Part 8 out of 10
(257/1. This refers to a controversy with Sandberger, who had attacked
Hilgendorf in the "Verh. der phys.-med. Ges. zu Wurzburg," Bd. V., and in
the "Jahrb. der Malakol. Ges." Bd. I., to which Hilgendorf replied in the
"Zeitschr. d. Deutschen geolog. Ges." Jahrb. 1877. Hyatt's name occurs in
Hilgendorf's pages, but we find no reference to any paper of this date; his
well-known paper is in the "Boston. Soc. Nat. Hist." 1880. In a letter to
Darwin (May 23rd, 1881) Hyatt regrets that he had no opportunity of a third
visit to Steinheim, and goes on: "I should then have done greater justice
to Hilgendorf, for whom I have such a high respect."), but it is some
selfish comfort to me that I always felt so much misgiving that I never
quoted his paper. (257/2. In the fifth edition of the "Origin" (page
362), however, Darwin speaks of the graduated forms of Planorbis
multiformis, described by Hilgendorf from certain beds in Switzerland, by
which we presume he meant the Steinheim beds in Wurtemberg.) The
variability of these shells is quite astonishing, and seems to exceed that
of Rubus or Hieracium amongst plants. The result which surprises me most
is that the same form should be developed from various and different
progenitors. This seems to show how potent are the conditions of life,
irrespectively of the variations being in any way beneficial.
The production of a species out of a chaos of varying forms reminds me of
Nageli's conclusion, as deduced from the study of Hieracium, that this is
the common mode in which species arise. But I still continue to doubt much
on this head, and cling to the belief expressed in the first edition of the
"Origin," that protean or polymorphic species are those which are now
varying in such a manner that the variations are neither advantageous nor
disadvantageous. I am glad to hear of the Brunswick deposit, as I feel
sure that the careful study of such cases is highly important. I hope that
the Smithsonian Institution will publish your memoir.
LETTER 258. TO A. DE CANDOLLE.
Down, January 18th .
It was very good of you to give up so much of your time to write to me your
last interesting letter. The evidence seems good about the tameness of the
alpine butterflies, and the fact seems to me very surprising, for each
butterfly can hardly have acquired its experience during its own short
life. Will you be so good as to thank M. Humbert for his note, which I
have been glad to read. I formerly received from a man, not a naturalist,
staying at Cannes a similar account, but doubted about believing it. The
case, however, does not answer my query--viz., whether butterflies are
attracted by bright colours, independently of the supposed presence of
I must own that I have great difficulty in believing that any temporary
condition of the parents can affect the offspring. If it last long enough
to affect the health or structure of the parents, I can quite believe the
offspring would be modified. But how mysterious a subject is that of
generation! Although my hypothesis of pangenesis has been reviled on all
sides, yet I must still look at generation under this point of view; and it
makes me very averse to believe in an emotion having any effect on the
offspring. Allow me to add one word about blushing and shyness: I
intended only to say the habit was primordially acquired by attention to
the face, and not that each shy man now attended to his personal
LETTER 259. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, June 28th, 1873.
I write a line to wish you good-bye, as I hear you are off on Wednesday,
and to thank you for the Dionoea, but I cannot make the little creature
grow well. I have this day read Bentham's last address, and must express
my admiration of it. (259/1. Presidential address to the Linnean Society,
read May 24th, 1873.) Perhaps I ought not to do so, as he fairly crushes
me with honour.
I am delighted to see how exactly I agree with him on affinities, and
especially on extinct forms as illustrated by his flat-topped tree.
(259/2. See page 15 of separate copy: "We should then have the present
races represented by the countless branchlets forming the flat-topped
summit" of a genealogical tree, in which "all we can do is to map out the
summit as it were from a bird's-eye view, and under each cluster, or
cluster of clusters, to place as the common trunk an imaginary type of a
genus, order, or class according to the depth to which we would go.") My
recent work leads me to differ from him on one point--viz., on the
separation of the sexes. (259/3. On the question of sexuality, see page
10 of Bentham's address. On the back of Mr. Darwin's copy he has written:
"As long as lowest organisms free--sexes separated: as soon as they become
attached, to prevent sterility sexes united--reseparated as means of
fertilisation, adapted [?] for distant [?] organisms,--in the case of
animals by their senses and voluntary movements,--with plants the aid of
insects and wind, the latter always existed, and long retained." The two
words marked [?] are doubtful. The introduction of freedom or
attachedness, as a factor in the problem also occurs in "Cross and Self-
fertilisation," page 462. I strongly suspect that sexes were primordially
in distinct individuals; then became commonly united in the same
individual, and then in a host of animals and some few plants became again
separated. Do ask Bentham to send a copy of his address to "Dr. H. Muller,
Lippstadt, Prussia," as I am sure it will please him GREATLY.
...When in France write me a line and tell me how you get on, and how
Huxley is; but do not do so if you feel idle, and writing bothers you.
LETTER 260. TO R. MELDOLA.
(260/1. This letter, with others from Darwin to Meldola, is published in
"Charles Darwin and the Theory of Natural Selection," by E.B. Poulton,
pages 199 et seq., London, 1896.)
Southampton, August 13th, 1873.
I am much obliged for your present, which no doubt I shall find at Down on
my return home. I am sorry to say that I cannot answer your question; nor
do I believe that you could find it anywhere even approximately answered.
It is very difficult or impossible to define what is meant by a large
variation. Such graduate into monstrosities or generally injurious
variations. I do not myself believe that these are often or ever taken
advantage of under nature. It is a common occurrence that abrupt and
considerable variations are transmitted in an unaltered state, or not at
all transmitted, to the offspring, or to some of them. So it is with
tailless or hornless animals, and with sudden and great changes of colour
in flowers. I wish I could have given you any answer.
LETTER 261. TO E.S. MORSE.
I must have the pleasure of thanking you for your kindness in sending me
your essay on the Brachiopoda. (261/1. "The Brachiopoda, a Division of
Annelida," "Amer. Assoc. Proc." Volume XIX., page 272, 1870, and "Annals
and Mag. Nat. Hist." Volume VI., page 267, 1870.) I have just read it with
the greatest interest, and you seem to me (though I am not a competent
judge) to make out with remarkable clearness an extremely strong case.
What a wonderful change it is to an old naturalist to have to look at these
"shells" as "worms"; but, as you truly say, as far as external appearance
is concerned, the case is not more wonderful than that of cirripedes. I
have also been particularly interested by your remarks on the Geological
Record, and on the lower and older forms in each great class not having
been probably protected by calcareous valves or a shell.
P.S.--Your woodcut of Lingula is most skilfully introduced to compel one to
see its likeness to an annelid.
LETTER 262. TO H. SPENCER.
(262/1. Mr. Spencer's book "The Study of Sociology," 1873, was published
in the "Contemporary Review" in instalments between May 1872 and October
October 31st .
I am glad to receive to-day an advertisement of your book. I have been
wonderfully interested by the articles in the "Contemporary." Those were
splendid hits about the Prince of Wales and Gladstone. (262/2. See "The
Study of Sociology," page 392. Mr. Gladstone, in protest against some
words of Mr. Spencer, had said that the appearance of great men "in great
crises of human history" were events so striking "that men would be liable
to term them providential in a pre-scientific age." On this Mr. Spencer
remarks that "in common with the ancient Greek Mr. Gladstone regards as
irreligious any explanation of Nature which dispenses with immediate Divine
superintendence." And as an instance of the partnership "between the ideas
of natural causation and of providential interference," he instances a case
where a prince "gained popularity by outliving certain abnormal changes in
his blood," and where "on the occasion of his recovery providential aid and
natural causation were unitedly recognised by a thanksgiving to God and a
baronetcy to the doctor." The passage on Toryism is on page 395, where Mr.
Spencer, with his accustomed tolerance, writes: "The desirable thing is
that a growth of ideas and feelings tending to produce modification shall
be joined with a continuance of ideas and feelings tending to preserve
stability." And from this point of view he concludes it to be very
desirable that "one in Mr. Gladstone's position should think as he does."
The matter is further discussed in the notes to Chapter XVI., page 423.) I
never before read a good defence of Toryism. In one place (but I cannot
for the life of me recollect where or what it exactly was) I thought that
you would have profited by my principle (i.e. if you do not reject it)
given in my "Descent of Man," that new characters which appear late in life
are those which are transmitted to the same sex alone. I have advanced
some pretty strong evidence, and the principle is of great importance in
relation to secondary sexual likenesses. (262/3. This refers to Mr.
Spencer's discussion of the evolution of the mental traits characteristic
of women. At page 377 he points out the importance of the limitation of
heredity by sex in this relation. A striking generalisation on this
question is given in the "Descent of Man," Edition I., Volume II., page
285: that when the adult male differs from the adult female, he differs in
the same way from the young of both sexes. Can this law be applied in the
case in which the adult female possesses characters not possessed by the
male: for instance, the high degree of intuitive power of reading the
mental states of others and of concealing her own--characters which Mr.
Spencer shows to be accounted for by the relations between the husband and
wife in a state of savagery. If so, the man should resemble "the young of
both sexes" in the absence of these special qualities. This seems to be
the case with some masculine characteristics, and childishness of man is
not without recognition among women: for instance, by Dolly Winthrop in
"Silas Marner," who is content with bread for herself, but bakes cake for
children and men, whose "stomichs are made so comical, they want a change--
they do, I know, God help 'em.") I have applied it to man and woman, and
possibly it was here that I thought that you would have profited by the
doctrine. I fear that this note will be almost illegible, but I am very
LETTER 263. G.J. ROMANES TO CHARLES DARWIN.
(263/1. This is, we believe, the first letter addressed by the late Mr.
Romanes to Mr. Darwin. It was put away with another on the same subject,
and inscribed "Romanes on Abortion, with my answer (very important)." Mr.
Darwin's answer given below is printed from his rough draft, which is in
places barely decipherable. On the subject of these letters consult
Romanes, "Darwin and after Darwin," Volume II., page 99, 1895.)
Dunskaith, Parkhill, Ross-shire, July 10th, 1874.
Knowing that you do not dissuade the more attentive of your readers from
communicating directly to yourself any ideas they may have upon subjects
connected with your writings, I take the liberty of sending the enclosed
copy of a letter, which I have recently addressed to Mr. Herbert Spencer.
You will perceive that the subject dealt with is the same as that to which
a letter of mine in last week's "Nature" [July 2nd, page 164] refers--viz.,
"Disuse as a Reducing Cause in Species." In submitting this more detailed
exposition of my views to your consideration, I should like to state again
what I stated in "Nature" some weeks ago, viz., that in propounding the
cessation of selection as a reducing cause, I do not suppose that I am
suggesting anything which has not occurred to you already. Not only is
this principle embodied in the theory set forth in the article on
Rudimentary Organs ("Nature," Volume IX.); but it is more than once hinted
at in the "Origin," in the passages where rudimentary organs are said to be
more variable than others, because no longer under the restraining
influence of Natural Selection. And still more distinctly is this
principle recognised in page 120.
Thus, in sending you the enclosed letter, I do not imagine that I am
bringing any novel suggestions under your notice. As I see that you have
already applied the principle in question to the case of artificially-bred
structures, I cannot but infer that you have pondered it in connection with
naturally-bred structures. What objection, however, you can have seen to
this principle in this latter connection, I am unable to divine; and so I
think the best course for me to pursue is the one I adopt--viz., to send
you my considerations in full.
In the absence of express information, the most natural inference is that
the reason you refuse to entertain the principle in question, is because
you show the backward tendency of indiscriminate variability [to be]
inadequate to contend with the conservative tendency of long inheritance.
