More Letters of Charles Darwin Volume II
Part 1 out of 14
This etext was prepared by Sue Asscher
All biographical footnotes of both volumes appear at the end of Volume II.
All other notes by Charles Darwin's editors appear in the text, in brackets
() with a Chapter/Note or Letter/Note number.
MORE LETTERS OF CHARLES DARWIN
A RECORD OF HIS WORK IN A SERIES OF HITHERTO UNPUBLISHED LETTERS
EDITED BY FRANCIS DARWIN, FELLOW OF CHRIST'S COLLEGE,
A.C. SEWARD, FELLOW OF EMMANUEL COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE
IN TWO VOLUMES
DEDICATED WITH AFFECTION AND RESPECT, TO
SIR JOSEPH HOOKER
IN REMEMBRANCE OF HIS LIFELONG FRIENDSHIP WITH CHARLES DARWIN
"You will never know how much I owe to you for your constant kindness and
CHARLES DARWIN TO SIR JOSEPH HOOKER, SEPTEMBER 14, 1862
MORE LETTERS OF CHARLES DARWIN
CHAPTER 2.VII.--GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION.
1843-1882 (Continued) (1867-1882.)
LETTER 378. J.D. HOOKER TO CHARLES DARWIN.
Kew, January 20th, 1867.
Prof. Miquel, of Utrecht, begs me to ask you for your carte, and offers his
in return. I grieve to bother you on such a subject. I am sick and tired
of this carte correspondence. I cannot conceive what Humboldt's Pyrenean
violet is: no such is mentioned in Webb, and no alpine one at all. I am
sorry I forgot to mention the stronger African affinity of the eastern
Canary Islands. Thank you for mentioning it. I cannot admit, without
further analysis, that most of the peculiar Atlantic Islands genera were
derived from Europe, and have since become extinct there. I have rather
thought that many are only altered forms of existing European genera; but
this is a very difficult point, and would require a careful study of such
genera and allies with this object in view. The subject has often
presented itself to me as a grand one for analytic botany. No doubt its
establishment would account for the community of the peculiar genera on the
several groups and islets, but whilst so many species are common we must
allow for a good deal of migration of peculiar genera too.
By Jove! I will write out next mail to the Governor of St. Helena for boxes
of earth, and you shall have them to grow. Thanks for telling me of having
suggested to me the working out of proportions of plants with irregular
flowers in islands. I thought it was a deuced deal too good an idea to
have arisen spontaneously in my block, though I did not recollect your
having done so. No doubt your suggestion was crystallised in some corner
of my sensorium. I should like to work out the point.
Have you Kerguelen Land amongst your volcanic islands? I have a curious
book of a sealer who was wrecked on the island, and who mentions a volcanic
mountain and hot springs at the S.W. end; it is called the "Wreck of the
Favourite." (378/1. "Narrative of the Wreck of the 'Favourite' on the
Island of Desolation; detailing the Adventures, Sufferings and Privations
of John Munn; an Historical Account of the Island and its Whale and Sea
Fisheries." Edited by W.B. Clarke: London, 1850.)
LETTER 379. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, March 17th, 1867.
It is a long time since I have written, but I cannot boast that I have
refrained from charity towards you, but from having lots of work...You ask
what I have been doing. Nothing but blackening proofs with corrections. I
do not believe any man in England naturally writes so vile a style as I
In your paper on "Insular Floras" (page 9) there is what I must think an
error, which I before pointed out to you: viz., you say that the plants
which are wholly distinct from those of nearest continent are often very
common instead of very rare. (379/1. "Insular Floras," pamphlet reprinted
from the "Gardeners' Chronicle," page 9: "As a general rule the species of
the mother continent are proportionally the most abundant, and cover the
greatest surface of the islands. The peculiar species are rarer, the
peculiar genera of continental affinity are rarer still; whilst the plants
having no affinity with those of the mother continent are often very
common." In a letter of March 20th, 1867, Sir Joseph explains that in the
case of the Atlantic islands it is the "peculiar genera of EUROPEAN
AFFINITY that are so rare," while Clethra, Dracaena and the Laurels, which
have no European affinity, are common.) Etty (379/2. Mr. Darwin's
daughter, now Mrs. Litchfield.), who has read your paper with great
interest, was confounded by this sentence. By the way, I have stumbled on
two old notes: one, that twenty-two species of European birds occasionally
arrive as chance wanderers to the Azores; and, secondly, that trunks of
American trees have been known to be washed on the shores of the Canary
Islands by the Gulf-stream, which returns southward from the Azores. What
poor papers those of A. Murray are in "Gardeners' Chronicle." What
conclusions he draws from a single Carabus (379/3. "Dr. Hooker on Insular
Floras" ("Gardeners' Chronicle," 1867, pages 152, 181). The reference to
the Carabidous beetle (Aplothorax) is at page 181.), and that a widely
ranging genus! He seems to me conceited; you and I are fair game
geologically, but he refers to Lyell, as if his opinion on a geological
point was worth no more than his own. I have just bought, but not read a
sentence of, Murray's big book (379/4. "Geographical Distribution of
Mammals," 1866.), second-hand, for 30s., new, so I do not envy the
publishers. It is clear to me that the man cannot reason. I have had a
very nice letter from Scott at Calcutta (379/5. See Letter 150.): he has
been making some good observations on the acclimatisation of seeds from
plants of same species, grown in different countries, and likewise on how
far European plants will stand the climate of Calcutta. He says he is
astonished how well some flourish, and he maintains, if the land were
unoccupied, several could easily cross, spreading by seed, the Tropics from
north to south, so he knows how to please me; but I have told him to be
cautious, else he will have dragons down on him...
As the Azores are only about two-and-a-half times more distant from America
(in the same latitude) than from Europe, on the occasional migration view
(especially as oceanic currents come directly from West Indies and Florida,
and heavy gales of wind blow from the same direction), a large percentage
of the flora ought to be American; as it is, we have only the Sanicula, and
at present we have no explanation of this apparent anomaly, or only a
feeble indication of an explanation in the birds of the Azores being all
LETTER 380. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, March 21st .
Many thanks for your pleasant and very amusing letter. You have been
treated shamefully by Etty and me, but now that I know the facts, the
sentence seems to me quite clear. Nevertheless, as we have both blundered,
it would be well to modify the sentence something as follows: "whilst, on
the other hand, the plants which are related to those of distant
continents, but have no affinity with those of the mother continent, are
often very common." I forget whether you explain this circumstance, but it
seems to me very mysterious (380/1. Sir Joseph Hooker wrote (March 23rd,
1867): "I see you 'smell a rat' in the matter of insular plants that are
related to those of [a] distant continent being common. Yes, my beloved
friend, let me make a clean breast of it. I only found it out after the
lecture was in print!...I have been waiting ever since to 'think it out,'
and write to you about it, coherently. I thought it best to squeeze it in,
anyhow or anywhere, rather than leave so curious a fact unnoticed.")...Do
always remember that nothing in the world gives us so much pleasure as
seeing you here whenever you can come. I chuckle over what you say of And.
Murray, but I must grapple with his book some day.
LETTER 381. TO C. LYELL.
Down, October 31st .
Mr. [J.P. Mansel] Weale sent to me from Natal a small packet of dry locust
dung, under 1/2 oz., with the statement that it is believed that they
introduce new plants into a district. (381/1. See Volume I., Letter 221.)
This statement, however, must be very doubtful. From this packet seven
plants have germinated, belonging to at least two kinds of grasses. There
is no error, for I dissected some of the seeds out of the middle of the
pellets. It deserves notice that locusts are sometimes blown far out to
sea. I caught one 370 miles from Africa, and I have heard of much greater
distances. You might like to hear the following case, as it relates to a
migratory bird belonging to the most wandering of all orders--viz. the
woodcock. (381/2. "Origin," Edition VI., page 328.) The tarsus was
firmly coated with mud, weighing when dry 9 grains, and from this the
Juncus bufonius, or toad rush, germinated. By the way, the locust case
verifies what I said in the "Origin," that many possible means of
distribution would be hereafter discovered. I quite agree about the
extreme difficulty of the distribution of land mollusca. You will have
seen in the last edition of "Origin" (381/3. "Origin," Edition IV., page
429. The reference is to MM. Marten's (381/4. For Marten's read Martins'
[the name is wrongly spelt in the "Origin of Species."]) experiments on
seeds "in a box in the actual sea.") that my observations on the effects of
sea-water have been confirmed. I still suspect that the legs of birds
which roost on the ground may be an efficient means; but I was interrupted
when going to make trials on this subject, and have never resumed it.
We shall be in London in the middle of latter part of November, when I
shall much enjoy seeing you. Emma sends her love, and many thanks for Lady
LETTER 382. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, Wednesday .
I daresay there is a great deal of truth in your remarks on the glacial
affair, but we are in a muddle, and shall never agree. I am bigoted to the
last inch, and will not yield. I cannot think how you can attach so much
weight to the physicists, seeing how Hopkins, Hennessey, Haughton, and
Thomson have enormously disagreed about the rate of cooling of the crust;
remembering Herschel's speculations about cold space (382/1. The reader
will find some account of Herschel's views in Lyell's "Principles," 1872,
Edition XI., Volume I., page 283.), and bearing in mind all the recent
speculations on change of axis, I will maintain to the death that your case
of Fernando Po and Abyssinia is worth ten times more than the belief of a
dozen physicists. (382/2. See "Origin," Edition VI., page 337: "Dr.
Hooker has also lately shown that several of the plants living on the upper
parts of the lofty island of Fernando Po and on the neighbouring Cameroon
mountains, in the Gulf of Guinea, are closely related to those in the
mountains of Abyssinia, and likewise to those of temperate Europe." Darwin
evidently means that such facts as these are better evidence of the
gigantic periods of time occupied by evolutionary changes than the
discordant conclusions of the physicists. See "Linn. Soc. Journ." Volume
VII., page 180, for Hooker's general conclusions; also Hooker and Ball's
"Marocco," Appendix F, page 421. For the case of Fernando Po see Hooker
("Linn. Soc. Journ." VI., 1861, page 3, where he sums up: "Hence the result
of comparing Clarence Peak flora [Fernando Po] with that of the African
continent is--(1) the intimate relationship with Abyssinia, of whose flora
it is a member, and from which it is separated by 1800 miles of absolutely
unexplored country; (2) the curious relationship with the East African
islands, which are still farther off; (3) the almost total dissimilarity
from the Cape flora." For Sir J.D. Hooker's general conclusions on the
Cameroon plants see "Linn. Soc. Journ." VII., page 180. More recently
equally striking cases have come to light: for instance, the existence of a
Mediterranean genus, Adenocarpus, in the Cameroons and on Kilima Njaro, and
nowhere else in Africa; and the probable migration of South African forms
along the highlands from the Natal District to Abysinnia. See Hooker,
"Linn. Soc. Journ." XIV., 1874, pages 144-5.) Your remarks on my regarding
temperate plants and disregarding the tropical plants made me at first
uncomfortable, but I soon recovered. You say that all botanists would
agree that many tropical plants could not withstand a somewhat cooler
climate. But I have come not to care at all for general beliefs without
the special facts. I have suffered too often from this: thus I found in
every book the general statement that a host of flowers were fertilised in
the bud, that seeds could not withstand salt water, etc., etc. I would far
more trust such graphic accounts as that by you of the mixed vegetation on
the Himalayas and other such accounts. And with respect to tropical plants
withstanding the slowly coming on cool period, I trust to such facts as
yours (and others) about seeds of the same species from mountains and
plains having acquired a slightly different climatal constitution. I know
all that I have said will excite in you savage contempt towards me. Do not
answer this rigmarole, but attack me to your heart's content, and to that
of mine, whenever you can come here, and may it be soon.
