The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Volume I
Part 7 out of 10
illustrations and maps appear to me the best I have ever seen; the style
seems to me everywhere perfectly clear (how rare a virtue), and some
passages really eloquent. How excellently you have described the upper
valleys, and how detestable their climate; I felt quite anxious on the
slopes of Kinchin that dreadful snowy night. Nothing has astonished me
more than your physical strength; and all those devilish bridges! Well,
thank goodness! It is not VERY likely that I shall ever go to the
Himalaya. Much in a scientific point of view has interested me, especially
all about those wonderful moraines. I certainly think I quite realise the
valleys, more vividly perhaps from having seen the valleys of Tahiti. I
cannot doubt that the Himalaya owe almost all their contour to running
water, and that they have been subjected to such action longer than any
mountains (as yet described) in the world. What a contrast with the Andes!
Perhaps you would like to hear the very little that I can say per contra,
and this only applied to the beginning, in which (as it struck me) there
was not FLOW enough till you get to Mirzapore on the Ganges (but the Thugs
were MOST interesting), where the stream seemed to carry you on more
equably with longer sentences and longer facts and discussions, etc. In
another edition (and I am delighted to hear that Murray has sold all off),
I would consider whether this part could not be condensed. Even if the
meteorology was put in foot-notes, I think it would be an improvement. All
the world is against me, but it makes me very unhappy to see the Latin
names all in Italics, and all mingled with English names in Roman type; but
I must bear this burden, for all men of Science seem to think it would
corrupt the Latin to dress it up in the same type as poor old English.
Well, I am very proud of MY book; but there is one bore, that I do not much
like asking people whether they have seen it, and how they like it, for I
feel so much identified with it, that such questions become rather
personal. Hence, I cannot tell you the opinion of others. You will have
seen a fairly good review in the 'Athenaeum.'
What capital news from Tasmania: it really is a very remarkable and
creditable fact to the Colony. (This refers to an unsolicited grant by the
Colonial Government towards the expenses of Sir J. Hooker's 'Flora of
Tasmania.') I am always building veritable castles in the air about
emigrating, and Tasmania has been my head-quarters of late; so that I feel
very proud of my adopted country: is really a very singular and delightful
fact, contrasted with the slight appreciation of science in the old
country. I thank you heartily for your letter this morning, and for all
the gratification your Dedication has given me; I could not help thinking
how much -- would despise you for not having dedicated it to some great
man, who would have done you and it some good in the eyes of the world.
Ah, my dear Hooker, you were very soft on this head, and justify what I say
about not caring enough for your own fame. I wish I was in every way more
worthy of your good opinion. Farewell. How pleasantly Mrs. Hooker and you
must rest from one of your many labours...
Again farewell: I have written a wonderfully long letter. Adios, and God
My dear Hooker, ever yours,
P.S.--I have just looked over my rambling letter; I see that I have not at
all expressed my strong admiration at the amount of scientific work, in so
many branches, which you have effected. It is really grand. You have a
right to rest on your oars; or even to say, if it so pleases you, that
"your meridian is past;" but well assured do I feel that the day of your
reputation and general recognition has only just begun to dawn.
[In September, 1854, his Cirripede work was practically finished, and he
wrote to Dr. Hooker:
"I have been frittering away my time for the last several weeks in a
wearisome manner, partly idleness, and odds and ends, and sending ten
thousand Barnacles out of the house all over the world. But I shall now in
a day or two begin to look over my old notes on species. What a deal I
shall have to discuss with you; I shall have to look sharp that I do not
'progress' into one of the greatest bores in life, to the few like you with
lots of knowledge."]
THE GROWTH OF THE 'ORIGIN OF SPECIES.'
[The growth of the 'Origin of Species' has been briefly described in my
father's words (above). The letters given in the present and following
chapters will illustrate and amplify the history thus sketched out.
It is clear that in the early part of the voyage of the "Beagle" he did not
feel it inconsistent with his views to express himself in thoroughly
orthodox language as to the genesis of new species. Thus in 1834 he wrote
(MS. Journals, page 468.) at Valparaiso: "I have already found beds of
recent shells yet retaining their colour at an elevation of 1300 feet, and
beneath, the level country is strewn with them. It seems not a very
improbable conjecture that the want of animals may be owing to none having
been created since this country was raised from the sea."
This passage does not occur in the published 'Journal,' the last proof of
which was finished in 1837; and this fact harmonizes with the change we
know to have been proceeding in his views. But in the published 'Journal'
we find passages which show a point of view more in accordance with
orthodox theological natural history than with his later views. Thus, in
speaking of the birds Synallaxis and Scytalopus (1st edition page 353; 2nd
edition page 289), he says: "When finding, as in this case, any animal
which seems to play so insignificant a part in the great scheme of nature,
one is apt to wonder why a distinct species should have been created."
A comparison of the two editions of the 'Journal' is instructive, as giving
some idea of the development of his views on evolution. It does not give
us a true index of the mass of conjecture which was taking shape in his
mind, but it shows us that he felt sure enough of the truth of his belief
to allow a stronger tinge of evolution to appear in the second edition. He
has mentioned in the Autobiography that it was not until he read Malthus
that he got a clear view of the potency of natural selection. This was in
1838--a year after he finished the first edition (it was not published
until 1839), and five years before the second edition was written (1845).
Thus the turning-point in the formation of his theory took place between
the writing of the two editions.
I will first give a few passages which are practically the same in the two
editions, and which are, therefore, chiefly of interest as illustrating his
frame of mind in 1837.
The case of the two species of Molothrus (1st edition page 61; 2nd edition
page 53) must have been one of the earliest instances noticed by him of the
existence of representative species--a phenomenon which we know
('Autobiography,') struck him deeply. The discussion on introduced animals
(1st edition page 139; 2nd edition page 120) shows how much he was
impressed by the complicated interdependence of the inhabitants of a given
An analogous point of view is given in the discussion (1st edition page 98;
2nd edition page 85) of the mistaken belief that large animals require, for
their support, a luxuriant vegetation; the incorrectness of this view is
illustrated by the comparison of the fauna of South Africa and South
America, and the vegetation of the two continents. The interest of the
discussion is that it shows clearly our a priori ignorance of the
conditions of life suitable to any organism.
There is a passage which has been more than once quoted as bearing on the
origin of his views. It is where he discusses the striking difference
between the species of mice on the east and west of the Andes (1st edition
page 399): "Unless we suppose the same species to have been created in two
different countries, we ought not to expect any closer similarity between
the organic beings on the opposite sides of the Andes than on shores
separated by a broad strait of the sea." In the 2nd edition page 327, the
passage is almost verbally identical, and is practically the same.
There are other passages again which are more strongly evolutionary in the
2nd edition, but otherwise are similar to the corresponding passages in the
1st edition. Thus, in describing the blind Tuco-tuco (1st edition page 60;
2nd edition page 52), in the first edition he makes no allusion to what
Lamarck might have thought, nor is the instance used as an example of
modification, as in the edition of 1845.
A striking passage occurs in the 2nd edition (page 173) on the relationship
between the "extinct edentata and the living sloths, ant-eaters, and
"This wonderful relationship in the same continent between the dead and the
living, will, I do not doubt, hereafter throw more light on the appearance
of organic beings on our earth, and their disappearance from it, than any
other class of facts."
This sentence does not occur in the 1st edition, but he was evidently
profoundly struck by the disappearance of the gigantic forerunners of the
present animals. The difference between the discussions in the two
editions is most instructive. In both, our ignorance of the conditions of
life is insisted on, but in the second edition, the discussion is made to
led up to a strong statement of the intensity of the struggle for life.