The converse of this is expressed in the words "That the struggle between
Natural Selection on the one hand, and the tendency to reversion and
variability on the other hand, will in the course of time cease; and that
the most abnormally developed organs may be made constant, I see no reason
to doubt" ("Origin," page 121). Certainly not, if, as I doubt not, the
word "constant" is intended to bear a relative signification; but to say
that constancy can ever become absolute--i.e., that any term of inheritance
could secure to an organ a total immunity from the smallest amount of
spontaneous variability--to say this would be unwarrantable. Suppose, for
instance, that for some reason or other a further increase in the size of a
bat's wing should now suddenly become highly beneficial to that animal: we
can scarcely suppose that variations would not be forthcoming for Natural
Selection to seize upon (unless the limit of possible size has now been
reached, which is an altogether distinct matter). And if we suppose that
minute variations on the side of increase are thus even now occasionally
taking place, much more is it probable that similar variations on the side
of decrease are now taking place--i.e., that if the conservative influence
of Natural Selection were removed for a long period of time, more
variations would ensue below the present size of bat's wings, than above
it. To this it may be added, that when the influence of "speedy selection"
is removed, it seems in itself highly probable that the structure would,
for this reason, become more variable, for the only reason why it ever
ceased to be variable (i.e., after attaining its maximum size), was because
of the influence of selection constantly destroying those individuals in
which a tendency to vary occurred. When, therefore, this force
antagonistic to variability was removed, it seems highly probable that the
latter principle would again begin to assert itself, and this in a
cumulative manner. Those individuals in which a tendency to vary occurred
being no longer cut off, they would have as good a chance of leaving
progeny to inherit their fluctuating disposition as would their more
LETTER 264. TO G.J. ROMANES.
July 16th, 1874.
I am much obliged for your kind and long communication, which I have read
with great interest, as well as your articles in "Nature." The subject
seems to me as important and interesting as it is difficult. I am much out
of health, and working very hard on a very different subject, so thus I
cannot give your remarks the attention which they deserve. I will,
however, keep your letter for some later time, when I may again take up the
subject. Your letter makes it clearer to me than it ever was before, how a
part or organ which has already begun from any cause to decrease, will go
on decreasing through so-called spontaneous variability, with
intercrossing; for under such circumstances it is very unlikely that there
should be variation in the direction of increase beyond the average size,
and no reason why there should not be variations of decrease. I think this
expresses your view. I had intended this summer subjecting plants to
[illegible] conditions, and observing the effects on variation; but the
work would be very laborious, yet I am inclined to think it will be
hereafter worth the labour.
LETTER 265. TO T. MEEHAN.
Down, October 9th, 1874.
I am glad that you are attending to the colours of dioecious flowers; but
it is well to remember that their colours may be as unimportant to them as
those of a gall, or, indeed, as the colour of an amethyst or ruby is to
these gems. Some thirty years ago I began to investigate the little purple
flowers in the centre of the umbels of the carrot. I suppose my memory is
wrong, but it tells me that these flowers are female, and I think that I
once got a seed from one of them; but my memory may be quite wrong. I hope
that you will continue your interesting researches.
LETTER 266. TO G. JAGER.
Down, February 3rd, 1875.
I received this morning a copy of your work "Contra Wigand," either from
yourself or from your publisher, and I am greatly obliged for it. (266/1.
Jager's "In Sachen Darwins insbesondere contra Wigand" (Stuttgart, 1874) is
directed against A. Wigand's "Der Darwinismus und die Naturforschung
Newtons und Cuviers" (Brunswick, 1874).) I had, however, before bought a
copy, and have sent the new one to our best library, that of the Royal
Society. As I am a very poor german scholar, I have as yet read only about
forty pages; but these have interested me in the highest degree. Your
remarks on fixed and variable species deserve the greatest attention; but I
am not at present quite convinced that there are such independent of the
conditions to which they are subjected. I think you have done great
service to the principle of evolution, which we both support, by publishing
this work. I am the more glad to read it as I had not time to read
Wigand's great and tedious volume.
LETTER 267. TO CHAUNCEY WRIGHT.
Down, March 13th, 1875.
I write to-day so that there shall be no delay this time in thanking you
for your interesting and long letter received this morning. I am sure that
you will excuse brevity when I tell you that I am half-killing myself in
trying to get a book ready for the press. (267/1. The MS. of
"Insectivorous Plants" was got ready for press in March, 1875. Darwin
seems to have been more than usually oppressed by the work.) I quite agree
with what you say about advantages of various degrees of importance being
co-selected (267/2. Mr. Chauncey Wright wrote (February 24th, 1875): "The
inquiry as to which of several real uses is the one through which Natural
Selection has acted...has for several years seemed to me a somewhat less
important question than it seemed formerly, and still appears to most
thinkers on the subject...The uses of the rattling of the rattlesnake as a
protection by warning its enemies and as a sexual call are not rival uses;
neither are the high-reaching and the far-seeing uses of the giraffe's neck
'rivals.'"), and aided by the effects of use, etc. The subject seems to me
well worth further development. I do not think I have anywhere noticed the
use of the eyebrows, but have long known that they protected the eyes from
sweat. During the voyage of the "Beagle" one of the men ascended a lofty
hill during a very hot day. He had small eyebrows, and his eyes became
fearfully inflamed from the sweat running into them. The Portuguese
inhabitants were familiar with this evil. I think you allude to the
transverse furrows on the forehead as a protection against sweat; but
remember that these incessantly appear on the foreheads of baboons.
P.S.--I have been greatly pleased by the notices in the "Nation."
LETTER 268. TO A. WEISMANN.
Down, May 1st, 1875.
I did not receive your essay for some days after your very kind letter, and
I read german so slowly that I have only just finished it. (268/1.
"Studien zur Descendenz-Theorie" I. "Ueber den Saison-Dimorphismus," 1875.
The fact was previously known that two forms of the genus Vanessa which had
been considered to be distinct species are only SEASONAL forms of the same
species--one appearing in spring, the other in summer. This remarkable
relationship forms the subject of the essay.) Your work has interested me
greatly, and your conclusions seem well established. I have long felt much
curiosity about season-dimorphism, but never could form any theory on the
subject. Undoubtedly your view is very important, as bearing on the
general question of variability. When I wrote the "Origin" I could not
find any facts which proved the direct action of climate and other external
conditions. I long ago thought that the time would soon come when the
causes of variation would be fully discussed, and no one has done so much
as you in this important subject. The recent evidence of the difference
between birds of the same species in the N. and S. United States well shows
the power of climate. The two sexes of some few birds are there
differently modified by climate, and I have introduced this fact in the
last edition of my "Descent of Man." (268/2. "Descent of Man," Edition
II. (in one volume), page 423. Allen showed that many species of birds are
more strongly coloured in the south of the United States, and that
sometimes one sex is more affected than the other. It is this last point
that bears on Weismann's remarks (loc. cit., pages 44, 45) on Pieris napi.
The males of the alpine-boreal form bryoniae hardly differ from those of
the German form (var. vernalis), while the females are strikingly
different. Thus the character of secondary sexual differences is
determined by climate.) I am, therefore, fully prepared to admit the
justness of your criticism on sexual selection of lepidoptera; but
considering the display of their beauty, I am not yet inclined to think
that I am altogether in error.
What you say about reversion (268/3. For instance, the fact that reversion
to the primary winter-form may be produced by the disturbing effect of high
temperature (page 7).) being excited by various causes, agrees with what I
concluded with respect to the remarkable effects of crossing two breeds:
namely, that anything which disturbs the constitution leads to reversion,
or, as I put the case under my hypothesis of pangenesis, gives a good
chance of latent gemmules developing. Your essay, in my opinion, is an
admirable one, and I thank you for the interest which it has afforded me.
P.S. I find that there are several points, which I have forgotten. Mr.
Jenner Weir has not published anything more about caterpillars, but I have
written to him, asking him whether he has tried any more experiments, and
will keep back this letter till I receive his answer. Mr. Riley of the
United States supports Mr. Weir, and you will find reference to him and
other papers at page 426 of the new and much-corrected edition of my
"Descent of Man." As I have a duplicate copy of Volume I. (I believe
Volume II. is not yet published in german) I send it to you by this post.
Mr. Belt, in his travels in Nicaragua, gives several striking cases of
conspicuously coloured animals (but not caterpillars) which are distasteful
to birds of prey: he is an excellent observer, and his book, "The
Naturalist in Nicaragua," very interesting.
I am very much obliged for your photograph, which I am particularly glad to
possess, and I send mine in return.
I see you allude to Hilgendorf's statements, which I was sorry to see
disputed by some good German observer. Mr. Hyatt, an excellent
palaeontologist of the United States, visited the place, and likewise
assured me that Hilgendorf was quite mistaken. (268/4. See Letters 252-
I am grieved to hear that your eyesight still continues bad, but anyhow it
has forced your excellent work in your last essay.
May 4th. Here is what Mr. Weir says:--
"In reply to your inquiry of Saturday, I regret that I have little to add
to my two communications to the 'Entomological Society Transactions.'
"I repeated the experiments with gaudy caterpillars for years, and always
with the same results: not on a single occasion did I find richly
coloured, conspicuous larvae eaten by birds. It was more remarkable to
observe that the birds paid not the slightest attention to gaudy
caterpillars, not even when in motion,--the experiments so thoroughly
satisfied my mind that I have now given up making them."
LETTER 269. TO LAWSON TAIT.
(269/1. The late Mr. Lawson Tait wrote to Mr. Darwin (June 2nd, 1875): "I
am watching a lot of my mice from whom I removed the tails at birth, and I
am coming to the conclusion that the essential use of the tail there is as
a recording organ--that is, they record in their memories the corners they
turn and the height of the holes they pass through by touching them with
their tails." Mr. Darwin was interested in the idea because "some German
sneered at Natural Selection and instanced the tails of mice.")
June 11th, 1875.
It has just occurred to me to look at the "Origin of Species" (Edition VI.,
page 170), and it is certain that Bronn, in the appended chapter to his
translation of my book into german, did advance ears and tail of various
species of mice as a difficulty opposed to Natural Selection. I answered
with respect to ears by alluding to Schobl's curious paper (I forget when
published) (269/2. J. Schobl, "Das aussere Ohr der Mause als wichtiges
Tastorgan." "Archiv. Mik. Anat." VII., 1871, page 260.) on the hairs of
the ears being sensitive and provided with nerves. I presume he made fine
sections: if you are accustomed to such histological work, would it not be
worth while to examine hairs of tail of mice? At page 189 I quote Henslow
(confirmed by Gunther) on Mus messorius (and other species?) using tail as
Dr. Kane in his account of the second Grinnell Expedition says that the
Esquimaux in severe weather carry a fox-tail tied to the neck, which they
use as a respirator by holding the tip of the tail between their teeth.
(269/3. The fact is stated in Volume II., page 24, of E.K. Kane's "Arctic
Explorations: The Second Grinnell Expedition in Search of Sir John
Franklin." Philadelphia, 1856.)
He says also that he found a frozen fox curled up with his nose buried in
N.B. It is just possible that the latter fact is stated by M'Clintock, not
by Dr. Kane.
(269/4. The final passage is a postscript by Mr. W.E. Darwin bearing on
Mr. Lawson Tait's idea of the respirator function of the fox's tail.)
LETTER 270. TO G.J. ROMANES.
Down, July 12th, 1875.
I am correcting a second edition of "Variation under Domestication," and
find that I must do it pretty fully. Therefore I give a short abstract of
potato graft-hybrids, and I want to know whether I did not send you a
reference about beet. Did you look to this, and can you tell me anything
I hope with all my heart that you are getting on pretty well with your
I have been led to think a good deal on the subject, and am convinced of
its high importance, though it will take years of hammering before
physiologists will admit that the sexual organs only collect the generative
The edition will be published in November, and then you will see all that I
have collected, but I believe that you gave all the more important cases.
