Part 9 out of 10
In the succession of the older Formations the species and genera of
trilobites do change, and then they all die out. To any one who believes
that geologists know the dawn of life (i.e., formations contemporaneous
with the first appearance of living creatures on the earth) no doubt the
sudden appearance of perfect trilobites and other organisms in the oldest
known life-bearing strata would be fatal to evolution. But I for one, and
many others, utterly reject any such belief. Already three or four piles
of unconformable strata are known beneath the Cambrian; and these are
generally in a crystalline condition, and may once have been charged with
With regard to animals and plants, the locomotive spores of some algae,
furnished with cilia, would have been ranked with animals if it had not
been known that they developed into algae.
LETTER 312. TO JOHN COLLIER.
Down, February 16th, 1882.
I must thank you for the gift of your Art Primer, which I have read with
much pleasure. Parts were too technical for me who could never draw a
line, but I was greatly interested by the whole of the first part. I wish
that you could explain why certain curved lines and symmetrical figures
give pleasure. But will not your brother artists scorn you for showing
yourself so good an evolutionist? Perhaps they will say that allowance
must be made for him, as he has allied himself to so dreadful a man as
Huxley. This reminds me that I have just been reading the last volume of
essays. By good luck I had not read that on Priestley (312/1. "Science
and Culture, and other Essays": London, 1881. The fifth Essay is on
Joseph Priestley (page 94).), and it strikes me as the most splendid essay
which I ever read. That on automatism (312/2. Essay IX. (page 199) is
entitled "On the Hypothesis that Animals are Automata, and its history.")
is wonderfully interesting: more is the pity, say I, for if I were as well
armed as Huxley I would challenge him to a duel on this subject. But I am
a deal too wise to do anything of the kind, for he would run me through the
body half a dozen times with his sharp and polished rapier before I knew
where I was. I did not intend to have scribbled all this nonsense, but
only to have thanked you for your present.
Everybody whom I have seen and who has seen your picture of me is delighted
with it. I shall be proud some day to see myself suspended at the Linnean
Society. (312/3. The portrait painted by Mr. Collier hangs in the
meeting-room of the Linnean Society.)
CHAPTER 1.VI.--GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION, 1843-1867.
LETTER 313. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, Tuesday [December 12th, 1843].
I am very much obliged to you for your interesting letter. I have long
been very anxious, even for as short a sketch as you have kindly sent me of
the botanical geography of the southern hemisphere. I shall be most
curious to see your results in detail. From my entire ignorance of Botany,
I am sorry to say that I cannot answer any of the questions which you ask
me. I think I mention in my "Journal" that I found my old friend the
southern beech (I cannot say positively which species), on the mountain-
top, in southern parts of Chiloe and at level of sea in lat. 45 deg, in
Chonos Archipelago. Would not the southern end of Chiloe make a good
division for you? I presume, from the collection of Brydges and Anderson,
Chiloe is pretty well-known, and southward begins a terra incognita. I
collected a few plants amongst the Chonos Islands. The beech being found
here and peat being found here, and general appearance of landscape,
connects the Chonos Islands and T. del Fuego. I saw the Alerce (313/1.
"Alerse" is the local name of a South American timber, described in Capt.
King's "Voyages of the 'Adventure' and 'Beagle,'" page 281, and rather
doubtfully identified with Thuja tetragona, Hook. ("Flora Antarctica,"
page 350.)) on mountains of Chiloe (on the mainland it grows to an enormous
size, and I always believed Alerce and Araucaria imbricata to be
identical), but I am ashamed to say I absolutely forget all about its
appearance. I saw some Juniper-like bush in T. del Fuego, but can tell you
no more about it, as I presume that you have seen Capt. King's collection
in Mr. Brown's possession, provisionally for the British Museum. I fear
you will be much disappointed in my few plants: an ignorant person cannot
collect; and I, moreover, lost one, the first, and best set of the Alpine
plants. On the other hand, I hope the Galapagos plants (313/2. See "Life
and Letters," II., pages 20, 21, for Sir J.D. Hooker's notes on the
beginning of his friendship with Mr. Darwin, and for the latter's letter on
the Galapagos plants being placed in Hooker's hands.) (judging from
Henslow's remarks) will turn out more interesting than you expect. Pray be
careful to observe, if I ever mark the individual islands of the Galapagos
Islands, for the reasons you will see in my "Journal." Menzies and Cumming
were there, and there are some plants (I think Mr. Bentham told me) at the
Horticultural Society and at the British Museum. I believe I collected no
plants at Ascension, thinking it well-known.
Is not the similarity of plants of Kerguelen Land and southern S. America
very curious? Is there any instance in the northern hemisphere of plants
being similar at such great distances? With thanks for your letter and for
your having undertaken my small collection of plants,
Believe me, my dear Sir,
Yours very truly,
Do remember my prayer, and write as well for botanical ignoramuses as for
great botanists. There is a paper of Carmichael (313/3. "Some Account of
the Island of Tristan da Cunha and of its Natural Productions."--"Linn.
Soc. Trans." XII., 1818, page 483.) on Tristan d'Acunha, which from the
want of general remarks and comparison, I found [torn out] to me a dead
letter.--I presume you will include this island in your views of the
P.S.--I have been looking at my poor miserable attempt at botanical-
landscape-remarks, and I see that I state that the species of beech which
is least common in T. del Fuego is common in the forest of Central Chiloe.
But I will enclose for you this one page of my rough journal.
LETTER 314. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, March 31st (1844).
I have been a shameful time in returning your documents, but I have been
very busy scientifically, and unscientifically in planting. I have been
exceedingly interested in the details about the Galapagos Islands. I need
not say that I collected blindly, and did not attempt to make complete
series, but just took everything in flower blindly. The flora of the
summits and bases of the islands appear wholly different; it may aid you in
observing whether the different islands have representative species filling
the same places in the economy of nature, to know that I collected plants
from the lower and dry region in all the islands, i.e., in the Chatham,
Charles, James, and Albemarle (the least on the latter); and that I was
able to ascend into the high and damp region only in James and Charles
Islands; and in the former I think I got every plant then in flower.
Please bear this in mind in comparing the representative species. (You
know that Henslow has described a new Opuntia from the Galapagos.) Your
observations on the distribution of large mundane genera have interested me
much; but that was not the precise point which I was curious to ascertain;
it has no necessary relation to size of genus (though perhaps your
statements will show that it has). It was merely this: suppose a genus
with ten or more species, inhabiting the ten main botanical regions, should
you expect that all or most of these ten species would have wide ranges
(i.e. were found in most parts) in their respective countries? (314/1.
This point is discussed in a letter in "Life and Letters," Volume II., page
25, but not, we think in the "Origin"; for letters on large genera
containing many varieties see "Life and Letters," Volume II., pages 102-7,
also in the "Origin," Edition I., page 53, Edition VI., page 44. In a
letter of April 5th, 1844, Sir J.D. Hooker gave his opinion: "On the whole
I believe that many individual representative species of large genera have
wide ranges, but I do not consider the fact as one of great value, because
the proportion of such species having a wide range is not large compared
with other representative species of the same genus whose limits are
It may be noted that in large genera the species often have small ranges
("Origin," Edition VI., page 45), and large genera are more commonly wide-
ranging than the reverse.) To give an example, the genus Felis is found in
every country except Australia, and the individual species generally range
over thousands of miles in their respective countries; on the other hand,
no genus of monkey ranges over so large a part of the world, and the
individual species in their respective countries seldom range over wide
spaces. I suspect (but am not sure) that in the genus Mus (the most
mundane genus of all mammifers) the individual species have not wide
ranges, which is opposed to my query.
I fancy, from a paper by Don, that some genera of grasses (i.e. Juncus or
Juncaceae) are widely diffused over the world, and certainly many of their
species have very wide ranges--in short, it seems that my question is
whether there is any relation between the ranges of genera and of
individual species, without any relation to the size of the genera. It is
evident a genus might be widely diffused in two ways: 1st, by many
different species, each with restricted ranges; and 2nd, by many or few
species with wide ranges. Any light which you could throw on this I should
be very much obliged for. Thank you most kindly, also, for your offer in a
former letter to consider any other points; and at some future day I shall
be most grateful for a little assistance, but I will not be unmerciful.
Swainson has remarked (and Westwood contradicted) that typical genera have
wide ranges: Waterhouse (without knowing these previous remarkers) made to
me the same observation: I feel a laudable doubt and disinclination to
believe any statement of Swainson; but now Waterhouse remarks it, I am
curious on the point. There is, however, so much vague in the meaning of
"typical forms," and no little ambiguity in the mere assertion of "wide
ranges" (for zoologists seldom go into strict and disagreeable arithmetic,
like you botanists so wisely do) that I feel very doubtful, though some
considerations tempt me to believe in this remark. Here again, if you can
throw any light, I shall be much obliged. After your kind remarks I will
not apologise for boring you with my vague queries and remarks.
LETTER 315. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, December 25th .
Happy Christmas to you.
(315/1. The following letter refers to notes by Sir J.D. Hooker which we
have not seen. Though we are therefore unable to make clear many points
referred to, the letter seems to us on the whole so interesting that it is
printed with the omission of only one unimportant sentence.
The subjects dealt with in the letter are those which were occupying
Hooker's attention in relation to his "Flora Antarctica" (1844).)
I must thank you once again for all your documents, which have interested
me very greatly and surprised me. I found it very difficult to charge my
head with all your tabulated results, but this I perfectly well know is in
main part due to that head not being a botanical one, aided by the tables
being in MS.; I think, however, to an ignoramus, they might be made
clearer; but pray mind, that this is very different from saying that I
think botanists ought to arrange their highest results for non-botanists to
understand easily. I will tell you how, for my individual self, I should
like to see the results worked out, and then you can judge, whether this be
advisable for the botanical world.
Looking at the globe, the Auckland and Campbell I., New Zealand, and Van
Diemen's Land so evidently are geographically related, that I should wish,
before any comparison was made with far more distant countries, to
understand their floras, in relation to each other; and the southern ones
to the northern temperate hemisphere, which I presume is to every one an
almost involuntary standard of comparison. To understand the relation of
the floras of these islands, I should like to see the group divided into a
northern and southern half, and to know how many species exist in the
1. Belonging to genera confined to Australia, Van Diemen's Land and north
2. Belonging to genera found only on the mountains of Australia, Van
Diemen's Land, and north New Zealand.
3. Belonging to genera of distribution in many parts of the world (i.e.,
which tell no particular story).
4. Belonging to genera found in the northern hemisphere and not in the
tropics; or only on mountains in the tropics.
I daresay all this (as far as present materials serve) could be extracted
from your tables, as they stand; but to any one not familiar with the names
of plants, this would be difficult. I felt particularly the want of not
knowing which of the genera are found in the lowland tropics, in
understanding the relation of the Antarctic with the Arctic floras.
If the Fuegian flora was treated in the analogous way (and this would
incidentally show how far the Cordillera are a high-road of genera), I
should then be prepared far more easily and satisfactorily to understand
the relations of Fuegia with the Auckland Islands, and consequently with
the mountains of Van Diemen's Land. Moreover, the marvellous facts of
their intimate botanical relation (between Fuegia and the Auckland Islands,
etc.) would stand out more prominently, after the Auckland Islands had been
first treated of under the purely geographical relation of position. A
triple division such as yours would lead me to suppose that the three
places were somewhat equally distant, and not so greatly different in size:
the relation of Van Diemen's Land seems so comparatively small, and that
relation being in its alpine plants, makes me feel that it ought only to be
treated of as a subdivision of the large group, including Auckland,
Campbell, New Zealand...
I think a list of the genera, common to Fuegia on the one hand and on the
other to Campbell, etc., and to the mountains of Van Diemen's Land or New
Zealand (but not found in the lowland temperate, and southern tropical
parts of South America and Australia, or New Zealand), would prominently
bring out, at the same time, the relation between these Antarctic points
one with another, and with the northern or Arctic regions.
