More Letters of Charles Darwin Volume II by Charles Darwin

This etext was prepared by Sue Asscher Notes: All biographical footnotes of both volumes appear at the end of Volume II. All other notes by Charles Darwin’s editors appear in the text, in brackets () with a Chapter/Note or Letter/Note number. MORE LETTERS OF CHARLES DARWIN A RECORD OF HIS WORK IN A SERIES OF
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This etext was prepared by Sue Asscher


All biographical footnotes of both volumes appear at the end of Volume II.

All other notes by Charles Darwin’s editors appear in the text, in brackets () with a Chapter/Note or Letter/Note number.









“You will never know how much I owe to you for your constant kindness and encouragement”





1843-1882 (Continued) (1867-1882.)

LETTER 378. J.D. HOOKER TO CHARLES DARWIN. Kew, January 20th, 1867.

Prof. Miquel, of Utrecht, begs me to ask you for your carte, and offers his in return. I grieve to bother you on such a subject. I am sick and tired of this carte correspondence. I cannot conceive what Humboldt’s Pyrenean violet is: no such is mentioned in Webb, and no alpine one at all. I am sorry I forgot to mention the stronger African affinity of the eastern Canary Islands. Thank you for mentioning it. I cannot admit, without further analysis, that most of the peculiar Atlantic Islands genera were derived from Europe, and have since become extinct there. I have rather thought that many are only altered forms of existing European genera; but this is a very difficult point, and would require a careful study of such genera and allies with this object in view. The subject has often presented itself to me as a grand one for analytic botany. No doubt its establishment would account for the community of the peculiar genera on the several groups and islets, but whilst so many species are common we must allow for a good deal of migration of peculiar genera too.

By Jove! I will write out next mail to the Governor of St. Helena for boxes of earth, and you shall have them to grow. Thanks for telling me of having suggested to me the working out of proportions of plants with irregular flowers in islands. I thought it was a deuced deal too good an idea to have arisen spontaneously in my block, though I did not recollect your having done so. No doubt your suggestion was crystallised in some corner of my sensorium. I should like to work out the point.

Have you Kerguelen Land amongst your volcanic islands? I have a curious book of a sealer who was wrecked on the island, and who mentions a volcanic mountain and hot springs at the S.W. end; it is called the “Wreck of the Favourite.” (378/1. “Narrative of the Wreck of the ‘Favourite’ on the Island of Desolation; detailing the Adventures, Sufferings and Privations of John Munn; an Historical Account of the Island and its Whale and Sea Fisheries.” Edited by W.B. Clarke: London, 1850.)

Down, March 17th, 1867.

It is a long time since I have written, but I cannot boast that I have refrained from charity towards you, but from having lots of work…You ask what I have been doing. Nothing but blackening proofs with corrections. I do not believe any man in England naturally writes so vile a style as I do…

In your paper on “Insular Floras” (page 9) there is what I must think an error, which I before pointed out to you: viz., you say that the plants which are wholly distinct from those of nearest continent are often very common instead of very rare. (379/1. “Insular Floras,” pamphlet reprinted from the “Gardeners’ Chronicle,” page 9: “As a general rule the species of the mother continent are proportionally the most abundant, and cover the greatest surface of the islands. The peculiar species are rarer, the peculiar genera of continental affinity are rarer still; whilst the plants having no affinity with those of the mother continent are often very common.” In a letter of March 20th, 1867, Sir Joseph explains that in the case of the Atlantic islands it is the “peculiar genera of EUROPEAN AFFINITY that are so rare,” while Clethra, Dracaena and the Laurels, which have no European affinity, are common.) Etty (379/2. Mr. Darwin’s daughter, now Mrs. Litchfield.), who has read your paper with great interest, was confounded by this sentence. By the way, I have stumbled on two old notes: one, that twenty-two species of European birds occasionally arrive as chance wanderers to the Azores; and, secondly, that trunks of American trees have been known to be washed on the shores of the Canary Islands by the Gulf-stream, which returns southward from the Azores. What poor papers those of A. Murray are in “Gardeners’ Chronicle.” What conclusions he draws from a single Carabus (379/3. “Dr. Hooker on Insular Floras” (“Gardeners’ Chronicle,” 1867, pages 152, 181). The reference to the Carabidous beetle (Aplothorax) is at page 181.), and that a widely ranging genus! He seems to me conceited; you and I are fair game geologically, but he refers to Lyell, as if his opinion on a geological point was worth no more than his own. I have just bought, but not read a sentence of, Murray’s big book (379/4. “Geographical Distribution of Mammals,” 1866.), second-hand, for 30s., new, so I do not envy the publishers. It is clear to me that the man cannot reason. I have had a very nice letter from Scott at Calcutta (379/5. See Letter 150.): he has been making some good observations on the acclimatisation of seeds from plants of same species, grown in different countries, and likewise on how far European plants will stand the climate of Calcutta. He says he is astonished how well some flourish, and he maintains, if the land were unoccupied, several could easily cross, spreading by seed, the Tropics from north to south, so he knows how to please me; but I have told him to be cautious, else he will have dragons down on him…

As the Azores are only about two-and-a-half times more distant from America (in the same latitude) than from Europe, on the occasional migration view (especially as oceanic currents come directly from West Indies and Florida, and heavy gales of wind blow from the same direction), a large percentage of the flora ought to be American; as it is, we have only the Sanicula, and at present we have no explanation of this apparent anomaly, or only a feeble indication of an explanation in the birds of the Azores being all European.

Down, March 21st [1867].

Many thanks for your pleasant and very amusing letter. You have been treated shamefully by Etty and me, but now that I know the facts, the sentence seems to me quite clear. Nevertheless, as we have both blundered, it would be well to modify the sentence something as follows: “whilst, on the other hand, the plants which are related to those of distant continents, but have no affinity with those of the mother continent, are often very common.” I forget whether you explain this circumstance, but it seems to me very mysterious (380/1. Sir Joseph Hooker wrote (March 23rd, 1867): “I see you ‘smell a rat’ in the matter of insular plants that are related to those of [a] distant continent being common. Yes, my beloved friend, let me make a clean breast of it. I only found it out after the lecture was in print!…I have been waiting ever since to ‘think it out,’ and write to you about it, coherently. I thought it best to squeeze it in, anyhow or anywhere, rather than leave so curious a fact unnoticed.”)…Do always remember that nothing in the world gives us so much pleasure as seeing you here whenever you can come. I chuckle over what you say of And. Murray, but I must grapple with his book some day.

Down, October 31st [1867].

Mr. [J.P. Mansel] Weale sent to me from Natal a small packet of dry locust dung, under 1/2 oz., with the statement that it is believed that they introduce new plants into a district. (381/1. See Volume I., Letter 221.) This statement, however, must be very doubtful. From this packet seven plants have germinated, belonging to at least two kinds of grasses. There is no error, for I dissected some of the seeds out of the middle of the pellets. It deserves notice that locusts are sometimes blown far out to sea. I caught one 370 miles from Africa, and I have heard of much greater distances. You might like to hear the following case, as it relates to a migratory bird belonging to the most wandering of all orders–viz. the woodcock. (381/2. “Origin,” Edition VI., page 328.) The tarsus was firmly coated with mud, weighing when dry 9 grains, and from this the Juncus bufonius, or toad rush, germinated. By the way, the locust case verifies what I said in the “Origin,” that many possible means of distribution would be hereafter discovered. I quite agree about the extreme difficulty of the distribution of land mollusca. You will have seen in the last edition of “Origin” (381/3. “Origin,” Edition IV., page 429. The reference is to MM. Marten’s (381/4. For Marten’s read Martins’ [the name is wrongly spelt in the “Origin of Species.”]) experiments on seeds “in a box in the actual sea.”) that my observations on the effects of sea-water have been confirmed. I still suspect that the legs of birds which roost on the ground may be an efficient means; but I was interrupted when going to make trials on this subject, and have never resumed it.

We shall be in London in the middle of latter part of November, when I shall much enjoy seeing you. Emma sends her love, and many thanks for Lady Lyell’s note.

Down, Wednesday [1867].

I daresay there is a great deal of truth in your remarks on the glacial affair, but we are in a muddle, and shall never agree. I am bigoted to the last inch, and will not yield. I cannot think how you can attach so much weight to the physicists, seeing how Hopkins, Hennessey, Haughton, and Thomson have enormously disagreed about the rate of cooling of the crust; remembering Herschel’s speculations about cold space (382/1. The reader will find some account of Herschel’s views in Lyell’s “Principles,” 1872, Edition XI., Volume I., page 283.), and bearing in mind all the recent speculations on change of axis, I will maintain to the death that your case of Fernando Po and Abyssinia is worth ten times more than the belief of a dozen physicists. (382/2. See “Origin,” Edition VI., page 337: “Dr. Hooker has also lately shown that several of the plants living on the upper parts of the lofty island of Fernando Po and on the neighbouring Cameroon mountains, in the Gulf of Guinea, are closely related to those in the mountains of Abyssinia, and likewise to those of temperate Europe.” Darwin evidently means that such facts as these are better evidence of the gigantic periods of time occupied by evolutionary changes than the discordant conclusions of the physicists. See “Linn. Soc. Journ.” Volume VII., page 180, for Hooker’s general conclusions; also Hooker and Ball’s “Marocco,” Appendix F, page 421. For the case of Fernando Po see Hooker (“Linn. Soc. Journ.” VI., 1861, page 3, where he sums up: “Hence the result of comparing Clarence Peak flora [Fernando Po] with that of the African continent is–(1) the intimate relationship with Abyssinia, of whose flora it is a member, and from which it is separated by 1800 miles of absolutely unexplored country; (2) the curious relationship with the East African islands, which are still farther off; (3) the almost total dissimilarity from the Cape flora.” For Sir J.D. Hooker’s general conclusions on the Cameroon plants see “Linn. Soc. Journ.” VII., page 180. More recently equally striking cases have come to light: for instance, the existence of a Mediterranean genus, Adenocarpus, in the Cameroons and on Kilima Njaro, and nowhere else in Africa; and the probable migration of South African forms along the highlands from the Natal District to Abysinnia. See Hooker, “Linn. Soc. Journ.” XIV., 1874, pages 144-5.) Your remarks on my regarding temperate plants and disregarding the tropical plants made me at first uncomfortable, but I soon recovered. You say that all botanists would agree that many tropical plants could not withstand a somewhat cooler climate. But I have come not to care at all for general beliefs without the special facts. I have suffered too often from this: thus I found in every book the general statement that a host of flowers were fertilised in the bud, that seeds could not withstand salt water, etc., etc. I would far more trust such graphic accounts as that by you of the mixed vegetation on the Himalayas and other such accounts. And with respect to tropical plants withstanding the slowly coming on cool period, I trust to such facts as yours (and others) about seeds of the same species from mountains and plains having acquired a slightly different climatal constitution. I know all that I have said will excite in you savage contempt towards me. Do not answer this rigmarole, but attack me to your heart’s content, and to that of mine, whenever you can come here, and may it be soon.


