Part 7 out of 10
slight degree sterile in certain districts: if you were to admit that by
continued exposure to these same conditions the sterility would inevitably
increase, there would be no need of Natural Selection. But I suspect that
the sterility is not caused so much by any particular conditions as by long
habituation to conditions of any kind. To speak according to pangenesis,
the gemmules of hybrids are not injured, for hybrids propagate freely by
buds; but their reproductive organs are somehow affected, so that they
cannot accumulate the proper gemmules, in nearly the same manner as the
reproductive organs of a pure species become affected when exposed to
This is a very ill-expressed and ill-written letter. Do not answer it,
unless the spirit urges you. Life is too short for so long a discussion.
We shall, I greatly fear, never agree.
LETTER 214. A.R. WALLACE TO CHARLES DARWIN.
Hurstpierpoint, [April?] 8th, 1868.
I am sorry you should have given yourself the trouble to answer my ideas on
sterility. If you are not convinced, I have little doubt but that I am
wrong; and, in fact, I was only half convinced by my own arguments, and I
now think there is about an even chance that Natural Selection may or may
not be able to accumulate sterility. If my first proposition is modified
to the existence of a species and a variety in the same area, it will do
just as well for my argument. Such certainly do exist. They are fertile
together, and yet each maintains itself tolerably distinct. How can this
be, if there is no disinclination to crossing?
My belief certainly is that number of offspring is not so important an
element in keeping up population of a species as supply of food and other
favourable conditions; because the numbers of a species constantly vary
greatly in different parts of its own area, whereas the average number of
offspring is not a very variable element.
However, I will say no more, but leave the problem as insoluble, only
fearing that it will become a formidable weapon in the hands of the enemies
of Natural Selection.
LETTER 215. TO J.D. HOOKER.
(215/1. The following extract from a letter to Sir Joseph Hooker (dated
April 3rd, 1868) refers to his Presidential Address for the approaching
meeting of the British Association at Norwich.
Some account of Sir Joseph's success is given in the "Life and Letters,"
III., page 100, also in Huxley's "Life," Volume I., page 297, where Huxley
writes to Darwin:--
"We had a capital meeting at Norwich, and dear old Hooker came out in great
force, as he always does in emergencies. The only fault was the terrible
'Darwinismus' which spread over the section and crept out when you least
expected it, even in Fergusson's lecture on 'Buddhist Temples.' You will
have the rare happiness to see your ideas triumphant during your lifetime.
"P.S.--I am going into opposition; I can't stand it.")
Down, April 3rd .
I have been thinking over your Presidential Address; I declare I made
myself quite uncomfortable by fancying I had to do it, and feeling myself
But I do not believe that you will find it so difficult. When you come to
Down I shall be very curious to hear what your ideas are on the subject.
Could you make anything out of a history of the great steps in the progress
of Botany, as representing the whole of Natural History? Heaven protect
you! I suppose there are men to whom such a job would not be so awful as
it appears to me...If you had time, you ought to read an article by W.
Bagehot in the April number of the "Fortnightly" (215/2. "Physic and
Politics," "Fortnightly Review," Volume III., page 452, 1868.), applying
Natural Selection to early or prehistoric politics, and, indeed, to late
politics,--this you know is your view.
LETTER 216. A.R. WALLACE TO CHARLES DARWIN.
9, St. Mark's Crescent, N.W., August 16th .
I ought to have written before to thank you for the copies of your papers
on Primula and on "Cross-unions of Dimorphic Plants, etc." The latter is
particularly interesting and the conclusion most important; but I think it
makes the difficulty of how these forms, with their varying degrees of
sterility, originated, greater than ever. If "natural selection" could not
accumulate varying degrees of sterility for the plant's benefit, then how
did sterility ever come to be associated with one cross of a trimorphic
plant rather than another? The difficulty seems to be increased by the
consideration that the advantage of a cross with a distinct individual is
gained just as well by illegitimate as by legitimate unions. By what
means, then, did illegitimate unions ever become sterile? It would seem a
far simpler way for each plant's pollen to have acquired a prepotency on
another individual's stigma over that of the same individual, without the
extraordinary complication of three differences of structure and eighteen
different unions with varying degrees of sterility!
However, the fact remains an excellent answer to the statement that
sterility of hybrids proves the absolute distinctness of the parents.
I have been reading with great pleasure Mr. Bentham's last admirable
address (216/1. "Proc. Linn. Soc." 1867-8, page lvii.), in which he so
well replies to the gross misstatements of the "Athenaeum;" and also says
award in favour of pangenesis. I think we may now congratulate you on
having made a valuable convert, whose opinions on the subject, coming so
late and being evidently so well considered, will have much weight.
I am going to Norwich on Tuesday to hear Dr. Hooker, who I hope will boldly
promulgate "Darwinism" in his address. (216/2. Sir Joseph Hooker's
Presidential Address at the British Association Meeting.) Shall we have
the pleasure of seeing you there?
I am engaged in negociations about my book.
Hoping you are well and getting on with your next volumes.
(216/3. We are permitted by Mr. Wallace to append the following note as to
his more recent views on the question of Natural Selection and sterility:--
"When writing my "Darwinism," and coming again to the consideration of this
problem of the effect of Natural Selection in accumulating variations in
the amount of sterility between varieties or incipient species twenty years
later, I became more convinced, than I was when discussing with Darwin, of
the substantial accuracy of my argument. Recently a correspondent who is
both a naturalist and a mathematician has pointed out to me a slight error
in my calculation at page 183 (which does not, however, materially affect
the result), disproving the 'physiological selection' of the late Dr.
Romanes, but he can see no fallacy in my argument as to the power of
Natural Selection to increase sterility between incipient species, nor, so
far as I am aware, has any one shown such fallacy to exist.
"On the other points on which I differed from Mr. Darwin in the foregoing
discussion--the effect of high fertility on population of a species, etc.--
I still hold the views I then expressed, but it would be out of place to
attempt to justify them here."
LETTER 217. TO C. LYELL.
Down, October 4th .
With respect to the points in your note, I may sometimes have expressed
myself with ambiguity. At the end of Chapter XXIII., where I say that
marked races are not often (you omit "often") produced by changed
conditions (217/1. "Hence, although it must be admitted that new
conditions of life do sometimes definitely affect organic beings, it may be
doubted whether well-marked races have often been produced by the direct
action of changed conditions without the aid of selection either by man or
nature." ("Animals and Plants," Volume II., page 292, 1868.)), I intended
to refer to the direct action of such conditions in causing variation, and
not as leading to the preservation or destruction of certain forms. There
is as wide a difference in these two respects as between voluntary
selection by man and the causes which induce variability. I have somewhere
in my book referred to the close connection between Natural Selection and
the action of external conditions in the sense which you specify in your
note. And in this sense all Natural Selection may be said to depend on
changed conditions. In the "Origin" I think I have underrated (and from
the cause which you mention) the effects of the direct action of external
conditions in producing varieties; but I hope in Chapter XXIII. I have
struck as fair a balance as our knowledge permits.
It is wonderful to me that you have patience to read my slips, and I cannot
but regret, as they are so imperfect; they must, I think, give you a wrong
impression, and had I sternly refused, you would perhaps have thought
better of my book. Every single slip is greatly altered, and I hope
With respect to the human ovule, I cannot find dimensions given, though I
have often seen the statement. My impression is that it would be just or
barely visible if placed on a clear piece of glass. Huxley could answer
your question at once.
I have not been well of late, and have made slow progress, but I think my
book will be finished by the middle of November.
LETTER 218. A.R. WALLACE TO CHARLES DARWIN.
[End of February, 1868]
I am in the second volume of your book, and I have been astonished at the
immense number of interesting facts you have brought together. I read the
chapter on pangenesis first, for I could not wait. I can hardly tell you
how much I admire it. It is a positive comfort to me to have any feasible
explanation of a difficulty that has always been haunting me, and I shall
never be able to give it up till a better one supplies its place,--and that
I think hardly possible. You have now fairly beaten Spencer on his own
ground, for he really offered no solution of the difficulties of the
problem. The incomprehensible minuteness and vast numbers of the
physiological germs or atoms (which themselves must be compounded of
numbers of Spencer's physiological units) is the only difficulty; but that
is only on a par with the difficulties in all conceptions of matter, space,
motion, force, etc.
As I understood Spencer, his physiological units were identical throughout
each species, but slightly different in each different species; but no
attempt was made to show how the identical form of the parent or ancestors
came to be built up of such units.
LETTER 219. TO A.R. WALLACE.
Down, February 27th .
You cannot well imagine how much I have been pleased by what you say about
pangenesis. None of my friends will speak out, except to a certain extent
Sir H. Holland, who found it very tough reading, but admits that some view
"closely akin to it" will have to be admitted. Hooker, as far as I
understand him, which I hardly do at present, seems to think that the
hypothesis is little more than saying that organisms have such and such
potentialities. What you say exactly and fully expresses my feelings--
viz., that it is a relief to have some feasible explanation of the various
facts, which can be given up as soon as any better hypothesis is found. It
has certainly been an immense relief to my mind; for I have been stumbling
over the subject for years, dimly seeing that some relation existed between
the various classes of facts. I now hear from H. Spencer that his views
quoted in my footnote refer to something quite distinct, as you seem to
have perceived. (219/1. This letter is published in "Life and Letters,"
III., page 79.)
LETTER 220. A.R. WALLACE TO CHARLES DARWIN.
Hurstpierpoint, March 1st, 1868.
...Sir C. Lyell spoke to me as if he has greatly admired pangenesis. I am
very glad H. Spencer at once acknowledges that his view was something quite
distinct from yours. Although, as you know, I am a great admirer of his, I
feel how completely his view failed to go to the root of the matter, as
yours does. His explained nothing, though he was evidently struggling hard
to find an explanation. Yours, as far as I can see, explains everything in
growth and reproduction--though, of course, the mystery of life and
consciousness remains as great as ever.
Parts of the chapter on pangenesis I found hard reading, and have not quite
mastered yet, and there are also throughout the discussions in Volume II.
many bits of hard reading, on minute points which we, who have not worked
experimentally at cultivation and crossing, as you have done, can hardly
see the importance of, or their bearing on the general question.
If I am asked, I may perhaps write an article on the book for some
periodical, and, if so, shall do what I can to make "Pangenesis"
(220/1. In "Nature," May 25th, 1871, page 69, appeared a letter on
pangenesis from Mr. A.C. Ranyard, dealing with the difficulty that the
"sexual elements produced upon the scion" have not been shown to be
affected by the stock. Mr. Darwin, in an annotated copy of this letter,
disputes the accuracy of the statement, but adds: "THE BEST OBJECTION YET
RAISED." He seems not to have used Mr. Ranyard's remarks in the 2nd
edition of the "Variation of Animals and Plants," 1875.)
LETTER 221. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, May 21st .
I know that you have been overworking yourself, and that makes you think
that you are doing nothing in science. If this is the case (which I do not
believe), your intellect has all run to letter-writing, for I never in all
my life received a pleasanter one than your last. It greatly amused us
all. How dreadfully severe you are on the Duke (221/1. The late Duke of
Argyll, whose "Reign of Law" Sir J.D. Hooker had been reading.): I really
think too severe, but then I am no fair judge, for a Duke, in my eyes, is
no common mortal, and not to be judged by common rules! I pity you from
the bottom of my soul about the address (221/2. Sir Joseph was President
of the British Association at Norwich in 1868: see "Life and Letters,"
III., page 100. The reference to "Insular Floras" is to Sir Joseph's
lecture at the Nottingham meeting of the British Association in 1866: see
"Life and Letters," III., page 47.): it makes my flesh creep; but when I
pitied you to Huxley, he would not join at all, and would only say that you
did and delivered your Insular Flora lecture so admirably in every way that
he would not bestow any pity on you. He felt certain that you would keep
your head high up. Nevertheless, I wish to God it was all over for your
sake. I think, from several long talks, that Huxley will give an excellent
and original lecture on Geograph. Distrib. of birds. I have been working
very hard--too hard of late--on Sexual Selection, which turns out a
gigantic subject; and almost every day new subjects turn up requiring
investigation and leading to endless letters and searches through books. I
am bothered, also, with heaps of foolish letters on all sorts of subjects,
but I am much interested in my subject, and sometimes see gleams of light.
