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The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Volume I

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thank you for it.

You cannot imagine what amusement you have given me by naming those three
grasses: I have just got paper to dry and collect all grasses. If ever
you catch quite a beginner, and want to give him a taste of Botany, tell
him to make a perfect list of some little field or wood. Both Miss Thorley
and I agree that it gives a really uncommon interest to the work, having a
nice little definite world to work on, instead of the awful abyss and
immensity of all British Plants.

Adios. I was really consummately impudent to express my opinion "on the
retrograde step" ("To imagine such enormous geological changes within the
period of the existence of now living beings, on no other ground but to
account for their distribution, seems to me, in our present state of
ignorance on the means of transportal, an almost retrograde step in
science."--Extract from the paper on 'Salt Water and Seeds' in "Gardeners'
Chronicle", May 26, 1855.), and I deserved a good snub, and upon reflection
I am very glad you did not answer me in "Gardeners' Chronicle".

I have been VERY MUCH interested with the Florula. (Godron's 'Florula
Juvenalis,' which gives an interesting account of plants introduced in
imported wool.)

[Writing on June 5th to Sir J.D. Hooker, my father mentions a letter from
Dr. Asa Gray. The letter referred to was an answer to the following:]

CHARLES DARWIN TO ASA GRAY. (The well-known American Botanist. My
father's friendship with Dr. Gray began with the correspondence of which
the present is the first letter. An extract from a letter to Sir J.
Hooker, 1857, shows that my father's strong personal regard for Dr. Gray
had an early origin: "I have been glad to see A. Gray's letters; there is
always something in them that shows that he is a very lovable man.")
Down, April 25th [1855].

My dear Sir,

I hope that you will remember that I had the pleasure of being introduced
to you at Kew. I want to beg a great favour of you, for which I well know
I can offer no apology. But the favour will not, I think, cause you much
trouble, and will greatly oblige me. As I am no botanist, it will seem so
absurd to you my asking botanical questions; that I may premise that I have
for several years been collecting facts on "variation," and when I find
that any general remark seems to hold good amongst animals, I try to test
it in Plants. [Here follows a request for information on American Alpine
plants, and a suggestion as to publishing on the subject.] I can assure
you that I perceive how presumptuous it is in me, not a botanist, to make
even the most trifling suggestion to such a botanist as yourself; but from
what I saw and have heard of you from our dear and kind friend Hooker, I
hope and think you will forgive me, and believe me, with much respect,

Dear sir, yours very faithfully,

Down, June 8th [1855].

My dear Sir,

I thank you cordially for your remarkably kind letter of the 22d. ult., and
for the extremely pleasant and obliging manner in which you have taken my
rather troublesome questions. I can hardly tell you how much your list of
Alpine plants has interested me, and I can now in some degree picture to
myself the plants of your Alpine summits. The new edition of your Manual
is CAPITAL news for me. I know from your preface how pressed you are for
room, but it would take no space to append (Eu) in brackets to any European
plant, and, as far as I am concerned, this would answer every purpose.
(This suggestion Dr. Gray adopted in subsequent editions.) From my own
experience, whilst making out English plants in our manuals, it has often
struck me how much interest it would give if some notion of their range had
been given; and so, I cannot doubt, your American inquirers and beginners
would much like to know which of their plants were indigenous and which
European. Would it not be well in the Alpine plants to append the very
same addition which you have now sent me in MS.? though here, owing to your
kindness, I do not speak selfishly, but merely pro bono Americano publico.
I presume it would be too troublesome to give in your manual the habitats
of those plants found west of the Rocky Mountains, and likewise those found
in Eastern Asia, taking the Yenesei (?),--which, if I remember right,
according to Gmelin, is the main partition line of Siberia. Perhaps
Siberia more concerns the northern Flora of North America. The ranges of
plants to the east and west, viz., whether most found are in Greenland and
Western Europe, or in E. Asia, appears to me a very interesting point as
tending to show whether the migration has been eastward or westward. Pray
believe me that I am most entirely conscious that the ONLY USE of these
remarks is to show a botanist what points a non-botanist is curious to
learn; for I think every one who studies profoundly a subject often becomes
unaware [on] what points the ignorant require information. I am so very
glad that you think of drawing up some notice on your geographical
distribution, for the air of the Manual strikes me as in some points better
adapted for comparison with Europe than that of the whole of North America.
You ask me to state definitely some of the points on which I much wish for
information; but I really hardly can, for they are so vague; and I rather
wish to see what results will come out from comparisons, than have as yet
defined objects. I presume that, like other botanists, you would give, for
your area, the proportion (leaving out introduced plants) to the whole of
the great leading families: this is one point I had intended (and, indeed,
have done roughly) to tabulate from your book, but of course I could have
done it only VERY IMPERFECTLY. I should also, of course, have ascertained
the proportion, to the whole Flora, of the European plants (leaving out
introduced) AND OF THE SEPARATE GREAT FAMILIES, in order to speculate on
means of transportal. By the way, I ventured to send a few days ago a copy
of the "Gardeners' Chronicle" with a short report by me of some trifling
experiments which I have been trying on the power of seeds to withstand sea
water. I do not know whether it has struck you, but it has me, that it
would be advisable for botanists to give in WHOLE NUMBERS, as well as in
the lowest fraction, the proportional numbers of the families, thus I make
out from your Manual that of the INDIGENOUS plants the proportion of the
Umbelliferae are 36/1798 = 1/49; for, without one knows the WHOLE numbers,
one cannot judge how really close the numbers of the plants of the same
family are in two distant countries; but very likely you may think this
superfluous. Mentioning these proportional numbers, I may give you an
instance of the sort of points, and how vague and futile they often are,
which I ATTEMPT to work out...; reflecting on R. Brown's and Hooker's
remark, that near identity of proportional numbers of the great families in
two countries, shows probably that they were once continuously united, I
thought I would calculate the proportions of, for instance, the INTRODUCED
Compositae in Great Britain to all the introduced plants, and the result
was, 10/92 = 1/9.2. In our ABORIGINAL or indigenous flora the proportion
is 1/10; and in many other cases I found an equally striking
correspondence. I then took your Manual, and worked out the same question;
here I find in the Compositae an almost equally striking correspondence,
viz. 24/206 = 1/8 in the introduced plants, and 223/1798 = 1/8 in the
indigenous; but when I came to the other families I found the proportion
entirely different, showing that the coincidences in the British Flora were
probably accidental!

You will, I presume, give the proportion of the species to the genera,
i.e., show on an average how many species each genus contains; though I
have done this for myself.

If it would not be too troublesome, do you not think it would be very
interesting, and give a very good idea of your Flora, to divide the species
into three groups, viz., (a) species common to the old world, stating
numbers common to Europe and Asia; (b) indigenous species, but belonging to
genera found in the old world; and (c) species belonging to genera confined
to America or the New World. To make (according to my ideas) perfection
perfect, one ought to be told whether there are other cases, like Erica, of
genera common in Europe or in Old World not found in your area. But
honestly I feel that it is quite ridiculous my writing to you at such
length on the subject; but, as you have asked me, I do it gratefully, and
write to you as I should to Hooker, who often laughs at me unmercifully,
and I am sure you have better reason to do so.

There is one point on which I am MOST anxious for information, and I
mention it with the greatest hesitation, and only in the FULL BELIEF that
you will believe me that I have not the folly and presumption to hope for a
second that you will give it, without you can with very little trouble.
The point can at present interest no one but myself, which makes the case
wholly different from geographical distribution. The only way in which, I
think, you possibly could do it with little trouble would be to bear in
mind, whilst correcting your proof-sheets of the Manual, my question and
put a cross or mark to the species, and whenever sending a parcel to Hooker
to let me have such old sheets. But this would give you the trouble of
remembering my question, and I can hardly hope or expect that you will do
it. But I will just mention what I want; it is to have marked the "close
species" in a Flora, so as to compare in DIFFERENT Floras whether the same
genera have "close species," and for other purposes too vague to enumerate.
I have attempted, by Hooker's help, to ascertain in a similar way whether
the different species of the same genera in distant quarters of the globe
are variable or present varieties. The definition I should give of a
"CLOSE SPECIES" was one that YOU thought specifically distinct, but which
you could conceive some other GOOD botanist might think only a race or
variety; or, again, a species that you had trouble, though having
opportunities of knowing it well, in discriminating from some other
species. Supposing that you were inclined to be so very kind as to do
this, and could (which I do not expect) spare the time, as I have said, a
mere cross to each such species in any useless proof-sheets would give me
the information desired, which, I may add, I know must be vague.

How can I apologise enough for all my presumption and the extreme length of
this letter? The great good nature of your letter to me has been partly
the cause, so that, as is too often the case in this world, you are
punished for your good deeds. With hearty thanks, believe me,

Yours very truly and gratefully,

Down, 18th [July, 1855].

...I think I am getting a MILD case about Charlock seed (In the "Gardeners'
Chronicle", 1855, page 758, appeared a notice (half a column in length) by
my father on the "Vitality of Seeds." The facts related refer to the
"Sand-walk"; the wood was planted in 1846 on a piece of pasture land laid
down as grass in 1840. In 1855, on the soil being dug in several places,
Charlock (Brassica sinapistrum) sprang up freely. The subject continued to
interest him, and I find a note dated July 2nd, 1874, in which my father
recorded that forty-six plants of Charlock sprang up in that year over a
space (14 x 7 feet) which had been dug to a considerable depth.); but just
as about salting, ill-luck to it, I cannot remember how many years you
would allow that Charlock seed might live in the ground. Next time you
write, show a bold face, and say in how many years, you think, Charlock
seed would probably all be dead. A man told me the other day of, as I
thought, a splendid instance,-- and SPLENDID it was, for according to his
evidence the seed came up alive out of the LOWER PART of the LONDON CLAY!!
I disgusted him by telling him that Palms ought to have come up.

You ask how far I go in attributing organisms to a common descent; I answer
I know not; the way in which I intend treating the subject, is to show (AS
FAR AS I CAN) the facts and arguments for and against the common descent of
the species of the same genus; and then show how far the same arguments
tell for or against forms, more and more widely different: and when we
come to forms of different orders and classes, there remain only some such
arguments as those which can perhaps be deduced from similar rudimentary
structures, and very soon not an argument is left.

[The following extract from a letter to Mr. Fox [October, 1855 (In this
year he published ('Phil. Mag.' x.) a paper 'On the power of icebergs to
make rectilinear uniformly-directed grooves across a submarine undulatory
surface.'") gives a brief mention of the last meeting of the British
Association which he attended:] "I really have no news: the only thing we
have done for a long time, was to go to Glasgow; but the fatigue was to me
more than it was worth, and E. caught a bad cold. On our return we stayed
a single day at Shrewsbury, and enjoyed seeing the old place. I saw a
little of Sir Philip (Sir P. Egerton was a neighbour of Mr. Fox.) (whom I
liked much), and he asked me "why on earth I instigated you to rob his
poultry-yard?' The meeting was a good one, and the Duke of Argyll spoke



MAY 1856 TO JUNE 1858.