LETTER 383. J.D. HOOKER TO CHARLES DARWIN.
(383/1. The following extract from a letter of Sir J.D. Hooker shows the
tables reversed between the correspondents.)
Grove is disgusted at your being disquieted about W. Thomson. Tell George
from me not to sit upon you with his mathematics. When I threatened your
tropical cooling views with the facts of the physicists, you snubbed me and
the facts sweetly, over and over again; and now, because a scarecrow of x+y
has been raised on the selfsame facts, you boo-boo. Take another dose of
Huxley's penultimate G. S. Address, and send George back to college.
(383/2. Huxley's Anniversary Address to the Geological Society, 1869
("Collected Essays," VIII., page 305). This is a criticism of Lord
Kelvin's paper "On Geological Time" ("Trans. Geolog. Soc. Glasgow," III.).
At page 336 Mr. Huxley deals with Lord Kelvin's "third line of argument,
based on the temperature of the interior of the earth." This was no doubt
the point most disturbing to Mr. Darwin, since it led Lord Kelvin to ask
(as quoted by Huxley), "Are modern geologists prepared to say that all life
was killed off the earth 50,000, 100,000, or 200,000 years ago?" Mr.
Huxley, after criticising Lord Kelvin's data and conclusion, gives his
conviction that the case against Geology has broken down. With regard to
evolution, Huxley (page 328) ingeniously points out a case of circular
reasoning. "But it may be said that it is biology, and not geology, which
asks for so much time--that the succession of life demands vast intervals;
but this appears to me to be reasoning in a circle. Biology takes her time
from geology. The only reason we have for believing in the slow rate of
the change in living forms is the fact that they persist through a series
of deposits which, geology informs us, have taken a long while to make. If
the geological clock is wrong, all the naturalist will have to do is to
modify his notions of the rapidity of change accordingly.")
LETTER 384. TO J.D. HOOKER.
February 3rd .
I am now reading Miquel on "Flora of Japan" (384/1. Miquel, "Flore du
Japon": "Archives Neerlandaises" ii., 1867.), and like it: it is rather a
relief to me (though, of course, not new to you) to find so very much in
common with Asia. I wonder if A. Murray's (384/2. "Geographical
Distribution of Mammals," by Andrew Murray, 1866. See Chapter V., page 47.
See Letter 379.) notion can be correct, that a [profound] arm of the sea
penetrated the west coast of N. America, and prevented the Asiatico-Japan
element colonising that side of the continent so much as the eastern side;
or will climate suffice? I shall to the day of my death keep up my full
interest in Geographical Distribution, but I doubt whether I shall ever
have strength to come in any fuller detail than in the "Origin" to this
grand subject. In fact, I do not suppose any man could master so
comprehensive a subject as it now has become, if all kingdoms of nature are
included. I have read Murray's book, and am disappointed--though, as you
said, here and there clever thoughts occur. How strange it is, that his
view not affording the least explanation of the innumerable adaptations
everywhere to be seen apparently does not in the least trouble his mind.
One of the most curious cases which he adduces seems to me to be the two
allied fresh-water, highly peculiar porpoises in the Ganges and Indus; and
the more distantly allied form of the Amazons. Do you remember his
explanation of an arm of the sea becoming cut off, like the Caspian,
converted into fresh-water, and then divided into two lakes (by upheaval),
giving rise to two great rivers. But no light is thus thrown on the
affinity of the Amazon form. I now find from Flower's paper (384/3.
"Zoolog. Trans." VI., 1869, page 115. The toothed whales are divided into
the Physeteridae, the Delphinidae, and the Platanistidae, which latter is
placed between the two other families, and is divided into the sub-families
Iniinae and Platanistinae.) that these fresh-water porpoises form two sub-
families, making an extremely isolated and intermediate, very small family.
Hence to us they are clearly remnants of a large group; and I cannot doubt
we here have a good instance precisely like that of ganoid fishes, of a
large ancient marine group, preserved exclusively in fresh-water, where
there has been less competition, and consequently little modification.
(384/4. See Volume I., Letter 95.) What a grand fact that is which Miquel
gives of the beech not extending beyond the Caucasus, and then reappearing
in Japan, like your Himalayan Pinus, and the cedar of Lebanon. (384/5. For
Pinus read Deodar. The essential identity of the deodar and the cedar of
Lebanon was pointed out in Hooker's "Himalayan Journals" in 1854 (Volume
I., page 257.n). In the "Nat. History Review," January, 1862, the question
is more fully dealt with by him, and the distribution discussed. The
nearest point at which cedars occur is the Bulgar-dagh chain of Taurus--250
miles from Lebanon. Under the name of Cedrus atlantica the tree occurs in
mass on the borders of Tunis, and as Deodar it first appears to the east in
the cedar forests of Afghanistan. Sir J.D. Hooker supposes that, during a
period of greater cold, the cedars on the Taurus and on Lebanon lived many
thousand feet nearer the sea-level, and spread much farther to the east,
meeting similar belts of trees descending and spreading westward from
Afghanistan along the Persian mountains.) I know of nothing that gives one
such an idea of the recent mutations in the surface of the land as these
living "outlyers." In the geological sense we must, I suppose, admit that
every yard of land has been successively covered with a beech forest
between the Caucasus and Japan!
I have not yet seen (for I have not sent to the station) Falconer's works.
When you say that you sigh to think how poor your reprinted memoirs would
appear, on my soul I should like to shake you till your bones rattled for
talking such nonsense. Do you sigh over the "Insular Floras," the
Introduction to New Zealand Flora, to Australia, your Arctic Flora, and
dear Galapagos, etc., etc., etc.? In imagination I am grinding my teeth
and choking you till I put sense into you. Farewell. I have amused myself
by writing an audaciously long letter. By the way, we heard yesterday that
George has won the second Smith's Prize, which I am excessively glad of, as
the Second Wrangler by no means always succeeds. The examination consists
exclusively of [the] most difficult subjects, which such men as Stokes,
Cayley, and Adams can set.
LETTER 385. A.R. WALLACE TO CHARLES DARWIN.
March 8th, 1868.
...While writing a few pages on the northern alpine forms of plants on the
Java mountains I wanted a few cases to refer to like Teneriffe, where there
are no northern forms and scarcely any alpine. I expected the volcanoes of
Hawaii would be a good case, and asked Dr. Seemann about them. It seems a
man has lately published a list of Hawaiian plants, and the mountains swarm
with European alpine genera and some species! (385/1. "This turns out to
be inaccurate, or greatly exaggerated. There are no true alpines, and the
European genera are comparatively few. See my 'Island Life,' page 323."--
A.R.W.) Is not this most extraordinary, and a puzzler? They are, I
believe, truly oceanic islands, in the absence of mammals and the extreme
poverty of birds and insects, and they are within the Tropics.
Will not that be a hard nut for you when you come to treat in detail on
geographical distribution? I enclose Seemann's note, which please return
when you have copied the list, if of any use to you.
LETTER 386. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, February 21st .
I read yesterday the notes on Round Island (386/1. In Wallace's "Island
Life," page 410, Round Island is described as an islet "only about a mile
across, and situated about fourteen miles north-east of Mauritius."
Wallace mentions a snake, a python belonging to the peculiar and distinct
genus Casarea, as found on Round Island, and nowhere else in the world.
The palm Latania Loddigesii is quoted by Wallace as "confined to Round
Island and two other adjacent islets." See Baker's "Flora of the Mauritius
and the Seychelles." Mr. Wallace says that, judging from the soundings,
Round Island was connected with Mauritius, and that when it was "first
separated [it] would have been both much larger and much nearer the main
island.") which I owe to you. Was there ever such an enigma? If, in the
course of a week or two, you can find time to let me hear what you think, I
should very much like to hear: or we hope to be at Erasmus' on March 4th
for a week. Would there be any chance of your coming to luncheon then?
What a case it is. Palms, screw-pines, four snakes--not one being in main
island--lizards, insects, and not one land bird. But, above everything,
such a proportion of individual monocotyledons! The conditions do not seem
very different from the Tuff Galapagos Island, but, as far as I remember,
very few monocotyledons there. Then, again, the island seems to have been
elevated. I wonder much whether it stands out in the line of any oceanic
current, which does not so forcibly strike the main island? But why, oh,
why should so many monocotyledons have come there? or why should they have
survived there more than on the main island, if once connected? So, again,
I cannot conceive that four snakes should have become extinct in Mauritius
and survived on Round Island. For a moment I thought that Mauritius might
be the newer island, but the enormous degradation which the outer ring of
rocks has undergone flatly contradicts this, and the marine remains on the
summit of Round Island indicate the island to be comparatively new--unless,
indeed, they are fossil and extinct marine remains. Do tell me what you
think. There never was such an enigma. I rather lean to separate
immigration, with, of course, subsequent modification; some forms, of
course, also coming from Mauritius. Speaking of Mauritius reminds me that
I was so much pleased the day before yesterday by reading a review of a
book on the geology of St. Helena, by an officer who knew nothing of my
hurried observations, but confirms nearly all that I have said on the
general structure of the island, and on its marvellous denudation. The
geology of that island was like a novel.
LETTER 387. TO A. BLYTT.
Down, March 28th, 1876.
(387/1. The following refers to Blytt's "Essay on the Immigration of the
Norwegian Flora during Alternating Rainy and Dry Periods," Christiania,
I thank you sincerely for your kindness in having sent me your work on the
"Immigration of the Norwegian Flora," which has interested me in the
highest degree. Your view, supported as it is by various facts, appears to
me the most important contribution towards understanding the present
distribution of plants, which has appeared since Forbes' essay on the
effects of the Glacial Period.
LETTER 388. TO AUG. FOREL.
Down, June 19th, 1876.
I hope you will allow me to suggest an observation, should any opportunity
occur, on a point which has interested me for many years--viz., how do the
coleoptera which inhabit the nests of ants colonise a new nest? Mr.
Wallace, in reference to the presence of such coleoptera in Madeira,
suggests that their ova may be attached to the winged female ants, and that
these are occasionally blown across the ocean to the island. It would be
very interesting to discover whether the ova are adhesive, and whether the
female coleoptera are guided by instinct to attach them to the female ants
(388/1. Dr. Sharp is good enough to tell us that he is not aware of any
such adaptation. Broadly speaking, the distribution of the nest-inhabiting
beetles is due to co-migration with the ants, though in some cases the ants
transport the beetles. Sitaris and Meloe are beetles which live "at the
expense of bees of the genus Anthophora." The eggs are laid not in but
near the bees' nest; in the early stage the larva is active and has the
instinct to seize any hairy object near it, and in this way they are
carried by the Anthophora to the nest. Dr. Sharp states that no such
preliminary stage is known in the ant's-nest beetles. For an account of
Sitaris and Meloe, see Sharp's "Insects," II., page 272.); or whether the
larvae pass through an early stage, as with Sitaris or Meloe, or cling to
the bodies of the females. This note obviously requires no answer. I
trust that you continue your most interesting investigations on ants.
(PLATE: MR. A.R. WALLACE, 1878. From a photograph by Maull & Fox.)
LETTER 389. TO A.R. WALLACE.
(389/1. Published in "Life and Letters," III., page 230.)
(389/2. The following five letters refer to Mr. Wallace's "Geographical
Distribution of Animals," 1876.)