The case of vine in "Gardeners' Chronicle," which I sent you, I think may
only be a bud-variation not due to grafting. I have heard indirectly of
your splendid success with nerves of medusae. We have been at Abinger Hall
for a month for rest, which I much required, and I saw there the cut-leaved
vine which seems splendid for graft hybridism.
LETTER 271. TO FRANCIS GALTON.
Down, November 7th, 1875.
I have read your essay with much curiosity and interest, but you probably
have no idea how excessively difficult it is to understand. (271/1. "A
Theory of Heredity" ("Journal of the Anthropological Institute," 1875). In
this paper Mr. Galton admits that the hypothesis of organic units "must lie
at the foundation of the science of heredity," and proceeds to show in what
respect his conception differs from the hypothesis of pangenesis. The copy
of Mr. Galton's paper, which Darwin numbered in correspondence with the
criticisms in his letter, is not available, and we are therefore only able
to guess at some of the points referred to.) I cannot fully grasp, only
here and there conjecture, what are the points on which we differ. I
daresay this is chiefly due to muddy-headedness on my part, but I do not
think wholly so. Your many terms, not defined, "developed germs,"
"fertile," and "sterile germs" (the word "germ" itself from association
misleading to me) "stirp," "sept," "residue," etc., etc., quite confounded
me. If I ask myself how you derive, and where you place the innumerable
gemmules contained within the spermatozoa formed by a male animal during
its whole life, I cannot answer myself. Unless you can make several parts
clearer I believe (though I hope I am altogether wrong) that only a few
will endeavour or succeed in fathoming your meaning. I have marked a few
passages with numbers, and here make a few remarks and express my opinion,
as you desire it, not that I suppose it will be of any use to you.
1. If this implies that many parts are not modified by use and disuse
during the life of the individual, I differ widely from you, as every year
I come to attribute more and more to such agency. (271/2. This seems to
refer to page 329 of Mr. Galton's paper. The passage must have been
hastily read, and has been quite misunderstood. Mr. Galton has never
expressed the view attributed to him.)
2. This seems rather bold, as sexuality has not been detected in some of
the lowest forms, though I daresay it may hereafter be. (271/3. Mr.
Galton, op. cit., pages 332-3: "There are not of a necessity two sexes,
because swarms of creatures of the simplest organisations mainly multiply
by some process of self-division.")
3. If gemmules (to use my own term) were often deficient in buds, I cannot
but think that bud-variations would be commoner than they are in a state of
nature; nor does it seem that bud-variations often exhibit deficiencies
which might be accounted for by the absence of the proper gemmules. I take
a very different view of the meaning or cause of sexuality. (271/4. Mr.
Galton's idea is that in a bud or other asexually produced part, the germs
(i.e. gemmules) may not be completely representative of the whole organism,
and if reproduction is continued asexually "at each successive stage there
is always a chance of some one or more of the various species of germs...
dying out" (page 333). Mr. Galton supposes, in sexual reproduction, where
two parents contribute germs to the embryo the chance of deficiency of any
of the necessary germs is greatly diminished. Darwin's "very different
view of the meaning or cause of sexuality" is no doubt that given in "Cross
and Self Fertilisation"--i.e., that sexuality is equivalent to changed
conditions, that the parents are not representative of different sexes, but
of different conditions of life.)
4. I have ordered "Fraser's Magazine" (271/5. "The History of Twins," by
F. Galton, "Fraser's Magazine," November, 1875, republished with additions
in the "Journal of the Anthropological Institute," 1875. Mr. Galton
explains the striking dissimilarity of twins which is sometimes met with by
supposing that the offspring in this case divide the available gemmules
between them in such a way that each is the complement of the other. Thus,
to put the case in an exaggerated way, similar twins would each have half
the gemmules A, B, C,...Z., etc, whereas, in the case of dissimilar twins,
one would have all the gemmules A, B, C, D,...M, and the other would have
N...Z.), and am curious to learn how twins from a single ovum are
distinguished from twins from two ova. Nothing seems to me more curious
than the similarity and dissimilarity of twins.
5. Awfully difficult to understand.
6. I have given almost the same notion.
7. I hope that all this will be altered. I have received new and
additional cases, so that I have now not a shadow of doubt.
8. Such cases can hardly be spoken of as very rare, as you would say if
you had received half the number of cases I have.
(271/6. We are unable to determine to what paragraphs 5, 6, 7, 8 refer.)
I am very sorry to differ so much from you, but I have thought that you
would desire my open opinion. Frank is away, otherwise he should have
copied my scrawl.
I have got a good stock of pods of sweet peas, but the autumn has been
frightfully bad; perhaps we may still get a few more to ripen.
LETTER 272. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
Down, November 12th .
Many thanks for your "Biology," which I have read. (272/1. "A Course of
Practical Instruction in Elementary Biology," by T.H. Huxley and H.N.
Martin, 1875. For an account of the book see "Life and Letters of T.H.
Huxley," Volume I., page 380.) It was a real stroke of genius to think of
such a plan. Lord, how I wish I had gone through such a course!
LETTER 273. TO FRANCIS GALTON.
December 18th .
George has been explaining our differences. I have admitted in the new
edition (273/1. In the second edition (1875) of the "Variation of Animals
and Plants," Volume II., page 350, reference is made to Mr. Galton's
transfusion experiments, "Proc. R. Soc." XIX., page 393; also to Mr.
Galton's letter to "Nature," April 27th, 1871, page 502. This is a curious
mistake; the letter in "Nature," April 27th, 1871, is by Darwin himself,
and refers chiefly to the question whether gemmules may be supposed to be
in the blood. Mr. Galton's letter is in "Nature," May 4th, 1871, Volume
IV., page 5. See Letter 235.) (before seeing your essay) that perhaps the
gemmules are largely multiplied in the reproductive organs; but this does
not make me doubt that each unit of the whole system also sends forth its
gemmules. You will no doubt have thought of the following objection to
your views, and I should like to hear what your answer is. If two plants
are crossed, it often, or rather generally, happens that every part of
stem, leaf, even to the hairs, and flowers of the hybrid are intermediate
in character; and this hybrid will produce by buds millions on millions of
other buds all exactly reproducing the intermediate character. I cannot
doubt that every unit of the hybrid is hybridised and sends forth
hybridised gemmules. Here we have nothing to do with the reproductive
organs. There can hardly be a doubt from what we know that the same thing
would occur with all those animals which are capable of budding, and some
of these (as the compound Ascidians) are sufficiently complex and highly
LETTER 274. TO LAWSON TAIT.
March 25th, 1876.
(274/1. The reference is to the theory put forward in the first edition of
"Variation of Animals and Plants," II., page 15, that the asserted tendency
to regeneration after the amputation of supernumerary digits in man is a
return to the recuperative powers characteristic of a "lowly organised
progenitor provided with more than five digits." Darwin's recantation is
at Volume I., page 459 of the second edition.)
Since reading your first article (274/2. Lawson Tait wrote two notices on
"The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication" in the
"Spectator" of March 4th, 1876, page 312, and March 25th, page 406.), Dr.
Rudinger has written to me and sent me an essay, in which he gives the
results of the MOST EXTENSIVE inquiries from all eminent surgeons in
Germany, and all are unanimous about non-growth of extra digits after
amputation. They explain some apparent cases, as Paget did to me. By the
way, I struck out of my second edition a quotation from Sir J. Simpson
about re-growth in the womb, as Paget demurred, and as I could not say how
a rudiment of a limb due to any cause could be distinguished from an
imperfect re-growth. Two or three days ago I had another letter from
Germany from a good naturalist, Dr. Kollmann (274/3. Dr. Kollmann was
Secretary of the Anthropologische Gesellschaft of Munich, in which Society
took place the discussion referred to in "Variation of Animals and Plants,"
I., 459, as originating Darwin's doubts on the whole question. The fresh
evidence adduced by Kollmann as to the normal occurrence of a rudimentary
sixth digit in Batrachians is Borus' paper, "Die sechste Zehe der Anuren"
in "Morpholog. Jahrbuch," Bd. I., page 435. On this subject see Letter
178.), saying he was sorry that I had given up atavism and extra digits,
and telling me of new and good evidence of rudiments of a rudimentary sixth
digit in Batrachians (which I had myself seen, but given up owing to
Gegenbaur's views); but, with re-growth failing me, I could not uphold my
LETTER 275. TO G.J. ROMANES.
(275/1. Mr. Romanes' reply to this letter is printed in his "Life and
Letters," page 93, where by an oversight it is dated 1880-81.)
H. Wedgwood, Esq., Hopedene, Dorking, May 29th .
As you are interested in pangenesis, and will some day, I hope, convert an
"airy nothing" into a substantial theory, I send by this post an essay by
Hackel (275/2. "Die Perigenesis der Plastidule oder die Wellenzeugung der
Lebenstheilchen," 79 pages. Berlin, 1876.) attacking Pan. and substituting
a molecular hypothesis. If I understand his views rightly, he would say
that with a bird which strengthened its wings by use, the formative
protoplasm of the strengthened parts became changed, and its molecular
vibrations consequently changed, and that these vibrations are transmitted
throughout the whole frame of the bird, and affect the sexual elements in
such a manner that the wings of the offspring are developed in a like
strengthened manner. I imagine he would say, in cases like those of Lord
Morton's mare (275/3. A nearly pure-bred Arabian chestnut mare bore a
hybrid to a quagga, and subsequently produced two striped colts by a black
Arabian horse: see "Animals and Plants," I., page 403. The case was
originally described in the "Philosophical Transactions," 1821, page 20.
For an account of recent work bearing on this question, see article on
"Zebras, Horses, and Hybrids," in the "Quarterly Review," October 1899.
See Letter 235.), that the vibrations from the protoplasm, or "plasson," of
the seminal fluid of the zebra set plasson vibrating in the mare; and that
these vibrations continued until the hair of the second colt was formed,
and which consequently became barred like that of a zebra. How he explains
reversion to a remote ancestor, I know not. Perhaps I have misunderstood
him, though I have skimmed the whole with some care. He lays much stress
on inheritance being a form of unconscious memory, but how far this is part
of his molecular vibration, I do not understand. His views make nothing
clearer to me; but this may be my fault. No one, I presume, would doubt
about molecular movements of some kind. His essay is clever and striking.
If you read it (but you must not on my account), I should much like to hear
your judgment, and you can return it at any time. The blue lines are
Hackel's to call my attention.
We have come here for rest for me, which I have much needed; and shall
remain here for about ten days more, and then home to work, which is my
sole pleasure in life. I hope your splendid Medusa work and your
experiments on pangenesis are going on well. I heard from my son Frank
yesterday that he was feverish with a cold, and could not dine with the
physiologists, which I am very sorry for, as I should have heard what they
think about the new Bill. I see that you are one of the secretaries to
this young Society.
LETTER 276. TO H.N. MOSELEY.
Down, November 22nd .
It is very kind of you to send me the Japanese books, which are extremely
curious and amusing. My son Frank is away, but I am sure he will be much
obliged for the two papers which you have sent him.
Thanks, also, for your interesting note. It is a pity that Peripatus
(276/1. Moseley "On the Structure and Development of Peripatus capensis"
("Phil. Trans. R. Soc." Volume 164, page 757, 1874). "When suddenly
handled or irritated, they (i.e. Peripatus) shoot out fine threads of a
remarkably viscid and tenacious milky fluid... projected from the tips of
the oral papillae" (page 759).) is so stupid as to spit out the viscid
matter at the wrong end of its body; it would have been beautiful thus to
have explained the origin of the spider's web.