Then follows a comparison between rarity (In the second edition, page 146,
the destruction of Niata cattle by droughts is given as a good example of
our ignorance of the causes of rarity or extinction. The passage does not
occur in the first edition.) and extinction, which introduces the idea that
the preservation and dominance of existing species depend on the degree in
which they are adapted to surrounding conditions. In the first edition, he
is merely "tempted to believe in such simple relations as variation of
climate and food, or introduction of enemies, or the increased number of
other species, as the cause of the succession of races." But finally (1st
edition) he ends the chapter by comparing the extinction of a species to
the exhaustion and disappearance of varieties of fruit-trees: as if he
thought that a mysterious term of life was impressed on each species at its
The difference of treatment of the Galapagos problem is of some interest.
In the earlier book, the American type of the productions of the islands is
noticed, as is the fact that the different islands possess forms specially
their own, but the importance of the whole problem is not so strongly put
forward. Thus, in the first edition, he merely says:--
"This similarity of type between distant islands and continents, while the
species are distinct, has scarcely been sufficiently noticed. The
circumstance would be explained, according to the views of some authors, by
saying that the creative power had acted according to the same law over a
wide area."--(1st edition page 474.)
This passage is not given in the second edition, and the generalisations on
geographical distribution are much wider and fuller. Thus he asks:--
"Why were their aboriginal inhabitants, associated...in different
proportions both in kind and number from those on the Continent, and
therefore acting on each other in a different manner--why were they created
on American types of organisation?"--(2nd edition page 393.)
The same difference of treatment is shown elsewhere in this chapter. Thus
the gradation in the form of beak presented by the thirteen allied species
of finch is described in the first edition (page 461) without comment.
Whereas in the second edition (page 380) he concludes:--
"One might really fancy that from an original paucity of birds in this
Archipelago, one species has been taken and modified for different ends."
On the whole it seems to me remarkable that the difference between the two
editions is not greater; it is another proof of the author's caution and
self-restraint in the treatment of his theory. After reading the second
edition of the 'Journal,' we find with a strong sense of surprise how far
developed were his views in 1837. We are enabled to form an opinion on
this point from the note-books in which he wrote down detached thoughts and
queries. I shall quote from the first note-book, completed between July
1837 and February 1838: and this is the more worth doing, as it gives us
an insight into the condition of his thoughts before the reading of
Malthus. The notes are written in his most hurried style, so many words
being omitted, that it is often difficult to arrive at the meaning. With a
few exceptions (indicated by square brackets) (In the extracts from the
note-book ordinary brackets represent my father's parentheses.) I have
printed the extracts as written; the punctuation, however, has been
altered, and a few obvious slips corrected where it seemed necessary. The
extracts are not printed in order, but are roughly classified. (On the
first page of the note-book, is written "Zoonomia"; this seems to refer to
the first few pages in which reproduction by gemmation is discussed, and
where the "Zoonomia" is mentioned. Many pages have been cut out of the
note-book, probably for use in writing the Sketch of 1844, and these would
have no doubt contained the most interesting extracts.)
"Propagation explains why modern animals same type as extinct, which is
law, almost proved."
"We can see why structure is common in certain countries when we can hardly
believe necessary, but if it was necessary to one forefather, the result
would be as it is. Hence antelopes at Cape of Good Hope; marsupials at
"Countries longest separated greatest differences--if separated from
immersage, possibly two distinct types, but each having its
representatives--as in Australia."
"Will this apply to whole organic kingdom when our planet first cooled?"
The two following extracts show that he applied the theory of evolution to
the "whole organic kingdom" from plants to man.
"If we choose to let conjecture run wild, then animals, our fellow brethren
in pain, disease, death, suffering and famine--our slaves in the most
laborious works, our companions in our amusements--they may partake [of?]
our origin in one common ancestor--we may be all melted together."
"The different intellects of man and animals not so great as between living
things without thought (plants), and living things with thought (animals)."
The following extracts are again concerned with an a priori view of the
probability of the origin of species by descent ["propagation," he called
"The tree of life should perhaps be called the coral of life, base of
branches dead; so that passages cannot be seen."
"There never may have been grade between pig and tapir, yet from some
common progenitor. Now if the intermediate ranks had produced infinite
species, probably the series would have been more perfect."
At another place, speaking of intermediate forms he says:--
"Cuvier objects to propagation of species by saying, why have not some
intermediate forms been discovered between Palaeotherium, Megalonyx,
Mastodon, and the species now living? Now according to my view (in S.
America) parent of all Armadilloes might be brother to Megatherium--uncle
Speaking elsewhere of intermediate forms, he remarks:--
"Opponents will say--'show them me.' I will answer yes, if you will show
me every step between bulldog and greyhound."
Here we see that the case of domestic animals was already present in his
mind as bearing on the production of natural species. The disappearance of
intermediate forms naturally leads up to the subject of extinction, with
which the next extract begins.
"It is a wonderful fact, horse, elephant, and mastodon, dying out about
same time in such different quarters.
"Will Mr. Lyell say that some [same?] circumstance killed it over a tract
from Spain to South America?--(Never).
"They die, without they change, like golden pippins; it is a GENERATION OF
SPECIES like generation OF INDIVIDUALS.
"Why does individual die? To perpetuate certain peculiarities (therefore
adaptation), and obliterate accidental varieties, and to accommodate itself
to change (for, of course, change, even in varieties, is accommodation).
Now this argument applies to species.
"If individual cannot propagate he has no issue--so with species.
"If SPECIES generate other SPECIES, their race is not utterly cut off:--
like golden pippins, if produced by seed, go on--otherwise all die.
"The fossil horse generated, in South Africa, zebra--and continued--
perished in America.
"All animals of same species are bound together just like buds of plants,
which die at one time, though produced either sooner or later. Prove
animals like plants--trace gradation between associated and non-associated
animals--and the story will be complete."
Here we have the view already alluded to of a term of life impressed on a
But in the following note we get extinction connected with unfavourable
variation, and thus a hint is given of natural selection:
"With respect to extinction, we can easily see that [a] variety of [the]
ostrich (Petise), may not be well adapted, and thus perish out; or, on the
other hand, like Orpheus [a Galapagos bird], being favourable, many might
be produced. This requires [the] principle that the permanent variations
produced by confined breeding and changing circumstances are continued and
produced according to the adaptation of such circumstance, and therefore
that death of species is a consequence (contrary to what would appear from
America) of non-adaptation of circumstances."
The first part of the next extract has a similar bearing. The end of the
passage is of much interest, as showing that he had at this early date
visions of the far-reaching character of the theory of evolution:--
"With belief of transmutation and geographical grouping, we are lead to
endeavour to discover CAUSES of change; the manner of adaptation (wish of
parents??), instinct and structure becomes full of speculation and lines of
observation. View of generation being condensation (I imagine him to mean
that each generation is "condensed" to a small number of the best organized
individuals.) test of highest organisation intelligible...My theory would
give zest to recent and fossil comparative anatomy; it would lead to the
study of instincts, heredity, and mind-heredity, whole [of] metaphysics.
"It would lead to closest examination of hybridity and generation, causes
of change in order to know what we have come from and to what we tend--to
what circumstances favour crossing and what prevents it--this, and direct
examination of direct passages of structure in species, might lead to laws
of change, which would then be [the] main object of study, to guide our
The following two extracts have a similar interest; the second is
especially interesting, as it contains the germ of concluding sentence of
the 'Origin of Species': ('Origin of Species' (1st edition), page 490:--
"There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having
been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that whilst this
planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so
simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have
been, and are being evolved.")--
"Before the attraction of gravity discovered it might have been said it was
as great a difficulty to account for the movement of all [planets] by one
law, as to account for each separate one; so to say that all mammalia were
born from one stock, and since distributed by such means as we can
recognise, may be thought to explain nothing.
"Astronomers might formerly have said that God fore-ordered each planet to
move in its particular destiny. In the same manner God orders each animal
created with certain forms in certain countries, but how much more simple
and sublime [a] power--let attraction act according to certain law, such
are inevitable consequences--let animals be created, then by the fixed laws
of generation, such will be their successors.
"Let the powers of transportal be such, and so will be the forms of one
country to another--let geological changes go at such a rate, so will be
the number and distribution of the species!!"
