertile inter se, then the formation of the
two distinct races or species will be retarded or perhaps entirely
prevented; for the offspring of the crossed unions will be more vigorous
owing to the cross, although less adapted to their conditions of life than
either of the pure breeds. (211/2. After "pure breeds," add "because less
specialised." A.R.W. (1899).)
4. Now let a partial sterility of some individuals of these two forms
arise when they intercross; and as this would probably be due to some
special conditions of life, we may fairly suppose it to arise in some
definite portion of the area occupied by the two forms.
5. The result is that in this area hybrids will not increase so rapidly as
before; and as by the terms of the problem the two pure forms are better
suited to the conditions of life than the hybrids, they will tend to
supplant the latter altogether whenever the struggle for existence becomes
6. We may fairly suppose, also, that as soon as any sterility appears
under natural conditions, it will be accompanied by some disinclination to
cross-unions; and this will further diminish the production of hybrids.
7. In the other part of the area, however, where hybridism occurs
unchecked, hybrids of various degrees will soon far outnumber the parent or
8. The first result, then, of a partial sterility of crosses appearing in
one part of the area occupied by the two forms, will be, that the GREAT
MAJORITY of the individuals will there consist of the pure forms only,
while in the rest of the area these will be in a minority,--which is the
same as saying, that the new sterile or physiological variety of the two
forms will be better suited to the conditions of existence than the
remaining portion which has not varied physiologically.
9. But when the struggle for existence becomes severe, that variety which
is best adapted to the conditions of existence always supplants that which
is imperfectly adapted; therefore by Natural Selection the sterile
varieties of the two forms will become established as the only ones.
10. Now let a fresh series of variations in the amount of sterility and in
the disinclination to crossed unions occur,--also in certain parts of the
area: exactly the same result must recur, and the progeny of this new
physiological variety again in time occupy the whole area.
11. There is yet another consideration that supports this view. It seems
probable that the variations in amount of sterility would to some extent
concur with and perhaps depend upon the structural variations; so that just
in proportion as the two forms diverged and became better adapted to the
conditions of existence, their sterility would increase. If this were the
case, then Natural Selection would act with double strength, and those
varieties which were better adapted to survive both structurally and
physiologically, would certainly do so. (211/3. The preceding eleven
paragraphs are substantially but not verbally identical with the statement
of the argument in Mr. Wallace's "Darwinism," 1889. Pages 179, 180, note
12. Let us now consider the more difficult case of two allied species A,
B, in the same area, half the individuals of each (As, Bs) being absolutely
sterile, the other half (Af, Bf) being partially fertile: will As, Bs
ultimately exterminate Af, Bf?
13. To avoid complication, it must be granted, that between As and Bs no
cross-unions take place, while between Af and Bf cross-unions are as
frequent as direct unions, though much less fertile. We must also leave
out of consideration crosses between As and Af, Bs and Bf, with their
various approaches to sterility, as I believe they will not affect the
final result, although they will greatly complicate the problem.
14. In the first generation there will result: 1st, The pure progeny of
As and Bs; 2nd, The pure progeny of Af and of Bf; and 3rd, The hybrid
progeny of Af, Bf.
15. Supposing that, in ordinary years, the increased constitutional vigour
of the hybrids exactly counterbalances their imperfect adaptations to
conditions, there will be in the second generation, besides these three
classes, hybrids of the second degree between the first hybrids and Af and
Bf respectively. In succeeding generations there will be hybrids of all
degrees, varying between the first hybrids and the almost pure types of Af
16. Now, if at first the number of individuals of As, Bs, Af and Bf were
equal, and year after year the total number continues stationary, I think
it can be proved that, while half will be the pure progeny of As and Bs,
the other half will become more and more hybridised, until the whole will
be hybrids of various degrees.
17. Now, this hybrid and somewhat intermediate race cannot be so well
adapted to the conditions of life as the two pure species, which have been
formed by the minute adaptation to conditions through Natural Selection;
therefore, in a severe struggle for existence, the hybrids must succumb,
especially as, by hypothesis, their fertility would not be so great as that
of the two pure species.
18. If we were to take into consideration the unions of As with Af and Bs
with Bf, the results would become very complicated, but it must still lead
to there being a number of pure forms entirely derived from As and Bs, and
of hybrid forms mainly derived from Af and Bf; and the result of the
struggle of these two sets of individuals cannot be doubtful.
19. If these arguments are sound, it follows that sterility may be
accumulated and increased, and finally made complete by Natural Selection,
whether the sterile varieties originate together in a definite portion of
the area occupied by the two species, or occur scattered over the whole
area. (211/4. The first part of this discussion should be considered
alone, as it is both more simple and more important. I now believe that
the utility, and therefore the cause of sterility between species, is
during the process of differentiation. When species are fully formed, the
occasional occurrence of hybrids is of comparatively small importance, and
can never be a danger to the existence of the species. A.R.W. (1899).)
P.S.--In answer to the objection as to the unequal sterility of reciprocal
crosses ("Variation, etc." Volume II., page 186) I reply that, as far as it
went, the sterility of one cross would be advantageous even if the other
cross was fertile: and just as characters now co-ordinated may have been
separately accumulated by Natural Selection, so the reciprocal crosses may
have become sterile one at a time.
LETTER 212. TO A.R. WALLACE.
4, Chester Place, March 17th, 1868.
(212/1. Mr. Darwin had already written a short note to Mr. Wallace
expressing a general dissent from his view.)