All my other letters have prevented me indulging myself in writing to you;
but I suddenly found the locust grass (221/3. No doubt the plants raised
from seeds taken from locust dung sent by Mr. Weale from South Africa. The
case is mentioned in the fifth edition of the "Origin," published in 1869,
page 439.) yesterday in flower, and had to despatch it at once. I suppose
some of your assistants will be able to make the genus out without great
trouble. I have done little in experiment of late, but I find that
mignonette is absolutely sterile with pollen from the same plant. Any one
who saw stamen after stamen bending upwards and shedding pollen over the
stigmas of the same flower would declare that the structure was an
admirable contrivance for self-fertilisation. How utterly mysterious it is
that there should be some difference in ovules and contents of pollen-
grains (for the tubes penetrate own stigma) causing fertilisation when
these are taken from any two distinct plants, and invariably leading to
impotence when taken from the same plant! By Jove, even Pan. (221/4.
Pangenesis.) won't explain this. It is a comfort to me to think that you
will be surely haunted on your death-bed for not honouring the great god
Pan. I am quite delighted at what you say about my book, and about
Bentham; when writing it, I was much interested in some parts, but latterly
I thought quite as poorly of it as even the "Athenaeum." It ought to be
read abroad for the sake of the booksellers, for five editions have come or
are coming out abroad! I am ashamed to say that I have read only the
organic part of Lyell, and I admire all that I have read as much as you.
It is a comfort to know that possibly when one is seventy years old one's
brain may be good for work. It drives me mad, and I know it does you too,
that one has no time for reading anything beyond what must be read: my
room is encumbered with unread books. I agree about Wallace's wonderful
cleverness, but he is not cautious enough in my opinion. I find I must
(and I always distrust myself when I differ from him) separate rather
widely from him all about birds' nests and protection; he is riding that
hobby to death. I never read anything so miserable as Andrew Murray's
criticism on Wallace in the last number of his Journal. (221/5. See
"Journal of Travel and Natural History," Volume I., No. 3, page 137,
London, 1868, for Andrew Murray's "Reply to Mr. Wallace's Theory of Birds'
Nests," which appeared in the same volume, page 73. The "Journal" came to
an end after the publication of one volume for 1867-8.) I believe this
Journal will die, and I shall not cry: what a contrast with the old
"Natural History Review."
LETTER 222. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Freshwater, Isle of Wight, July 28th .
I am glad to hear that you are going (222/1. In his Presidential Address
at Norwich.) to touch on the statement that the belief in Natural Selection
is passing away. I do not suppose that even the "Athenaeum" would pretend
that the belief in the common descent of species is passing away, and this
is the more important point. This now almost universal belief in the
evolution (somehow) of species, I think may be fairly attributed in large
part to the "Origin." It would be well for you to look at the short
Introduction of Owen's "Anat. of Invertebrates," and see how fully he
admits the descent of species.
Of the "Origin," four English editions, one or two American, two French,
two German, one Dutch, one Italian, and several (as I was told) Russian
editions. The translations of my book on "Variation under Domestication"
are the results of the "Origin;" and of these two English, one American,
one German, one French, one Italian, and one Russian have appeared, or will
soon appear. Ernst Hackel wrote to me a week or two ago, that new
discussions and reviews of the "Origin" are continually still coming out in
Germany, where the interest on the subject certainly does not diminish. I
have seen some of these discussions, and they are good ones. I apprehend
that the interest on the subject has not died out in North America, from
observing in Professor and Mrs. Agassiz's Book on Brazil how exceedingly
anxious he is to destroy me. In regard to this country, every one can
judge for himself, but you would not say interest was dying out if you were
to look at the last number of the "Anthropological Review," in which I am
incessantly sneered at. I think Lyell's "Principles" will produce a
considerable effect. I hope I have given you the sort of information which
you want. My head is rather unsteady, which makes my handwriting worse
If you argue about the non-acceptance of Natural Selection, it seems to me
a very striking fact that the Newtonian theory of gravitation, which seems
to every one now so certain and plain, was rejected by a man so
extraordinarily able as Leibnitz. The truth will not penetrate a
Wallace (222/2. Wallace, "Westminster Review," July, 1867. The article
begins: "There is no more convincing proof of the truth of a comprehensive
theory, than its power of absorbing and finding a place for new facts, and
its capability of interpreting phenomena, which had been previously looked
upon as unaccountable anomalies..." Mr. Wallace illustrates his statement
that "a false theory will never stand this test," by Edward Forbes'
"polarity" speculations (see page 84 of the present volume) and Macleay's
"Circular" and "Quinarian System" published in his "Horae Entomologicae,"
1821, and developed by Swainson in the natural history volumes of
"Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopaedia." Mr. Wallace says that a "considerable
number of well-known naturalists either spoke approvingly of it, or
advocated similar principles, and for a good many years it was decidedly in
the ascendant...yet it quite died out in a few short years, its very
existence is now a matter of history, and so rapid was its fall
that...Swainson, perhaps, lived to be the last man who believed in it.
Such is the course of a false theory. That of a true one is very
different, as may be well seen by the progress of opinion on the subject of
Here, (page 3) follows a passage on the overwhelming importance of Natural
Selection, underlined with apparent approval in Mr. Darwin's copy of the
review.), in the "Westminster Review," in an article on Protection has a
good passage, contrasting the success of Natural Selection and its growth
with the comprehension of new classes of facts (222/3. This rather obscure
phrase may be rendered: "its power of growth by the absorption of new
facts."), with false theories, such as the Quinarian Theory, and that of
Polarity, by poor Forbes, both of which were promulgated with high
advantages and the first temporarily accepted.
LETTER 223. TO G.H. LEWES.
(223/1. The following is printed from a draft letter inscribed by Mr.
Darwin "Against organs having been formed by direct action of medium in
distinct organisms. Chiefly luminous and electric organs and thorns." The
draft is carelessly written, and all but illegible.)
August 7th, 1868.
If you mean that in distinct animals, parts or organs, such for instance as
the luminous organs of insects or the electric organs of fishes, are wholly
the result of the external and internal conditions to which the organs have
been subjected, in so direct and inevitable a manner that they could be
developed whether of use or not to their possessor, I cannot admit [your
view]. I could almost as soon admit that the whole structure of, for
instance, a woodpecker, had thus originated; and that there should be so
close a relation between structure and external circumstances which cannot
directly affect the structure seems to me to [be] inadmissible. Such
organs as those above specified seem to me much too complex and generally
too well co-ordinated with the whole organisation, for the admission that
they result from conditions independently of Natural Selection. The
impression which I have taken, studying nature, is strong, that in all
cases, if we could collect all the forms which have ever lived, we should
have a close gradation from some most simple beginning. If similar
conditions sufficed, without the aid of Natural Selection, to give similar
parts or organs, independently of blood relationship, I doubt much whether
we should have that striking harmony between the affinities, embryological
development, geographical distribution, and geological succession of all
allied organisms. We should be much more puzzled than we now are how to
class, in a natural method, many forms. It is puzzling enough to
distinguish between resemblance due to descent and to adaptation; but
(fortunately for naturalists), owing to the strong power of inheritance,
and to excessively complex causes and laws of variability, when the same
end or object has been gained, somewhat different parts have generally been
modified, and modified in a different manner, so that the resemblances due
to descent and adaptation can commonly be distinguished. I should just
like to add, that we may understand each other, how I suppose the luminous
organs of insects, for instance, to have been developed; but I depend on
conjectures, for so few luminous insects exist that we have no means of
judging, by the preservation to the present day of slightly modified forms,
of the probable gradations through which the organs have passed. Moreover,
we do not know of what use these organs are. We see that the tissues of
many animals, [as] certain centipedes in England, are liable, under unknown
conditions of food, temperature, etc., to become occasionally luminous;
just like the [illegible]: such luminosity having been advantageous to
certain insects, the tissues, I suppose, become specialised for this
purpose in an intensified degree; in certain insects in one part, in other
insects in other parts of the body. Hence I believe that if all extinct
insect-forms could be collected, we should have gradations from the
Elateridae, with their highly and constantly luminous thoraxes, and from
the Lampyridae, with their highly luminous abdomens, to some ancient
insects occasionally luminous like the centipede.
I do not know, but suppose that the microscopical structure of the luminous
organs in the most different insects is nearly the same; and I should
attribute to inheritance from a common progenitor, the similarity of the
tissues, which under similar conditions, allowed them to vary in the same
manner, and thus, through Natural Selection for the same general purpose,
to arrive at the same result. Mutatis mutandis, I should apply the same
doctrine to the electric organs of fishes; but here I have to make, in my
own mind, the violent assumption that some ancient fish was slightly
electrical without having any special organs for the purpose. It has been
stated on evidence, not trustworthy, that certain reptiles are electrical.
It is, moreover, possible that the so-called electric organs, whilst in a
condition not highly developed, may have subserved some distinct function:
at least, I think, Matteucci could detect no pure electricity in certain
fishes provided with the proper organs. In one of your letters you alluded
to nails, claws, hoofs, etc. From their perfect coadaptation with the
whole rest of the organisation, I cannot admit that they would have been
formed by the direct action of the conditions of life. H. Spencer's view
that they were first developed from indurated skin, the result of pressure
on the extremities, seems to me probable.
In regard to thorns and spines I suppose that stunted and [illegible]
hardened processes were primarily left by the abortion of various
appendages, but I must believe that their extreme sharpness and hardness is
the result of fluctuating variability and "the survival of the fittest."
The precise form, curvature and colour of the thorns I freely admit to be
the result of the laws of growth of each particular plant, or of their
conditions, internal and external. It would be an astounding fact if any
varying plant suddenly produced, without the aid of reversion or selection,
perfect thorns. That Natural Selection would tend to produce the most
formidable thorns will be admitted by every one who has observed the
distribution in South America and Africa (vide Livingstone) of thorn-
bearing plants, for they always appear where the bushes grow isolated and
are exposed to the attacks of mammals. Even in England it has been noticed
that all spine-bearing and sting-bearing plants are palatable to
quadrupeds, when the thorns are crushed. With respect to the Malayan
climbing Palm, what I meant to express is that the admirable hooks were
perhaps not first developed for climbing; but having been developed for
protection were subsequently used, and perhaps further modified for
LETTER 224. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, September 8th .
About the "Pall Mall." (224/1. "Pall Mall Gazette," August 22nd, 1868.
In an article headed "Dr. Hooker on Religion and Science," and referring to
the British Association address, the writer objects to any supposed
opposition between religion and science. "Religion," he says, "is your
opinion upon one set of subjects, science your opinion upon another set of
subjects." But he forgets that on one side we have opinions assumed to be
revealed truths; and this is a condition which either results in the
further opinion that those who bring forward irreconcilable facts are more
or less wicked, or in a change of front on the religious side, by which
theological opinion "shifts its ground to meet the requirements of every
new fact that science establishes, and every old error that science
exposes" (Dr. Hooker as quoted by the "Pall Mall"). If theologians had
been in the habit of recognising that, in the words of the "Pall Mall"
writer, "Science is a general name for human knowledge in its most definite
and general shape, whatever may be the object of that knowledge," probably
Sir Joseph Hooker's remarks would never have been made.) I do not agree
that the article was at all right; it struck me as monstrous (and answered
on the spot by the "Morning Advertiser") that religion did not attack
science. When, however, I say not at all right, I am not sure whether it
would not be wisest for scientific men quite to ignore the whole subject of
religion. Goldwin Smith, who has been lunching here, coming with the
Nortons (son of Professor Norton and friend of Asa Gray), who have taken
for four months Keston Rectory, was strongly of opinion it was a mistake.
