Part 5 out of 11
too much to say that the creation of the establishment at Kew is due to the
abilities and self-devotion of Sir William Hooker. While, for the
subsequent development of the gardens up to their present magnificent
condition, the nation must thank Sir Joseph Hooker, in whom the same
qualities are so conspicuous.); I wish I had known your father better, my
impression is confined to his remarkably cordial, courteous, and frank
bearing. I fully concur and understand what you say about the difference
of feeling in the loss of a father and child. I do not think any one could
love a father much more than I did mine, and I do not believe three or four
days ever pass without my still thinking of him, but his death at eighty-
four caused me nothing of that insufferable grief (I may quote here a
passage from a letter of November, 1863. It was written to a friend who
had lost his child: "How well I remember your feeling, when we lost Annie.
It was my greatest comfort that I had never spoken a harsh word to her.
Your grief has made me shed a few tears over our poor darling; but believe
me that these tears have lost that unutterable bitterness of former days.")
which the loss of our poor dear Annie caused. And this seems to me
perfectly natural, for one knows for years previously that one's father's
death is drawing slowly nearer and nearer, while the death of one's child
is a sudden and dreadful wrench. What a wonderful deal you read; it is a
horrid evil for me that I can read hardly anything, for it makes my head
almost immediately begin to sing violently. My good womenkind read to me a
great deal, but I dare not ask for much science, and am not sure that I
could stand it. I enjoyed Tylor ('Researches into the Early History of
Mankind,' by E.B. Tylor. 1865.) EXTREMELY, and the first part of Lecky
'The Rise of Rationalism in Europe,' by W.E.H. Lecky. 1865.); but I think
the latter is often vague, and gives a false appearance of throwing light
on his subject by such phrases as "spirit of the age," "spread of
civilization," etc. I confine my reading to a quarter or half hour per day
in skimming through the back volumes of the Annals and Magazine of Natural
History, and find much that interests me. I miss my climbing plants very
much, as I could observe them when very poorly.
I did not enjoy the 'Mill on the Floss' so much as you, but from what you
say we will read it again. Do you know 'Silas Marner'? it is a charming
little story; if you run short, and like to have it, we could send it by
post...We have almost finished the first volume of Palgrave (William
Gifford Palgrave's 'Travels in Arabia,' published in 1865.), and I like it
much; but did you ever see a book so badly arranged? The frequency of the
allusions to what will be told in the future are quite laughable...By the
way, I was very much pleased with the foot-note (The passage which seems to
be referred to occurs in the text (page 479) of 'Prehistoric Times.' It
expresses admiration of Mr. Wallace's paper in the 'Anthropological Review'
(May, 1864), and speaks of the author's "characteristic unselfishness" in
ascribing the theory of Natural Selection "unreservedly to Mr. Darwin."
about Wallace in Lubbock's last chapter. I had not heard that Huxley had
backed up Lubbock about Parliament...Did you see a sneer some time ago in
the "Times" about how incomparably more interesting politics were compared
with science even to scientific men? Remember what Trollope says, in 'Can
you Forgive her,' about getting into Parliament, as the highest earthly
ambition. Jeffrey, in one of his letters, I remember, says that making an
effective speech in Parliament is a far grander thing than writing the
grandest history. All this seems to me a poor short-sighted view. I
cannot tell you how it has rejoiced me once again seeing your handwriting--
my best of old friends.
[In October he wrote Sir J.D. Hooker:--
"Talking of the 'Origin,' a Yankee has called my attention to a paper
attached to Dr. Wells's famous 'Essay on Dew,' which was read in 1813 to
the Royal Society, but not [then] printed, in which he applies most
distinctly the principle of Natural Selection to the Races of Man. So poor
old Patrick Matthew is not the first, and he cannot, or ought not, any
longer to put on his title-pages, 'Discoverer of the principle of Natural
CHARLES DARWIN TO F.W. FARRAR. (Canon of Westminster.)
Down, November 2 [1865?].
As I have never studied the science of language, it may perhaps seem
presumptuous, but I cannot resist the pleasure of telling you what interest
and pleasure I have derived from hearing read aloud your volume ('Chapters
on Language,' 1865.)
I formerly read Max Muller, and thought his theory (if it deserves to be
called so) both obscure and weak; and now, after hearing what you say, I
feel sure that this is the case, and that your cause will ultimately
triumph. My indirect interest in your book has been increased from Mr.
Hensleigh Wedgwood, whom you often quote, being my brother-in-law.
No one could dissent from my views on the modification of species with more
courtesy than you do. But from the tenor of your mind I feel an entire and
comfortable conviction (and which cannot possibly be disturbed) that if
your studies led you to attend much to general questions in natural history
you would come to the same conclusion that I have done.
Have you ever read Huxley's little book of Lectures? I would gladly send a
copy if you think you would read it.
Considering what Geology teaches us, the argument from the supposed
immutability of specific types seems to me much the same as if, in a nation
which had no old writings, some wise old savage was to say that his
language had never changed; but my metaphor is too long to fill up.
Pray believe me, dear Sir, yours very sincerely obliged,
[The year 1866 is given in my father's Diary in the following words:--
"Continued correcting chapters of 'Domestic Animals.'
March 1st.--Began on 4th edition of 'Origin' of 1250 copies (received for
it 238 pounds), making 7500 copies altogether.
May 10th.--Finished 'Origin,' except revises, and began going over Chapter
XIII. of 'Domestic Animals.'
November 21st.--Finished 'Pangenesis.'
December 21st.--Finished re-going over all chapters, and sent them to
December 22nd.--Began concluding chapter of book."
He was in London on two occasions for a week at a time, staying with his
brother, and for a few days (May 29th-June 2nd) in Surrey; for the rest of
the year he was at Down.
There seems to have been a gradual mending in his health; thus he wrote to
Mr. Wallace (January 1866):--"My health is so far improved that I am able
to work one or two hours a day."
With respect to the 4th edition he wrote to Sir J.D. Hooker:--
"The new edition of the 'Origin' has caused me two great vexations. I
forgot Bates's paper on variation (This appears to refer to "Notes on South
American Butterflies," Trans. Entomolog. Soc., vol. v. (N.S.).), but I
remembered in time his mimetic work, and now, strange to say, I find I have
forgotten your Arctic paper! I know how it arose; I indexed for my bigger
work, and never expected that a new edition of the 'Origin' would be
"I cannot say how all this has vexed me. Everything which I have read
during the last four years I find is quite washy in my mind." As far as I
know, Mr. Bates's paper was not mentioned in the later editions of the
'Origin,' for what reason I cannot say.
In connection with his work on 'The Variation of Animals and Plants,' I
give here extracts from three letters addressed to Mr. Huxley, which are of
interest as giving some idea of the development of the theory of
'Pangenesis,' ultimately published in 1868 in the book in question:]
CHARLES DARWIN TO T.H. HUXLEY.
Down, May 27, [1865?].
...I write now to ask a favour of you, a very great favour from one so hard
worked as you are. It is to read thirty pages of MS., excellently copied
out and give me, not lengthened criticism, but your opinion whether I may
venture to publish it. You may keep the MS. for a month or two. I would
not ask this favour, but I REALLY know no one else whose judgment on the
subject would be final with me.
The case stands thus: in my next book I shall publish long chapters on
bud- and seminal-variation, on inheritance, reversion, effects of use and
disuse, etc. I have also for many years speculated on the different forms
of reproduction. Hence it has come to be a passion with me to try to
connect all such facts by some sort of hypothesis. The MS. which I wish to
send you gives such a hypothesis; it is a very rash and crude hypothesis,
yet it has been a considerable relief to my mind, and I can hang on it a
good many groups of facts. I well know that a mere hypothesis, and this is
nothing more, is of little value; but it is very useful to me as serving as
a kind of summary for certain chapters. Now I earnestly wish for your
verdict given briefly as, "Burn it"--or, which is the most favourable
verdict I can hope for, "It does rudely connect together certain facts, and
I do not think it will immediately pass out of my mind." If you can say
this much, and you do not think it absolutely ridiculous, I shall publish
it in my concluding chapter. Now will you grant me this favour? You must
refuse if you are too much overworked.
I must say for myself that I am a hero to expose my hypothesis to the fiery
ordeal of your criticism.
July 12, [1865?].
My dear Huxley,
I thank you most sincerely for having so carefully considered my MS. It
has been a real act of kindness. It would have annoyed me extremely to
have re-published Buffon's views, which I did not know of, but I will get
the book; and if I have strength I will also read Bonnet. I do not doubt
your judgment is perfectly just, and I will try to persuade myself not to
publish. The whole affair is much too speculative; yet I think some such
view will have to be adopted, when I call to mind such facts as the
inherited effects of use and disuse, etc. But I will try to be cautious...
My dear Huxley,
Forgive my writing in pencil, as I can do so lying down. I have read
Buffon: whole pages are laughably like mine. It is surprising how candid
it makes one to see one's views in another man's words. I am rather
ashamed of the whole affair, but not converted to a no-belief. What a
kindness you have done me with your "vulpine sharpness." Nevertheless,
there is a fundamental distinction between Buffon's views and mine. He
does not suppose that each cell or atom of tissue throws off a little bud;
but he supposes that the sap or blood includes his "organic molecules,"
WHICH ARE READY FORMED, fit to nourish each organ, and when this is fully
formed, they collect to form buds and the sexual elements. It is all
rubbish to speculate as I have done; yet, if I ever have strength to
publish my next book, I fear I shall not resist "Pangenesis," but I assure
you I will put it humbly enough. The ordinary course of development of
beings, such as the Echinodermata, in which new organs are formed at quite
remote spots from the analogous previous parts, seem to me extremely
difficult to reconcile on any view except the free diffusion in the parent
of the germs or gemmules of each separate new organ; and so in cases of
alternate generation. But I will not scribble any more. Hearty thanks to
you, you best of critics and most learned man...
[The letters now take up the history of the year 1866.]
CHARLES DARWIN TO A.R. WALLACE.
Down, July 5 .
My dear Wallace,
I have been much interested by your letter, which is as clear as daylight.
I fully agree with all that you say on the advantages of H. Spencer's
excellent expression of "the survival of the fittest." (Extract from a
letter of Mr. Wallace's, July 2, 1866: "The term 'survival of the fittest'
is the plain expression of the fact; 'natural selection' is a metaphorical
expression of it, and to a certain degree indirect and incorrect,
since...Nature...does not so much select special varieties as exterminate
the most unfavourable ones.") This, however, had not occurred to me till
reading your letter. It is, however, a great objection to this term that
it cannot be used as a substantive governing a verb; and that this is a
real objection I infer from H. Spencer continually using the words, natural
selection. I formerly thought, probably in an exaggerated degree, that it
was a great advantage to bring into connection natural and artificial
selection; this indeed led me to use a term in common, and I still think it
some advantage. I wish I had received your letter two months ago, for I
would have worked in "the survival, etc.," often in the new edition of the
'Origin,' which is now almost printed off, and of which I will of course
send you a copy. I will use the term in my next book on Domestic Animals,
etc., from which, by the way, I plainly see that you expect MUCH, too much.