In Article III. is it meant to be expressed, or might it not be understood
by this article, that the similarity of the distant points in the Antarctic
regions was as close as between distant points in the Arctic regions? I
gather this is not so. You speak of the southern points of America and
Australia, etc., being "materially approximated," and this closer proximity
being correlative with a greater similarity of their plants: I find on the
globe, that Van Diemen's Land and Fuegia are only about one-fifth nearer
than the whole distance between Port Jackson and Concepcion in Chile; and
again, that Campbell Island and Fuegia are only one-fifth nearer than the
east point of North New Zealand and Concepcion. Now do you think in such
immense distances, both over open oceans, that one-fifth less distance, say
4,000 miles instead of 5,000, can explain or throw much light on a material
difference in the degree of similarity in the floras of the two regions?
I trust you will work out the New Zealand flora, as you have commenced at
end of letter: is it not quite an original plan? and is it not very
surprising that New Zealand, so much nearer to Australia than South
America, should have an intermediate flora? I had fancied that nearly all
the species there were peculiar to it. I cannot but think you make one
gratuitous difficulty in ascertaining whether New Zealand ought to be
classed by itself, or with Australia or South America--namely, when you
seem (bottom of page 7 of your letter) to say that genera in common
indicate only that the external circumstances for their life are suitable
and similar. (315/2. On December 30th, 1844, Sir J.D. Hooker replied,
"Nothing was further from my intention than to have written anything which
would lead one to suppose that genera common to two places indicate a
similarity in the external circumstances under which they are developed,
though I see I have given you excellent grounds for supposing that such
were my opinions.") Surely, cannot an overwhelming mass of facts be
brought against such a proposition? Distant parts of Australia possess
quite distinct species of marsupials, but surely this fact of their having
the same marsupial genera is the strongest tie and plainest mark of an
original (so-called) creative affinity over the whole of Australia; no one,
now, will (or ought) to say that the different parts of Australia have
something in their external conditions in common, causing them to be pre-
eminently suitable to marsupials; and so on in a thousand instances.
Though each species, and consequently genus, must be adapted to its
country, surely adaptation is manifestly not the governing law in
geographical distribution. Is this not so? and if I understand you
rightly, you lessen your own means of comparison--attributing the presence
of the same genera to similarity of conditions.
You will groan over my very full compliance with your request to write all
I could on your tables, and I have done it with a vengeance: I can hardly
say how valuable I must think your results will be, when worked out, as far
as the present knowledge and collections serve.
Now for some miscellaneous remarks on your letter: thanks for the offer to
let me see specimens of boulders from Cockburn Island; but I care only for
boulders, as an indication of former climate: perhaps Ross will give some
Watson's paper on the Azores (315/3. H.C. Watson, "London Journal of
Botany," 1843-44.) has surprised me much; do you not think it odd, the
fewness of peculiar species, and their rarity on the alpine heights? I
wish he had tabulated his results; could you not suggest to him to draw up
a paper of such results, comparing these Islands with Madeira? surely does
not Madeira abound with peculiar forms?
A discussion on the relations of the floras, especially the alpine ones, of
Azores, Madeira, and Canary Islands, would be, I should think, of general
interest. How curious, the several doubtful species, which are referred to
by Watson, at the end of his paper; just as happens with birds at the
Galapagos...Any time that you can put me in the way of reading about alpine
floras, I shall feel it as the greatest kindness. I grieve there is no
better authority for Bourbon, than that stupid Bory: I presume his remark
that plants, on isolated volcanic islands are polymorphous (i.e., I
suppose, variable?) is quite gratuitous. Farewell, my dear Hooker. This
letter is infamously unclear, and I fear can be of no use, except giving
you the impression of a botanical ignoramus.
LETTER 316. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, March 19th .
...I was very glad to hear Humboldt's views on migrations and double
creations. It is very presumptuous, but I feel sure that though one cannot
prove extensive migration, the leading considerations, proper to the
subject, are omitted, and I will venture to say even by Humboldt. I should
like some time to put the case, like a lawyer, for your consideration, in
the point of view under which, I think, it ought to be viewed. The
conclusion which I come to is, that we cannot pretend, with our present
knowledge, to put any limit to the possible, and even probable, migration
of plants. If you can show that many of the Fuegian plants, common to
Europe, are found in intermediate points, it will be a grand argument in
favour of the actuality of migration; but not finding them will not, in my
eyes, much diminish the probability of their having thus migrated. My pen
always runs away, in writing to you; and a most unsteady, vilely bad pace
it goes. What would I not give to write simple English, without having to
rewrite and rewrite every sentence.
LETTER 317. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Friday [June 29th, 1845].
I have been an ungrateful dog for not having answered your letter sooner,
but I have been so hard at work correcting proofs (317/1. The second
edition of the "Journal."), together with some unwellness, that I have not
had one quarter of an hour to spare. I finally corrected the first third
of the old volume, which will appear on July 1st. I hope and think I have
somewhat improved it. Very many thanks for your remarks; some of them came
too late to make me put some of my remarks more cautiously. I feel,
however, still inclined to abide by my evaporation notion to account for
the clouds of steam, which rise from the wooded valleys after rain. Again,
I am so obstinate that I should require very good evidence to make me
believe that there are two species of Polyborus (317/2. Polyborus Novae
Zelandiae, a carrion hawk mentioned as very common in the Falklands.) in
the Falkland Islands. Do the Gauchos there admit it? Much as I talked to
them, they never alluded to such a fact. In the Zoology I have discussed
the sexual and immature plumage, which differ much.
I return the enclosed agreeable letter with many thanks. I am extremely
glad of the plants collected at St. Paul's, and shall be particularly
curious whenever they arrive to hear what they are. I dined the other day
at Sir J. Lubbock's, and met R. Brown, and we had much laudatory talk about
you. He spoke very nicely about your motives in now going to Edinburgh.
He did not seem to know, and was much surprised at what I stated (I believe
correctly) on the close relation between the Kerguelen and T. del Fuego
floras. Forbes is doing apparently very good work about the introduction
and distribution of plants. He has forestalled me in what I had hoped
would have been an interesting discussion--viz., on the relation between
the present alpine and Arctic floras, with connection to the last change of
climate from Arctic to temperate, when the then Arctic lowland plants must
have been driven up the mountains. (317/3. Forbes' Essay "On the
Connection between the Distribution of the Existing Fauna and Flora of the
British Isles and the Geological Changes which have affected their Area,"
was published in 1846. See note, Letter 20.)
I am much pleased to hear of the pleasant reception you received at
Edinburgh. (317/4. Sir J.D. Hooker was a candidate for the Chair of
Botany at Edinburgh. See "Life and Letters," I., pages 335, 342.) I hope
your impressions will continue agreeable; my associations with auld Reekie
are very friendly. Do you ever see Dr. Coldstream? If you do, would you
give him my kind remembrances? You ask about amber. I believe all the
species are extinct (i.e. without the amber has been doctored), and
certainly the greater number are. (317/5. For an account of plants in
amber see Goeppert and Berendt, "Der Bernstein und die in ihm befindlichen
Pflanzenreste der Vorwelt," Berlin, 1845; Goeppert, "Coniferen des
Bernstein," Danzig, 1883; Conwentz, "Monographie der Baltischen
Bernsteinbaume," Danzig, 1890.)
If you have any other corrections ready, will you send them soon, for I
shall go to press with second Part in less than a week. I have been so
busy that I have not yet begun d'Urville, and have read only first chapter
of Canary Islands! I am most particularly obliged to you for having lent
me the latter, for I know not where else I could have ever borrowed it.
There is the "Kosmos" to read, and Lyell's "Travels in North America." It
is awful to think of how much there is to read. What makes H. Watson a
renegade? I had a talk with Captain Beaufort the other day, and he charged
me to keep a book and enter anything which occurred to me, which deserved
examination or collection in any part of the world, and he would sooner or
later get it in the instructions to some ship. If anything occurs to you
let me hear, for in the course of a month or two I must write out
something. I mean to urge collections of all kinds on any isolated
islands. I suspect that there are several in the northern half of the
Pacific, which have never been visited by a collector. This is a dull,
untidy letter. Farewell.
As you care so much for insular floras, are you aware that I collected all
in flower on the Abrolhos Islands? but they are very near the coast of
Brazil. Nevertheless, I think they ought to be just looked at, under a
geographical point of view.
LETTER 318. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, November .
I have just got as far as Lycopodium in your Flora, and, in truth, cannot
say enough how much I have been interested in all your scattered remarks.
I am delighted to have in print many of the statements which you made in
your letters to me, when we were discussing some of the geographical
points. I can never cease marvelling at the similarity of the Antarctic
floras: it is wonderful. I hope you will tabulate all your results, and
put prominently what you allude to (and what is pre-eminently wanted by
non-botanists like myself), which of the genera are, and which not, found
in the lowland or in the highland Tropics, as far as known. Out of the
very many new observations to me, nothing has surprised me more than the
absence of Alpine floras in the S[outh] Islands. (318/1. See "Flora
Antarctica," I., page 79, where the author says that "in the South...on
ascending the mountains, few or no new forms occur." With regard to the
Sandwich Islands, Sir Joseph wrote (page 75) that "though the volcanic
islands of the Sandwich group attain a greater elevation than this [10,000
feet], there is no such development of new species at the upper level."
More recent statements to the same effect occur in Grisebach, "Vegetation
der Erde," Volume II., page 530. See also Wallace, "Island Life," page
307.) It strikes me as most inexplicable. Do you feel sure about the
similar absence in the Sandwich group? Is it not opposed quite to the case
of Teneriffe and Madeira, and Mediterranean Islands? I had fancied that T.
del Fuego had possessed a large alpine flora! I should much like to know
whether the climate of north New Zealand is much more insular than
Tasmania. I should doubt it from general appearance of places, and yet I
presume the flora of the former is far more scanty than of Tasmania. Do
tell me what you think on this point. I have also been particularly
interested by all your remarks on variation, affinities, etc.: in short,
your book has been to me a most valuable one, and I must have purchased it
had you not most kindly given it, and so rendered it even far more valuable
to me. When you compare a species to another, you sometimes do not mention
the station of the latter (it being, I presume, well-known), but to non-
botanists such words of explanation would add greatly to the interest--not
that non-botanists have any claim at all for such explanations in
professedly botanical works. There is one expression which you botanists
often use (though, I think, not you individually often), which puts me in a
passion--viz., calling polleniferous flowers "sterile," as non-seed-
bearing. (318/2. See Letter 16.) Are the plates from your own drawings?
They strike me as excellent. So now you have had my presumptuous
commendations on your great work.
LETTER 319. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, Friday [1845-6].
It is quite curious how our opinions agree about Forbes' views. (319/1.
See Letter 20.) I was very glad to have your last letter, which was even
more valuable to me than most of yours are, and that is saying, I assure
you, a great deal. I had written to Forbes to object about the Azores
(319/2. Edward Forbes supposed that the Azores, the Madeiras, and Canaries
"are the last remaining fragments" of a continent which once connected them
with Western Europe and Northern Spain. Lyell's "Principles," Edition XI.,
Volume II., page 410. See Forbes, op. cit.) on the same grounds as you
had, and he made some answer, which partially satisfied me, but really I am
so stupid I cannot remember it. He insisted strongly on the fewness of the
species absolutely peculiar to the Azores--most of the non-European species
being common to Madeira. I had thought that a good sprinkling were
absolutely peculiar. Till I saw him last Wednesday I thought he had not a
leg to stand on in his geology about his post-Miocene land; and his
reasons, upon reflection, seem rather weak: the main one is that there are
no deposits (more recent than the Miocene age) on the Miocene strata of
Malta, etc., but I feel pretty sure that this cannot be trusted as evidence
that Malta must have been above water during all the post-Miocene period.