Several persons have spoken strongly to me as very much admiring your
address. For chance of you caring to see yourself in a French dress, I
send a journal; also with a weak article by Agassiz on Geographical
Distribution. Berkeley has sent me his address (224/2. The Rev. M.J.
Berkeley was President of Section D at Norwich in 1868.), so I have had a
fair excuse for writing to him. I differ from you: I could hardly bear to
shake hands with the "Sugar of Lead" (224/3. "You know Mrs. Carlyle said
that Owen's sweetness reminded her of sugar of lead." (Huxley to Tyndall,
May 13th, 1887: Huxley's "Life," II., page 167.), which I never heard
before: it is capital. I am so very glad you will come here with Asa
Gray, as if I am bad he will not be dull. We shall ask the Nortons to come
to dinner. On Saturday, Wallace (and probably Mrs. W.), J. Jenner Weir (a
very good man), and Blyth, and I fear not Bates, are coming to stay the
Sunday. The thought makes me rather nervous; but I shall enjoy it
immensely if it does not kill me. How I wish it was possible for you to be
LETTER 225. TO M.J. BERKELEY.
Down, September 7th, 1868.
I am very much obliged to you for having sent me your address (225/1.
Address to Section D of the British Association. ("Brit. Assoc. Report,"
Norwich meeting, 1868, page 83.))...for I thus gain a fair excuse for
troubling you with this note to thank you for your most kind and extremely
honourable notice of my works.
When I tell you that ever since I was an undergraduate at Cambridge I have
felt towards you the most unfeigned respect, from all that I continually
heard from poor dear Henslow and others of your great knowledge and
original researches, you will believe me when I say that I have rarely in
my life been more gratified than by reading your address; though I feel
that you speak much too strongly of what I have done. Your notice of
pangenesis (225/3. "It would be unpardonable to finish these somewhat
desultory remarks without adverting to one of the most interesting subjects
of the day,--the Darwinian doctrine of pangenesis...Like everything which
comes from the pen of a writer whom I have no hesitation, so far as my
judgment goes, in considering as by far the greatest observer of our age,
whatever may be thought of his theories when carried out to their extreme
results, the subject demands a careful and impartial consideration."
(Berkeley, page 86.)) has particularly pleased me, for it has been
generally neglected or disliked by my friends; yet I fully expect that it
will some day be more successful. I believe I quite agree with you in the
manner in which the cast-off atoms or so-called gemmules probably act
(225/4. "Assuming the general truth of the theory that molecules endowed
with certain attributes are cast off by the component cells of such
infinitesimal minuteness as to be capable of circulating with the fluids,
and in the end to be present in the unimpregnated embryo-cell and
spermatozoid...it seems to me far more probable that they should be capable
under favourable circumstances of exercising an influence analogous to that
which is exercised by the contents of the pollen-tube or spermatozoid on
the embryo-sac or ovum, than that these particles should be themselves
developed into cells" (Berkeley, page 87).): I have never supposed that
they were developed into free cells, but that they penetrated other nascent
cells and modified their subsequent development. This process I have
actually compared with ordinary fertilisation. The cells thus modified, I
suppose cast off in their turn modified gemmules, which again combine with
other nascent cells, and so on. But I must not trouble you any further.
LETTER 226. TO AUGUST WEISMANN.
Down, October 22nd, 1868.
I am very much obliged for your kind letter, and I have waited for a week
before answering it in hopes of receiving the "kleine Schrift" (226/1. The
"kleine Schrift" is "Ueber die Berechtigung der Darwin'schen Theorie,"
Leipzig, 1868. The "Anhang" is "Ueber den Einfluss der Wanderung und
raumlichen Isolirung auf die Artbilding.") to which you allude; but I fear
it is lost, which I am much surprised at, as I have seldom failed to
receive anything sent by the post.
As I do not know the title, and cannot order a copy, I should be very much
obliged if you can spare another.
I am delighted that you, with whose name I am familiar, should approve of
my work. I entirely agree with what you say about each species varying
according to its own peculiar laws; but at the same time it must, I think,
be admitted that the variations of most species have in the lapse of ages
been extremely diversified, for I do not see how it can be otherwise
explained that so many forms have acquired analogous structures for the
same general object, independently of descent. I am very glad to hear that
you have been arguing against Nageli's law of perfectibility, which seems
to me superfluous. Others hold similar views, but none of them define what
this "perfection" is which cannot be gradually attained through Natural
Selection. I thought M. Wagner's first pamphlet (226/2. Wagner's first
essay, "Die Darwin'sche Theorie und das Migrationsgesetz," 1868, is a
separately published pamphlet of 62 pages. In the preface the author
states that it is a fuller version of a paper read before the Royal Academy
of Science at Munich in March 1868. We are not able to say which of
Wagner's writings is referred to as the second pamphlet; his second well-
known essay, "Ueber den Einfluss der Geogr. Isolirung," etc., is of later
date, viz., 1870.) (for I have not yet had time to read the second) very
good and interesting; but I think that he greatly overrates the necessity
for emigration and isolation. I doubt whether he has reflected on what
must occur when his forms colonise a new country, unless they vary during
the very first generation; nor does he attach, I think, sufficient weight
to the cases of what I have called unconscious selection by man: in these
cases races are modified by the preservation of the best and the
destruction of the worst, without any isolation.
I sympathise with you most sincerely on the state of your eyesight: it is
indeed the most fearful evil which can happen to any one who, like
yourself, is earnestly attached to the pursuit of natural knowledge.
LETTER 227. TO F. MULLER.
Down, March 18th .
Since I wrote a few days ago and sent off three copies of your book, I have
read the English translation (227/1. "Facts and Arguments for Darwin."
See "Life and Letters," III., page 37.), and cannot deny myself the
pleasure of once again expressing to you my warm admiration. I might, but
will not, repeat my thanks for the very honourable manner in which you
often mention my name; but I can truly say that I look at the publication
of your essay as one of the greatest honours ever conferred on me. Nothing
can be more profound and striking than your observations on development and
classification. I am very glad that you have added your justification in
regard to the metamorphoses of insects; for your conclusion now seems in
the highest degree probable. (227/2. See "Facts and Arguments for
Darwin," page 119 (note), where F. Muller gives his reasons for the belief
that the "complete metamorphosis" of insects was not a character of the
form from which insects have sprung: his argument largely depends on
considerations drawn from the study of the neuroptera.) I have re-read
many parts, especially that on cirripedes, with the liveliest interest. I
had almost forgotten your discussion on the retrograde development of the
Rhizocephala. What an admirable illustration it affords of my whole
doctrine! A man must indeed be a bigot in favour of separate acts of
creation if he is not staggered after reading your essay; but I fear that
it is too deep for English readers, except for a select few.
LETTER 228. TO A.R. WALLACE.
March 27th .
I have lately (i.e., in new edition of the "Origin") (228/1. Fifth
edition, 1869, pages 150-57.) been moderating my zeal, and attributing much
more to mere useless variability. I did think I would send you the sheet,
but I daresay you would not care to see it, in which I discuss Nageli's
Essay on Natural Selection not affecting characters of no functional
importance, and which yet are of high classificatory importance. Hooker is
pretty well satisfied with what I have said on this head.
LETTER 229. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Caerdeon, Barmouth, North Wales, July 24th .
We shall be at home this day week, taking two days on the journey, and
right glad I shall be. The whole has been a failure to me, but much
enjoyment to the young...My wife has ailed a good deal nearly all the time;
so that I loathe the place, with all its beauty. I was glad to hear what
you thought of F. Muller, and I agree wholly with you. Your letter came at
the nick of time, for I was writing on the very day to Muller, and I passed
on your approbation of Chaps. X. and XI. Some time I should like to borrow
the "Transactions of the New Zealand Institute," so as to read Colenso's
article. (229/1. Colenso, "On the Maori Races of New Zealand." "N.Z.
Inst. Trans." 1868, Pt. 3.) You must read Huxley v. Comte (229/2. "The
Scientific Aspects of Positivism." "Fortnightly Review," 1869, page 652,
and "Lay Sermons," 1870, page 162. This was a reply to Mr. Congreve's
article, "Mr. Huxley on M. Comte," published in the April number of the
"Fortnightly," page 407, which had been written in criticism of Huxley's
article in the February number of the "Fortnightly," page 128, "On the
Physical Basis of Life."); he never wrote anything so clever before, and
has smashed everybody right and left in grand style. I had a vague wish to
read Comte, and so had George, but he has entirely cured us of any such
There is another article (229/3. "North British Review," Volume 50, 1869:
"Geological Time," page 406. The papers reviewed are Sir William Thomson,
"Trans. R. Soc. Edin." 1862; "Phil. Mag." 1863; Thomson and Tait, "Natural
Philosophy," Volume I., App. D; Sir W. Thomson, "Proc. R. Soc. Edin." 1865;
"Trans. Geol. Soc. Glasgow," 1868 and 1869; "Macmillan's Mag." 1862; Prof.
Huxley, Presidential Address, "Geol. Soc. London," February, 1869; Dr.
Hooker, Presidential Address, "Brit. Assoc." Norwich, 1868. Also the
review on the "Origin" in the "North British Review," 1867, by Fleeming
Jenkin, and an article in the "Pall Mall Gazette," May 3rd, 1869. The
author treats the last-named with contempt as the work of an anonymous
journalist, apparently unconscious of his own similar position.) just come
out in last "North British," by some great mathematician, which is
admirably done; he has a severe fling at you (229/4. The author of the
"North British" article appears to us, at page 408, to misunderstand or
misinterpret Sir J.D. Hooker's parable on "underpinning." See "Life and
Letters," III., page 101 (note). Sir Joseph is attacked with quite
unnecessary vehemence on another point at page 413.), but the article is
directed against Huxley and for Thomson. This review shows me--not that I
required being shown--how devilish a clever fellow Huxley is, for the
reviewer cannot help admiring his abilities. There are some good specimens
of mathematical arrogance in the review, and incidentally he shows how
often astronomers have arrived at conclusions which are now seen to be
mistaken; so that geologists might truly answer that we must be slow in
admitting your conclusions. Nevertheless, all uniformitarians had better
at once cry "peccavi,"--not but what I feel a conviction that the world
will be found rather older than Thomson makes it, and far older than the
reviewer makes it. I am glad I have faced and admitted the difficulty in
the last edition of the "Origin," of which I suppose you received,
according to order, a copy.
LETTER 230. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, August 7th .
There never was such a good man as you for telling me things which I like
to hear. I am not at all surprised that Hallett has found some varieties
of wheat could not be improved in certain desirable qualities as quickly as
at first. All experience shows this with animals; but it would, I think,
be rash to assume, judging from actual experience, that a little more
improvement could not be got in the course of a century, and theoretically
very improbable that after a few thousands [of years] rest there would not
be a start in the same line of variation. What astonishes me as against
experience, and what I cannot believe, is that varieties already improved
or modified do not vary in other respects. I think he must have
generalised from two or three spontaneously fixed varieties. Even in
seedlings from the same capsule some vary much more than others; so it is
with sub-varieties and varieties. (230/1. In a letter of August 13th,
1869, Sir J.D. Hooker wrote correcting Mr. Darwin's impression: "I did not
mean to imply that Hallett affirmed that all variation stopped--far from
it: he maintained the contrary, but if I understand him aright, he soon
arrives at a point beyond which any further accumulation in the direction
sought is so small and so slow that practically a fixity of type (not
absolute fixity, however) is the result.")
It is a grand fact about Anoplotherium (230/2. This perhaps refers to the
existence of Anoplotherium in the S. American Eocene formation: it is one
of the points in which the fauna of S. America resembles Europe rather than
N. America. (See Wallace "Geographical Distribution," I., page 148.)), and
shows how even terrestrial quadrupeds had time formerly to spread to very
distinct regions. At each epoch the world tends to get peopled pretty
uniformly, which is a blessing for Geology.