The term Natural Selection has now been so largely used abroad and at home,
that I doubt whether it could be given up, and with all its faults I should
be sorry to see the attempt made. Whether it will be rejected must now
depend "on the survival of the fittest." As in time the term must grow
intelligible the objections to its use will grow weaker and weaker. I
doubt whether the use of any term would have made the subject intelligible
to some minds, clear as it is to others; for do we not see even to the
present day Malthus on Population absurdly misunderstood? This reflection
about Malthus has often comforted me when I have been vexed at the
misstatement of my views. As for M. Janet (This no doubt refers to Janet's
'Materialisme Contemporain.'), he is a metaphysician, and such gentlemen
are so acute that I think they often misunderstand common folk. Your
criticism on the double sense ("I find you use 'Natural Selection' in two
senses. 1st, for the simple preservation of favourable and rejection of
unfavourable variations, in which case it is equivalent to the 'survival of
the fittest,'--and 2ndly, for the effect or CHANGE produced by this
preservation." Extract from Mr. Wallace's letter above quoted.) in which I
have used Natural Selection is new to me and unanswerable; but my blunder
has done no harm, for I do not believe that any one, excepting you, has
ever observed it. Again, I agree that I have said too much about
"favourable variations;" but I am inclined to think that you put the
opposite side too strongly; if every part of every being varied, I do not
think we should see the same end, or object, gained by such wonderfully
I hope you are enjoying the country, and are in good health, and are
working hard at your Malay Archipelago book, for I will always put this
wish in every note I write to you, like some good people always put in a
text. My health keeps much the same, or rather improves, and I am able to
work some hours daily. With many thanks for your interesting letter.
Believe me, my dear Wallace, yours sincerely,
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, August 30 .
My dear Hooker,
I was very glad to get your note and the Notts. Newspaper. I have seldom
been more pleased in my life than at hearing how successfully your lecture
(At the Nottingham meeting of the British Association, August 27, 1866.
The subject of the lecture was 'Insular Floras.' See "Gardeners'
Chronicle", 1866.) went off. Mrs. H. Wedgwood sent us an account, saying
that you read capitally, and were listened to with profound attention and
great applause. She says, when your final allegory (Sir Joseph Hooker
allegorized the Oxford meeting of the British Association as the gathering
of a tribe of savages who believed that the new moon was created afresh
each month. The anger of the priests and medicine man at a certain heresy,
according to which the new moon is but the offspring of the old one, is
excellently given.) began, "for a minute or two we were all mystified, and
then came such bursts of applause from the audience. It was thoroughly
enjoyed amid roars of laughter and noise, making a most brilliant
I am rejoiced that you will publish your lecture, and felt sure that sooner
or later it would come to this, indeed it would have been a sin if you had
not done so. I am especially rejoiced as you give the arguments for
occasional transport, with such perfect fairness; these will now receive a
fair share of attention, as coming from you a professed botanist. Thanks
also for Grove's address; as a whole it strikes me as very good and
original, but I was disappointed in the part about Species; it dealt in
such generalities that it would apply to any view or no view in
And now farewell. I do most heartily rejoice at your success, and for
Grove's sake at the brilliant success of the whole meeting.
[The next letter is of interest, as giving the beginning of the connection
which arose between my father and Professor Victor Carus. The translation
referred to is the third German edition made from the fourth English one.
From this time forward Professor Carus continued to translate my father's
books into German. The conscientious care with which this work was done
was of material service, and I well remember the admiration (mingled with a
tinge of vexation at his own short-comings) with which my father used to
receive the lists of oversights, etc., which Professor Carus discovered in
the course of translation. The connection was not a mere business one, but
was cemented by warm feelings of regard on both sides.]
CHARLES DARWIN TO VICTOR CARUS.
Down, November 10, 1866.
My dear Sir,
I thank you for your extremely kind letter. I cannot express too strongly
my satisfaction that you have undertaken the revision of the new edition,
and I feel the honour which you have conferred on me. I fear that you will
find the labour considerable, not only on account of the additions, but I
suspect that Bronn's translation is very defective, at least I have heard
complaints on this head from quite a large number of persons. It would be
a great gratification to me to know that the translation was a really good
one, such as I have no doubt you will produce. According to our English
practice, you will be fully justified in entirely omitting Bronn's
Appendix, and I shall be very glad of its omission. A new edition may be
looked at as a new work...You could add anything of your own that you
liked, and I should be much pleased. Should you make any additions or
append notes, it appears to me that Nageli "Entstehung und Begriff," etc.
('Entstehung und Begriff der Naturhistorischen Art.' An address given at a
public meeting of the 'R. Academy of Sciences' at Munich, March 28, 1865.),
would be worth noticing, as one of the most able pamphlets on the subject.
I am, however, far from agreeing with him that the acquisition of certain
characters which appear to be of no service to plants, offers any great
difficulty, or affords a proof of some innate tendency in plants towards
perfection. If you intend to notice this pamphlet, I should like to write
hereafter a little more in detail on the subject.
...I wish I had known when writing my Historical Sketch that you had in
1853 published your views on the genealogical connection of past and
I suppose you have the sheets of the last English edition on which I marked
with pencil all the chief additions, but many little corrections of style
were not marked.
Pray believe that I feel sincerely grateful for the great service and
honour which you do me by the present translation.
I remain, my dear Sir, yours very sincerely,
P.S.--I should be VERY MUCH pleased to possess your photograph, and I send
mine in case you should like to have a copy.
CHARLES DARWIN TO C. NAGELI. (Professor of Botany at Munich.)
Down, June 12 .
I hope you will excuse the liberty which I take in writing to you. I have
just read, though imperfectly, your 'Entstehung und Begriff,' and have been
so greatly interested by it, that I have sent it to be translated, as I am
a poor German scholar. I have just finished a new [4th] edition of my
'Origin,' which will be translated into German, and my object in writing to
you is to say that if you should see this edition you would think that I
had borrowed from you, without acknowledgment, two discussions on the
beauty of flowers and fruit; but I assure you every word was printed off
before I had opened your pamphlet. Should you like to possess a copy of
either the German or English new edition, I should be proud to send one. I
may add, with respect to the beauty of flowers, that I have already hinted
the same views as you hold in my paper on Lythrum.
Many of your criticisms on my views are the best which I have met with, but
I could answer some, at least to my own satisfaction; and I regret
extremely that I had not read your pamphlet before printing my new edition.
On one or two points, I think, you have a little misunderstood me, though I
dare say I have not been cautious in expressing myself. The remark which
has struck me most, is that on the position of the leaves not having been
acquired through natural selection, from not being of any special
importance to the plant. I well remember being formerly troubled by an
analogous difficulty, namely, the position of the ovules, their anatropous
condition, etc. It was owing to forgetfulness that I did not notice this
difficulty in the 'Origin.' (Nageli's Essay is noticed in the 5th
edition.) Although I can offer no explanation of such facts, and only hope
to see that they may be explained, yet I hardly see how they support the
doctrine of some law of necessary development, for it is not clear to me
that a plant, with its leaves placed at some particular angle, or with its
ovules in some particular position, thus stands higher than another plant.
But I must apologise for troubling you with these remarks.
As I much wish to possess your photograph, I take the liberty of enclosing
my own, and with sincere respect I remain, dear Sir,
[I give a few extracts from letters of various dates showing my father's
interest, alluded to in the last letter, in the problem of the arrangement
of the leaves on the stems of plants. It may be added that Professor
Schwendener of Berlin has successfully attacked the question in his
'Mechanische Theorie der Blattstellungen,' 1878.
TO DR. FALCONER.
August 26 .
"Do you remember telling me that I ought to study Phyllotaxy? Well I have
often wished you at the bottom of the sea; for I could not resist, and I
muddled my brains with diagrams, etc., and specimens, and made out, as
might have been expected, nothing. Those angles are a most wonderful
problem and I wish I could see some one give a rational explanation of
TO DR. ASA GRAY.
May 11 .
"If you wish to save me from a miserable death, do tell me why the angles
1/2, 1/3, 2/5, 3/8, etc, series occur, and no other angles. It is enough
to drive the quietest man mad. Did you and some mathematician (Probably my
father was thinking of Chauncey Wright's work on Phyllotaxy, in Gould's
'Astronomical Journal,' No.99, 1856, and in the 'Mathematical Monthly,'
1859. These papers are mentioned in the "Letters of Chauncey Wright.' Mr.
Wright corresponded with my father on the subject.) publish some paper on
the subject? Hooker says you did; where is it?
TO DR. ASA GRAY.
[May 31, 1863?].
"I have been looking at Nageli's work on this subject, and am astonished to
see that the angle is not always the same in young shoots when the leaf-
buds are first distinguishable, as in full-grown branches. This shows, I
think, that there must be some potent cause for those angles which do
occur: I dare say there is some explanation as simple as that for the
angles of the Bees-cells."
My father also corresponded with Dr. Hubert Airy and was interested in his
views on the subject, published in the Royal Soc. Proceedings, 1873, page
We now return to the year 1866.
In November, when the prosecution of Governor Eyre was dividing England
into two bitterly opposed parties, he wrote to Sir J. Hooker:--
"You will shriek at me when you hear that I have just subscribed to the
Jamaica Committee." (He subscribed 10 pounds.)
On this subject I quote from a letter of my brother's:--
"With respect to Governor Eyre's conduct in Jamaica, he felt strongly that
J.S. Mill was right in prosecuting him. I remember one evening, at my
Uncle's, we were talking on the subject, and as I happened to think it was
too strong a measure to prosecute Governor Eyre for murder, I made some
foolish remark about the prosecutors spending the surplus of the fund in a
dinner. My father turned on me almost with fury, and told me, if those
were my feelings, I had better go back to Southampton; the inhabitants
having given a dinner to Governor Eyre on his landing, but with which I had
had nothing to do." The end of the incident, as told by my brother, is so
characteristic of my father that I cannot resist giving it, though it has
no bearing on the point at issue. "Next morning at 7 o'clock, or so, he
came into my bedroom and sat on my bed, and said that he had not been able
to sleep from the thought that he had been so angry with me, and after a
few more kind words he left me."
The same restless desire to correct a disagreeable or incorrect impression
is well illustrated in an extract which I quote from some notes by Rev. J.