(383/1. The following extract from a letter of Sir J.D. Hooker shows the tables reversed between the correspondents.)

Grove is disgusted at your being disquieted about W. Thomson. Tell George from me not to sit upon you with his mathematics. When I threatened your tropical cooling views with the facts of the physicists, you snubbed me and the facts sweetly, over and over again; and now, because a scarecrow of x+y has been raised on the selfsame facts, you boo-boo. Take another dose of Huxley’s penultimate G. S. Address, and send George back to college. (383/2. Huxley’s Anniversary Address to the Geological Society, 1869 (“Collected Essays,” VIII., page 305). This is a criticism of Lord Kelvin’s paper “On Geological Time” (“Trans. Geolog. Soc. Glasgow,” III.). At page 336 Mr. Huxley deals with Lord Kelvin’s “third line of argument, based on the temperature of the interior of the earth.” This was no doubt the point most disturbing to Mr. Darwin, since it led Lord Kelvin to ask (as quoted by Huxley), “Are modern geologists prepared to say that all life was killed off the earth 50,000, 100,000, or 200,000 years ago?” Mr. Huxley, after criticising Lord Kelvin’s data and conclusion, gives his conviction that the case against Geology has broken down. With regard to evolution, Huxley (page 328) ingeniously points out a case of circular reasoning. “But it may be said that it is biology, and not geology, which asks for so much time–that the succession of life demands vast intervals; but this appears to me to be reasoning in a circle. Biology takes her time from geology. The only reason we have for believing in the slow rate of the change in living forms is the fact that they persist through a series of deposits which, geology informs us, have taken a long while to make. If the geological clock is wrong, all the naturalist will have to do is to modify his notions of the rapidity of change accordingly.”)

February 3rd [1868].

I am now reading Miquel on “Flora of Japan” (384/1. Miquel, “Flore du Japon”: “Archives Neerlandaises” ii., 1867.), and like it: it is rather a relief to me (though, of course, not new to you) to find so very much in common with Asia. I wonder if A. Murray’s (384/2. “Geographical Distribution of Mammals,” by Andrew Murray, 1866. See Chapter V., page 47. See Letter 379.) notion can be correct, that a [profound] arm of the sea penetrated the west coast of N. America, and prevented the Asiatico-Japan element colonising that side of the continent so much as the eastern side; or will climate suffice? I shall to the day of my death keep up my full interest in Geographical Distribution, but I doubt whether I shall ever have strength to come in any fuller detail than in the “Origin” to this grand subject. In fact, I do not suppose any man could master so comprehensive a subject as it now has become, if all kingdoms of nature are included. I have read Murray’s book, and am disappointed–though, as you said, here and there clever thoughts occur. How strange it is, that his view not affording the least explanation of the innumerable adaptations everywhere to be seen apparently does not in the least trouble his mind. One of the most curious cases which he adduces seems to me to be the two allied fresh-water, highly peculiar porpoises in the Ganges and Indus; and the more distantly allied form of the Amazons. Do you remember his explanation of an arm of the sea becoming cut off, like the Caspian, converted into fresh-water, and then divided into two lakes (by upheaval), giving rise to two great rivers. But no light is thus thrown on the affinity of the Amazon form. I now find from Flower’s paper (384/3. “Zoolog. Trans.” VI., 1869, page 115. The toothed whales are divided into the Physeteridae, the Delphinidae, and the Platanistidae, which latter is placed between the two other families, and is divided into the sub-families Iniinae and Platanistinae.) that these fresh-water porpoises form two sub- families, making an extremely isolated and intermediate, very small family. Hence to us they are clearly remnants of a large group; and I cannot doubt we here have a good instance precisely like that of ganoid fishes, of a large ancient marine group, preserved exclusively in fresh-water, where there has been less competition, and consequently little modification. (384/4. See Volume I., Letter 95.) What a grand fact that is which Miquel gives of the beech not extending beyond the Caucasus, and then reappearing in Japan, like your Himalayan Pinus, and the cedar of Lebanon. (384/5. For Pinus read Deodar. The essential identity of the deodar and the cedar of Lebanon was pointed out in Hooker’s “Himalayan Journals” in 1854 (Volume I., page 257.n). In the “Nat. History Review,” January, 1862, the question is more fully dealt with by him, and the distribution discussed. The nearest point at which cedars occur is the Bulgar-dagh chain of Taurus–250 miles from Lebanon. Under the name of Cedrus atlantica the tree occurs in mass on the borders of Tunis, and as Deodar it first appears to the east in the cedar forests of Afghanistan. Sir J.D. Hooker supposes that, during a period of greater cold, the cedars on the Taurus and on Lebanon lived many thousand feet nearer the sea-level, and spread much farther to the east, meeting similar belts of trees descending and spreading westward from Afghanistan along the Persian mountains.) I know of nothing that gives one such an idea of the recent mutations in the surface of the land as these living “outlyers.” In the geological sense we must, I suppose, admit that every yard of land has been successively covered with a beech forest between the Caucasus and Japan!

I have not yet seen (for I have not sent to the station) Falconer’s works. When you say that you sigh to think how poor your reprinted memoirs would appear, on my soul I should like to shake you till your bones rattled for talking such nonsense. Do you sigh over the “Insular Floras,” the Introduction to New Zealand Flora, to Australia, your Arctic Flora, and dear Galapagos, etc., etc., etc.? In imagination I am grinding my teeth and choking you till I put sense into you. Farewell. I have amused myself by writing an audaciously long letter. By the way, we heard yesterday that George has won the second Smith’s Prize, which I am excessively glad of, as the Second Wrangler by no means always succeeds. The examination consists exclusively of [the] most difficult subjects, which such men as Stokes, Cayley, and Adams can set.


…While writing a few pages on the northern alpine forms of plants on the Java mountains I wanted a few cases to refer to like Teneriffe, where there are no northern forms and scarcely any alpine. I expected the volcanoes of Hawaii would be a good case, and asked Dr. Seemann about them. It seems a man has lately published a list of Hawaiian plants, and the mountains swarm with European alpine genera and some species! (385/1. “This turns out to be inaccurate, or greatly exaggerated. There are no true alpines, and the European genera are comparatively few. See my ‘Island Life,’ page 323.”– A.R.W.) Is not this most extraordinary, and a puzzler? They are, I believe, truly oceanic islands, in the absence of mammals and the extreme poverty of birds and insects, and they are within the Tropics.

Will not that be a hard nut for you when you come to treat in detail on geographical distribution? I enclose Seemann’s note, which please return when you have copied the list, if of any use to you.

Down, February 21st [1870].

I read yesterday the notes on Round Island (386/1. In Wallace’s “Island Life,” page 410, Round Island is described as an islet “only about a mile across, and situated about fourteen miles north-east of Mauritius.” Wallace mentions a snake, a python belonging to the peculiar and distinct genus Casarea, as found on Round Island, and nowhere else in the world. The palm Latania Loddigesii is quoted by Wallace as “confined to Round Island and two other adjacent islets.” See Baker’s “Flora of the Mauritius and the Seychelles.” Mr. Wallace says that, judging from the soundings, Round Island was connected with Mauritius, and that when it was “first separated [it] would have been both much larger and much nearer the main island.”) which I owe to you. Was there ever such an enigma? If, in the course of a week or two, you can find time to let me hear what you think, I should very much like to hear: or we hope to be at Erasmus’ on March 4th for a week. Would there be any chance of your coming to luncheon then? What a case it is. Palms, screw-pines, four snakes–not one being in main island–lizards, insects, and not one land bird. But, above everything, such a proportion of individual monocotyledons! The conditions do not seem very different from the Tuff Galapagos Island, but, as far as I remember, very few monocotyledons there. Then, again, the island seems to have been elevated. I wonder much whether it stands out in the line of any oceanic current, which does not so forcibly strike the main island? But why, oh, why should so many monocotyledons have come there? or why should they have survived there more than on the main island, if once connected? So, again, I cannot conceive that four snakes should have become extinct in Mauritius and survived on Round Island. For a moment I thought that Mauritius might be the newer island, but the enormous degradation which the outer ring of rocks has undergone flatly contradicts this, and the marine remains on the summit of Round Island indicate the island to be comparatively new–unless, indeed, they are fossil and extinct marine remains. Do tell me what you think. There never was such an enigma. I rather lean to separate immigration, with, of course, subsequent modification; some forms, of course, also coming from Mauritius. Speaking of Mauritius reminds me that I was so much pleased the day before yesterday by reading a review of a book on the geology of St. Helena, by an officer who knew nothing of my hurried observations, but confirms nearly all that I have said on the general structure of the island, and on its marvellous denudation. The geology of that island was like a novel.

Down, March 28th, 1876.

(387/1. The following refers to Blytt’s “Essay on the Immigration of the Norwegian Flora during Alternating Rainy and Dry Periods,” Christiania, 1876.)

I thank you sincerely for your kindness in having sent me your work on the “Immigration of the Norwegian Flora,” which has interested me in the highest degree. Your view, supported as it is by various facts, appears to me the most important contribution towards understanding the present distribution of plants, which has appeared since Forbes’ essay on the effects of the Glacial Period.

Down, June 19th, 1876.

I hope you will allow me to suggest an observation, should any opportunity occur, on a point which has interested me for many years–viz., how do the coleoptera which inhabit the nests of ants colonise a new nest? Mr. Wallace, in reference to the presence of such coleoptera in Madeira, suggests that their ova may be attached to the winged female ants, and that these are occasionally blown across the ocean to the island. It would be very interesting to discover whether the ova are adhesive, and whether the female coleoptera are guided by instinct to attach them to the female ants (388/1. Dr. Sharp is good enough to tell us that he is not aware of any such adaptation. Broadly speaking, the distribution of the nest-inhabiting beetles is due to co-migration with the ants, though in some cases the ants transport the beetles. Sitaris and Meloe are beetles which live “at the expense of bees of the genus Anthophora.” The eggs are laid not in but near the bees’ nest; in the early stage the larva is active and has the instinct to seize any hairy object near it, and in this way they are carried by the Anthophora to the nest. Dr. Sharp states that no such preliminary stage is known in the ant’s-nest beetles. For an account of Sitaris and Meloe, see Sharp’s “Insects,” II., page 272.); or whether the larvae pass through an early stage, as with Sitaris or Meloe, or cling to the bodies of the females. This note obviously requires no answer. I trust that you continue your most interesting investigations on ants.

(PLATE: MR. A.R. WALLACE, 1878. From a photograph by Maull & Fox.)


(389/1. Published in “Life and Letters,” III., page 230.)

(389/2. The following five letters refer to Mr. Wallace’s “Geographical Distribution of Animals,” 1876.)

[Hopedene] (389/3. Mr. Hensleigh Wedgwood’s house in Surrey.), June 5th, 1876.