The three next extracts are of miscellaneous interest:--
"When one sees nipple on man's breast, one does not say some use, but sex
not having been determined--so with useless wings under elytra of beetles--
born from beetles with wings, and modified--if simple creation merely,
would have been born without them."
"In a decreasing population at any one moment fewer closely related (few
species of genera); ultimately few genera (for otherwise the relationship
would converge sooner), and lastly, perhaps, some one single one. Will not
this account for the odd genera with few species which stand between great
groups, which we are bound to consider the increasing ones?"
The last extract which I shall quote gives the germ of his theory of the
relation between alpine plants in various parts of the world, in the
publication of which he was forestalled by E. Forbes (see volume i. page
72). He says, in the 1837 note-book, that alpine plants, "formerly
descended lower, therefore [they are] species of lower genera altered, or
When we turn to the Sketch of his theory, written in 1844 (still therefore
before the second edition of the 'Journal' was completed), we find an
enormous advance made on the note-book of 1837. The Sketch is an fact a
surprisingly complete presentation of the argument afterwards familiar to
us in the 'Origin of Species.' There is some obscurity as to the date of
the short Sketch which formed the basis of the 1844 Essay. We know from
his own words (volume i., page 68), that it was in June 1842 that he first
wrote out a short sketch of his views. (This version I cannot find, and it
was probably destroyed, like so much of his MS., after it had been enlarged
and re-copied in 1844.) This statement is given with so much circumstance
that it is almost impossible to suppose that it contains an error of date.
It agrees also with the following extract from his Diary.
1842. May 18th. Went to Maer.
"June 15th to Shrewsbury, and on 18th to Capel Curig. During my stay at
Maer and Shrewsbury (five years after commencement) wrote pencil-sketch of
Again in the introduction to the 'Origin,' page 1, he writes, "after an
interval of five years' work" [from 1837, i.e. in 1842], "I allowed myself
to speculate on the subject, and drew up some short notes."
Nevertheless in the letter signed by Sir C. Lyell and Sir J.D. Hooker,
which serves as an introduction to the joint paper of Messrs. C. Darwin and
A. Wallace on the 'Tendency of Species to form Varieties,' ('Linn. Soc.
Journal,' 1858, page 45.) the essay of 1844 (extracts from which form part
of the paper) is said to have been "sketched in 1839, and copied in 1844."
This statement is obviously made on the authority of a note written in my
father's hand across the Table of Contents of the 1844 Essay. It is to the
following effect: "This was sketched in 1839, and copied out in full, as
here written and read by you in 1844." I conclude that this note was added
in 1858, when the MS. was sent to Sir J.D. Hooker (see Letter of June 29,
1858, page 476). There is also some further evidence on this side of the
question. Writing to Mr. Wallace (January 25, 1859) my father says:--
"Every one whom I have seen has thought your paper very well written and
interesting. It puts my extracts (written in 1839, now just twenty years
ago!), which I must say in apology were never for an instant intended for
publication; into the shade." The statement that the earliest sketch was
written in 1839 has been frequently made in biographical notices of my
father, no doubt on the authority of the 'Linnean Journal,' but it must, I
think, be considered as erroneous. The error may possibly have arisen in
this way. In writing on the Table of Contents of the 1844 MS. that it was
sketched in 1839, I think my father may have intended to imply that the
framework of the theory was clearly thought out by him at that date. In
the Autobiography he speaks of the time, "about 1839, when the theory was
clearly conceived," meaning, no doubt, the end of 1838 and beginning of
1839, when the reading of Malthus had given him the key to the idea of
natural selection. But this explanation does not apply to the letter to
Mr. Wallace; and with regard to the passage (My father certainly saw the
proofs of the paper, for he added a foot-note apologising for the style of
the extracts, on the ground that the "work was never intended for
publication.") in the 'Linnean Journal' it is difficult to understand how
it should have been allowed to remain as it now stands, conveying, as it
clearly does, the impression that 1839 was the date of his earliest written
The sketch of 1844 is written in a clerk's hand, in two hundred and thirty-
one pages folio, blank leaves being alternated with the MS. with a view to
amplification. The text has been revised and corrected, criticisms being
pencilled by himself on the margin. It is divided into two parts: I. "On
the variation of Organic Beings under Domestication and in their Natural
State." II. "On the Evidence favourable and opposed to the view that
Species are naturally formed races descended from common Stocks." The
first part contains the main argument of the 'Origin of Species.' It is
founded, as is the argument of that work, on the study of domestic animals,
and both the Sketch and the 'Origin' open with a chapter on variation under
domestication and on artificial selection. This is followed, in both
essays, by discussions on variation under nature, on natural selection, and
on the struggle for life. Here, any close resemblance between the two
essays with regard to arrangement ceases. Chapter III. of the Sketch,
which concludes the first part, treats of the variations which occur in the
instincts and habits of animals, and thus corresponds to some extent with
Chapter VII. of the 'Origin' (1st edition). It thus forms a complement to
the chapters which deal with variation in structure. It seems to have been
placed thus early in the Essay to prevent the hasty rejection of the whole
theory by a reader to whom the idea of natural selection acting on
instincts might seem impossible. This is the more probable, as the Chapter
on Instinct in the 'Origin' is specially mentioned (Introduction, page 5)
as one of the "most apparent and gravest difficulties on the theory."
Moreover the chapter in the Sketch ends with a discussion, "whether any
particular corporeal structures...are so wonderful as to justify the
rejection prima facie of our theory." Under this heading comes the
discussion of the eye, which in the 'Origin' finds its place in Chapter VI.
under "Difficulties of the Theory." The second part seems to have been
planned in accordance with his favourite point of view with regard to his
theory. This is briefly given in a letter to Dr. Asa Gray, November 11th,
1859: "I cannot possibly believe that a false theory would explain so many
classes of facts, as I think it certainly does explain. On these grounds I
drop my anchor, and believe that the difficulties will slowly disappear."
On this principle, having stated the theory in the first part, he proceeds
to show to what extent various wide series of facts can be explained by its
Thus the second part of the Sketch corresponds roughly to the nine
concluding Chapters of the First Edition of the 'Origin.' But we must
exclude Chapter VII. ('Origin') on Instinct, which forms a chapter in the
first part of the Sketch, and Chapter VIII. ('Origin') on Hybridism, a
subject treated in the Sketch with 'Variation under Nature' in the first
The following list of the chapters of the second part of the Sketch will
illustrate their correspondence with the final chapters of the 'Origin.'
Chapter I. "On the kind of intermediateness necessary, and the number of
such intermediate forms." This includes a geological discussion, and
corresponds to parts of Chapters VI. and IX. of the 'Origin.'
Chapter II. "The gradual appearance and disappearance of organic beings."
Corresponds to Chapter X. of the 'Origin.'
Chapter III. "Geographical Distribution." Corresponds to Chapters XI. and
XII. of the 'Origin.'
Chapter IV. "Affinities and Classification of Organic beings."
Chapter V. "Unity of Type," Morphology, Embryology.
Chapter VI. Rudimentary Organs.
These three chapters correspond to Chapter XII. of the 'Origin.'
Chapter VII. Recapitulation and Conclusion. The final sentence of the
Sketch, which we saw in its first rough form in the Note Book of 1837,
closely resembles the final sentence of the 'Origin,' much of it being
identical. The 'Origin' is not divided into two "Parts," but we see traces
of such a division having been present in the writer's mind, in this
resemblance between the second part of the Sketch and the final chapters of
the 'Origin.' That he should speak ('Origin,' Introduction, page 5.) of
the chapters on transition, on instinct, on hybridism, and on the
geological record, as forming a group, may be due to the division of his
early MS. into two parts.
Mr. Huxley, who was good enough to read the Sketch at my request, while
remarking that the "main lines of argument," and the illustrations employed
are the same, points out that in the 1844 Essay, "much more weight is
attached to the influence of external conditions in producing variation,
and to the inheritance of acquired habits than in the Origin.'"