"Allied to the extreme carefulness of observation was his most remarkable
truthfulness in all matters. On one occasion, when a parish meeting had
been held on some disputed point of no great importance, I was surprised by
a visit from Mr. Darwin at night. He came to say that, thinking over the
debate, though what he had said was quite accurate, he thought I might have
drawn an erroneous conclusion, and he would not sleep till he had explained
it. I believe that if on any day some certain fact had come to his
knowledge which contradicted his most cherished theories, he would have
placed the fact on record for publication before he slept."
This tallies with my father's habits, as described by himself. When a
difficulty or an objection occurred to him, he thought it of paramount
importance to make a note of it instantly because he found hostile facts to
be especially evanescent.
The same point is illustrated by the following incident, for which I am
indebted to Mr. Romanes:--
"I have always remembered the following little incident as a good example
of Mr. Darwin's extreme solicitude on the score of accuracy. One evening
at Down there was a general conversation upon the difficulty of explaining
the evolution of some of the distinctively human emotions, especially those
appertaining to the recognition of beauty in natural scenery. I suggested
a view of my own upon the subject, which, depending upon the principle of
association, required the supposition that a long line of ancestors should
have inhabited regions, the scenery of which is now regarded as beautiful.
Just as I was about to observe that the chief difficulty attaching to my
hypothesis arose from feelings of the sublime (seeing that these are
associated with awe, and might therefore be expected not to be agreeable),
Mr. Darwin anticipated the remark, by asking how the hypothesis was to meet
the case of these feelings. In the conversation which followed, he said
the occasion in his own life, when he was most affected by the emotions of
the sublime was when he stood upon one of the summits of the Cordillera,
and surveyed the magnificent prospect all around. It seemed, as he
quaintly observed, as if his nerves had become fiddle strings, and had all
taken to rapidly vibrating. This remark was only made incidentally, and
the conversation passed into some other branch. About an hour afterwards
Mr. Darwin retired to rest, while I sat up in the smoking-room with one of
his sons. We continued smoking and talking for several hours, when at
about one o'clock in the morning the door gently opened and Mr. Darwin
appeared, in his slippers and dressing-gown. As nearly as I can remember,
the following are the words he used:--
"'Since I went to bed I have been thinking over our conversation in the
drawing-room, and it has just occurred to me that I was wrong in telling
you I felt most of the sublime when on the top of the Cordillera; I am
quite sure that I felt it even more when in the forests of Brazil. I
thought it best to come and tell you this at once in case I should be
putting you wrong. I am sure now that I felt most sublime in the forests.'
"This was all he had come to say, and it was evident that he had come to do
so, because he thought that the fact of his feeling 'most sublime in
forests' was more in accordance with the hypothesis which we had been
discussing, than the fact which he had previously stated. Now, as no one
knew better than Mr. Darwin the difference between a speculation and a
fact, I thought this little exhibition of scientific conscientiousness very
noteworthy, where the only question concerned was of so highly speculative
a character. I should not have been so much impressed if he had thought
that by his temporary failure of memory he had put me on a wrong scent in
any matter of fact, although even in such a case he is the only man I ever
knew who would care to get out of bed at such a time at night in order to
make the correction immediately, instead of waiting till next morning. But
as the correction only had reference to a flimsy hypothesis, I certainly
was very much impressed by this display of character."]
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, December 10 .
...I have now read the last No. of H. Spencer. ('Principles of Biology.')
I do not know whether to think it better than the previous number, but it
is wonderfully clever, and I dare say mostly true. I feel rather mean when
I read him: I could bear, and rather enjoy feeling that he was twice as
ingenious and clever as myself, but when I feel that he is about a dozen
times my superior, even in the master art of wriggling, I feel aggrieved.
If he had trained himself to observe more, even if at the expense, by the
law of balancement, of some loss of thinking power, he would have been a
...I am HEARTILY glad you are taking up the Distribution of Plants in New
Zealand, and suppose it will make part of your new book. Your view, as I
understand it, that New Zealand subsided and formed two or more small
islands, and then rose again, seems to me extremely probable...When I
puzzled my brains about New Zealand, I remember I came to the conclusion,
as indeed I state in the 'Origin,' that its flora, as well as that of other
southern lands, had been tinctured by an Antarctic flora, which must have
existed before the Glacial period. I concluded that New Zealand never
could have been closely connected with Australia, though I supposed it had
received some few Australian forms by occasional means of transport. Is
there any reason to suppose that New Zealand could have been more closely
connected with South Australia during the glacial period, when the
Eucalypti, etc., might have been driven further North? Apparently there
remains only the line, which I think you suggested, of sunken islands from
New Caledonia. Please remember that the Edwardsia was certainly drifted
there by the sea.
I remember in old days speculating on the amount of life, i.e. of organic
chemical change, at different periods. There seems to me one very
difficult element in the problem, namely, the state of development of the
organic beings at each period, for I presume that a Flora and Fauna of
cellular cryptogamic plants, of Protozoa and Radiata would lead to much
less chemical change than is now going on. But I have scribbled enough.
[The following letter is in acknowledgment of Mr. Rivers' reply to an
earlier letter in which my father had asked for information on bud-
It may find a place here in illustration of the manner of my father's
intercourse with those "whose avocations in life had to do with the rearing
or use of living things" ("Mr. Dyer in 'Charles Darwin,'" "Nature Series",
1882, page 39.)--an intercourse which bore such good fruit in the
'Variation of Animals and Plants.' Mr. Dyer has some excellent remarks on
the unexpected value thus placed on apparently trivial facts disinterred
from weekly journals, or amassed by correspondence. He adds:
"Horticulturists who had...moulded plants almost at their will at the
impulse of taste or profit were at once amazed and charmed to find that
they had been doing scientific work and helping to establish a great
CHARLES DARWIN TO T. RIVERS. (The late Mr. Rivers was an eminent
horticulturist and writer on horticulture.)
Down, December 28 [1866?].
My dear Sir,
Permit me to thank you cordially for your most kind letter. For years I
have read with interest every scrap which you have written in periodicals,
and abstracted in MS. your book on Roses, and several times I thought I
would write to you, but did not know whether you would think me too
intrusive. I shall, indeed, be truly obliged for any information you can
supply me on bud-variation or sports. When any extra difficult points
occur to me in my present subject (which is a mass of difficulties), I will
apply to you, but I will not be unreasonable. It is most true what you say
that any one to study well the physiology of the life of plants, ought to
have under his eye a multitude of plants. I have endeavoured to do what I
can by comparing statements by many writers and observing what I could
myself. Unfortunately few have observed like you have done. As you are so
kind, I will mention one other point on which I am collecting facts;
namely, the effect produced on the stock by the graft; thus, it is SAID,
that the purple-leaved filbert affects the leaves of the common hazel on
which it is grafted (I have just procured a plant to try), so variegated
jessamine is SAID to affect its stock. I want these facts partly to throw
light on the marvellous laburnum Adami, trifacial oranges, etc. That
laburnum case seems one of the strangest in physiology. I have now growing
splendid, FERTILE, yellow laburnums (with a long raceme like the so-called
Waterer's laburnum) from seed of yellow flowers on the C. Adami. To a man
like myself, who is compelled to live a solitary life, and sees few
persons, it is no slight satisfaction to hear that I have been able at all
[to] interest by my books observers like yourself.
As I shall publish on my present subject, I presume, within a year, it will
be of no use your sending me the shoots of peaches and nectarines which you
so kindly offer; I have recorded your facts.
Permit me again to thank you cordially; I have not often in my life
received a kinder letter.
My dear Sir, yours sincerely,
THE PUBLICATION OF THE 'VARIATION OF ANIMALS AND PLANTS UNDER
JANUARY 1867, TO JUNE 1868.
[At the beginning of the year 1867 he was at work on the final chapter--
"Concluding Remarks" of the 'Variation of Animals and Plants under
Domestication,' which was begun after the rest of the MS. had been sent to
the printers in the preceding December. With regard to the publication of
the book he wrote to Mr. Murray, on January 3:--
"I cannot tell you how sorry I am to hear of the enormous size of my book.
(On January 9 he wrote to Sir J.D. Hooker: "I have been these last few
days vexed and annoyed to a foolish degree by hearing that my MS. on Dom.
An. and Cult. Plants will make 2 volumes, both bigger than the 'Origin.'
The volumes will have to be full-sized octavo, so I have written to Murray
to suggest details to be printed in small type. But I feel that the size
is quite ludicrous in relation to the subject. I am ready to swear at
myself and at every fool who writes a book.") I fear it can never pay.
But I cannot shorten it now; nor, indeed, if I had foreseen its length, do
I see which parts ought to have been omitted.
"If you are afraid to publish it, say so at once, I beg you, and I will
consider your note as cancelled. If you think fit, get any one whose
judgment you rely on, to look over some of the more legible chapters,
namely, the Introduction, and on dogs and plants, the latter chapters being
in my opinion, the dullest in the book...The list of chapters, and the
inspection of a few here and there, would give a good judge a fair idea of
the whole book. Pray do not publish blindly, as it would vex me all my
life if I led you to heavy loss."
Mr. Murray referred the MS. to a literary friend, and, in spite of a
somewhat adverse opinion, willingly agreed to publish the book. My father
"Your note has been a great relief to me. I am rather alarmed about the
verdict of your friend, as he is not a man of science. I think if you had
sent the 'Origin' to an unscientific man, he would have utterly condemned
it. I am, however, VERY GLAD that you have consulted any one on whom you
"I must add, that my 'Journal of Researches' was seen in MS. by an eminent
semi-scientific man, and was pronounced unfit for publication."
The proofs were begun in March, and the last revise was finished on
November 15th, and during this period the only intervals of rest were two
visits of a week each at his brother Erasmus's house in Queen Anne Street.
He notes in his Diary:--
"I began this book [in the] beginning of 1860 (and then had some MS.), but
owing to interruptions from my illness, and illness of children; from
various editions of the 'Origin,' and Papers, especially Orchis book and
Tendrils, I have spent four years and two months over it."
The edition of 'Animals and Plants' was of 1500 copies, and of these 1260
were sold at Mr. Murray's autumnal sale, but it was not published until
January 30, 1868. A new edition of 1250 copies was printed in February of
the same year.
In 1867 he received the distinction of being made a knight of the Prussian
Order "Pour le Merite." (The Order "Pour le Merite" was founded in 1740 by
Frederick II. by the re-christening of an "Order of Generosity," founded in
1665. It was at one time strictly military, having been previously both
civil and military, and in 1840 the Order was again opened to civilians.
The order consists of thirty members of German extraction, but
distinguished foreigners are admitted to a kind of extraordinary
membership. Faraday, Herschel, and Thomas Moore, have belonged to it in
this way. From the thirty members a chancellor is elected by the king (the
first officer of this kind was Alexander v. Humboldt); and it is the duty
of the chancellor to notify a vacancy in the Order to the remainder of the
thirty, who then elect by vote the new member--but the king has technically
the appointment in his own hands.) He seems not to have known how great
the distinction was, for in June 1868 he wrote to Sir J.D. Hooker:--
"What a man you are for sympathy. I was made "Eques" some months ago, but
did not think much about it. Now, by Jove, we all do; but you, in fact,
have knighted me."