[Hopedene] (389/3. Mr. Hensleigh Wedgwood's house in Surrey.), June 5th,
I must have the pleasure of expressing to you my unbounded admiration of
your book (389/4. "Geographical Distribution," 1876.), though I have read
only to page 184--my object having been to do as little as possible while
resting. I feel sure that you have laid a broad and safe foundation for
all future work on Distribution. How interesting it will be to see
hereafter plants treated in strict relation to your views; and then all
insects, pulmonate molluscs and fresh-water fishes, in greater detail than
I suppose you have given to these lower animals. The point which has
interested me most, but I do not say the most valuable point, is your
protest against sinking imaginary continents in a quite reckless manner, as
was stated by Forbes, followed, alas, by Hooker, and caricatured by
Wollaston and [Andrew] Murray! By the way, the main impression that the
latter author has left on my mind is his utter want of all scientific
judgment. I have lifted up my voice against the above view with no avail,
but I have no doubt that you will succeed, owing to your new arguments and
the coloured chart. Of a special value, as it seems to me, is the
conclusion that we must determine the areas, chiefly by the nature of the
mammals. When I worked many years ago on this subject, I doubted much
whether the now-called Palaearctic and Nearctic regions ought to be
separated; and I determined if I made another region that it should be
Madagascar. I have, therefore, been able to appreciate your evidence on
these points. What progress Palaeontology has made during the last twenty
years! but if it advances at the same rate in the future, our views on the
migration and birthplace of the various groups will, I fear, be greatly
altered. I cannot feel quite easy about the Glacial period, and the
extinction of large mammals, but I must hope that you are right. I think
you will have to modify your belief about the difficulty of dispersal of
land molluscs; I was interrupted when beginning to experimentise on the
just hatched young adhering to the feet of ground-roosting birds. I differ
on one other point--viz. in the belief that there must have existed a
Tertiary Antarctic continent, from which various forms radiated to the
southern extremities of our present continents. But I could go on
scribbling forever. You have written, as I believe, a grand and memorable
work, which will last for years as the foundation for all future treatises
on Geographical Distribution.
P.S.--You have paid me the highest conceivable compliment, by what you say
of your work in relation to my chapters on distribution in the "Origin,"
and I heartily thank you for it.
LETTER 390. FROM A.R. WALLACE TO CHARLES DARWIN.
The Dell, Grays, Essex, June 7th, 1876.
Many thanks for your very kind letter. So few people will read my book at
all regularly, that a criticism from one who does so will be very welcome.
If, as I suppose, it is only to page 184 of Volume I. that you have read,
you cannot yet quite see my conclusions on the points you refer to (land
molluscs and Antarctic continent). My own conclusion fluctuated during the
progress of the book, and I have, I know, occasionally used expressions
(the relics of earlier ideas) which are not quite consistent with what I
say further on. I am positively against any Southern continent as uniting
South America with Australia or New Zealand, as you will see at Volume I.,
pages 398-403, and 459-66. My general conclusions as to distribution of
land mollusca are at Volume II., pages 522-9. (390/1. "Geographical
Distribution" II., pages 524, 525. Mr. Wallace points out that "hardly a
small island on the globe but has some land-shells peculiar to it"--and he
goes so far as to say that probably air-breathing mollusca have been
chiefly distributed by air- or water-carriage, rather than by voluntary
dispersal on the land.) When you have read these passages, and looked at
the general facts which lead to them, I shall be glad to hear if you still
differ from me.
Though, of course, present results as to the origin and migrations of
genera of mammals will have to be modified owing to new discoveries, I
cannot help thinking that much will remain unaffected, because in all
geographical and geological discoveries the great outlines are soon
reached, the details alone remain to be modified. I also think much of the
geological evidence is now so accordant with, and explanatory of,
Geographical Distribution, that it is prima facie correct in outline.
Nevertheless, such vast masses of new facts will come out in the next few
years that I quite dread the labour of incorporating them in a new edition.
I hope your health is improved; and when, quite at your leisure, you have
waded through my book, I trust you will again let me have a few lines of
friendly criticism and advice.
LETTER 391. TO A.R. WALLACE.
Down, June 17th, 1876.
I have now finished the whole of Volume I., with the same interest and
admiration as before; and I am convinced that my judgment was right and
that it is a memorable book, the basis of all future work on the subject.
I have nothing particular to say, but perhaps you would like to hear my
impressions on two or three points. Nothing has struck me more than the
admirable and convincing manner in which you treat Java. To allude to a
very trifling point, it is capital about the unadorned head of the Argus-
pheasant. (391/1. See "Descent of Man," Edition I., pages 90 and 143, for
drawings of the Argus pheasant and its markings. The ocelli on the wing
feathers were favourite objects of Mr. Darwin, and sometimes formed the
subject of the little lectures which on rare occasions he would give to a
visitor interested in Natural History. In Mr. Wallace's book the meaning
of the ocelli comes in by the way, in the explanation of Plate IX., "A
Malayan Forest with some of its peculiar Birds." Mr. Wallace (volume i.,
page 340) points out that the head of the Argus pheasant is, during the
display of the wings, concealed from the view of a spectator in front, and
this accounts for the absence of bright colour on the head--a most unusual
point in a pheasant. The case is described as a "remarkable confirmation
of Mr. Darwin's views, that gaily coloured plumes are developed in the male
bird for the purpose of attractive display." For the difference of opinion
between the two naturalists on the broad question of coloration see "Life
and Letters," III., page 123. See Letters 440-453.) How plain a thing is,
when it is once pointed out! What a wonderful case is that of Celebes: I
am glad that you have slightly modified your views with respect to Africa.
(391/2. "I think this must refer to the following passage in 'Geog. Dist.
of Animals,' Volume I., pages 286-7. 'At this period (Miocene) Madagascar
was no doubt united with Africa, and helped to form a great southern
continent which must at one time have extended eastward as far as Southern
India and Ceylon; and over the whole of this the lemurine type no doubt
prevailed.' At the time this was written I had not paid so much attention
to islands, and in my "Island Life" I have given ample reasons for my
belief that the evidence of extinct animals does not require any direct
connection between Southern India and Africa."--Note by Mr. Wallace.) And
this leads me to say that I cannot swallow the so-called continent of
Lemuria--i.e., the direct connection of Africa and Ceylon. (391/3. See
"Geographical Distribution," I., page 76. The name Lemuria was proposed by
Mr. Sclater for an imaginary submerged continent extending from Madagascar
to Ceylon and Sumatra. Mr. Wallace points out that if we confine ourselves
to facts Lemuria is reduced to Madagascar, which he makes a subdivision of
the Ethiopian Region.) The facts do not seem to me many and strong enough
to justify so immense a change of level. Moreover, Mauritius and the other
islands appear to me oceanic in character. But do not suppose that I place
my judgment on this subject on a level with yours. A wonderfully good
paper was published about a year ago on India, in the "Geological Journal,"
I think by Blanford. (391/4. H.F. Blanford "On the Age and Correlations
of the Plant-bearing Series of India and the Former Existence of an Indo-
Oceanic Continent" ("Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc." XXXI., 1875, page 519). The
name Gondwana-Land was subsequently suggested by Professor Suess for this
Indo-Oceanic continent. Since the publication of Blanford's paper, much
literature has appeared dealing with the evidence furnished by fossil
plants, etc., in favour of the existence of a vast southern continent.)
Ramsay agreed with me that it was one of the best published for a long
time. The author shows that India has been a continent with enormous
fresh-water lakes, from the Permian period to the present day. If I
remember right, he believes in a former connection with S. Africa.
I am sure that I read, some twenty to thirty years ago in a French journal,
an account of teeth of Mastodon found in Timor; but the statement may have
been an error. (391/5. In a letter to Falconer (Letter 155), January 5th,
1863, Darwin refers to the supposed occurrence of Mastodon as having been
"smashed" by Falconer.)
With respect to what you say about the colonising of New Zealand, I
somewhere have an account of a frog frozen in the ice of a Swiss glacier,
and which revived when thawed. I may add that there is an Indian toad
which can resist salt-water and haunts the seaside. Nothing ever
astonished me more than the case of the Galaxias; but it does not seem
known whether it may not be a migratory fish like the salmon. (391/6. The
only genus of the Galaxidae, a family of fresh-water fishes occurring in
New Zealand, Tasmania, and Tierra del Fuego, ranging north as far as
Queensland and Chile (Wallace's "Geographical Distribution," II., page
LETTER 392. TO A.R. WALLACE.
Down, June 25th, 1876.
I have been able to read rather more quickly of late, and have finished
your book. I have not much to say. Your careful account of the temperate
parts of South America interested me much, and all the more from knowing
something of the country. I like also much the general remarks towards the
end of the volume on the land molluscs. Now for a few criticisms.
Page 122. (392/1. The pages refer to Volume II. of Wallace's
"Geographical Distribution.")--I am surprised at your saying that "during
the whole Tertiary period North America was zoologically far more strongly
contrasted with South America than it is now." But we know hardly anything
of the latter except during the Pliocene period; and then the mastodon,
horse, several great edentata, etc., etc., were common to the north and
south. If you are right, I erred greatly in my "Journal," where I insisted
on the former close connection between the two.
Page 252 and elsewhere.--I agree thoroughly with the general principle that
a great area with many competing forms is necessary for much and high
development; but do you not extend this principle too far--I should say
much too far, considering how often several species of the same genus have
been developed on very small islands?
Page 265.--You say that the Sittidae extend to Madagascar, but there is no
number in the tabular heading. [The number (4) was erroneously omitted.--
Page 359.--Rhinochetus is entered in the tabular heading under No. 3 of the
neotropical subregions. [An error: should have been the Australian.--
Reviewers think it necessary to find some fault; and if I were to review
you, the sole point which I should blame is your not giving very numerous
references. These would save whoever follows you great labour.
Occasionally I wished myself to know the authority for certain statements,
and whether you or somebody else had originated certain subordinate views.
Take the case of a man who had collected largely on some island, for
instance St. Helena, and who wished to work out the geographical relations
of his collections: he would, I think, feel very blank at not finding in
your work precise references to all that had been written on St. Helena. I
hope you will not think me a confoundedly disagreeable fellow.
I may mention a capital essay which I received a few months ago from Axel
Blytt (392/2. Axel Blytt, "Essay on the Immigration of the Norwegian
Flora." Christiania, 1876. See Letter 387.) on the distribution of the
plants of Scandinavia; showing the high probability of there having been
secular periods alternately wet and dry, and of the important part which
they have played in distribution.
I wrote to Forel (392/3. See Letter 388.), who is always at work on ants,
and told him your views about the dispersal of the blind coleoptera, and
asked him to observe.
I spoke to Hooker about your book, and feel sure that he would like nothing
better than to consider the distribution of plants in relation to your
views; but he seemed to doubt whether he should ever have time.
And now I have done my jottings, and once again congratulate you on having
brought out so grand a work. I have been a little disappointed at the
review in "Nature." (392/4. June 22nd, 1876, pages 165 et seq.)
LETTER 393. A.R. WALLACE TO CHARLES DARWIN.
Rosehill, Dorking, July 23rd, 1876.
I should have replied sooner to your last kind and interesting letters, but
they reached me in the midst of my packing previous to removal here, and I
have only just now got my books and papers in a get-at-able state.
And first, many thanks for your close observation in detecting the two
absurd mistakes in the tabular headings.
As to the former greater distinction of the North and South American
faunas, I think I am right. The edentata being proved (as I hold) to have
been mere temporary migrants into North America in the post-Pliocene epoch,
form no part of its Tertiary fauna. Yet in South America they were so
enormously developed in the Pliocene epoch that we know, if there is any
such thing as evolution, etc., that strange ancestral forms must have
preceded them in Miocene times.
Mastodon, on the other hand, represented by one or two species only,
appears to have been a late immigrant into South America from the north.
The immense development of ungulates (in varied families, genera, and
species) in North America during the whole Tertiary epoch is, however, the
great feature which assimilates it to Europe, and contrasts it with South
America. True camels, hosts of hog-like animals, true rhinoceroses, and
hosts of ancestral horses, all bring the North American [fauna] much nearer
to the Old World than it is now. Even the horse, represented in all South
America by Equus only, was probably a temporary immigrant from the north.