I must have the pleasure of expressing to you my unbounded admiration of your book (389/4. “Geographical Distribution,” 1876.), though I have read only to page 184–my object having been to do as little as possible while resting. I feel sure that you have laid a broad and safe foundation for all future work on Distribution. How interesting it will be to see hereafter plants treated in strict relation to your views; and then all insects, pulmonate molluscs and fresh-water fishes, in greater detail than I suppose you have given to these lower animals. The point which has interested me most, but I do not say the most valuable point, is your protest against sinking imaginary continents in a quite reckless manner, as was stated by Forbes, followed, alas, by Hooker, and caricatured by Wollaston and [Andrew] Murray! By the way, the main impression that the latter author has left on my mind is his utter want of all scientific judgment. I have lifted up my voice against the above view with no avail, but I have no doubt that you will succeed, owing to your new arguments and the coloured chart. Of a special value, as it seems to me, is the conclusion that we must determine the areas, chiefly by the nature of the mammals. When I worked many years ago on this subject, I doubted much whether the now-called Palaearctic and Nearctic regions ought to be separated; and I determined if I made another region that it should be Madagascar. I have, therefore, been able to appreciate your evidence on these points. What progress Palaeontology has made during the last twenty years! but if it advances at the same rate in the future, our views on the migration and birthplace of the various groups will, I fear, be greatly altered. I cannot feel quite easy about the Glacial period, and the extinction of large mammals, but I must hope that you are right. I think you will have to modify your belief about the difficulty of dispersal of land molluscs; I was interrupted when beginning to experimentise on the just hatched young adhering to the feet of ground-roosting birds. I differ on one other point–viz. in the belief that there must have existed a Tertiary Antarctic continent, from which various forms radiated to the southern extremities of our present continents. But I could go on scribbling forever. You have written, as I believe, a grand and memorable work, which will last for years as the foundation for all future treatises on Geographical Distribution.

P.S.–You have paid me the highest conceivable compliment, by what you say of your work in relation to my chapters on distribution in the “Origin,” and I heartily thank you for it.

LETTER 390. FROM A.R. WALLACE TO CHARLES DARWIN. The Dell, Grays, Essex, June 7th, 1876.

Many thanks for your very kind letter. So few people will read my book at all regularly, that a criticism from one who does so will be very welcome. If, as I suppose, it is only to page 184 of Volume I. that you have read, you cannot yet quite see my conclusions on the points you refer to (land molluscs and Antarctic continent). My own conclusion fluctuated during the progress of the book, and I have, I know, occasionally used expressions (the relics of earlier ideas) which are not quite consistent with what I say further on. I am positively against any Southern continent as uniting South America with Australia or New Zealand, as you will see at Volume I., pages 398-403, and 459-66. My general conclusions as to distribution of land mollusca are at Volume II., pages 522-9. (390/1. “Geographical Distribution” II., pages 524, 525. Mr. Wallace points out that “hardly a small island on the globe but has some land-shells peculiar to it”–and he goes so far as to say that probably air-breathing mollusca have been chiefly distributed by air- or water-carriage, rather than by voluntary dispersal on the land.) When you have read these passages, and looked at the general facts which lead to them, I shall be glad to hear if you still differ from me.

Though, of course, present results as to the origin and migrations of genera of mammals will have to be modified owing to new discoveries, I cannot help thinking that much will remain unaffected, because in all geographical and geological discoveries the great outlines are soon reached, the details alone remain to be modified. I also think much of the geological evidence is now so accordant with, and explanatory of, Geographical Distribution, that it is prima facie correct in outline. Nevertheless, such vast masses of new facts will come out in the next few years that I quite dread the labour of incorporating them in a new edition.

I hope your health is improved; and when, quite at your leisure, you have waded through my book, I trust you will again let me have a few lines of friendly criticism and advice.

Down, June 17th, 1876.

I have now finished the whole of Volume I., with the same interest and admiration as before; and I am convinced that my judgment was right and that it is a memorable book, the basis of all future work on the subject. I have nothing particular to say, but perhaps you would like to hear my impressions on two or three points. Nothing has struck me more than the admirable and convincing manner in which you treat Java. To allude to a very trifling point, it is capital about the unadorned head of the Argus- pheasant. (391/1. See “Descent of Man,” Edition I., pages 90 and 143, for drawings of the Argus pheasant and its markings. The ocelli on the wing feathers were favourite objects of Mr. Darwin, and sometimes formed the subject of the little lectures which on rare occasions he would give to a visitor interested in Natural History. In Mr. Wallace’s book the meaning of the ocelli comes in by the way, in the explanation of Plate IX., “A Malayan Forest with some of its peculiar Birds.” Mr. Wallace (volume i., page 340) points out that the head of the Argus pheasant is, during the display of the wings, concealed from the view of a spectator in front, and this accounts for the absence of bright colour on the head–a most unusual point in a pheasant. The case is described as a “remarkable confirmation of Mr. Darwin’s views, that gaily coloured plumes are developed in the male bird for the purpose of attractive display.” For the difference of opinion between the two naturalists on the broad question of coloration see “Life and Letters,” III., page 123. See Letters 440-453.) How plain a thing is, when it is once pointed out! What a wonderful case is that of Celebes: I am glad that you have slightly modified your views with respect to Africa. (391/2. “I think this must refer to the following passage in ‘Geog. Dist. of Animals,’ Volume I., pages 286-7. ‘At this period (Miocene) Madagascar was no doubt united with Africa, and helped to form a great southern continent which must at one time have extended eastward as far as Southern India and Ceylon; and over the whole of this the lemurine type no doubt prevailed.’ At the time this was written I had not paid so much attention to islands, and in my “Island Life” I have given ample reasons for my belief that the evidence of extinct animals does not require any direct connection between Southern India and Africa.”–Note by Mr. Wallace.) And this leads me to say that I cannot swallow the so-called continent of Lemuria–i.e., the direct connection of Africa and Ceylon. (391/3. See “Geographical Distribution,” I., page 76. The name Lemuria was proposed by Mr. Sclater for an imaginary submerged continent extending from Madagascar to Ceylon and Sumatra. Mr. Wallace points out that if we confine ourselves to facts Lemuria is reduced to Madagascar, which he makes a subdivision of the Ethiopian Region.) The facts do not seem to me many and strong enough to justify so immense a change of level. Moreover, Mauritius and the other islands appear to me oceanic in character. But do not suppose that I place my judgment on this subject on a level with yours. A wonderfully good paper was published about a year ago on India, in the “Geological Journal,” I think by Blanford. (391/4. H.F. Blanford “On the Age and Correlations of the Plant-bearing Series of India and the Former Existence of an Indo- Oceanic Continent” (“Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc.” XXXI., 1875, page 519). The name Gondwana-Land was subsequently suggested by Professor Suess for this Indo-Oceanic continent. Since the publication of Blanford’s paper, much literature has appeared dealing with the evidence furnished by fossil plants, etc., in favour of the existence of a vast southern continent.) Ramsay agreed with me that it was one of the best published for a long time. The author shows that India has been a continent with enormous fresh-water lakes, from the Permian period to the present day. If I remember right, he believes in a former connection with S. Africa.

I am sure that I read, some twenty to thirty years ago in a French journal, an account of teeth of Mastodon found in Timor; but the statement may have been an error. (391/5. In a letter to Falconer (Letter 155), January 5th, 1863, Darwin refers to the supposed occurrence of Mastodon as having been “smashed” by Falconer.)

With respect to what you say about the colonising of New Zealand, I somewhere have an account of a frog frozen in the ice of a Swiss glacier, and which revived when thawed. I may add that there is an Indian toad which can resist salt-water and haunts the seaside. Nothing ever astonished me more than the case of the Galaxias; but it does not seem known whether it may not be a migratory fish like the salmon. (391/6. The only genus of the Galaxidae, a family of fresh-water fishes occurring in New Zealand, Tasmania, and Tierra del Fuego, ranging north as far as Queensland and Chile (Wallace’s “Geographical Distribution,” II., page 448).)

Down, June 25th, 1876.

I have been able to read rather more quickly of late, and have finished your book. I have not much to say. Your careful account of the temperate parts of South America interested me much, and all the more from knowing something of the country. I like also much the general remarks towards the end of the volume on the land molluscs. Now for a few criticisms.

Page 122. (392/1. The pages refer to Volume II. of Wallace’s “Geographical Distribution.”)–I am surprised at your saying that “during the whole Tertiary period North America was zoologically far more strongly contrasted with South America than it is now.” But we know hardly anything of the latter except during the Pliocene period; and then the mastodon, horse, several great edentata, etc., etc., were common to the north and south. If you are right, I erred greatly in my “Journal,” where I insisted on the former close connection between the two.

Page 252 and elsewhere.–I agree thoroughly with the general principle that a great area with many competing forms is necessary for much and high development; but do you not extend this principle too far–I should say much too far, considering how often several species of the same genus have been developed on very small islands?

Page 265.–You say that the Sittidae extend to Madagascar, but there is no number in the tabular heading. [The number (4) was erroneously omitted.– A.R.W.]

Page 359.–Rhinochetus is entered in the tabular heading under No. 3 of the neotropical subregions. [An error: should have been the Australian.– A.R.W.]

Reviewers think it necessary to find some fault; and if I were to review you, the sole point which I should blame is your not giving very numerous references. These would save whoever follows you great labour. Occasionally I wished myself to know the authority for certain statements, and whether you or somebody else had originated certain subordinate views. Take the case of a man who had collected largely on some island, for instance St. Helena, and who wished to work out the geographical relations of his collections: he would, I think, feel very blank at not finding in your work precise references to all that had been written on St. Helena. I hope you will not think me a confoundedly disagreeable fellow.

I may mention a capital essay which I received a few months ago from Axel Blytt (392/2. Axel Blytt, “Essay on the Immigration of the Norwegian Flora.” Christiania, 1876. See Letter 387.) on the distribution of the plants of Scandinavia; showing the high probability of there having been secular periods alternately wet and dry, and of the important part which they have played in distribution.

I wrote to Forel (392/3. See Letter 388.), who is always at work on ants, and told him your views about the dispersal of the blind coleoptera, and asked him to observe.

I spoke to Hooker about your book, and feel sure that he would like nothing better than to consider the distribution of plants in relation to your views; but he seemed to doubt whether he should ever have time.

And now I have done my jottings, and once again congratulate you on having brought out so grand a work. I have been a little disappointed at the review in “Nature.” (392/4. June 22nd, 1876, pages 165 et seq.)

LETTER 393. A.R. WALLACE TO CHARLES DARWIN. Rosehill, Dorking, July 23rd, 1876.

I should have replied sooner to your last kind and interesting letters, but they reached me in the midst of my packing previous to removal here, and I have only just now got my books and papers in a get-at-able state.

And first, many thanks for your close observation in detecting the two absurd mistakes in the tabular headings.