The letters may now take up the story.]
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, February 8 .
My dear Hooker,
I am heartily glad that you have been offered the Presidentship of the
British Association, for it is a great honour, and as you have so much work
to do, I am equally glad that you have declined it. I feel, however,
convinced that you would have succeeded very well; but if I fancy myself in
such a position, it actually makes my blood run cold. I look back with
amazement at the skill and taste with which the Duke of Argyll made a
multitude of little speeches at Glasgow. By the way, I have not seen the
Duke's book ('The Reign of Law,' 1867.), but I formerly thought that some
of the articles which appeared in periodicals were very clever, but not
very profound. One of these was reviewed in the "Saturday Review"
("Saturday Review", November 15, 1862, 'The "Edinburgh Review" on the
Supernatural.' Written by my cousin, Mr. Henry Parker.) some years ago,
and the fallacy of some main argument was admirably exposed, and I sent the
article to you, and you agreed strongly with it...There was the other day a
rather good review of the Duke's book in the "Spectator", and with a new
explanation, either by the Duke or the reviewer (I could not make out
which), of rudimentary organs, namely, that economy of labour and material
was a great guiding principle with God (ignoring waste of seed and of young
monsters, etc.), and that making a new plan for the structure of animals
was thought, and thought was labour, and therefore God kept to a uniform
plan, and left rudiments. This is no exaggeration. In short, God is a
man, rather cleverer than us...I am very much obliged for the "Nation"
(returned by this post); it is ADMIRABLY good. You say I always guess
wrong, but I do not believe any one, except Asa Gray, could have done the
thing so well. I would bet even, or three to two, that it is Asa Gray,
though one or two passages staggered me.
I finish my book on 'Domestic Animals,' etc., by a single paragraph,
answering, or rather throwing doubt, in so far as so little space permits,
on Asa Gray's doctrine that each variation has been specially ordered or
led along a beneficial line. It is foolish to touch such subjects, but
there have been so many allusions to what I think about the part which God
has played in the formation of organic beings (Prof. Judd allows me to
quote from some notes which he has kindly given me:--"Lyell once told me
that he had frequently been asked if Darwin was not one of the most unhappy
of men, it being suggested that his outrage upon public opinion should have
filled him with remorse." Sir Charles Lyell must have been able, I think,
to give a satisfactory answer on this point. Professor Judd continues:--
"I made a note of this and other conversations of Lyell's at the time. At
the present time such statements must appear strange to any one who does
not recollect the revolution in opinion which has taken place during the
last 23 years ."), that I thought it shabby to evade the question...I
have even received several letters on the subject...I overlooked your
sentence about Providence, and suppose I treated it as Buckland did his own
theology, when his Bridgewater Treatise was read aloud to him for
[The following letter, from Mrs. Boole, is one of those referred to in the
last letter to Sir J.D. Hooker:]
Will you excuse my venturing to ask you a question, to which no one's
answer but your own would be quite satisfactory?
Do you consider the holding of your theory of Natural Selection, in its
fullest and most unreserved sense, to be inconsistent--I do not say with
any particular scheme of theological doctrine--but with the following
That knowledge is given to man by the direct inspiration of the Spirit of
That God is a personal and Infinitely good Being.
That the effect of the action of the Spirit of God on the brain of man is
especially a moral effect.
And that each individual man has within certain limits a power of choice as
to how far he will yield to his hereditary animal impulses, and how far he
will rather follow the guidance of the Spirit, who is educating him into a
power of resisting those impulses in obedience to moral motives?
The reason why I ask you is this: my own impression has always been, not
only that your theory was perfectly COMPATIBLE with the faith to which I
have just tried to give expression, but that your books afforded me a clue
which would guide me in applying that faith to the solution of certain
complicated psychological problems which it was of practical importance to
me as a mother to solve. I felt that you had supplied one of the missing
links--not to say THE missing link--between the facts of science and the
promises of religion. Every year's experience tends to deepen in me that
But I have lately read remarks on the probable bearing of your theory on
religious and moral questions which have perplexed and pained me sorely. I
know that the persons who make such remarks must be cleverer and wiser than
myself. I cannot feel sure that they are mistaken, unless you will tell me
so. And I think--I cannot know for certain--but I THINK--that if I were an
author, I would rather that the humblest student of my works should apply
to me directly in a difficulty, than that she should puzzle too long over
adverse and probably mistaken or thoughtless criticisms.
At the same time I feel that you have a perfect right to refuse to answer
such questions as I have asked you. Science must take her path, and
Theology hers, and they will meet when and where and how God pleases, and
you are in no sense responsible for it if the meeting-point should still be
very far off. If I receive no answer to this letter I shall infer nothing
from your silence, except that you felt I had no right to make such
enquiries of a stranger.
[My father replied as follows:]
Down, December 14, .
It would have gratified me much if I could have sent satisfactory answers
to your questions, or, indeed, answers of any kind. But I cannot see how
the belief that all organic beings, including man, have been genetically
derived from some simple being, instead of having been separately created,
bears on your difficulties. These, as it seems to me, can be answered only
by widely different evidence from science, or by the so-called "inner
consciousness." My opinion is not worth more than that of any other man
who has thought on such subjects, and it would be folly in me to give it.
I may, however, remark that it has always appeared to me more satisfactory
to look at the immense amount of pain and suffering in this world as the
inevitable result of the natural sequence of events, i.e. general laws,
rather than from the direct intervention of God, though I am aware this is
not logical with reference to an omniscient Deity. Your last question
seems to resolve itself into the problem of free will and necessity, which
has been found by most persons insoluble. I sincerely wish that this note
had not been as utterly valueless as it is. I would have sent full
answers, though I have little time or strength to spare, had it been in my
power. I have the honour to remain, dear Madam,
Yours very faithfully,
P.S.--I am grieved that my views should incidentally have caused trouble to
your mind, but I thank you for your judgment, and honour you for it, that
theology and science should each run its own course, and that in the
present case I am not responsible if their meeting-point should still be
[The next letter discusses the 'Reign of Law,' referred to a few pages
CHARLES DARWIN TO C. LYELL.
Down, June 1 .
...I am at present reading the Duke, and am VERY MUCH interested by him;
yet I cannot but think, clever as the whole is, that parts are weak, as
when he doubts whether each curvature of the beak of humming-birds is of
service to each species. He admits, perhaps too fully, that I have shown
the use of each little ridge and shape of each petal in orchids, and how
strange he does not extend the view to humming-birds. Still odder, it
seems to me, all that he says on beauty, which I should have thought a
nonentity, except in the mind of some sentient being. He might have as
well said that love existed during the secondary or Palaeozoic periods. I
hope you are getting on with your book better than I am with mine, which
kills me with the labour of correcting, and is intolerably dull, though I
did not think so when I was writing it. A naturalist's life would be a
happy one if he had only to observe, and never to write.
We shall be in London for a week in about a fortnight's time, and I shall
enjoy having a breakfast talk with you.
[The following letter refers to the new and improved translation of the
'Origin,' undertaken by Professor Carus:]
CHARLES DARWIN TO J. VICTOR CARUS.
Down, February 17 .
My dear Sir,
I have read your preface with care. It seems to me that you have treated
Bronn with complete respect and great delicacy, and that you have alluded
to your own labour with much modesty. I do not think that any of Bronn's
friends can complain of what you say and what you have done. For my own
sake, I grieve that you have not added notes, as I am sure that I should
have profited much by them; but as you have omitted Bronn's objections, I
believe that you have acted with excellent judgment and fairness in leaving
the text without comment to the independent verdict of the reader. I
heartily congratulate you that the main part of your labour is over; it
would have been to most men a very troublesome task, but you seem to have
indomitable powers of work, judging from those two wonderful and most
useful volumes on zoological literature ('Bibliotheca Zoologica,' 1861.)
edited by you, and which I never open without surprise at their accuracy,
and gratitude for their usefulness. I cannot sufficiently tell you how
much I rejoice that you were persuaded to superintend the translation of
the present edition of my book, for I have now the great satisfaction of
knowing that the German public can judge fairly of its merits and
With my cordial and sincere thanks, believe me,
My dear Sir, yours very faithfully,
[The earliest letter which I have seen from my father to Professor Haeckel,
was written in 1865, and from that time forward they corresponded (though
not, I think, with any regularity) up to the end of my father's life. His
friendship with Haeckel was not nearly growth of correspondence, as was the
case with some others, for instance, Fritz Muller. Haeckel paid more than
one visit to Down, and these were thoroughly enjoyed by my father. The
following letter will serve to show the strong feeling of regard which he
entertained for his correspondent--a feeling which I have often heard him
emphatically express, and which was warmly returned. The book referred to
is Haeckel's 'Generelle Morphologie,' published in 1866, a copy of which my
father received from the author in January 1867.
Dr. E. Krause ('Charles Darwin und sein Verhaltniss zu Deutschland,' 1885.)
has given a good account of Professor Haeckel's services to the cause of
Evolution. After speaking of the lukewarm reception which the 'Origin' met
with in Germany on its first publication, he goes on to describe the first
adherents of the new faith as more or less popular writers, not especially
likely to advance its acceptance with the professorial or purely scientific
world. And he claims for Haeckel that it was his advocacy of Evolution in
his 'Radiolaria' (1862), and at the "Versammlung" of Naturalists at Stettin
in 1863, that placed the Darwinian question for the first time publicly
before the forum of German science, and his enthusiastic propagandism that
chiefly contributed to its success.
Mr. Huxley, writing in 1869, paid a high tribute to Professor Haeckel as
the Coryphaeus of the Darwinian movement in Germany. Of his 'Generelle
Morphologie,' "an attempt to work out the practical application" of the
doctrine of Evolution to their final results, he says that it has the
"force and suggestiveness, and...systematising power of Oken without his
extravagance." Professor Huxley also testifies to the value of Haeckel's
'Schopfungs-Geschichte' as an exposition of the 'Generelle Morphologie'
"for an educated public."
Again, in his 'Evolution in Biology' (An article in the 'Encyclopaedia
Britannica,' 9th edition, reprinted in 'Science and Culture,' 1881, page
298.), Mr. Huxley wrote: "Whatever hesitation may, not unfrequently, be
felt by less daring minds, in following Haeckel in many of his
speculations, his attempt to systematise the doctrine of Evolution, and to
exhibit its influence as the central thought of modern biology, cannot fail
to have a far-reaching influence on the progress of science."
In the following letter my father alludes to the somewhat fierce manner in
which Professor Haeckel fought the battle of 'Darwinismus,' and on this
subject Dr. Krause has some good remarks (page 162). He asks whether much
that happened in the heat of the conflict might not well have been
otherwise, and adds that Haeckel himself is the last man to deny this.