The article in "N. British Review" (230/3. See Letter 229.) is well worth
reading scientifically; George D. and Erasmus were delighted with it. How
the author does hit! It was a euphuism to speak of a fling at you: it was
a kick. He is very unfair to Huxley, and accuses him of "quibbling," etc.;
yet the author cannot help admiring him extremely. I know I felt very
small when I finished the article. You will be amused to observe that
geologists have all been misled by Playfair, who was misled by two of the
greatest mathematicians! And there are other such cases; so we could turn
round and show your reviewer how cautious geologists ought to be in
There is another excellent original article, I feel sure by McClennan, on
Primeval Man, well worth reading.
I do not quite agree about Sabine: he is unlike every other soldier or
sailor I ever heard of if he would not put his second leg into the tomb
with more satisfaction as K.C.B. than as a simple man. I quite agree that
the Government ought to have made him long ago, but what does the
Government know or care for Science? So much for your splenditious letter.
LETTER 231. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, August 14th [1869?]
I write one line to tell you that you are a real good man to propose coming
here for a Sunday after Exeter. Do keep to this good intention...I am sure
Exeter and your other visit will do you good. I often wonder how you stand
all your multifarious work.
I quite agree about the folly of the endless subscriptions for dead men;
but Faraday is an exception, and if you will pay three guineas for me, it
will save me some trouble; but it will be best to enclose a cheque, which,
as you will see, must be endorsed. If you read the "North British Review,"
you will like to know that George has convinced me, from correspondence in
style, and spirit, that the article is by Tait, the co-worker with Thomson.
I was much surprised at the leaves of Drosophyllum being always rolled
backwards at their tips, but did not know that it was a unique character.
(PLATE: SIR J.D. HOOKER, 1870? From a photograph by Wallich.)
LETTER 232. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, November 13th .
I heard yesterday from a relation who had seen in a newspaper that you were
C.B. I must write one line to say "Hurrah," though I wish it had been
K.C.B., as it assuredly ought to have been; but I suppose they look at
K.C.B. before C.B. as a dukedom before an earldom.
We had a very successful week in London, and I was unusually well and saw a
good many persons, which, when well, is a great pleasure to me. I had a
jolly talk with Huxley, amongst others. And now I am at the same work as
before, and shall be for another two months--namely, putting ugly sentences
rather straighter; and I am sick of the work, and, as the subject is all on
sexual selection, I am weary of everlasting males and females, cocks and
It is a shame to bother you, but I should like some time to hear about the
I have read one or two interesting brochures lately--viz., Stirling the
Hegelian versus Huxley and protoplasm; Tylor in "Journal of Royal
Institute" on the survivals of old thought in modern civilisation.
Farewell. I am as dull as a duck, both male and female.
To Dr. Hooker, C.B., F.R.S.
Dr. Hooker, K.C.B.
(This looks better).
P.S. I hear a good account of Bentham's last address (232/1. Presidential
Address, chiefly on Geographical Distribution, delivered before the "Linn.
Soc." May 24th, 1869.), which I am now going to read.
I find that I have blundered about Bentham's address. Lyell was speaking
about one that I read some months ago; but I read half of it again last
night, and shall finish it. Some passages are either new or were not
studied enough by me before. It strikes me as admirable, as it did on the
first reading, though I differ in some few points.
Such an address is worth its weight in gold, I should think, in making
converts to our views. Lyell tells me that Bunbury has been wonderfully
impressed with it, and he never before thought anything of our views on
P.S. (2). I have just read, and like very much, your review of Schimper.
(232/2. A review of Schimper's "Traite de Paleontologie Vegetale," the
first portion of which was published in 1869. "Nature," November 11th,
1869, page 48.)
LETTER 233. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, November 19th .
Thank you much for telling me all about the C.B., for I much wished to
hear. It pleases me extremely that the Government have done this much; and
as the K.C.B.'s are limited in number (which I did not know), I excuse it.
I will not mention what you have told me to any one, as it would be
Murchisonian. But what a shame it is to use this expression, for I fully
believe that Murchison would take any trouble to get any token of honour
for any man of science.
I like all scientific periodicals, including poor "Scientific Opinion," and
I think higher than you do of "Nature." Lord, what a rhapsody that was of
Goethe, but how well translated; it seemed to me, as I told Huxley, as if
written by the maddest English scholar. It is poetry, and can I say
anything more severe? The last number of the "Academy" was splendid, and I
hope it will soon come out fortnightly. I wish "Nature" would search more
carefully all foreign journals and transactions.
I am now reading a German thick pamphlet (233/1. "Die Abhangigheit der
Pflanzengestalt von Klima und Boden. Ein Beitrag zur Lehre von der
Enstehung und Verbreitung der Arten, etc." Festschrift zur 43 Versammlung
Deutscher Naturforscher und Aertze in Innsbruck (Innsbruck, 1869).) by
Kerner on Tubocytisus; if you come across it, look at the map of the
distribution of the eighteen quasi-species, and at the genealogical tree.
If the latter, as the author says, was constructed solely from the
affinities of the forms, then the distribution is wonderfully interesting;
we may see the very steps of the formation of a species. If you study the
genealogical tree and map, you will almost understand the book. The two
old parent connecting links just keep alive in two or three areas; then we
have four widely extended species, their descendants; and from them little
groups of newer descendants inhabiting rather small areas...
LETTER 234. TO CAMILLE DARESTE.
Down, November 20th, 1869.
I am glad that you are a candidate for the Chair of Physiology in Paris.
As you are aware from my published works, I have always considered your
investigations on the production of monstrosities as full of interest. No
subject is at the present time more important, as far as my judgment goes,
than the ascertaining by experiment how far structure can be modified by
the direct action of changed conditions; and you have thrown much light on
I observe that several naturalists in various parts of Europe have lately
maintained that it is now of the highest interest for science to endeavour
to lessen, as far as possible, our profound ignorance on the cause of each
individual variation; and, as Is. Geoffroy St. Hilaire long ago remarked,
monstrosities cannot be separated by any distinct line from slighter
With my best wishes for your success in obtaining the Professorship, and
with sincere respect.
I have the honour to remain, dear sir,
CHAPTER 1.V.--EVOLUTION, 1870-1882.
LETTER 235. TO J. JENNER WEIR.
Down, March 17th .
It is my decided opinion that you ought to send an account to some
scientific society, and I think to the Royal Society. (235/1. Mr. Jenner
Weir's case is given in "Animals and Plants," Edition II., Volume I., page
435, and does not appear to have been published elsewhere. The facts are
briefly that a horse, the offspring of a mare of Lord Mostyn's, which had
previously borne a foal by a quagga, showed a number of quagga-like
characters, such as stripes, low-growing mane, and elongated hoofs. The
passage in "Animals and Plants," to which he directs Mr. Weir's attention
in reference to Carpenter's objection, is in Edition I., Volume I., page
405: "It is a most improbable hypothesis that the mere blood of one
individual should affect the reproductive organs of another individual in
such a manner as to modify the subsequent offspring. The analogy from the
direct action of foreign pollen on the ovarium and seed-coats of the mother
plant strongly supports the belief that the male element acts directly on
the reproductive organs of the female, wonderful as is this action, and not
through the intervention of the crossed embryo." For references to Mr.
Galton's experiments on transfusion of blood, see Letter 273.) I would
communicate it if you so decide. You might give as a preliminary reason
the publication in the "Transactions" of the celebrated Morton case and the
pig case by Mr. Giles. You might also allude to the evident physiological
importance of such facts as bearing on the theory of generation. Whether
it would be prudent to allude to despised pangenesis I cannot say, but I
fully believe pangenesis will have its successful day. Pray ascertain
carefully the colour of the dam and sire. See about duns in my book
["Animals and Plants"], Volume I., page 55. The extension of the mane and
form of hoofs are grand new facts. Is the hair of your horse at all curly?
for [an] observed case [is] given by me (Volume II., page 325) from Azara
of correlation of forms of hoof with curly hairs. See also in my book
(Volume I., page 55; Volume II., page 41) how exceedingly rare stripes are
on the faces of horses in England. Give the age of your horse.
You are aware that Dr. Carpenter and others have tried to account for the
effects of a first impregnation from the influence of the blood of the
crossed embryo; but with physiologists who believe that the reproductive
elements are actually formed by the reproductive glands, this view is
inconsistent. Pray look at what I have said in "Domestic Animals" (Volume
I., pages 402-5) against this doctrine. It seems to me more probable that
the gemmules affect the ovaria alone. I remember formerly speculating,
like you, on the assertion that wives grow like their husbands; but how
impossible to eliminate effects of imitation and same habits of life, etc.
Your letter has interested me profoundly.
P.S.--Since publishing I have heard of additional cases--a very good one in
regard to Westphalian pigs crossed by English boar, and all subsequent
offspring affected, given in "Illust. Landwirth-Zeitung," 1868, page 143.
I have shown that mules are often striped, though neither parent may be
striped,--due to ancient reversion. Now, Fritz Muller writes to me from S.
Brazil: "I have been assured, by persons who certainly never had heard of
Lord Morton's mare, that mares which have borne hybrids to an ass are
particularly liable to produce afterwards striped ass-colts." So a
previous fertilisation apparently gives to the subsequent offspring a
tendency to certain characters, as well as characters actually possessed by
the first male.
In the reprint (not called a second edition) of my "Domestic Animals" I
give a good additional case of subsequent progeny of hairless dog being
hairy from effects of first impregnation.
P.S. 2nd. The suggestion, no doubt, is superfluous, but you ought, I
think, to measure extension of mane beyond a line joining front or back of
ears, and compare with horse. Also the measure (and give comparison with
horse), length, breadth, and depth of hoofs.
LETTER 236. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, July 12th .
Your conclusion that all speculation about preordination is idle waste of
time is the only wise one; but how difficult it is not to speculate! My
theology is a simple muddle; I cannot look at the universe as the result of
blind chance, yet I can see no evidence of beneficent design or indeed of
design of any kind, in the details. As for each variation that has ever
occurred having been preordained for a special end, I can no more believe
in it than that the spot on which each drop of rain falls has been
Spontaneous generation seems almost as great a puzzle as preordination. I
cannot persuade myself that such a multiplicity of organisms can have been
produced, like crystals, in Bastian's (236/1. On September 2nd, 1872, Mr.
Darwin wrote to Mr. Wallace, in reference to the latter's review of "The
Beginnings of Life," by H.C. Bastian (1872), in "Nature," 1872, pages 284-
99: "At present I should prefer any mad hypothesis, such as that every
disintegrated molecule of the lowest forms can reproduce the parent-form;
and that these molecules are universally distributed, and that they do not
lose their vital power until heated to such a temperature that they
decompose like dead organic particles.") solutions of the same kind. I am
astonished that, as yet, I have met with no allusion to Wyman's positive
statement (236/2. "Observations and Experiments on Living Organisms in
Heated Water," by Jeffries Wyman, Prof. of Anatomy, Harvard Coll. ("Amer.
Journ. Sci." XLIV., 1867, page 152.) Solutions of organic matter in
hermetically sealed flasks were immersed in boiling water for various
periods. "No infusoria of any kind appeared if the boiling was prolonged
beyond a period of five hours.") that if the solutions are boiled for five
hours no organisms appear; yet, if my memory serves me, the solutions when
opened to air immediately became stocked. Against all evidence, I cannot
avoid suspecting that organic particles (my "gemmules" from the separate
cells of the lower creatures!) will keep alive and afterwards multiply
under proper conditions.
What an interesting problem it is.
LETTER 237. TO W.B. TEGETMEIER.
Down, July 15th .
It is very long since I have heard from you, and I am much obliged for your
letter. It is good news that you are going to bring out a new edition of
your Poultry book (237/1. "The Poultry Book," 1872.), and you are quite at
liberty to use all my materials. Thanks for the curious case of the wild
duck variation: I have heard of other instances of a tendency to vary in
one out of a large litter or family. I have too many things in hand at
present to profit by your offer of the loan of the American Poultry book.