As to the former greater distinction of the North and South American faunas, I think I am right. The edentata being proved (as I hold) to have been mere temporary migrants into North America in the post-Pliocene epoch, form no part of its Tertiary fauna. Yet in South America they were so enormously developed in the Pliocene epoch that we know, if there is any such thing as evolution, etc., that strange ancestral forms must have preceded them in Miocene times.

Mastodon, on the other hand, represented by one or two species only, appears to have been a late immigrant into South America from the north.

The immense development of ungulates (in varied families, genera, and species) in North America during the whole Tertiary epoch is, however, the great feature which assimilates it to Europe, and contrasts it with South America. True camels, hosts of hog-like animals, true rhinoceroses, and hosts of ancestral horses, all bring the North American [fauna] much nearer to the Old World than it is now. Even the horse, represented in all South America by Equus only, was probably a temporary immigrant from the north.

As to extending too far the principle (yours) of the necessity of comparatively large areas for the development of varied faunas, I may have done so, but I think not. There is, I think, every probability that most islands, etc., where a varied fauna now exists, have been once more extensive–eg., New Zealand, Madagascar: where there is no such evidence (e.g., Galapagos), the fauna is very restricted.

Lastly, as to want of references: I confess the justice of your criticism; but I am dreadfully unsystematic. It is my first large work involving much of the labour of others. I began with the intention of writing a comparatively short sketch, enlarged it, and added to it bit by bit; remodelled the tables, the headings, and almost everything else, more than once, and got my materials in such confusion that it is a wonder it has not turned out far more crooked and confused than it is. I, no doubt, ought to have given references; but in many cases I found the information so small and scattered, and so much had to be combined and condensed from conflicting authorities, that I hardly knew how to refer to them or where to leave off. Had I referred to all authors consulted for every fact, I should have greatly increased the bulk of the book, while a large portion of the references would be valueless in a few years, owing to later and better authorities. My experience of referring to references has generally been most unsatisfactory. One finds, nine times out of ten, the fact is stated, and nothing more; or a reference to some third work not at hand!

I wish I could get into the habit of giving chapter and verse for every fact and extract; but I am too lazy, and generally in a hurry, having to consult books against time, when in London for a day.

However, I will try to do something to mend this matter, should I have to prepare another edition.

I return you Forel’s letter. It does not advance the question much; neither do I think it likely that even the complete observation he thinks necessary would be of much use, because it may well be that the ova, or larvae, or imagos of the beetles are not carried systematically by the ants, but only occasionally, owing to some exceptional circumstances. This might produce a great effect in distribution, yet be so rare as never to come under observation.

Several of your remarks in previous letters I shall carefully consider. I know that, compared with the extent of the subject, my book is in many parts crude and ill-considered; but I thought, and still think, it better to make some generalisations wherever possible, as I am not at all afraid of having to alter my views in many points of detail. I was so overwhelmed with zoological details, that I never went through the Geological Society’s “Journal” as I ought to have done, and as I mean to do before writing more on the subject.


(394/1. “Written in acknowledgment of a copy of a paper (published by me in the “Proceedings of the Zoological Society”) on the Hemiptera of St. Helena, but discussing the origin of the whole fauna and flora of that island.”–F.B.W.)

Down, September 23rd. [1878].

I have now read your paper, and I hope that you will not think me presumptuous in writing another line to say how excellent it seems to me. I believe that you have largely solved the problem of the affinities of the inhabitants of this most interesting little island, and this is a delightful triumph.

Down, July 22nd [1879].

I have just read Ball’s Essay. (395/1. The late John Ball’s lecture “On the Origin of the Flora of the Alps” in the “Proceedings of the R. Geogr. Soc.” 1879. Ball argues (page 18) that “during ancient Palaeozoic times, before the deposition of the Coal-measures, the atmosphere contained twenty times as much carbonic acid gas and considerably less oxygen than it does at present.” He further assumes that in such an atmosphere the percentage of CO2 in the higher mountains would be excessively different from that at the sea-level, and appends the result of calculations which gives the amount of CO2 at the sea-level as 100 per 10,000 by weight, at a height of 10,000 feet as 12.5 per 10,000. Darwin understands him to mean that the Vascular Cryptogams and Gymnosperms could stand the sea-level atmosphere, whereas the Angiosperms would only be able to exist in the higher regions where the percentage of CO2 was small. It is not clear to us that Ball relies so largely on the condition of the atmosphere as regards CO2. If he does he is clearly in error, for everything we know of assimilation points to the conclusion that 100 per 10,000 (1 per cent.) is by no means a hurtful amount of CO2, and that it would lead to an especially vigorous assimilation. Mountain plants would be more likely to descend to the plains to share in the rich feast than ascend to higher regions to avoid it. Ball draws attention to the imperfection of our plant records as regards the floras of mountain regions. It is, he thinks, conceivable that there existed a vegetation on the Carboniferous mountains of which no traces have been preserved in the rocks. See “Fossil Plants as Tests of Climate,” page 40, A.C. Seward, 1892.

Since the first part of this note was written, a paper has been read (May 29th, 1902) by Dr. H.T. Brown and Mr. F. Escombe, before the Royal Society on “The Influence of varying amounts of Carbon Dioxide in the Air on the Photosynthetic Process of Leaves, and on the Mode of Growth of Plants.” The author’s experiments included the cultivation of several dicotyledonous plants in an atmosphere containing in one case 180 to 200 times the normal amount of CO2, and in another between three and four times the normal amount. The general results were practically identical in the two sets of experiments. “All the species of flowering plants, which have been the subject of experiment, appear to be accurately ‘tuned’ to an atmospheric environment of three parts of CO2 per 10,000, and the response which they make to slight increases in this amount are in a direction altogether unfavourable to their growth and reproduction.” The assimilation of carbon increases with the increase in the partial pressure of the CO2. But there seems to be a disturbance in metabolism, and the plants fail to take advantage of the increased supply of CO2. The authors say:–“All we are justified in concluding is, that if such atmospheric variations have occurred since the advent of flowering plants, they must have taken place so slowly as never to outrun the possible adaptation of the plants to their changing conditions.”

Prof. Farmer and Mr. S.E. Chandler gave an account, at the same meeting of the Royal Society, of their work “On the Influence of an Excess of Carbon Dioxide in the Air on the Form and Internal Structure of Plants.” The results obtained were described as differing in a remarkable way from those previously recorded by Teodoresco (“Rev. Gen. Botanique,” II., 1899

It is hoped that Dr. Horace Brown and Mr. Escombe will extend their experiments to Vascular Cryptogams, and thus obtain evidence bearing more directly upon the question of an increased amount of CO2 in the atmosphere of the Coal-period forests.) It is pretty bold. The rapid development as far as we can judge of all the higher plants within recent geological times is an abominable mystery. Certainly it would be a great step if we could believe that the higher plants at first could live only at a high level; but until it is experimentally [proved] that Cycadeae, ferns, etc., can withstand much more carbonic acid than the higher plants, the hypothesis seems to me far too rash. Saporta believes that there was an astonishingly rapid development of the high plants, as soon [as] flower-frequenting insects were developed and favoured intercrossing. I should like to see this whole problem solved. I have fancied that perhaps there was during long ages a small isolated continent in the S. Hemisphere which served as the birthplace of the higher plants–but this is a wretchedly poor conjecture. It is odd that Ball does not allude to the obvious fact that there must have been alpine plants before the Glacial period, many of which would have returned to the mountains after the Glacial period, when the climate again became warm. I always accounted to myself in this manner for the gentians, etc.

Ball ought also to have considered the alpine insects common to the Arctic regions. I do not know how it may be with you, but my faith in the glacial migration is not at all shaken.


(396/1. This letter is in reply to Mr. Darwin’s criticisms on Mr. Wallace’s “Island Life,” 1880.)

Pen-y-Bryn, St. Peter’s Road, Croydon, November 8th, 1880.

Many thanks for your kind remarks and notes on my book. Several of the latter will be of use to me if I have to prepare a second edition, which I am not so sure of as you seem to be.

1. In your remark as to the doubtfulness of paucity of fossils being due to coldness of water, I think you overlook that I am speaking only of water in the latitude of the Alps, in Miocene and Eocene times, when icebergs and glaciers temporarily descended into an otherwise warm sea; my theory being that there was no Glacial epoch at that time, but merely a local and temporary descent of the snow-line and glaciers owing to high excentricity and winter in aphelion.

2. I cannot see the difficulty about the cessation of the Glacial period.

Between the Miocene and the Pleistocene periods geographical changes occurred which rendered a true Glacial period possible with high excentricity. When the high excentricity passed away the Glacial epoch also passed away in the temperate zone; but it persists in the arctic zone, where, during the Miocene, there were mild climates, and this is due to the persistence of the changed geographical conditions. The present arctic climate is itself a comparatively new and abnormal state of things, due to geographical modification.

As to “epoch” and “period,” I use them as synonyms to avoid repeating the same word.

3. Rate of deposition and geological time. Here no doubt I may have gone to an extreme, but my “28 million years” may be anything under 100 millions, as I state. There is an enormous difference between mean and maximum denudation and deposition. In the case of the great faults the upheaval along a given line would itself facilitate the denudation (whether sub-aerial or marine) of the upheaved portion at a rate perhaps a hundred times above the average, just as valleys have been denuded perhaps a hundred times faster than plains and plateaux. So local subsidence might itself lead to very rapid deposition. Suppose a portion of the Gulf of Mexico, near the mouths of the Mississippi, were to subside for a few thousand years, it might receive the greater portion of the sediment from the whole Mississippi valley, and thus form strata at a very rapid rate.

4. You quote the Pampas thistles, etc., against my statement of the importance of preoccupation. But I am referring especially to St. Helena, and to plants naturally introduced from the adjacent continents. Surely if a certain number of African plants reached the island, and became modified into a complete adaptation to its climatic conditions, they would hardly be expelled by other African plants arriving subsequently. They might be so, conceivably, but it does not seem probable. The cases of the Pampas, New Zealand, Tahiti, etc., are very different, where highly developed aggressive plants have been artificially introduced. Under nature it is these very aggressive species that would first reach any island in their vicinity, and, being adapted to the island and colonising it thoroughly, would then hold their own against other plants from the same country, mostly less aggressive in character.

I have not explained this so fully as I should have done in the book. Your criticism is therefore useful.

5. My Chapter XXIII. is no doubt very speculative, and I cannot wonder at your hesitating at accepting my views. To me, however, your theory of hosts of existing species migrating over the tropical lowlands from the N. temperate to the S. temperate zone appears more speculative and more improbable. For where could the rich lowland equatorial flora have existed during a period of general refrigeration sufficient for this? and what became of the wonderfully rich Cape flora, which, if the temperature of tropical Africa had been so recently lowered, would certainly have spread northwards, and on the return of the heat could hardly have been driven back into the sharply defined and very restricted area in which it now exists.