As to extending too far the principle (yours) of the necessity of
comparatively large areas for the development of varied faunas, I may have
done so, but I think not. There is, I think, every probability that most
islands, etc., where a varied fauna now exists, have been once more
extensive--eg., New Zealand, Madagascar: where there is no such evidence
(e.g., Galapagos), the fauna is very restricted.
Lastly, as to want of references: I confess the justice of your criticism;
but I am dreadfully unsystematic. It is my first large work involving much
of the labour of others. I began with the intention of writing a
comparatively short sketch, enlarged it, and added to it bit by bit;
remodelled the tables, the headings, and almost everything else, more than
once, and got my materials in such confusion that it is a wonder it has not
turned out far more crooked and confused than it is. I, no doubt, ought to
have given references; but in many cases I found the information so small
and scattered, and so much had to be combined and condensed from
conflicting authorities, that I hardly knew how to refer to them or where
to leave off. Had I referred to all authors consulted for every fact, I
should have greatly increased the bulk of the book, while a large portion
of the references would be valueless in a few years, owing to later and
better authorities. My experience of referring to references has generally
been most unsatisfactory. One finds, nine times out of ten, the fact is
stated, and nothing more; or a reference to some third work not at hand!
I wish I could get into the habit of giving chapter and verse for every
fact and extract; but I am too lazy, and generally in a hurry, having to
consult books against time, when in London for a day.
However, I will try to do something to mend this matter, should I have to
prepare another edition.
I return you Forel's letter. It does not advance the question much;
neither do I think it likely that even the complete observation he thinks
necessary would be of much use, because it may well be that the ova, or
larvae, or imagos of the beetles are not carried systematically by the
ants, but only occasionally, owing to some exceptional circumstances. This
might produce a great effect in distribution, yet be so rare as never to
come under observation.
Several of your remarks in previous letters I shall carefully consider. I
know that, compared with the extent of the subject, my book is in many
parts crude and ill-considered; but I thought, and still think, it better
to make some generalisations wherever possible, as I am not at all afraid
of having to alter my views in many points of detail. I was so overwhelmed
with zoological details, that I never went through the Geological Society's
"Journal" as I ought to have done, and as I mean to do before writing more
on the subject.
LETTER 394. TO F. BUCHANAN WHITE.
(394/1. "Written in acknowledgment of a copy of a paper (published by me
in the "Proceedings of the Zoological Society") on the Hemiptera of St.
Helena, but discussing the origin of the whole fauna and flora of that
Down, September 23rd. .
I have now read your paper, and I hope that you will not think me
presumptuous in writing another line to say how excellent it seems to me.
I believe that you have largely solved the problem of the affinities of the
inhabitants of this most interesting little island, and this is a
LETTER 395. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, July 22nd .
I have just read Ball's Essay. (395/1. The late John Ball's lecture "On
the Origin of the Flora of the Alps" in the "Proceedings of the R. Geogr.
Soc." 1879. Ball argues (page 18) that "during ancient Palaeozoic times,
before the deposition of the Coal-measures, the atmosphere contained twenty
times as much carbonic acid gas and considerably less oxygen than it does
at present." He further assumes that in such an atmosphere the percentage
of CO2 in the higher mountains would be excessively different from that at
the sea-level, and appends the result of calculations which gives the
amount of CO2 at the sea-level as 100 per 10,000 by weight, at a height of
10,000 feet as 12.5 per 10,000. Darwin understands him to mean that the
Vascular Cryptogams and Gymnosperms could stand the sea-level atmosphere,
whereas the Angiosperms would only be able to exist in the higher regions
where the percentage of CO2 was small. It is not clear to us that Ball
relies so largely on the condition of the atmosphere as regards CO2. If he
does he is clearly in error, for everything we know of assimilation points
to the conclusion that 100 per 10,000 (1 per cent.) is by no means a
hurtful amount of CO2, and that it would lead to an especially vigorous
assimilation. Mountain plants would be more likely to descend to the
plains to share in the rich feast than ascend to higher regions to avoid
it. Ball draws attention to the imperfection of our plant records as
regards the floras of mountain regions. It is, he thinks, conceivable that
there existed a vegetation on the Carboniferous mountains of which no
traces have been preserved in the rocks. See "Fossil Plants as Tests of
Climate," page 40, A.C. Seward, 1892.
Since the first part of this note was written, a paper has been read (May
29th, 1902) by Dr. H.T. Brown and Mr. F. Escombe, before the Royal Society
on "The Influence of varying amounts of Carbon Dioxide in the Air on the
Photosynthetic Process of Leaves, and on the Mode of Growth of Plants."
The author's experiments included the cultivation of several dicotyledonous
plants in an atmosphere containing in one case 180 to 200 times the normal
amount of CO2, and in another between three and four times the normal
amount. The general results were practically identical in the two sets of
experiments. "All the species of flowering plants, which have been the
subject of experiment, appear to be accurately 'tuned' to an atmospheric
environment of three parts of CO2 per 10,000, and the response which they
make to slight increases in this amount are in a direction altogether
unfavourable to their growth and reproduction." The assimilation of carbon
increases with the increase in the partial pressure of the CO2. But there
seems to be a disturbance in metabolism, and the plants fail to take
advantage of the increased supply of CO2. The authors say:--"All we are
justified in concluding is, that if such atmospheric variations have
occurred since the advent of flowering plants, they must have taken place
so slowly as never to outrun the possible adaptation of the plants to their
Prof. Farmer and Mr. S.E. Chandler gave an account, at the same meeting of
the Royal Society, of their work "On the Influence of an Excess of Carbon
Dioxide in the Air on the Form and Internal Structure of Plants." The
results obtained were described as differing in a remarkable way from those
previously recorded by Teodoresco ("Rev. Gen. Botanique," II., 1899
It is hoped that Dr. Horace Brown and Mr. Escombe will extend their
experiments to Vascular Cryptogams, and thus obtain evidence bearing more
directly upon the question of an increased amount of CO2 in the atmosphere
of the Coal-period forests.) It is pretty bold. The rapid development as
far as we can judge of all the higher plants within recent geological times
is an abominable mystery. Certainly it would be a great step if we could
believe that the higher plants at first could live only at a high level;
but until it is experimentally [proved] that Cycadeae, ferns, etc., can
withstand much more carbonic acid than the higher plants, the hypothesis
seems to me far too rash. Saporta believes that there was an astonishingly
rapid development of the high plants, as soon [as] flower-frequenting
insects were developed and favoured intercrossing. I should like to see
this whole problem solved. I have fancied that perhaps there was during
long ages a small isolated continent in the S. Hemisphere which served as
the birthplace of the higher plants--but this is a wretchedly poor
conjecture. It is odd that Ball does not allude to the obvious fact that
there must have been alpine plants before the Glacial period, many of which
would have returned to the mountains after the Glacial period, when the
climate again became warm. I always accounted to myself in this manner for
the gentians, etc.
Ball ought also to have considered the alpine insects common to the Arctic
regions. I do not know how it may be with you, but my faith in the glacial
migration is not at all shaken.
LETTER 396. A.R. WALLACE TO CHARLES DARWIN.
(396/1. This letter is in reply to Mr. Darwin's criticisms on Mr.
Wallace's "Island Life," 1880.)
Pen-y-Bryn, St. Peter's Road, Croydon, November 8th, 1880.
Many thanks for your kind remarks and notes on my book. Several of the
latter will be of use to me if I have to prepare a second edition, which I
am not so sure of as you seem to be.
1. In your remark as to the doubtfulness of paucity of fossils being due
to coldness of water, I think you overlook that I am speaking only of water
in the latitude of the Alps, in Miocene and Eocene times, when icebergs and
glaciers temporarily descended into an otherwise warm sea; my theory being
that there was no Glacial epoch at that time, but merely a local and
temporary descent of the snow-line and glaciers owing to high excentricity
and winter in aphelion.
2. I cannot see the difficulty about the cessation of the Glacial period.
Between the Miocene and the Pleistocene periods geographical changes
occurred which rendered a true Glacial period possible with high
excentricity. When the high excentricity passed away the Glacial epoch
also passed away in the temperate zone; but it persists in the arctic zone,
where, during the Miocene, there were mild climates, and this is due to the
persistence of the changed geographical conditions. The present arctic
climate is itself a comparatively new and abnormal state of things, due to
As to "epoch" and "period," I use them as synonyms to avoid repeating the
3. Rate of deposition and geological time. Here no doubt I may have gone
to an extreme, but my "28 million years" may be anything under 100
millions, as I state. There is an enormous difference between mean and
maximum denudation and deposition. In the case of the great faults the
upheaval along a given line would itself facilitate the denudation (whether
sub-aerial or marine) of the upheaved portion at a rate perhaps a hundred
times above the average, just as valleys have been denuded perhaps a
hundred times faster than plains and plateaux. So local subsidence might
itself lead to very rapid deposition. Suppose a portion of the Gulf of
Mexico, near the mouths of the Mississippi, were to subside for a few
thousand years, it might receive the greater portion of the sediment from
the whole Mississippi valley, and thus form strata at a very rapid rate.
4. You quote the Pampas thistles, etc., against my statement of the
importance of preoccupation. But I am referring especially to St. Helena,
and to plants naturally introduced from the adjacent continents. Surely if
a certain number of African plants reached the island, and became modified
into a complete adaptation to its climatic conditions, they would hardly be
expelled by other African plants arriving subsequently. They might be so,
conceivably, but it does not seem probable. The cases of the Pampas, New
Zealand, Tahiti, etc., are very different, where highly developed
aggressive plants have been artificially introduced. Under nature it is
these very aggressive species that would first reach any island in their
vicinity, and, being adapted to the island and colonising it thoroughly,
would then hold their own against other plants from the same country,
mostly less aggressive in character.
I have not explained this so fully as I should have done in the book. Your
criticism is therefore useful.
5. My Chapter XXIII. is no doubt very speculative, and I cannot wonder at
your hesitating at accepting my views. To me, however, your theory of
hosts of existing species migrating over the tropical lowlands from the N.
temperate to the S. temperate zone appears more speculative and more
improbable. For where could the rich lowland equatorial flora have existed
during a period of general refrigeration sufficient for this? and what
became of the wonderfully rich Cape flora, which, if the temperature of
tropical Africa had been so recently lowered, would certainly have spread
northwards, and on the return of the heat could hardly have been driven
back into the sharply defined and very restricted area in which it now
As to the migration of plants from mountain to mountain not being so
probable as to remote islands, I think that is fully counterbalanced by two
a. The area and abundance of the mountain stations along such a range as
the Andes are immensely greater than those of the islands in the N.
Atlantic, for example.
b. The temporary occupation of mountain stations by migrating plants
(which I think I have shown to be probable) renders time a much more
important element in increasing the number and variety of the plants so
dispersed than in the case of islands, where the flora soon acquires a
fixed and endemic character, and where the number of species is necessarily
No doubt direct evidence of seeds being carried great distances through the
air is wanted, but I am afraid can hardly be obtained. Yet I feel the
greatest confidence that they are so carried. Take, for instance, the two
peculiar orchids of the Azores (Habenaria sp.) What other mode of transit
is conceivable? The whole subject is one of great difficulty, but I hope
my chapter may call attention to a hitherto neglected factor in the
distribution of plants.
Your references to the Mauritius literature are very interesting, and will
be useful to me; and I again thank you for your valuable remarks.
LETTER 397. TO J.D. HOOKER.
(397/1. The following letters were written to Sir J.D. Hooker when he was
preparing his Address as President of the Geographical Section of the
British Association at its fiftieth meeting, at York. The second letter
(August 12th) refers to an earlier letter of August 6th, published in "Life
and Letters," III., page 246.)