It is extremely interesting to find in the Sketch the first mention of
principles familiar to us in the 'Origin of Species.' Foremost among these
may be mentioned the principle of Sexual Selection, which is clearly
enunciated. The important form of selection known as "unconscious," is
also given. Here also occurs a statement of the law that peculiarities
tend to appear in the offspring at an age corresponding to that at which
they occurred in the parent.
Professor Newton, who was so kind as to look through the 1844 Sketch, tells
me that my father's remarks on the migration of birds, incidentally given
in more than one passage, show that he had anticipated the views of some
With regard to the general style of the Sketch, it is not to be expected
that it should have all the characteristics of the 'Origin,' and we do not,
in fact, find that balance and control, that concentration and grasp, which
are so striking in the work of 1859.
In the Autobiography (page 68, volume 1) my father has stated what seemed
to him the chief flaw of the 1844 Sketch; he had overlooked "one problem of
great importance," the problem of the divergence of character. This point
is discussed in the 'Origin of Species,' but, as it may not be familiar to
all readers, I will give a short account of the difficulty and its
solution. The author begins by stating that varieties differ from each
other less than species, and then goes on: "Nevertheless, according to my
view, varieties are species in process of formation...How then does the
lesser difference between varieties become augmented into the greater
difference between species?" ('Origin,' 1st edition, page 111.) He shows
how an analogous divergence takes place under domestication where an
originally uniform stock of horses has been split up into race-horses,
dray-horses, etc., and then goes on to explain how the same principle
applies to natural species. "From the simple circumstance that the more
diversified the descendants from any one species become in structure,
constitution, and habits, by so much will they be better enabled to seize
on many and widely diversified places in the polity of nature, and so be
enabled to increase in numbers."
The principle is exemplified by the fact that if on one plot of ground a
single variety of wheat be sown, and on to another a mixture of varieties,
in the latter case the produce is greater. More individuals have been able
to exist because they were not all of the same variety. An organism
becomes more perfect and more fitted to survive when by division of labour
the different functions of life are performed by different organs. In the
same way a species becomes more efficient and more able to survive when
different sections of the species become differentiated so as to fill
In reading the Sketch of 1844, I have found it difficult to recognise the
absence of any definite statement of the principle of divergence as a flaw
in the Essay. Descent with modification implies divergence, and we become
so habituated to a belief in descent, and therefore in divergence, that we
do not notice the absence of proof that divergence is in itself an
advantage. As shown in the Autobiography, my father in 1876 found it
hardly credible that he should have overlooked the problem and its
The following letter will be more in place here than its chronological
position, since it shows what was my father's feeling as to the value of
the Sketch at the time of its completion.]
CHARLES DARWIN TO MRS. DARWIN.
Down, July 5, 1844.
I have just finished my sketch of my species theory. If, as I believe, my
theory in time be accepted even by one competent judge, it will be a
considerable step in science.
I therefore write this in case of my sudden death, as my most solemn and
last request, which I am sure you will consider the same as if legally
entered in my will, that you will devote 400 pounds to its publication, and
further, will yourself, or through Hensleigh (Mr. H. Wedgwood.), take
trouble in promoting it. I wish that my sketch be given to some competent
person, with this sum to induce him to take trouble in its improvement and
enlargement. I give to him all my books on Natural History, which are
either scored or have references at the end to the pages, begging him
carefully to look over and consider such passages as actually bearing, or
by possibility bearing, on this subject. I wish you to make a list of all
such books as some temptation to an editor. I also request that you will
hand over [to] him all those scraps roughly divided in eight or ten brown
paper portfolios. The scraps, with copied quotations from various works,
are those which may aid my editor. I also request that you, or some
amanuensis, will aid in deciphering any of the scraps which the editor may
think possibly of use. I leave to the editor's judgment whether to
interpolate these facts in the text, or as notes, or under appendices. As
the looking over the references and scraps will be a long labour, and as
the CORRECTING and enlarging and altering my sketch will also take
considerable time, I leave this sum of 400 pounds as some remuneration, and
any profits from the work. I consider that for this the editor is bound to
get the sketch published either at a publisher's or his own risk. Many of
the scrap in the portfolios contains mere rude suggestions and early views,
now useless, and many of the facts will probably turn out as having no
bearing on my theory.
With respect to editors, Mr. Lyell would be the best if he would undertake
it; I believe he would find the work pleasant, and he would learn some
facts new to him. As the editor must be a geologist as well as a
naturalist, the next best editor would be Professor Forbes of London. The
next best (and quite best in many respects) would be Professor Henslow.
Dr. Hooker would be VERY good. The next, Mr. Strickland. (After Mr.
Strickland's name comes the following sentence, which has been erased but
remained legible. "Professor Owen would be very good; but I presume he
would not undertake such a work." If none of these would undertake it, I
would request you to consult with Mr. Lyell, or some other capable man for
some editor, a geologist and naturalist. Should one other hundred pounds
make the difference of procuring a good editor, request earnestly that you
will raise 500 pounds.
My remaining collections in Natural History may be given to any one or any
museum where it would be accepted...
[The following note seems to have formed part of the original letter, but
may have been of later date:
"Lyell, especially with the aid of Hooker (and of any good zoological aid),
would be best of all. Without an editor will pledge himself to give up
time to it, it would be of no use paying such a sum.
"If there should be any difficulty in getting an editor who would go
thoroughly into the subject, and think of the bearing of the passages
marked in the books and copied out of scraps of paper, then let my sketch
be published as it is, stating that it was done several years ago (The
words "several years ago and," seem to have been added at a later date.)
and from memory without consulting any works, and with no intention of
publication in its present form."
The idea that the Sketch of 1844 might remain, in the event of his death,
as the only record of his work, seems to have been long in his mind, for in
August 1854, when he had finished with the Cirripedes, and was thinking of
beginning his "species work," he added on the back of the above letter,
"Hooker by far best man to edit my species volume. August 1854."]
THE GROWTH OF THE 'ORIGIN OF SPECIES.'
[The history of my father's life is told more completely in his
correspondence with Sir J.D. Hooker than in any other series of letters;
and this is especially true of the history of the growth of the 'Origin of
Species.' This, therefore, seems an appropriate place for the following
notes, which Sir Joseph Hooker has kindly given me. They give, moreover,
an interesting picture of his early friendship with my father:--
"My first meeting with Mr. Darwin was in 1839, in Trafalgar Square. I was
walking with an officer who had been his shipmate for a short time in the
"Beagle" seven years before, but who had not, I believe, since met him. I
was introduced; the interview was of course brief, and the memory of him
that I carried away and still retain was that of a rather tall and rather
broad-shouldered man, with a slight stoop, an agreeable and animated
expression when talking, beetle brows, and a hollow but mellow voice; and
that his greeting of his old acquaintance was sailor-like--that is,
delightfully frank and cordial. I observed him well, for I was already
aware of his attainments and labours, derived from having read various
proof-sheets of his then unpublished 'Journal.' These had been submitted
to Mr. (afterwards Sir Charles) Lyell by Mr. Darwin, and by him sent to his
father, Ch. Lyell, Esq., of Kinnordy, who (being a very old friend of my
father and taking a kind interest in my projected career as a naturalist)
had allowed me to peruse them. At this time I was hurrying on my studies,
so as to take my degree before volunteering to accompany Sir James Ross in
the Antarctic Expedition, which had just been determined on by the
Admiralty; and so pressed for time was I, that I used to sleep with the
sheets of the 'Journal' under my pillow, that I might read them between
waking and rising. They impressed me profoundly, I might say despairingly,
with the variety of acquirements, mental and physical, required in a
naturalist who should follow in Darwin's footsteps, whilst they stimulated
me to enthusiasm in the desire to travel and observe.
"It has been a permanent source of happiness to me that I knew so much of
Mr. Darwin's scientific work so many years before that intimacy began which
ripened into feelings as near to those of reverence for his life, works,
and character as is reasonable and proper. It only remains to add to this
little episode that I received a copy of the 'Journal' complete,--a gift
from Mr. Lyell,--a few days before leaving England.