He had one other reason, to my mind still less trustworthy. I had also
written to Forbes, before your letter, objecting to the Sargassum (319/3.
Edward Forbes supposed that the Sargassum or Gulf-weed represents the
littoral sea-weeds of a now submerged continent. "Mem. Geol. Survey Great
Britain," Volume I., 1846, page 349. See Lyell's "Principles," II., page
396, Edition XI.), but apparently on wrong grounds, for I could see no
reason, on the common view of absolute creations, why one Fucus should not
have been created for the ocean, as well as several Confervae for the same
end. It is really a pity that Forbes is quite so speculative: he will
injure his reputation, anyhow, on the Continent; and thus will do less
good. I find this is the opinion of Falconer, who was with us on Sunday,
and was extremely agreeable. It is wonderful how much heterogeneous
information he has about all sorts of things. I the more regret Forbes
cannot more satisfactorily prove his views, as I heartily wish they were
established, and to a limited extent I fully believe they are true; but his
boldness is astounding. Do I understand your letter right, that West
Africa (319/4. This is of course a misunderstanding.) and Java belong to
the same botanical region--i.e., that they have many non-littoral species
in common? If so, it is a sickening fact: think of the distance with the
Indian Ocean interposed! Do some time answer me this. With respect to
polymorphism, which you have been so very kind as to give me so much
information on, I am quite convinced it must be given up in the sense you
have discussed it in; but from such cases as the Galapagos birds and from
hypothetical notions on variation, I should be very glad to know whether it
must be given up in a slightly different point of view; that is, whether
the peculiar insular species are generally well and strongly
distinguishable from the species on the nearest continent (when there is a
continent near); the Galapagos, Canary Islands, and Madeira ought to answer
this. I should have hypothetically expected that a good many species would
have been fine ones, like some of the Galapagos birds, and still more so on
the different islands of such groups.
I am going to ask you some questions, but I should really sometimes almost
be glad if you did not answer me for a long time, or not at all, for in
honest truth I am often ashamed at, and marvel at, your kindness in writing
such long letters to me. So I beg you to mind, never to write to me when
it bores you. Do you know "Elements de Teratologie (on monsters, I
believe) Vegetale," par A. Moquin Tandon"? (319/5. Paris, 1841.) Is it a
good book, and will it treat on hereditary malconformations or varieties?
I have almost finished the tremendous task of 850 pages of A. St. Hilaire's
Lectures (319/6. "Lecons de Botanique," 1841.), which you set me, and very
glad I am that you told me to read it, for I have been much interested with
parts. Certain expressions which run through the whole work put me in a
passion: thus I take, at hazard, "la plante n'etait pas tout a fait ASSEZ
AFFAIBLIE pour produire de veritables carpelles." Every organ or part
concerned in reproduction--that highest end of all lower organisms--is,
according to this man, produced by a lesser or greater degree of
"affaiblissement"; and if that is not an AFFAIBLISSEMENT of language, I
don't know what is. I have used an expression here, which leads me to ask
another question: on what sort of grounds do botanists make one family of
plants higher than another? I can see that the simplest cryptogamic are
lowest, and I suppose, from their relations, the monocotyledonous come
next; but how in the different families of the dicotyledons? The point
seems to me equally obscure in many races of animals, and I know not how to
tell whether a bee or cicindela is highest. (319/7. On use of terms
"high" and "low" see Letters 36 and 70.) I see Aug. Hilaire uses a
multiplicity of parts--several circles of stamens, etc.--as evidence of the
highness of the Ranunculaceae; now Owen has truly, as I believe, used the
same argument to show the lowness of some animals, and has established the
proposition, that the fewer the number of any organ, as legs or wings or
teeth, by which the same end is gained, the higher the animal. One other
question. Hilaire says (page 572) that "chez une foule de plantes c'est
dans le bouton," that impregnation takes place. He instances only Goodenia
(319/8. For letters on this point, see Index s.v. Goodenia.), and Falconer
cannot recollect any cases. Do you know any of this "foule" of plants?
From reasons, little better than hypothetical, I greatly misdoubt the
accuracy of this, presumptuous as it is; that plants shed their pollen in
the bud is, of course, quite a different story. Can you illuminate me?
Henslow will send the Galapagos scraps to you. I direct this to Kew, as I
suppose, after your sister's marriage (on which I beg to send you my
congratulations), you will return home.
There are great fears that Falconer will have to go out to India--this will
be a grievous loss to Palaeontology.
LETTER 320. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, April 10th .
I was much pleased to see and sign your certificate for the Geolog[ical
Society]; we shall thus occasionally, I hope, meet. (320/1. Sir Joseph
was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society in 1846.)
I have been an ungrateful dog not to have thanked you before this for the
cake and books. The children and their betters pronounced the former
excellent, and Annie wanted to know whether it was the gentleman "what
played with us so." I wish we were at a more reasonable distance, that
Emma and myself could have called on Lady Hooker with our congratulations
on this occasion. It was very good of you to put in both numbers of the
"Hort. Journal." I think Dean Herbert's article well worth reading. I
have been so extravagant as to order M[oquin] Tandon (320/2. Probably
"Elements de Teratologie Vegetale": Paris, 1841.), for though I have not
found, as yet, anything particularly novel or striking, yet I found that I
wished to score a good many passages so as to re-read them at some future
time, and hence have ordered the book. Consequently I hope soon to send
back your books. I have sent off the Ascension plants through Bunsen to
There was much in your last long letter which interested me much; and I am
particularly glad that you are going to attend to polymorphism in our last
and incorrect sense in your works; I see that it must be most difficult to
take any sort of constant limit for the amount of possible variation. How
heartily I do wish that all your works were out and complete; so that I
could quietly think over them. I fear the Pacific Islands must be far
distant in futurity. I fear, indeed, that Forbes is going rather too
quickly ahead; but we shall soon see all his grounds, as I hear he is now
correcting the press on this subject; he has plenty of people who attack
him; I see Falconer never loses a chance, and it is wonderful how well
Forbes stands it. What a very striking fact is the botanical relation
between Africa and Java; as you now state it, I am pleased rather than
disgusted, for it accords capitally with the distribution of the mammifers
(320/3. See Wallace, "Geogr. Distribution," Volume I., page 263, on the
"special Oriental or even Malayan element" in the West African mammals and
birds.): only that I judge from your letters that the Cape differs even
more markedly than I had thought, from the rest of Africa, and much more
than the mammifers do. I am surprised to find how well mammifers and
plants seem to accord in their general distribution. With respect to my
strong objection to Aug. St. Hilaire's language on AFFAIBLISSEMENT (320/4.
This refers to his "Lecons de Botanique (Morphologie Vegetale)," 1841.
Saint-Hilaire often explains morphological differences as due to
differences in vigour. See Letter 319.), it is perhaps hardly rational,
and yet he confesses that some of the most vigorous plants in nature have
some of their organs struck with this weakness--he does not pretend, of
course, that they were ever otherwise in former generations--or that a more
vigorously growing plant produces organs less weakened, and thus fails in
producing its typical structure. In a plant in a state of nature, does
cutting off the sap tend to produce flower-buds? I know it does in trees
in orchards. Owen has been doing some grand work in the morphology of the
vertebrata: your arm and hand are parts of your head, or rather the
processes (i.e. modified ribs) of the occipital vertebra! He gave me a
grand lecture on a cod's head. By the way, would it not strike you as
monstrous, if in speaking of the minute and lessening jaws, palpi, etc., of
an insect or crustacean, any one were to say they were produced by the
affaiblissement of the less important but larger organs of locomotion. I
see from your letter (though I do not suppose it is worth referring to the
subject) that I could not have expressed what I meant when I allowed you to
infer that Owen's rule of single organs being of a higher order than
multiple organs applied only to locomotive, etc.; it applies to every the
most important organ. I do not doubt that he would say the placentata
having single wombs, whilst the marsupiata have double ones, is an instance
of this law. I believe, however, in most instances where one organ, as a
nervous centre or heart, takes the places of several, it rises in
complexity; but it strikes me as really odd, seeing in this instance
eminent botanists and zoologists starting from reverse grounds. Pray
kindly bear in mind about impregnation in bud: I have never (for some
years having been on the look-out) heard of an instance: I have long
wished to know how it was in Subularia, or some such name, which grows on
the bottom of Scotch lakes, and likewise in a grassy plant, which lives in
brackish water, I quite forget name, near Thames; elder botanists doubted
whether it was a Phanerogam. When we meet I will tell you why I doubt this
We are at present in a state of utmost confusion, as we have pulled all our
offices down and are going to rebuild and alter them. I am personally in a
state of utmost confusion also, for my cruel wife has persuaded me to leave
off snuff for a month; and I am most lethargic, stupid, and melancholy in
Farewell, my dear Hooker. Ever yours.
LETTER 321. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, April 19th .
Thank you for your list of R.S. candidates, which will be very useful to
I have thought a good deal about my salting experiments (321/1. For an
account of Darwin's experiments on the effect of salt water on the
germination of seeds, see "Life and Letters," II., page 54. In April he
wrote to the "Gardeners' Chronicle" asking for information, and his results
were published in the same journal, May 26th and November 24th, 1855; also
in the "Linn. Soc. Journal," 1857.), and really think they are worth
pursuing to a certain extent; but I hardly see the use (at least, the use
equivalent to the enormous labour) of trying the experiment on the immense
scale suggested by you. I should think a few seeds of the leading orders,
or a few seeds of each of the classes mentioned by you, with albumen of
different kinds would suffice to show the possibility of considerable sea-
transportal. To tell whether any particular insular flora had thus been
transported would require that each species should be examined. Will you
look through these printed lists, and if you can, mark with red cross such
as you would suggest? In truth, I fear I impose far more on your great
kindness, my dear Hooker, than I have any claim; but you offered this, for
I never thought of asking you for more than a suggestion. I do not think I
could manage more than forty or fifty kinds at a time, for the water, I
find, must be renewed every other day, as it gets to smell horribly: and I
do not think your plan good of little packets of cambric, as this entangles
so much air. I shall keep the great receptacle with salt water with the
forty or fifty little bottles, partly open, immersed in it, in the cellar
for uniform temperature. I must plant out of doors, as I have no
I told you I had inserted notice in the "Gardeners' Chronicle," and to-day
I have heard from Berkeley that he has already sent an assortment of seeds
to Margate for some friend to put in salt water; so I suppose he thinks the
experiment worth trying, as he has thus so very promptly taken it into his
own hands. (321/2. Rev. M.J. Berkeley published on the subject in the
"Gardeners' Chronicle," September 1st, 1855.)
Reading this over, it sounds as if I were offended!!! which I need not say
is not so. (321/3. Added afterwards between the lines.)
I may just mention that the seeds mentioned in my former note have all
germinated after fourteen days' immersion, except the cabbages all dead,
and the radishes have had their germination delayed and several I think
dead; cress still all most vigorous. French spinach, oats, barley, canary-
seed, borage, beet have germinated after seven days' immersion.
It is quite surprising that the radishes should have grown, for the salt
water was putrid to an extent which I could not have thought credible had I
not smelt it myself, as was the water with the cabbage-seed.
LETTER 322. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, June 10th .
If being thoroughly interested with your letters makes me worthy of them, I
am very worthy.
I have raised some seedling Sensitive Plants, but if you can READILY spare
me a moderately sized plant, I shall be glad of it.
You encourage me so, that I will slowly go on salting seeds. I have not, I
see, explained myself, to let you suppose that I objected to such cases as
the former union of England and the Continent; I look at this case as
proved by animals, etc., etc.; and, indeed, it would be an astounding fact
if the land had kept so steady as that they had not been united, with
Snowdon elevated 1,300 feet in recent times, etc., etc.