LETTER 277. NAPHTALI LEWY TO CHARLES DARWIN.
(277/1. The following letter refers to a book, "Toledoth Adam," written by
a learned Jew with the object of convincing his co-religionists of the
truth of the theory of evolution. The translation we owe to the late Henry
Bradshaw, University Librarian at Cambridge. The book is unfortunately no
longer to be found in Mr. Darwin's library.)
To the Lord, the Prince, who "stands for an ensign of the people" (Isa. xi.
10), the Investigator of the generation, the "bright son of the morning"
(Isa. xiv. 12), Charles Darwin, may he live long!
"From the rising of the sun and from the west" (Isa. xlv. 6) all the
nations know concerning the Torah (Theory) (277/2. Lit., instruction. The
Torah is the Pentateuch, strictly speaking, the source of all knowledge.)
which has "proceeded from thee for a light of the people" (Isa. li. 4), and
the nations "hear and say, It is truth" (Isa. xliii. 9). But with "the
portion of my people" (Jer. x. 16), Jacob, "the lot of my inheritance"
(Deut. xxxii. 9), it is not so. This nation, "the ancient people" (Isa.
xliv. 7), which "remembers the former things and considers the things of
old (Isa. xliii. 18), "knows not, neither doth it understand" (Psalm
lxxxii. 5), that by thy Torah (instruction or theory) thou hast thrown
light upon their Torah (the Law), and that the eyes of the Hebrews (277/3.
One letter in this word changed would make the word "blind," which is what
Isaiah uses in the passage alluded to.) "can now see out of obscurity and
out of darkness" (Isa. xxix. 18). Therefore "I arose" (Judges v. 7) and
wrote this book, "Toledoth Adam" ("the generations of man," Gen. v. 1), to
teach the children of my people, the seed of Jacob, the Torah (instruction)
which thou hast given for an inheritance to all the nations of the earth.
And I have "proceeded to do a marvellous work among this people, even a
marvellous work and a wonder" (Isa. xxix. 14), enabling them now to read in
the Torah of Moses our teacher, "plainly and giving the sense" (Neh. viii.
8), that which thou hast given in thy Torahs (works of instruction). And
when my people perceive that thy view has by no means "gone astray" (Num.
v. 12, 19, etc.) from the Torah of God, they will hold thy name in the
highest reverence, and "will at the same time glorify the God of Israel"
(Isa. xxix. 23).
"The vision of all this" (Isa. xxix. 11) thou shalt see, O Prince of
Wisdom, in this book, "which goeth before me" (Gen. xxxii. 21); and
whatever thy large understanding finds to criticise in it, come, "write it
in a table and note it in a book" (Isa. xxx. 8); and allow me to name my
work with thy name, which is glorified and greatly revered by
Naphtali Hallevi [i.e. the Levite].
Dated here in the city of Radom, in the province of Poland, in the month of
Nisan in the year 636, according to the lesser computation (i.e. A.M.
636 = A.D. 1876).
LETTER 278. TO OTTO ZACHARIAS.
When I was on board the "Beagle" I believed in the permanence of species,
but, as far as I can remember, vague doubts occasionally flitted across my
mind. On my return home in the autumn of 1836 I immediately began to
prepare my journal for publication, and then saw how many facts indicated
the common descent of species (278/1. "The facts to which reference is
here made were, without doubt, eminently fitted to attract the attention of
a philosophical thinker; but until the relations of the existing with the
extinct species and of the species of the different geographical areas,
with one another were determined with some exactness, they afforded but an
unsafe foundation for speculation. It was not possible that this
determination should have been effected before the return of the "Beagle"
to England; and thus the date which Darwin (writing in 1837) assigns to the
dawn of the new light which was rising in his mind becomes intelligible."--
From "Darwiniana," Essays by Thomas H. Huxley, London, 1893; pages 274-5.),
so that in July, 1837, I opened a notebook to record any facts which might
bear on the question; but I did not become convinced that species were
mutable until, I think, two or three years had elapsed. (278/2. On this
last point see page 38.)
LETTER 279. TO G.J. ROMANES.
(279/1. The following letter refers to MS. notes by Romanes, which we have
not seen. Darwin's remarks on it are, however, sufficiently clear.)
My address will be "Bassett, Southampton," June 11th .
I have received the crossing paper which you were so kind as to send me.
It is very clear, and I quite agree with it; but the point in question has
not been a difficulty to me, as I have never believed in a new form
originating from a single variation. What I have called unconscious
selection by man illustrates, as it seems to me, the same principle as
yours, within the same area. Man purchases the individual animals or
plants which seem to him the best in any respect--some more so, and some
less so--and, without any matching or pairing, the breed in the course of
time is surely altered. The absence in numerous instances of intermediate
or blending forms, in the border country between two closely allied
geographical races or close species, seemed to me a greater difficulty when
I discussed the subject in the "Origin."
With respect to your illustration, it formerly drove me half mad to attempt
to account for the increase or diminution of the productiveness of an
organism; but I cannot call to mind where my difficulty lay. (279/2. See
Letters 209-16.) Natural Selection always applies, as I think, to each
individual and its offspring, such as its seeds, eggs, which are formed by
the mother, and which are protected in various ways. (279/3. It was in
regard to this point that Romanes had sent the MS. to Darwin. In a letter
of June 16th he writes: "It was with reference to the possibility of
Natural Selection acting on organic types as distinguished from
individuals,--a possibility which you once told me did not seem at all
clear.") There does not seem any difficulty in understanding how the
productiveness of an organism might be increased; but it was, as far as I
can remember, in reducing productiveness that I was most puzzled. But why
I scribble about this I know not.
I have read your review of Mr. Allen's book (279/4. See "Nature" (June
7th, 1877, page 98), a review of Grant Allen's "Physiological
Aesthetics."), and it makes me more doubtful, even, than I was before
whether he has really thrown much light on the subject.
I am glad to hear that some physiologists take the same view as I did about
your giving too much credit to H. Spencer--though, heaven knows, this is a
rare fault. (279/5. The reference is to Romanes' lecture on Medusa, given
at the Royal Institution, May 25th. (See "Nature," XVI., pages 231, 269,
289.) It appears from a letter of Romanes (June 6th) that it was the
abstract in the "Times" that gave the impression referred to. References
to Mr. Spencer's theories of nerve-genesis occur in "Nature," pages 232,
The more I think of your medusa-nerve-work the more splendid it seems to
LETTER 280. TO A. DE CANDOLLE.
Down, August 3rd, 1877.
I must have the pleasure of thanking you for your long and interesting
letter. The cause and means of the transition from an hermaphrodite to a
unisexual condition seems to me a very perplexing problem, and I shall be
extremely glad to read your remarks on Smilax, whenever I receive the essay
which you kindly say that you will send me. (280/1. "Monographiae
Phanerogamarum," Volume I. In his treatment of the Smilaceae, De Candolle
distinguishes:--Heterosmilax which has dioecious flowers without a trace of
aborted stamens or pistils, Smilax with sterile stamens in the female
flowers, and Rhipogonum with hermaphrodite flowers.) There is much justice
in your criticisms (280/2. The passage criticised by De Candolle is in
"Forms of Flowers" (page 7): "It is a natural inference that their
corollas have been increased in size for this special purpose." De
Candolle goes on to give an account of the "recherche linguistique," which,
with characteristic fairness, he undertook to ascertain whether the word
"purpose" differs in meaning from the corresponding French word "but.") on
my use of the terms object, end, purpose; but those who believe that organs
have been gradually modified for Natural Selection for a special purpose
may, I think, use the above terms correctly, though no conscious being has
intervened. I have found much difficulty in my occasional attempts to
avoid these terms, but I might perhaps have always spoken of a beneficial
or serviceable effect. My son Francis will be interested by hearing about
Smilax. He has dispatched to you a copy of his paper on the glands of
Dipsacus (280/3. "Quart. Journ. Mic. Sci." 1877.), and I hope that you
will find time to read it, for the case seems to me a new and highly
remarkable one. We are now hard at work on an attempt to make out the
function or use of the bloom or waxy secretion on the leaves and fruit of
many plants; but I doubt greatly whether our experiments will tell us much.
(280/4. "As it is we have made out clearly that with some plants (chiefly
succulent) the bloom checks evaporation--with some certainly prevents
attacks of insects; with some sea-shore plants prevents injury from salt-
water, and I believe, with a few prevents injury from pure water resting on
the leaves." (See letter to Sir W. Thiselton-Dyer, "Life and Letters,"
III., page 341. A paper on the same subject by Francis Darwin was
published in the "Journ. Linn. Soc." XXII.)) If you have any decided
opinion whether plants with conspicuously glaucous leaves are more frequent
in hot than in temperate or cold, in dry than in damp countries, I should
be grateful if you would add to your many kindnesses by informing me. Pray
give my kind remembrances to your son, and tell him that my son has been
trying on a large scale the effects of feeding Drosera with meat, and the
results are most striking and far more favourable than I anticipated.
LETTER 281. TO G.J. ROMANES.
(281/1. Published in the "Life and Letters" of Romanes, page 66.)
Down, Saturday Night .
I have just finished your lecture (281/2. "The Scientific Evidence of
Organic Evolution: a Discourse" (delivered before the Philosophical
Society of Ross-shire), Inverness, 1877. It was reprinted in the
"Fortnightly Review," and was afterwards worked up into a book under the
above title.); it is an admirable scientific argument, and most powerful.
I wish that it could be sown broadcast throughout the land. Your courage
is marvellous, and I wonder that you were not stoned on the spot--and in
Scotland! Do please tell me how it was received in the Lecture Hall.
About man being made like a monkey (page 37 (281/3. "And if you reject the
natural explanation of hereditary descent, you can only suppose that the
Deity, in creating man, took the most scrupulous pains to make him in the
image of the ape" ("Discourse," page 37).)) is quite new to me, and the
argument in an earlier place (page 8 (281/4. At page 8 of the "Discourse"
the speaker referred to the law "which Sir William Hamilton called the Law
of Parsimony--or the law which forbids us to assume the operation of higher
causes when lower ones are found sufficient to explain the desired
effects," as constituting the "only logical barrier between Science and
Superstition.")) on the law of parsimony admirably put. Yes, page 21
(281/5. "Discourse," page 21. If we accept the doctrines of individual
creations and ideal types, we must believe that the Deity acted "with no
other apparent motive than to suggest to us, by every one of the observable
facts, that the ideal types are nothing other than the bonds of a lineal
descent.") is new to me. All strike me as very clear, and, considering
small space, you have chosen your lines of reasoning excellently.
The few last pages are awfully powerful, in my opinion.
Sunday Morning.--The above was written last night in the enthusiasm of the
moment, and now--this dark, dismal Sunday morning--I fully agree with what
I am very sorry to hear about the failures in the graft experiments, and
not from your own fault or ill-luck. Trollope in one of his novels gives
as a maxim of constant use by a brickmaker--"It is dogged as does it"
(281/6. "Tell 'ee what, Master Crawley;--and yer reverence mustn't think as
I means to be preaching; there ain't nowt a man can't bear if he'll only be
dogged. You go whome, Master Crawley, and think o' that, and may be it'll
do ye a good yet. It's dogged as does it. It ain't thinking about it."
(Giles Hoggett, the old Brickmaker, in "The Last Chronicle of Barset,"
Volume II., 1867, page 188.))--and I have often and often thought that this
is the motto for every scientific worker. I am sure it is yours--if you do
not give up pangenesis with wicked imprecations.