Pray keep firm to your idea of working out the subject of analogous
variations (237/2. "By this term I mean that similar characters
occasionally make their appearance in the several varieties or races
descended from the same species, and more rarely in the offspring of widely
distinct species" ("Animals and Plants," II., Edition II., page 340).) with
pigeons; I really think you might thus make a novel and valuable
contribution to science. I can, however, quite understand how much your
time must be occupied with the never-ending, always-beginning editorial
I keep much as usual, and crawl on with my work.
LETTER 238. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, September 27th .
Yours was a splendid letter, and I was very curious to hear something about
the Liverpool meeting (238/1. Mr. Huxley was President of the British
Association at Liverpool in 1870. His Presidential Address on "Biogenesis
and Abiogenesis" is reprinted in his collected Essays, VIII., page 229.
Some account of the meeting is given in Huxley's "Life and Letters," Volume
I., pages 332, 336.), which I much wished to be successful for Huxley's
sake. I am surprised that you think his address would not have been clear
to the public; it seemed to me as clear as water. The general line of his
argument might have been answered by the case of spontaneous combustion:
tens of thousands of cases of things having been seen to be set on fire
would be no true argument against any one who maintained that flames
sometimes spontaneously burst forth. I am delighted at the apotheosis of
Sir Roderick; I can fancy what neat and appropriate speeches he would make
to each nobleman as he entered the gates of heaven. You ask what I think
about Tyndall's lecture (238/2. Tyndall's lecture was "On the Scientific
Uses of the Imagination."): it seemed to me grand and very interesting,
though I could not from ignorance quite follow some parts, and I longed to
tell him how immensely it would have been improved if all the first part
had been made very much less egotistical. George independently arrived at
the same conclusion, and liked all the latter part extremely. He thought
the first part not only egotistical, but rather clap-trap.
How well Tyndall puts the "as if" manner of philosophising, and shows that
it is justifiable. Some of those confounded Frenchmen have lately been
pitching into me for using this form of proof or argument.
I have just read Rolleston's address in "Nature" (238/3. Presidential
Address to the Biological Section, British Association, 1870. "Nature,"
September 22nd, 1870, page 423. Rolleston referred to the vitality of
seeds in soil, a subject on which Darwin made occasional observations. See
"Life and Letters," II., page 65.): his style is quite unparalleled! I
see he quotes you about seed, so yesterday I went and observed more
carefully the case given in the enclosed paper, which perhaps you might
like to read and burn.
How true and good what you say about Lyell. He is always the same; Dohrn
was here yesterday, and was remarking that no one stood higher in the
public estimation of Germany than Lyell.
I am truly and profoundly glad that you are thinking of some general work
on Geographical Distribution, or so forth; I hope to God that your
incessant occupations may not interrupt this intention. As for my book, I
shall not have done the accursed proofs till the end of November (238/4.
The proofs of the "Descent of Man" were finished on January 15th, 1871.):
good Lord, what a muddled head I have got on my wretched old shoulders.
LETTER 239. TO H. SETTEGAST.
Down, September 29th, 1870.
I am very much obliged for your kind letter and present of your beautiful
volume. (239/1. "Die Thierzucht," 1868.) Your work is not new to me, for
I heard it so highly spoken of that I procured a copy of the first edition.
It was a great gratification to me to find a man who had long studied with
a philosophical spirit our domesticated animals, and who was highly
competent to judge, agreeing to a large extent with my views. I regretted
much that I had not known your work when I published my last volumes.
I am surprised and pleased to hear that science is not quite forgotten
under the present exciting state of affairs. Every one whom I know in
England is an enthusiastic wisher for the full and complete success of
P.S. I will give one of my two copies of your work to some public
scientific library in London.
LETTER 240. TO THE EDITOR OF THE "PALL MALL GAZETTE."
Down, March 24th .
Mr. Darwin presents his compliments to the Editor, and would be greatly
obliged if he would address and post the enclosed letter to the author of
the two admirable reviews of the "Descent of Man." (240/1. The notices of
the "Descent of Man," published in the "Pall Mall Gazette" of March 20th
and 21st, 1871, were by Mr. John Morley. We are indebted to the Editor of
the "Pall Mall Gazette" for kindly allowing us to consult his file of the
LETTER 241. TO JOHN MORLEY.
Down, March 24th, 1871.
From the spirit of your review in the "Pall Mall Gazette" of my last book,
which has given me great pleasure, I have thought that you would perhaps
inform me on one point, withholding, if you please, your name.
You say that my phraseology on beauty is "loose scientifically, and
philosophically most misleading." (241/1. "Mr. Darwin's work is one of
those rare and capital achievements of intellect which effect a grave
modification throughout all the highest departments of the realm of
opinion...There is throughout the description and examination of Sexual
Selection a way of speaking of beauty, which seems to us to be highly
unphilosophical, because it assumes a certain theory of beauty, which the
most competent modern thinkers are too far from accepting, to allow its
assumption to be quite judicious...Why should we only find the aesthetic
quality in birds wonderful, when it happens to coincide with our own? In
other words, why attribute to them conscious aesthetic qualities at all?
There is no more positive reason for attributing aesthetic consciousness to
the Argus pheasant than there is for attributing to bees geometric
consciousness of the hexagonal prisms and rhombic plates of the hive which
they so marvellously construct. Hence the phraseology which Mr. Darwin
employs in this part of the subject, though not affecting the degree of
probability which may belong to this theory, seems to us to be very loose
scientifically, and philosophically most misleading."--"Pall Mall
Gazette.") This is not at all improbable, as it is almost a lifetime since
I attended to the philosophy of aesthetics, and did not then think that I
should ever make use of my conclusions. Can you refer me to any one or two
books (for my power of reading is not great) which would illumine me? or
can you explain in one or two sentences how I err? Perhaps it would be
best for me to explain what I mean by the sense of beauty in its lowest
stage of development, and which can only apply to animals. When an intense
colour, or two tints in harmony, or a recurrent and symmetrical figure
please the eye, or a single sweet note pleases the ear, I call this a sense
of beauty; and with this meaning I have spoken (though I now see in not a
sufficiently guarded manner) of a taste for the beautiful being the same in
mankind (for all savages admire bits of bright cloth, beads, plumes, etc.)
and in the lower animals. If the blue and yellow plumage of a macaw
(241/2. "What man deems the horrible contrasts of yellow and blue attract
the macaw, while ball-and-socket-plumage attracts the Argus pheasant"--
"Pall Mall Gazette," March 21st, 1871, page 1075.) pleases the eye of this
bird, I should say that it had a sense of beauty, although its taste was
bad according to our standard. Now, will you have the kindness to tell me
how I can learn to see the error of my ways? Of course I recognise, as
indeed I have remarked in my book, that the sense of beauty in the case of
scenery, pictures, etc., is something infinitely complex, depending on
varied associations and culture of the mind. From a very interesting
review in the "Spectator," and from your and Wallace's review, I perceive
that I have made a great oversight in not having said what little I could
on the acquisition of the sense for the beautiful by man and the lower
animals. It would indeed be an immense advantage to an author if he could
read such criticisms as yours before publishing. At page 11 of your review
you accidentally misquote my words placed by you within inverted commas,
from my Volume II., page 354: I say that "man cannot endure any great
change," and the omitted words "any great" make all the difference in the
discussion. (241/3. "Mr. Darwin tells us, and gives us excellent reasons
for thinking, that 'the men of each race prefer what they are accustomed to
behold; they cannot endure change.' Yet is there not an inconsistency
between this fact and the other that one race differs from another exactly
because novelties presented themselves, and were eagerly seized and
Permit me to add a few other remarks. I believe your criticism is quite
just about my deficient historic spirit, for I am aware of my ignorance in
this line. (241/4. "In the historic spirit, however, Mr. Darwin must
fairly be pronounced deficient. When, for instance, he speaks of the
'great sin of slavery' having been general among primitive nations, he
forgets that, though to hold a slave would be a sinful degradation to a
European to-day, the practice of turning prisoners of war into slaves,
instead of butchering them, was not a sin at all, but marked a decided
improvement in human manners.") On the other hand, if you should ever be
led to read again Chapter III., and especially Chapter V., I think you will
find that I am not amenable to all your strictures; though I felt that I
was walking on a path unknown to me and full of pitfalls; but I had the
advantage of previous discussions by able men. I tried to say most
emphatically that a great philosopher, law-giver, etc., did far more for
the progress of mankind by his writings or his example than by leaving a
numerous offspring. I have endeavoured to show how the struggle for
existence between tribe and tribe depends on an advance in the moral and
intellectual qualities of the members, and not merely on their capacity of
obtaining food. When I speak of the necessity of a struggle for existence
in order that mankind should advance still higher in the scale, I do not
refer to the MOST, but "to the MORE highly gifted men" being successful in
the battle for life; I referred to my supposition of the men in any country
being divided into two equal bodies--viz., the more and the less highly
gifted, and to the former on an average succeeding best.
But I have much cause to apologise for the length of this ill-expressed
letter. My sole excuse is the extraordinary interest which I have felt in
your review, and the pleasure which I have experienced in observing the
points which have attracted your attention. I must say one word more.
Having kept the subject of sexual selection in my mind for very many years,
and having become more and more satisfied with it, I feel great confidence
that as soon as the notion is rendered familiar to others, it will be
accepted, at least to a much greater extent than at present. With sincere
respect and thanks...
LETTER 242. TO JOHN MORLEY.
Down, April 14th .
As this note requires no answer, I do not scruple to write a few lines to
say how faithful and full a resume you have given of my notions on the
moral sense in the "Pall Mall," and to make a few extenuating or
explanatory remarks. (242/1. "What is called the question of the moral
sense is really two: how the moral faculty is acquired, and how it is
regulated. Why do we obey conscience or feel pain in disobeying it? And
why does conscience prescribe one kind of action and condemn another kind?
To put it more technically, there is the question of the subjective
existence of conscience, and there is the question of its objective
prescriptions. First, why do I think it obligatory to do my duty? Second,
why do I think it my duty to do this and not do that? Although, however,
the second question ought to be treated independently, for reasons which we
shall presently suggest, the historical answer to it, or the various
grounds on which men have identified certain sorts of conduct with duty,
rather than conduct of the opposite sorts, throws light on the other
question of the conditions of growth of the idea of duty as a sovereign and
imperial director. Mr. Darwin seems to us not to have perfectly recognised
the logical separation between the two sides of the moral sense question.
For example, he says (i. 97) that 'philosophers of the derivative school of
morals formerly assumed that the foundation of morality lay in a form of
Selfishness; but more recently in the Greatest Happiness principle.' But
Mr. Mill, to whom Mr. Darwin refers, has expressly shown that the Greatest
Happiness principle is a STANDARD, and not a FOUNDATION, and that its
validity as a standard of right and wrong action is just as tenable by one
who believes the moral sense to be innate, as by one who holds that it is
acquired. He says distinctly that the social feelings of mankind form 'the
natural basis of sentiment for utilitarian morality.' So far from holding
the Greatest Happiness principle to be the foundation of morality, he would
describe it as the forming principle of the superstructure of which the
social feelings of mankind are the foundation. Between Mr. Darwin and
utilitarians, as utilitarians, there is no such quarrel as he would appear
to suppose. The narrowest utilitarian could say little more than Mr.
Darwin says (ii. 393): 'As all men desire their own happiness, praise or
blame is bestowed on actions and motives according as they tend to this
end; and, as happiness is an essential part of the general good, the
Greatest Happiness principle INDIRECTLY serves as a NEARLY safe standard of
right and wrong.' It is perhaps not impertinent to suspect that the
faltering adverbs which we have printed in italics indicate no more than
the reluctance of a half-conscious convert to pure utilitarianism. In
another place (i. 98) he admits that 'as all wish for happiness, the
Greatest Happiness principle will have become a most important secondary
guide and object, the social instincts, including sympathy, always serving
as the primary impulse and guide.' This is just what Mr. Mill says, only
instead of calling the principle a secondary guide, he would call it a
standard, to distinguish it from the social impulse, in which, as much as
Mr. Darwin, he recognises the base and foundation."--"Pall Mall Gazette,"
April 12th, 1871.) How the mistake which I have made in speaking of
greatest happiness as the foundation of morals arose, is utterly
unintelligible to me: any time during the last several years I should have
laughed such an idea to scorn. Mr. Lecky never made a greater blunder, and
your kindness has made you let me off too easily. (242/2. In the first
edition of the "Descent of Man," I., page 97, Mr. Lecky is quoted as one of
those who assumed that the "foundation of morality lay in a form of
selfishness; but more recently in the 'greatest happiness' principle." Mr.