It is only against the former union with the oceanic volcanic islands that
I am vehement. (322/1. See "Life and Letters," Volume II., pages 72, 74,
80, 109.) What a perplexing case New Zealand does seem: is not the
absence of Leguminosae, etc., etc., FULLY as much opposed to continental
connexion as to any other theory? What a curious fact you state about
distribution and lowness going together.
The presence of a frog in New Zealand seems to me a strongish fact for
continental connexion, for I assume that sea water would kill spawn, but I
shall try. The spawn, I find, will live about ten days out of water, but I
do not think it could possibly stick to a bird.
What you say about no one realising creation strikes me as very true; but I
think and hope that there is nearly as much difference between trying to
find out whether species of a genus have had a common ancestor and
concerning oneself with the first origin of life, as between making out the
laws of chemical attraction and the first origin of matter.
I thought that Gray's letter had come open to you, and that you had read
it: you will see what I asked--viz., for habitats of the alpine plants,
but I presume there will be nothing new to you. Please return both. How
pleasantly Gray takes my request, and I think I shall have done a good turn
if I make him write a paper on geographical distribution of plants of
I have written him a very long letter, telling him some of the points about
which I should feel curious. But on my life it is sublimely ridiculous, my
making suggestions to such a man.
I cannot help thinking that what you say about low plants being widely
distributed and standing injurious conditions better than higher ones (but
is not this most difficult to show?) is equally favourable to sea-
transport, to continental connexions, and all other means. Pray do not
suppose that I fancy that if I could show that nearly all seeds could stand
an almost indefinite period of immersion in sea-water, that I have done
more than one EXTREMELY SMALL step in solving the problem of distribution,
for I can quite appreciate the importance of the fact you point out; and
then the directions of currents in past and present times have to be
I shall be very curious to hear Berkeley's results in the salting line.
With respect to geological changes, I ought to be one of the last men to
undervalue them after my map of coral islands, and after what I have seen
of elevation on coast of America. Farewell. I hope my letters do not
bother you. Again, and for the last time, I say that I should be extremely
vexed if ever you write to me against the grain or when tired.
LETTER 323. TO J.S HENSLOW.
Down, July 2nd .
Very many thanks for all you have done, and so very kindly promise to do
Will you make a present to each of the little girls (if not too big and
grandiose) of six pence (for which I send stamps), who are going to collect
seeds for me: viz., Lychnis, white, red, and flesh-colour (if such occur).
...Will you be so kind as to look at them before sent, just to see
positively that they are correct, for remember how ignorant botanically I
Do you see the "Gardeners' Chronicle," and did you notice some little
experiments of mine on salting seeds? Celery and onion seed have come up
after eighty-five days' immersion in the salt water, which seems to me
surprising, and I think throws some light on the wide dispersion of certain
plants. Now, it has occurred to me that it would be an interesting way of
testing the probability of sea-transportal of seeds, to make a list of all
the European plants found in the Azores--a very oceanic archipelago--
collect the seeds, and try if they would stand a pretty long immersion. Do
you think the most able of your little girls would like to collect for me a
packet of seeds of such Azorean plants as grow near Hitcham, I paying, say
3 pence for each packet: it would put a few shillings into their pockets,
and would be an enormous advantage to me, for I grudge the time to collect
the seeds, more especially as I have to learn the plants! The experiment
seems to me worth trying: what do you think? Should you object offering
for me this reward or payment to your little girls? You would have to
select the most conscientious ones, that I might not get wrong seeds. I
have just been comparing the lists, and I suspect you would not have very
many of the Azorean plants. You have, however,
All these are Azorean plants.
With respect to cultivating plants, I mean to begin on very few, for I may
find it too troublesome. I have already had for some months primroses and
cowslips, strongly manured with guano, and with flowers picked off, and one
cowslip made to grow in shade; and next spring I shall collect seed.
I think you have quite misunderstood me in regard to my object in getting
you to mark in accompanying list with (x) all the "close species" (323/1.
See Letter 279.) i.e., such as you do not think to be varieties, but which
nevertheless are very closely allied; it has nothing whatever to do with
their cultivation, but I cannot tell you [my] object, as it might
unconsciously influence you in marking them. Will you draw your pencil
right through all the names of those (few) species, of which you may know
nothing. Afterwards, when done, I will tell you my object--not that it is
worth telling, though I myself am very curious on the subject. I know and
can perceive that the definition of "close species" is very vague, and
therefore I should not care for the list being marked by any one, except by
such as yourself.
Forgive this long letter. I thank you heartily for all your assistance.
My dear old Master,
Perhaps 3 pence would be hardly enough, and if the number of kinds does not
turn out very great it shall be 6 pence per packet.
LETTER 324. ASA GRAY TO CHARLES DARWIN.
(324/1. In reply to Darwin's letter, June 8th, 1855, given in "Life and
Letters," II., page 61.)
Harvard University, Cambridge, U.S., June 30th, 1855.
Your long letter of the 8th inst. is full of interest to me, and I shall
follow out your hints as far as I can. I rejoice in furnishing facts to
others to work up in their bearing on general questions, and feel it the
more my duty to do so inasmuch as from preoccupation of mind and time and
want of experience I am unable to contribute direct original investigations
of the sort to the advancement of science.
Your request at the close of your letter, which you have such needless
hesitation in making, is just the sort of one which it is easy for me to
reply to, as it lies directly in my way. It would probably pass out of my
mind, however, at the time you propose, so I will attend to it at once, to
fill up the intervals of time left me while attending to one or two pupils.
So I take some unbound sheets of a copy of the "Manual," and mark off the
"close species" by connecting them with a bracket.
Those thus connected, some of them, I should in revision unite under one,
many more Dr. Hooker would unite, and for the rest it would not be
extraordinary if, in any case, the discovery of intermediate forms
compelled their union.
As I have noted on the blank page of the sheets I send you (through Sir
William Hooker), I suppose that if we extended the area, say to that of our
flora of North America, we should find that the proportion of "close
species" to the whole flora increased considerably. But here I speak at a
venture. Some day I will test it for a few families.
If you take for comparison with what I send you, the "British Flora," or
Koch's "Flora Germanica," or Godron's "Flora of France," and mark the
"close species" on the same principle, you will doubtless find a much
greater number. Of course you will not infer from this that the two floras
differ in this respect; since the difference is probably owing to the facts
that (1) there have not been so many observers here bent upon detecting
differences; and (2) our species, thanks mostly to Dr. Torrey and myself,
have been more thoroughly castigated. What stands for one species in the
"Manual" would figure in almost any European flora as two, three, or more,
in a very considerable number of cases.
In boldly reducing nominal species J. Hooker is doing a good work; but his
vocation--like that of any other reformer--exposes him to temptations and
Because you have shown that a and b are so connected by intermediate forms
that we cannot do otherwise than regard them as variations of one species,
we may not conclude that c and d, differing much in the same way and to the
same degree, are of one species, before an equal amount of evidence is
actually obtained. That is, when two sets of individuals exhibit any grave
differences, the burden of proof of their common origin lies with the
person who takes that view; and each case must be decided on its own
evidence, and not on analogy, if our conclusions in this way are to be of
real value. Of course we must often jump at conclusions from imperfect
evidence. I should like to write an essay on species some day; but before
I should have time to do it, in my plodding way, I hope you or Hooker will
do it, and much better far. I am most glad to be in conference with Hooker
and yourself on these matters, and I think we may, or rather you may, in a
few years settle the question as to whether Agassiz's or Hooker's views are
correct; they are certainly widely different.
Apropos to this, many thanks for the paper containing your experiments on
seeds exposed to sea water. Why has nobody thought of trying the
experiment before, instead of taking it for granted that salt water kills
seeds? I shall have it nearly all reprinted in "Silliman's Journal" as a
nut for Agassiz to crack.
LETTER 325. TO ASA GRAY.
Down, May 2nd [1856?]
I have received your very kind note of April 8th. In truth it is
preposterous in me to give you hints; but it will give me real pleasure to
write to you just as I talk to Hooker, who says my questions are sometimes
suggestive owing to my comparing the ranges, etc., in different kingdoms of
Nature. I will make no further apologies about my presumption; but will
just tell you (though I am certain there will be VERY little new in what I
suggest and ask) the points on which I am very anxious to hear about. I
forget whether you include Arctic America, but if so, for comparison with
other parts of world, I would exclude the Arctic and Alpine-Arctic, as
belonging to a quite distinct category. When excluding the naturalised, I
think De Candolle must be right in advising the exclusion (giving list) of
plants exclusively found in cultivated land, even when it is not known that
they have been introduced by man. I would give list of temperate plants
(if any) found in Eastern Asia, China, and Japan, and not elsewhere.
Nothing would give me a better idea of the flora of United States than the
proportion of its genera to all the genera which are confined to America;
and the proportion of genera confined to America and Eastern Asia with
Japan; the remaining genera would be common to America and Europe and the
rest of world; I presume it would be impossible to show any especial
affinity in genera, if ever so few, between America and Western Europe.
America might be related to Eastern Asia (always excluding Arctic forms) by
a genus having the same species confined to these two regions; or it might
be related by the genus having different species, the genus itself not
being found elsewhere. The relation of the genera (excluding identical
species) seems to me a most important element in geographical distribution
often ignored, and I presume of more difficult application in plants than
in animals, owing to the wider ranges of plants; but I find in New Zealand
(from Hooker) that the consideration of genera with representative species
tells the story of relationship even plainer than the identity of the
species with the different parts of the world. I should like to see the
genera of the United States, say 500 (excluding Arctic and Alpine) divided
into three classes, with the proportions given thus:--
100/500 American genera;
200/500 Old World genera, but not having any identical species in common;
200/500 Old World genera, but having some identical species in common;
Supposing that these 200 genera included 600 U.S. plants, then the 600
would be the denominator to the fraction of the species common to the Old
World. But I am running on at a foolish length.
There is an interesting discussion in De Candolle (about pages 503-514) on
the relation of the size of families to the average range of the individual
species; I cannot but think, from some facts which I collected long before
De Candolle appeared, that he is on wrong scent in having taken families
(owing to their including too great a diversity in the constitution of the
species), but that if he had taken genera, he would have found that the
individual species in large genera range over a greater area than do the
species in small genera: I think if you have materials that this would be
well worth working out, for it is a very singular relation.
With respect to naturalised plants: are any social with you, which are not
so in their parent country? I am surprised that the importance of this has
not more struck De Candolle. Of these naturalised plants are any or many
more variable in your opinion than the average of your United States
plants? I am aware how very vague this must be; but De Candolle has stated
that the naturalised plants do not present varieties; but being very
variable and presenting distinct varieties seems to me rather a different
case: if you would kindly take the trouble to answer this question I
should be very much obliged, whether or no you will enter on such points in
With respect to such plants, which have their southern limits within your
area, are the individuals ever or often stunted in their growth or
unhealthy? I have in vain endeavoured to find any botanist who has
observed this point; but I have seen some remarks by Barton on the trees in
United States. Trees seem in this respect to behave rather differently
from other plants.
It would be a very curious point, but I fear you would think it out of your
essay, to compare the list of European plants in Tierra del Fuego (in
Hooker) with those in North America; for, without multiple creation, I
think we must admit that all now in T. del Fuego must have travelled
through North America, and so far they do concern you.
The discussion on social plants (vague as the terms and facts are) in De
Candolle strikes me as the best which I have ever seen: two points strike
me as eminently remarkable in them; that they should ever be social close
to their extreme limits; and secondly, that species having an extremely
confined range, yet should be social where they do occur: I should be
infinitely obliged for any cases either by letter or publicly on these
heads, more especially in regard to a species remaining or ceasing to be
social on the confines of its range.