4, Bryanston Street, W., Saturday, 26th [February, 1881].
I should think that you might make a very interesting address on
Geographical Distribution. Could you give a little history of the subject.
I, for one, should like to read such history in petto; but I can see one
very great difficulty--that you yourself ought to figure most prominently
in it; and this you would not do, for you are just the man to treat
yourself in a dishonourable manner. I should very much like to see you
discuss some of Wallace's views, especially his ignoring the all-powerful
effects of the Glacial period with respect to alpine plants. (397/2.
"Having been kindly permitted by Mr. Francis Darwin to read this letter, I
wish to explain that the above statement applies only to my rejection of
Darwin's view that the presence of arctic and north temperate plants in the
SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE was brought about by the lowering of the temperature of
the tropical regions during the Glacial period, so that even 'the lowlands
of these great continents were everywhere tenanted under the equator by a
considerable number of temperate forms ("Origin of Species," Edition VI.,
page 338). My own views are fully explained in Chapter XXIII. of my
"Island Life," published in 1880. I quite accept all that Darwin, Hooker,
and Asa Gray have written about the effect of the Glacial epoch in bringing
about the present distribution of alpine and arctic plants in the NORTHERN
HEMISPHERE."--Note by Mr. Wallace.) I do not know what you think, but it
appears to me that he exaggerates enormously the influence of debacles or
slips and new surface of soil being exposed for the reception of wind-blown
seeds. What kinds of seeds have the plants which are common to the distant
mountain-summits in Africa? Wallace lately wrote to me about the mountain
plants of Madagascar being the same with those on mountains in Africa, and
seemed to think it proved dispersal by the wind, without apparently having
inquired what sorts of seeds the plants bore. (397/3. The affinity with
the flora of the Eastern African islands was long ago pointed out by Sir
J.D. Hooker, "Linn. Soc. Journal," VI., 1861, page 3. Speaking of the
plants of Clarence Peak in Fernando Po, he says, "The next affinity is with
Mauritius, Bourbon, and Madagascar: of the whole 76 species, 16 inhabit
these places and 8 more are closely allied to plants from there. Three
temperate species are peculiar to Clarence Peak and the East African
islands..." The facts to which Mr. Wallace called Darwin's attention are
given by Mr. J.G. Baker in "Nature," December 9th, 1880, page 125. He
mentions the Madagascar Viola, which occurs elsewhere only at 7,000 feet in
the Cameroons, at 10,000 feet in Fernando Po and in the Abyssinian
mountains; and the same thing is true of the Madagascar Geranium. In Mr.
Wallace's letter to Darwin, dated January 1st, 1881, he evidently uses the
expression "passing through the air" in contradistinction to the migration
of a species by gradual extension of its area on land. "Through the air"
would moreover include occasional modes of transport other than simple
carriage by wind: e.g., the seeds might be carried by birds, either
attached to the feathers or to the mud on their feet, or in their crops or
I suppose it would be travelling too far (though for the geographical
section the discussion ought to be far-reaching), but I should like to see
the European or northern element in the Cape of Good Hope flora discussed.
I cannot swallow Wallace's view that European plants travelled down the
Andes, tenanted the hypothetical Antarctic continent (in which I quite
believe), and thence spread to South Australia and the Cape of Good Hope.
Moseley told me not long ago that he proposed to search at Kerguelen Land
the coal beds most carefully, and was absolutely forbidden to do so by Sir
W. Thomson, who said that he would undertake the work, and he never once
visited them. This puts me in a passion. I hope that you will keep to
your intention and make an address on distribution. Though I differ so
much from Wallace, his "Island Life" seems to me a wonderful book.
Farewell. I do hope that you may have a most prosperous journey. Give my
kindest remembrances to Asa Gray.
LETTER 398. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, August 12th, 1881.
...I think that I must have expressed myself badly about Humboldt. I
should have said that he was more remarkable for his astounding knowledge
than for originality. I have always looked at him as, in fact, the founder
of the geographical distribution of organisms. I thought that I had read
that extinct fossil plants belonging to Australian forms had lately been
found in Australia, and all such cases seem to me very interesting, as
bearing on development.
I have been so astonished at the apparently sudden coming in of the higher
phanerogams, that I have sometimes fancied that development might have
slowly gone on for an immense period in some isolated continent or large
island, perhaps near the South Pole. I poured out my idle thoughts in
writing, as if I had been talking with you.
No fact has so interested me for a heap of years as your case of the plants
on the equatorial mountains of Africa; and Wallace tells me that some one
(Baker?) has described analogous cases on the mountains of Madagascar
(398/1. See Letter 397, note.)...I think that you ought to allude to these
I most fully agree that no problem is more interesting than that of the
temperate forms in the southern hemisphere, common to the north. I
remember writing about this after Wallace's book appeared, and hoping that
you would take it up. The frequency with which the drainage from the land
passes through mountain-chains seems to indicate some general law--viz.,
the successive formation of cracks and lines of elevation between the
nearest ocean and the already upraised land; but that is too big a subject
for a note.
I doubt whether any insects can be shown with any probability to have been
flower feeders before the middle of the Secondary period. Several of the
asserted cases have broken down.
Your long letter has stirred many pleasant memories of long past days, when
we had many a discussion and many a good fight.
LETTER 399. TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, August 21st, 1881.
I cannot aid you much, or at all. I should think that no one could have
thought on the modification of species without thinking of representative
species. But I feel sure that no discussion of any importance had been
published on this subject before the "Origin," for if I had known of it I
should assuredly have alluded to it in the "Origin," as I wished to gain
support from all quarters. I did not then know of Von Buch's view (alluded
to in my Historical Introduction in all the later editions). Von Buch
published his "Isles Canaries" in 1836, and he here briefly argues that
plants spread over a continent and vary, and the varieties in time come to
be species. He also argues that closely allied species have been thus
formed in the SEPARATE valleys of the Canary Islands, but not on the upper
and open parts. I could lend you Von Buch's book, if you like. I have
just consulted the passage.
I have not Baer's papers; but, as far as I remember, the subject is not
fully discussed by him.
I quite agree about Wallace's position on the ocean and continent question.
To return to geographical distribution: As far as I know, no one ever
discussed the meaning of the relation between representative species before
I did, and, as I suppose, Wallace did in his paper before the Linnean
Society. Von Buch's is the nearest approach to such discussion known to
LETTER 400. TO W.D. CRICK.
(400/1. The following letters are interesting not only for their own sake,
but because they tell the history of the last of Mr. Darwin's
publications--his letter to "Nature" on the "Dispersal of Freshwater
Bivalves," April 6th, 1882.)
Down, February 21st, 1882.
Your fact is an interesting one, and I am very much obliged to you for
communicating it to me. You speak a little doubtfully about the name of
the shell, and it would be indispensable to have this ascertained with
certainty. Do you know any good conchologist in Northampton who could name
it? If so I should be obliged if you would inform me of the result.
Also the length and breadth of the shell, and how much of leg (which leg?)
of the Dytiscus [a large water-beetle] has been caught. If you cannot get
the shell named I could take it to the British Museum when I next go to
London; but this probably will not occur for about six weeks, and you may
object to lend the specimen for so long a time.
I am inclined to think that the case would be worth communicating to
P.S.--I suppose that the animal in the shell must have been alive when the
Dytiscus was captured, otherwise the adductor muscle of the shell would
have relaxed and the shell dropped off.
LETTER 401. TO W.D. CRICK.
Down, February 25th, 1882.
I am much obliged for your clear and distinct answers to my questions. I
am sorry to trouble you, but there is one point which I do not fully
understand. Did the shell remain attached to the beetle's leg from the
18th to the 23rd, and was the beetle kept during this time in the air?
Do I understand rightly that after the shell had dropped off, both being in
water, that the beetle's antenna was again temporarily caught by the shell?
I presume that I may keep the specimen till I go to London, which will be
about the middle of next month.
I have placed the shell in fresh-water, to see if the valve will open, and
whether it is still alive, for this seems to me a very interesting point.
As the wretched beetle was still feebly alive, I have put it in a bottle
with chopped laurel leaves, that it may die an easy and quicker death. I
hope that I shall meet with your approval in doing so.
One of my sons tells me that on the coast of N. Wales the bare fishing
hooks often bring up young mussels which have seized hold of the points;
but I must make further enquiries on this head.
LETTER 402. TO W.D. CRICK.
Down, March 23rd, 1882.
I have had a most unfortunate and extraordinary accident with your shell.
I sent it by post in a strong box to Mr. Gwyn Jeffreys to be named, and
heard two days afterwards that he had started for Italy. I then wrote to
the servant in charge of his house to open the parcel (within which was a
cover stamped and directed to myself) and return it to me. This servant, I
suppose, opened the box and dropped the glass tube on a stone floor, and
perhaps put his foot on it, for the tube and shell were broken into quite
small fragments. These were returned to me with no explanation, the box
being quite uninjured. I suppose you would not care for the fragments to
be returned or the Dytiscus; but if you wish for them they shall be
returned. I am very sorry, but it has not been my fault.
It seems to me almost useless to send the fragments of the shell to the
British Museum to be named, more especially as the umbo has been lost. It
is many years since I have looked at a fresh-water shell, but I should have
said that the shell was Cyclas cornea. (402/1. It was Cyclas cornea.) Is
Sphaenium corneum a synonym of Cyclas? Perhaps you could tell by looking
to Mr. G. Jeffreys' book. If so, may we venture to call it so, or shall I
put an (?) to the name?
As soon as I hear from you I will send my letter to "Nature." Do you take
in "Nature," or shall I send you a copy?
I. Descent of Man.--II. Sexual Selection.--III. Expression of the Emotions.
2.VIII.I. DESCENT OF MAN, 1860-1882.
LETTER 403. TO C. LYELL.
Down, April 27th .
I cannot explain why, but to me it would be an infinite satisfaction to
believe that mankind will progress to such a pitch that we should [look]
back at [ourselves] as mere Barbarians. I have received proof-sheets (with
a wonderfully nice letter) of very hostile review by Andrew Murray, read
before the Royal Society of Edinburgh. (403/1. "On Mr. Darwin's Theory of
the Origin of Species," by Andrew Murray. "Proc. Roy. Soc., Edinb." Volume
IV., pages 274-91, 1862. The review concludes with the following sentence:
"I have come to be of opinion that Mr. Darwin's theory is unsound, and that
I am to be spared any collision between my inclination and my convictions"
(referring to the writer's belief in Design).) But I am tired with
answering it. Indeed I have done nothing the whole day but answer letters.
LETTER 404. TO L. HORNER.
(404/1. The following letter occurs in the "Memoir of Leonard Horner,
edited by his daughter Katherine M. Lyell," Volume II., page 300 (privately
Down, March 20th .
I am very much obliged for your Address (404/2. Mr. Horner's Anniversary
Address to the Geological Society ("Proc. Geol. Soc." XVII., 1861).) which
has interested me much...I thought that I had read up pretty well on the
antiquity of man; but you bring all the facts so well together in a
condensed focus, that the case seems much clearer to me. How curious about
the Bible! (404/3. At page lxviii. Mr. Horner points out that the
"chronology, given in the margin of our Bibles," i.e., the statement that
the world was created 4004 B.C., is the work of Archbishop Usher, and is in
no way binding on those who believe in the inspiration of Scripture. Mr.
Horner goes on (page lxx): "The retention of the marginal note in question
is by no means a matter of indifference; it is untrue, and therefore it is
mischievous." It is interesting that Archbishop Sumner and Dr. Dawes, Dean
of Hereford, wrote with approbation of Mr. Horner's views on Man. The
Archbishop says: "I have always considered the first verse of Genesis as
indicating, rather than denying, a PREADAMITE world" ("Memoir of Leonard
Horner, II., page 303).) I declare I had fancied that the date was somehow
in the Bible. You are coming out in a new light as a Biblical critic. I
must thank you for some remarks on the "Origin of Species" (404/4. Mr.