By the way, G. Jager has brought out in "Kosmos" a chemical sort of
pangenesis bearing chiefly on inheritance. (281/7. Several papers by
Jager on "Inheritance" were published in the first volume of "Kosmos,"
I cannot conceive why I have not offered my garden for your experiments. I
would attend to the plants, as far as mere care goes, with pleasure; but
Down is an awkward place to reach.
Would it be worth while to try if the "Fortnightly" would republish it
[i.e. the lecture]?
LETTER 282. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
(282/1. In 1877 the honorary degree of LL.D. was conferred on Mr. Darwin
by the University of Cambridge. At the dinner given on the occasion by the
Philosophical Society, Mr. Huxley responded to the toast of the evening
with the speech of which an authorised version is given by Mr. L. Huxley in
the "Life and Letters" of his father (Volume I., page 479). Mr. Huxley
said, "But whether the that doctrine [of evolution] be true or whether it
be false, I wish to express the deliberate opinion, that from Aristotle's
great summary of the biological knowledge of his time down to the present
day, there is nothing comparable to the "Origin of Species," as a connected
survey of the phenomena of life permeated and vivified by a central idea."
In the first part of the speech there was a brilliant sentence which he
described as a touch of the whip "tied round with ribbons," and this was
perhaps a little hard on the supporters of evolution in the University.
Mr. Huxley said "Instead of offering her honours when they ran a chance of
being crushed beneath the accumulated marks of approbation of the whole
civilised world, the University has waited until the trophy was finished,
and has crowned the edifice with the delicate wreath of academic
Down, Monday night, November 19th .
I cannot rest easy without telling you more gravely than I did when we met
for five minutes near the Museum, how deeply I have felt the many generous
things (as far as Frank could remember them) which you said about me at the
dinner. Frank came early next morning boiling over with enthusiasm about
your speech. You have indeed always been to me a most generous friend, but
I know, alas, too well how greatly you overestimate me. Forgive me for
bothering you with these few lines.
(282/2. The following extract from a letter (February 10th, 1878) to his
old schoolfellow, Mr. J. Price, gives a characteristic remark about the
"I am very much obliged for your kind congratulations about the LL.D. Why
the Senate conferred it on me I know not in the least. I was astonished to
hear that the R. Prof. of Divinity and several other great Dons attended,
and several such men have subscribed, as I am informed, for the picture for
the University to commemorate the honour conferred on me."
LETTER 283. TO W. BOWMAN.
(283/1. We have not discovered to what prize the following letter to the
late Sir W. Bowman (the well known surgeon) refers.)
Down, February 22nd, 1878.
I received your letter this morning, and it was quite impossible that you
should receive an answer by 4 p.m. to-day. But this does not signify in
the least, for your proposal seems to me a very good one, and I most
entirely agree with you that it is far better to suggest some special
question rather than to have a general discussion compiled from books. The
rule that the Essay must be "illustrative of the wisdom and beneficence of
the Almighty" would confine the subjects to be proposed. With respect to
the Vegetable Kingdom, I could suggest two or three subjects about which,
as it seems to me, information is much required; but these subjects would
require a long course of experiment, and unfortunately there is hardly any
one in this country who seems inclined to devote himself to experiments.
LETTER 284. TO J. TORBITT.
(284/1. Mr. Torbitt was engaged in trying to produce by methodical
selection and cross-fertilisation a fungus-proof race of the potato. The
plan is fully described in the "Life and Letters," III., page 348. The
following letter is given in additional illustration of the keen interest
Mr. Darwin took in the project.)
Down, Monday, March 4th, 1878.
I have nothing good to report. Mr. Caird called upon me yesterday; both he
and Mr. Farrer (284/2. The late Lord Farrer.) have been most energetic and
obliging. There is no use in thinking about the Agricultural Society. Mr.
Caird has seen several persons on the subject, especially Mr. Carruthers,
Botanist to the Society. He (Mr. Carruthers) thinks the attempt hopeless,
but advances in a long memorandum sent to Mr. Caird, reasons which I am
convinced are not sound. He specifies two points, however, which are well
worthy of your consideration--namely, that a variety should be tested three
years before its soundness can be trusted; and especially it should be
grown under a damp climate. Mr. Carruthers' opinion on this head is
valuable because he was employed by the Society in judging the varieties
sent in for the prize offered a year or two ago. If I had strength to get
up a memorial to Government, I believe that I could succeed; for Sir J.
Hooker writes that he believes you are on the right path; but I do not know
to whom else to apply whose judgment would have weight with Government, and
I really have not strength to discuss the matter and convert persons.
At Mr. Farrer's request, when we hoped the Agricultural Society might
undertake it, I wrote to him a long letter giving him my opinion on the
subject; and this letter Mr. Caird took with him yesterday, and will
consider with Mr. Farrer whether any application can be made to Government.
I am, however, far from sanguine. I shall see Mr. Farrer this evening, and
will do what I can. When I receive back my letter I will send it to you
for your perusal.
After much reflection it seems to me that your best plan will be, if we
fail to get Government aid, to go on during the present year, on a reduced
scale, in raising new cross-fertilised varieties, and next year, if you are
able, testing the power of endurance of only the most promising kind. If
it were possible it would be very advisable for you to get some grown on
the wet western side of Ireland. If you succeed in procuring a fungus-
proof variety you may rely on it that its merits would soon become known
locally and it would afterwards spread rapidly far and wide. Mr. Caird
gave me a striking instance of such a case in Scotland. I return home to-
I have the pleasure to enclose a cheque for 100 pounds. If you receive a
Government grant, I ought to be repaid.
P.S. If I were in your place I would not expend any labour or money in
publishing what you have already done, or in sending seeds or tubers to any
one. I would work quietly on till some sure results were obtained. And
these would be so valuable that your work in this case would soon be known.
I would also endeavour to pass as severe a judgment as possible on the
state of the tubers and plants.
LETTER 285. TO E. VON MOJSISOVICS.
Down, June 1st, 1878.
I have at last found time to read [the] first chapter of your "Dolomit
Riffe" (285/1. "Dolomitriffe Sudtirols und Venetiens." Wien, 1878.), and
have been exceedingly interested by it. What a wonderful change in the
future of geological chronology you indicate, by assuming the descent-
theory to be established, and then taking the graduated changes of the same
group of organisms as the true standard! I never hoped to live to see such
a step even proposed by any one. (285/2. Published in "Life and Letters,"
III., pages 234, 235.)
Nevertheless, I saw dimly that each bed in a formation could contain only
the organisms proper to a certain depth, and to other there existing
conditions, and that all the intermediate forms between one marine species
and another could rarely be preserved in the same place and bed. Oppel,
Neumayr, and yourself will confer a lasting and admirable service on the
noble science of Geology, if you can spread your views so as to be
generally known and accepted.
With respect to the continental and oceanic periods common to the whole
northern hemisphere, to which you refer, I have sometimes speculated that
the present distribution of the land and sea over the world may have
formerly been very different to what it now is; and that new genera and
families may have been developed on the shores of isolated tracts in the
south, and afterwards spread to the north.
LETTER 286. TO J.W. JUDD.
Down, June 27th, 1878.
I am heartily glad to hear of your intended marriage. A good wife is the
supreme blessing in this life, and I hope and believe from what you say
that you will be as happy as I have been in this respect. May your future
geological work be as valuable as that which you have already done; and
more than this need not be wished for any man. The practical teaching of
Geology seems an excellent idea.
Many thanks for Neumayr, (286/1. Probably a paper on "Die Congerien und
Paludinenschichten Slavoniens und deren Fauna. Ein Beitrag zur Descendenz-
Theorie," "Wien. Geol. Abhandl." VII. (Heft 3), 1874-82.), but I have
already received and read a copy of the same, or at least of a very similar
essay, and admirably good it seemed to me.
This essay, and one by Mojsisovics (286/2. See note to Letter 285.), which
I have lately read, show what Palaeontology in the future will do for the
classification and sequence of formations. It delighted me to see so
inverted an order of proceeding--viz., the assuming the descent of species
as certain, and then taking the changes of closely allied forms as the
standard of geological time. My health is better than it was a few years
ago, but I never pass a day without much discomfort and the sense of
(286/3. We owe to Professor Judd the following interesting recollections
of Mr. Darwin, written about 1883:--
"On this last occasion, when I congratulated him on his seeming better
condition of health, he told me of the cause for anxiety which he had in
the state of his heart. Indeed, I cannot help feeling that he had a kind
of presentiment that his end was approaching. When I left him, he insisted
on conducting me to the door, and there was that in his tone and manner
which seemed to convey to me the sad intelligence that it was not merely a
temporary farewell, though he himself was perfectly cheerful and happy.
"It is impossible for me adequately to express the impression made upon my
mind by my various conversations with Mr. Darwin. His extreme modesty led
him to form the lowest estimate of his own labours, and a correspondingly
extravagant idea of the value of the work done by others. His deference to
the arguments and suggestions of men greatly his juniors, and his
unaffected sympathy in their pursuits, was most marked and characteristic;
indeed, he, the great master of science, used to speak, and I am sure felt,
as though he were appealing to superior authority for information in all
his conversations. It was only when a question was fully discussed with
him that one became conscious of the fund of information he could bring to
its elucidation, and the breadth of thought with which he had grasped it.
Of his gentle, loving nature, of which I had so many proofs, I need not
write; no one could be with him, even for a few minutes, without being
deeply impressed by his grateful kindliness and goodness.")
LETTER 287. TO COUNT SAPORTA.
Down, August 15th, 1878.
I thank you very sincerely for your kind and interesting letter. It would
be false in me to pretend that I care very much about my election to the
Institute, but the sympathy of some few of my friends has gratified me
I am extremely glad to hear that you are going to publish a work on the
more ancient fossil plants; and I thank you beforehand for the volume which
you kindly say that you will send me. I earnestly hope that you will give,
at least incidentally, the results at which you have arrived with respect
to the more recent Tertiary plants; for the close gradation of such forms
seems to me a fact of paramount importance for the principle of evolution.
Your cases are like those on the gradation in the genus Equus, recently
discovered by Marsh in North America.
LETTER 288. TO THE DUKE OF ARGYLL.
(288/1. The following letter was published in "Nature," March 5th, 1891,
Volume XLIII., page 415, together with a note from the late Duke of Argyll,
in which he stated that the letter had been written to him by Mr. Darwin in
reply to the question, "why it was that he did assume the unity of mankind
as descended from a single pair." The Duke added that in the reply Mr.
Darwin "does not repudiate this interpretation of his theory, but simply
proceeds to explain and to defend the doctrine." On a former occasion the
Duke of Argyll had "alluded as a fact to the circumstance that Charles
Darwin assumed mankind to have arisen at one place, and therefore in a
single pair." The letter from Darwin was published in answer to some
scientific friends, who doubted the fact and asked for the reference on
which the statement was based.)
Down, September 23rd, 1878.
The problem which you state so clearly is a very interesting one, on which
I have often speculated. As far as I can judge, the improbability is
extreme that the same well-characterised species should be produced in two
distinct countries, or at two distinct times. It is certain that the same
variation may arise in two distinct places, as with albinism or with the
nectarine on peach-trees. But the evidence seems to me overwhelming that a
well-marked species is the product, not of a single or of a few variations,
but of a long series of modifications, each modification resulting chiefly
from adaptation to infinitely complex conditions (including the inhabitants
of the same country), with more or less inheritance of all the preceding
modifications. Moreover, as variability depends more on the nature of the
organism than on that of the environment, the variations will tend to
differ at each successive stage of descent. Now it seems to me improbable
in the highest degree that a species should ever have been exposed in two
places to infinitely complex relations of exactly the same nature during a
long series of modifications. An illustration will perhaps make what I
have said clearer, though it applies only to the less important factors of
inheritance and variability, and not to adaptation--viz., the improbability
of two men being born in two countries identical in body and mind. If,
however, it be assumed that a species at each successive stage of its
modification was surrounded in two distinct countries or times, by exactly
the same assemblage of plants and animals, and by the same physical
conditions, then I can see no theoretical difficulty [in] such a species
giving birth to the new form in the two countries. If you will look to the
sixth edition of my "Origin," at page 100, you will find a somewhat
analogous discussion, perhaps more intelligible than this letter.