There is one other point on which I individually should be extremely much
obliged, if you could spare the time to think a little bit and inform me:
viz., whether there are any cases of the same species being more variable
in United States than in other countries in which it is found, or in
different parts of the United States? Wahlenberg says generally that the
same species in going south become more variable than in extreme north.
Even still more am I anxious to know whether any of the genera, which have
most of their species horribly variable (as Rubus or Hieracium are) in
Europe, or other parts of the world, are less variable in the United
States; or, the reverse case, whether you have any odious genera with you
which are less odious in other countries? Any information on this head
would be a real kindness to me.
I suppose your flora is too great; but a simple list in close columns in
small type of all the species, genera, and families, each consecutively
numbered, has always struck me as most useful; and Hooker regrets that he
did not give such list in introduction to New Zealand and other Flora. I
am sure I have given you a larger dose of questions than you bargained for,
and I have kept my word and treated you just as I do Hooker. Nevertheless,
if anything occurs to me during the next two months, I will write freely,
believing that you will forgive me and not think me very presumptuous.
How well De Candolle shows the necessity of comparing nearly equal areas
for proportion of families!
I have re-read this letter, and it is really not worth sending, except for
my own sake. I see I forgot, in beginning, to state that it appeared to me
that the six heads of your Essay included almost every point which could be
desired, and therefore that I had little to say.
LETTER 326. TO J.D. HOOKER.
(326/1. On July 5th, 1856, Darwin wrote to Sir J.D. Hooker:--
"I am going mad and am in despair over your confounded Antarctic island
flora. Will you read over the Tristan list, and see if my remarks on it
are at all accurate. I cannot make out why you consider the vegetation so
Down, 8th [July, 1856].
I do hope that this note may arrive in time to save you trouble in one
respect. I am perfectly ashamed of myself, for I find in introduction to
Flora of Fuegia (326/2. "Flora Antarctica," page 216. "Though only 1,000
miles distant from the Cape of Good Hope, and 3,000 from the Strait of
Magalhaens, the botany of this island [Tristan d'Acunha] is far more
intimately allied to that of Fuegia than Africa." Hooker goes on to say
that only Phylica and Pelargonium are Cape forms, while seven species, or
one-quarter of the flora, "are either natives of Fuegia or typical of South
American botany, and the ferns and Lycopodia exhibit a still stronger
affinity.") a short discussion on Tristan plants, which though scored [i.e.
marked in pencil] I had quite forgotten at the time, and had thought only
of looking into introduction to New Zealand Flora. It was very stupid of
me. In my sketch I am forced to pick out the most striking cases of
species which favour the multiple creation doctrine, without indeed great
continental extensions are admitted. Of the many wonderful cases in your
books, the one which strikes me most is that list of species, which you
made for me, common to New Zealand and America, and confined to southern
hemisphere; and in this list those common to Chile and New Zealand seem to
me the most wondrous. I have copied these out and enclosed them. Now I
will promise to ask no more questions, if you will tell me a little about
these. What I want to know is, whether any or many of them are mountain
plants of Chile, so as to bring them in some degree (like the Chonos
plants) under the same category with the Fuegian plants? I see that all
the genera (Edwardsia even having Sandwich Island and Indian species) are
wide-ranging genera, except Myosurus, which seems extra wonderful. Do any
of these genera cling to seaside? Are the other species of these genera
wide rangers? Do be a good Christian and not hate me.
I began last night to re-read your Galapagos paper, and to my taste it is
quite admirable: I see in it some of the points which I thought best in A.
De Candolle! Such is my memory.
Lyell will not express any opinion on continental extensions. (326/3. See
Letters 47, 48.)
LETTER 327. TO C. LYELL.
Down, July 8th .
Very many thanks for your two notes, and especially for Maury's map: also
for books which you are going to lend me.
I am sorry you cannot give any verdict on continental extensions; and I
infer that you think my argument of not much weight against such
extensions; I know I wish I could believe. (327/1. This paragraph is
published in the "Life and Letters," II., page 78; it refers to a letter
(June 25th, 1856, "Life and Letters," II., page 74) giving Darwin's
arguments against the doctrine of "Continental Extension." See Letters 47,
I have been having a look at Maury (which I once before looked at), and in
respect to Madeira & Co. I must say, that the chart seems to me against
land-extension explaining the introduction of organic beings. Madeira, the
Canaries and Azores are so tied together, that I should have thought they
ought to have been connected by some bank, if changes of level had been
connected with their organic relation. The Azores ought, too, to have
shown more connection with America. I had sometimes speculated whether
icebergs could account for the greater number of European plants and their
more northern character on the Azores, compared with Madeira; but it seems
dangerous until boulders are found there. (327/2. See "Life and Letters,"
II., page 112, for a letter (April 26th, 1858) in which Darwin exults over
the discovery of boulders on the Azores and the fulfilment of the prophecy,
which he was characteristically half inclined to ascribe to Lyell.)
One of the more curious points in Maury is, as it strikes me, in the little
change which about 9,000 feet of sudden elevation would make in the
continent visible, and what a prodigious change 9,000 feet subsidence would
make! Is the difference due to denudation during elevation? Certainly
12,000 feet elevation would make a prodigious change. I have just been
quoting you in my essay on ice carrying seeds in the southern hemisphere,
but this will not do in all the cases. I have had a week of such hard
labour in getting up the relations of all the Antarctic flora from Hooker's
admirable works. Oddly enough, I have just finished in great detail,
giving evidence of coolness in tropical regions during the Glacial epoch,
and the consequent migration of organisms through the tropics. There are a
good many difficulties, but upon the whole it explains much. This has been
a favourite notion with me, almost since I wrote on erratic boulders of the
south. It harmonises with the modification of species; and without
admitting this awful postulate, the Glacial epoch in the south and tropics
does not work in well. About Atlantis, I doubt whether the Canary Islands
are as much more related to the continent as they ought to be, if formerly
connected by continuous land.
Hooker, with whom I have formerly discussed the notion of the world or
great belts of it having been cooler, though he at first saw great
difficulties (and difficulties there are great enough), I think is much
inclined to adopt the idea. With modification of specific forms it
explains some wondrous odd facts in distribution.
But I shall never stop if I get on this subject, on which I have been at
work, sometimes in triumph, sometimes in despair, for the last month.
LETTER 328. ASA GRAY TO CHARLES DARWIN.
Received August 20th, 1856.
I enclose you a proof of the last page, that you may see what our flora
amounts to. The genera of the Cryptogams (Ferns down to Hepaticae) are
illustrated in fourteen crowded plates. So that the volume has become
rather formidable as a class-book, which it is intended for.
I have revised the last proofs to-day. The publishers will bring it out
some time in August. Meanwhile, I am going to have a little holiday, which
I have earned, little as I can spare the time for it. And my wife and I
start on Friday to visit my mother and friends in West New York, and on our
way back I will look in upon the scientific meeting at Albany on the 20th
inst., or later, just to meet some old friends there.
Why could not you come over, on the urgent invitation given to European
savans--and free passage provided back and forth in the steamers? Yet I
believe nobody is coming. Will you not come next year, if a special
invitation is sent you on the same terms?
Boott lately sent me your photograph, which (though not a very perfect one)
I am well pleased to have...
But there is another question in your last letter--one about which a person
can only give an impression--and my impression is that, speaking of plants
of a well-known flora, what we call intermediate varieties are generally
less numerous in individuals than the two states which they connect. That
this would be the case in a flora where things are put as they naturally
should be, I do not much doubt; and the wider are your views about species
(say, for instance, with Dr. Hooker's very latitudinarian notions) the more
plainly would this appear. But practically two things stand hugely in the
way of any application of the fact or principle, if such it be. 1. Our
choice of what to take as the typical forms very often is not free. We
take, e.g., for one of them the particular form of which Linnaeus, say,
happened to have a specimen sent him, and on which [he] established the
species; and I know more than one case in which that is a rare form of a
common species; the other variety will perhaps be the opposite extreme--
whether the most common or not, or will be what L. or [illegible] described
as a 2nd species. Here various intermediate forms may be the most
abundant. 2. It is just the same thing now, in respect to specimens
coming in from our new western country. The form which first comes, and is
described and named, determines the specific character, and this long
sticks as the type, though in fact it may be far from the most common form.
Yet of plants very well known in all their aspects, I can think of several
of which we recognise two leading forms, and rarely see anything really
intermediate, such as our Mentha borealis, its hairy and its smooth
Your former query about the variability of naturalised plants as compared
with others of same genera, I had not forgotten, but have taken no steps to
answer. I was going hereafter to take up our list of naturalised plants
and consider them--it did not fall into my plan to do it yet. Off-hand I
can only say that it does not strike me that our introduced plants
generally are more variable, nor as variable, perhaps, as the indigenous.
But this is a mere guess. When you get my sheets of first part of article
in "Silliman's Journal," remember that I shall be most glad of free
critical comments; and the earlier I get them the greater use they will be
One more favour. Do not, I pray you, speak of your letters troubling me.
I should be sorry indeed to have you stop, or write more rarely, even
though mortified to find that I can so seldom give you the information you
might reasonably expect.
LETTER 329. TO ASA GRAY.
Down, August 24th .
I am much obliged for your letter, which has been very interesting to me.
Your "indefinite" answers are perhaps not the least valuable part; for
Botany has been followed in so much more a philosophical spirit than
Zoology, that I scarcely ever like to trust any general remark in Zoology
without I find that botanists concur. Thus, with respect to intermediate
varieties being rare, I found it put, as I suspected, much too strongly
(without the limitations and doubts which you point out) by a very good
naturalist, Mr. Wollaston, in regard to insects; and if it could be
established as true it would, I think, be a curious point. Your answer in
regard to the introduced plants not being particularly variable, agrees
with an answer which Mr. H.C. Watson has sent me in regard to British
agrarian plants, or such (whether or no naturalised) [as] are now found
only in cultivated land. It seems to me very odd, without any theoretical
notions of any kind, that such plants should not be variable; but the
evidence seems against it.
Very sincere thanks for your kind invitation to the United States: in
truth there is nothing which I should enjoy more; but my health is not, and
will, I suppose, never be strong enough, except for the quietest routine
life in the country. I shall be particularly glad of the sheets of your
paper on geographical distribution; but it really is unlikely in the
highest degree that I could make any suggestions.
With respect to my remark that I supposed that there were but few plants
common to Europe and the United States, not ranging to the Arctic regions;
it was founded on vague grounds, and partly on range of animals. But I
took H.C. Watson's remarks (1835) and in the table at the end I found that
out of 499 plants believed to be common to the Old and New World, only 110
did not range on either side of the Atlantic up to the Arctic region. And
on writing to Mr. Watson to ask whether he knew of any plants not ranging
northward of Britain (say 55 deg) which were in common, he writes to me
that he imagines there are very few; with Mr. Syme's assistance he found
some 20 to 25 species thus circumstanced, but many of them, from one cause
or other, he considered doubtful. As examples, he specifies to me, with
doubt, Chrysosplenium oppositifolium; Isnardia palustris; Astragalus
hypoglottis; Thlaspi alpestre; Arenaria verna; Lythrum hyssopifolium.
I hope that you will be inclined to work out for your next paper, what
number, of your 321 in common, do not range to Arctic regions. Such plants
seem exposed to such much greater difficulties in diffusion. Very many
thanks for all your kindness and answers to my questions.
P.S.--If anything should occur to you on variability of naturalised or
agrarian plants, I hope that you will be so kind as to let me hear, as it
is a point which interests me greatly.
LETTER 330. ASA GRAY TO CHARLES DARWIN.
Cambridge, Mass., September 23rd, 1856.
Dr. Engelmann, of St. Louis, Missouri, who knew European botany well before
he came here, and has been an acute observer generally for twenty years or
more in this country, in reply to your question I put to him, promptly said
introduced plants are not particularly variable--are not so variable as the
indigenous plants generally, perhaps.