[In the Autobiographical chapter (page 69,) my father wrote:--"Early in
1856 Lyell advised me to write out my views pretty fully, and I began at
once to do so on a scale three or four times as extensive as that which was
afterwards followed in my 'Origin of Species;' yet it was only an abstract
of the materials which I had collected." The letters in the present
chapter are chiefly concerned with the preparation of this unfinished book.

The work was begun on May 14th, and steadily continued up to June 1858,
when it was interrupted by the arrival of Mr. Wallace's MS. During the two
years which we are now considering he wrote ten chapters (that is about
one-half) of the projected book. He remained for the most part at home,
but paid several visits to Dr. Lane's Water-Cure Establishment at Moor
Park, during one of which he made a pilgrimage to the shrine of Gilbert
White at Selborne.]


May 3 [1856].

...With respect to your suggestion of a sketch of my views, I hardly know
what to think, but will reflect on it, but it goes against my prejudices.
To give a fair sketch would be absolutely impossible, for every proposition
requires such an array of facts. If I were to do anything, it could only
refer to the main agency of change--selection--and perhaps point out a very
few of the leading features, which countenance such a view, and some few of
the main difficulties. But I do not know what to think; I rather hate the
idea of writing for priority, yet I certainly should be vexed if any one
were to publish my doctrines before me. Anyhow, I thank you heartily for
your sympathy. I shall be in London next week, and I will call on you on
Thursday morning for one hour precisely, so as not to lose much of your
time and my own; but will you let me this time come as early as 9 o'clock,
for I have much which I must do in the morning in my strongest time?
Farewell, my dear old patron.


By the way, THREE plants have come up out of the earth, perfectly enclosed
in the roots of the trees. And twenty-nine plants in the table-spoonful of
mud, out of the little pond; Hooker was surprised at this, and struck with
it, when I showed him how much mud I had scraped off one duck's feet.

If I did publish a short sketch, where on earth should I publish it?

If I do NOT hear, I shall understand that I may come from 9 to 10 on

May 9th, [1856].

...I very much want advice and TRUTHFUL consolation if you can give it. I
had a good talk with Lyell about my species work, and he urges me strongly
to publish something. I am fixed against any periodical or Journal, as I
positively will NOT expose myself to an Editor or a Council, allowing a
publication for which they might be abused. If I publish anything it must
be a VERY THIN and little volume, giving a sketch of my views and
difficulties; but it is really dreadfully unphilosophical to give a resume,
without exact references, of an unpublished work. But Lyell seemed to
think I might do this, at the suggestion of friends, and on the ground,
which I might state, that I had been at work for eighteen (The interval of
eighteen years, from 1837 when he began to collect facts, would bring the
date of this letter to 1855, not 1856, nevertheless the latter seems the
more probable date.) years, and yet could not publish for several years,
and especially as I could point out difficulties which seemed to me to
require especial investigation. Now what think you? I should be really
grateful for advice. I thought of giving up a couple of months and writing
such a sketch, and trying to keep my judgment open whether or no to publish
it when completed. It will be simply impossible for me to give exact
references; anything important I should state on the authority of the
author generally; and instead of giving all the facts on which I ground my
opinion, I could give by memory only one or two. In the Preface I would
state that the work could not be considered strictly scientific, but a mere
sketch or outline of a future work in which full references, etc. should be
given. Eheu, eheu, I believe I should sneer at any one else doing this,
and my only comfort is, that I TRULY never dreamed of it, till Lyell
suggested it, and seems deliberately to think it advisable.

I am in a peck of troubles and do pray forgive me for troubling you.

Yours affectionately,

May 11th [1856].

...Now for a MORE IMPORTANT! subject, viz., my own self: I am extremely
glad you think well of a separate "Preliminary Essay" (i.e., if anything
whatever is published; for Lyell seemed rather to doubt on this head) (The
meaning of the sentence in parentheses is obscure.); but I cannot bear the
idea of BEGGING some Editor and Council to publish, and then perhaps to
have to APOLOGISE humbly for having led them into a scrape. In this one
respect I am in the state which, according to a very wise saying of my
father's, is the only fit state for asking advice, viz., with my mind
firmly made up, and then, as my father used to say, GOOD advice was very
comfortable, and it was easy to reject BAD advice. But Heaven knows I am
not in this state with respect to publishing at all any preliminary essay.
It yet strikes me as quite unphilosophical to publish results without the
full details which have lead to such results.

It is a melancholy, and I hope not quite true view of yours that facts will
prove anything, and are therefore superfluous! But I have rather
exaggerated, I see, your doctrine. I do not fear being tied down to error,
i.e., I feel pretty sure I should give up anything false published in the
preliminary essay, in my larger work; but I may thus, it is very true, do
mischief by spreading error, which as I have often heard you say is much
easier spread than corrected. I confess I lean more and more to at least
making the attempt and drawing up a sketch and trying to keep my judgment,
whether to publish, open. But I always return to my fixed idea that it is
dreadfully unphilosophical to publish without full details. I certainly
think my future work in full would profit by hearing what my friends or
critics (if reviewed) thought of the outline.

To any one but you I should apologise for such long discussion on so
personal an affair; but I believe, and indeed you have proved it by the
trouble you have taken, that this would be superfluous.

Yours truly obliged,

P.S. What you say (for I have just re-read your letter) that the Essay
might supersede and take away all novelty and value from any future larger
Book, is very true; and that would grieve me beyond everything. On the
other hand (again from Lyell's urgent advice), I published a preliminary
sketch of the Coral Theory, and this did neither good nor harm. I begin
MOST HEARTILY to wish that Lyell had never put this idea of an Essay into
my head.


"I am delighted that I may say (with absolute truth) that my essay is
published at your suggestion, but I hope it will not need so much apology
as I at first thought; for I have resolved to make it nearly as complete as
my present materials allow. I cannot put in all which you suggest, for it
would appear too conceited."

Down, June 14th [1856].

"...What you say about my Essay, I dare say is very true; and it gave me
another fit of the wibber-gibbers: I hope that I shall succeed in making
it modest. One great motive is to get information on the many points on
which I want it. But I tremble about it, which I should not do, if I
allowed some three or four more years to elapse before publishing

[The following extracts from letters to Mr. Fox are worth giving, as
showing how great was the accumulation of material which now had to be
dealt with.

June 14th [1856].

"Very many thanks for the capital information on cats; I see I had
blundered greatly, but I know I had somewhere your original notes; but my
notes are so numerous during nineteen years' collection, that it would take
me at least a year to go over and classify them."

November 1856.

"Sometimes I fear I shall break down, for my subject gets bigger and bigger
with each month's work."]

Down, 16th [June, 1856].

My dear Lyell,

I am going to do the most impudent thing in the world. But my blood gets
hot with passion and turns cold alternately at the geological strides,
which many of your disciples are taking.

Here, poor Forbes made a continent to [i.e., extending to] North America
and another (or the same) to the Gulf weed; Hooker makes one from New
Zealand to South America and round the World to Kerguelen Land. Here is
Wollaston speaking of Madeira and P. Santo "as the sure and certain
witnesses of a former continent." Here is Woodward writes to me, if you
grant a continent over 200 or 300 miles of ocean depths (as if that was
nothing), why not extend a continent to every island in the Pacific and
Atlantic Oceans? And all this within the existence of recent species! If
you do not stop this, if there be a lower region for the punishment of
geologists, I believe, my great master, you will go there. Why, your
disciples in a slow and creeping manner beat all the old Catastrophists who
ever lived. You will live to be the great chief of the Catastrophists.

There, I have done myself a great deal of good, and have exploded my

So my master, forgive me, and believe me, ever yours,

P.S. Don't answer this, I did it to ease myself.

Down [June] 17th, 1856.

...I have been very deeply interested by Wollaston's book ('The Variation
of Species,' 1856.), though I differ GREATLY from many of his doctrines.
Did you ever read anything so rich, considering how very far he goes, as
his denunciations against those who go further: "Most mischievous,"
"absurd," "unsound." Theology is at the bottom of some of this. I told
him he was like Calvin burning a heretic. It is a very valuable and clever
book in my opinion. He has evidently read very little out of his own line.
I urged him to read the New Zealand essay. His Geology also is rather
eocene, as I told him. In fact I wrote most frankly; he says he is sure
that ultra-honesty is my characteristic: I do not know whether he meant it
as a sneer; I hope not. Talking of eocene geology, I got so wrath about
the Atlantic continent, more especially from a note from Woodward (who has
published a capital book on shells), who does not seem to doubt that every
island in the Pacific and Atlantic are the remains of continents, submerged
within period of existing species, that I fairly exploded, and wrote to
Lyell to protest, and summed up all the continents created of late years by
Forbes (the head sinner!) YOURSELF, Wollaston, and Woodward, and a pretty
nice little extension of land they make altogether! I am fairly rabid on
the question and therefore, if not wrong already, am pretty sure to become

I have enjoyed your note much. Adios,

P.S. [June] 18th. Lyell has written me a CAPITAL letter on your side,
which ought to upset me entirely, but I cannot say it does quite.

Though I must try and cease being rabid and try to feel humble, and allow
you all to make continents, as easily as a cook does pancakes.

Down, June 25th [1856].

My dear Lyell,

I will have the following tremendous letter copied to make the reading
easier, and as I want to keep a copy.