Nevertheless he thinks that even these things may have worked well for the
cause of Evolution, inasmuch as Haeckel "concentrated on himself by his
'Ursprung des Menschen-Geschlechts,' his 'Generelle Morphologie,' and
'Schopfungs-Geschichte,' all the hatred and bitterness which Evolution
excited in certain quarters," so that, "in a surprisingly short time it
became the fashion in Germany that Haeckel alone should be abused, while
Darwin was held up as the ideal of forethought and moderation."]
CHARLES DARWIN TO E. HAECKEL.
Down, May 21, 1867.
Your letter of the 18th has given me great pleasure, for you have received
what I said in the most kind and cordial manner. You have in part taken
what I said much stronger than I had intended. It never occurred to me for
a moment to doubt that your work, with the whole subject so admirably and
clearly arranged, as well as fortified by so many new facts and arguments,
would not advance our common object in the highest degree. All that I
think is that you will excite anger, and that anger so completely blinds
every one, that your arguments would have no chance of influencing those
who are already opposed to our views. Moreover, I do not at all like that
you, towards whom I feel so much friendship, should unnecessarily make
enemies, and there is pain and vexation enough in the world without more
being caused. But I repeat that I can feel no doubt that your work will
greatly advance our subject, and I heartily wish it could be translated
into English, for my own sake and that of others. With respect to what you
say about my advancing too strongly objections against my own views, some
of my English friends think that I have erred on this side; but truth
compelled me to write what I did, and I am inclined to think it was good
policy. The belief in the descent theory is slowly spreading in England
(In October 1867 he wrote to Mr. Wallace:--"Mr. Warrington has lately read
an excellent and spirited abstract of the 'Origin' before the Victoria
Institute, and as this is a most orthodox body, he has gained the name of
the Devil's Advocate. The discussion which followed during three
consecutive meetings is very rich from the nonsense talked. If you would
care to see the number I could send it you."), even amongst those who can
give no reason for their belief. No body of men were at first so much
opposed to my views as the members of the London Entomological Society, but
now I am assured that, with the exception of two or three old men, all the
members concur with me to a certain extent. It has been a great
disappointment to me that I have never received your long letter written to
me from the Canary Islands. I am rejoiced to hear that your tour, which
seems to have been a most interesting one, has done your health much good.
I am working away at my new book, but make very slow progress, and the work
tries my health, which is much the same as when you were here.
Victor Carus is going to translate it, but whether it is worth translation,
I am rather doubtful. I am very glad to hear that there is some chance of
your visiting England this autumn, and all in this house will be delighted
to see you here.
Believe me, my dear Haeckel,
Yours very sincerely,
CHARLES DARWIN TO F. MULLER.
Down, July 31 .
My dear Sir,
I received a week ago your letter of June 2, full as usual of valuable
matter and specimens. It arrived at exactly the right time, for I was
enabled to give a pretty full abstract of your observations on the plant's
own pollen being poisonous. I have inserted this abstract in the proof-
sheets in my chapter on sterility, and it forms the most striking part of
my whole chapter. (In 'The Variation of Animals and Plants.') I thank you
very sincerely for the most interesting observations, which, however, I
regret that you did not publish independently. I have been forced to
abbreviate one or two parts more than I wished...Your letters always
surprise me, from the number of points to which you attend. I wish I could
make my letters of any interest to you, for I hardly ever see a naturalist,
and live as retired a life as you in Brazil. With respect to mimetic
plants, I remember Hooker many years ago saying he believed that there were
many, but I agree with you that it would be most difficult to distinguish
between mimetic resemblance and the effects of peculiar conditions. Who
can say to which of these causes to attribute the several plants with
heath-like foliage at the Cape of Good Hope? Is it not also a difficulty
that quadrupeds appear to recognise plants more by their [scent] than their
appearance? What I have just said reminds me to ask you a question. Sir
J. Lubbock brought me the other day what appears to be a terrestrial
Planaria (the first ever found in the northern hemisphere) and which was
coloured exactly like our dark-coloured slugs. Now slugs are not devoured
by birds, like the shell-bearing species, and this made me remember that I
found the Brazilian Planariae actually together with striped Vaginuli which
I believe were similarly coloured. Can you throw any light on this? I
wish to know, because I was puzzled some months ago how it would be
possible to account for the bright colours of the Planariae in reference to
sexual selection. By the way, I suppose they are hermaphrodites.
Do not forget to aid me, if in your power, with answers to ANY of my
questions on expression, for the subject interests me greatly. With
cordial thanks for your never-failing kindness, believe me,
Yours very sincerely,
CHARLES DARWIN TO C. LYELL.
Down, July 18 .
My dear Lyell,
Many thanks for your long letter. I am sorry to hear that you are in
despair about your book (The 2nd volume of the 10th Edition of the
'Principles.'); I well know that feeling, but am now getting out of the
lower depths. I shall be very much pleased, if you can make the least use
of my present book, and do not care at all whether it is published before
yours. Mine will appear towards the end of November of this year; you
speak of yours as not coming out till November, 1868, which I hope may be
an error. There is nothing about Man in my book which can interfere with
you, so I will order all the completed clean sheets to be sent (and others
as soon as ready) to you, but please observe you will not care for the
first volume, which is a mere record of the amount of variation; but I hope
the second will be somewhat more interesting. Though I fear the whole must
I rejoice from my heart that you are going to speak out plainly about
species. My book about Man, if published, will be short, and a large
portion will be devoted to sexual selection, to which subject I alluded in
the 'Origin' as bearing on Man...
CHARLES DARWIN TO C. LYELL.
Down, August 22 .
My dear Lyell,
I thank you cordially for your last two letters. The former one did me
REAL good, for I had got so wearied with the subject that I could hardly
bear to correct the proofs (The proofs of 'Animals and Plants,' which Lyell
was then reading.), and you gave me fresh heart. I remember thinking that
when you came to the Pigeon chapter you would pass it over as quite
unreadable. Your last letter has interested me in very many ways, and I
have been glad to hear about those horrid unbelieving Frenchmen. I have
been particularly pleased that you have noticed Pangenesis. I do not know
whether you ever had the feeling of having thought so much over a subject
that you had lost all power of judging it. This is my case with Pangenesis
(which is 26 or 27 years old), but I am inclined to think that if it be
admitted as a probable hypothesis it will be a somewhat important step in
I cannot help still regretting that you have ever looked at the slips, for
I hope to improve the whole a good deal. It is surprising to me, and
delightful, that you should care in the least about the plants. Altogether
you have given me one of the best cordials I ever had in my life, and I
heartily thank you. I despatched this morning the French edition. (Of the
'Origin.' It appears that my father was sending a copy of the French
edition to Sir Charles. The introduction was by Mdlle. Royer, who
translated the book.) The introduction was a complete surprise to me, and
I dare say has injured the book in France; nevertheless...it shows, I
think, that the woman is uncommonly clever. Once again many thanks for the
renewed courage with which I shall attack the horrid proof-sheets.
P.S.--A Russian who is translating my new book into Russian has been here,
and says you are immensely read in Russia, and many editions--how many I
forget. Six editions of Buckle and four editions of the 'Origin.'
CHARLES DARWIN TO ASA GRAY.
Down, October 16 .
My dear Gray,
I send by this post clean sheets of Volume I. up to page 336, and there are
only 411 pages in this volume. I am VERY glad to hear that you are going
to review my book; but if the "Nation" (The book was reviewed by Dr. Gray
in the "Nation", March 19, 1868.) is a newspaper I wish it were at the
bottom of the sea, for I fear that you will thus be stopped reviewing me in
a scientific journal. The first volume is all details, and you will not be
able to read it; and you must remember that the chapters on plants are
written for naturalists who are not botanists. The last chapter in Volume
I. is, however, I think, a curious compilation of facts; it is on bud-
variation. In Volume II. some of the chapters are more interesting; and I
shall be very curious to hear your verdict on the chapter on close inter-
breeding. The chapter on what I call Pangenesis will be called a mad
dream, and I shall be pretty well satisfied if you think it a dream worth
publishing; but at the bottom of my own mind I think it contains a great
truth. I finish my book with a semi-theological paragraph, in which I
quote and differ from you; what you will think of it, I know not...
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, November 17 .
My dear Hooker,
Congratulate me, for I have finished the last revise of the last sheet of
my book. It has been an awful job: seven and a half months correcting the
press: the book, from much small type, does not look big, but is really
very big. I have had hard work to keep up to the mark, but during the last
week only few revises came, so that I have rested and feel more myself.
Hence, after our long mutual silence, I enjoy myself by writing a note to
you, for the sake of exhaling, and hearing from you. On account of the
index (The index was made by Mr. W.S. Dallas; I have often heard my father
express his admiration of this excellent piece of work.), I do not suppose
that you will receive your copy till the middle of next month. I shall be
intensely anxious to hear what you think about Pangenesis; though I can see
how fearfully imperfect, even in mere conjectural conclusions, it is; yet
it has been an infinite satisfaction to me somehow to connect the various
large groups of facts, which I have long considered, by an intelligible
thread. I shall not be at all surprised if you attack it and me with
unparalleled ferocity. It will be my endeavour to do as little as possible
for some time, but [I] shall soon prepare a paper or two for the Linnean
Society. In a short time we shall go to London for ten days, but the time
is not yet fixed. Now I have told you a deal about myself, and do let me
hear a good deal about your own past and future doings. Can you pay us a
visit, early in December?...I have seen no one for an age, and heard no
...About my book I will give you a bit of advice. Skip the WHOLE of Volume
I., except the last chapter (and that need only be skimmed) and skip
largely in the 2nd volume; and then you will say it is a very good book.
['The Variation of Animals and Plants' was, as already mentioned, published
on January 30, 1868, and on that day he sent a copy to Fritz Muller, and
wrote to him:--
"I send by this post, by French packet, my new book, the publication of
which has been much delayed. The greater part, as you will see, is not
meant to be read; but I should very much like to hear what you think of
'Pangenesis,' though I fear it will appear to EVERY ONE far too
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
February 3 .
...I am very much pleased at what you say about my Introduction; after it
was in type I was as near as possible cancelling the whole. I have been
for some time in despair about my book, and if I try to read a few pages I
feel fairly nauseated, but do not let this make you praise it; for I have
made up my mind that it is not worth a fifth part of the enormous labour it
has cost me. I assure you that all that is worth your doing (if you have
time for so much) is glancing at Chapter VI., and reading parts of the
later chapters. The facts on self-impotent plants seem to me curious, and
I have worked out to my own satisfaction the good from crossing and evil
from interbreeding. I did read Pangenesis the other evening, but even
this, my beloved child, as I had fancied, quite disgusted me. The devil
take the whole book; and yet now I am at work again as hard as I am able.