LETTER 289. W.T. THISELTON-DYER TO THE EDITOR OF "NATURE."
(289/1. The following letter ("Nature," Volume XLIII., page 535)
criticises the interpretation given by the Duke to Mr. Darwin's letter.)
Royal Gardens, Kew, March 27th .
In "Nature" of March 5th (page 415), the Duke of Argyll has printed a very
interesting letter of Mr. Darwin's, from which he drew the inference that
the writer "assumed mankind to have arisen...in a single pair." I do not
think myself that the letter bears this interpretation. But the point in
its most general aspect is a very important one, and is often found to
present some difficulty to students of Mr. Darwin's writings.
Quite recently I have found by accident, amongst the papers of the late Mr.
Bentham at Kew, a letter of friendly criticism from Mr. Darwin upon the
presidential address which Mr. Bentham delivered to the Linnean Society on
May 24th, 1869. This letter, I think, has been overlooked and not
published previously. In it Mr. Darwin expresses himself with regard to
the multiple origin of races and some other points in very explicit
language. Prof. Meldola, to whom I mentioned in conversation the existence
of the letter, urged me strongly to print it. This, therefore, I now do,
with the addition of a few explanatory notes.
LETTER 290. TO G. BENTHAM.
Down, November 25th, 1869.
(290/1. The notes to this letter are by Sir W. Thiselton-Dyer, and
appeared in "Nature," loc. cit.)
I was greatly interested by your address, which I have now read thrice, and
which I believe will have much influence on all who read it. But you are
mistaken in thinking that I ever said you were wrong on any point. All
that I meant was that on certain points, and these very doubtful points, I
was inclined to differ from you. And now, on further considering the point
on which some two or three months ago I felt most inclined to differ--viz.,
on isolation--I find I differ very little. What I have to say is really
not worth saying, but as I should be very sorry not to do whatever you
asked, I will scribble down the slightly dissentient thoughts which have
occurred to me. It would be an endless job to specify the points in which
you have interested me; but I may just mention the relation of the extreme
western flora of Europe (some such very vague thoughts have crossed my
mind, relating to the Glacial period) with South Africa, and your remarks
on the contrast of passive and active distribution.
Page lxx.--I think the contingency of a rising island, not as yet fully
stocked with plants, ought always to be kept in mind when speaking of
Page lxxiv.--I have met with nothing which makes me in the least doubt that
large genera present a greater number of varieties relatively to their size
than do small genera. (290/2. Bentham thought "degree of variability...
like other constitutional characters, in the first place an individual one,
which...may become more or less hereditary, and therefore specific; and
thence, but in a very faint degree, generic." He seems to mean to argue
against the conclusion which Sir Joseph Hooker had quoted from Mr. Darwin
that "species of large genera are more variable than those of small." [On
large genera varying, see Letter 53.]) Hooker was convinced by my data,
never as yet published in full, only abstracted in the "Origin."
Page lxxviii.--I dispute whether a new race or species is necessarily, or
even generally, descended from a single or pair of parents. The whole body
of individuals, I believe, become altered together--like our race-horses,
and like all domestic breeds which are changed through "unconscious
selection" by man. (290/3. Bentham had said: "We must also admit that
every race has probably been the offspring of one parent or pair of
parents, and consequently originated in one spot." The Duke of Argyll
inverts the proposition.)
When such great lengths of time are considered as are necessary to change a
specific form, I greatly doubt whether more or less rapid powers of
multiplication have more than the most insignificant weight. These powers,
I think, are related to greater or less destruction in early life.
Page lxxix.--I still think you rather underrate the importance of
isolation. I have come to think it very important from various grounds;
the anomalous and quasi-extinct forms on islands, etc., etc., etc.
With respect to areas with numerous "individually durable" forms, can it be
said that they generally present a "broken" surface with "impassable
barriers"? This, no doubt, is true in certain cases, as Teneriffe. But
does this hold with South-West Australia or the Cape? I much doubt. I
have been accustomed to look at the cause of so many forms as being partly
an arid or dry climate (as De Candolle insists) which indirectly leads to
diversified [?] conditions; and, secondly, to isolation from the rest of
the world during a very long period, so that other more dominant forms have
not entered, and there has been ample time for much specification and
adaptation of character.
Page lxxx.--I suppose you think that the Restiaceae, Proteaceae (290/4. It
is doubtful whether Bentham did think so. In his 1870 address he says: "I
cannot resist the opinion that all presumptive evidence is against European
Proteaceae, and that all direct evidence in their favour has broken down
upon cross-examination."), etc., etc., once extended over the world,
leaving fragments in the south.
You in several places speak of distribution of plants as if exclusively
governed by soil and climate. I know that you do not mean this, but I
regret whenever a chance is omitted of pointing out that the struggle with
other plants (and hostile animals) is far more important.
I told you that I had nothing worth saying, but I have given you my
How detestable are the Roman numerals! why should not the President's
addresses, which are often, and I am sure in this case, worth more than all
the rest of the number, be paged with Christian figures?
LETTER 291. TO R. MELDOLA.
(291/1. "This letter was in reply to a suggestion that in his preface Mr.
Darwin should point out by references to "The Origin of Species" and his
other writings how far he had already traced out the path which Weismann
went over. The suggestion was made because in a great many of the
continental writings upon the theory of descent, many of the points which
had been clearly foreshadowed, and in some cases even explicitly stated by
Darwin, had been rediscovered and published as though original. In the
notes to my edition of Weismann I have endeavoured to do Darwin full
justice.--R.M." See Letter 310.)
4, Bryanston Street, November 26th, 1878.
I am very sorry to say that I cannot agree to your suggestion. An author
is never a fit judge of his own work, and I should dislike extremely
pointing out when and how Weismann's conclusions and work agreed with my
own. I feel sure that I ought not to do this, and it would be to me an
intolerable task. Nor does it seem to me the proper office of the preface,
which is to show what the book contains, and that the contents appear to me
valuable. But I can see no objection for you, if you think fit, to write
an introduction with remarks or criticisms of any kind. Of course, I would
be glad to advise you on any point as far as lay in my power, but as a
whole I could have nothing to do with it, on the grounds above specified,
that an author cannot and ought not to attempt to judge his own works, or
compare them with others. I am sorry to refuse to do anything which you
LETTER 292. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
Down, January 18th, 1879.
I have just finished your present of the Life of Hume (292/1. "Hume" in
Mr. Morley's "English Men of Letters" series. Of the biographical part of
this book Mr. Huxley wrote, in a letter to Mr. Skelton, January 1879 ("Life
of T.H. Huxley," II., page 7): "It is the nearest approach to a work of
fiction of which I have yet been guilty."), and must thank you for the
great pleasure which it has given me. Your discussions are, as it seems to
me, clear to a quite marvellous degree, and many of the little interspersed
flashes of wit are delightful. I particularly enjoyed the pithy judgment
in about five words on Comte. (292/2. Possibly the passage referred to is
on page 52.) Notwithstanding the clearness of every sentence, the subjects
are in part so difficult that I found them stiff reading. I fear,
therefore, that it will be too stiff for the general public; but I heartily
hope that this will prove to be a mistake, and in this case the
intelligence of the public will be greatly exalted in my eyes. The writing
of this book must have been awfully hard work, I should think.
LETTER 293. TO F. MULLER.
Down, March 4th .
I thank you cordially for your letter. Your facts and discussion on the
loss of the hairs on the legs of the caddis-flies seem to me the most
important and interesting thing which I have read for a very long time. I
hope that you will not disapprove, but I have sent your letter to "Nature"
(293/1. Fritz Muller, "On a Frog having Eggs on its Back--On the Abortion
of the Hairs on the Legs of certain Caddis-Flies, etc.": Muller's letter
and one from Charles Darwin were published in "Nature," Volume XIX., page
462, 1879.), with a few prefatory remarks, pointing out to the general
reader the importance of your view, and stating that I have been puzzled
for many years on this very point. If, as I am inclined to believe, your
view can be widely extended, it will be a capital gain to the doctrine of
evolution. I see by your various papers that you are working away
energetically, and, wherever you look, you seem to discover something quite
new and extremely interesting. Your brother also continues to do fine work
on the fertilisation of flowers and allied subjects.
I have little or nothing to tell you about myself. I go slowly crawling on
with my present subject--the various and complicated movements of plants.
I have not been very well of late, and am tired to-day, so will write no
more. With the most cordial sympathy in all your work, etc.
LETTER 294. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
Down, April 19th, 1879.
Many thanks for the book. (294/1. Ernst Hackel's "Freedom in Science and
Teaching," with a prefatory note by T.H. Huxley, 1879. Professor Hackel
has recently published (without permission) a letter in which Mr. Darwin
comments severely on Virchow. It is difficult to say which would have
pained Mr. Darwin more--the affront to a colleague, or the breach of
confidence in a friend.) I have read only the preface...It is capital, and
I enjoyed the tremendous rap on the knuckles which you gave Virchow at the
close. What a pleasure it must be to write as you can do!
LETTER 295. TO E.S. MORSE.
Down, October 21st, 1879.
Although you are so kind as to tell me not to write, I must just thank you
for the proofs of your paper, which has interested me greatly. (295/1.
See "The Shell Mounds of Omori" in the "Memoirs of the Science Department
of the Univ. of Tokio," Volume I., Part I., 1879. The ridges on Arca are
mentioned at page 25. In "Nature," April 15th, 1880, Mr. Darwin published
a letter by Mr. Morse relating to the review of the above paper, which
appeared in "Nature," XXI., page 350. Mr. Darwin introduces Mr. Morse's
letter with some prefatory remarks. The correspondence is republished in
the "American Naturalist," September, 1880.) The increase in the number of
ridges in the three species of Arca seems to be a very noteworthy fact, as
does the increase of size in so many, yet not all, the species. What a
constant state of fluctuation the whole organic world seems to be in! It
is interesting to hear that everywhere the first change apparently is in
the proportional numbers of the species. I was much struck with the fact
in the upraised shells of Coquimbo, in Chili, as mentioned in my
"Geological Observations on South America."
Of all the wonders in the world, the progress of Japan, in which you have
been aiding, seems to me about the most wonderful.
LETTER 296. TO A.R. WALLACE.
Down, January 5th 1880.
As this note requires no sort of answer, you must allow me to express my
lively admiration of your paper in the "Nineteenth Century." (296/1.
"Nineteenth Century," January 1880, page 93, "On the Origin of Species and
Genera.") You certainly are a master in the difficult art of clear
exposition. It is impossible to urge too often that the selection from a
single varying individual or of a single varying organ will not suffice.
You have worked in capitally Allen's admirable researches. (296/2. J.A.
Allen, "On the Mammals and Winter Birds of East Florida, etc." ("Bull.