As you say you would like to hear my reasons for being most unwilling to
believe in the continental extensions of late authors, I gladly write them,
as, without I am convinced of my error, I shall have to give them condensed
in my essay, when I discuss single and multiple creation; I shall therefore
be particularly glad to have your general opinion on them. I may QUITE
LIKELY have persuaded myself in my wrath that there is more in them than
there is. If there was much more reason to admit a continental extension
in any one or two instances (as in Madeira) than in other cases, I should
feel no difficulty whatever. But if on account of European plants, and
littoral sea shells, it is thought necessary to join Madeira to the
mainland, Hooker is quite right to join New Holland to New Zealand, and
Auckland Island (and Raoul Island to N.E.), and these to S. America and the
Falklands, and these to Tristan d'Acunha, and these to Kerguelen Land; thus
making, either strictly at the same time, or at different periods, but all
within the life of recent beings, an almost circumpolar belt of land. So
again Galapagos and Juan Fernandez must be joined to America; and if we
trust to littoral see shells, the Galapagos must have been joined to the
Pacific Islands (2400 miles distant) as well as to America, and as Woodward
seems to think all the islands in the Pacific into a magnificent continent;
also the islands in the Southern Indian Ocean into another continent, with
Madagascar and Africa, and perhaps India. In the North Atlantic, Europe
will stretch half-way across the ocean to the Azores, and further north
right across. In short, we must suppose probably, half the present ocean
was land within the period of living organisms. The Globe within this
period must have had a quite different aspect. Now the only way to test
this, that I can see, is to consider whether the continents have undergone
within this same period such wonderful permutations. In all North and
South and Central America, we have both recent and miocene (or eocene)
shells, quite distinct on the opposite sides, and hence I cannot doubt that
FUNDAMENTALLY America has held its place since at least, the miocene
period. In Africa almost all the living shells are distinct on the
opposite sides of the inter-tropical regions, short as the distance is
compared to the range of marine mollusca, in uninterrupted seas; hence I
infer that Africa has existed since our present species were created. Even
the isthmus of Suez and the Aralo-Caspian basin have had a great antiquity.
So I imagine, from the tertiary deposits, has India. In Australia the
great fauna of extinct marsupials shows that before the present mammals
appeared, Australia was a separate continent. I do not for one second
doubt that very large portions of all these continents have undergone GREAT
changes of level within this period, but yet I conclude that fundamentally
they stood as barriers in the sea, where they now stand; and therefore I
should require the weightiest evidence to make me believe in such immense
changes within the period of living organisms in our oceans, where,
moreover, from the great depths, the changes must have been vaster in a
vertical sense.


Submerge our present continents, leaving a few mountain peaks as islands,
and what will the character of the islands be,--Consider that the Pyrenees,
Sierra Nevada, Apennines, Alps, Carpathians, are non-volcanic, Etna and
Caucasus, volcanic. In Asia, Altai and Himalaya, I believe non-volcanic.
In North Africa the non-volcanic, as I imagine, Alps of Abyssinia and of
the Atlas. In South Africa, the Snow Mountains. In Australia, the non-
volcanic Alps. In North America, the White Mountains, Alleghanies and
Rocky Mountains--some of the latter alone, I believe, volcanic. In South
America to the east, the non-volcanic [Silla?] of Caracas, and Itacolumi of
Brazil, further south the Sierra Ventanas, and in the Cordilleras, many
volcanic but not all. Now compare these peaks with the oceanic islands; as
far as known all are volcanic, except St. Paul's (a strange bedevilled
rock), and the Seychelles, if this latter can be called oceanic, in the
line of Madagascar; the Falklands, only 500 miles off, are only a shallow
bank; New Caledonia, hardly oceanic, is another exception. This argument
has to me great weight. Compare on a Geographical map, islands which, we
have SEVERAL reasons to suppose, were connected with mainland, as Sardinia,
and how different it appears. Believing, as I am inclined, that continents
as continents, and oceans as oceans, are of immense antiquity--I should say
that if any of the existing oceanic islands have any relation of any kind
to continents, they are forming continents; and that by the time they could
form a continent, the volcanoes would be denuded to their cores, leaving
peaks of syenite, diorite, or porphyry. But have we nowhere any last wreck
of a continent, in the midst of the ocean? St. Paul's Rock, and such old
battered volcanic islands, as St. Helena, may be; but I think we can see
some reason why we should have less evidence of sinking than of rising
continents (if my view in my Coral volume has any truth in it, viz.: that
volcanic outbursts accompany rising areas), for during subsidence there
will be no compensating agent at work, in rising areas there will be the
ADDITIONAL element of outpoured volcanic matter.


Considering the depth of the ocean, I was, before I got your letter,
inclined vehemently to dispute the vast amount of subsidence, but I must
strike my colours. With respect to coral reefs, I carefully guarded
against its being supposed that a continent was indicated by the groups of
atolls. It is difficult to guess, as it seems to me, the amount of
subsidence indicated by coral reefs; but in such large areas as the Lowe
Archipelago, the Marshall Archipelago, and Laccadive group, it would,
judging, from the heights of existing oceanic archipelagoes, be odd, if
some peaks of from 8000 to 10,000 feet had not been buried. Even after
your letter a suspicion crossed me whether it would be fair to argue from
subsidences in the middle of the greatest oceans to continents; but
refreshing my memory by talking with Ramsay in regard to the probable
thickness in one vertical line of the Silurian and carboniferous formation,
it seems there must have been AT LEAST 10,000 feet of subsidence during
these formations in Europe and North America, and therefore during the
continuance of nearly the same set of organic beings. But even 12,000 feet
would not be enough for the Azores, or for Hooker's continent; I believe
Hooker does not infer a continuous continent, but approximate groups of
islands, with, if we may judge from existing continents, not PROFOUNDLY
deep sea between them; but the argument from the volcanic nature of nearly
every existing oceanic island tell against such supposed groups of
islands,--for I presume he does not suppose a mere chain of volcanic
islands belting the southern hemisphere.


The supposed continental extensions do not seem to me, perfectly to account
for all the phenomena of distribution on islands; as the absence of mammals
and Batrachians; the absence of certain great groups of insects on Madeira,
and of Acaciae and Banksias, etc., in New Zealand; the paucity of plants in
some cases, etc. Not that those who believe in various accidental means of
dispersal, can explain most of these cases; but they may at least say that
these facts seem hardly compatible with former continuous land.


For these several reasons, and especially considering it certain (in which
you will agree) that we are extremely ignorant of means of dispersal, I
cannot avoid thinking that Forbes' 'Atlantis,' was an ill-service to
science, as checking a close study of means of dissemination. I shall be
really grateful to hear, as briefly as you like, whether these arguments
have any weight with you, putting yourself in the position of an honest
judge. I told Hooker that I was going to write to you on this subject; and
I should like him to read this; but whether he or you will think it worth
time and postage remains to be proved.

Yours most truly,

[On July 8th he wrote to Sir Charles Lyell.

"I am sorry you cannot give any verdict on Continental extensions; and I
infer that you think my argument of not much weight against such
extensions. I know I wish I could believe so."]

Down, July 20th [1856].

...It is not a little egotistical, but I should like to tell you (and I do
not THINK I have) how I view my work. Nineteen years (!) ago it occurred
to me that whilst otherwise employed on Natural History, I might perhaps do
good if I noted any sort of facts bearing on the question of the origin of
species, and this I have since been doing. Either species have been
independently created, or they have descended from other species, like
varieties from one species. I think it can be shown to be probable that
man gets his most distinct varieties by preserving such as arise best worth
keeping and destroying the others, but I should fill a quire if I were to
go on. To be brief, I ASSUME that species arise like our domestic
varieties with MUCH extinction; and then test this hypothesis by comparison
with as many general and pretty well-established propositions as I can find
made out,--in geographical distribution, geological history, affinities,
etc., etc. And it seems to me that, SUPPOSING that such hypothesis were to
explain such general propositions, we ought, in accordance with the common
way of following all sciences, to admit it till some better hypothesis be
found out. For to my mind to say that species were created so and so is no
scientific explanation, only a reverent way of saying it is so and so. But
it is nonsensical trying to show how I try to proceed in the compass of a
note. But as an honest man, I must tell you that I have come to the
heterodox conclusion that there are no such things as independently created
species--that species are only strongly defined varieties. I know that
this will make you despise me. I do not much underrate the many HUGE
difficulties on this view, but yet it seems to me to explain too much,
otherwise inexplicable, to be false. Just to allude to one point in your
last note, viz., about species of the same genus GENERALLY having a common
or continuous area; if they are actual lineal descendants of one species,
this of course would be the case; and the sadly too many exceptions (for
me) have to be explained by climatal and geological changes. A fortiori on
this view (but on exactly same grounds), all the individuals of the same
species should have a continuous distribution. On this latter branch of
the subject I have put a chapter together, and Hooker kindly read it over.
I thought the exceptions and difficulties were so great that on the whole
the balance weighed against my notions, but I was much pleased to find that
it seemed to have considerable weight with Hooker, who said he had never
been so much staggered about the permanence of species.

I must say one word more in justification (for I feel sure that your
tendency will be to despise me and my crotchets), that all my notions about
HOW species change are derived from long continued study of the works of
(and converse with) agriculturists and horticulturists; and I believe I see
my way pretty clearly on the means used by nature to change her species and
ADAPT them to the wondrous and exquisitely beautiful contingencies to which
every living being is exposed...

Down, July 30th 1856.

My dear Hooker,

Your letter is of MUCH value to me. I was not able to get a definite
answer from Lyell (On the continental extensions of Forbes and others.), as
you will see in the enclosed letters, though I inferred that he thought
nothing of my arguments. Had it not been for this correspondence, I should
have written sadly too strongly. You may rely on it I shall put my doubts
moderately. There never was such a predicament as mine: here you
continental extensionists would remove enormous difficulties opposed to me,
and yet I cannot honestly admit the doctrine, and must therefore say so. I
cannot get over the fact that not a fragment of secondary or palaeozoic
rock has been found on any island above 500 or 600 miles from a mainland.
You rather misunderstand me when you think I doubt the POSSIBILITY of
subsidence of 20,000 or 30,000 feet; it is only probability, considering
such evidence as we have independently of distribution. I have not yet
worked out in full detail the distribution of mammalia, both IDENTICAL and
allied, with respect to the ONE ELEMENT OF DEPTH OF THE SEA; but as far as
I have gone, the results are to me surprisingly accordant with my very most
troublesome belief in not such great geographical changes as you believe;
and in mammalia we certainly know more of MEANS of distribution than in any
other class. Nothing is so vexatious to me, as so constantly finding
myself drawing different conclusions from better judges than myself, from
the same facts.

I fancy I have lately removed many (not geographical) great difficulties
opposed to my notions, but God knows it may be all hallucination.

Please return Lyell's letters.

What a capital letter of Lyell's that to you is, and what a wonderful man
he is. I differ from him greatly in thinking that those who believe that
species are NOT fixed will multiply specific names: I know in my own case
my most frequent source of doubt was whether others would not think this or
that was a God-created Barnacle, and surely deserved a name. Otherwise I
should only have thought whether the amount of difference and permanence
was sufficient to justify a name: I am, also, surprised at his thinking it
immaterial whether species are absolute or not: whenever it is proved that
all species are produced by generation, by laws of change, what good
evidence we shall have of the gaps in formations. And what a science
Natural History will be, when we are in our graves, when all the laws of
change are thought one of the most important parts of Natural History.

I cannot conceive why Lyell thinks such notions as mine or of 'Vestiges,'
will invalidate specific centres. But I must not run on and take up your
time. My MS. will not, I fear, be copied before you go abroad. With
hearty thanks.