"Very soon after the return of the Antarctic Expedition my correspondence
with Mr. Darwin began (December, 1843) by his sending me a long letter,
warmly congratulating me on my return to my family and friends, and
expressing a wish to hear more of the results of the expedition, of which
he had derived some knowledge from private letters of my own (written to or
communicated through Mr. Lyell). Then, plunging at once into scientific
matters, he directed my attention to the importance of correlating the
Fuegian Flora with that of the Cordillera and of Europe, and invited me to
study the botanical collections which he had made in the Galapagos Islands,
as well as his Patagonian and Fuegian plants.
"This led to me sending him an outline of the conclusions I had formed
regarding the distribution of plants in the southern regions, and the
necessity of assuming the destruction of considerable areas of land to
account for the relations of the flora of the so-called Antarctic Islands.
I do not suppose that any of these ideas were new to him, but they led to
an animated and lengthy correspondence full of instruction."
Here follows the letter (1843) to Sir J.D. Hooker above referred to.]
My dear Sir,
I had hoped before this time to have had the pleasure of seeing you and
congratulating you on your safe return from your long and glorious voyage.
But as I seldom go to London, we may not yet meet for some time--without
you are led to attend the Geological Meetings.
I am anxious to know what you intend doing with all your materials--I had
so much pleasure in reading parts of some of your letters, that I shall be
very sorry if I, as one of the public, have no opportunity of reading a
good deal more. I suppose you are very busy now and full of enjoyment:
how well I remember the happiness of my first few months of England--it was
worth all the discomforts of many a gale! But I have run from the subject,
which made me write, of expressing my pleasure that Henslow (as he informed
me a few days since by letter) has sent to you my small collection of
plants. You cannot think how much pleased I am, as I feared they would
have been all lost, and few as they are, they cost me a good deal of
trouble. There are a very few notes, which I believe Henslow has got,
describing the habitats, etc., of some few of the more remarkable plants.
I paid particular attention to the Alpine flowers of Tierra del Fuego, and
I am sure I got every plant which was in flower in Patagonia at the seasons
when we were there. I have long thought that some general sketch of the
Flora of the point of land, stretching so far into the southern seas, would
be very curious. Do make comparative remarks on the species allied to the
European species, for the advantage of botanical ignoramuses like myself.
It has often struck me as a curious point to find out, whether there are
many European genera in Tierra del Fuego which are not found along the
ridge of the Cordillera; the separation in such case would be so enormous.
Do point out in any sketch you draw up, what genera are American and what
European, and how great the differences of the species are, when the genera
are European, for the sake of the ignoramuses.
I hope Henslow will send you my Galapagos plants (about which Humboldt even
expressed to me considerable curiosity)--I took much pains in collecting
all I could. A Flora of this archipelago would, I suspect, offer a nearly
parallel case to that of St. Helena, which has so long excited interest.
Pray excuse this long rambling note, and believe me, my dear sir, yours
Will you be so good as to present my respectful compliments to Sir W.
[Referring to Sir J.D. Hooker's work on the Galapagos Flora, my father
wrote in 1846:
"I cannot tell you how delighted and astonished I am at the results of your
examination; how wonderfully they support my assertion on the differences
in the animals of the different islands, about which I have always been
Again he wrote (1849):--
"I received a few weeks ago your Galapagos papers (These papers include the
results of Sir J.D. Hooker's examination of my father's Galapagos plants,
and were published by the Linnean Society in 1849.), and I have read them
since being here. I really cannot express too strongly my admiration of
the geographical discussion: to my judgment it is a perfect model of what
such a paper should be; it took me four days to read and think over. How
interesting the Flora of the Sandwich Islands appears to be, how I wish
there were materials for you to treat its flora as you have done the
Galapagos. In the Systematic paper I was rather disappointed in not
finding general remarks on affinities, structures, etc., such as you often
give in conversation, and such as De Candolle and St. Hilaire introduced in
almost all their papers, and which make them interesting even to a non-
"Very soon afterwards [continues Sir J.D. Hooker] in a letter dated January
1844, the subject of the 'Origin of Species' was brought forward by him,
and I believe that I was the first to whom he communicated his then new
ideas on the subject, and which being of interest as a contribution to the
history of Evolution, I here copy from his letter":--]
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
[January 11th, 1844.]
Besides a general interest about the southern lands, I have been now ever
since my return engaged in a very presumptuous work, and I know no one
individual who would not say a very foolish one. I was so struck with the
distribution of the Galapagos organisms, etc. etc., and with the character
of the American fossil mammifers, etc. etc., that I determined to collect
blindly every sort of fact, which could bear any way on what are species.
I have read heaps of agricultural and horticultural books, and have never
ceased collecting facts. At last gleams of light have come, and I am
almost convinced (quite contrary to the opinion I started with) that
species are not (it is like confessing a murder) immutable. Heaven forfend
me from Lamarck nonsense of a "tendency to progression," "adaptations from
the slow willing of animals," etc.! But the conclusions I am led to are
not widely different from his; though the means of change are wholly so. I
think I have found out (here's presumption!) the simple way by which
species become exquisitely adapted to various ends. You will now groan,
and think to yourself, "on what a man have I been wasting my time and
writing to." I should, five years ago, have thought so...
[The following letter written on February 23, 1844, shows that the
acquaintanceship with Sir J.D. Hooker was then fast ripening into
friendship. The letter is chiefly of interest as showing the sort of
problems then occupying my father's mind:]
I hope you will excuse the freedom of my address, but I feel that as co-
circum-wanderers and as fellow labourers (though myself a very weak one) we
may throw aside some of the old-world formality...I have just finished a
little volume on the volcanic islands which we visited. I do not know how
far you care for dry simple geology, but I hope you will let me send you a
copy. I suppose I can send it from London by common coach conveyance.
...I am going to ask you some MORE questions, though I daresay, without
asking them, I shall see answers in your work, when published, which will
be quite time enough for my purposes. First for the Galapagos, you will
see in my Journal, that the Birds, though peculiar species, have a most
obvious S. American aspect: I have just ascertained the same thing holds
good with the sea-shells. It is so with those plants which are peculiar to
this archipelago; you state that their numerical proportions are
continental (is not this a very curious fact?) but are they related in
forms to S. America. Do you know of any other case of an archipelago, with
the separate islands possessing distinct representative species? I have
always intended (but have not yet done so) to examine Webb and Berthelot on
the Canary Islands for this object. Talking with Mr. Bentham, he told me
that the separate islands of the Sandwich Archipelago possessed distinct
representative species of the same genera of Labiatae: would not this be
worth your enquiry? How is it with the Azores; to be sure the heavy
western gales would tend to diffuse the same species over that group.
I hope you will (I dare say my hope is quite superfluous) attend to this
general kind of affinity in isolated islands, though I suppose it is more
difficult to perceive this sort of relation in plants, than in birds or
quadrupeds, the groups of which are, I fancy, rather more confined. Can
St. Helena be classed, though remotely, either with Africa or S. America?
>From some facts, which I have collected, I have been led to conclude that
the fauna of mountains are EITHER remarkably similar (sometimes in the
presence of the same species and at other times of same genera), OR that
they are remarkably dissimilar; and it has occurred to me that possibly
part of this peculiarity of the St. Helena and Galapagos floras may be
attributed to a great part of these two Floras being mountain Floras. I
fear my notes will hardly serve to distinguish much of the habitats of the
Galapagos plants, but they may in some cases; most, if not all, of the
green, leafy plants come from the summits of the islands, and the thin
brown leafless plants come from the lower arid parts: would you be so kind
as to bear this remark in mind, when examining my collection.
I will trouble you with only one other question. In discussion with Mr.