Horner (page xxxix) begins by disclaiming the qualifications of a competent
critic, and confines himself to general remarks on the philosophic candour
and freedom from dogmatism of the "Origin": he does, however, give an
opinion on the geological chapters IX. and X. As a general criticism he
quotes Mr. Huxley's article in the "Westminster Review," which may now be
read in "Collected Essays," II., page 22.) (though I suppose it is almost
as incorrect to do so as to thank a judge for a favourable verdict): what
you have said has pleased me extremely. I am the more pleased, as I would
rather have been well attacked than have been handled in the namby-pamby,
old-woman style of the cautious Oxford Professor. (404/5. This no doubt
refers to Professor Phillips' "Life on the Earth," 1860, a book founded on
the author's "Rede Lecture," given before the University of Cambridge.
Reference to this work will be found in "Life and Letters," II., pages 309,
LETTER 405. TO J.D. HOOKER.
(405/1. Mr. Wallace was, we believe, the first to treat the evolution of
Man in any detail from the point of view of Natural Selection, namely, in a
paper in the "Anthropological Review and Journal of the Anthropological
Society," May 1864, page clviii. The deep interest with which Mr. Darwin
read his copy is graphically recorded in the continuous series of
pencil-marks along the margins of the pages. His views are fully given in
Letter 406. The phrase, "in this case it is too far," refers to Mr.
Wallace's habit of speaking of the theory of Natural Selection as due
entirely to Darwin.)
May 22nd 1864.
I have now read Wallace's paper on Man, and think it MOST striking and
original and forcible. I wish he had written Lyell's chapters on Man.
(405/2. See "Life and Letters," III., page 11 et seq. for Darwin's
disappointment over Lyell's treatment of the evolutionary question in his
"Antiquity of Man"; see also page 29 for Lyell's almost pathetic words
about his own position between the discarded faith of many years and the
new one not yet assimilated. See also Letters 132, 164, 170.) I quite
agree about his high-mindedness, and have long thought so; but in this case
it is too far, and I shall tell him so. I am not sure that I fully agree
with his views about Man, but there is no doubt, in my opinion, on the
remarkable genius shown by the paper. I agree, however, to the main new
LETTER 406. TO A.R. WALLACE.
(406/1. This letter was published in "Life and Letters," III., page 89.)
Down, [May] 28th .
I am so much better that I have just finished a paper for the Linnean
Society (406/2. On the three forms, etc., of Lythrum.); but I am not yet
at all strong, I felt much disinclination to write, and therefore you must
forgive me for not having sooner thanked you for your paper on Man (406/3.
"Anthropological Review," May 1864.) received on the 11th. (406/4. Mr.
Wallace wrote, May 10th, 1864: "I send you now my little contribution to
the theory of the origin of man. I hope you will be able to agree with me.
If you are able [to write] I shall be glad to have your criticisms. I was
led to the subject by the necessity of explaining the vast mental and
cranial differences between man and the apes combined with such small
structural differences in other parts of the body,--and also by an
endeavour to account for the diversity of human races combined with man's
almost perfect stability of form during all historical epochs." But first
let me say that I have hardly ever in my life been more struck by any paper
than that on "Variation," etc., etc., in the "Reader." (406/5. "Reader,"
April 16th, 1864, an abstract of Mr. Wallace: "On the Phenomena of
Variation and Geographical Distribution as illustrated by the Papilionidae
of the Malayan Region." "Linn. Soc. Trans." XXV.) I feel sure that such
papers will do more for the spreading of our views on the modification of
species than any separate treatises on the simple subject itself. It is
really admirable; but you ought not in the Man paper to speak of the theory
as mine; it is just as much yours as mine. One correspondent has already
noticed to me your "high-minded" conduct on this head.
But now for your Man paper, about which I should like to write more than I
can. The great leading idea is quite new to me--viz. that during late ages
the mind will have been modified more than the body; yet I had got as far
as to see with you, that the struggle between the races of man depended
entirely on intellectual and moral qualities. The latter part of the paper
I can designate only as grand and most eloquently done. I have shown your
paper to two or three persons who have been here, and they have been
equally struck with it. I am not sure that I go with you on all minor
points: when reading Sir G. Grey's account of the constant battles of
Australian savages, I remember thinking that Natural Selection would come
in, and likewise with the Esquimaux, with whom the art of fishing and
managing canoes is said to be hereditary. I rather differ on the rank,
under a classificatory point of view, which you assign to man; I do not
think any character simply in excess ought ever to be used for the higher
divisions. Ants would not be separated from other hymenopterous insects,
however high the instinct of the one, and however low the instincts of the
other. With respect to the differences of race, a conjecture has occurred
to me that much may be due to the correlation of complexion (and
consequently hair) with constitution. Assume that a dusky individual best
escaped miasma, and you will readily see what I mean. I persuaded the
Director-General of the Medical Department of the Army to send printed
forms to the surgeons of all regiments in tropical countries to ascertain
this point, but I daresay I shall never get any returns. Secondly, I
suspect that a sort of sexual selection has been the most powerful means of
changing the races of man. I can show that the different races have a
widely different standard of beauty. Among savages the most powerful men
will have the pick of the women, and they will generally leave the most
descendants. I have collected a few notes on man, but I do not suppose I
shall ever use them. Do you intend to follow out your views? and if so,
would you like at some future time to have my few references and notes? I
am sure I hardly know whether they are of any value, and they are at
present in a state of chaos.
There is much more that I should like to write, but I have not strength.
P.S. Our aristocracy is handsomer (more hideous according to a Chinese or
Negro) than the middle classes, from [having the] pick of the women; but
oh, what a scheme is primogeniture for destroying Natural Selection! I
fear my letter will be barely intelligible to you.
LETTER 406* A.R. WALLACE TO CHARLES DARWIN.
5, Westbourne Grove Terrace, W., May 29th .
You are always so ready to appreciate what others do, and especially to
overestimate my desultory efforts, that I cannot be surprised at your very
kind and flattering remarks on my papers. I am glad, however, that you
have made a few critical observations (and am only sorry that you were not
well enough to make more), as that enables me to say a few words in
My great fault is haste. An idea strikes me, I think over it for a few
days, and then write away with such illustrations as occur to me while
going on. I therefore look at the subject almost solely from one point of
view. Thus, in my paper on Man (406*/1. Published in the "Anthropological
Review," 1864.), I aim solely at showing that brutes are modified in a
great variety of ways by Natural Selection, but that in none of these
particular ways can Man be modified, because of the superiority of his
intellect. I therefore no doubt overlook a few smaller points in which
Natural Selection may still act on men and brutes alike. Colour is one of
them, and I have alluded to this in correlation to constitution, in an
abstract I have made at Sclater's request for the "Natural History Review."
(406*/2. "Nat. Hist. Review," 1864, page 328.) At the same time, there is
so much evidence of migrations and displacements of races of man, and so
many cases of peoples of distinct physical characters inhabiting the same
or similar regions, and also of races of uniform physical characters
inhabiting widely dissimilar regions,--that the external characteristics of
the chief races of man must, I think, be older than his present
geographical distribution, and the modifications produced by correlation to
favourable variations of constitution be only a secondary cause of external
modification. I hope you may get the returns from the Army. (406*/3.
Measurements taken of more than one million soldiers in the United States
showed that "local influences of some kind act directly on structure."--
"Descent of Man," 1901, page 45.) They would be very interesting, but I do
not expect the results would be favourable to your view.
With regard to the constant battles of savages leading to selection of
physical superiority, I think it would be very imperfect and subject to so
many exceptions and irregularities that it would produce no definite
result. For instance: the strongest and bravest men would lead, and
expose themselves most, and would therefore be most subject to wounds and
death. And the physical energy which led to any one tribe delighting in
war, might lead to its extermination, by inducing quarrels with all
surrounding tribes and leading them to combine against it. Again, superior
cunning, stealth, and swiftness of foot, or even better weapons, would
often lead to victory as well as mere physical strength. Moreover, this
kind of more or less perpetual war goes on amongst savage peoples. It
could lead, therefore, to no differential characters, but merely to the
keeping up of a certain average standard of bodily and mental health and
So with selection of variations adapted to special habits of life as
fishing, paddling, riding, climbing, etc., etc., in different races, no
doubt it must act to some extent, but will it be ever so rigid as to induce
a definite physical modification, and can we imagine it to have had any
part in producing the distinct races that now exist?
The sexual selection you allude to will also, I think, have been equally
uncertain in its results. In the very lowest tribes there is rarely much
polygamy, and women are more or less a matter of purchase. There is also
little difference of social condition, and I think it rarely happens that
any healthy and undeformed man remains without wife and children. I very
much doubt the often-repeated assertion that our aristocracy are more
beautiful than the middle classes. I allow that they present specimens of
the highest kind of beauty, but I doubt the average. I have noticed in
country places a greater average amount of good looks among the middle
classes, and besides we unavoidably combine in our idea of beauty,
intellectual expression, and refinement of manner, which often makes the
less appear the more beautiful. Mere physical beauty--i.e. a healthy and
regular development of the body and features approaching to the mean and
type of European man, I believe is quite as frequent in one class of
society as the other, and much more frequent in rural districts than in
With regard to the rank of man in zoological classification, I fear I have
not made myself intelligible. I never meant to adopt Owen's or any other
such views, but only to point out that from one point of view he was right.
I hold that a distinct family for Man, as Huxley allows, is all that can
possibly be given him zoologically. But at the same time, if my theory is
true, that while the animals which surrounded him have been undergoing
modification in all parts of their bodies to a generic or even family
degree of difference, he has been changing almost wholly in the brain and
head--then in geological antiquity the SPECIES man may be as old as many
mammalian families, and the origin of the FAMILY man may date back to a
period when some of the ORDERS first originated.
As to the theory of Natural Selection itself, I shall always maintain it to
be actually yours and yours only. You had worked it out in details I had
never thought of, years before I had a ray of light on the subject, and my
paper would never have convinced anybody or been noticed as more than an
ingenious speculation, whereas your book has revolutionised the study of
Natural History, and carried away captive the best men of the present age.
All the merit I claim is the having been the means of inducing you to write
and publish at once. I may possibly some day go a little more into this
subject (of Man), and if I do will accept the kind offer of your notes.
I am now, however, beginning to write the "Narrative of my Travels," which
will occupy me a long time, as I hate writing narrative, and after Bates'
brilliant success rather fear to fail.
I shall introduce a few chapters on Geographical Distribution and other
such topics. Sir C. Lyell, while agreeing with my main argument on Man,
thinks I am wrong in wanting to put him back into Miocene times, and thinks
I do not appreciate the immense interval even to the later Pliocene. But I
still maintain my view, which in fact is a logical result of my theory; for
if man originated in later Pliocene, when almost all mammalia were of
closely allied species to those now living, and many even identical, then
man has not been stationary in bodily structure while animals have been
varying, and my theory will be proved to be all wrong.
In Murchison's address to the Geographical Society, just delivered, he
points out Africa as being the oldest existing land. He says there is no
evidence of its having been ever submerged during the Tertiary epoch. Here
then is evidently the place to find early man. I hope something good may
be found in Borneo, and that the means may be found to explore the still
more promising regions of tropical Africa, for we can expect nothing of man
very early in Europe.
It has given me great pleasure to find that there are symptoms of
improvement in your health. I hope you will not exert yourself too soon or
write more than is quite agreeable to you. I think I made out every word
of your letter, though it was not always easy.
(406*/4. For Wallace's later views see Letter 408, note.)
LETTER 407. TO W. TURNER.
(407/1. Sir William Turner is frequently referred to in the "Descent of
Man" as having supplied Mr. Darwin with information.)