Mus. Comp. Zoolog. Harvard," Volume II.) As usual, you delight to honour
me more than I deserve. When I have written about the extreme slowness of
Natural Selection (296/3. Mr. Wallace makes a calculation based on Allen's
results as to the very short period in which the formation of a race of
birds differing 10 to 20 per cent. from the average in length of wing and
strength of beak might conceivably be effected. He thinks that the
slowness of the action of Natural Selection really depends on the slowness
of the changes naturally occurring in the physical conditions, etc.) (in
which I hope I may be wrong), I have chiefly had in my mind the effects of
intercrossing. I subscribe to almost everything you say excepting the last
short sentence. (296/4. The passage in question is as follows: "I have
also attempted to show that the causes which have produced the separate
species of one genus, of one family, or perhaps of one order, from a common
ancestor, are not necessarily the same as those which have produced the
separate orders, classes, and sub-kingdoms from more remote common
ancestors. That all have been alike produced by 'descent with
modification' from a few primitive types, the whole body of evidence
clearly indicates; but while individual variation with Natural Selection is
proved to be adequate for the production of the former, we have no proof
and hardly any evidence that it is adequate to initiate those important
divergences of type which characterise the latter." In this passage stress
should be laid (as Mr. Wallace points out to us) on the word PROOF. He by
no means asserts that the causes which have produced the species of a genus
are inadequate to produce greater differences. His object is rather to
urge the difference between proof and probability.)
LETTER 297. TO J.H. FABRE.
(297/1. A letter to M. Fabre is given in "Life and Letters," III., page
220, in which the suggestion is made of rotating the insect before a
"homing" experiment occurs.)
Down, February 20th, 1880.
I thank you for your kind letter, and am delighted that you will try the
experiment of rotation. It is very curious that such a belief should be
held about cats in your country (297/2. M. Fabre had written from
Serignan, Vaucluse: "Parmi la population des paysans de mon village,
l'habitude est de faire tourner dans un sac le chat que l'on se propose de
porter ailleurs, et dont on veut empecher le retour. J'ignore si cette
pratique obtient du succes."), I never heard of anything of the kind in
England. I was led, as I believe, to think of the experiment from having
read in Wrangel's "Travels in Siberia" (297/3. Admiral Ferdinand Petrovich
von Wrangell, "Le Nord de la Siberie, Voyage parmi les Peuplades de la
Russie asiatique, etc." Paris, 1843.) of the wonderful power which the
Samoyedes possess of keeping their direction in a fog whilst travelling in
a tortuous line through broken ice. With respect to cats, I have seen an
account that in Belgium there is a society which gives prizes to the cat
which can soonest find its way home, and for this purpose they are carried
to distant parts of the city.
Here would be a capital opportunity for trying rotation.
I am extremely glad to hear that your book will probably be translated into
P.S.--I shall be much pleased to hear the result of your experiments.
LETTER 298. TO J.H. FABRE.
Down, January 21st, 1881.
I am much obliged for your very interesting letter. Your results appear to
me highly important, as they eliminate one means by which animals might
perhaps recognise direction; and this, from what has been said about
savages, and from our own consciousness, seemed the most probable means.
If you think it worth while, you can of course mention my name in relation
to this subject.
Should you succeed in eliminating a sense of the magnetic currents of the
earth, you would leave the field of investigation quite open. I suppose
that even those who still believe that each species was separately created
would admit that certain animals possess some sense by which they perceive
direction, and which they use instinctively. On mentioning the subject to
my son George, who is a mathematician and knows something about magnetism,
he suggested making a very thin needle into a magnet; then breaking it into
very short pieces, which would still be magnetic, and fastening one of
these pieces with some cement on the thorax of the insect to be
He believes that such a little magnet, from its close proximity to the
nervous system of the insect, would affect it more than would the
I have received your essay on Halictus (298/1. "Sur les Moeurs et la
Parthenogese des Halictes" ("Ann. Sc. Nat." IX., 1879-80).), which I am
sure that I shall read with much interest.
LETTER 299. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
(299/1. On April 9th, 1880, Mr. Huxley lectured at the Royal Institution
on "The Coming of Age of the Origin of Species." The lecture was published
in "Nature" and in Huxley's "Collected Essays," Volume II., page 227.
Darwin's letter to Huxley on the subject is given in "Life and Letters,"
III., page 240; in Huxley's reply of May 10th ("Life and Letters of T.H.
Huxley," II., page 12) he writes: "I hope you do not imagine because I had
nothing to say about 'Natural Selection' that I am at all weak of faith on
that article...But the first thing seems to me to be to drive the fact of
evolution into people's heads; when that is once safe, the rest will come
Down, May 11th, 1880.
I had no intention to make you write to me, or expectation of your doing
so; but your note has been so far "cheerier" (299/2. "You are the
cheeriest letter-writer I know": Huxley to Darwin. See Huxley's "Life,"
II., page 12.) to me than mine could have been to you, that I must and will
write again. I saw your motive for not alluding to Natural Selection, and
quite agreed in my mind in its wisdom. But at the same time it occurred to
me that you might be giving it up, and that anyhow you could not safely
allude to it without various "provisos" too long to give in a lecture. If
I think continuously on some half-dozen structures of which we can at
present see no use, I can persuade myself that Natural Selection is of
quite subordinate importance. On the other hand, when I reflect on the
innumerable structures, especially in plants, which twenty years ago would
have been called simply "morphological" and useless, and which are now
known to be highly important, I can persuade myself that every structure
may have been developed through Natural Selection. It is really curious
how many out of a list of structures which Bronn enumerated, as not
possibly due to Natural Selection because of no functional importance, can
now be shown to be highly important. Lobed leaves was, I believe, one
case, and only two or three days ago Frank showed me how they act in a
manner quite sufficiently important to account for the lobing of any large
leaf. I am particularly delighted at what you say about domestic dogs,
jackals, and wolves, because from mere indirect evidence I arrived in
"Varieties of Domestic Animals" at exactly the same conclusion (299/3. Mr.
Darwin's view was that domestic dogs descend from more than one wild
species.) with respect to the domestic dogs of Europe and North America.
See how important in another way this conclusion is; for no one can doubt
that large and small dogs are perfectly fertile together, and produce
fertile mongrels; and how well this supports the Pallasian doctrine (299/4.
See Letter 80.) that domestication eliminates the sterility almost
universal between forms slowly developed in a state of nature.
I humbly beg your pardon for bothering you with so long a note; but it is
your own fault.
Plants are splendid for making one believe in Natural Selection, as will
and consciousness are excluded. I have lately been experimenting on such a
curious structure for bursting open the seed-coats: I declare one might as
well say that a pair of scissors or nutcrackers had been developed through
external conditions as the structure in question. (299/5. The peg or heel
in Cucurbita: see "Power of Movement in Plants" page 102.)
LETTER 300. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
Down, November 5th, 1880.
On reading over your excellent review (300/1. See "Nature," November 4th,
1880, page 1, a review of Volume I. of the publications of the
"Challenger," to which Sir Wyville Thomson contributed a General
Introduction.) with the sentence quoted from Sir Wyville Thomson, it seemed
to me advisable, considering the nature of the publication, to notice
"extreme variation" and another point. Now, will you read the enclosed,
and if you approve, post it soon. If you disapprove, throw it in the fire,
and thus add one more to the thousand kindnesses which you have done me.
Do not write: I shall see result in next week's "Nature." Please observe
that in the foul copy I had added a final sentence which I do not at first
copy, as it seemed to me inferentially too contemptuous; but I have now
pinned it to the back, and you can send it or not, as you think best,--that
is, if you think any part worth sending. My request will not cost you much
trouble--i.e. to read two pages, for I know that you can decide at once. I
heartily enjoyed my talk with you on Sunday morning.
P.S.--If my manuscript appears too flat, too contemptuous, too spiteful, or
too anything, I earnestly beseech you to throw it into the fire.
LETTER 301. CHARLES DARWIN TO THE EDITOR OF "NATURE."
(301/1. "Nature," November 11th, 1880, page 32.)
Down, November 5th, 1880.
Sir Wyville Thomson and Natural Selection.
I am sorry to find that Sir Wyville Thomson does not understand the
principle of Natural Selection, as explained by Mr. Wallace and myself. If
he had done so, he could not have written the following sentence in the
Introduction to the Voyage of the "Challenger": "The character of the
abyssal fauna refuses to give the least support to the theory which refers
the evolution of species to extreme variation guided only by Natural
Selection." This is a standard of criticism not uncommonly reached by
theologians and metaphysicians, when they write on scientific subjects, but
is something new as coming from a naturalist. Professor Huxley demurs to
it in the last number of "Nature"; but he does not touch on the expression
of extreme variation, nor on that of evolution being guided only by Natural
Selection. Can Sir Wyville Thomson name any one who has said that the
evolution of species depends only on Natural Selection? As far as concerns
myself, I believe that no one has brought forward so many observations on
the effects of the use and disuse of parts, as I have done in my "Variation
of Animals and Plants under Domestication"; and these observations were
made for this special object. I have likewise there adduced a considerable
body of facts, showing the direct action of external conditions on
organisms; though no doubt since my books were published much has been
learnt on this head. If Sir Wyville Thomson were to visit the yard of a
breeder, and saw all his cattle or sheep almost absolutely true--that is,
closely similar, he would exclaim: "Sir, I see here no extreme variation;
nor can I find any support to the belief that you have followed the
principle of selection in the breeding of your animals." From what I
formerly saw of breeders, I have no doubt that the man thus rebuked would
have smiled and said not a word. If he had afterwards told the story to
other breeders, I greatly fear that they would have used emphatic but
irreverent language about naturalists.
(301/2. The following is the passage omitted by the advice of Huxley: see
his "Life and Letters," II., page 14:--
"Perhaps it would have been wiser on my part to have remained quite silent,
like the breeder; for, as Prof. Sedgwick remarked many years ago, in
reference to the poor old Dean of York, who was never weary of inveighing
against geologists, a man who talks about what he does not in the least
understand, is invulnerable.")
LETTER 302. TO G.J. ROMANES.
(302/1. Part of this letter has been published in Mr. C. Barber's note on
"Graft-Hybrids of the Sugar-Cane," in "The Sugar-Cane," November 1896.)
Down, January 1st, 1881.
I send the MS., but as far as I can judge by just skimming it, it will be
of no use to you. It seems to bear on transitional forms. I feel sure
that I have other and better cases, but I cannot remember where to look.
I should have written to you in a few days on the following case. The
Baron de Villa Franca wrote to me from Brazil about two years ago,
describing new varieties of sugar-cane which he had raised by planting two
old varieties in apposition. I believe (but my memory is very faulty) that
I wrote that I could not believe in such a result, and attributed the new
varieties to the soil, etc. I believe that I did not understand what he
meant by apposition. Yesterday a packet of MS. arrived from the Brazilian
Legation, with a letter in French from Dr. Glass, Director of the Botanic
Gardens, describing fully how he first attempted grafting varieties of
sugar-cane in various ways, and always failed, and then split stems of two
varieties, bound them together and planted them, and then raised some new
and very valuable varieties, which, like crossed plants, seem to grow with
extra vigour, are constant, and apparently partake of the character of the
two varieties. The Baron also sends me an attested copy from a number of
Brazilian cultivators of the success of the plan of raising new varieties.
I am not sure whether the Brazilian Legation wishes me to return the
document, but if I do not hear in three or four days that they must be
returned, they shall be sent to you, for they seem to me well deserving
Perhaps if I had been contented with my hyacinth bulbs being merely bound
together without any true adhesion or rather growth together, I should have
succeeded like the old Dutchman.
There is a deal of superfluous verbiage in the documents, but I have marked
with pencil where the important part begins. The attestations are in
duplicate. Now, after reading them will you give me your opinion whether
the main parts are worthy of publication in "Nature": I am inclined to
think so, and it is good to encourage science in out-of-the-way parts of
Keep this note till you receive the documents or hear from me. I wonder
whether two varieties of wheat could be similarly treated? No, I suppose
not--from the want of lateral buds. I was extremely interested by your
abstract on suicide.
LETTER 303. TO K. SEMPER.
Down, February 6th, 1881.