Ever yours,

P.S.--After giving much condensed, my argument versus continental
extensions, I shall append some such sentence, as that two better judges
than myself have considered these arguments, and attach no weight to them.

Down, August 5th [1856].

...I quite agree about Lyell's letters to me, which, though to me
interesting, have afforded me no new light. Your letters, under the
GEOLOGICAL point of view, have been more valuable to me. You cannot
imagine how earnestly I wish I could swallow continental extension, but I
cannot; the more I think (and I cannot get the subject out of my head), the
more difficult I find it. If there were only some half-dozen cases, I
should not feel the least difficulty; but the generality of the facts of
all islands (except one or two) having a considerable part of their
productions in common with one or more mainlands utterly staggers me. What
a wonderful case of the Epacridae! It is most vexatious, also humiliating,
to me that I cannot follow and subscribe to the way in which you strikingly
put your view of the case. I look at your facts (about Eucalyptus, etc.)
as DAMNING against continental extension, and if you like also damning
against migration, or at least of ENORMOUS difficulty. I see the ground of
our difference (in a letter I must put myself on an equality in arguing)
lies, in my opinion, that scarcely anything is known of means of
distribution. I quite agree with A. De Candolle's (and I dare say your)
opinion that it is poor work putting together the merely POSSIBLE means of
distribution; but I see no other way in which the subject can be attacked,
for I think that A. De Candolle's argument, that no plants have been
introduced into England except by man's agency, [is] of no weight. I
cannot but think that the theory of continental extension does do some
little harm as stopping investigation of the means of dispersal, which,
whether NEGATIVE or positive, seems to me of value; when negatived, then
every one who believes in single centres will have to admit continental

...I see from your remarks that you do not understand my notions (whether
or no worth anything) about modification; I attribute very little to the
direct action of climate, etc. I suppose, in regard to specific centres,
we are at cross purposes; I should call the kitchen garden in which the red
cabbage was produced, or the farm in which Bakewell made the Shorthorn
cattle, the specific centre of these SPECIES! And surely this is
centralisation enough!

I thank you most sincerely for all your assistance; and whether or no my
book may be wretched, you have done your best to make it less wretched.
Sometimes I am in very good spirits and sometimes very low about it. My
own mind is decided on the question of the origin of species; but, good
heavens, how little that is worth!...

[With regard to "specific centres," a passage from a letter dated July 25,
1856, by Sir Charles Lyell to Sir J.D. Hooker ('Life' ii. page 216) is of

"I fear much that if Darwin argues that species are phantoms, he will also
have to admit that single centres of dispersion are phantoms also, and that
would deprive me of much of the value which I ascribe to the present
provinces of animals and plants, as illustrating modern and tertiary
changes in physical geography."

He seems to have recognised, however, that the phantom doctrine would soon
have to be faced, for he wrote in the same letter: "Whether Darwin
persuades you and me to renounce our faith in species (when geological
epochs are considered) or not, I foresee that many will go over to the
indefinite modifiability doctrine."

In the autumn my father was still working at geographical distribution, and
again sought the aid of Sir J.D. Hooker.

[September, 1856].

"In the course of some weeks, you unfortunate wretch, you will have my MS.
on one point of Geographical Distribution. I will however, never ask such
a favour again; but in regard to this one piece of MS., it is of infinite
importance to me for you to see it; for never in my life have I felt such
difficulty what to do, and I heartily wish I could slur the whole subject

In a letter to Sir J.D. Hooker (June, 1856), the following characteristic
passage occurs, suggested, no doubt, by the kind of work which his chapter
on Geographical Distribution entailed:

"There is wonderful ill logic in his [E. Forbes'] famous and admirable
memoir on distribution, as it appears to me, now that I have got it up so
as to give the heads in a page. Depend on it, my saying is a true one,
viz., that a compiler is a GREAT man, and an original man a commonplace
man. Any fool can generalise and speculate; but, oh, my heavens! To get
up AT SECOND HAND a New Zealand Flora, that is work."

October 3 [1856].

...I remember you protested against Lyell's advice of writing a SKETCH of
my species doctrines. Well, when I began I found it such unsatisfactory
work that I have desisted, and am now drawing up my work as perfect as my
materials of nineteen years' collecting suffice, but do not intend to stop
to perfect any line of investigation beyond current work. Thus far and no
farther I shall follow Lyell's urgent advice. Your remarks weighed with me
considerably. I find to my sorrow it will run to quite a big book. I have
found my careful work at pigeons really invaluable, as enlightening me on
many points on variation under domestication. The copious old literature,
by which I can trace the gradual changes in the breeds of pigeons has been
extraordinarily useful to me. I have just had pigeons and fowls ALIVE from
the Gambia! Rabbits and ducks I am attending to pretty carefully, but less
so than pigeons. I find most remarkable differences in the skeletons of
rabbits. Have you ever kept any odd breeds of rabbits, and can you give me
any details? One other question: You used to keep hawks; do you at all
know, after eating a bird, how soon after they throw up the pellet?

No subject gives me so much trouble and doubt and difficulty as the means
of dispersal of the same species of terrestrial productions on the oceanic
islands. Land mollusca drive me mad, and I cannot anyhow get their eggs to
experimentise their power of floating and resistance to the injurious
action of salt water. I will not apologise for writing so much about my
own doings, as I believe you will like to hear. Do sometime, I beg you,
let me hear how you get on in health; and IF SO INCLINED, let me have some
words on call-ducks.

My dear Fox, yours affectionately,

[With regard to his book he wrote (November 10th) to Sir Charles Lyell:

"I am working very steadily at my big book; I have found it quite
impossible to publish any preliminary essay or sketch; but am doing my work
as completely as my present materials allow without waiting to perfect
them. And this much acceleration I owe to you."]

Down, Sunday [October 1856].

My dear Hooker,

The seeds are come all safe, many thanks for them. I was very sorry to run
away so soon and miss any part of my MOST pleasant evening; and I ran away
like a Goth and Vandal without wishing Mrs. Hooker good-bye; but I was only
just in time, as I got on the platform the train had arrived.

I was particularly glad of our discussion after dinner, fighting a battle
with you always clears my mind wonderfully. I groan to hear that A. Gray
agrees with you about the condition of Botanical Geography. All I know is
that if you had had to search for light in Zoological Geography you would
by contrast, respect your own subject a vast deal more than you now do.
The hawks have behaved like gentlemen, and have cast up pellets with lots
of seeds in them; and I have just had a parcel of partridge's feet well
caked with mud!!! (The mud in such cases often contains seeds, so that
plants are thus transported.) Adios.

Your insane and perverse friend,

Down, November 4th [1856].

My dear Hooker,

I thank you more CORDIALLY than you will think probable, for your note.
Your verdict (On the MS. relating to geographical distribution.) has been a
great relief. On my honour I had no idea whether or not you would say it
was (and I knew you would say it very kindly) so bad, that you would have
begged me to have burnt the whole. To my own mind my MS. relieved me of
some few difficulties, and the difficulties seemed to me pretty fairly
stated, but I had become so bewildered with conflicting facts, evidence,
reasoning and opinions, that I felt to myself that I had lost all judgment.
Your general verdict is INCOMPARABLY more favourable than I had

Down, November 23rd [1856].

My dear Hooker,

I fear I shall weary you with letters, but do not answer this, for in truth
and without flattery, I so value your letters, that after a heavy batch, as
of late, I feel that I have been extravagant and have drawn too much money,
and shall therefore have to stint myself on another occasion.

When I sent my MS. I felt strongly that some preliminary questions on the
causes of variation ought to have been sent you. Whether I am right or
wrong in these points is quite a separate question, but the conclusion
which I have come to, quite independently of geographical distribution, is
that external conditions (to which naturalists so often appeal) do by
themselves VERY LITTLE. How much they do is the point of all others on
which I feel myself very weak. I judge from the facts of variation under
domestication, and I may yet get more light. But at present, after drawing
up a rough copy on this subject, my conclusion is that external conditions
do EXTREMELY little, except in causing mere variability. This mere
variability (causing the child NOT closely to resemble its parent) I look
at as VERY different from the formation of a marked variety or new species.
(No doubt the variability is governed by laws, some of which I am
endeavouring very obscurely to trace.) The formation of a strong variety
or species I look a as almost wholly due to the selection of what may be
incorrectly called CHANCE variations or variability. This power of
selection stands in the most direct relation to time, and in the state of
nature can be only excessively slow. Again, the slight differences
selected, by which a race or species is at last formed, stands, as I think
can be shown (even with plants, and obviously with animals), in a far more
important relation to its associates than to external conditions.
Therefore, according to my principles, whether right or wrong, I cannot
agree with your proposition that time, and altered conditions, and altered
associates, are 'convertible terms.' I look at the first and the last as
FAR more important: time being important only so far as giving scope to
selection. God knows whether you will perceive at what I am driving. I
shall have to discuss and think more about your difficulty of the temperate
and sub-arctic forms in the S. hemisphere than I have yet done. But I am
inclined to think that I am right (if my general principles are right),
that there would be little tendency to the formation of a new species,
during the period of migration, whether shorter or longer, though
considerable variability may have supervened...

December 24th [1856].

...How I do wish I lived near you to discuss matters with. I have just
been comparing definitions of species, and stating briefly how systematic
naturalists work out their subjects. Aquilegia in the Flora Indica was a
capital example for me. It is really laughable to see what different ideas
are prominent in various naturalists' minds, when they speak of "species;"
in some, resemblance is everything and descent of little weight--in some,
resemblance seems to go for nothing, and Creation the reigning idea--in
some, descent is the key,--in some, sterility an unfailing test, with
others it is not worth a farthing. It all comes, I believe, from trying to
define the undefinable. I suppose you have lost the odd black seed from
the birds' dung, which germinated,--anyhow, it is not worth taking trouble
over. I have now got about a dozen seeds out of small birds' dung. Adios,

My dear Hooker, ever yours,

Down, January 1st [1857?].

My dear Dr Gray,

I have received the second part of your paper ('Statistics of the Flora of
the Northern United States.' "Silliman's Journal", 1857.), and though I
have nothing particular to say, I must send you my thanks and hearty
admiration. The whole paper strikes me as quite exhausting the subject,
and I quite fancy and flatter myself I now appreciate the character of your
Flora. What a difference in regard to Europe your remark in relation to
the genera makes! I have been eminently glad to see your conclusion in
regard to the species of large genera widely ranging; it is in strict
conformity with the results I have worked out in several ways. It is of
great importance to my notions. By the way you have paid me a GREAT
compliment ("From some investigations of his own, this sagacious naturalist
inclines to think that [the species of] large genera range over a larger
area than the species of small genera do."--Asa Gray, loc. cit.): to be
SIMPLY mentioned even in such a paper I consider a very great honour. One
of your conclusions makes me groan, viz., that the line of connection of
the strictly alpine plants is through Greenland. I should EXTREMELY like
to see your reasons published in detail, for it "riles" me (this is a
proper expression, is it not?) dreadfully. Lyell told me, that Agassiz
having a theory about when Saurians were first created, on hearing some
careful observations opposed to this, said he did not believe it, "for
Nature never lied." I am just in this predicament, and repeat to you that,
"Nature never lies," ergo, theorisers are always right...