Down, December 14th .
Your kindness when I met you at the Royal Society makes me think that you
would grant me the favour of a little information, if in your power. I am
preparing a book on Domestic Animals, and as there has been so much
discussion on the bearing of such views as I hold on Man, I have some
thoughts of adding a chapter on this subject. The point on which I want
information is in regard to any part which may be fairly called rudimentary
in comparison with the same part in the Quadrumana or any other mammal.
Now the os coccyx is rudimentary as a tail, and I am anxious to hear about
its muscles. Mr. Flower found for me in some work that its one muscle
(with striae) was supposed only to bring this bone back to its proper
position after parturition. This seems to me hardly credible. He said he
had never particularly examined this part, and when I mentioned your name,
he said you were the most likely man to give me information.
Are there any traces of other muscles? It seems strange if there are none.
Do you know how the muscles are in this part in the anthropoid apes? The
muscles of the ear in man may, I suppose, in most cases be considered as
rudimentary; and so they seem to be in the anthropoids; at least, I am
assured in the Zoological Gardens they do not erect their ears. I gather
there are a good many muscles in various parts of the body which are in
this same state: could you specify any of the best cases? The mammae in
man are rudimentary. Are there any other glands or other organs which you
can think of? I know I have no right whatever to ask all these questions,
and can only say that I should be grateful for any information. If you
tell me anything about the os coccyx or other structures, I hope that you
will permit me to quote the statement on your authority, as that would add
so greatly to its value.
Pray excuse me for troubling you, and do not hurry yourself in the least in
I do not know whether you would care to possess a copy, but I told my
publisher to send you a copy of the new edition of the "Origin" last month.
LETTER 408. TO W. TURNER.
Down, February 1st .
I thank you cordially for all your full information, and I regret much that
I have given you such great trouble at a period when your time is so much
occupied. But the facts were so valuable to me that I cannot pretend that
I am sorry that I did trouble you; and I am the less so, as from what you
say I hope you may be induced some time to write a full account of all
rudimentary structures in Man: it would be a very curious and interesting
memoir. I shall at present give only a brief abstract of the chief facts
which you have so very kindly communicated to me, and will not touch on
some of the doubtful points. I have received far more information than I
ventured to anticipate. There is one point which has occurred to me, but I
suspect there is nothing in it. If, however, there should be, perhaps you
will let me have a brief note from you, and if I do not hear I will
understand there is nothing in the notion. I have included the down on the
human body and the lanugo on the foetus as a rudimentary representation of
a hairy coat. (408/1. "Descent of Man" I., page 25; II., page 375.) I do
not know whether there is any direct functional connection between the
presence of hair and the panniculus carnosus (408/2. Professor Macalister
draws our attention to the fact that Mr. Darwin uses the term panniculus in
the generalised sense of any sheet of muscle acting on the skin.) (to put
the question under another point of view, is it the primary or aboriginal
function of the panniculus to move the dermal appendages or the skin
itself?); but both are superficial, and would perhaps together become
rudimentary. I was led to think of this by the places (as far as my
ignorance of anatomy has allowed me to judge) of the rudimentary muscular
fasciculi which you specify. Now, some persons can move the skin of their
hairy heads; and is this not effected by the panniculus? How is it with
the eyebrows? You specify the axillae and the front region of the chest
and lower part of scapulae: now, these are all hairy spots in man. On the
other hand, the neck, and as I suppose the covering of the gluteus medius,
are not hairy; so, as I said, I presume there is nothing in this notion.
If there were, the rudiments of the panniculus ought perhaps to occur more
plainly in man than in woman...
P.S.--If the skin on the head is moved by the panniculus, I think I ought
just to allude to it, as some men alone having power to move the skin shows
that the apparatus is generally rudimentary.
(408/3. In March 1869 Darwin wrote to Mr. Wallace: "I shall be intensely
curious to read the "Quarterly." I hope you have not murdered too
completely your own and my child." The reference is to Mr. Wallace's
review, in the April number of the "Quarterly," of Lyell's "Principles of
Geology" (tenth edition), and of the sixth edition of the "Elements of
Geology." Mr. Wallace points out that here for the first time Sir C. Lyell
gave up his opposition to evolution; and this leads Mr. Wallace to give a
short account of the views set forth in the "Origin of Species." In this
article Mr. Wallace makes a definite statement as to his views on the
evolution of man, which were opposed to those of Mr. Darwin. He upholds
the view that the brain of man, as well as the organs of speech, the hand
and the external form, could not have been evolved by Natural Selection
(the child he is supposed to murder). At page 391 he writes: "In the
brain of the lowest savages, and, as far as we know, of the prehistoric
races, we have an organ...little inferior in size and complexity to that of
the highest types...But the mental requirements of the lowest savages, such
as the Australians or the Andaman Islanders, are very little above those of
many animals...How, then, was an organ developed so far beyond the needs of
its possessor? Natural Selection could only have endowed the savage with a
brain a little superior to that of an ape, whereas he actually possesses
one but very little inferior to that of the average members of our learned
societies." This passage is marked in Mr. Darwin's copy with a triply
underlined "No," and with a shower of notes of exclamation. It was
probably the first occasion on which he realised the extent of this great
and striking divergence in opinion between himself and his colleague.
He had, however, some indication of it in Wallace's paper on Man,
"Anthropological Review," 1864. (See Letter 406). He wrote to Lyell, May
4th, 1869, "I was dreadfully disappointed about Man; it seems to me
incredibly strange." And to Mr. Wallace, April 14th, 1869, "If you had not
told me, I should have thought that [your remarks on Man] had been added by
some one else. As you expected, I differ grievously from you, and I am
very sorry for it."
LETTER 409. TO T.H. HUXLEY.
Down, Thursday, February 21st [1868-70?].
I received the Jermyn Street programme, but have hardly yet considered it,
for I was all day on the sofa on Tuesday and Wednesday. Bad though I was,
I thought with constant pleasure of your very great kindness in offering to
read the proofs of my essay on man. I do not know whether I said anything
which might have appeared like a hint, but I assure you that such a thought
had never even momentarily passed through my mind. Your offer has just
made all the difference, that I can now write, whether or no my essay is
ever printed, with a feeling of satisfaction instead of vague dread.
Beg my colleague, Mrs. Huxley, not to forget the corrugator supercilii: it
will not be easy to catch the exact moment when the child is on the point
of crying, and is struggling against the wrinkling up [of] its little eyes;
for then I should expect the corrugator, from being little under the
command of the will, would come into play in checking or stopping the
wrinkling. An explosion of tears would tell nothing.
LETTER 410. TO FRANCIS GALTON.
Down, December 23rd [1870?].
I have only read about fifty pages of your book (to the Judges) (410/1.
"Hereditary Genius: an Inquiry into its Laws and Consequences," by Francis
Galton, London, 1869. "The Judges of England between 1660 and 1865" is the
heading of a section of this work (page 55). See "Descent of Man" (1901),
page 41.), but I must exhale myself, else something will go wrong in my
inside. I do not think I ever in all my life read anything more
interesting and original. And how well and clearly you put every point!
George, who has finished the book, and who expressed himself just in the
same terms, tells me the earlier chapters are nothing in interest to the
later ones! It will take me some time to get to these later chapters, as
it is read aloud to me by my wife, who is also much interested. You have
made a convert of an opponent in one sense, for I have always maintained
that, excepting fools, men did not differ much in intellect, only in zeal
and hard work; and I still think [this] is an eminently important
difference. I congratulate you on producing what I am convinced will prove
a memorable work. I look forward with intense interest to each reading,
but it sets me thinking so much that I find it very hard work; but that is
wholly the fault of my brain, and not of your beautifully clear style.
LETTER 411. TO W.R. GREG.
March 21st [1871?].
Many thanks for your note. I am very glad indeed to read remarks made by a
man who possesses such varied and odd knowledge as you do, and who is so
acute a reasoner. I have no doubt that you will detect blunders of many
kinds in my book. (411/1. "The Descent of Man.") Your MS. on the
proportion of the sexes at birth seems to me extremely curious, and I hope
that some day you will publish it. It certainly appears that the males are
decreasing in the London districts, and a most strange fact it is. Mr.
Graham, however, I observe in a note enclosed, does not seem inclined to
admit your conclusion. I have never much considered the subject of the
causes of the proportion. When I reflected on queen bees producing only
males when not impregnated, whilst some other parthenogenetic insects
produced, as far as known, only females, the subject seemed to me
hopelessly obscure. It is, however, pretty clear that you have taken the
one path for its solution. I wished only to ascertain how far with various
animals the males exceeded the females, and I have given all the facts
which I could collect. As far as I know, no other data have been
published. The equality of the sexes with race-horses is surprising. My
remarks on mankind are quite superficial, and given merely as some sort of
standard for comparison with the lower animals. M. Thury is the writer who
makes the sex depend on the period of impregnation. His pamphlet was sent
me from Geneva. (411/2. "Memoire sur la loi de Production des Sexes," 2nd
edition, 1863 (a pamphlet published by Cherbuliez, Geneva).) I can lend it
you if you like. I subsequently read an account of experiments which
convinced me that M. Thury was in error; but I cannot remember what they
were, only the impression that I might safely banish this view from my
mind. Your remarks on the less ratio of males in illegitimate births
strikes me as the most doubtful point in your MS.--requiring two
assumptions, viz. that the fathers in such cases are relatively too young,
and that the result is the same as when the father is relatively too old.
My son, George, who is a mathematician, and who read your MS. with much
interest, has suggested, as telling in the right direction, but whether
sufficient is another question, that many more illegitimate children are
murdered and concealed shortly after birth, than in the case of legitimate
children; and as many more males than females die during the first few days
of life, the census of illegitimate children practically applies to an
older age than with legitimate children, and would thus slightly reduce the
excess of males. This might possibly be worth consideration. By a strange
coincidence a stranger writes to me this day, making the very same
I am quite delighted to hear that my book interests you enough to lead you
to read it with some care.
LETTER 412. TO FRANCIS GALTON.
Down, January 4th, 1873.
Very many thanks for "Fraser" (412/1. "Hereditary Improvement," by Francis
Galton, "Fraser's Magazine," January 1873, page 116.): I have been greatly
interested by your article. The idea of castes being spontaneously formed
and leading to intermarriage (412/2. "My object is to build up, by the
mere process of extensive enquiry and publication of results, a sentiment
of caste among those who are naturally gifted, and to procure for them,
before the system has fairly taken root, such moderate social favours and
preference, no more no less, as would seem reasonable to those who were
justly informed of the precise measure of their importance to the nation"
(loc. cit., page 123).) is quite new to me, and I should suppose to others.
I am not, however, so hopeful as you. Your proposed Society (412/3. Mr.
Galton proposes that "Some society should undertake three scientific
services: the first, by means of a moderate number of influential local
agencies, to institute continuous enquiries into the facts of human
heredity; the second to be a centre of information on heredity for breeders
of animals and plants; and the third to discuss and classify the facts that
were collected" (loc. cit., page 124).) would have awfully laborious work,
and I doubt whether you could ever get efficient workers. As it is, there
is much concealment of insanity and wickedness in families; and there would
be more if there was a register. But the greatest difficulty, I think,
would be in deciding who deserved to be on the register. How few are above
mediocrity in health, strength, morals and intellect; and how difficult to
judge on these latter heads. As far as I see, within the same large
superior family, only a few of the children would deserve to be on the
register; and these would naturally stick to their own families, so that
the superior children of distinct families would have no good chance of
associating much and forming a caste. Though I see so much difficulty, the
object seems a grand one; and you have pointed out the sole feasible, yet I
fear utopian, plan of procedure in improving the human race. I should be
inclined to trust more (and this is part of your plan) to disseminating and
insisting on the importance of the all-important principle of inheritance.