As to the migration of plants from mountain to mountain not being so probable as to remote islands, I think that is fully counterbalanced by two considerations:–

a. The area and abundance of the mountain stations along such a range as the Andes are immensely greater than those of the islands in the N. Atlantic, for example.

b. The temporary occupation of mountain stations by migrating plants (which I think I have shown to be probable) renders time a much more important element in increasing the number and variety of the plants so dispersed than in the case of islands, where the flora soon acquires a fixed and endemic character, and where the number of species is necessarily limited.

No doubt direct evidence of seeds being carried great distances through the air is wanted, but I am afraid can hardly be obtained. Yet I feel the greatest confidence that they are so carried. Take, for instance, the two peculiar orchids of the Azores (Habenaria sp.) What other mode of transit is conceivable? The whole subject is one of great difficulty, but I hope my chapter may call attention to a hitherto neglected factor in the distribution of plants.

Your references to the Mauritius literature are very interesting, and will be useful to me; and I again thank you for your valuable remarks.


(397/1. The following letters were written to Sir J.D. Hooker when he was preparing his Address as President of the Geographical Section of the British Association at its fiftieth meeting, at York. The second letter (August 12th) refers to an earlier letter of August 6th, published in “Life and Letters,” III., page 246.)

4, Bryanston Street, W., Saturday, 26th [February, 1881].

I should think that you might make a very interesting address on Geographical Distribution. Could you give a little history of the subject. I, for one, should like to read such history in petto; but I can see one very great difficulty–that you yourself ought to figure most prominently in it; and this you would not do, for you are just the man to treat yourself in a dishonourable manner. I should very much like to see you discuss some of Wallace’s views, especially his ignoring the all-powerful effects of the Glacial period with respect to alpine plants. (397/2. “Having been kindly permitted by Mr. Francis Darwin to read this letter, I wish to explain that the above statement applies only to my rejection of Darwin’s view that the presence of arctic and north temperate plants in the SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE was brought about by the lowering of the temperature of the tropical regions during the Glacial period, so that even ‘the lowlands of these great continents were everywhere tenanted under the equator by a considerable number of temperate forms (“Origin of Species,” Edition VI., page 338). My own views are fully explained in Chapter XXIII. of my “Island Life,” published in 1880. I quite accept all that Darwin, Hooker, and Asa Gray have written about the effect of the Glacial epoch in bringing about the present distribution of alpine and arctic plants in the NORTHERN HEMISPHERE.”–Note by Mr. Wallace.) I do not know what you think, but it appears to me that he exaggerates enormously the influence of debacles or slips and new surface of soil being exposed for the reception of wind-blown seeds. What kinds of seeds have the plants which are common to the distant mountain-summits in Africa? Wallace lately wrote to me about the mountain plants of Madagascar being the same with those on mountains in Africa, and seemed to think it proved dispersal by the wind, without apparently having inquired what sorts of seeds the plants bore. (397/3. The affinity with the flora of the Eastern African islands was long ago pointed out by Sir J.D. Hooker, “Linn. Soc. Journal,” VI., 1861, page 3. Speaking of the plants of Clarence Peak in Fernando Po, he says, “The next affinity is with Mauritius, Bourbon, and Madagascar: of the whole 76 species, 16 inhabit these places and 8 more are closely allied to plants from there. Three temperate species are peculiar to Clarence Peak and the East African islands…” The facts to which Mr. Wallace called Darwin’s attention are given by Mr. J.G. Baker in “Nature,” December 9th, 1880, page 125. He mentions the Madagascar Viola, which occurs elsewhere only at 7,000 feet in the Cameroons, at 10,000 feet in Fernando Po and in the Abyssinian mountains; and the same thing is true of the Madagascar Geranium. In Mr. Wallace’s letter to Darwin, dated January 1st, 1881, he evidently uses the expression “passing through the air” in contradistinction to the migration of a species by gradual extension of its area on land. “Through the air” would moreover include occasional modes of transport other than simple carriage by wind: e.g., the seeds might be carried by birds, either attached to the feathers or to the mud on their feet, or in their crops or intestines.)

I suppose it would be travelling too far (though for the geographical section the discussion ought to be far-reaching), but I should like to see the European or northern element in the Cape of Good Hope flora discussed. I cannot swallow Wallace’s view that European plants travelled down the Andes, tenanted the hypothetical Antarctic continent (in which I quite believe), and thence spread to South Australia and the Cape of Good Hope.

Moseley told me not long ago that he proposed to search at Kerguelen Land the coal beds most carefully, and was absolutely forbidden to do so by Sir W. Thomson, who said that he would undertake the work, and he never once visited them. This puts me in a passion. I hope that you will keep to your intention and make an address on distribution. Though I differ so much from Wallace, his “Island Life” seems to me a wonderful book.

Farewell. I do hope that you may have a most prosperous journey. Give my kindest remembrances to Asa Gray.

Down, August 12th, 1881.

…I think that I must have expressed myself badly about Humboldt. I should have said that he was more remarkable for his astounding knowledge than for originality. I have always looked at him as, in fact, the founder of the geographical distribution of organisms. I thought that I had read that extinct fossil plants belonging to Australian forms had lately been found in Australia, and all such cases seem to me very interesting, as bearing on development.

I have been so astonished at the apparently sudden coming in of the higher phanerogams, that I have sometimes fancied that development might have slowly gone on for an immense period in some isolated continent or large island, perhaps near the South Pole. I poured out my idle thoughts in writing, as if I had been talking with you.

No fact has so interested me for a heap of years as your case of the plants on the equatorial mountains of Africa; and Wallace tells me that some one (Baker?) has described analogous cases on the mountains of Madagascar (398/1. See Letter 397, note.)…I think that you ought to allude to these cases.

I most fully agree that no problem is more interesting than that of the temperate forms in the southern hemisphere, common to the north. I remember writing about this after Wallace’s book appeared, and hoping that you would take it up. The frequency with which the drainage from the land passes through mountain-chains seems to indicate some general law–viz., the successive formation of cracks and lines of elevation between the nearest ocean and the already upraised land; but that is too big a subject for a note.

I doubt whether any insects can be shown with any probability to have been flower feeders before the middle of the Secondary period. Several of the asserted cases have broken down.

Your long letter has stirred many pleasant memories of long past days, when we had many a discussion and many a good fight.

Down, August 21st, 1881.

I cannot aid you much, or at all. I should think that no one could have thought on the modification of species without thinking of representative species. But I feel sure that no discussion of any importance had been published on this subject before the “Origin,” for if I had known of it I should assuredly have alluded to it in the “Origin,” as I wished to gain support from all quarters. I did not then know of Von Buch’s view (alluded to in my Historical Introduction in all the later editions). Von Buch published his “Isles Canaries” in 1836, and he here briefly argues that plants spread over a continent and vary, and the varieties in time come to be species. He also argues that closely allied species have been thus formed in the SEPARATE valleys of the Canary Islands, but not on the upper and open parts. I could lend you Von Buch’s book, if you like. I have just consulted the passage.

I have not Baer’s papers; but, as far as I remember, the subject is not fully discussed by him.

I quite agree about Wallace’s position on the ocean and continent question.

To return to geographical distribution: As far as I know, no one ever discussed the meaning of the relation between representative species before I did, and, as I suppose, Wallace did in his paper before the Linnean Society. Von Buch’s is the nearest approach to such discussion known to me.


(400/1. The following letters are interesting not only for their own sake, but because they tell the history of the last of Mr. Darwin’s publications–his letter to “Nature” on the “Dispersal of Freshwater Bivalves,” April 6th, 1882.)

Down, February 21st, 1882.

Your fact is an interesting one, and I am very much obliged to you for communicating it to me. You speak a little doubtfully about the name of the shell, and it would be indispensable to have this ascertained with certainty. Do you know any good conchologist in Northampton who could name it? If so I should be obliged if you would inform me of the result.

Also the length and breadth of the shell, and how much of leg (which leg?) of the Dytiscus [a large water-beetle] has been caught. If you cannot get the shell named I could take it to the British Museum when I next go to London; but this probably will not occur for about six weeks, and you may object to lend the specimen for so long a time.

I am inclined to think that the case would be worth communicating to “Nature.”

P.S.–I suppose that the animal in the shell must have been alive when the Dytiscus was captured, otherwise the adductor muscle of the shell would have relaxed and the shell dropped off.

Down, February 25th, 1882.

I am much obliged for your clear and distinct answers to my questions. I am sorry to trouble you, but there is one point which I do not fully understand. Did the shell remain attached to the beetle’s leg from the 18th to the 23rd, and was the beetle kept during this time in the air?

Do I understand rightly that after the shell had dropped off, both being in water, that the beetle’s antenna was again temporarily caught by the shell?

I presume that I may keep the specimen till I go to London, which will be about the middle of next month.

I have placed the shell in fresh-water, to see if the valve will open, and whether it is still alive, for this seems to me a very interesting point. As the wretched beetle was still feebly alive, I have put it in a bottle with chopped laurel leaves, that it may die an easy and quicker death. I hope that I shall meet with your approval in doing so.

One of my sons tells me that on the coast of N. Wales the bare fishing hooks often bring up young mussels which have seized hold of the points; but I must make further enquiries on this head.

Down, March 23rd, 1882.

I have had a most unfortunate and extraordinary accident with your shell. I sent it by post in a strong box to Mr. Gwyn Jeffreys to be named, and heard two days afterwards that he had started for Italy. I then wrote to the servant in charge of his house to open the parcel (within which was a cover stamped and directed to myself) and return it to me. This servant, I suppose, opened the box and dropped the glass tube on a stone floor, and perhaps put his foot on it, for the tube and shell were broken into quite small fragments. These were returned to me with no explanation, the box being quite uninjured. I suppose you would not care for the fragments to be returned or the Dytiscus; but if you wish for them they shall be returned. I am very sorry, but it has not been my fault.

It seems to me almost useless to send the fragments of the shell to the British Museum to be named, more especially as the umbo has been lost. It is many years since I have looked at a fresh-water shell, but I should have said that the shell was Cyclas cornea. (402/1. It was Cyclas cornea.) Is Sphaenium corneum a synonym of Cyclas? Perhaps you could tell by looking to Mr. G. Jeffreys’ book. If so, may we venture to call it so, or shall I put an (?) to the name?

As soon as I hear from you I will send my letter to “Nature.” Do you take in “Nature,” or shall I send you a copy?


I. Descent of Man.–II. Sexual Selection.–III. Expression of the Emotions.

2.VIII.I. DESCENT OF MAN, 1860-1882.

Down, April 27th [1860].

I cannot explain why, but to me it would be an infinite satisfaction to believe that mankind will progress to such a pitch that we should [look] back at [ourselves] as mere Barbarians. I have received proof-sheets (with a wonderfully nice letter) of very hostile review by Andrew Murray, read before the Royal Society of Edinburgh. (403/1. “On Mr. Darwin’s Theory of the Origin of Species,” by Andrew Murray. “Proc. Roy. Soc., Edinb.” Volume IV., pages 274-91, 1862. The review concludes with the following sentence: “I have come to be of opinion that Mr. Darwin’s theory is unsound, and that I am to be spared any collision between my inclination and my convictions” (referring to the writer’s belief in Design).) But I am tired with answering it. Indeed I have done nothing the whole day but answer letters.