Owing to all sorts of work, I have only just now finished reading your
"Natural Conditions of Existence." (303/1. Semper's "Natural Conditions
of Existence as they affect Animal Life" (International Science Series),
1881.) Although a book of small size, it contains an astonishing amount of
matter, and I have been particularly struck with the originality with which
you treat so many subjects, and at your scrupulous accuracy. In far the
greater number of points I quite follow you in your conclusions, but I
differ on some, and I suppose that no two men in the world would fully
agree on so many different subjects. I have been interested on so many
points, I can hardly say on which most. Perhaps as much on Geographical
Distribution as on any other, especially in relation to M. Wagner. (No!
no! about parasites interested me even more.) How strange that Wagner
should have thought that I meant by struggle for existence, struggle for
food. It is curious that he should not have thought of the endless
adaptations for the dispersal of seeds and the fertilisation of flowers.
Again I was much interested about Branchipus and Artemia. (303/2. The
reference is to Schmankewitsch's experiments, page 158: he kept Artemia
salina in salt-water, gradually diluted with fresh-water until it became
practically free from salt; the crustaceans gradually changed in the course
of generations, until they acquired the characters of the genus
Branchipus.) When I read imperfectly some years ago the original paper I
could not avoid thinking that some special explanation would hereafter be
found for so curious a case. I speculated whether a species very liable to
repeated and great changes of conditions, might not acquire a fluctuating
condition ready to be adapted to either conditions. With respect to Arctic
animals being white (page 116 of your book) it might perhaps be worth your
looking at what I say from Pallas' and my own observations in the "Descent
of Man" (later editions) Chapter VIII., page 229, and Chapter XVIII., page
I quite agree with what I gather to be your judgment, viz., that the direct
action of the conditions of life on organisms, or the cause of their
variability, is the most important of all subjects for the future. For
some few years I have been thinking of commencing a set of experiments on
plants, for they almost invariably vary when cultivated. I fancy that I
see my way with the aid of continued self-fertilisation. But I am too old,
and have not strength enough. Nevertheless the hope occasionally revives.
Finally let me thank you for the very kind manner in which you often refer
to my works, and for the even still kinder manner in which you disagree
With cordial thanks for the pleasure and instruction which I have derived
from your book, etc.
LETTER 304. TO COUNT SAPORTA.
Down, February 13th, 1881.
I received a week or two ago the work which you and Prof. Marion have been
so kind as to send me. (304/1. Probably "L'Evolution du Regne vegetal,"
I. "Cryptogames," Saporta & Marion, Paris, 1881.) When it arrived I was
much engaged, and this must be my excuse for not having sooner thanked you
for it, and it will likewise account for my having as yet read only the
But I now look forward with great pleasure to reading the whole
immediately. If I then have any remarks worth sending, which is not very
probable, I will write again. I am greatly pleased to see how boldly you
express your belief in evolution, in the preface. I have sometimes thought
that some of your countrymen have been a little timid in publishing their
belief on this head, and have thus failed in aiding a good cause.
LETTER 305. TO R.G. WHITEMAN.
Down, May 5th, 1881.
In the first edition of the "Origin," after the sentence ending with the
words "...insects in the water," I added the following sentence:--
"Even in so extreme a case as this, if the supply of insects were constant,
and if better adapted competitors did not already exist in the country, I
can see no difficulty in a race of bears being rendered by Natural
Selection more and more aquatic in their structures and habits, with larger
and larger mouths, till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale."
(305/1. See Letters 110 and 120.)
This sentence was omitted in the subsequent editions, owing to the advice
of Prof. Owen, as it was liable to be misinterpreted; but I have always
regretted that I followed this advice, for I still think the view quite
LETTER 306. TO A. HYATT.
Down, May 8th, 1881.
I am much obliged for your kind gift of "The Genesis, etc." (306/1. "The
Genesis of the Tertiary Species of Planorbis," in the "Boston Soc. Nat.
Hist. Anniversary Mem." 1880.), which I shall be glad to read, as the case
has always seemed to me a very curious one. It is all the kinder in you to
send me this book, as I am aware that you think that I have done nothing to
advance the good cause of the Descent-theory. (306/2. The above caused me
to write a letter expressing a feeling of regret and humiliation, which I
hope is still preserved, for certainly such a feeling, caused undoubtedly
by my writings, which dealt too exclusively with disagreements upon special
points, needed a strong denial. I have used the Darwinian theory in many
cases, especially in explaining the preservation of differences; and have
denied its application only in the preservation of fixed and hereditary
characteristics, which have become essentially homologous similarities.
(Note by Prof. Hyatt.))
(306/3. We have ventured to quote the passage from Prof. Hyatt's reply,
dated May 23rd, 1881:--
"You would think I was insincere, if I wrote you what I really felt with
regard to what you have done for the theory of Descent. Perhaps this essay
will lead you to a more correct view than you now have of my estimate, if I
can be said to have any claim to make an estimate of your work in this
direction. You will not take offence, however, if I tell you that your
strongest supporters can hardly give you greater esteem and honour. I have
striven to get a just idea of your theory, but no doubt have failed to
convey this in my publications as it ought to be done."
We find other equally strong and genuine expressions of respect in Prof.
LETTER 307. TO LORD FARRER.
(307/1. Mr. Graham's book, the "Creed of Science," is referred to in "Life
and Letters," I., page 315, where an interesting letter to the author is
printed. With regard to chance, Darwin wrote: "You have expressed my
inward conviction, though far more clearly and vividly than I could have
done, that the universe is not the result of chance.")
Down, August 28th, 1881.
I have been much interested by your letter, and am glad that you like Mr.
Graham's book...(307/2. In Lord Farrer's letter of August 27th he refers
to the old difficulty, in relation to design, of the existence of evil.)
Everything which I read now soon goes out of my head, and I had forgotten
that he implies that my views explain the universe; but it is a most
monstrous exaggeration. The more one thinks the more one feels the
hopeless immensity of man's ignorance. Though it does make one proud to
see what science has achieved during the last half-century. This has been
brought vividly before my mind by having just read most of the proofs of
Lubbock's Address for York (307/3. Lord Avebury was President of the
British Association in 1881.), in which he will attempt to review the
progress of all branches of science for the last fifty years.
I entirely agree with what you say about "chance," except in relation to
the variations of organic beings having been designed; and I imagine that
Mr. Graham must have used "chance" in relation only to purpose in the
origination of species. This is the only way I have used the word chance,
as I have attempted to explain in the last two pages of my "Variation under
On the other hand, if we consider the whole universe, the mind refuses to
look at it as the outcome of chance--that is, without design or purpose.
The whole question seems to me insoluble, for I cannot put much or any
faith in the so-called intuitions of the human mind, which have been
developed, as I cannot doubt, from such a mind as animals possess; and what
would their convictions or intuitions be worth? There are a good many
points on which I cannot quite follow Mr. Graham.
With respect to your last discussion, I dare say it contains very much
truth; but I cannot see, as far as happiness is concerned, that it can
apply to the infinite sufferings of animals--not only those of the body,
but those of the mind--as when a mother loses her offspring or a male his
female. If the view does not apply to animals, will it suffice for man?
But you may well complain of this long and badly-expressed note in my
dreadfully bad handwriting.
The death of my brother Erasmus is a very heavy loss to all of us in this
family. He was so kind-hearted and affectionate. Nor have I ever known
any one more pleasant. It was always a very great pleasure to talk with
him on any subject whatever, and this I shall never do again. The
clearness of his mind always seemed to me admirable. He was not, I think,
a happy man, and for many years did not value life, though never
complaining. I am so glad that he escaped very severe suffering during his
last few days. I shall never see such a man again.
Forgive me for scribbling this way, my dear Farrer.
LETTER 308. TO G.J. ROMANES.
(308/1. Romanes had reviewed Roux's "Struggle of Parts in the Organism" in
"Nature," September 20th, 1881, page 505. This led to an attack by the
Duke of Argyll (October 20th, page 581), followed by a reply by Romanes
(October 27th, page 604), a rejoinder by the Duke (November 3rd, page 6),
and finally by the letter of Romanes (November 10th, page 29) to which
Darwin refers. The Duke's "flourish" is at page 7: "I wish Mr. Darwin's
disciples would imitate a little of the dignified reticence of their
master. He walks with a patient and a stately step along the paths of
conscientious observation, etc., etc.")
Down, November 12th, 1881.
I must write to say how very much I admire your letter in the last
"Nature." I subscribe to every word that you say, and it could not be
expressed more clearly or vigorously. After the Duke's last letter and
flourish about me I thought it paltry not to say that I agreed with what
you had said. But after writing two folio pages I find I could not say
what I wished to say without taking up too much space; and what I had
written did not please me at all, so I tore it up, and now by all the gods
I rejoice that I did so, for you have put the case incomparably better than
I had done or could do.
Moreover, I hate controversy, and it wastes much time, at least with a man
who, like myself, can work for only a short time in a day. How in the
world you get through all your work astonishes me.
Now do not make me feel guilty by answering this letter, and losing some of
You ought not to swear at Roux's book, which has led you into this
controversy, for I am sure that your last letter was well worth writing--
not that it will produce any effect on the Duke.
LETTER 309. TO J. JENNER WEIR.
(309/1. On December 27th, 1881, Mr. Jenner Weir wrote to Mr. Darwin:
"After some hesitation in lieu of a Christmas card, I venture to give you
the return of some observations on mules made in Spain during the last two
years...It is a fact that the sire has the prepotency in the offspring, as
has been observed by most writers on that subject, including yourself. The
mule is more ass-like, and the hinny more horse-like, both in the
respective lengths of the ears and the shape of the tail; but one point I
have observed which I do not remember to have met with, and that is that
the coat of the mule resembles that of its dam the mare, and that of the
hinny its dam the ass, so that in this respect the prepotency of the sexes
is reversed." The hermaphroditism in lepidoptera, referred to below, is
said by Mr. Weir to occur notably in the case of the hybrids of Smerinthus
Down, December 29th, 1881.
I thank you for your "Christmas card," and heartily return your good
wishes. What you say about the coats of mules is new to me, as is the
statement about hermaphroditism in hybrid moths. This latter fact seems to
me particularly curious; and to make a very wild hypothesis, I should be
inclined to account for it by reversion to the primordial condition of the
two sexes being united, for I think it certain that hybridism does lead to
I keep fairly well, but have not much strength, and feel very old.
LETTER 310. TO R. MELDOLA.
Down, February 2nd, 1882.
I am very sorry that I can add nothing to my very brief notice, without
reading again Weismann's work and getting up the whole subject by reading
my own and other books, and for so much labour I have not strength. I have
now been working at other subjects for some years, and when a man grows as
old as I am, it is a great wrench to his brain to go back to old and half-
forgotten subjects. You would not readily believe how often I am asked
questions of all kinds, and quite lately I have had to give up much time to
do a work, not at all concerning myself, but which I did not like to
refuse. I must, however, somewhere draw the line, or my life will be a
misery to me.
I have read your preface, and it seems to me excellent. (310/1. "Studies
in the Theory of Descent." By A. Weismann. Translated and Edited by
Raphael Meldola; with a Prefatory Notice by C. Darwin and a Translator's
Preface. See Letter 291.) I am sorry in many ways, including the honour
of England as a scientific country, that your translation has as yet sold
badly. Does the publisher or do you lose by it? If the publisher, though
I shall be sorry for him, yet it is in the way of business; but if you
yourself lose by it, I earnestly beg you to allow me to subscribe a trifle,
viz., ten guineas, towards the expense of this work, which you have
undertaken on public grounds.
LETTER 311. TO W. HORSFALL.
Down, February 8th, 1882.