Lecky's name is omitted in this connection in the second edition, page 120.
In this edition Mr. Darwin makes it clearer that he attaches most
importance to the social instinct as the "primary impulse and guide.")
With respect to Mr. Mill, nothing would have pleased me more than to have
relied on his great authority with respect to the social instincts, but the
sentence which I quote at [Volume I.] page 71 ("if, as is my own belief,
the moral feelings are not innate, but acquired, they are not for that
reason less natural") seems to me somewhat contradictory with the other
words which I quote, so that I did not know what to think; more especially
as he says so very little about the social instincts. When I speak of
intellectual activity as the secondary basis of conscience, I meant in my
own mind secondary in period of development; but no one could be expected
to understand so great an ellipse. With reference to your last sentence,
do you not think that man might have retrograded in his parental, marriage,
and other instincts without having retrograded in his social instincts? and
I do not think that there is any evidence that man ever existed as a non-
social animal. I must add that I have been very glad to read your remarks
on the supposed case of the hive-bee: it affords an amusing contrast with
what Miss Cobbe has written in the "Theological Review." (242/3. Mr.
Darwin says ("Descent of Man" Edition I., Volume I., page 73; Edition II.,
page 99), "that if men lived like bees our unmarried females would think it
a sacred duty to kill their brothers." Miss Cobbe remarks on this "that
the principles of social duty would be reversed" ("Theological Review,"
April 1872). Mr. Morley, on the other hand, says of Darwin's assertion,
that it is "as reassuring as the most absolute of moralists could desire.
For it is tantamount to saying that the foundations of morality, the
distinctions of right and wrong, are deeply laid in the very conditions of
social existence; that there is in face of these conditions a positive and
definite difference between the moral and the immoral, the virtuous and the
vicious, the right and the wrong, in the actions of individuals partaking
of that social existence.") Undoubtedly the great principle of acting for
the good of all the members of the same community, and therefore the good
of the species, would still have held sovereign sway.
LETTER 243. TO J.D. HOOKER.
(243/1. Sir Joseph Hooker wrote (August 5th, 1871) to Darwin about Lord
Kelvin's Presidential Address at the Edinburgh meeting of the British
Association: "It seems to me to be very able indeed; and what a good
notion it gives of the gigantic achievement of mathematicians and
physicists!--it really made one giddy to read of them. I do not think
Huxley will thank him for his reference to him as a positive unbeliever in
spontaneous generation--these mathematicians do not seem to me to
distinguish between un-belief and a-belief. I know no other name for the
state of mind that is produced under the term scepticism. I had no idea
before that pure Mathematics had achieved such wonders in practical
science. The total absence of any allusion to Tyndall's labours, even when
comets are his theme, seems strange to me.")
Haredene, Albury, Guildford, August 6th .
I have read with greatest interest Thomson's address; but you say so
EXACTLY AND FULLY all that I think, that you have taken all the words from
my mouth; even about Tyndall. It is a gain that so wonderful a man, though
no naturalist, should become a convert to evolution; Huxley, it seems,
remarked in his speech to this effect. I should like to know what he means
about design,--I cannot in the least understand, for I presume he does not
believe in special interpositions. (243/2. See "British Association
Report," page cv. Lord Kelvin speaks very doubtfully of evolution. After
quoting the concluding passage of the "Origin," he goes on, "I have omitted
two sentences...describing briefly the hypothesis of 'the origin of species
by Natural Selection,' because I have always felt that this hypothesis does
not contain the true theory of evolution, IF EVOLUTION THERE HAS BEEN in
biology" (the italics are not in the original). Lord Kelvin then describes
as a "most valuable and instructive criticism," Sir John Herschel's remark
that the doctrine of Natural Selection is "too like the Laputan method of
making books, and that it did not sufficiently take into account a
continually guiding and controlling intelligence." But it should be
remembered that it was in this address of Lord Kelvin's that he suggested
the possibility of "seed-bearing meteoric stones moving about through
space" inoculating the earth with living organisms; and if he assumes that
the whole population of the globe is to be traced back to these "moss-grown
fragments from the ruins of another world," it is obvious that he believes
in a form of evolution, and one in which a controlling intelligence is not
very obvious, at all events not in the initial and all-important stage.)
Herschel's was a good sneer. It made me put in the simile about Raphael's
Madonna, when describing in the "Descent of Man" the manner of formation of
the wondrous ball-and-socket ornaments, and I will swear to the truth of
this case. (243/3. See "Descent of Man," II., page 141. Darwin says that
no one will attribute the shading of the "eyes" on the wings of the Argus
pheasant to the "fortuitous concourse of atoms of colouring-matter." He
goes on to say that the development of the ball-and-socket effect by means
of Natural Selection seems at first as incredible as that "one of Raphael's
Madonnas should have been formed by the selection of chance daubs of
paint." The remark of Herschel's, quoted in "Life and Letters," II., page
241, that the "Origin" illustrates the "law of higgledy-piggledy," is
probably a conversational variant of the Laputan comparison which gave rise
to the passage in the "Descent of Man" (see Letter 130).)
You know the oak-leaved variety of the common honeysuckle; I could not
persuade a lady that this was not the result of the honeysuckle climbing up
a young oak tree! Is this not like the Viola case?
LETTER 244. TO JOHN LUBBOCK (LORD AVEBURY).
Haredene, Albury, Guildford, August 12th .
I hope the proof-sheets having been sent here will not inconvenience you.
I have read them with infinite satisfaction, and the whole discussion
strikes me as admirable. I have no books here, and wish much I could see a
plate of Campodea. (244/1. "On the Origin of Insects." By Sir John
Lubbock, Bart. "Journ. Linn. Soc. (Zoology)," Volume XI., 1873, pages 422-
6. (Read November 2nd, 1871.) In the concluding paragraph the author
writes, "If these views are correct the genus Campodea [a beetle] must be
regarded as a form of remarkable interest, since it is the living
representative of a primaeval type from which not only the Collembola and
Thysanura, but the other great orders of insects, have all derived their
origin." (See also "Brit. Assoc. Report," 1872, page 125--Address by Sir
John Lubbock; and for a figure of Campodea see "Nature," Volume VII., 1873,
page 447.) I never reflected much on the difficulty which you indicate,
and on which you throw so much light. (244/2. The difficulty alluded to
is explained by the first sentence of Lord Avebury's paper. "The
Metamorphoses of this group (Insects) have always seemed to me one of the
greatest difficulties of the Darwinian theory...I feel great difficulty in
conceiving by what natural process an insect with a suctorial mouth, like
that of a gnat or butterfly, could be developed from a powerfully
mandibulate type like the orthoptera, or even from the neuroptera...A clue
to the difficulty may, I think, be found in the distinction between the
developmental and adaptive changes to which I called the attention of the
Society in a previous memoir."
The distinction between developmental and adaptive changes is mentioned,
but not discussed, in the paper "On the Origin of Insects" (loc. cit., page
422); in a former paper, "On the Development of Chloeon (Ephemera)
dimidiatum ("Trans. Linn. Soc." XXV. page 477, 1866), this question is
dealt with at length.) I have only a few trifling remarks to make. At
page 44 I wish you had enlarged a little on what you have said of the
distinction between developmental and adaptive changes; for I cannot quite
remember the point, and others will perhaps be in the same predicament. I
think I always saw that the larva and the adult might be separately
modified to any extent. Bearing in mind what strange changes of function
parts undergo, with the intermediate state of use (244/3. This slightly
obscure phrase may be paraphrased, "the gradational stages being of service
to the organism."), it seems to me that you speak rather too boldly on the
impossibility of a mandibulate insect being converted into a sucking insect
(244/4. "There are, however, peculiar difficulties in those cases in
which, as among the lepidoptera, the same species is mandibulate as a larva
and suctorial as an embryo" (Lubbock, "Origin of Insects," page 423).); not
that I in the least doubt the value of your explanation.
Cirripedes passing through what I have called a pupal state (244/5.
"Hence, the larva in this, its last stage, cannot eat; it may be called a
"locomotive Pupa;" its whole organisation is apparently adapted for the one
great end of finding a proper site for its attachment and final
metamorphosis." ("A Monograph on the Sub-Class Cirripedia." By Charles
Darwin. London, Ray Soc., 1851.)) so far as their mouths are concerned,
rather supports what you say at page 52.
At page 40 your remarks on the Argus pheasant (244/6. There is no mention
of the Argus pheasant in the published paper.) (though I have not the least
objection to them) do not seem to me very appropriate as being related to
the mental faculties. If you can spare me these proof-sheets when done
with, I shall be obliged, as I shall be correcting a new edition of the
"Origin" when I return home, though this subject is too large for me to
enter on. I thank you sincerely for the great interest which your
discussion has given me.
LETTER 245. TO J.D. HOOKER.
(245/1. The following letter refers to Mivart's "Genesis of Species.")
Down, September 16th .
I am preparing a new and cheap edition of the "Origin," and shall introduce
a new chapter on gradation, and on the uses of initial commencements of
useful structures; for this, I observe, has produced the greatest effect on
most persons. Every one of his [Mivart's] cases, as it seems to me, can be
answered in a fairly satisfactory manner. He is very unfair, and never
says what he must have known could be said on my side. He ignores the
effect of use, and what I have said in all my later books and editions on
the direct effects of the conditions of life and so-called spontaneous
variation. I send you by this post a very clever, but ill-written review
from N. America by a friend of Asa Gray, which I have republished. (245/2.
Chauncey Wright in the "North American Review," Volume CXIII., reprinted by
Darwin and published as a pamphlet (see "Life and Letters," III., page
I am glad to hear about Huxley. You never read such strong letters Mivart
wrote to me about respect towards me, begging that I would call on him,
etc., etc.; yet in the "Q. Review" (245/3. See "Quarterly Review," July
1871; also "Life and Letters," III., page 147.) he shows the greatest scorn
and animosity towards me, and with uncommon cleverness says all that is
most disagreeable. He makes me the most arrogant, odious beast that ever
lived. I cannot understand him; I suppose that accursed religious bigotry
is at the root of it. Of course he is quite at liberty to scorn and hate
me, but why take such trouble to express something more than friendship?
It has mortified me a good deal.
LETTER 246. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, October 4th .
I am quite delighted that you think so highly of Huxley's article. (246/1.
A review of Wallace's "Natural Selection," of Mivart's "Genesis of
Species," and of the "Quarterly Review" article on the "Descent of Man"
(July, 1871), published in the "Contemporary Review" (1871), and in
Huxley's "Collected Essays," II., page 120.) I was afraid of saying all I
thought about it, as nothing is so likely as to make anything appear flat.
I thought of, and quite agreed with, your former saying that Huxley makes
one feel quite infantile in intellect. He always thus acts on me. I
exactly agree with what you say on the several points in the article, and I
piled climax on climax of admiration in my letter to him. I am not so good
a Christian as you think me, for I did enjoy my revenge on Mivart. He
(i.e. Mivart) has just written to me as cool as a cucumber, hoping my
health is better, etc. My head, by the way, plagues me terribly, and I
have it light and rocking half the day. Farewell, dear old friend--my best
LETTER 247. TO JOHN FISKE.
(247/1. Mr. Fiske, who is perhaps best known in England as the author of
"Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy," had sent to Mr. Darwin some reports of the
lectures given at Harvard University. The point referred to in the
postscript in Mr. Darwin's letter is explained by the following extract
from Mr. Fiske's work: "I have endeavoured to show that the transition
from animality (or bestiality, stripping the word of its bad connotations)
to humanity must have been mainly determined by the prolongation of infancy
or immaturity which is consequent upon a high development of intelligence,
and which must have necessitated the gradual grouping together of pithecoid
men into more or less definite families." (See "Descent," I., page 13, on
the prolonged infancy of the anthropoid apes.))