I do not feel that I shall grapple with the sterility argument till my
return home; I have tried once or twice, and it has made my stomach feel as
if it had been placed in a vice. Your paper has driven three of my
children half mad--one sat up till 12 o'clock over it. My second son, the
mathematician, thinks that you have omitted one almost inevitable deduction
which apparently would modify the result. He has written out what he
thinks, but I have not tried fully to understand him. I suppose that you
do not care enough about the subject to like to see what he has written.
LETTER 212A. A.R. WALLACE TO CHARLES DARWIN.
Hurstpierpoint, March, 24th .
I return your son's notes with my notes on them. Without going into any
details, is not this a strong general argument?
1. A species varies occasionally in two directions, but owing to their
free intercrossing the varieties never increase.
2. A change of conditions occurs which threatens the existence of the
species; but the two varieties are adapted to the changing conditions, and
if accumulated will form two new species adapted to the new conditions.
3. Free crossing, however, renders this impossible, and so the species is
in danger of extinction.
4. If sterility would be induced, then the pure races would increase more
rapidly, and replace the old species.
5. It is admitted that partial sterility between varieties does
occasionally occur. It is admitted [that] the degree of this sterility
varies; is it not probable that Natural Selection can accumulate these
variations, and thus save the species? If Natural Selection can NOT do
this, how do species ever arise, except when a variety is isolated?
Closely allied species in distinct countries being sterile is no
difficulty; for either they diverged from a common ancestor in contact, and
Natural Selection increased the sterility, or they were isolated, and have
varied since: in which case they have been for ages influenced by distinct
conditions which may well produce sterility.
If the difficulty of grafting was as great as the difficulty of crossing,
and as regular, I admit it would be a most serious objection. But it is
not. I believe many distinct species can be grafted, while others less
distinct cannot. The regularity with which natural species are sterile
together, even when very much alike, I think is an argument in favour of
the sterility having been generally produced by Natural Selection for the
good of the species.
The other difficulty, of unequal sterility of reciprocal crosses, seems
none to me; for it is a step to more complete sterility, and as such would
be increased by selection.
LETTER 213. TO A.R. WALLACE.
Down, April 6th .
I have been considering the terrible problem. Let me first say that no man
could have more earnestly wished for the success of Natural Selection in
regard to sterility than I did; and when I considered a general statement
(as in your last note) I always felt sure it could be worked out, but
always failed in detail. The cause being, as I believe, that Natural
Selection cannot effect what is not good for the individual, including in
this term a social community. It would take a volume to discuss all the
points, and nothing is so humiliating to me as to agree with a man like you
(or Hooker) on the premises and disagree about the result.
I agree with my son's argument and not with the rejoinder. The cause of
our difference, I think, is that I look at the number of offspring as an
important element (all circumstances remaining the same) in keeping up the
average number of individuals within any area. I do not believe that the
amount of food by any means is the sole determining cause of number.
Lessened fertility is equivalent to a new source of destruction. I believe
if in one district a species produced from any cause fewer young, the
deficiency would be supplied from surrounding districts. This applies to
your Paragraph 5. (213/1. See Letter 211.) If the species produced fewer
young from any cause in every district, it would become extinct unless its
fertility were augmented through Natural Selection (see H. Spencer).
I demur to probability and almost to possibility of Paragraph 1., as you
start with two forms within the same area, which are not mutually sterile,
and which yet have supplanted the parent-form.
(Paragraph 6.) I know of no ghost of a fact supporting belief that
disinclination to cross accompanies sterility. It cannot hold with plants,
or the lower fixed aquatic animals. I saw clearly what an immense aid this
would be, but gave it up. Disinclination to cross seems to have been
independently acquired, probably by Natural Selection; and I do not see why
it would not have sufficed to have prevented incipient species from
blending to have simply increased sexual disinclination to cross.
(Paragraph 11.) I demur to a certain extent to amount of sterility and
structural dissimilarity necessarily going together, except indirectly and
by no means strictly. Look at vars. of pigeons, fowls, and cabbages.
I overlooked the advantage of the half-sterility of reciprocal crosses;
yet, perhaps from novelty, I do not feel inclined to admit probability of
Natural Selection having done its work so queerly.
I will not discuss the second case of utter sterility, but your assumptions
in Paragraph 13 seem to me much too complicated. I cannot believe so
universal an attribute as utter sterility between remote species was
acquired in so complex a manner. I do not agree with your rejoinder on
grafting: I fully admit that it is not so closely restricted as crossing,
but this does not seem to me to weaken the case as one of analogy. The
incapacity of grafting is likewise an invariable attribute of plants
sufficiently remote from each other, and sometimes of plants pretty closely
The difficulty of increasing the sterility through Natural Selection of two
already sterile species seems to me best brought home by considering an
actual case. The cowslip and primrose are moderately sterile, yet
occasionally produce hybrids. Now these hybrids, two or three or a dozen
in a whole parish, occupy ground which might have been occupied by either
pure species, and no doubt the latter suffer to this small extent. But can
you conceive that any individual plants of the primrose and cowslip which
happened to be mutually rather more sterile (i.e. which, when crossed,
yielded a few less seed) than usual, would profit to such a degree as to
increase in number to the ultimate exclusion of the present primrose and
cowslip? I cannot.
My son, I am sorry to say, cannot see the full force of your rejoinder in
regard to second head of continually augmented sterility. You speak in
this rejoinder, and in Paragraph 5, of all the individuals becoming in some