I will make one or two minor criticisms. Is it not possible that the
inhabitants of malarious countries owe their degraded and miserable
appearance to the bad atmosphere, though this does not kill them, rather
than to "economy of structure"? I do not see that an orthognathous face
would cost more than a prognathous face; or a good morale than a bad one.
That is a fine simile (page 119) about the chip of a statue (412/4.
"...The life of the individual is treated as of absolutely no importance,
while the race is as everything; Nature being wholly careless of the former
except as a contributor to the maintenance and evolution of the latter.
Myriads of inchoate lives are produced in what, to our best judgment, seems
a wasteful and reckless manner, in order that a few selected specimens may
survive, and be the parents of the next generation. It is as though
individual lives were of no more consideration than are the senseless chips
which fall from the chisel of the artist who is elaborating some ideal form
from a rude block" (loc. cit., page 119).); but surely Nature does not more
carefully regard races than individuals, as (I believe I have misunderstood
what you mean) evidenced by the multitude of races and species which have
become extinct. Would it not be truer to say that Nature cares only for
the superior individuals and then makes her new and better races? But we
ought both to shudder in using so freely the word "Nature" (412/5. See
Letter 190, Volume I.) after what De Candolle has said. Again let me thank
you for the interest received in reading your essay.
Many thanks about the rabbits; your letter has been sent to Balfour: he is
a very clever young man, and I believe owes his cleverness to Salisbury
blood. This letter will not be worth your deciphering. I have almost
finished Greg's "Enigmas." (412/6. "The Enigmas of Life," 1872.) It is
grand poetry--but too Utopian and too full of faith for me; so that I have
been rather disappointed. What do you think about it? He must be a
I doubt whether you have made clear how the families on the Register are to
be kept pure or superior, and how they are to be in course of time still
LETTER 413. TO MAX MULLER.
Down, July 3rd, 1873.
(413/1. In June, 1873, Professor Max Muller sent to Mr. Darwin a copy of
the sixth edition of his "Lectures on the Science of Language" (413/2. A
reference to the first edition occurs in "Life and Letters," II., page
390.), with a letter concluding with these words: "I venture to send you
my three lectures, trusting that, though I differ from some of your
conclusions, you will believe me to be one of your diligent readers and
I am much obliged for your kind note and present of your lectures. I am
extremely glad to have received them from you, and I had intended ordering
I feel quite sure from what I have read in your works that you would never
say anything of an honest adversary to which he would have any just right
to object; and as for myself, you have often spoken highly of me--perhaps
more highly than I deserve.
As far as language is concerned I am not worthy to be your adversary, as I
know extremely little about it, and that little learnt from very few books.
I should have been glad to have avoided the whole subject, but was
compelled to take it up as well as I could. He who is fully convinced, as
I am, that man is descended from some lower animal, is almost forced to
believe a priori that articulate language has been developed from
inarticulate cries (413/3. "Descent of Man" (1901), page 133.); and he is
therefore hardly a fair judge of the arguments opposed to this belief.
(413/4. In October, 1875, Mr. Darwin again wrote cordially to Professor
Max Muller on receipt of a pamphlet entitled "In Self-Defence" (413/5.
Printed in "Chips from a German Workshop," Volume IV., 1875, page 473.),
which is a reply to Professor Whitney's "Darwinism and Language" in the
"North American Review," July 1874. This essay had been brought before the
"general reader" in England by an article of Mr. G. Darwin's in the
"Contemporary Review," November, 1874, page 894, entitled, "Professor
Whitney on the Origin of Language." The article was followed by "My reply
to Mr. Darwin," contributed by Professor Muller to the "Contemporary
Review," January, 1875, page 305.)
LETTER 414. G. ROLLESTON TO CHARLES DARWIN.
British Association, Bristol, August 30th, 1875.
(414/1. In the first edition of the "Descent of Man" Mr. Darwin wrote:
"It is a more curious fact that savages did not formerly waste away, as Mr.
Bagehot has remarked, before the classical nations, as they now do before
modern civilised nations...(414/2. Bagehot, "Physics and Politics,"
"Fortnightly Review," April, 1868, page 455.) In the second edition (page
183) the statement remains, but a mass of evidence (pages 183-92) is added,
to which reference occurs in the reply to the following letter.)
At pages 4-5 of the enclosed Address (414/3. "British Association
Reports," 1875, page 142.) you will find that I have controverted Mr.
Bagehot's view as to the extinction of the barbarians in the times of
classical antiquity, as also the view of Poppig as to there being some
occult influence exercised by civilisation to the disadvantage of savagery
when the two come into contact.
I write to say that I took up this subject without any wish to impugn any
views of yours as such, but with the desire of having my say upon certain
anti-sanitarian transactions and malfeasance of which I had had a painful
On reading however what I said, and had written somewhat hastily, it has
struck me that what I have said might bear the former interpretation in the
eyes of persons who might not read other papers of mine, and indeed other
parts of the same Address, in which my adhesion, whatever it is worth, to
your views in general is plainly enough implied. I have ventured to write
this explanation to you for several reasons.
LETTER 415. TO G. ROLLESTON.
Bassett, Southampton, September 2nd .
I am much obliged to you for having sent me your Address, which has
interested me greatly. I quite subscribe to what you say about Mr.
Bagehot's striking remark, and wish I had not quoted it. I can perceive no
sort of reflection or blame on anything which I have written, and I know
well that I deserve many a good slap on the face. The decrease of savage
populations interests me much, and I should like you some time to look at a
discussion on this subject which I have introduced in the second edition of
the "Descent of Man," and which you can find (for I have no copy here) in
the list of additions. The facts have convinced me that lessened fertility
and the poor constitution of the children is one chief cause of such
decrease; and that the case is strictly parallel to the sterility of many
wild animals when made captive, the civilisation of savages and the
captivity of wild animals leading to the same result.
LETTER 416. TO ERNST KRAUSE.
Down, June 30th, 1877.
I have been much interested by your able argument against the belief that
the sense of colour has been recently acquired by man. (416/1. See
"Kosmos," June 1877, page 264, a review of Dr. Hugo Magnus' "Die
Geschichtliche Entwickelung des Farbensinnes," 1877. The first part is
chiefly an account of the author's views; Dr. Krause's argument begins at
page 269. The interest felt by Mr. Darwin is recorded by the numerous
pencil-marks on the margin of his copy.) The following observation bears
on this subject.
I attended carefully to the mental development of my young children, and
with two, or as I believe three of them, soon after they had come to the
age when they knew the names of all common objects, I was startled by
observing that they seemed quite incapable of affixing the right names to
the colours in coloured engravings, although I tried repeatedly to teach
them. I distinctly remember declaring that they were colour-blind, but
this afterwards proved a groundless fear.
On communicating this fact to another person he told me that he had
observed a nearly similar case. Therefore the difficulty which young
children experience either in distinguishing, or more probably in naming
colours, seems to deserve further investigation. I will add that it
formerly appeared to me that the gustatory sense, at least in the case of
my own infants, and very young children, differed from that of grown-up
persons. This was shown by their not disliking rhubarb mixed with a little
sugar and milk, which is to us abominably nauseous; and in their strong
taste for the sourest and most austere fruits, such as unripe gooseberries
(PLATE: G.J. ROMANES, 1891. Elliott & Fry, photo. Walker and Cockerell,
LETTER 417. TO G.J. ROMANES.
[Barlaston], August 20th, 1878.
(417/1. Part of this letter (here omitted) is published in "Life and
Letters," III., page 225, and the whole in the "Life and Letters of G.J.
Romanes," page 74. The lecture referred to was on animal intelligence, and
was given at the Dublin meeting of the British Association.)
...The sole fault which I find with your lecture is that it is too short,
and this is a rare fault. It strikes me as admirably clear and
interesting. I meant to have remonstrated that you had not discussed
sufficiently the necessity of signs for the formation of abstract ideas of
any complexity, and then I came on the discussion on deaf mutes. This
latter seems to me one of the richest of all the mines, and is worth
working carefully for years, and very deeply. I should like to read whole
chapters on this one head, and others on the minds of the higher idiots.
Nothing can be better, as it seems to me, than your several lines or
sources of evidence, and the manner in which you have arranged the whole
subject. Your book will assuredly be worth years of hard labour; and stick
to your subject. By the way, I was pleased at your discussing the
selection of varying instincts or mental tendencies; for I have often been
disappointed by no one having ever noticed this notion.
I have just finished "La Psychologie, son Present et son Avenir," 1876, by
Delboeuf (a mathematician and physicist of Belgium) in about a hundred
pages. It has interested me a good deal, but why I hardly know; it is
rather like Herbert Spencer. If you do not know it, and would care to see
it, send me a postcard.
Thank Heaven, we return home on Thursday, and I shall be able to go on with
my humdrum work, and that makes me forget my daily discomfort.
Have you ever thought of keeping a young monkey, so as to observe its mind?
At a house where we have been staying there were Sir A. and Lady Hobhouse,
not long ago returned from India, and she and he kept [a] young monkey and
told me some curious particulars. One was that her monkey was very fond of
looking through her eyeglass at objects, and moved the glass nearer and
further so as to vary the focus. This struck me, as Frank's son, nearly
two years old (and we think much of his intellect!!) is very fond of
looking through my pocket lens, and I have quite in vain endeavoured to
teach him not to put the glass close down on the object, but he always will
do so. Therefore I conclude that a child under two years is inferior in
intellect to a monkey.
Once again I heartily congratulate you on your well-earned present, and I
feel assured, grand future success.
(417/2. Later in the year Mr. Darwin wrote: "I am delighted to hear that
you mean to work the comparative Psychology well. I thought your letter to
the "Times" very good indeed. (417/3. Romanes wrote to the "Times" August
28th, 1878, expressing his views regarding the distinction between man and
the lower animals, in reply to criticisms contained in a leading article in
the "Times" of August 23rd on his lecture at the Dublin meeting of the
British Association.) Bartlett, at the Zoological Gardens, I feel sure,
would advise you infinitely better about hardiness, intellect, price, etc.,
of monkey than F. Buckland; but with him it must be viva voce.
"Frank says you ought to keep a idiot, a deaf mute, a monkey, and a baby in
LETTER 418. TO G.A. GASKELL.
Down, November 15th, 1878.
(418/1. This letter has been published in Clapperton's "Scientific
Meliorism," 1885, page 340, together with Mr. Gaskell's letter of November
13th (page 337). Mr. Gaskell's laws are given in his letter of November
13th, 1878. They are:--
I. The Organological Law:
Natural Selection, or the Survival of the Fittest.
II. The Sociological Law:
Sympathetic Selection, or Indiscriminate Survival.
III. The Moral Law:
Social Selection, or the Birth of the Fittest.)
Your letter seems to me very interesting and clearly expressed, and I hope
that you are in the right. Your second law appears to be largely acted on
in all civilised countries, and I just alluded to it in my remarks to the
effect (as far as I remember) that the evil which would follow by checking
benevolence and sympathy in not fostering the weak and diseased would be
greater than by allowing them to survive and then to procreate.
With regard to your third law, I do not know whether you have read an
article (I forget when published) by F. Galton, in which he proposes
certificates of health, etc., for marriage, and that the best should be
matched. I have lately been led to reflect a little, (for, now that I am
growing old, my work has become [word indecipherable] special) on the
artificial checks, but doubt greatly whether such would be advantageous to
the world at large at present, however it may be in the distant future.
Suppose that such checks had been in action during the last two or three
centuries, or even for a shorter time in Britain, what a difference it
would have made in the world, when we consider America, Australia, New
Zealand, and S. Africa! No words can exaggerate the importance, in my
opinion, of our colonisation for the future history of the world.
Back to Full Books