(404/1. The following letter occurs in the “Memoir of Leonard Horner, edited by his daughter Katherine M. Lyell,” Volume II., page 300 (privately printed, 1890).)

Down, March 20th [1861].

I am very much obliged for your Address (404/2. Mr. Horner’s Anniversary Address to the Geological Society (“Proc. Geol. Soc.” XVII., 1861).) which has interested me much…I thought that I had read up pretty well on the antiquity of man; but you bring all the facts so well together in a condensed focus, that the case seems much clearer to me. How curious about the Bible! (404/3. At page lxviii. Mr. Horner points out that the “chronology, given in the margin of our Bibles,” i.e., the statement that the world was created 4004 B.C., is the work of Archbishop Usher, and is in no way binding on those who believe in the inspiration of Scripture. Mr. Horner goes on (page lxx): “The retention of the marginal note in question is by no means a matter of indifference; it is untrue, and therefore it is mischievous.” It is interesting that Archbishop Sumner and Dr. Dawes, Dean of Hereford, wrote with approbation of Mr. Horner’s views on Man. The Archbishop says: “I have always considered the first verse of Genesis as indicating, rather than denying, a PREADAMITE world” (“Memoir of Leonard Horner, II., page 303).) I declare I had fancied that the date was somehow in the Bible. You are coming out in a new light as a Biblical critic. I must thank you for some remarks on the “Origin of Species” (404/4. Mr. Horner (page xxxix) begins by disclaiming the qualifications of a competent critic, and confines himself to general remarks on the philosophic candour and freedom from dogmatism of the “Origin”: he does, however, give an opinion on the geological chapters IX. and X. As a general criticism he quotes Mr. Huxley’s article in the “Westminster Review,” which may now be read in “Collected Essays,” II., page 22.) (though I suppose it is almost as incorrect to do so as to thank a judge for a favourable verdict): what you have said has pleased me extremely. I am the more pleased, as I would rather have been well attacked than have been handled in the namby-pamby, old-woman style of the cautious Oxford Professor. (404/5. This no doubt refers to Professor Phillips’ “Life on the Earth,” 1860, a book founded on the author’s “Rede Lecture,” given before the University of Cambridge. Reference to this work will be found in “Life and Letters,” II., pages 309, 358, 373.)


(405/1. Mr. Wallace was, we believe, the first to treat the evolution of Man in any detail from the point of view of Natural Selection, namely, in a paper in the “Anthropological Review and Journal of the Anthropological Society,” May 1864, page clviii. The deep interest with which Mr. Darwin read his copy is graphically recorded in the continuous series of pencil-marks along the margins of the pages. His views are fully given in Letter 406. The phrase, “in this case it is too far,” refers to Mr. Wallace’s habit of speaking of the theory of Natural Selection as due entirely to Darwin.)

May 22nd 1864.

I have now read Wallace’s paper on Man, and think it MOST striking and original and forcible. I wish he had written Lyell’s chapters on Man. (405/2. See “Life and Letters,” III., page 11 et seq. for Darwin’s disappointment over Lyell’s treatment of the evolutionary question in his “Antiquity of Man”; see also page 29 for Lyell’s almost pathetic words about his own position between the discarded faith of many years and the new one not yet assimilated. See also Letters 132, 164, 170.) I quite agree about his high-mindedness, and have long thought so; but in this case it is too far, and I shall tell him so. I am not sure that I fully agree with his views about Man, but there is no doubt, in my opinion, on the remarkable genius shown by the paper. I agree, however, to the main new leading idea.


(406/1. This letter was published in “Life and Letters,” III., page 89.)

Down, [May] 28th [1864].

I am so much better that I have just finished a paper for the Linnean Society (406/2. 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 (406/3. “Anthropological Review,” May 1864.) received on the 11th. (406/4. Mr. Wallace wrote, May 10th, 1864: “I send you now my little contribution to the theory of the origin of man. I hope you will be able to agree with me. If you are able [to write] I shall be glad to have your criticisms. I was led to the subject by the necessity of explaining the vast mental and cranial differences between man and the apes combined with such small structural differences in other parts of the body,–and also by an endeavour to account for the diversity of human races combined with man’s almost perfect stability of form during all historical epochs.” 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.” (406/5. “Reader,” April 16th, 1864, an abstract of Mr. Wallace: “On the Phenomena of Variation and Geographical Distribution as illustrated by the Papilionidae of the Malayan Region.” “Linn. Soc. Trans.” XXV.) 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 daresay 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 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 chaos.

There is much more that I should like to write, but I have not strength.

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.

LETTER 406* A.R. WALLACE TO CHARLES DARWIN. 5, Westbourne Grove Terrace, W., May 29th [1864].

You are always so ready to appreciate what others do, and especially to overestimate my desultory efforts, that I cannot be surprised at your very kind and flattering remarks on my papers. I am glad, however, that you have made a few critical observations (and am only sorry that you were not well enough to make more), as that enables me to say a few words in explanation.

My great fault is haste. An idea strikes me, I think over it for a few days, and then write away with such illustrations as occur to me while going on. I therefore look at the subject almost solely from one point of view. Thus, in my paper on Man (406*/1. Published in the “Anthropological Review,” 1864.), I aim solely at showing that brutes are modified in a great variety of ways by Natural Selection, but that in none of these particular ways can Man be modified, because of the superiority of his intellect. I therefore no doubt overlook a few smaller points in which Natural Selection may still act on men and brutes alike. Colour is one of them, and I have alluded to this in correlation to constitution, in an abstract I have made at Sclater’s request for the “Natural History Review.” (406*/2. “Nat. Hist. Review,” 1864, page 328.) At the same time, there is so much evidence of migrations and displacements of races of man, and so many cases of peoples of distinct physical characters inhabiting the same or similar regions, and also of races of uniform physical characters inhabiting widely dissimilar regions,–that the external characteristics of the chief races of man must, I think, be older than his present geographical distribution, and the modifications produced by correlation to favourable variations of constitution be only a secondary cause of external modification. I hope you may get the returns from the Army. (406*/3. Measurements taken of more than one million soldiers in the United States showed that “local influences of some kind act directly on structure.”– “Descent of Man,” 1901, page 45.) They would be very interesting, but I do not expect the results would be favourable to your view.

With regard to the constant battles of savages leading to selection of physical superiority, I think it would be very imperfect and subject to so many exceptions and irregularities that it would produce no definite result. For instance: the strongest and bravest men would lead, and expose themselves most, and would therefore be most subject to wounds and death. And the physical energy which led to any one tribe delighting in war, might lead to its extermination, by inducing quarrels with all surrounding tribes and leading them to combine against it. Again, superior cunning, stealth, and swiftness of foot, or even better weapons, would often lead to victory as well as mere physical strength. Moreover, this kind of more or less perpetual war goes on amongst savage peoples. It could lead, therefore, to no differential characters, but merely to the keeping up of a certain average standard of bodily and mental health and vigour.

So with selection of variations adapted to special habits of life as fishing, paddling, riding, climbing, etc., etc., in different races, no doubt it must act to some extent, but will it be ever so rigid as to induce a definite physical modification, and can we imagine it to have had any part in producing the distinct races that now exist?

The sexual selection you allude to will also, I think, have been equally uncertain in its results. In the very lowest tribes there is rarely much polygamy, and women are more or less a matter of purchase. There is also little difference of social condition, and I think it rarely happens that any healthy and undeformed man remains without wife and children. I very much doubt the often-repeated assertion that our aristocracy are more beautiful than the middle classes. I allow that they present specimens of the highest kind of beauty, but I doubt the average. I have noticed in country places a greater average amount of good looks among the middle classes, and besides we unavoidably combine in our idea of beauty, intellectual expression, and refinement of manner, which often makes the less appear the more beautiful. Mere physical beauty–i.e. a healthy and regular development of the body and features approaching to the mean and type of European man, I believe is quite as frequent in one class of society as the other, and much more frequent in rural districts than in cities.

With regard to the rank of man in zoological classification, I fear I have not made myself intelligible. I never meant to adopt Owen’s or any other such views, but only to point out that from one point of view he was right. I hold that a distinct family for Man, as Huxley allows, is all that can possibly be given him zoologically. But at the same time, if my theory is true, that while the animals which surrounded him have been undergoing modification in all parts of their bodies to a generic or even family degree of difference, he has been changing almost wholly in the brain and head–then in geological antiquity the SPECIES man may be as old as many mammalian families, and the origin of the FAMILY man may date back to a period when some of the ORDERS first originated.

As to the theory of Natural Selection itself, I shall always maintain it to be actually yours and yours only. You had worked it out in details I had never thought of, years before I had a ray of light on the subject, and my paper would never have convinced anybody or been noticed as more than an ingenious speculation, whereas your book has revolutionised the study of Natural History, and carried away captive the best men of the present age. All the merit I claim is the having been the means of inducing you to write and publish at once. I may possibly some day go a little more into this subject (of Man), and if I do will accept the kind offer of your notes.

I am now, however, beginning to write the “Narrative of my Travels,” which will occupy me a long time, as I hate writing narrative, and after Bates’ brilliant success rather fear to fail.

I shall introduce a few chapters on Geographical Distribution and other such topics. Sir C. Lyell, while agreeing with my main argument on Man, thinks I am wrong in wanting to put him back into Miocene times, and thinks I do not appreciate the immense interval even to the later Pliocene. But I still maintain my view, which in fact is a logical result of my theory; for if man originated in later Pliocene, when almost all mammalia were of closely allied species to those now living, and many even identical, then man has not been stationary in bodily structure while animals have been varying, and my theory will be proved to be all wrong.

In Murchison’s address to the Geographical Society, just delivered, he points out Africa as being the oldest existing land. He says there is no evidence of its having been ever submerged during the Tertiary epoch. Here then is evidently the place to find early man. I hope something good may be found in Borneo, and that the means may be found to explore the still more promising regions of tropical Africa, for we can expect nothing of man very early in Europe.

It has given me great pleasure to find that there are symptoms of improvement in your health. I hope you will not exert yourself too soon or write more than is quite agreeable to you. I think I made out every word of your letter, though it was not always easy.

(406*/4. For Wallace’s later views see Letter 408, note.)


(407/1. Sir William Turner is frequently referred to in the “Descent of Man” as having supplied Mr. Darwin with information.)

Down, December 14th [1866].

Your kindness when I met you at the Royal Society makes me think that you would grant me the favour of a little information, if in your power. I am preparing a book on Domestic Animals, and as there has been so much discussion on the bearing of such views as I hold on Man, I have some thoughts of adding a chapter on this subject. The point on which I want information is in regard to any part which may be fairly called rudimentary in comparison with the same part in the Quadrumana or any other mammal. Now the os coccyx is rudimentary as a tail, and I am anxious to hear about its muscles. Mr. Flower found for me in some work that its one muscle (with striae) was supposed only to bring this bone back to its proper position after parturition. This seems to me hardly credible. He said he had never particularly examined this part, and when I mentioned your name, he said you were the most likely man to give me information.