Gould, I found that in most of the genera of birds which range over the
whole or greater part of the world, the individual species have wider
ranges, thus the Owl is mundane, and many of the species have very wide
ranges. So I believe it is with land and fresh-water shells--and I might
adduce other cases. Is it not so with Cryptogamic plants; have not most of
the species wide ranges, in those genera which are mundane? I do not
suppose that the converse holds, viz.--that when a species has a wide
range, its genus also ranges wide. Will you so far oblige me by
occasionally thinking over this? It would cost me vast trouble to get a
list of mundane phanerogamic genera and then search how far the species of
these genera are apt to range wide in their several countries; but you
might occasionally, in the course of your pursuits, just bear this in mind,
though perhaps the point may long since have occurred to you or other
Botanists. Geology is bringing to light interesting facts, concerning the
ranges of shells; I think it is pretty well established, that according as
the geographical range of a species is wide, so is its persistence and
duration in time. I hope you will try to grudge as little as you can the
trouble of my letters, and pray believe me very truly yours,
P.S. I should feel extremely obliged for your kind offer of the sketch of
Humboldt; I venerate him, and after having had the pleasure of conversing
with him in London, I shall still more like to have any portrait of him.
[What follows is quoted from Sir J. Hooker's notes. "The next act in the
drama of our lives opens with personal intercourse. This began with an
invitation to breakfast with him at his brother's (Erasmus Darwin's) house
in Park Street; which was shortly afterwards followed by an invitation to
Down to meet a few brother Naturalists. In the short intervals of good
health that followed the long illnesses which oftentimes rendered life a
burthen to him, between 1844 and 1847, I had many such invitations, and
delightful they were. A more hospitable and more attractive home under
every point of view could not be imagined--of Society there were most often
Dr. Falconer, Edward Forbes, Professor Bell, and Mr. Waterhouse--there were
long walks, romps with the children on hands and knees, music that haunts
me still. Darwin's own hearty manner, hollow laugh, and thorough enjoyment
of home life with friends; strolls with him all together, and interviews
with us one by one in his study, to discuss questions in any branch of
biological or physical knowledge that we had followed; and which I at any
rate always left with the feeling that I had imparted nothing and carried
away more than I could stagger under. Latterly, as his health became more
seriously affected, I was for days and weeks the only visitor, bringing my
work with me and enjoying his society as opportunity offered. It was an
established rule that he every day pumped me, as he called it, for half an
hour or so after breakfast in his study, when he first brought out a heap
of slips with questions botanical, geographical, etc., for me to answer,
and concluded by telling me of the progress he had made in his own work,
asking my opinion on various points. I saw no more of him till about noon,
when I heard his mellow ringing voice calling my name under my window--this
was to join him in his daily forenoon walk round the sand-walk. On joining
him I found him in a rough grey shooting-coat in summer, and thick cape
over his shoulders in winter, and a stout staff in his hand; away we
trudged through the garden, where there was always some experiment to
visit, and on to the sand-walk, round which a fixed number of turns were
taken, during which our conversation usually ran on foreign lands and seas,
old friends, old books, and things far off to both mind and eye.
"In the afternoon there was another such walk, after which he again retired
till dinner if well enough to join the family; if not, he generally managed
to appear in the drawing-room, where seated in his high chair, with his
feet in enormous carpet shoes, supported on a high stool--he enjoyed the
music or conversation of his family."
Here follows a series of letters illustrating the growth of my father's
views, and the nature of his work during this period.]
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
...The conclusion, which I have come at is, that those areas, in which
species are most numerous, have oftenest been divided and isolated from
other areas, united and again divided; a process implying antiquity and
some changes in the external conditions. This will justly sound very
hypothetical. I cannot give my reasons in detail; but the most general
conclusion, which the geographical distribution of all organic beings,
appears to me to indicate, is that isolation is the chief concomitant or
cause of the appearance of NEW forms (I well know there are some staring
exceptions). Secondly, from seeing how often the plants and animals swarm
in a country, when introduced into it, and from seeing what a vast number
of plants will live, for instance in England, if kept FREE FROM WEEDS, AND
NATIVE PLANTS, I have been led to consider that the spreading and number of
the organic beings of any country depend less on its external features,
than on the number of forms, which have been there originally created or
produced. I much doubt whether you will find it possible to explain the
number of forms by proportional differences of exposure; and I cannot doubt
if half the species in any country were destroyed or had not been created,
yet that country would appear to us fully peopled. With respect to
original creation or production of new forms, I have said that isolation
appears the chief element. Hence, with respect to terrestrial productions,
a tract of country, which had oftenest within the late geological periods
subsided and been converted into islands, and reunited, I should expect to
contain most forms.
But such speculations are amusing only to one self, and in this case
useless, as they do not show any direct line of observation: if I had seen
how hypothetical [is] the little, which I have unclearly written, I would
not have troubled you with the reading of it. Believe me,--at last not
Yours very sincerely,
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
...I forget my last letter, but it must have been a very silly one, as it
seems I gave my notion of the number of species being in great degree
governed by the degree to which the area had been often isolated and
divided; I must have been cracked to have written it, for I have no
evidence, without a person be willing to admit all my views, and then it
does follow; but in my most sanguine moments, all I expect, is that I shall
be able to show even to sound Naturalists, that there are two sides to the
question of the immutability of species;--that facts can be viewed and
grouped under the notion of allied species having descended from common
stocks. With respect to books on this subject, I do not know of any
systematical ones, except Lamarck's, which is veritable rubbish; but there
are plenty, as Lyell, Pritchard, etc., on the view of the immutability.
Agassiz lately has brought the strongest argument in favour of
immutability. Isidore G. St. Hilaire has written some good Essays, tending
towards the mutability-side, in the 'Suites a Buffon,' entitled "Zoolog.
Generale." Is it not strange that the author, of such a book as the
'Animaux sans Vertebres,' should have written that insects, which never see
their eggs, should WILL (and plants, their seeds) to be of particular
forms, so as to become attached to particular objects. The other, common
(specially Germanic) notion is hardly less absurd, viz. that climate, food,
etc., should make a Pediculus formed to climb hair, or wood-pecker, to
climb trees. I believe all these absurd views arise, from no one having,
as far as I know, approached the subject on the side of variation under
domestication, and having studied all that is known about domestication. I
was very glad to hear your criticism on island-floras and on non-diffusion
of plants: the subject is too long for a letter: I could defend myself to
some considerable extent, but I doubt whether successfully in your eyes, or
indeed in my own...
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down [July, 1844].
...I am now reading a wonderful book for facts on variation--Bronn,
'Geschichte der Natur.' It is stiff German: it forestalls me, sometimes I
think delightfully, and sometimes cruelly. You will be ten times hereafter
more horrified at me than at H. Watson. I hate arguments from results, but
on my views of descent, really Natural History becomes a sublimely grand
result-giving subject (now you may quiz me for so foolish an escape of
mouth)...I must leave this letter till to-morrow, for I am tired; but I so
enjoy writing to you, that I must inflict a little more on you.
Have you any good evidence for absence of insects in small islands? I
found thirteen species in Keeling Atoll. Flies are good fertilizers, and I
have seen a microscopic Thrips and a Cecidomya take flight from a flower in
the direction of another with pollen adhering to them. In Arctic countries
a bee seems to go as far N. as any flower...
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Shrewsbury [September, 1845].
My dear Hooker,
I write a line to say that Cosmos (A translation of Humboldt's 'Kosmos.')
arrived quite safely [N.B. One sheet came loose in Part I.}, and to thank
you for your nice note. I have just begun the introduction, and groan over
the style, which in such parts is full half the battle. How true many of
the remarks are (i.e. as far as I can understand the wretched English) on
the scenery; it is an exact expression of one's own thoughts.
I wish I ever had any books to lend you in return for the many you have
All of what you kindly say about my species work does not alter one iota my
long self-acknowledged presumption in accumulating facts and speculating on
the subject of variation, without having worked out my due share of
species. But now for nine years it has been anyhow the greatest amusement
Farewell, my dear Hooker, I grieve more than you can well believe, over our
prospect of so seldom meeting.
I have never perceived but one fault in you, and that you have grievously,
viz. modesty; you form an exception to Sydney Smith's aphorism, that merit
and modesty have no other connection, except in their first letter.