The difficulty of answering your questions, as to whether there are any
plants social here which are not so in the Old World, is that I know so
little about European plants in nature. The following is all I have to
contribute. Lately, I took Engelmann and Agassiz on a botanical excursion
over half a dozen miles of one of our seaboard counties; when they both
remarked that they never saw in Europe altogether half so much barberry as
in that trip. Through all this district B. vulgaris may be said to have
become a truly social plant in neglected fields and copses, and even
penetrating into rather close old woods. I always supposed that birds
diffused the seeds. But I am not clear that many of them touch the
berries. At least, these hang on the bushes over winter in the greatest
abundance. Perhaps the barberry belongs to a warmer country than north of
Europe, and finds itself more at home in our sunny summers. Yet out of New
England it seems not to spread at all.
Maruta Cotula, fide Engelmann, is a scattered and rather scarce plant in
Germany. Here, from Boston to St. Louis, it covers the roadsides, and is
one of our most social plants. But this plant is doubtless a native of a
hotter country than North Germany.
St. John's-wort (Hypericum perforatum) is an intrusive weed in all hilly
pastures, etc., and may fairly be called a social plant. In Germany it is
not so found, fide Engelmann.
Verbascum Thapsus is diffused over all the country, is vastly more common
here than in Germany, fide Engelmann.
I suppose Erodium cicutarium was brought to America with cattle from Spain:
it seems to be widely spread over South America out of the Tropics. In
Atlantic U.S. it is very scarce and local. But it fills California and the
interior of Oregon quite back to the west slope of the Rocky Mountains.
Fremont mentions it as the first spring food for his cattle when he reached
the western side of the Rocky Mountains. And hardly anybody will believe
me when I declare it an introduced plant. I daresay it is equally abundant
in Spain. I doubt if it is more so.
Engelmann and I have been noting the species truly indigenous here which,
becoming ruderal or campestral, are increasing in the number of individuals
instead of diminishing as the country becomes more settled and forests
removed. The list of our wild plants which have become true weeds is
larger than I had supposed, and these have probably all of them increased
their geographical range--at least, have multiplied in numbers in the
Northern States since settlements.
Some time ago I sent a copy of the first part of my little essay on the
statistics (330/1. "Statistics of the Flora of the Northern U.S."
("Silliman's Journal," XXII. and XXIII.)) of our Northern States plants to
Trubner & Co., 12, Paternoster Row, to be thence posted to you. It may
have been delayed or failed, so I post another from here.
This is only a beginning. Range of species in latitude must next be
tabulated--disjoined species catalogued (i.e. those occurring in remote and
entirely separated areas--e.g. Phryma, Monotropa uniflora, etc.)--then some
of the curious questions you have suggested--the degree of consanguinity
between the related species of our country and other countries, and the
comparative range of species in large and small genera, etc., etc. Now, is
it worth while to go on at this length of detail? There is no knowing how
much space it may cover. Yet, after all, facts in all their fullness is
what is wanted, and those not gathered to support (or even to test) any
foregone conclusions. It will be prosy, but it may be useful.
Then I have no time properly to revise MSS. and correct oversights. To my
vexation, in my short list of our alpine species I have left out, in some
unaccountable manner, two of the most characteristic--viz., Cassiope
hypnoides and Loiseleuria procumbens. Please add them on page 28.
There is much to be said about our introduced plants. But now, and for
some time to come, I must be thinking of quite different matters. I mean
to continue this essay in the January number--for which my MSS. must be
ready about the 1st of November.
I have not yet attempted to count them up; but of course I am prepared to
believe that fully three-fourths of our species common to Europe will [be]
found to range northward to the Arctic regions. I merely meant that I had
in mind a number that do not; I think the number will not be very small;
and I thought you were under the impression that very few absolutely did
not so extend northwards. The most striking case I know is that of
Convallaria majalis, in the mountains [of] Virginia and North Carolina, and
not northward. I believe I mentioned this to you before.
LETTER 331. TO ASA GRAY.
Down, October 12th .
I received yesterday your most kind letter of the 23rd and your
"Statistics," and two days previously another copy. I thank you cordially
for them. Botanists write, of course, for botanists; but, as far as the
opinion of an "outsider" goes, I think your paper admirable. I have read
carefully a good many papers and works on geographical distribution, and I
know of only one essay (viz. Hooker's "New Zealand") that makes any
approach to the clearness with which your paper makes a non-botanist
appreciate the character of the flora of a country. It is wonderfully
condensed (what labour it must have required!). You ask whether such
details are worth giving: in my opinion, there is literally not one word
I thank you sincerely for the information about "social" and "varying
plants," and likewise for giving me some idea about the proportion (i.e.
1/4th) of European plants which you think do not range to the extreme
North. This proportion is very much greater than I had anticipated, from
what I picked up in conversation, etc.
To return to your "Statistics." I daresay you will give how many genera
(and orders) your 260 introduced plants belong to. I see they include 113
genera non-indigenous. As you have probably a list of the introduced
plants, would it be asking too great a favour to send me, per Hooker or
otherwise, just the total number of genera and orders to which the
introduced plants belong. I am much interested in this, and have found De
Candolle's remarks on this subject very instructive.
Nothing has surprised me more than the greater generic and specific
affinity with East Asia than with West America. Can you tell me (and I
will promise to inflict no other question) whether climate explains this
greater affinity? or is it one of the many utterly inexplicable problems in
botanical geography? Is East Asia nearly as well known as West America? so
that does the state of knowledge allow a pretty fair comparison? I presume
it would be impossible, but I think it would make in one point your tables
of generic ranges more clear (admirably clear as they seem to me) if you
could show, even roughly, what proportion of the genera in common to Europe
(i.e. nearly half) are very general or mundane rangers. As your results
now stand, at the first glance the affinity seems so very strong to Europe,
owing, as I presume, to nearly half of the genera including very many
genera common to the world or large portions of it. Europe is thus
unfairly exalted. Is this not so? If we had the number of genera
strictly, or nearly strictly European, one could compare better with Asia
and Southern America, etc. But I dare say this is a Utopian wish, owing to
difficulty of saying what genera to call mundane; nor have I my ideas at
all clear on the subject, and I have expressed them even less clearly than
I have them.
I am so very glad that you intend to work out the north range of the 321
European species; for it seems to me the by far most important element in
And I am equally glad that you intend to work out range of species in
regard to size of genera--i.e. number of species in genus. I have been
attempting to do this in a very few cases, but it is folly for any one but
a botanist to attempt it. I must think that De Candolle has fallen into
error in attempting to do this for orders instead of for genera--for
reasons with which I will not trouble you.
LETTER 332. TO J.D. HOOKER.
(332/1. The "verdict" referred to in the following letter was Sir J.D.
Hooker's opinion on Darwin's MS. on geographical distribution. The first
paragraph has been already published in "Life and Letters," II., page 86.)
Down, November 4th .
I thank you more cordially than you will think probable for your note.
Your verdict has been a great relief. On my honour I had no idea whether
or not you would say it was (and I knew you would say it very kindly) so
bad, that you would have begged me to have burnt the whole. To my own mind
my MS. relieved me of some few difficulties, and the difficulties seemed to
me pretty fairly stated; but I had become so bewildered with conflicting
facts--evidence, reasoning and opinions--that I felt to myself that I had
lost all judgment. Your general verdict is incomparably more favourable
than I had anticipated.
Very many thanks for your invitation. I had made up my mind, on my poor
wife's account, not to come up to next Phil. Club; but I am so much tempted
by your invitation, and my poor dear wife is so good-natured about it, that
I think I shall not resist--i.e., if she does not get worse. I would come
to dinner at about same time as before, if that would suit you, and I do
not hear to the contrary; and would go away by the early train--i.e., about
9 o'clock. I find my present work tries me a good deal, and sets my heart
palpitating, so I must be careful. But I should so much like to see
Henslow, and likewise meet Lindley if the fates will permit. You will see
whether there will be time for any criticism in detail on my MS. before
dinner: not that I am in the least hurry, for it will be months before I
come again to Geographical Distribution; only I am afraid of your
forgetting any remarks.
I do not know whether my very trifling observations on means of
distribution are worth your reading, but it amuses me to tell them.
The seeds which the eagle had in [its] stomach for eighteen hours looked so
fresh that I would have bet five to one that they would all have grown; but
some kinds were ALL killed, and two oats, one canary-seed, one clover, and
one beet alone came up! Now I should have not cared swearing that the beet
would not have been killed, and I should have fully expected that the
clover would have been. These seeds, however, were kept for three days in
moist pellets, damp with gastric juice, after being ejected, which would
have helped to have injured them.
Lately I have been looking, during a few walks, at excrement of small
birds. I have found six kinds of seeds, which is more than I expected.
Lastly, I have had a partridge with twenty-two grains of dry earth on one
foot, and to my surprise a pebble as big as a tare seed; and I now
understand how this is possible, for the bird scratches itself, [and the]
little plumous feathers make a sort of very tenacious plaister. Think of
the millions of migratory quails (332/2. See "Origin," Edition I., page
363, where the millions of migrating quails occur again.), and it would be
strange if some plants have not been transported across good arms of the
Talking of this, I have just read your curious Raoul Island paper. (332/3.
"Linn. Soc. Journal." I., 1857.) This looks more like a case of continuous
land, or perhaps of several intervening, now lost, islands than any
(according to my heterodox notions) I have yet seen. The concordance of
the vegetation seems so complete with New Zealand, and with that land
I have read Salter's paper and can hardly stomach it. I wonder whether the
lighters were ever used to carry grain and hay to ships. (332/4. Salter,
"Linn. Soc. Journal," I., 1857, page 140, "On the Vitality of Seeds after
prolonged Immersion in the Sea." It appears that in 1843 the mud was
scraped from the bottom of the channels in Poole Harbour, and carried to
shore in barges. On this mud a vegetation differing from that of the
surrounding shore sprang up.)
Adios, my dear Hooker. I thank you most honestly for your assistance--
assistance, by the way, now spread over some dozen years.
P.S.--Wednesday. I see from my wife's expression that she does not really
much like my going, and therefore I must give up, of course, this pleasure.
If you should have anything to discuss about my MS., I see that I could get
to you by about 12, and then could return by the 2.19 o'clock train, and be
home by 5.30 o'clock, and thus I should get two hours' talk. But it would
be a considerable exertion for me, and I would not undertake it for mere
pleasure's sake, but would very gladly for my book's sake.
LETTER 333. J.D. HOOKER TO CHARLES DARWIN.
November 9th, 1856.
I have finished the reading of your MS., and have been very much delighted
and instructed. Your case is a most strong one, and gives me a much higher
idea of change than I had previously entertained; and though, as you know,
never very stubborn about unalterability of specific type, I never felt so
shaky about species before.
The first half you will be able to put more clearly when you polish up. I
have in several cases made pencil alterations in details as to words, etc.,
to enable myself to follow better,--some of it is rather stiff reading. I
have a page or two of notes for discussion, many of which were answered, as
I got further on with the MS., more or less fully. Your doctrine of the
cooling of the Tropics is a startling one, when carried to the length of
supporting plants of cold temperate regions; and I must confess that, much
as I should like it, I can hardly stomach keeping the tropical genera alive
in so very cool a greenhouse [pencil note by C.D., "Not so very cool, but
northern ones could range further south if not opposed"]. Still I must
confess that all your arguments pro may be much stronger put than you have.
I am more reconciled to iceberg transport than I was, the more especially
as I will give you any length of time to keep vitality in ice, and more
than that, will let you transport roots that way also.
(333/1. The above letter was pinned to the following note by Mr. Darwin.)