Overworked as you are, I dare say you will say that I am an odious plague;
but here is another suggestion! I was led by one of my wild speculations
to conclude (though it has nothing to do with geographical distribution,
yet it has with your statistics) that trees would have a strong tendency to
have flowers with dioecious, monoecious or polygamous structure. Seeing
that this seemed so in Persoon, I took one little British Flora, and
discriminating trees from bushes according to Loudon, I have found that the
result was in species, genera and families, as I anticipated. So I sent my
notions to Hooker to ask him to tabulate the New Zealand Flora for this
end, and he thought my result sufficiently curious, to do so; and the
accordance with Britain is very striking, and the more so, as he made three
classes of trees, bushes, and herbaceous plants. (He says further he shall
work the Tasmanian Flora on the same principle.) The bushes hold an
intermediate position between the other two classes. It seems to me a
curious relation in itself, and is very much so, if my theory and
explanation are correct. (See 'Origin,' Edition i., page 100.)

With hearty thanks, your most troublesome friend,

Down, April 12th [1857].

My dear Hooker,

Your letter has pleased me much, for I never can get it out of my head,
that I take unfair advantage of your kindness, as I receive all and give
nothing. What a splendid discussion you could write on the whole subject
of variation! The cases discussed in your last note are valuable to me
(though odious and damnable), as showing how profoundly ignorant we are on
the causes of variation. I shall just allude to these cases, as a sort of
sub-division of polymorphism a little more definite, I fancy, than the
variation of, for instance, the Rubi, and equally or more perplexing.

I have just been putting my notes together on variations APPARENTLY due to
the immediate and direct action of external causes; and I have been struck
with one result. The most firm sticklers for independent creation admit,
that the fur of the SAME species is thinner towards the south of the range
of the same species than to the north--that the SAME shells are brighter-
coloured to the south than north; that the same [shell] is paler-coloured
in deep water--that insects are smaller and darker on mountains--more livid
and testaceous near sea--that plants are smaller and more hairy and with
brighter flowers on mountains: now in all such, and other cases, distinct
species in the two zones follow the same rule, which seems to me to be most
simply explained by species, being only strongly marked varieties, and
therefore following the same laws as recognised and admitted varieties. I
mention all this on account of the variation of plants in ascending
mountains; I have quoted the foregoing remark only generally with no
examples, for I add, there is so much doubt and dispute what to call
varieties; but yet I have stumbled on so many casual remarks on VARIETIES
of plants on mountains being so characterised, that I presume there is some
truth in it. What think you? Do you believe there is ANY tendency in
VARIETIES, as GENERALLY so-called, of plants to become more hairy and with
proportionally larger and brighter-coloured flowers in ascending a

I have been interested in my "weed garden," of 3 x 2 feet square: I mark
each seedling as it appears, and I am astonished at the number that come
up, and still more at the number killed by slugs, etc. Already 59 have
been so killed; I expected a good many, but I had fancied that this was a
less potent check than it seems to be, and I attributed almost exclusively
to mere choking, the destruction of the seedlings. Grass-seedlings seem to
suffer much less than exogens...

Moor Park, Farnham [April (?) 1857].

My dear Hooker,

Your letter has been forwarded to me here, where I am undergoing hydropathy
for a fortnight, having been here a week, and having already received an
amount of good which is quite incredible to myself and quite unaccountable.
I can walk and eat like a hearty Christian, and even my nights are good. I
cannot in the least understand how hydropathy can act as it certainly does
on me. It dulls one's brain splendidly; I have not thought about a single
species of any kind since leaving home. Your note has taken me aback; I
thought the hairiness, etc., of Alpine SPECIES was generally admitted; I am
sure I have seen it alluded to a score of times. Falconer was haranguing
on it the other day to me. Meyen or Gay, or some such fellow (whom you
would despise), I remember, makes some remark on Chilian Cordillera plants.
Wimmer has written a little book on the same lines, and on VARIETIES being
so characterised in the Alps. But after writing to you, I confess I was
staggered by finding one man (Moquin-Tandon, I think) saying that Alpine
flowers are strongly inclined to be white, and Linnaeus saying that cold
makes plants APETALOUS, even the same species! Are Arctic plants often
apetalous? My general belief from my compiling work is quite to agree with
what you say about the little direct influence of climate; and I have just
alluded to the hairiness of Alpine plants as an EXCEPTION. The
odoriferousness would be a good case for me if I knew of VARIETIES being
more odoriferous in dry habitats.

I fear that I have looked at the hairiness of Alpine plants as so generally
acknowledged that I have not marked passages, so as at all to see what kind
of evidence authors advance. I must confess, the other day, when I asked
Falconer, whether he knew of INDIVIDUAL plants losing or acquiring
hairiness when transported, he did not. But now THIS SECOND, my memory
flashes on me, and I am certain I have somewhere got marked a case of hairy
plants from the Pyrenees losing hairs when cultivated at Montpellier.
Shall you think me very impudent if I tell you that I have sometimes
thought that (quite independently of the present case), you are a little
too hard on bad observers; that a remark made by a bad observer CANNOT be
right; an observer who deserves to be damned you would utterly damn. I
feel entire deference to any remark you make out of your own head; but when
in opposition to some poor devil, I somehow involuntarily feel not quite so
much, but yet much deference for your opinion. I do not know in the least
whether there is any truth in this my criticism against you, but I have
often thought I would tell you it.

I am really very much obliged for your letter, for, though I intended to
put only one sentence and that vaguely, I should probably have put that
much too strongly.

Ever, my dear Hooker, yours most truly,

P.S. This note, as you see, has not anything requiring an answer.

The distribution of fresh-water molluscs has been a horrid incubus to me,
but I think I know my way now; when first hatched they are very active, and
I have had thirty or forty crawl on a dead duck's foot; and they cannot be
jerked off, and will live fifteen and even twenty-four hours out of water.

[The following letter refers to the expedition of the Austrian frigate
"Novara"; Lyell had asked my father for suggestions.]

Down, February 11th [1857].

My dear Lyell,

I was glad to see in the newspapers about the Austrian Expedition. I have
nothing to add geologically to my notes in the Manual. (The article
"Geology" in the Admiralty Manual of Scientific Enquiry.) I do not know
whether the Expedition is tied down to call at only fixed spots. But if
there be any choice or power in the scientific men to influence the places
--this would be most desirable. It is my most deliberate conviction that
nothing would aid more, Natural History, than careful collecting and
investigating ALL THE PRODUCTIONS of the most isolated islands, especially
of the southern hemisphere. Except Tristan d'Acunha and Kerguelen Land,
they are very imperfectly known; and even at Kerguelen Land, how much there
is to make out about the lignite beds, and whether there are signs of old
Glacial action. Every sea shell and insect and plant is of value from such
spots. Some one in the Expedition especially ought to have Hooker's New
Zealand Essay. What grand work to explore Rodriguez, with its fossil
birds, and little known productions of every kind. Again the Seychelles,
which, with the Cocos so near, must be a remnant of some older land. The
outer island of Juan Fernandez is little known. The investigation of these
little spots by a band of naturalists would be grand; St. Paul's and
Amsterdam would be glorious, botanically, and geologically. Can you not
recommend them to get my 'Journal' and 'Volcanic Islands' on account of the
Galapagos. If they come from the north it will be a shame and a sin if
they do not call at Cocos Islet, one of the Galapagos. I always regretted
that I was not able to examine the great craters on Albemarle Island, one
of the Galapagos. In New Zealand urge on them to look out for erratic
boulders and marks of old glaciers.

Urge the use of the dredge in the Tropics; how little or nothing we know of
the limit of life downward in the hot seas?

My present work leads me to perceive how much the domestic animals have
been neglected in out of the way countries.

The Revillagigedo Island off Mexico, I believe, has never been trodden by
foot of naturalist.

If the expedition sticks to such places as Rio, Cape of Good Hope, Ceylon
and Australia, etc., it will not do much.

Ever yours most truly,

[The following passage occurs in a letter to Mr. Fox, February 22, 1857,
and has reference to the book on Evolution on which he was still at work.
The remainder of the letter is made up in details of no interest:

"I am got most deeply interested in my subject; though I wish I could set
less value on the bauble fame, either present or posthumous, than I do, but
not I think, to any extreme degree: yet, if I know myself, I would work
just as hard, though with less gusto, if I knew that my book would be
published for ever anonymously."]

Moor Park, May 1st, 1857.

My dear Sir,

I am much obliged for your letter of October 10th, from Celebes, received a
few days ago; in a laborious undertaking, sympathy is a valuable and real
encouragement. By your letter and even still more by your paper ('On the
law that has regulated the introduction of new species.'--Ann. Nat. Hist.,
1855.) in the Annals, a year or more ago, I can plainly see that we have
thought much alike and to a certain extent have come to similar
conclusions. In regard to the Paper in the Annals, I agree to the truth of
almost every word of your paper; and I dare say that you will agree with me
that it is very rare to find oneself agreeing pretty closely with any
theoretical paper; for it is lamentable how each man draws his own
different conclusions from the very same facts. This summer will make the
20th year (!) since I opened my first note-book, on the question how and in
what way do species and varieties differ from each other. I am now
preparing my work for publication, but I find the subject so very large,
that though I have written many chapters, I do not suppose I shall go to
press for two years. I have never heard how long you intend staying in the
Malay Archipelago; I wish I might profit by the publication of your Travels
there before my work appears, for no doubt you will reap a large harvest of
facts. I have acted already in accordance with your advice of keeping
domestic varieties, and those appearing in a state of nature, distinct; but
I have sometimes doubted of the wisdom of this, and therefore I am glad to
be backed by your opinion. I must confess, however, I rather doubt the
truth of the now very prevalent doctrine of all our domestic animals having
descended from several wild stocks; though I do not doubt that it is so in
some cases. I think there is rather better evidence on the sterility of
hybrid animals than you seem to admit: and in regard to plants the
collection of carefully recorded facts by Kolreuter and Gaertner (and
Herbert,) is ENORMOUS. I most entirely agree with you on the little
effects of "climatal conditions," which one sees referred to ad nauseam in
all books: I suppose some very little effect must be attributed to such
influences, but I fully believe that they are very slight. It is really
IMPOSSIBLE to explain my views (in the compass of a letter), on the causes
and means of variation in a state of nature; but I have slowly adopted a
distinct and tangible idea,--whether true or false others must judge; for
the firmest conviction of the truth of a doctrine by its author, seems,
alas, not to be the slightest guarantee of truth!...