CHARLES DARWIN TO L. JENYNS (BLOMEFIELD).
Down, October 12th, .
My dear Jenyns,
Thanks for your note. I am sorry to say I have not even the tail-end of a
fact in English Zoology to communicate. I have found that even trifling
observations require, in my case, some leisure and energy, both of which
ingredients I have had none to spare, as writing my Geology thoroughly
expends both. I had always thought that I would keep a journal and record
everything, but in the way I now live I find I observe nothing to record.
Looking after my garden and trees, and occasionally a very little walk in
an idle frame of mind, fills up every afternoon in the same manner. I am
surprised that with all your parish affairs, you have had time to do all
that which you have done. I shall be very glad to see your little work
(Mr. Jenyns' 'Observations in Natural History.' It is prefaced by an
Introduction on "Habits of observing as connected with the study of Natural
History," and followed by a "Calendar of Periodic Phenomena in Natural
History," with "Remarks on the importance of such Registers." My father
seems to be alluding to this Register in the P.S. to the letter dated
October 17, 1846.) (and proud should I have been if I could have added a
single fact to it). My work on the species question has impressed me very
forcibly with the importance of all such works as your intended one,
containing what people are pleased generally to call trifling facts. These
are the facts which make one understand the working or economy of nature.
There is one subject, on which I am very curious, and which perhaps you may
throw some light on, if you have ever thought on it; namely, what are the
checks and what the periods of life,--by which the increase of any given
species is limited. Just calculate the increase of any bird, if you assume
that only half the young are reared, and these breed: within the NATURAL
(i.e., if free from accidents) life of the parents the number of
individuals will become enormous, and I have been much surprised to think
how great destruction MUST annually or occasionally be falling on every
species, yet the means and period of such destruction is scarcely perceived
I have continued steadily reading and collecting facts on variation of
domestic animals and plants, and on the question of what are species. I
have a grand body of facts, and I think I can draw some sound conclusions.
The general conclusions at which I have slowly been driven from a directly
opposite conviction, is that species are mutable, and that allied species
are co-descendants from common stocks. I know how much I open myself to
reproach for such a conclusion, but I have at least honestly and
deliberately come to it. I shall not publish on this subject for several
years. At present I am on the Geology of South America. I hope to pick up
from your book some facts on slight variations in structure or instincts in
the animals of your acquaintance.
Believe me, ever yours,
CHARLES DARWIN TO L. JENYNS (REV. L. BLOMEFIELD).
My dear Jenyns,
I am very much obliged to you for the trouble you have taken in having
written me so long a note. The question of where, when, and how the check
to the increase of a given species falls appears to me particularly
interesting, and our difficulty in answering it shows how really ignorant
we are of the lives and habits of our most familiar species. I was aware
of the bare fact of old birds driving away their young, but had never
thought of the effect you so clearly point out, of local gaps in number
being thus immediately filled up. But the original difficulty remains; for
if your farmers had not killed your sparrows and rooks, what would have
become of those which now immigrate into your parish? in the middle of
England one is too far distant from the natural limits of the rook and
sparrow to suppose that the young are thus far expelled from
Cambridgeshire. The check must fall heavily at some time of each species'
life; for, if one calculates that only half the progeny are reared and
bred, how enormous is the increase! One has, however, no business to feel
so much surprise at one's ignorance, when one knows how impossible it is
without statistics to conjecture the duration of life and percentage of
deaths to births in mankind. If it could be shown that apparently the
birds of passage WHICH BREED HERE and increase, return in the succeeding
years in about the same number, whereas those that come here for their
winter and non-breeding season annually, come here with the same numbers,
but return with greatly decreased numbers, one would know (as indeed seems
probable) that the check fell chiefly on full-grown birds in the winter
season, and not on the eggs and very young birds, which has appeared to me
often the most probable period. If at any time any remarks on this subject
should occur to you, I should be most grateful for the benefit of them.
With respect to my far distant work on species, I must have expressed
myself with singular inaccuracy if I led you to suppose that I meant to say
that my conclusions were inevitable. They have become so, after years of
weighing puzzles, to myself ALONE; but in my wildest day-dream, I never
expect more than to be able to show that there are two sides to the
question of the immutability of species, i.e. whether species are DIRECTLY
created or by intermediate laws (as with the life and death of
individuals). I did not approach the subject on the side of the difficulty
in determining what are species and what are varieties, but (though, why I
should give you such a history of my doings it would be hard to say) from
such facts as the relationship between the living and extinct mammifers in
South America, and between those living on the Continent and on adjoining
islands, such as the Galapagos. It occured to me that a collection of all
such analogous facts would throw light either for or against the view of
related species being co-descendants from a common stock. A long searching
amongst agricultural and horticultural books and people makes me believe (I
well know how absurdly presumptuous this must appear) that I see the way in
which new varieties become exquisitely adapted to the external conditions
of life and to other surrounding beings. I am a bold man to lay myself
open to being thought a complete fool, and a most deliberate one. From the
nature of the grounds which make me believe that species are mutable in
form, these grounds cannot be restricted to the closest-allied species; but
how far they extend I cannot tell, as my reasons fall away by degrees, when
applied to species more and more remote from each other. Pray do not think
that I am so blind as not to see that there are numerous immense
difficulties in my notions, but they appear to me less than on the common
view. I have drawn up a sketch and had it copied (in 200 pages) of my
conclusions; and if I thought at some future time that you would think it
worth reading, I should, of course, be most thankful to have the criticism
of so competent a critic. Excuse this very long and egotistical and ill-
written letter, which by your remarks you had led me into, and believe me,
Yours very truly,
CHARLES DARWIN TO L. JENYNS (BLOMEFIELD).
Down, October 17th, 1846.
I have taken a most ungrateful length of time in thanking you for your very
kind present of your 'Observations.' But I happened to have had in hand
several other books, and have finished yours only a few days ago. I found
it very pleasant reading, and many of your facts interested me much. I
think I was more interested, which is odd, with your notes on some of the
lower animals than on the higher ones. The introduction struck me as very
good; but this is what I expected, for I well remember being quite
delighted with a preliminary essay to the first number of the 'Annals of
Natural History.' I missed one discussion, and think myself ill-used, for
I remember your saying you would make some remarks on the weather and
barometer, as a guide for the ignorant in prediction. I had also hoped to
have perhaps met with some remarks on the amount of variation in our common
species. Andrew Smith once declared he would get some hundreds of
specimens of larks and sparrows from all parts of Great Britain, and see
whether, with finest measurements, he could detect any proportional
variations in beaks or limbs, etc. This point interests me from having
lately been skimming over the absurdly opposite conclusions of Gloger and
Brehm; the one making half-a-dozen species out of every common bird, and
the other turning so many reputed species into one. Have you ever done
anything of this kind, or have you ever studied Gloger's or Brehm's works?
I was interested in your account of the martins, for I had just before been
utterly perplexed by noticing just such a proceeding as you describe: I
counted seven, one day lately, visiting a single nest and sticking dirt on
the adjoining wall. I may mention that I once saw some squirrels eagerly
splitting those little semi-transparent spherical galls on the back of oak-
leaves for the maggot within; so that they are insectivorous. A Cychrus
rostratus once squirted into my eyes and gave me extreme pain; and I must
tell you what happened to me on the banks of the Cam, in my early
entomological days: under a piece of bark I found two Carabi (I forget
which), and caught one in each hand, when lo and behold I saw a sacred
Panagaeus crux major! I could not bear to give up either of my Carabi, and
to lose Panagaeus was out of the question; so that in despair I gently
seized one of the Carabi between my teeth, when to my unspeakable disgust
and pain the little inconsiderate beast squirted his acid down my throat,
and I lost both Carabi and Panagaeus! I was quite astonished to hear of a
terrestrial Planaria; for about a year or two ago I described in the
'Annals of Natural History' several beautifully coloured terrestrial
species of the Southern Hemisphere, and thought it quite a new fact. By
the way, you speak of a sheep with a broken leg not having flukes: I have
heard my father aver that a fever, or any SERIOUS ACCIDENT, as a broken
limb, will cause in a man all the intestinal worms to be evacuated. Might
not this possibly have been the case with the flukes in their early state?