In answer to this show from similarity of American, and European and
Alpine-Arctic plants, that they have travelled enormously without any
As sub-arctic, temperate and tropical are all slowly marching toward the
equator, the tropical will be first checked and distressed, similarly
(333/2. Almost illegible.) the temperate will invade...; after the
temperate can [not] advance or do not wish to advance further the arctics
will be checked and will invade. The temperates will have been far longer
in Tropics than sub-arctics. The sub-arctics will first have to cross
temperate [zone] and then Tropics. They would penetrate among strangers,
just like the many naturalised plants brought by man, from some unknown
advantage. But more, for nearly all have chance of doing so.
(333/3. The point of view is more clearly given in the following letters.)
LETTER 334. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, November 15th .
I shall not consider all your notes on my MS. for some weeks, till I have
done with crossing; but I have not been able to stop myself meditating on
your powerful objection to the mundane cold period (334/1. See Letter
49.), viz. that MANY-fold more of the warm-temperate species ought to have
crossed the Tropics than of the sub-arctic forms. I really think that to
those who deny the modification of species this would absolutely disprove
my theory. But according to the notions which I am testing--viz. that
species do become changed, and that time is a most important element (which
I think I shall be able to show very clearly in this case)--in such change,
I think, the result would be as follows. Some of the warm-temperate forms
would penetrate the Tropics long before the sub-arctic, and some might get
across the equator long before the sub-arctic forms could do so (i.e.
always supposing that the cold came on slowly), and therefore these must
have been exposed to new associates and new conditions much longer than the
sub-arctic. Hence I should infer that we ought to have in the warm-
temperate S. hemisphere more representative or modified forms, and fewer
identical species than in comparing the colder regions of the N. and S. I
have expressed this very obscurely, but you will understand, I think, what
I mean. It is a parallel case (but with a greater difference) to the
species of the mountains of S. Europe compared with the arctic plants, the
S. European alpine species having been isolated for a longer period than on
the arctic islands. Whether there are many tolerably close species in the
warm-temperate lands of the S. and N. I know not; as in La Plata, Cape of
Good Hope, and S. Australia compared to the North, I know not. I presume
it would be very difficult to test this, but perhaps you will keep it a
little before your mind, for your argument strikes me as by far the most
serious difficulty which has occurred to me. All your criticisms and
approvals are in simple truth invaluable to me. I fancy I am right in
speaking in this note of the species in common to N. and S. as being rather
sub-arctic than arctic.
This letter does not require any answer. I have written it to ease myself,
and to get you just to bear your argument, under the modification point of
view, in mind. I have had this morning a most cruel stab in the side on my
notion of the distribution of mammals in relation to soundings.
LETTER 335. J.D. HOOKER TO CHARLES DARWIN.
Kew, Sunday [November 1856].
I write only to say that I entirely appreciate your answer to my objection
on the score of the comparative rareness of Northern warm-temperate forms
in the Southern hemisphere. You certainly have wriggled out of it by
getting them more time to change, but as you must admit that the distance
traversed is not so great as the arctics have to travel, and the extremes
of modifying cause not so great as the arctics undergo, the result should
be considerably modified thereby. Thus: the sub-arctics have (1) to
travel twice as far, (2) taking twice the time, (3) undergoing many more
All this you have to meet by giving the North temperate forms simply more
time. I think this will hardly hold water.
LETTER 336. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, November 18th .
Many thanks for your note received this morning; and now for another
"wriggle." According to my notions, the sub-arctic species would advance
in a body, advancing so as to keep climate nearly the same; and as long as
they did this I do not believe there would be any tendency to change, but
only when the few got amongst foreign associates. When the tropical
species retreated as far as they could to the equator they would halt, and
then the confusion would spread back in the line of march from the far
north, and the strongest would struggle forward, etc., etc. (But I am
getting quite poetical in my wriggles). In short, I THINK the warm-
temperates would be exposed very much longer to those causes which I
believe are alone efficient in producing change than the sub-arctic; but I
must think more over this, and have a good wriggle. I cannot quite agree
with your proposition that because the sub-arctic have to travel twice as
far they would be more liable to change. Look at the two journeys which
the arctics have had from N. to S. and S. to N., with no change, as may be
inferred, if my doctrine is correct, from similarity of arctic species in
America and Europe and in the Alps. But I will not weary you; but I really
and truly think your last objection is not so strong as it looks at first.
You never make an objection without doing me much good. Hurrah! a seed has
just germinated after 21 1/2 hours in owl's stomach. This, according to
ornithologists' calculation, would carry it God knows how many miles; but I
think an owl really might go in storm in this time 400 or 500 miles.
Owls and hawks have often been seen in mid-Atlantic.
(336/1. An interesting letter, dated November 23rd, 1856, occurs in the
"Life and Letters," II., page 86, which forms part of this discussion. On
page 87 the following passage occurs: "I shall have to discuss and think
more about your difficulty of the temperate and sub-arctic forms in the S.
hemisphere than I have yet done. But I am inclined to think that I am
right (if my general principles are right), that there would be little
tendency to the formation of a new species during the period of migration,
whether shorter or longer, though considerable variability may have
LETTER 337. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, December 10th .
It is a most tiresome drawback to my satisfaction in writing that, though I
leave out a good deal and try to condense, every chapter runs to such an
inordinate length. My present chapter on the causes of fertility and
sterility and on natural crossing has actually run out to 100 pages MS.,
and yet I do not think I have put in anything superfluous...
I have for the last fifteen months been tormented and haunted by land-
mollusca, which occur on every oceanic island; and I thought that the
double creationists or continental extensionists had here a complete
victory. The few eggs which I have tried both sink and are killed. No one
doubts that salt water would be eminently destructive to them; and I was
really in despair, when I thought I would try them when torpid; and this
day I have taken a lot out of the sea-water, after exactly seven days'
immersion. (337/1. This method of dispersal is not given in the "Origin";
it seems, therefore, probable that further experiments upset the conclusion
drawn in 1856. This would account for the satisfaction expressed in the
following year at the discovery of another method, on which Darwin wrote to
Sir J.D. Hooker: "The distribution of fresh-water molluscs has been a
horrid incubus to me, but I think I know my way now. When first hatched
they are very active, and I have had thirty or forty crawl on a dead duck's
foot; and they cannot be jerked off, and will live fifteen or even twenty-
four hours out of water" ("Life and Letters," II., page 93). The published
account of these experiments is in the "Origin," Edition I., page 385.)
Some sink and some swim; and in both cases I have had (as yet) one come to
life again, which has quite astonished and delighted me. I feel as if a
thousand-pound weight was taken off my back. Adios, my dear, kind friend.
I must tell you another of my profound experiments! [Frank] said to me:
"Why should not a bird be killed (by hawk, lightning, apoplexy, hail, etc.)
with seed in its crop, and it would swim?" No sooner said than done: a
pigeon has floated for thirty days in salt water with seeds in its crop,
and they have grown splendidly; and to my great surprise even tares
(Leguminosae, so generally killed by sea-water), which the bird had
naturally eaten, have grown well. You will say gulls and dog-fish, etc.,
would eat up the carcase, and so they would 999 times out of a thousand,
but one might escape: I have seen dead land-birds in sea-drift.
LETTER 338. ASA GRAY TO CHARLES DARWIN.
(338/1. In reply to Darwin's letter given in "Life and Letters," II., page
Cambridge, Mass., February 16th, 1857.
I meant to have replied to your interesting letter of January 1st long
before this time, and also that of November 24th, which I doubt if I have
ever acknowledged. But after getting my school-book, Lessons in Botany,
off my hands--it taking up time far beyond what its size would seem to
warrant--I had to fall hard at work upon a collection of small size from
Japan--mostly N. Japan, which I am only just done with. As I expected, the
number of species common to N. America is considerably increased in this
collection, as also the number of closely representative species in the
two, and a pretty considerable number of European species too. I have
packed off my MSS. (though I hardly know what will become of it), or I
would refer you to some illustrations. The greater part of the identical
species (of Japan and N. America) are of those extending to or belonging to
N.W. coast of America, but there are several peculiar to Japan and E. U.
States: e.g. our Viburnum lantanoides is one of Thunberg's species. De
Candolle's remarkable case of Phryma, which he so dwells upon, turns out,
as Dr. Hooker said it would, to be only one out of a great many cases of
the same sort. (Hooker brought Monotropa uniflora, you know, from the
Himalayas; and now, by the way, I have it from almost as far south, i.e.,
from St. Fee, New Granada)...
Well, I never meant to draw any conclusions at all, and am very sorry that
the only one I was beguiled into should "rile" (338/2. "One of your
conclusions makes me groan, viz., that the line of connection of the
strictly alpine plants is through Greenland. I should extremely like to
see your reasons published in detail, for it 'riles' me (this is a proper
expression, is it not?) dreadfully" (Darwin to Gray, January 1st, 1857,
"Life and Letters," II., page 89).) you, as you say it does,--that on page
73 of my second article: for if it troubles you it is not likely to be
sound. Of course I had no idea of laying any great stress upon the fact
(at first view so unexpected to me) that one-third of our alpine species
common to Europe do not reach the Arctic circle; but the remark which I put
down was an off-hand inference from what you geologists seem to have
settled--viz., that the northern regions must have been a deal cooler than
they are now--the northern limit of vegetation therefore much lower than
now--about the epoch when it would seem probable that the existing species
of our plants were created. At any rate, during the Glacial period there
could have been no phaenogamous plants on our continent anywhere near the
polar regions; and it seems a good rule to look in the first place for the
cause or reason of what now is, in that which immediately preceded. I
don't see that Greenland could help us much, but if there was any
interchange of species between N. America and N. Europe in those times, was
not the communication more likely to be in lower latitudes than over the
If, however, you say--as you may have very good reasons for saying--that
the existing species got their present diffusion before the Glacial epoch,
I should have no answer. I suppose you must needs assume very great
antiquity for species of plants in order to account for their present
dispersion, so long as we cling--as one cannot but do--to the idea of the
single birthplace of species.
I am curious to see whether, as you suggest, there would be found a harmony
or close similarity between the geographical range in this country of the
species common to Europe and those strictly representative or strictly
congeneric with European species. If I get a little time I will look up
the facts: though, as Dr. Hooker rightly tells me, I have no business to
be running after side game of any sort, while there is so much I have to
do--much more than I shall ever do probably--to finish undertakings I have
long ago begun.
...As to your P.S. If you have time to send me a longer list of your
protean genera, I will say if they seem to be protean here. Of those you
Salix, I really know nothing about.
Rubus, the N. American species, with one exception, are very clearly marked
Mentha, we have only one wild species; that has two pretty well-marked
forms, which have been taken for species; one smooth, the other hairy.
Saxifraga, gives no trouble here.
Myosotis, only one or two species here, and those very well marked.
Hieracium, few species, but pretty well marked.
Rosa, putting down a set of nominal species, leaves us four; two of them
polymorphous, but easy to distinguish...
LETTER 339. TO J.D. HOOKER.
One must judge by one's own light, however imperfect, and as I have found
no other book (339/1. A. De Candolle's "Geographie Botanique," 1855.) so
useful to me, I am bound to feel grateful: no doubt it is in main part
owing to the concentrated light of the noble art of compilation. (339/2.
See Letter 49.) I was aware that he was not the first who had insisted on
range of Monocots. (Was not R. Brown [with] Flinders?) (339/3. M.
Flinders' "Voyage to Terra Australis in 1801-3, in H.M.S. 'Investigator'";
with "Botanical Appendix," by Robert Brown, London, 1814.), and I fancy I
only used expression "strongly insisted on,"--but it is quite unimportant.
If you and I had time to waste, I should like to go over his [De
Candolle's] book and point out the several subjects in which I fancy he is
original. His remarks on the relations of naturalised plants will be very
useful to me; on the ranges of large families seemed to me good, though I
believe he has made a great blunder in taking families instead of smaller
groups, as I have been delighted to find in A. Gray's last paper. But it
is no use going on.