It is really a great evil that from habit I have pleasure in hardly
anything except Natural History, for nothing else makes me forget my ever-
recurrent uncomfortable sensations. But I must not howl any more, and the
critics may say what they like; I did my best, and man can do no more.
What a splendid pursuit Natural History would be if it was all observing
and no writing!...
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, February 10 .
My dear Hooker,
What is the good of having a friend, if one may not boast to him? I heard
yesterday that Murray has sold in a week the whole edition of 1500 copies
of my book, and the sale so pressing that he has agreed with Clowes to get
another edition in fourteen days! This has done me a world of good, for I
had got into a sort of dogged hatred of my book. And now there has
appeared a review in the "Pall Mall" which has pleased me excessively, more
perhaps than is reasonable. I am quite content, and do not care how much I
may be pitched into. If by any chance you should hear who wrote the
article in the "Pall Mall", do please tell me; it is some one who writes
capitally, and who knows the subject. I went to luncheon on Sunday, to
Lubbock's, partly in hopes of seeing you, and, be hanged to you, you were
Your cock-a-hoop friend,
[Independently of the favourable tone of the able series of notices in the
"Pall Mall Gazette" (February 10, 15, 17, 1868), my father may well have
been gratified by the following passages:--
"We must call attention to the rare and noble calmness with which he
expounds his own views, undisturbed by the heats of polemical agitation
which those views have excited, and persistently refusing to retort on his
antagonists by ridicule, by indignation, or by contempt. Considering the
amount of vituperation and insinuation which has come from the other side,
this forbearance is supremely dignified."
And again in the third notice, February 17:--
"Nowhere has the author a word that could wound the most sensitive self-
love of an antagonist; nowhere does he, in text or note, expose the
fallacies and mistakes of brother investigators...but while abstaining from
impertinent censure, he is lavish in acknowledging the smallest debts he
may owe; and his book will make many men happy."
I am indebted to Messrs. Smith & Elder for the information that these
articles were written by Mr. G.H. Lewes.]
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, February 23 .
My dear Hooker,
I have had almost as many letters to write of late as you can have, viz.
from 8 to 10 per diem, chiefly getting up facts on sexual selection,
therefore I have felt no inclination to write to you, and now I mean to
write solely about my book for my own satisfaction, and not at all for
yours. The first edition was 1500 copies, and now the second is printed
off; sharp work. Did you look at the review in the "Athenaeum"
("Athenaeum", February 15, 1868. My father quoted Pouchet's assertion that
"variation under domestication throws no light on the natural modification
of species." The reviewer quotes the end of a passage in which my father
declares that he can see no force in Pouchet's arguments, or rather
assertions, and then goes on: "We are sadly mistaken if there are not
clear proofs in the pages of the book before us that, on the contrary, Mr.
Darwin has perceived, felt, and yielded to the force of the arguments or
assertions of his French antagonist." The following may serve as samples
of the rest of the review:--
"Henceforth the rhetoricians will have a better illustration of anti-climax
than the mountain which brought forth a mouse,...in the discoverer of the
origin of species, who tried to explain the variation of pigeons!
"A few summary words. On the 'Origin of Species' Mr. Darwin has nothing,
and is never likely to have anything, to say; but on the vastly important
subject of inheritance, the transmission of peculiarities once acquired
through successive generations, this work is a valuable store-house of
facts for curious students and practical breeders."), showing profound
contempt of me?...It is a shame that he should have said that I have taken
much from Pouchet, without acknowledgment; for I took literally nothing,
there being nothing to take. There is a capital review in the "Gardeners'
Chronicle" which will sell the book if anything will. I don't quite see
whether I or the writer is in a muddle about man CAUSING variability. If a
man drops a bit of iron into sulphuric acid he does not cause the
affinities to come into play, yet he may be said to make sulphate of iron.
I do not know how to avoid ambiguity.
After what the "Pall Mall Gazette" and the "Chronicle" have said I do not
care a d--.
I fear Pangenesis is stillborn; Bates says he has read it twice, and is not
sure that he understands it. H. Spencer says the view is quite different
from his (and this is a great relief to me, as I feared to be accused of
plagiarism, but utterly failed to be sure what he meant, so thought it
safest to give my view as almost the same as his), and he says he is not
sure he understands it...Am I not a poor devil? yet I took such pains, I
must think that I expressed myself clearly. Old Sir H. Holland says he has
read it twice, and thinks it very tough; but believes that sooner or later
"some view akin to it" will be accepted.
You will think me very self-sufficient, when I declare that I feel SURE if
Pangenesis is now stillborn it will, thank God, at some future time
reappear, begotten by some other father, and christened by some other name.
Have you ever met with any tangible and clear view of what takes place in
generation, whether by seeds or buds, or how a long-lost character can
possibly reappear; or how the male element can possibly affect the mother
plant, or the mother animal, so that her future progeny are affected? Now
all these points and many others are connected together, whether truly or
falsely is another question, by Pangenesis. You see I die hard, and stick
up for my poor child.
This letter is written for my own satisfaction, and not for yours. So bear
CHARLES DARWIN TO A. NEWTON. (Prof. of Zoology at Cambridge.)
Down, February 9 .
I suppose it would be universally held extremely wrong for a defendant to
write to a Judge to express his satisfaction at a judgment in his favour;
and yet I am going thus to act. I have just read what you have said in the
'Record' ('Zoological Record.' The volume for 1868, published December
1869.) about my pigeon chapters, and it has gratified me beyond measure. I
have sometimes felt a little disappointed that the labour of so many years
seemed to be almost thrown away, for you are the first man capable of
forming a judgment (excepting partly Quatrefages), who seems to have
thought anything of this part of my work. The amount of labour,
correspondence, and care, which the subject cost me, is more than you could
well suppose. I thought the article in the "Athenaeum" was very unjust;
but now I feel amply repaid, and I cordially thank you for your sympathy
and too warm praise. What labour you have bestowed on your part of the
'Record'! I ought to be ashamed to speak of my amount of work. I
thoroughly enjoyed the Sunday, which you and the others spent here, and
I remain, dear Newton, yours very sincerely,
CHARLES DARWIN TO A.R. WALLACE.
Down, February 27 .
My dear Wallace,
You cannot well imagine how much I have been pleased by what you say about
'Pangenesis.' None of my friends will speak out...Hooker, as far as I
understand him, which I hardly do at present, seems to think that the
hypothesis is little more than saying that organisms have such and such
potentialities. What you say exactly and fully expresses my feeling, viz.
that it is a relief to have some feasible explanation of the various facts,
which can be given up as soon as any better hypothesis is found. It has
certainly been an immense relief to my mind; for I have been stumbling over
the subject for years, dimly seeing that some relation existed between the
various classes of facts. I now hear from H. Spencer that his views quoted
in my foot-note refer to something quite distinct, as you seem to have
I shall be very glad to hear at some future day your criticisms on the
"causes of variability." Indeed I feel sure that I am right about
sterility and natural selection...I do not quite understand your case, and
we think that a word or two is misplaced. I wish sometime you would
consider the case under the following point of view:--If sterility is
caused or accumulated through natural selection, than as every degree
exists up to absolute barrenness, natural selection must have the power of
increasing it. Now take two species, A and B, and assume that they are (by
any means) half-sterile, i.e. produce half the full number of offspring.
Now try and make (by natural selection) A and B absolutely sterile when
crossed, and you will find how difficult it is. I grant indeed, it is
certain, that the degree of sterility of the individuals A and B will vary,
but any such extra-sterile individuals of, we will say A, if they should
hereafter breed with other individuals of A, will bequeath no advantage to
their progeny, by which these families will tend to increase in number over
other families of A, which are not more sterile when crossed with B. But I
do not know that I have made this any clearer than in the chapter in my
book. It is a most difficult bit of reasoning, which I have gone over and
over again on paper with diagrams.
...Hearty thanks for your letter. You have indeed pleased me, for I had
given up the great god Pan as a stillborn deity. I wish you could be
induced to make it clear with your admirable powers of elucidation in one
of the scientific journals...
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, February 28 .
My dear Hooker,
I have been deeply interested by your letter, and we had a good laugh over
Huxley's remark, which was so deuced clever that you could not recollect
it. I cannot quite follow your train of thought, for in the last page you
admit all that I wish, having apparently denied all, or thought all mere
words in the previous pages of your note; but it may be my muddle. I see
clearly that any satisfaction which Pan may give will depend on the
constitution of each man's mind. If you have arrived already at any
similar conclusion, the whole will of course appear stale to you. I heard
yesterday from Wallace, who says (excuse horrid vanity), "I can hardly tell
you how much I admire the chapter on 'Pangenesis.' It is a POSITIVE
COMFORT to me to have any feasible explanation of a difficulty that has
always been haunting me, and I shall never be able to give it up till a
better one supplies its place, and that I think hardly possible, etc." Now
his foregoing [italicised] words express my sentiments exactly and fully:
though perhaps I feel the relief extra strongly from having during many
years vainly attempted to form some hypothesis. When you or Huxley say
that a single cell of a plant, or the stump of an amputated limb, have the
"potentiality" of reproducing the whole--or "diffuse an influence," these
words give me no positive idea;--but when it is said that the cells of a
plant, or stump, include atoms derived from every other cell of the whole
organism and capable of development, I gain a distinct idea. But this idea
would not be worth a rush, if it applied to one case alone; but it seems to
me to apply to all the forms of reproduction--inheritance--metamorphosis--
to the abnormal transposition of organs--to the direct action of the male
element on the mother plant, etc. Therefore I fully believe that each cell
does ACTUALLY throw off an atom or gemmule of its contents;--but whether or
not, this hypothesis serves as a useful connecting link for various grand
classes of physiological facts, which at present stand absolutely isolated.
I have touched on the doubtful point (alluded to by Huxley) how far atoms
derived from the same cell may become developed into different structure
accordingly as they are differently nourished; I advanced as illustrations
galls and polypoid excrescences...
It is a real pleasure to me to write to you on this subject, and I should
be delighted if we can understand each other; but you must not let your
good nature lead you on. Remember, we always fight tooth and nail. We go
to London on Tuesday, first for a week to Queen Anne Street, and afterwards
to Miss Wedgwood's, in Regent's Park, and stay the whole month, which, as
my gardener truly says, is a "terrible thing" for my experiments.
CHARLES DARWIN TO W. OGLE. (Dr. William Ogle, now the Superintendent of
Statistics to the Registrar-General.)
Down, March 6 .
I thank you most sincerely for your letter, which is very interesting to
me. I wish I had known of these views of Hippocrates before I had
published, for they seem almost identical with mine--merely a change of
terms--and an application of them to classes of facts necessarily unknown
to the old philosopher. The whole case is a good illustration of how
rarely anything is new.