Are there any traces of other muscles? It seems strange if there are none. Do you know how the muscles are in this part in the anthropoid apes? The muscles of the ear in man may, I suppose, in most cases be considered as rudimentary; and so they seem to be in the anthropoids; at least, I am assured in the Zoological Gardens they do not erect their ears. I gather there are a good many muscles in various parts of the body which are in this same state: could you specify any of the best cases? The mammae in man are rudimentary. Are there any other glands or other organs which you can think of? I know I have no right whatever to ask all these questions, and can only say that I should be grateful for any information. If you tell me anything about the os coccyx or other structures, I hope that you will permit me to quote the statement on your authority, as that would add so greatly to its value.

Pray excuse me for troubling you, and do not hurry yourself in the least in answering me.

I do not know whether you would care to possess a copy, but I told my publisher to send you a copy of the new edition of the “Origin” last month.

Down, February 1st [1867].

I thank you cordially for all your full information, and I regret much that I have given you such great trouble at a period when your time is so much occupied. But the facts were so valuable to me that I cannot pretend that I am sorry that I did trouble you; and I am the less so, as from what you say I hope you may be induced some time to write a full account of all rudimentary structures in Man: it would be a very curious and interesting memoir. I shall at present give only a brief abstract of the chief facts which you have so very kindly communicated to me, and will not touch on some of the doubtful points. I have received far more information than I ventured to anticipate. There is one point which has occurred to me, but I suspect there is nothing in it. If, however, there should be, perhaps you will let me have a brief note from you, and if I do not hear I will understand there is nothing in the notion. I have included the down on the human body and the lanugo on the foetus as a rudimentary representation of a hairy coat. (408/1. “Descent of Man” I., page 25; II., page 375.) I do not know whether there is any direct functional connection between the presence of hair and the panniculus carnosus (408/2. Professor Macalister draws our attention to the fact that Mr. Darwin uses the term panniculus in the generalised sense of any sheet of muscle acting on the skin.) (to put the question under another point of view, is it the primary or aboriginal function of the panniculus to move the dermal appendages or the skin itself?); but both are superficial, and would perhaps together become rudimentary. I was led to think of this by the places (as far as my ignorance of anatomy has allowed me to judge) of the rudimentary muscular fasciculi which you specify. Now, some persons can move the skin of their hairy heads; and is this not effected by the panniculus? How is it with the eyebrows? You specify the axillae and the front region of the chest and lower part of scapulae: now, these are all hairy spots in man. On the other hand, the neck, and as I suppose the covering of the gluteus medius, are not hairy; so, as I said, I presume there is nothing in this notion. If there were, the rudiments of the panniculus ought perhaps to occur more plainly in man than in woman…

P.S.–If the skin on the head is moved by the panniculus, I think I ought just to allude to it, as some men alone having power to move the skin shows that the apparatus is generally rudimentary.

(408/3. In March 1869 Darwin wrote to Mr. Wallace: “I shall be intensely curious to read the “Quarterly.” I hope you have not murdered too completely your own and my child.” The reference is to Mr. Wallace’s review, in the April number of the “Quarterly,” of Lyell’s “Principles of Geology” (tenth edition), and of the sixth edition of the “Elements of Geology.” Mr. Wallace points out that here for the first time Sir C. Lyell gave up his opposition to evolution; and this leads Mr. Wallace to give a short account of the views set forth in the “Origin of Species.” In this article Mr. Wallace makes a definite statement as to his views on the evolution of man, which were opposed to those of Mr. Darwin. He upholds the view that the brain of man, as well as the organs of speech, the hand and the external form, could not have been evolved by Natural Selection (the child he is supposed to murder). At page 391 he writes: “In the brain of the lowest savages, and, as far as we know, of the prehistoric races, we have an organ…little inferior in size and complexity to that of the highest types…But the mental requirements of the lowest savages, such as the Australians or the Andaman Islanders, are very little above those of many animals…How, then, was an organ developed so far beyond the needs of its possessor? Natural Selection could only have endowed the savage with a brain a little superior to that of an ape, whereas he actually possesses one but very little inferior to that of the average members of our learned societies.” This passage is marked in Mr. Darwin’s copy with a triply underlined “No,” and with a shower of notes of exclamation. It was probably the first occasion on which he realised the extent of this great and striking divergence in opinion between himself and his colleague.

He had, however, some indication of it in Wallace’s paper on Man, “Anthropological Review,” 1864. (See Letter 406). He wrote to Lyell, May 4th, 1869, “I was dreadfully disappointed about Man; it seems to me incredibly strange.” And to Mr. Wallace, April 14th, 1869, “If you had not told me, I should have thought that [your remarks on Man] had been added by some one else. As you expected, I differ grievously from you, and I am very sorry for it.”

Down, Thursday, February 21st [1868-70?].

I received the Jermyn Street programme, but have hardly yet considered it, for I was all day on the sofa on Tuesday and Wednesday. Bad though I was, I thought with constant pleasure of your very great kindness in offering to read the proofs of my essay on man. I do not know whether I said anything which might have appeared like a hint, but I assure you that such a thought had never even momentarily passed through my mind. Your offer has just made all the difference, that I can now write, whether or no my essay is ever printed, with a feeling of satisfaction instead of vague dread.

Beg my colleague, Mrs. Huxley, not to forget the corrugator supercilii: it will not be easy to catch the exact moment when the child is on the point of crying, and is struggling against the wrinkling up [of] its little eyes; for then I should expect the corrugator, from being little under the command of the will, would come into play in checking or stopping the wrinkling. An explosion of tears would tell nothing.

Down, December 23rd [1870?].

I have only read about fifty pages of your book (to the Judges) (410/1. “Hereditary Genius: an Inquiry into its Laws and Consequences,” by Francis Galton, London, 1869. “The Judges of England between 1660 and 1865” is the heading of a section of this work (page 55). See “Descent of Man” (1901), page 41.), but I must exhale myself, else something will go wrong in my inside. I do not think I ever in all my life read anything more interesting and original. And how well and clearly you put every point! George, who has finished the book, and who expressed himself just in the same terms, tells me the earlier chapters are nothing in interest to the later ones! It will take me some time to get to these later chapters, as it is read aloud to me by my wife, who is also much interested. You have made a convert of an opponent in one sense, for I have always maintained that, excepting fools, men did not differ much in intellect, only in zeal and hard work; and I still think [this] is an eminently important difference. I congratulate you on producing what I am convinced will prove a memorable work. I look forward with intense interest to each reading, but it sets me thinking so much that I find it very hard work; but that is wholly the fault of my brain, and not of your beautifully clear style.

March 21st [1871?].

Many thanks for your note. I am very glad indeed to read remarks made by a man who possesses such varied and odd knowledge as you do, and who is so acute a reasoner. I have no doubt that you will detect blunders of many kinds in my book. (411/1. “The Descent of Man.”) Your MS. on the proportion of the sexes at birth seems to me extremely curious, and I hope that some day you will publish it. It certainly appears that the males are decreasing in the London districts, and a most strange fact it is. Mr. Graham, however, I observe in a note enclosed, does not seem inclined to admit your conclusion. I have never much considered the subject of the causes of the proportion. When I reflected on queen bees producing only males when not impregnated, whilst some other parthenogenetic insects produced, as far as known, only females, the subject seemed to me hopelessly obscure. It is, however, pretty clear that you have taken the one path for its solution. I wished only to ascertain how far with various animals the males exceeded the females, and I have given all the facts which I could collect. As far as I know, no other data have been published. The equality of the sexes with race-horses is surprising. My remarks on mankind are quite superficial, and given merely as some sort of standard for comparison with the lower animals. M. Thury is the writer who makes the sex depend on the period of impregnation. His pamphlet was sent me from Geneva. (411/2. “Memoire sur la loi de Production des Sexes,” 2nd edition, 1863 (a pamphlet published by Cherbuliez, Geneva).) I can lend it you if you like. I subsequently read an account of experiments which convinced me that M. Thury was in error; but I cannot remember what they were, only the impression that I might safely banish this view from my mind. Your remarks on the less ratio of males in illegitimate births strikes me as the most doubtful point in your MS.–requiring two assumptions, viz. that the fathers in such cases are relatively too young, and that the result is the same as when the father is relatively too old.

My son, George, who is a mathematician, and who read your MS. with much interest, has suggested, as telling in the right direction, but whether sufficient is another question, that many more illegitimate children are murdered and concealed shortly after birth, than in the case of legitimate children; and as many more males than females die during the first few days of life, the census of illegitimate children practically applies to an older age than with legitimate children, and would thus slightly reduce the excess of males. This might possibly be worth consideration. By a strange coincidence a stranger writes to me this day, making the very same suggestion.

I am quite delighted to hear that my book interests you enough to lead you to read it with some care.

Down, January 4th, 1873.

Very many thanks for “Fraser” (412/1. “Hereditary Improvement,” by Francis Galton, “Fraser’s Magazine,” January 1873, page 116.): I have been greatly interested by your article. The idea of castes being spontaneously formed and leading to intermarriage (412/2. “My object is to build up, by the mere process of extensive enquiry and publication of results, a sentiment of caste among those who are naturally gifted, and to procure for them, before the system has fairly taken root, such moderate social favours and preference, no more no less, as would seem reasonable to those who were justly informed of the precise measure of their importance to the nation” (loc. cit., page 123).) is quite new to me, and I should suppose to others. I am not, however, so hopeful as you. Your proposed Society (412/3. Mr. Galton proposes that “Some society should undertake three scientific services: the first, by means of a moderate number of influential local agencies, to institute continuous enquiries into the facts of human heredity; the second to be a centre of information on heredity for breeders of animals and plants; and the third to discuss and classify the facts that were collected” (loc. cit., page 124).) would have awfully laborious work, and I doubt whether you could ever get efficient workers. As it is, there is much concealment of insanity and wickedness in families; and there would be more if there was a register. But the greatest difficulty, I think, would be in deciding who deserved to be on the register. How few are above mediocrity in health, strength, morals and intellect; and how difficult to judge on these latter heads. As far as I see, within the same large superior family, only a few of the children would deserve to be on the register; and these would naturally stick to their own families, so that the superior children of distinct families would have no good chance of associating much and forming a caste. Though I see so much difficulty, the object seems a grand one; and you have pointed out the sole feasible, yet I fear utopian, plan of procedure in improving the human race. I should be inclined to trust more (and this is part of your plan) to disseminating and insisting on the importance of the all-important principle of inheritance. I will make one or two minor criticisms. Is it not possible that the inhabitants of malarious countries owe their degraded and miserable appearance to the bad atmosphere, though this does not kill them, rather than to “economy of structure”? I do not see that an orthognathous face would cost more than a prognathous face; or a good morale than a bad one. That is a fine simile (page 119) about the chip of a statue (412/4. “…The life of the individual is treated as of absolutely no importance, while the race is as everything; Nature being wholly careless of the former except as a contributor to the maintenance and evolution of the latter. Myriads of inchoate lives are produced in what, to our best judgment, seems a wasteful and reckless manner, in order that a few selected specimens may survive, and be the parents of the next generation. It is as though individual lives were of no more consideration than are the senseless chips which fall from the chisel of the artist who is elaborating some ideal form from a rude block” (loc. cit., page 119).); but surely Nature does not more carefully regard races than individuals, as (I believe I have misunderstood what you mean) evidenced by the multitude of races and species which have become extinct. Would it not be truer to say that Nature cares only for the superior individuals and then makes her new and better races? But we ought both to shudder in using so freely the word “Nature” (412/5. See Letter 190, Volume I.) after what De Candolle has said. Again let me thank you for the interest received in reading your essay.