Down, November 9th, 1871.
I am greatly obliged to you for having sent me, through my son, your
lectures, and for the very honourable manner in which you allude to my
works. The lectures seem to me to be written with much force, clearness,
and originality. You show also a truly extraordinary amount of knowledge
of all that has been published on the subject. The type in many parts is
so small that, except to young eyes, it is very difficult to read.
Therefore I wish that you would reflect on their separate publication,
though so much has been published on the subject that the public may
possibly have had enough. I hope that this may be your intention, for I do
not think I have ever seen the general argument more forcibly put so as to
It has surprised and pleased me to see that you and others have detected
the falseness of much of Mr. Mivart's reasoning. I wish I had read your
lectures a month or two ago, as I have been preparing a new edition of the
"Origin," in which I answer some special points, and I believe I should
have found your lectures useful; but my MS. is now in the printer's hands,
and I have not strength or time to make any more additions.
P.S.--By an odd coincidence, since the above was written I have received
your very obliging letter of October 23rd. I did notice the point to which
you refer, and will hereafter reflect more over it. I was indeed on the
point of putting in a sentence to somewhat of the same effect in the new
edition of the "Origin," in relation to the query--Why have not apes
advanced in intellect as much as man? but I omitted it on account of the
asserted prolonged infancy of the orang. I am also a little doubtful about
the distinction between gregariousness and sociability.
...When you come to England I shall have much pleasure in making your
acquaintance; but my health is habitually so weak that I have very small
power of conversing with my friends as much as I wish. Let me again thank
you for your letter. To believe that I have at all influenced the minds of
able men is the greatest satisfaction I am capable of receiving.
LETTER 248. TO E. HACKEL.
Down, December 27th, 1871.
I thank you for your very interesting letter, which it has given me much
pleasure to receive. I never heard of anything so odd as the Prior in the
Holy Catholic Church believing in our ape-like progenitors. I much hope
that the Jesuits will not dislodge him.
What a wonderfully active man you are! and I rejoice that you have been so
successful in your work on sponges. (248/1. "Die Kalkschwamme: eine
Monographie; 3 volumes: Berlin, 1872. H.J. Clark published a paper "On
the Spongiae Ciliatae as Infusoria flagellata" in the "Mem. Boston Nat.
Hist. Soc." Volume I., Part iii., 1866. See Hackel, op. cit., Volume I.,
page 24.) Your book with sixty plates will be magnificent. I shall be
glad to learn what you think of Clark's view of sponges being flagellate
infusorians; some observers in this country believe in him. I am glad you
are going fully to consider inheritance, which is an all-important subject
for us. I do not know whether you have ever read my chapter on pangenesis.
My ideas have been almost universally despised, and I suppose that I was
foolish to publish them; yet I must still think that there is some truth in
them. Anyhow, they have aided me much in making me clearly understand the
facts of inheritance.
I have had bad health this last summer, and during two months was able to
do nothing; but I have now almost finished a next edition of the "Origin,"
which Victor Carus is translating. (248/2. See "Life and Letters," III.,
page 49.) There is not much new in it, except one chapter in which I have
answered, I hope satisfactorily, Mr. Mivart's supposed difficulty on the
incipient development of useful structures. I have also given my reasons
for quite disbelieving in great and sudden modifications. I am preparing
an essay on expression in man and the lower animals. It has little
importance, but has interested me. I doubt whether my strength will last
for much more serious work. I hope, however, to publish next summer the
results of my long-continued experiments on the wonderful advantages
derived from crossing. I shall continue to work as long as I can, but it
does not much signify when I stop, as there are so many good men fully as
capable, perhaps more capable, than myself of carrying on our work; and of
these you rank as the first.
With cordial good wishes for your success in all your work and for your
LETTER 249. TO E. RAY LANKESTER.
Down, April 15th .
Very many thanks for your kind consideration. The correspondence was in
the "Athenaeum." I got some mathematician to make the calculation, and he
blundered and caused me much shame. I send scrap of proofs from last
edition of the "Origin," with the calculation corrected. What grand work
you did at Naples! I can clearly see that you will some day become our
first star in Natural History.
(249/1. Here follows the extract from the "Origin," sixth edition, page
51: "The elephant is reckoned the slowest breeder of all known animals,
and I have taken some pains to estimate its probable minimum rate of
natural increase. It will be safest to assume that it begins breeding when
thirty years old, and goes on breeding till ninety years old, bringing
forth six young in the interval, and surviving till one hundred years old;
if this be so, after a period of from 740 to 750 years, there would be
nearly nineteen million elephants alive, descended from the first pair."
In the fifth edition, page 75, the passage runs: "If this be so, at the
end of the fifth century, there would be alive fifteen million elephants,
descended from the first pair" (see "Athenaeum," June 5, July 3, 17, 24,
LETTER 250. TO C. LYELL.
Down, May 10th .
I received yesterday morning your present of that work to which I, for one,
as well as so many others, owe a debt of gratitude never to be forgotten.
I have read with the greatest interest all the special additions; and I
wish with all my heart that I had the strength and time to read again every
word of the whole book. (250/1. "Principles of Geology," Edition XII.,
1875.) I do not agree with all your criticisms on Natural Selection, nor
do I suppose that you would expect me to do so. We must be content to
differ on several points. I differ must about your difficulty (page 496)
(250/2. In Chapter XLIII. Lyell treats of "Man considered with reference
to his Origin and Geographical Distribution." He criticizes the view that
Natural Selection is capable of bringing about any amount of change
provided a series of minute transitional steps can be pointed out. "But in
reality," he writes, "it cannot be said that we obtain any insight into the
nature of the forces by which a higher grade of organisation or instinct is
evolved out of a lower one by becoming acquainted with a series of
gradational forms or states, each having a very close affinity with the
other."..."It is when there is a change from an inferior being to one of
superior grade, from a humbler organism to one endowed with new and more
exalted attributes, that we are made to feel that, to explain the
difficulty, we must obtain some knowledge of those laws of variation of
which Mr. Darwin grants that we are at present profoundly ignorant" (op.
cit., pages 496-97).) on a higher grade of organisation being evolved out
of lower ones. Is not a very clever man a grade above a very dull one? and
would not the accumulation of a large number of slight differences of this
kind lead to a great difference in the grade of organisation? And I
suppose that you will admit that the difference in the brain of a clever
and dull man is not much more wonderful than the difference in the length
of the nose of any two men. Of course, there remains the impossibility of
explaining at present why one man has a longer nose than another. But it
is foolish of me to trouble you with these remarks, which have probably
often passed through your mind. The end of this chapter (XLIII.) strikes
me as admirably and grandly written. I wish you joy at having completed
your gigantic undertaking, and remain, my dear Lyell,
Your ever faithful and now very old pupil,
LETTER 251. TO J. TRAHERNE MOGGRIDGE.
Sevenoaks, October 9th .
I have just received your note, forwarded to me from my home. I thank you
very truly for your intended present, and I am sure that your book will
interest me greatly. I am delighted that you have taken up the very
difficult and most interesting subject of the habits of insects, on which
Englishmen have done so little. How incomparably more valuable are such
researches than the mere description of a thousand species! I daresay you
have thought of experimenting on the mental powers of the spiders by fixing
their trap-doors open in different ways and at different angles, and
observing what they will do.
We have been here some days, and intend staying some weeks; for I was quite
worn out with work, and cannot be idle at home.
I sincerely hope that your health is not worse.
LETTER 252. TO A. HYATT.
(252/1. The correspondence with Professor Hyatt, of Boston, U.S.,
originated in the reference to his and Professor Cope's theories of
acceleration and retardation, inserted in the sixth edition of the
"Origin," page 149.
Mr. Darwin, on receiving from Mr. Hyatt a copy of his "Fossil Cephalopods
of the Museum of Comparative Zoology. Embryology," from the "Bull. Mus.
Comp. Zool." Harvard, Volume III., 1872, wrote as follows (252/2. Part of
this letter was published in "Life and Letters," III., page 154.):--)
October 10th, 1872.
I am very much obliged to you for your kindness in having sent me your
valuable memoir on the embryology of the extinct cephalopods. The work
must have been one of immense labour, and the results are extremely
interesting. Permit me to take this opportunity to express my sincere
regret at having committed two grave errors in the last edition of my
"Origin of Species," in my allusion to yours and Professor Cope's views on
acceleration and retardation of development. I had thought that Professor
Cope had preceded you; but I now well remember having formerly read with
lively interest, and marked, a paper by you somewhere in my library, on
fossil cephalopods, with remarks on the subject. (252/3. The paper seems
to be "On the Parallelism between the Different Stages of Life in the
Individual and those in the Entire Group of the Molluscous Order
Tetrabranchiata," from the "Boston. Soc. Nat. Hist. Mem." I., 1866-69, page
193. On the back of the paper is written, "I cannot avoid thinking this
paper fanciful.") It seems also that I have quite misrepresented your
joint view; this has vexed me much. I confess that I have never been able
to grasp fully what you wish to show, and I presume that this must be owing
to some dulness on my part...As the case stands, the law of acceleration
and retardation seems to me to be a simple [?] statement of facts; but the
statement, if fully established, would no doubt be an important step in our
knowledge. But I had better say nothing more on the subject, otherwise I
shall perhaps blunder again. I assure you that I regret much that I have
fallen into two such grave errors.
LETTER 253. A. HYATT TO CHARLES DARWIN.
(253/1. Mr. Hyatt replied in a long letter, of which only a small part is
Cannstadt bei Stuttgart, November 1872.
The letter with which you have honoured me, bearing the date of October
10th, has just reached here after a voyage to America and back.
I have long had it in mind to write you upon the subject of which you
speak, but have been prevented by a very natural feeling of distrust in the
worthiness and truth of the views which I had to present.
There is certainly no occasion to apologise for not having quoted my paper.
The law of acceleration and retardation of development was therein used to
explain the appearance of other phenomena, and might, as it did in nearly
all cases, easily escape notice.
My relations with Prof. Cope are of the most friendly character; and
although fortunate in publishing a few months ahead, I consider that this
gives me no right to claim anything beyond such an amount of participation
in the discovery, if it may be so called, as the thoroughness and worth of
my work entitles me to...
The collections which I have studied, it will be remembered, are fossils
collected without special reference to the very minute subdivisions, such
as the subdivisions of the Lower or Middle Lias as made by the German
authors, especially Quenstedt and Oppel, but pretty well defined for the
larger divisions in which the species are also well defined. The condition
of the collections as regards names, etc., was chaotic, localities alone,
with some few exceptions, accurate. To put this in order they were first
arranged according to their adult characteristics. This proving
unsatisfactory, I determined to test thoroughly the theory of evolution by
following out the developmental history of each species and placing them
within their formations, Middle or Upper Lias, Oolite or so, according to
the extent to which they represented each other's characteristics. Thus an
adult of simple structure being taken as the starting-point which we will
call a, another species which was a in its young stage and became b in the
adult was placed above it in the zoological series. By this process I
presently found that a, then a b and a b c, c representing the adult stage,
were very often found; but that practically after passing these two or
three stages it did not often happen that a species was found which was a b
c in the young and then became d in the adult. But on the other hand I
very frequently found one which, while it was a in the young, skipped the
stages b and c and became d while still quite young. Then sometimes,
though more rarely, a species would be found belonging to the same series,
which would be a in the young and with a very faint and fleeting
resemblance to d at a later stage, pass immediately while still quite young
to the more advanced characteristics represented by e, and hold these as
its specific characteristics until old age destroyed them. This skipping
is the highest exemplification, or rather manifestation, of acceleration in
development. In alluding to the history of diseases and inheritance of
characteristics, you in your "Origin of Species" allude to the ordinary
manifestation of acceleration, when you speak of the tendency of diseases
or characteristics to appear at younger periods in the life of the child
than of its parents. This, according to my observations, is a law, or
rather mode, of development, which is applicable to all characteristics,
and in this way it is possible to explain why the young of later-occurring
animals are like the adult stages of those which preceded them in time. If
I am not mistaken you have intimated something of this sort also in your
first edition, but I have not been able to find it lately. Of course this
is a very normal condition of affairs when a series can be followed in this
way, beginning with species a, then going through species a b to a b c,
then a b d or a c d, and then a d e or simply a e, as it sometimes comes.