Hippocrates has taken the wind out of my sails, but I care very little
about being forestalled. I advance the views merely as a provisional
hypothesis, but with the secret expectation that sooner or later some such
view will have to be admitted.
...I do not expect the reviewers will be so learned as you: otherwise, no
doubt, I shall be accused of wilfully stealing Pangenesis from
Hippocrates,--for this is the spirit some reviewers delight to show.
CHARLES DARWIN TO VICTOR CARUS.
Down, March 21 .
...I am very much obliged to you for sending me so frankly your opinion on
Pangenesis, and I am sorry it is unfavourable, but I cannot quite
understand your remark on pangenesis, selection, and the struggle for life
not being more methodical. I am not at all surprised at your unfavourable
verdict; I know many, probably most, will come to the same conclusion. One
English Review says it is much too complicated...Some of my friends are
enthusiastic on the hypothesis...Sir C. Lyell says to every one, "you may
not believe in 'Pangenesis,' but if you once understand it, you will never
get it out of your mind." And with this criticism I am perfectly content.
All cases of inheritance and reversion and development now appear to me
under a new light...
[An extract from a letter to Fritz Muller, though of later date (June), may
be given here:--
"Your letter of April 22 has much interested me. I am delighted that you
approve of my book, for I value your opinion more than that of almost any
one. I have yet hopes that you will think well of Pangenesis. I feel sure
that our minds are somewhat alike, and I find it a great relief to have
some definite, though hypothetical view, when I reflect on the wonderful
transformations of animals,--the re-growth of parts,--and especially the
direct action of pollen on the mother-form, etc. It often appears to me
almost certain that the characters of the parents are "photographed" on the
child, only by means of material atoms derived from each cell in both
parents, and developed in the child."]
CHARLES DARWIN TO ASA GRAY.
Down, May 8 .
My dear Gray,
I have been a most ungrateful and ungracious man not to have written to you
an immense time ago to thank you heartily for the "Nation", and for all
your most kind aid in regard to the American edition [of 'Animals and
Plants']. But I have been of late overwhelmed with letters, which I was
forced to answer, and so put off writing to you. This morning I received
the American edition (which looks capital), with your nice preface, for
which hearty thanks. I hope to heaven that the book will succeed well
enough to prevent you repenting of your aid. This arrival has put the
finishing stroke to my conscience, which will endure its wrongs no longer.
...Your article in the "Nation" [March 19] seems to me very good, and you
give an excellent idea of Pangenesis--an infant cherished by few as yet,
except his tender parent, but which will live a long life. There is
parental presumption for you! You give a good slap at my concluding
metaphor (A short abstract of the precipice metaphor is given in Volume I.
Dr. Gray's criticism on this point is as follows: "But in Mr. Darwin's
parallel, to meet the case of nature according to his own view of it, not
only the fragments of rock (answering to variation) should fall, but the
edifice (answering to natural selection) should rise, irrespective of will
or choice!" But my father's parallel demands that natural selection shall
be the architect, not the edifice--the question of design only comes in
with regard to the form of the building materials.): undoubtedly I ought
to have brought in and contrasted natural and artificial selection; but it
seems so obvious to me that natural selection depended on contingencies
even more complex than those which must have determined the shape of each
fragment at the base of my precipice. What I wanted to show was that in
reference to pre-ordainment whatever holds good in the formation of a
pouter pigeon holds good in the formation of a natural species of pigeon.
I cannot see that this is false. If the right variations occurred, and no
others, natural selection would be superfluous. A reviewer in an Edinburgh
paper, who treats me with profound contempt, says on this subject that
Professor Asa Gray could with the greatest ease smash me into little
pieces. (The "Daily Review", April 27, 1868. My father has given rather a
highly coloured version of the reviewer's remarks: "We doubt not that
Professor Asa Gray...could show that natural selection...is simply an
instrument in the hands of an omnipotent and omniscient creator." The
reviewer goes on to say that the passage in question is a "very melancholy
one," and that the theory is the "apotheosis of materialism.")
Believe me, my dear Gray,
Your ungrateful but sincere friend,
CHARLES DARWIN TO G. BENTHAM.
Down, June 23, 1868.
My dear Mr. Bentham,
As your address (Presidential Address to the Linnean Society.) is somewhat
of the nature of a verdict from a judge, I do not know whether it is proper
for me to do so, but I must and will thank you for the pleasure which you
have given me. I am delighted at what you say about my book. I got so
tired of it, that for months together I thought myself a perfect fool for
having given up so much time in collecting and observing little facts, but
now I do not care if a score of common critics speak as contemptuously of
the book as did the "Athenaeum". I feel justified in this, for I have so
complete a reliance on your judgment that I feel certain that I should have
bowed to your judgment had it been as unfavourable as it is the contrary.
What you say about Pangenesis quite satisfies me, and is as much perhaps as
any one is justified in saying. I have read your whole Address with the
greatest interest. It must have cost you a vast amount of trouble. With
cordial thanks, pray believe me,
Yours very sincerely,
P.S.--I fear that it is not likely that you have a superfluous copy of your
Address; if you have, I should much like to send one to Fritz Muller in the
interior of Brazil. By the way let me add that I discussed bud-variation
chiefly from a belief which is common to several persons, that all
variability is related to sexual generation; I wished to show clearly that
this was an error.
[The above series of letters may serve to show to some extent the reception
which the new book received. Before passing on (in the next chapter) to
the 'Descent of Man,' I give a letter referring to the translation of Fritz
Muller's book, 'Fur Darwin,' it was originally published in 1864, but the
English translation, by Mr. Dallas, which bore the title suggested by Sir
C. Lyell, of 'Facts and Arguments for Darwin,' did not appear until 1869:]
CHARLES DARWIN TO F. MULLER.
Down, March 16 .
My dear Sir,
Your brother, as you will have heard from him, felt so convinced that you
would not object to a translation of 'Fur Darwin' (In a letter to Fritz
Muller, my father wrote:--"I am vexed to see that on the title my name is
more conspicuous than yours, which I especially objected to, and I
cautioned the printers after seeing one proof."), that I have ventured to
arrange for a translation. Engelmann has very liberally offered me cliches
of the woodcuts for 22 thalers; Mr. Murray has agreed to bring out a
translation (and he is our best publisher) on commission, for he would not
undertake the work on his own risk; and I have agreed with Mr. W.S. Dallas
(who has translated Von Siebold on Parthenogenesis, and many German works,
and who writes very good English) to translate the book. He thinks (and he
is a good judge) that it is important to have some few corrections or
additions, in order to account for a translation appearing so lately [i.e.
at such a long interval of time] after the original; so that I hope you
will be able to send some...
[Two letters may be placed here as bearing on the spread of Evolutionary
ideas in France and Germany:]
CHARLES DARWIN TO A. GAUDRY.
Down, January 21 .
I thank you for your interesting essay on the influence of the Geological
features of the country on the mind and habits of the Ancient Athenians
(This appears to refer to M. Gaudry's paper translated in the 'Geol. Mag.,'
1868, page 372.), and for your very obliging letter. I am delighted to
hear that you intend to consider the relations of fossil animals in
connection with their genealogy; it will afford you a fine field for the
exercise of your extensive knowledge and powers of reasoning. Your belief
will I suppose, at present, lower you in the estimation of your countrymen;
but judging from the rapid spread in all parts of Europe, excepting France,
of the belief in the common descent of allied species, I must think that
this belief will before long become universal. How strange it is that the
country which gave birth to Buffon, the elder Geoffroy, and especially to
Lamarck, should now cling so pertinaciously to the belief that species are
My work on Variation, etc., under domestication, will appear in a French
translation in a few months' time, and I will do myself the pleasure and
honour of directing the publisher to send a copy to you to the same address
as this letter.
With sincere respect, I remain, dear sir,
Yours very faithfully,
[The next letter is of especial interest, as showing how high a value my
father placed on the support of the younger German naturalists:]
CHARLES DARWIN TO W. PREYER. (Now Professor of Physiology at Jena.)
March 31, 1868.
...I am delighted to hear that you uphold the doctrine of the Modification
of Species, and defend my views. The support which I receive from Germany
is my chief ground for hoping that our views will ultimately prevail. To
the present day I am continually abused or treated with contempt by writers
of my own country; but the younger naturalists are almost all on my side,
and sooner or later the public must follow those who make the subject their
special study. The abuse and contempt of ignorant writers hurts me very
WORK ON 'MAN.'
[In the autobiographical chapter in Volume I., my father gives the
circumstances which led to his writing the 'Descent of Man.' He states
that his collection of facts, begun in 1837 or 1838, was continued for many
years without any definite idea of publishing on the subject. The
following letter to Mr. Wallace shows that in the period of ill-health and
depression about 1864 he despaired of ever being able to do so:]
CHARLES DARWIN TO A.R. WALLACE.
Down, [May?] 28 .
I am so much better that I have just finished a paper for Linnean Society
(On the three forms, etc., of Lythrum.); but I am not yet at all strong, I
felt much disinclination to write, and therefore you must forgive me for
not having sooner thanked you for your paper on 'Man' ('Anthropological
Review,' March 1864.), received on the 11th. But first let me say that I
have hardly ever in my life been more struck by any paper than that on
'Variation,' etc. etc., in the "Reader". ('"Reader", April 16, 1864. "On
the Phenomena of Variation," etc. Abstract of a paper read before the
Linnean Society, March 17, 1864.) I feel sure that such papers will do
more for the spreading of our views on the modification of species than any
separate Treatises on the simple subject itself. It is really admirable;
but you ought not in the Man paper to speak of the theory as mine; it is
just as much yours as mine. One correspondent has already noticed to me
your "high-minded" conduct on this head. But now for your Man paper, about
which I should like to write more than I can. The great leading idea is
quite new to me, viz. that during late ages, the mind will have been
modified more than the body; yet I had got as far as to see with you that
the struggle between the races of man depended entirely on intellectual and
MORAL qualities. The latter part of the paper I can designate only as
grand and most eloquently done. I have shown your paper to two or three
persons who have been here, and they have been equally struck with it. I
am not sure that I go with you on all minor points: when reading Sir G.
Grey's account of the constant battles of Australian savages, I remember
thinking that natural selection would come in, and likewise with the
Esquimaux, with whom the art of fishing and managing canoes is said to be
hereditary. I rather differ on the rank, under a classificatory point of
view, which you assign to man; I do not think any character simply in
excess ought ever to be used for the higher divisions. Ants would not be
separated from other hymenopterous insects, however high the instinct of
the one, and however low the instincts of the other. With respect to the
differences of race, a conjecture has occurred to me that much may be due
to the correlation of complexion (and consequently hair) with constitution.