Moor Park, Saturday [May 2nd, 1857].

My dear Hooker,

You have shaved the hair off the Alpine plants pretty effectually. The
case of the Anthyllis will make a "tie" with the believed case of Pyrenees
plants becoming glabrous at low levels. If I DO find that I have marked
such facts, I will lay the evidence before you. I wonder how the belief
could have originated! Was it through final causes to keep the plants
warm? Falconer in talk coupled the two facts of woolly Alpine plants and
mammals. How candidly and meekly you took my Jeremiad on your severity to
second-class men. After I had sent it off, an ugly little voice asked me,
once or twice, how much of my noble defence of the poor in spirit and in
fact, was owing to your having not seldom smashed favourite notions of my
own. I silenced the ugly little voice with contempt, but it would whisper
again and again. I sometimes despise myself as a poor compiler as heartily
as you could do, though I do NOT despise my whole work, as I think there is
enough known to lay a foundation for the discussion on the origin of
species. I have been led to despise and laugh at myself as a compiler, for
having put down that "Alpine plants have large flowers," and now perhaps I
may write over these very words, "Alpine plants have small or apetalous

Down, [May] 16th [1857].

My dear Hooker,

You said--I hope honestly--that you did not dislike my asking questions on
general points, you of course answering or not as time or inclination might
serve. I find in the animal kingdom that the proposition that any part or
organ developed normally (i.e., not a monstrosity) in a species in any HIGH
or UNUSUAL degree, compared with the same part or organ in allied species,
tends to be HIGHLY VARIABLE. I cannot doubt this from my mass of collected
facts. To give an instance, the Cross-bill is very abnormal in the
structure of its bill compared with other allied Fringillidae, and the beak
is EMINENTLY VARIABLE. The Himantopus, remarkable from the wonderful
length of its legs, is VERY variable in the length of its legs. I could
give MANY most striking and curious illustrations in all classes; so many
that I think it cannot be chance. But I have NONE in the vegetable
kingdom, owing, as I believe, to my ignorance. If Nepenthes consisted of
ONE or two species in a group with a pitcher developed, then I should have
expected it to have been very variable; but I do not consider Nepenthes a
case in point, for when a whole genus or group has an organ, however
anomalous, I do not expect it to be variable,--it is only when one or few
species differ greatly in some one part or organ from the forms CLOSELY
ALLIED to it in all other respects, that I believe such part or organ to be
highly variable. Will you turn this in your mind? It is an important
apparent LAW (!) for me.

Ever yours,

P.S.--I do not know how far you will care to hear, but I find Moquin-Tandon
treats in his 'Teratologie' on villosity of plants, and seems to attribute
more to dryness than altitude; but seems to think that it must be admitted
that mountain plants are villose, and that this villosity is only in part
explained by De Candolle's remark that the dwarfed condition of mountain
plants would condense the hairs, and so give them the APPEARANCE of being
more hairy. He quotes Senebier, 'Physiologie Vegetale,' as authority--I
suppose the first authority, for mountain plants being hairy.

If I could show positively that the endemic species were more hairy in dry
districts, then the case of the varieties becoming more hairy in dry ground
would be a fact for me.

Down, June 3rd [1857].

My dear Hooker,

I am going to enjoy myself by having a prose on my own subjects to you, and
this is a greater enjoyment to me than you will readily understand, as I
for months together do not open my mouth on Natural History. Your letter
is of great value to me, and staggers me in regard to my proposition. I
dare say the absence of botanical facts may in part be accounted for by the
difficulty of measuring slight variations. Indeed, after writing, this
occurred to me; for I have Crucianella stylosa coming into flower, and the
pistil ought to be very variable in length, and thinking of this I at once
felt how could one judge whether it was variable in any high degree. How
different, for instance, from the beak of a bird! But I am not satisfied
with this explanation, and am staggered. Yet I think there is something in
the law; I have had so many instances, as the following: I wrote to
Wollaston to ask him to run through the Madeira Beetles and tell me whether
any one presented anything very anomalous in relation to its allies. He
gave me a unique case of an enormous head in a female, and then I found in
his book, already stated, that the size of the head was ASTONISHINGLY
variable. Part of the difference with plants may be accounted for by many
of my cases being secondary male or FEMALE characters, but then I have
striking cases with hermaphrodite Cirripedes. The cases seem to me far too
numerous for accidental coincidences, of great variability and abnormal
development. I presume that you will not object to my putting a note
saying that you had reflected over the case, and though one or two cases
seemed to support, quite as many or more seemed wholly contradictory. This
want of evidence is the more surprising to me, as generally I find any
proposition more easily tested by observations in botanical works, which I
have picked up, than in zoological works. I never dreamed that you had
kept the subject at all before your mind. Altogether the case is one more
of my MANY horrid puzzles. My observations, though on so infinitely a
small scale, on the struggle for existence, begin to make me see a little
clearer how the fight goes on. Out of sixteen kinds of seed sown on my
meadow, fifteen have germinated, but now they are perishing at such a rate
that I doubt whether more than one will flower. Here we have choking which
has taken place likewise on a great scale, with plants not seedlings, in a
bit of my lawn allowed to grow up. On the other hand, in a bit of ground,
2 by 3 feet, I have daily marked each seedling weed as it has appeared
during March, April and May, and 357 have come up, and of these 277 have
ALREADY been killed chiefly by slugs. By the way, at Moor Park, I saw
rather a pretty case of the effects of animals on vegetation: there are
enormous commons with clumps of old Scotch firs on the hills, and about
eight or ten years ago some of these commons were enclosed, and all round
the clumps nice young trees are springing up by the million, looking
exactly as if planted, so many are of the same age. In other parts of the
common, not yet enclosed, I looked for miles and not ONE young tree could
be seen. I then went near (within quarter of a mile of the clumps) and
looked closely in the heather, and there I found tens of thousands of young
Scotch firs (thirty in one square yard) with their tops nibbled off by the
few cattle which occasionally roam over these wretched heaths. One little
tree, three inches high, by the rings appeared to be twenty-six years old,
with a short stem about as thick as a stick of sealing-wax. What a
wondrous problem it is, what a play of forces, determining the kind and
proportion of each plant in a square yard of turf! It is to my mind truly
wonderful. And yet we are pleased to wonder when some animal or plant
becomes extinct.

I am so sorry that you will not be at the Club. I see Mrs. Hooker is going
to Yarmouth; I trust that the health of your children is not the motive.

My dear Hooker, ever yours,

P.S.--I believe you are afraid to send me a ripe Edwardsia pod, for fear I
should float it from New Zealand to Chile!!!

Down, June 5 [1857].

My dear Hooker,

I honour your conscientious care about the medals. (The Royal Society's
medals.) Thank God! I am only an amateur (but a much interested one) on
the subject.

It is an old notion of mine that more good is done by giving medals to
younger men in the early part of their career, than as a mere reward to men
whose scientific career is nearly finished. Whether medals ever do any
good is a question which does not concern us, as there the medals are. I
am almost inclined to think that I would rather lower the standard, and
give medals to young workers than to old ones with no ESPECIAL claims.
With regard to especial claims, I think it just deserving your attention,
that if general claims are once admitted, it opens the door to great laxity
in giving them. Think of the case of a very rich man, who aided SOLELY
with his money, but to a grand extent--or such an inconceivable prodigy as
a minister of the Crown who really cared for science. Would you give such
men medals? Perhaps medals could not be better applied than EXCLUSIVELY to
such men. I confess at present I incline to stick to especial claims which
can be put down on paper...

I am much confounded by your showing that there are not obvious instances
of my (or rather Waterhouse's) law of abnormal developments being highly
variable. I have been thinking more of your remark about the difficulty of
judging or comparing variability in plants from the great general
variability of parts. I should look at the law as more completely smashed
if you would turn in your mind for a little while for cases of great
variability of an organ, and tell me whether it is moderately easy to pick
out such cases; For IF THEY CAN BE PICKED OUT, and, notwithstanding, do not
coincide with great or abnormal development, it would be a complete
smasher. It is only beginning in your mind at the variability end of the
question instead of at the abnormality end. PERHAPS cases in which a part
is highly variable in all the species of a group should be excluded, as
possibly being something distinct, and connected with the perplexing
subject of polymorphism. Will you perfect your assistance by further
considering, for a little, the subject this way?

I have been so much interested this morning in comparing all my notes on
the variation of the several species of the genus Equus and the results of
their crossing. Taking most strictly analogous facts amongst the blessed
pigeons for my guide, I believe I can plainly see the colouring and marks
of the grandfather of the Ass, Horse, Quagga, Hemionus and Zebra, some
millions of generations ago! Should not I [have] sneer[ed] at any one who
made such a remark to me a few years ago; but my evidence seems to me so
good that I shall publish my vision at the end of my little discussion on
this genus.

I have of late inundated you with my notions, you best of friends and


Moor Park, Farnham, June 25th [1857].

My dear Hooker,

This requires no answer, but I will ask you whenever we meet. Look at
enclosed seedling gorses, especially one with the top knocked off. The
leaves succeeding the cotyledons being almost clover-like in shape, seems
to me feebly analogous to embryonic resemblances in young animals, as, for
instance, the young lion being striped. I shall ask you whether this is
so...(See 'Power of Movement in Plants,' page 414.)

Dr. Lane (The physician at Moor Park.) and wife, and mother-in-law, Lady
Drysdale, are some of the nicest people I ever met.

I return home on the 30th. Good-bye, my dear Hooker.

Ever yours,

[Here follows a group of letters, of various dates, bearing on the question
of large genera varying.]

March 11th [1858].

I was led to all this work by a remark of Fries, that the species in large
genera were more closely related to each other than in small genera; and if
this were so, seeing that varieties and species are so hardly
distinguishable, I concluded that I should find more varieties in the large
genera than in the small...Some day I hope you will read my short
discussion on the whole subject. You have done me infinite service,
whatever opinion I come to, in drawing my attention to at least the
possibility or the probability of botanists recording more varieties in the
large than in the small genera. It will be hard work for me to be candid
in coming to my conclusion.

Ever yours, most truly,

P.S.--I shall be several weeks at my present job. The work has been
turning out badly for me this morning, and I am sick at heart; and, oh! how
I do hate species and varieties.