Very often the acceleration takes place in two closely connected series,
in which one series goes on very regularly, while another lateral offshoot
of a becomes d in the adult. This is an actual case which can be plainly
shown with the specimens in hand, and has been verified in the collections
here. Retardation is entirely Prof. Cope's idea, but I think also easily
traceable. It is the opponent of acceleration, so to speak, or the
opposite or negative of that mode of development. Thus series may occur in
which, either in size or characteristics, they return to former
characteristics; but a better discussion of this point you will find in the
little treatise which I send by the same mail as this letter, "On
Reversions among the Ammonites."
LETTER 254. TO A. HYATT.
Down, December 4th, 1872.
I thank you sincerely for your most interesting letter. You refer much too
modestly to your own knowledge and judgment, as you are much better fitted
to throw light on your own difficult problems than I am.
It has quite annoyed me that I do not clearly understand yours and Prof.
Cope's views (254/1. Prof. Cope's views may be gathered from his "Origin
of the Fittest" 1887; in this book (page 41) is reprinted his "Origin of
Genera" from the "Proc. Philadelph. Acad. Nat. Soc." 1868, which was
published separately by the author in 1869, and which we believe to be his
first publication on the subject. In the preface to the "Origin of the
Fittest," page vi, he sums up the chief points in the "Origin of Genera"
under seven heads, of which the following are the most important:--"First,
that development of new characters has been accomplished by an ACCELERATION
or RETARDATION in the growth of the parts changed...Second, that of EXACT
PARALLELISM between the adult of one individual or set of individuals, and
a transitional stage of one or more other individuals. This doctrine is
distinct from that of an exact parallelism, which had already been stated
by von Baer." The last point is less definitely stated by Hyatt in his
letter of December 4th, 1872. "I am thus perpetually led to look upon a
series very much as upon an individual, and think that I have found that in
many instances these afford parallel changes." See also "Lamarck the
Founder of Evolution, by A.S. Packard: New York, 1901.) and the fault lies
in some slight degree, I think, with Prof. Cope, who does not write very
clearly. I think I now understand the terms "acceleration" and
"retardation"; but will you grudge the trouble of telling me, by the aid of
the following illustration, whether I do understand rightly? When a fresh-
water decapod crustacean is born with an almost mature structure, and
therefore does not pass, like other decapods, through the Zoea stage, is
this not a case of acceleration? Again, if an imaginary decapod retained,
when adult, many Zoea characters, would this not be a case of retardation?
If these illustrations are correct, I can perceive why I have been so dull
in understanding your views. I looked for something else, being familiar
with such cases, and classing them in my own mind as simply due to the
obliteration of certain larval or embryonic stages. This obliteration I
imagined resulted sometimes entirely from that law of inheritance to which
you allude; but that it in many cases was aided by Natural Selection, as I
inferred from such cases occurring so frequently in terrestrial and fresh-
water members of groups, which retain their several embryonic stages in the
sea, as long as fitting conditions are present.
Another cause of my misunderstanding was the assumption that in your series
the differences between the successive species, expressed by the terminal
letter, was due to acceleration: now, if I understand rightly, this is not
the case; and such characters must have been independently acquired by some
The two newest and most interesting points in your letter (and in, as far
as I think, your former paper) seem to me to be about senile
characteristics in one species appearing in succeeding species during
maturity; and secondly about certain degraded characters appearing in the
last species of a series. You ask for my opinion: I can only send the
conjectured impressions which have occurred to me and which are not worth
writing. (It ought to be known whether the senile character appears before
or after the period of active reproduction.) I should be inclined to
attribute the character in both your cases to the laws of growth and
descent, secondarily to Natural Selection. It has been an error on my
part, and a misfortune to me, that I did not largely discuss what I mean by
laws of growth at an early period in some of my books. I have said
something on this head in two new chapters in the last edition of the
"Origin." I should be happy to send you a copy of this edition, if you do
not possess it and care to have it. A man in extreme old age differs much
from a young man, and I presume every one would account for this by failing
powers of growth. On the other hand the skulls of some mammals go on
altering during maturity into advancing years; as do the horns of the stag,
the tail-feathers of some birds, the size of fishes etc.; and all such
differences I should attribute simply to the laws of growth, as long as
full vigour was retained. Endless other changes of structure in successive
species may, I believe, be accounted for by various complex laws of growth.
Now, any change of character thus induced with advancing years in the
individual might easily be inherited at an earlier age than that at which
it first supervened, and thus become characteristic of the mature species;
or again, such changes would be apt to follow from variation, independently
of inheritance, under proper conditions. Therefore I should expect that
characters of this kind would often appear in later-formed species without
the aid of Natural Selection, or with its aid if the characters were of any
advantage. The longer I live, the more I become convinced how ignorant we
are of the extent to which all sorts of structures are serviceable to each
species. But that characters supervening during maturity in one species
should appear so regularly, as you state to be the case, in succeeding
species, seems to me very surprising and inexplicable.
With respect to degradation in species towards the close of a series, I
have nothing to say, except that before I arrived at the end of your
letter, it occurred to me that the earlier and simpler ammonites must have
been well adapted to their conditions, and that when the species were
verging towards extinction (owing probably to the presence of some more
successful competitors) they would naturally become re-adapted to simpler
conditions. Before I had read your final remarks I thought also that
unfavourable conditions might cause, through the law of growth, aided
perhaps by reversion, degradation of character. No doubt many new laws
remain to be discovered. Permit me to add that I have never been so
foolish as to imagine that I have succeeded in doing more than to lay down
some of the broad outlines of the origin of species.
After long reflection I cannot avoid the conviction that no innate tendency
to progressive development exists, as is now held by so many able
naturalists, and perhaps by yourself. It is curious how seldom writers
define what they mean by progressive development; but this is a point which
I have briefly discussed in the "Origin." I earnestly hope that you may
visit Hilgendorf's famous deposit. Have you seen Weismann's pamphlet
"Einfluss der Isolirung," Leipzig, 1872? He makes splendid use of
Hilgendorf's admirable observations. (254/2. Hilgendorf, "Monatsb. K.
Akad." Berlin, 1866. For a semi-popular account of Hilgendorf's and
Hyatt's work on this subject, see Romanes' "Darwin and after Darwin," I.,
page 201.) I have no strength to spare, being much out of health;
otherwise I would have endeavoured to have made this letter better worth
sending. I most sincerely wish you success in your valuable and difficult
I have received, and thank you, for your three pamphlets. As far as I can
judge, your views seem very probable; but what a fearfully intricate
subject is this of the succession of ammonites. (254/3. See various
papers in the publications of the "Boston Soc. Nat. Hist." and in the
"Bulletin of the Harvard Museum of Comp. Zoology.")
LETTER 255. A. HYATT TO CHARLES DARWIN.
Cannstadt bei Stuttgart, December 8th, 1872.
The quickness and earnestness of your reply to my letter gives me the
greatest encouragement, and I am much delighted at the unexpected interest
which your questions and comments display. What you say about Prof. Cope's
style has been often before said to me, and I have remarked in his writings
an unsatisfactory treatment of our common theory. This, I think, perhaps
is largely due to the complete absorption of his mind in the contemplation
of his subject: this seems to lead him to be careless about the methods in
which it may be best explained. He has, however, a more extended knowledge
than I have, and has in many ways a more powerful grasp of the subject, and
for that very reason, perhaps, is liable to run into extremes. You ask
about the skipping of the Zoea stage in fresh-water decapods: is this an
illustration of acceleration? It most assuredly is, if acceleration means
anything at all. Again, another and more general illustration would be,
if, among the marine decapods, a series could be formed in which the Zoea
stage became less and less important in the development, and was relegated
to younger and younger stages of the development, and finally disappeared
in those to which you refer. This is the usual way in which the
accelerated mode of development manifests itself; though near the lowest or
earliest occurring species it is also to be looked for. Perhaps this to
which you allude is an illustration somewhat similar to the one which I
have spoken of in my series,
which like "a d" comes from the earliest of a series, though I should think
from the entire skipping of the Zoea stage that it must be, like "a e," the
result of a long line of ancestors. In fact, the essential point of our
theory is, that characteristics are ever inherited by the young at earlier
periods than they are assumed in due course of growth by the parents, and
that this must eventually lead to the extinction or skipping of these
Such considerations as these and the fact that near the heads of series or
near the latest members of series, and not at the beginning, were usually
found the accelerated types, which skipped lower characteristics and
developed very suddenly to a higher and more complex standpoint in
structure, led both Cope and [myself] into what may be a great error. I
see that it has led you at least into the difficulty of which you very
rightly complain, and which, I am sorry to see, has cost you some of your
valuable time. We presumed that because characteristics were perpetually
inherited at earlier stages, that this very concentration of the developed
characteristics made room for the production of differences in the adult
descendants of any given pair. Further, that in the room thus made other
different characteristics must be produced, and that these would
necessarily appear earlier in proportion as the species was more or less
accelerated, and be greater or less in the same proportion. Finally, that
in the most accelerated, such as "a c" or "a d," the difference would be so
great as to constitute distinct genera. Cope and I have differed very
much, while he acknowledged the action of the accumulated mode of
development only when generic characteristics or greater differences were
produced, I saw the same mode of development to be applicable in all cases
and to all characteristics, even to diseases. So far the facts bore us
out, but when we assumed that the adult differences were the result of the
accelerated mode of development, we were perhaps upon rather insecure
ground. It is evidently this assumption which has led you to misunderstand
the theory. Cope founded his belief, that the adult characteristics were
also the result of acceleration, if I rightly remember it, mainly upon the
class of facts spoken of above in man where a sudden change into two organs
may produce entirely new and unexpected differences in the whole
organisation, and upon the changes which acceleration appeared to produce
in the development of each succeeding species. Your difficulty in
understanding the theory and the observations you have made show me at once
what my own difficulties have been, but of these I will not speak at
present, as my letter is spinning itself out to a fearful length.
(255/1. After speaking of Cope's comparison of acceleration and
retardation in evolution to the force of gravity in physical matters Mr.
Hyatt goes on:--)
Now it [acceleration] seems to me to explain less and less the origin of
adult progressive characteristics or simply differences, and perhaps now I
shall get on faster with my work.
LETTER 256. TO A. HYATT.
Down, December 14th .
(256/1. In reply to the above letter (255) from Mr. Hyatt.)
Notwithstanding the kind consideration shown in your last sentence, I must
thank you for your interesting and clearly expressed letter. I have
directed my publisher to send you a copy of the last edition of the
"Origin," and you can, if you like, paste in the "From the Author" on next
page. In relation to yours and Professor Cope's view on "acceleration"
causing a development of new characters, it would, I think, be well if you
were to compare the decapods which pass and do not pass through the Zoea
stage, and the one group which does (according to Fritz Muller) pass
through to the still earlier Nauplius stages, and see if they present any
marked differences. You will, I believe, find that this is not the case.
I wish it were, for I have often been perplexed at the omission of
embryonic stages as well as the acquirement of peculiar stages appearing to
produce no special result in the mature form.
(256/2. The remainder of this letter is missing, and the whole of the last
sentence is somewhat uncertainly deciphered. (Note by Mr. Hyatt.))
LETTER 257. TO A. HYATT.
Down, February 13th, 1877.
I thank you for your very kind, long, and interesting letter. The case is
so wonderful and difficult that I dare not express any opinion on it. Of
course, I regret that Hilgendorf has been proved to be so greatly in error