Assume that a dusky individual best escaped miasma, and you will readily
see what I mean. I persuaded the Director-General of the Medical
Department of the Army to send printed forms to the surgeons of all
regiments in tropical countries to ascertain this point, but I dare say I
shall never get any returns. Secondly, I suspect that a sort of sexual
selection has been the most powerful means of changing the races of man. I
can show that the different races have a widely different standard of
beauty. Among savages the most powerful men will have the pick of the
women, and they will generally leave the most descendants. I have
collected a few notes on man, but I do not suppose that I shall ever use
them. Do you intend to follow out your views, and if so, would you like at
some future time to have my few references and notes? I am sure I hardly
know whether they are of any value, and they are at present in a state of
There is much more that I should like to write, but I have not strength.
Believe me, dear Wallace, yours very sincerely,
P.S.--Our aristocracy is handsomer (more hideous according to a Chinese or
Negro) than the middle classes, from (having the) pick of the women; but
oh, what a scheme is primogeniture for destroying natural selection! I
fear my letter will be barely intelligible to you.
[In February 1867, when the manuscript of 'Animals and Plants' had been
sent to Messrs. Clowes to be printed, and before the proofs began to come
in, he had an interval of spare time, and began a "chapter on Man," but he
soon found it growing under his hands, and determined to publish it
separately as a "very small volume."
The work was interrupted by the necessity of correcting the proofs of
'Animals and Plants,' and by some botanical work, but was resumed in the
following year, 1868, the moment he could give himself up to it.
He recognized with regret the gradual change in his mind that rendered
continuous work more and more necessary to him as he grew older. This is
expressed in a letter to Sir J.D. Hooker, June 17, 1868, which repeats to
some extent what is expressed in the Autobiography:--
"I am glad you were at the 'Messiah,' it is the one thing that I should
like to hear again, but I dare say I should find my soul too dried up to
appreciate it as in old days; and then I should feel very flat, for it is a
horrid bore to feel as I constantly do, that I am a withered leaf for every
subject except Science. It sometimes makes me hate Science, though God
knows I ought to be thankful for such a perennial interest, which makes me
forget for some hours every day my accursed stomach."
The work on Man was interrupted by illness in the early summer of 1868, and
he left home on July 16th for Freshwater, in the Isle of Wight, where he
remained with his family until August 21st. Here he made the acquaintance
of Mrs. Cameron. She received the whole family with open-hearted kindness
and hospitality, and my father always retained a warm feeling of friendship
for her. She made an excellent photograph of him, which was published with
the inscription written by him: "I like this photograph very much better
than any other which has been taken of me." Further interruption occurred
in the autumn so that continuous work on the 'Descent of Man' did not begin
until 1869. The following letters give some idea of the earlier work in
CHARLES DARWIN TO A.R. WALLACE.
Down, February 22, [1867?].
My dear Wallace,
I am hard at work on sexual selection, and am driven half mad by the number
of collateral points which require investigation, such as the relative
number of the two sexes, and especially on polygamy. Can you aid me with
respect to birds which have strongly marked secondary sexual characters,
such as birds of paradise, humming-birds, the Rupicola, or any other such
cases? Many gallinaceous birds certainly are polygamous. I suppose that
birds may be known not to be polygamous if they are seen during the whole
breeding season to associate in pairs, or if the male incubates or aids in
feeding the young. Will you have the kindness to turn this in your mind?
But it is a shame to trouble you now that, as I am HEARTILY glad to hear,
you are at work on your Malayan travels. I am fearfully puzzled how far to
extend your protective views with respect to the females in various
classes. The more I work the more important sexual selection apparently
Can butterflies be polygamous! i.e. will one male impregnate more than one
female? Forgive me troubling you, and I dare say I shall have to ask
CHARLES DARWIN TO A.R. WALLACE.
Down, February 23 .
I much regretted that I was unable to call on you, but after Monday I was
unable even to leave the house. On Monday evening I called on Bates, and
put a difficulty before him, which he could not answer, and, as on some
former similar occasion, his first suggestion was, "You had better ask
Wallace." My difficulty is, why are caterpillars sometimes so beautifully
and artistically coloured? Seeing that many are coloured to escape danger,
I can hardly attribute their bright colour in other cases to mere physical
conditions. Bates says the most gaudy caterpillar he ever saw in Amazonia
(of a sphinx) was conspicuous at the distance of yards, from its black and
red colours, whilst feeding on large green leaves. If any one objected to
male butterflies having been made beautiful by sexual selection, and asked
why should they not have been made beautiful as well as their caterpillars,
what would you answer? I could not answer, but should maintain my ground.
Will you think over this, and some time, either by letter or when we meet,
tell me what you think? Also I want to know whether your FEMALE mimetic
butterfly is more beautiful and brighter than the male. When next in
London I must get you to show me your kingfishers. My health is a dreadful
evil; I failed in half my engagements during this last visit to London.
Believe me, yours very sincerely,
CHARLES DARWIN TO A.R. WALLACE.
Down, February 26 .
My dear Wallace,
Bates was quite right; you are the man to apply to in a difficulty. I
never heard anything more ingenious than your suggestion (The suggestion
that conspicuous caterpillars or perfect insects (e.g. white butterflies),
which are distasteful to birds, are protected by being easily recognised
and avoided. See Mr. Wallace's 'Natural Selection,' 2nd edition, page
117.), and I hope you may be able to prove it true. That is a splendid
fact about the white moths; it warms one's very blood to see a theory thus
almost proved to be true. (Mr. Jenner Weir's observations published in the
Transactions of the Entomolog. Soc. (1869 and 1870) give strong support to
the theory in question.) With respect to the beauty of male butterflies, I
must as yet think it is due to sexual selection. There is some evidence
that dragon-flies are attracted by bright colours; but what leads me to the
above belief is, so many male Orthoptera and Cicadas having musical
instruments. This being the case, the analogy of birds makes me believe in
sexual selection with respect to colour in insects. I wish I had strength
and time to make some of the experiments suggested by you, but I thought
butterflies would not pair in confinement. I am sure I have heard of some
such difficulty. Many years ago I had a dragon-fly painted with gorgeous
colours, but I never had an opportunity of fairly trying it.
The reason of my being so much interested just at present about sexual
selection is, that I have almost resolved to publish a little essay on the
origin of Mankind, and I still strongly think (though I failed to convince
you, and this, to me, is the heaviest blow possible) that sexual selection
has been the main agent in forming the races of man.
By the way, there is another subject which I shall introduce in my essay,
namely, expression of countenance. Now, do you happen to know by any odd
chance a very good-natured and acute observer in the Malay Archipelago, who
you think would make a few easy observations for me on the expression of
the Malays when excited by various emotions? For in this case I would send
to such person a list of queries. I thank you for your most interesting
letter, and remain,
Yours very sincerely,
CHARLES DARWIN TO A.R. WALLACE.
Down, March .
My dear Wallace,
I thank you much for your two notes. The case of Julia Pastrana (A bearded
woman having an irregular double set of teeth. 'Animals and Plants,'
volume ii. page 328.) is a splendid addition to my other cases of
correlated teeth and hair, and I will add it in correcting the press of my
present volume. Pray let me hear in the course of the summer if you get
any evidence about the gaudy caterpillars. I should much like to give (or
quote if published) this idea of yours, if in any way supported, as
suggested by you. It will, however, be a long time hence, for I can see
that sexual selection is growing into quite a large subject, which I shall
introduce into my essay on Man, supposing that I ever publish it. I had
intended giving a chapter on man, inasmuch as many call him (not QUITE
truly) an eminently domesticated animal, but I found the subject too large
for a chapter. Nor shall I be capable of treating the subject well, and my
sole reason for taking it up is, that I am pretty well convinced that
sexual selection has played an important part in the formation of races,
and sexual selection has always been a subject which has interested me
much. I have been very glad to see your impression from memory on the
expression of Malays. I fully agree with you that the subject is in no way
an important one; it is simply a "hobby-horse" with me, about twenty-seven
years old; and AFTER thinking that I would write an essay on man, it
flashed on me that I could work in some "supplemental remarks on
expression." After the horrid, tedious, dull work of my present huge, and
I fear unreadable, book ['The Variation of Animals and Plants'], I thought
I would amuse myself with my hobby-horse. The subject is, I think, more
curious and more amenable to scientific treatment than you seem willing to
allow. I want, anyhow, to upset Sir C. Bell's view, given in his most
interesting work, 'The Anatomy of Expression,' that certain muscles have
been given to man solely that he may reveal to other men his feelings. I
want to try and show how expressions have arisen. That is a good
suggestion about newspapers, but my experience tells me that private
applications are generally most fruitful. I will, however, see if I can
get the queries inserted in some Indian paper. I do not know the names or
addresses of any other papers.
...My two female amanuenses are busy with friends, and I fear this scrawl
will give you much trouble to read. With many thanks,
Yours very sincerely,
[The following letter may be worth giving, as an example of his sources of
information, and as showing what were the thoughts at this time occupying
CHARLES DARWIN TO F. MULLER.
Down, February 22 .
...Many thanks for all the curious facts about the unequal number of the
sexes in Crustacea, but the more I investigate this subject the deeper I
sink in doubt and difficulty. Thanks also for the confirmation of the
rivalry of Cicadae. I have often reflected with surprise on the diversity
of the means for producing music with insects, and still more with birds.
We thus get a high idea of the importance of song in the animal kingdom.
Please to tell me where I can find any account of the auditory organs in
the Orthoptera. Your facts are quite new to me. Scudder has described an
insect in the Devonian strata, furnished with a stridulating apparatus. I
believe he is to be trusted, and, if so, the apparatus is of astonishing
antiquity. After reading Landois's paper I have been working at the
stridulating organ in the Lamellicorn beetles, in expectation of finding it
sexual; but I have only found it as yet in two cases, and in these it was
equally developed in both sexes. I wish you would look at any of your
common lamellicorns, and take hold of both males and females, and observe
whether they make the squeaking or grating noise equally. If they do not,
you could, perhaps, send me a male and female in a light little box. How
curious it is that there should be a special organ for an object apparently
so unimportant as squeaking. Here is another point; have you any toucans?
if so, ask any trustworthy hunter whether the beaks of the males, or of
both sexes, are more brightly coloured during the breeding season than at
other times of the year...Heaven knows whether I shall ever live to make
use of half the valuable facts which you have communicated to me! Your
paper on Balanus armatus, translated by Mr. Dallas, has just appeared in
our 'Annals and Magazine of Natural History,' and I have read it with the
greatest interest. I never thought that I should live to hear of a hybrid
Balanus! I am very glad that you have seen the cement tubes; they appear
to me extremely curious, and, as far as I know, you are the first man who
has verified my observations on this point.
With most cordial thanks for all your kindness, my dear Sir,
Yours very sincerely,
CHARLES DARWIN TO A. DE CANDOLLE.
Down, July 6, 1868.