Many thanks about the rabbits; your letter has been sent to Balfour: he is a very clever young man, and I believe owes his cleverness to Salisbury blood. This letter will not be worth your deciphering. I have almost finished Greg’s “Enigmas.” (412/6. “The Enigmas of Life,” 1872.) It is grand poetry–but too Utopian and too full of faith for me; so that I have been rather disappointed. What do you think about it? He must be a delightful man.

I doubt whether you have made clear how the families on the Register are to be kept pure or superior, and how they are to be in course of time still further improved.

Down, July 3rd, 1873.

(413/1. In June, 1873, Professor Max Muller sent to Mr. Darwin a copy of the sixth edition of his “Lectures on the Science of Language” (413/2. A reference to the first edition occurs in “Life and Letters,” II., page 390.), with a letter concluding with these words: “I venture to send you my three lectures, trusting that, though I differ from some of your conclusions, you will believe me to be one of your diligent readers and sincere admirers.”)

I am much obliged for your kind note and present of your lectures. I am extremely glad to have received them from you, and I had intended ordering them.

I feel quite sure from what I have read in your works that you would never say anything of an honest adversary to which he would have any just right to object; and as for myself, you have often spoken highly of me–perhaps more highly than I deserve.

As far as language is concerned I am not worthy to be your adversary, as I know extremely little about it, and that little learnt from very few books. I should have been glad to have avoided the whole subject, but was compelled to take it up as well as I could. He who is fully convinced, as I am, that man is descended from some lower animal, is almost forced to believe a priori that articulate language has been developed from inarticulate cries (413/3. “Descent of Man” (1901), page 133.); and he is therefore hardly a fair judge of the arguments opposed to this belief.

(413/4. In October, 1875, Mr. Darwin again wrote cordially to Professor Max Muller on receipt of a pamphlet entitled “In Self-Defence” (413/5. Printed in “Chips from a German Workshop,” Volume IV., 1875, page 473.), which is a reply to Professor Whitney’s “Darwinism and Language” in the “North American Review,” July 1874. This essay had been brought before the “general reader” in England by an article of Mr. G. Darwin’s in the “Contemporary Review,” November, 1874, page 894, entitled, “Professor Whitney on the Origin of Language.” The article was followed by “My reply to Mr. Darwin,” contributed by Professor Muller to the “Contemporary Review,” January, 1875, page 305.)

LETTER 414. G. ROLLESTON TO CHARLES DARWIN. British Association, Bristol, August 30th, 1875.

(414/1. In the first edition of the “Descent of Man” Mr. Darwin wrote: “It is a more curious fact that savages did not formerly waste away, as Mr. Bagehot has remarked, before the classical nations, as they now do before modern civilised nations…(414/2. Bagehot, “Physics and Politics,” “Fortnightly Review,” April, 1868, page 455.) In the second edition (page 183) the statement remains, but a mass of evidence (pages 183-92) is added, to which reference occurs in the reply to the following letter.)

At pages 4-5 of the enclosed Address (414/3. “British Association Reports,” 1875, page 142.) you will find that I have controverted Mr. Bagehot’s view as to the extinction of the barbarians in the times of classical antiquity, as also the view of Poppig as to there being some occult influence exercised by civilisation to the disadvantage of savagery when the two come into contact.

I write to say that I took up this subject without any wish to impugn any views of yours as such, but with the desire of having my say upon certain anti-sanitarian transactions and malfeasance of which I had had a painful experience.

On reading however what I said, and had written somewhat hastily, it has struck me that what I have said might bear the former interpretation in the eyes of persons who might not read other papers of mine, and indeed other parts of the same Address, in which my adhesion, whatever it is worth, to your views in general is plainly enough implied. I have ventured to write this explanation to you for several reasons.

Bassett, Southampton, September 2nd [1875].

I am much obliged to you for having sent me your Address, which has interested me greatly. I quite subscribe to what you say about Mr. Bagehot’s striking remark, and wish I had not quoted it. I can perceive no sort of reflection or blame on anything which I have written, and I know well that I deserve many a good slap on the face. The decrease of savage populations interests me much, and I should like you some time to look at a discussion on this subject which I have introduced in the second edition of the “Descent of Man,” and which you can find (for I have no copy here) in the list of additions. The facts have convinced me that lessened fertility and the poor constitution of the children is one chief cause of such decrease; and that the case is strictly parallel to the sterility of many wild animals when made captive, the civilisation of savages and the captivity of wild animals leading to the same result.

Down, June 30th, 1877.

I have been much interested by your able argument against the belief that the sense of colour has been recently acquired by man. (416/1. See “Kosmos,” June 1877, page 264, a review of Dr. Hugo Magnus’ “Die Geschichtliche Entwickelung des Farbensinnes,” 1877. The first part is chiefly an account of the author’s views; Dr. Krause’s argument begins at page 269. The interest felt by Mr. Darwin is recorded by the numerous pencil-marks on the margin of his copy.) The following observation bears on this subject.

I attended carefully to the mental development of my young children, and with two, or as I believe three of them, soon after they had come to the age when they knew the names of all common objects, I was startled by observing that they seemed quite incapable of affixing the right names to the colours in coloured engravings, although I tried repeatedly to teach them. I distinctly remember declaring that they were colour-blind, but this afterwards proved a groundless fear.

On communicating this fact to another person he told me that he had observed a nearly similar case. Therefore the difficulty which young children experience either in distinguishing, or more probably in naming colours, seems to deserve further investigation. I will add that it formerly appeared to me that the gustatory sense, at least in the case of my own infants, and very young children, differed from that of grown-up persons. This was shown by their not disliking rhubarb mixed with a little sugar and milk, which is to us abominably nauseous; and in their strong taste for the sourest and most austere fruits, such as unripe gooseberries and crabapples.

(PLATE: G.J. ROMANES, 1891. Elliott & Fry, photo. Walker and Cockerell, ph. sc.)

[Barlaston], August 20th, 1878.

(417/1. Part of this letter (here omitted) is published in “Life and Letters,” III., page 225, and the whole in the “Life and Letters of G.J. Romanes,” page 74. The lecture referred to was on animal intelligence, and was given at the Dublin meeting of the British Association.)

…The sole fault which I find with your lecture is that it is too short, and this is a rare fault. It strikes me as admirably clear and interesting. I meant to have remonstrated that you had not discussed sufficiently the necessity of signs for the formation of abstract ideas of any complexity, and then I came on the discussion on deaf mutes. This latter seems to me one of the richest of all the mines, and is worth working carefully for years, and very deeply. I should like to read whole chapters on this one head, and others on the minds of the higher idiots. Nothing can be better, as it seems to me, than your several lines or sources of evidence, and the manner in which you have arranged the whole subject. Your book will assuredly be worth years of hard labour; and stick to your subject. By the way, I was pleased at your discussing the selection of varying instincts or mental tendencies; for I have often been disappointed by no one having ever noticed this notion.

I have just finished “La Psychologie, son Present et son Avenir,” 1876, by Delboeuf (a mathematician and physicist of Belgium) in about a hundred pages. It has interested me a good deal, but why I hardly know; it is rather like Herbert Spencer. If you do not know it, and would care to see it, send me a postcard.

Thank Heaven, we return home on Thursday, and I shall be able to go on with my humdrum work, and that makes me forget my daily discomfort.

Have you ever thought of keeping a young monkey, so as to observe its mind? At a house where we have been staying there were Sir A. and Lady Hobhouse, not long ago returned from India, and she and he kept [a] young monkey and told me some curious particulars. One was that her monkey was very fond of looking through her eyeglass at objects, and moved the glass nearer and further so as to vary the focus. This struck me, as Frank’s son, nearly two years old (and we think much of his intellect!!) is very fond of looking through my pocket lens, and I have quite in vain endeavoured to teach him not to put the glass close down on the object, but he always will do so. Therefore I conclude that a child under two years is inferior in intellect to a monkey.

Once again I heartily congratulate you on your well-earned present, and I feel assured, grand future success.

(417/2. Later in the year Mr. Darwin wrote: “I am delighted to hear that you mean to work the comparative Psychology well. I thought your letter to the “Times” very good indeed. (417/3. Romanes wrote to the “Times” August 28th, 1878, expressing his views regarding the distinction between man and the lower animals, in reply to criticisms contained in a leading article in the “Times” of August 23rd on his lecture at the Dublin meeting of the British Association.) Bartlett, at the Zoological Gardens, I feel sure, would advise you infinitely better about hardiness, intellect, price, etc., of monkey than F. Buckland; but with him it must be viva voce.

“Frank says you ought to keep a idiot, a deaf mute, a monkey, and a baby in your house.”)

Down, November 15th, 1878.

(418/1. This letter has been published in Clapperton’s “Scientific Meliorism,” 1885, page 340, together with Mr. Gaskell’s letter of November 13th (page 337). Mr. Gaskell’s laws are given in his letter of November 13th, 1878. They are:–

I. The Organological Law:
Natural Selection, or the Survival of the Fittest.

II. The Sociological Law:
Sympathetic Selection, or Indiscriminate Survival.

III. The Moral Law:
Social Selection, or the Birth of the Fittest.)

Your letter seems to me very interesting and clearly expressed, and I hope that you are in the right. Your second law appears to be largely acted on in all civilised countries, and I just alluded to it in my remarks to the effect (as far as I remember) that the evil which would follow by checking benevolence and sympathy in not fostering the weak and diseased would be greater than by allowing them to survive and then to procreate.

With regard to your third law, I do not know whether you have read an article (I forget when published) by F. Galton, in which he proposes certificates of health, etc., for marriage, and that the best should be matched. I have lately been led to reflect a little, (for, now that I am growing old, my work has become [word indecipherable] special) on the artificial checks, but doubt greatly whether such would be advantageous to the world at large at present, however it may be in the distant future. Suppose that such checks had been in action during the last two or three centuries, or even for a shorter time in Britain, what a difference it would have made in the world, when we consider America, Australia, New Zealand, and S. Africa! No words can exaggerate the importance, in my opinion, of our colonisation for the future history of the world.

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