July 14th [1857?].

...I write now to supplicate most earnestly a favour, viz., the loan of
"Boreau, Flore du centre de la France", either 1st or 2nd edition, last
best; also "Flora Ratisbonensis," by Dr. Furnrohr, in 'Naturhist.
Topographie von Regensburg, 1839.' If you can POSSIBLY spare them, will
you send them at once to the enclosed address. If you have not them, will
you send one line by return of post: as I must try whether Kippist (The
late Mr. Kippist was at this time in charge of the Linnean Society's
Library.) can anyhow find them, which I fear will be nearly impossible in
the Linnean Library, in which I know they are.

I have been making some calculations about varieties, etc., and talking
yesterday with Lubbock, he has pointed out to me the grossest blunder which
I have made in principle, and which entails two or three weeks' lost work;
and I am at a dead-lock till I have these books to go over again, and see
what the result of calculation on the right principle is. I am the most
miserable, bemuddled, stupid dog in all England, and am ready to cry with
vexation at my blindness and presumption.

Ever yours, most miserably,

Down, [July] 14th [1857].

My dear Lubbock,

You have done me the greatest possible service in helping me to clarify my
brains. If I am as muzzy on all subjects as I am on proportion and
chance,--what a book I shall produce!

I have divided the New Zealand Flora as you suggested, there are 329
species in genera of 4 and upwards, and 323 in genera of 3 and less.

The 339 species have 51 species presenting one or more varieties. The 323
species have only 37. Proportionately (339 : 323 :: 51 : 48.5) they ought
to have had 48 1/2 species presenting vars. So that the case goes as I
want it, but not strong enough, without it be general, for me to have much
confidence in. I am quite convinced yours is the right way; I had thought
of it, but should never have done it had it not been for my most fortunate
conversation with you.

Un quite shocked to find how easily I am muddled, for I had before thought
over the subject much, and concluded my way was fair. It is dreadfully

What a disgraceful blunder you have saved me from. I heartily thank you.

Ever yours,

P.S.--It is enough to make me tear up all my MS. and give up in despair.

It will take me several weeks to go over all my materials. But oh, if you
knew how thankful I am to you!

Down, August [1857].

My dear Hooker,

It is a horrid bore you cannot come soon, and I reproach myself that I did
not write sooner. How busy you must be! with such a heap of botanists at
Kew. Only think, I have just had a letter from Henslow, saying he will
come here between 11th and 15th! Is not that grand? Many thanks about
Furnrohr. I must humbly supplicate Kippist to search for it: he most
kindly got Boreau for me.

I am got extremely interested in tabulating, according to mere size of
genera, the species having any varieties marked by Greek letters or
otherwise: the result (as far as I have yet gone) seems to me one of the
most important arguments I have yet met with, that varieties are only small
species--or species only strongly marked varieties. The subject is in many
ways so very important for me; I wish much you would think of any well-
worked Floras with from 1000-2000 species, with the varieties marked. It
is good to have hair-splitters and lumpers. (Those who make many species
are the "splitters," and those who make few are the "lumpers.") I have
done, or am doing:--

Henslow......................... British Flora.
London Catalogue. H.C. Watson...

Boreau.......................... France.

Miquel.......................... Holland.

Asa Gray........................ N.U. States.

Hooker.......................... New Zealand.
Fragment of Indian Flora.

Wollaston....................... Madeira insects.

Has not Koch published a good German Flora? Does he mark varieties? Could
you send it me? Is there not some grand Russian Flora, which perhaps has
varieties marked? The Floras ought to be well known.

I am in no hurry for a few weeks. Will you turn this in your head when, if
ever, you have leisure? The subject is very important for my work, though
I clearly see MANY causes of error...

Down, February 21st [1859].

My dear Gray,

My last letter begged no favour, this one does: but it will really cost
you very little trouble to answer to me, and it will be of very GREAT
service to me, owing to a remark made to me by Hooker, which I cannot
credit, and which was suggested to him by one of my letters. He suggested
my asking you, and I told him I would not give the least hint what he
thought. I generally believe Hooker implicitly, but he is sometimes, I
think, and he confesses it, rather over critical, and his ingenuity in
discovering flaws seems to me admirable. Here is my question:--"Do you
think that good botanists in drawing up a local Flora, whether small or
large, or in making a Prodromus like De Candolle's, would almost
universally, but unintentionally and unconsciously, tend to record (i.e.,
marking with Greek letters and giving short characters) varieties in the
large or in the small genera? Or would the tendency be to record the
varieties about equally in genera of all sizes? Are you yourself conscious
on reflection that you have attended to, and recorded more carefully the
varieties in large or small, or very small genera?"

I know what fleeting and trifling things varieties very often are; but my
query applies to such as have been thought worth marking and recording. If
you could screw time to send me ever so brief an answer to this, pretty
soon, it would be a great service to me.

Yours most truly obliged,

P.S.--Do you know whether any one has ever published any remarks on the
geographical range of varieties of plants in comparison with the species to
which they are supposed to belong? I have in vain tried to get some vague
idea, and with the exception of a little information on this head given me
by Mr. Watson in a paper on Land Shells in United States, I have quite
failed; but perhaps it would be difficult for you to give me even a brief
answer on this head, and if so I am not so unreasonable, I ASSURE YOU, as
to expect it.

If you are writing to England soon, you could enclose other letters [for]
me to forward.

Please observe the question is not whether there are more or fewer
varieties in larger or smaller genera, but whether there is a stronger or
weaker tendency in the minds of botanists to RECORD such in large or small

Down, May 6th [1858].

...I send by this post my MS. on the "commonness," "range," and "variation"
of species in large and small genera. You have undertaken a horrid job in
so very kindly offering to read it, and I thank you warmly. I have just
corrected the copy, and am disappointed in finding how tough and obscure it
is; I cannot make it clearer, and at present I loathe the very sight of it.
The style of course requires further correction, and if published I must
try, but as yet see not how, to make it clearer.

If you have much to say and can have patience to consider the whole
subject, I would meet you in London on the Phil. Club day, so as to save
you the trouble of writing. For Heaven's sake, you stern and awful judge
and sceptic, remember that my conclusions may be true, notwithstanding that
Botanists may have recorded more varieties in large than in small genera.
It seems to me a mere balancing of probabilities. Again I thank you most
sincerely, but I fear you will find it a horrid job.

Ever yours,

P.S.--As usual, Hydropathy has made a man of me for a short time: I hope
the sea will do Mrs. Hooker much good.

Down, December 22nd, 1857.

My dear Sir,

I thank you for your letter of September 27th. I am extremely glad to hear
how you are attending to distribution in accordance with theoretical ideas.
I am a firm believer that without speculation there is no good and original
observation. Few travellers have attended to such points as you are now at
work on; and, indeed, the whole subject of distribution of animals is
dreadfully behind that of plants. You say that you have been somewhat
surprised at no notice having been taken of your paper in the Annals. ('On
the law that has regulated the introduction of New Species.' Ann. Nat.
Hist., 1855.) I cannot say that I am, for so very few naturalists care for
anything beyond the mere description of species. But you must not suppose
that your paper has not been attended to: two very good men, Sir C. Lyell,
and Mr. E. Blyth at Calcutta, specially called my attention to it. Though
agreeing with you on your conclusions in that paper, I believe I go much
further than you; but it is too long a subject to enter on my speculative
notions. I have not yet seen your paper on the distribution of animals in
the Aru Islands. I shall read it with the utmost interest; for I think
that the most interesting quarter of the whole globe in respect to
distribution, and I have long been very imperfectly trying to collect data
for the Malay Archipelago. I shall be quite prepared to subscribe to your
doctrine of subsidence; indeed, from the quite independent evidence of the
Coral Reefs I coloured my original map (in my Coral volume) of the Aru
Islands as one of subsidence, but got frightened and left it uncoloured.
But I can see that you are inclined to go much further than I am in regard
to the former connection of oceanic islands with continents. Ever since
poor E. Forbes propounded this doctrine it has been eagerly followed; and
Hooker elaborately discusses the former connection of all the Antarctic
Islands and New Zealand and South America. About a year ago I discussed
this subject much with Lyell and Hooker (for I shall have to treat of it),
and wrote out my arguments in opposition; but you will be glad to hear that
neither Lyell nor Hooker thought much of my arguments. Nevertheless, for
once in my life, I dare withstand the almost preternatural sagacity of

You ask about land-shells on islands far distant from continents: Madeira
has a few identical with those of Europe, and here the evidence is really
good, as some of them are sub-fossil. In the Pacific Islands there are
cases of identity, which I cannot at present persuade myself to account for
by introduction through man's agency; although Dr. Aug. Gould has
conclusively shown that many land-shells have thus been distributed over
the Pacific by man's agency. These cases of introduction are most
plaguing. Have you not found it so in the Malay Archipelago? It has
seemed to me in the lists of mammals of Timor and other islands, that
SEVERAL in all probability have been naturalised...

You ask whether I shall discuss "man." I think I shall avoid the whole
subject, as so surrounded with prejudices; though I fully admit that it is
the highest and most interesting problem for the naturalist. My work, on
which I have now been at work more or less for twenty years, will not fix
or settle anything; but I hope it will aid by giving a large collection of
facts, with one definite end. I get on very slowly, partly from ill-
health, partly from being a very slow worker. I have got about half
written; but I do not suppose I shall publish under a couple of years. I
have now been three whole months on one chapter on Hybridism!

I am astonished to see that you expect to remain out three or four years
more. What a wonderful deal you will have seen, and what interesting
areas--the grand Malay Archipelago and the richest parts of South America!
I infinitely admire and honour your zeal and courage in the good cause of
Natural Science; and you have my very sincere and cordial good wishes for
success of all kinds, and may all your theories succeed, except that on
Oceanic Islands, on which subject I will do battle to the death.

Pray believe me, my dear sir, yours very sincerely,

February 8th [1858].

...I am working very hard at my book, perhaps too hard. It will be very
big, and I am become most deeply interested in the way facts fall into
groups. I am like Croesus overwhelmed with my riches in facts, and I mean
to make my book as perfect as ever I can. I shall not go to press at
soonest for a couple of years...

February 23rd [1858].

...I was not much struck with the great Buckle, and I admired the way you
stuck up about deduction and induction. I am reading his book ('The
History of Civilisation.'), which, with much sophistry, as it seems to me,
is WONDERFULLY clever and original, and with astounding knowledge.

I saw that you admired Mrs. Farrer's 'Questa tomba' of Beethoven
thoroughly; there is something grand in her sweet tones.

Farewell. I have partly written this note to drive bee's-cells out of my
head; for I am half-mad on the subject to try to make out some simple steps
from which all the wondrous angles may result. (He had much correspondence
on this subject with the late Professor Miller of Cambridge.)