I do so wish I could understand clearly why you do not at all believe in
accidental means of dispersion of plants. The strongest argument which I
can remember at this instant is A. de C., that very widely ranging plants
are found as commonly on islands as over continents. It is really
provoking to me that the immense contrast in proportion of plants in New
Zealand and Australia seems to me a strong argument for non-continuous
land; and this does not seem to weigh in the least with you. I wish I
could put myself in your frame of mind. In Madeira I find in Wollaston's
books a parallel case with your New Zealand case--viz., the striking
absence of whole genera and orders now common in Europe, and (as I have
just been hunting out) common in Europe in Miocene periods. Of course I
can offer no explanation why this or that group is absent; but if the means
of introduction have been accidental, then one might expect odd proportions
and absences. When we meet, do try and make me see more clearly than I do,
LETTER 340. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, November 14th .
I am heartily glad to hear that my Lyellian notes have been of the
slightest use to you. (340/1. The Copley Medal was given to Sir Charles
Lyell in 1858. Mr. Darwin supplied Sir J.D. Hooker, who was on the Council
of the Royal Society, with notes for the reasons for the award. See Letter
69.) I do not think the view is exaggerated...
Your letter and lists have MOST DEEPLY interested me. First for less
important point, about hermaphrodite trees. (340/2. See "Life and
Letters," II., page 89. In the "Origin," Edition I., page 100, the author
quotes Dr. Hooker to the effect that "the rule does not hold in Australia,"
i.e., that trees are not more generally unisexual than other plants. In
the 6th edition, page 79, Darwin adds, "but if most of the Australian trees
are dichogamous, the same result would follow as if they bore flowers with
separated sexes.") It is enough to knock me down, yet I can hardly think
that British N. America and New Zealand should all have been theoretically
right by chance. Have you at Kew any Eucalyptus or Australian Mimosa which
sets its seeds? if so, would it be very troublesome to observe when pollen
is mature, and whether pollen-tubes enter stigma readily immediately that
pollen is mature or some little time afterwards? though if pollen is not
mature for some little time after flower opens, the stigma might be ready
first, though according to C.C. Sprengel this is a rarer case. I wrote to
Muller for chance of his being able and willing to observe this.
Your fact of greater number of European plants (N.B.--But do you mean
greater percentage?) in Australia than in S. America is astounding and very
unpleasant to me; for from N.W. America (where nearly the same flora exists
as in Canada?) to T. del Fuego, there is far more continuous high land than
from Europe to Tasmania. There must have, I should think, existed some
curious barrier on American High-Road: dryness of Peru, excessive damp of
Panama, or some other confounded cause, which either prevented immigration
or has since destroyed them. You say I may ask questions, and so I have on
enclosed paper; but it will of course be a very different thing whether you
will think them worth labour of answering.
May I keep the lists now returned? otherwise I will have them copied.
You said that you would give me a few cases of Australian forms and
identical species going north by Malay Archipelago mountains to Philippines
and Japan; but if these are given in your "Introduction" this will suffice
for me. (340/3. See Hooker's "Introductory Essay," page l.)
Your lists seem to me wonderfully interesting.
According to my theoretical notions, I am not satisfied with what you say
about local plants in S.W. corner of Australia (340/4. Sir Joseph replied
in an undated letter: "Thanks for your hint. I shall be very cautious how
I mention any connection between the varied flora and poor soil of S.W.
Australia...It is not by the way only that the species are so numerous, but
that these and the genera are so confoundedly well marked. You have, in
short, an incredible number of VERY LOCAL, WELL MARKED genera and species
crowded into that corner of Australia." See "Introductory Essay to the
Flora of Tasmania," 1859, page li.), and the seeds not readily germinating:
do be cautious on this; consider lapse of time. It does not suit my
stomach at all. It is like Wollaston's confined land-snails in Porto
Santo, and confined to same spots since a Tertiary period, being due to
their slow crawling powers; and yet we know that other shell-snails have
stocked a whole country within a very few years with the same breeding
powers, and same crawling powers, when the conditions have been favourable
to the life of the introduced species. Hypothetically I should rather look
at the case as owing to-- but as my notions are not very simple or clear,
and only hypothetical, they are not worth inflicting on you.
I had vowed not to mention my everlasting Abstract (340/5. The "Origin of
Species" was abbreviated from the MS. of an unpublished book.) to you
again, for I am sure I have bothered you far more than enough about it; but
as you allude to its previous publication I may say that I have chapters on
Instinct and Hybridism to abstract, which may take a fortnight each; and my
materials for Palaeontology, Geographical Distribution and Affinities being
less worked up, I daresay each of these will take me three weeks, so that I
shall not have done at soonest till April, and then my Abstract will in
bulk make a small volume. I never give more than one or two instances, and
I pass over briefly all difficulties, and yet I cannot make my Abstract
shorter, to be satisfactory, than I am now doing, and yet it will expand to
LETTER 341. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down [November?] 27th .
What you say about the Cape flora's direct relation to Australia is a great
trouble to me. Does not Abyssinia highland, (341/1. In a letter to
Darwin, December 21st (?), 1858, Sir J.D. Hooker wrote: "Highlands of
Abyssinia will not help you to connect the Cape and Australian temperate
floras: they want all the types common to both, and, worse than that,
India notably wants them. Proteaceae, Thymeleae, Haemodoraceae, Acacia,
Rutaceae, of closely allied genera (and in some cases species), are jammed
up in S.W. Australia, and C.B.S. [Cape of Good Hope]: add to this the
Epacrideae (which are mere (paragraph symbol) of Ericaceae) and the absence
or rarity of Rasaceae, etc., etc., and you have an amount [of] similarity
in the floras and dissimilarity to that of Abyssinia and India in the same
features that does demand an explanation in any theoretical history of
Southern vegetation."), and the mountains on W. coast in some degree
connect the extra-tropical floras of Cape and Australia? To my mind the
enormous importance of the Glacial period rises daily stronger and
stronger. I am very glad to hear about S.E. and S.W. Australia: I
suspected after my letter was gone that the case must be as it is. You
know of course that nearly the same rule holds with birds and mammals.
Several years ago I reviewed in the "Annals of Natural History," (341/2.
"Annals and Mag. of Nat. Hist." Volume XIX., 1847, pages 53-56, an unsigned
review of "A Natural History of the Mammalia," by G.R. Waterhouse, Volume
I. The passage referred to is at page 55: "The fact of South Australia
possessing only few peculiar species, it having been apparently colonised
from the eastern and western coasts, is very interesting; for we believe
that Mr. Robert Brown has shown that nearly the same remark is applicable
to the plants; and Mr. Gould finds that most of the birds from these
opposite shores, though closely allied, are distinct. Considering these
facts, together with the presence in South Australia of upraised modern
Tertiary deposits and of extinct volcanoes, it seems probable that the
eastern and western shores once formed two islands, separated from each
other by a shallow sea, with their inhabitants generically, though not
specifically, related, exactly as are those of New Guinea and Northern
Australia, and that within a geologically recent period a series of
upheavals converted the intermediate sea into those desert plains which are
now known to stretch from the southern coast far northward, and which then
became colonised from the regions to the east and west." On this point see
Hooker's "Introductory Essay to the Flora of Tasmania," page ci, where
Jukes' views are discussed. For an interesting account of the bearings of
the submergence of parts of Australia, see Thiselton-Dyer, "R. Geogr. Soc.
Jour." XXII., No. 6.) Waterhouse's "Mammalia," and speculated that these
two corners, now separated by gulf and low land, must have existed as two
large islands; but it is odd that productions have not become more mingled;
but it accords with, I think, a very general rule in the spreading of
organic beings. I agree with what you say about Lyell; he learns more by
word of mouth than by reading.
Henslow has just gone, and has left me in a fit of enthusiastic admiration
of his character. He is a really noble and good man.
LETTER 342. TO G. BENTHAM.
Down, December 1st [1858?].
I thank you for so kindly taking the trouble of writing to me, on
naturalised plants. I did not know of, or had forgotten, the clover case.
How I wish I knew what plants the clover took the place of; but that would
require more accurate knowledge of any one piece of ground than I suppose
any one has. In the case of trees being so long-lived, I should think it
would be extremely difficult to distinguish between true and new spreading
of a species, and a rotation of crop. With respect to your idea of plants
travelling west, I was much struck by a remark of yours in the penultimate
"Linnean Journal" on the spreading of plants from America near Behring
Straits. Do you not consider so many more seeds and plants being taken
from Europe to America, than in a reverse direction, would go some way to
account for comparative fewness of naturalised American plants here?
Though I think one might wildly speculate on European weeds having become
well fitted for cultivated land, during thousands of years of culture,
whereas cultivated land would be a new home for native American weeds, and
they would not consequently be able to beat their European rivals when put
in contest with them on cultivated land. Here is a bit of wild theory!
(342/1. See Asa Gray, "Scientific Papers," 1889, Volume II., page 235, on
"The Pertinacity and Predominance of Weeds," where the view here given is
adopted. In a letter to Asa Gray (November 6th, 1862), published in the
"Life and Letters," II., page 390, Darwin wrote: "Does it not hurt your
Yankee pride that we thrash you so confoundedly? I am sure Mrs. Gray will
stick up for your own weeds. Ask her whether they are not more honest
downright good sort of weeds.")
But I did not sit down intending to scribble thus; but to beg a favour of
you. I gave Hooker a list of species of Silene, on which Gartner has
experimentised in crossing: now I want EXTREMELY to be permitted to say
that such and such are believed by Mr. Bentham to be true species, and such
and such to be only varieties. Unfortunately and stupidly, Gartner does
not append author's name to the species.
Thank you heartily for what you say about my book; but you will be greatly
disappointed; it will be grievously too hypothetical. It will very likely
be of no other service than collocating some facts; though I myself think I
see my way approximately on the origin of species. But, alas, how
frequent, how almost universal it is in an author to persuade himself of
the truth of his own dogmas. My only hope is that I certainly see very
many difficulties of gigantic stature.
If you can remember any cases of one introduced species beating out or
prevailing over another, I should be most thankful to hear it. I believe
the common corn-poppy has been seen indigenous in Sicily. I should like to
know whether you suppose that seedlings of this wild plant would stand a
contest with our own poppy; I should almost expect that our poppies were in
some degree acclimatised and accustomed to our cornfields. If this could
be shown to be so in this and other cases, I think we could understand why
many not-trained American plants would not succeed in our agrarian
LETTER 343. TO J.D. HOOKER.
(343/1. Mr. Darwin used the knowledge of the spread of introduced plants
in North America and Australia to throw light on the cosmic migration of
plants. Sir J.D. Hooker apparently objected that it was not fair to argue
from agrarian to other plants; he also took a view differing slightly from
that of Darwin as to climatal and other natural conditions favouring
introduced plants in Australia.)
Down, January 28th, 1859.
Thanks about glaciers. It is a pleasure and profit to me to write to you,
and as in your last you have touched on naturalised plants of Australia, I
suppose you would not dislike to hear what I can say in answer. At least I
know you would not wish me to defer to your authority, as long as not
I quite agree to what you say about our agrarian plants being accustomed to
cultivated land, and so no fair test. Buckman has, I think, published this
notion with respect to North America. With respect to roadside plants, I
cannot feel so sure that these ought to be excluded, as animals make roads
in many wild countries. (343/2. In the account of naturalised plants in
Australia in Sir J.D. Hooker's "Introductory Essay to the Flora of
Tasmania," 1859, page cvi, many of the plants are marked "Britain--waste
places," "Europe--cornfields," etc. In the same list the species which
have also invaded North America--a large number--are given. On the margin
of Darwin's copy is scribbled in pencil: "Very good, showing how many of
the same species are naturalised in Australia and United States, with very
different climates; opposed to your conclusion." Sir Joseph supposed that