I was very glad to see Mrs. Hooker on Friday; how well she appears to be
and looks.

Forgive your intolerable but affectionate friend,

Down, April 16th [1858].

My dear Fox,

I want you to observe one point for me, on which I am extremely much
interested, and which will give you no trouble beyond keeping your eyes
open, and that is a habit I know full well that you have.

I find horses of various colours often have a spinal band or stripe of
different and darker tint than the rest of the body; rarely transverse bars
on the legs, generally on the under-side of the front legs, still more
rarely a very faint transverse shoulder-stripe like an ass.

Is there any breed of Delamere forest ponies? I have found out little
about ponies in these respects. Sir P. Egerton has, I believe, some quite
thoroughbred chestnut horses; have any of them the spinal stripe? Mouse-
coloured ponies, or rather small horses, often have spinal and leg bars.
So have dun horses (by dun I mean real colour of cream mixed with brown,
bay, or chestnut). So have sometimes chestnuts, but I have not yet got a
case of spinal stripe in chestnut, race horse, or in quite heavy cart-
horse. Any fact of this nature of such stripes in horses would be MOST
useful to me. There is a parallel case in the legs of the donkey, and I
have collected some most curious cases of stripes appearing in various
crossed equine animals. I have also a large mass of parallel facts in the
breeds of pigeons about the wing bars. I SUSPECT it will throw light on
the colour of the primeval horse. So do help me if occasion turns up...My
health has been lately very bad from overwork, and on Tuesday I go for a
fortnight's hydropathy. My work is everlasting. Farewell.

My dear Fox, I trust you are well. Farewell,

Moor Park, Farnham [April 26th, 1858].

...I have just had the innermost cockles of my heart rejoiced by a letter
from Lyell. I said to him (or he to me) that I believed from the character
of the flora of the Azores, that icebergs must have been stranded there;
and that I expected erratic boulders would be detected embedded between the
upheaved lava-beds; and I got Lyell to write to Hartung to ask, and now H.
says my question explains what had astounded him, viz., large boulders (and
some polished) of mica-schist, quartz, sandstone, etc., some embedded, and
some 40 and 50 feet above the level of the sea, so that he had inferred
that they had not been brought as ballast. Is this not beautiful?

The water-cure has done me some good, but I [am] nothing to boast of to-
day, so good-bye.

My dear friend, yours,

Moor Park, Farnham, April 26th [1858].

My dear Lyell,

I have come here for a fortnight's hydropathy, as my stomach had got, from
steady work, into a horrid state. I am extremely much obliged to you for
sending me Hartung's interesting letter. The erratic boulders are
splendid. It is a grand case of floating ice versus glaciers. He ought to
have compared the northern and southern shores of the islands. It is
eminently interesting to me, for I have written a very long chapter on the
subject, collecting briefly all the geological evidence of glacial action
in different parts of the world, and then at great length (on the theory of
species changing) I have discussed the migration and modification of plants
and animals, in sea and land, over a large part of the world. To my mind,
it throws a flood of light on the whole subject of distribution, if
combined with the modification of species. Indeed, I venture to speak with
some little confidence on this, for Hooker, about a year ago, kindly read
over my chapter, and though he then demurred gravely to the general
conclusion, I was delighted to hear a week or two ago that he was inclined
to come round pretty strongly to my views of distribution and change during
the glacial period. I had a letter from Thompson, of Calcutta, the other
day, which helps me much, as he is making out for me what heat our
temperate plants can endure. But it is too long a subject for a note; and
I have written thus only because Hartung's note has set the whole subject
afloat in my mind again. But I will write no more, for my object here is
to think about nothing, bathe much, walk much, eat much, and read much
novels. Farewell, with many thanks, and very kind remembrance to Lady

Ever yours,

Moor Park, Wednesday, April [1858].

The weather is quite delicious. Yesterday, after writing to you, I
strolled a little beyond the glade for an hour and a half, and enjoyed
myself--the fresh yet dark-green of the grand Scotch firs, the brown of the
catkins of the old birches, with their white stems, and a fringe of distant
green from the larches made an excessively pretty view. At last I fell
fast asleep on the grass, and awoke with a chorus of birds singing around
me, and squirrels running up the trees, and some woodpeckers laughing, and
it was as pleasant and rural a scene as ever I saw, and I did not care one
penny how any of the beasts or birds had been formed. I sat in the
drawing-room till after eight, and then went and read the Chief Justice's
summing up, and thought Bernard (Simon Bernard was tried in April 1858 as
an accessory to Orsini's attempt on the life of the Emperor of the French.
The verdict was "not guilty.") guilty, and then read a bit of my novel,
which is feminine, virtuous, clerical, philanthropical, and all that sort
of thing, but very decidedly flat. I say feminine, for the author is
ignorant about money matters, and not much of a lady--for she makes her men
say, "My Lady." I like Miss Craik very much, though we have some battles,
and differ on every subject. I like also the Hungarian; a thorough
gentleman, formerly attache at Paris, and then in the Austrian cavalry, and
now a pardoned exile, with broken health. He does not seem to like
Kossuth, but says, he is certain [he is] a sincere patriot, most clever and
eloquent, but weak, with no determination of character...



JUNE 18, 1858, TO NOVEMBER, 1859.

[The letters given in the present chapter tell their story with sufficient
clearness, and need but a few words of explanation. Mr. Wallace's Essay,
referred to in the first letter, bore the sub-title, 'On the Tendency of
Varieties to depart indefinitely from the Original Type,' was published in
the Linnean Society's Journal (1858, volume iii. page 53) as part of the
joint paper of "Messrs. C. Darwin and A. Wallace," of which the full title
was 'On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation
of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection.'

My father's contribution to the paper consisted of (1) Extracts from the
sketch of 1844; (2) part of a letter addressed to Dr Asa Gray, dated
September 5, 1857, and which is given above. The paper was "communicated"
to the Society by Sir Charles Lyell and Sir Joseph Hooker, in whose
prefatory letter, a clear account of the circumstances of the case is

Referring to Mr. Wallace's Essay, they wrote:

"So highly did Mr. Darwin appreciate the value of the views therein set
forth, that he proposed, in a letter to Sir Charles Lyell, to obtain Mr.
Wallace's consent to allow the Essay to be published as soon as possible.
Of this step we highly approved, provided Mr. Darwin did not withhold from
the public, as he was strongly inclined to do (in favour of Mr. Wallace),
the memoir which he had himself written on the same subject, and which, as
before stated, one of us had perused in 1844, and the contents of which we
had both of us been privy to for many years. On representing this to Mr.
Darwin, he gave us permission to make what use we thought proper of his
memoir, etc.; and in adopting our present course, of presenting it to the
Linnean Society, we have explained to him that we are not solely
considering the relative claims to priority of himself and his friend, but
the interests of science generally."]


Down, 18th [June 1858].

My dear Lyell,

Some year or so ago you recommended me to read a paper by Wallace in the
'Annals' ('Annals and Magazine of Natural History', 1855.), which had
interested you, and, as I was writing to him, I knew this would please him
much, so I told him. He has to-day sent me the enclosed, and asked me to
forward it to you. It seems to me well worth reading. Your words have
come true with a vengeance--that I should be forestalled. You said this,
when I explained to you here very briefly my views of 'Natural Selection'
depending on the struggle for existence. I never saw a more striking
coincidence; if Wallace had my MS. sketch written out in 1842, he could not
have made a better short abstract! Even his terms now stand as heads of my
chapters. Please return me the MS., which he does not say he wishes me to
publish, but I shall of course, at once write and offer to send to any
journal. So all my originality, whatever it may amount to, will be
smashed, though my book, if it will ever have any value, will not be
deteriorated; as all the labour consists in the application of the theory.

I hope you will approve of Wallace's sketch, that I may tell him what you

My dear Lyell, yours most truly,

Down, Friday [June 25, 1858].

My dear Lyell,

I am very sorry to trouble you, busy as you are, in so merely a personal an
affair; but if you will give me your deliberate opinion, you will do me as
great a service as ever man did, for I have entire confidence in your
judgment and honour...

There is nothing in Wallace's sketch which is not written out much fuller
in my sketch, copied out in 1844, and read by Hooker some dozen years ago.
About a year ago I sent a short sketch, of which I have a copy, of my views
(owing to correspondence on several points) to Asa Gray, so that I could
most truly say and prove that I take nothing from Wallace. I should be
extremely glad now to publish a sketch of my general views in about a dozen
pages or so; but I cannot persuade myself that I can do so honourably.
Wallace says nothing about publication, and I enclose his letter. But as I
had not intended to publish any sketch, can I do so honourably, because
Wallace has sent me an outline of his doctrine? I would far rather burn my
whole book, than that he or any other man should think that I had behaved
in a paltry spirit. Do you not think his having sent me this sketch ties
my hands?...If I could honourably publish, I would state that I was induced
now to publish a sketch (and I should be very glad to be permitted to say,
to follow your advice long ago given) from Wallace having sent me an
outline of my general conclusions. We differ only, [in] that I was led to
my views from what artificial selection has done for domestic animals. I
would send Wallace a copy of my letter to Asa Gray, to show him that I had
not stolen his doctrine. But I cannot tell whether to publish now would
not be base and paltry. This was my first impression, and I should have
certainly acted on it had it not been for your letter.

This is a trumpery affair to trouble you with, but you cannot tell how much
obliged I should be for your advice.

By the way, would you object to send this and your answer to Hooker to be
forwarded to me, for then I shall have the opinion of my two best and
kindest friends. This letter is miserably written, and I write it now,
that I may for a time banish the whole subject; and I am worn out with

My good dear friend forgive me. This is a trumpery letter, influenced by
trumpery feelings.

Yours most truly,

I will never trouble you or Hooker on the subject again.

Down, 26th [June, 1858].

My dear Lyell,

Forgive me for adding a P.S. to make the case as strong as possible against

Wallace might say, "You did not intend publishing an abstract of your views
till you received my communication. Is it fair to take advantage of my
having freely, though unasked, communicated to you my ideas, and thus
prevent me forestalling you?" The advantage which I should take being that
I am induced to publish from privately knowing that Wallace is in the
field. It seems hard on me that I should be thus compelled to lose my
priority of many years' standing, but I cannot feel at all sure that this
alters the justice of the case. First impressions are generally right, and
I at first thought it would be dishonourable in me now to publish.

Yours most truly,

P.S.--I have always thought you would make a first-rate Lord Chancellor;
and I now appeal to you as a Lord Chancellor.

Down, Tuesday [June 29, 1858].

...I have received your letters. I cannot think now (So soon after the

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