I hope you were none the worse for Southampton (The meeting of the British
Association.); I wish I had seen you looking rather fatter. I enjoyed my
week extremely, and it did me good. I missed you the last few days, and we
never managed to see much of each other; but there were so many people
there, that I for one hardly saw anything of any one. Once again I thank
you very cordially for your kind present, and the pleasure it has given me,
and believe me,
Ever most truly yours,
P.S.--I have quite forgotten to say how greatly interested I was with your
discussion on the statistics of animals: when will Natural History be so
perfect that such points as you discuss will be perfectly known about any
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Malvern, June 13 .
...At last I am going to press with a small poor first-fruit of my
confounded Cirripedia, viz. the fossil pedunculate cirripedia. You ask
what effect studying species has had on my variation theories; I do not
think much--I have felt some difficulties more. On the other hand, I have
been struck (and probably unfairly from the class) with the variability of
every part in some slight degree of every species. When the same organ is
RIGOROUSLY compared in many individuals, I always find some slight
variability, and consequently that the diagnosis of species from minute
differences is always dangerous. I had thought the same parts of the same
species more resemble (than they do anyhow in Cirripedia) objects cast in
the same mould. Systematic work would be easy were it not for this
confounded variation, which, however, is pleasant to me as a speculatist,
though odious to me as a systematist. Your remarks on the distinctness (so
unpleasant to me) of the Himalayan Rubi, willows, etc., compared with those
of northern [Europe?], etc., are very interesting; if my rude species-
sketch had any SMALL share in leading you to these observations, it has
already done good and ample service, and may lay its bones in the earth in
peace. I never heard anything so strange as Falconer's neglect of your
letters; I am extremely glad you are cordial with him again, though it must
have cost you an effort. Falconer is a man one must love...May you prosper
in every way, my dear Hooker.
Your affectionate friend,
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, Wednesday [September, n.d.].
...Many thanks for your letter received yesterday, which, as always, set me
thinking: I laughed at your attack at my stinginess in changes of level
towards Forbes (Edward Forbes, 1815-1854, born in the Isle of Man. His
best known work was his Report on the distribution of marine animals at
different depths in the Mediterranean. An important memoir of his is
referred to in my father's 'Autobiography.' He held successively the posts
of Curator to the Geological Society's Museum, and Professor of Natural
History in the Museum of Practical Geology; shortly before he died he was
appointed Professor of Natural History in the University of Edinburgh. He
seems to have impressed his contemporaries as a man of strikingly versatile
and vigorous mind. The above allusion to changes of level refers to
Forbes's tendency to explain the facts of geographical distribution by
means of an active geological imagination.), being so liberal towards
myself; but I must maintain, that I have never let down or upheaved our
mother-earth's surface, for the sake of explaining any one phenomenon, and
I trust I have very seldom done so without some distinct evidence. So I
must still think it a bold step (perhaps a very true one) to sink into the
depths of ocean, within the period of existing species, so large a tract of
surface. But there is no amount or extent of change of level, which I am
not fully prepared to admit, but I must say I should like better evidence,
than the identity of a few plants, which POSSIBLY (I do not say probably)
might have been otherwise transported. Particular thanks for your attempt
to get me a copy of 'L'Espece' (Probably Godron's essay, published by the
Academy of Nancy in 1848-49, and afterwards as a separate book in 1859.),
and almost equal thanks for your criticisms on him: I rather misdoubted
him, and felt not much inclined to take as gospel his facts. I find this
one of my greatest difficulties with foreign authors, viz. judging of their
credibility. How painfully (to me) true is your remark, that no one has
hardly a right to examine the question of species who has not minutely
described many. I was, however, pleased to hear from Owen (who is
vehemently opposed to any mutability in species), that he thought it was a
very fair subject, and that there was a mass of facts to be brought to bear
on the question, not hitherto collected. My only comfort is (as I mean to
attempt the subject), that I have dabbled in several branches of Natural
History, and seen good specific men work out my species, and know something
of geology (an indispensable union); and though I shall get more kicks than
half-pennies, I will, life serving, attempt my work. Lamarck is the only
exception, that I can think of, of an accurate describer of species at
least in the Invertebrate Kingdom, who has disbelieved in permanent
species, but he in his absurd though clever work has done the subject harm,
as has Mr. Vestiges, and, as (some future loose naturalist attempting the
same speculations will perhaps say) has Mr. D...
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, September 25th .
My dear Hooker,
I have read your paper with great interest; it seems all very clear, and
will form an admirable introduction to the New Zealand Flora, or to any
Flora in the world. How few generalizers there are among systematists; I
really suspect there is something absolutely opposed to each other and
hostile in the two frames of mind required for systematising and reasoning
on large collections of facts. Many of your arguments appear to me very
well put, and, as far as my experience goes, the candid way in which you
discuss the subject is unique. The whole will be very useful to me
whenever I undertake my volume, though parts take the wind very completely
out of my sails; it will be all nuts to me...for I have for some time
determined to give the arguments on BOTH sides (as far as I could), instead
of arguing on the mutability side alone.
In my own Cirripedial work (by the way, thank you for the dose of soft
solder; it does one--or at least me--a great deal of good)--in my own work
I have not felt conscious that disbelieving in the mere PERMANENCE of
species has made much difference one way or the other; in some few cases
(if publishing avowedly on doctrine of non-permanence), I should NOT have
affixed names, and in some few cases should have affixed names to
remarkable varieties. Certainly I have felt it humiliating, discussing and
doubting, and examining over and over again, when in my own mind the only
doubt has been whether the form varied TO-DAY OR YESTERDAY (not to put too
fine a point on it, as Snagsby (In 'Bleak House.') would say). After
describing a set of forms as distinct species, tearing up my MS., and
making them one species, tearing that up and making them separate, and then
making them one again (which has happened to me), I have gnashed my teeth,
cursed species, and asked what sin I had committed to be so punished. But
I must confess that perhaps nearly the same thing would have happened to me
on any scheme of work.
I am heartily glad to hear your Journal (Sir J.D. Hooker's 'Himalayan
Journal.') is so much advanced; how magnificently it seems to be
illustrated! An "Oriental Naturalist," with lots of imagination and not
too much regard to facts, is just the man to discuss species! I think your
title of 'A Journal of a Naturalist in the East' very good; but whether "in
the Himalaya" would not be better, I have doubted, for the East sounds
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
My dear Hooker,
I have no remarks at all worth sending you, nor, indeed, was it likely that
I should, considering how perfect and elaborated an essay it is. ('New
Zealand Flora,' 1853.) As far as my judgment goes, it is the most
important discussion on the points in question ever published. I can say
no more. I agree with almost everything you say; but I require much time
to digest an essay of such quality. It almost made me gloomy, partly from
feeling I could not answer some points which theoretically I should have
liked to have been different, and partly from seeing SO FAR BETTER DONE
than I COULD have done, discussions on some points which I had intended to
have taken up...
I much enjoyed the slaps you have given to the provincial species-mongers.
I wish I could have been of the slightest use: I have been deeply
interested by the whole essay, and congratulate you on having produced a
memoir which I believe will be memorable. I was deep in it when your most
considerate note arrived, begging me not to hurry. I thank Mrs. Hooker and
yourself most sincerely for your wish to see me. I will not let another
summer pass without seeing you at Kew, for indeed I should enjoy it much...
You do me really more honour than I have any claim to, putting me in after
Lyell on ups and downs. In a year or two's time, when I shall be at my
species book (if I do not break down), I shall gnash my teeth and abuse you
for having put so many hostile facts so confoundedly well.
Ever yours affectionately,
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, March 26th .
My dear Hooker,
I had hoped that you would have had a little breathing-time after your
Journal, but this seems to be very far from the case; and I am the more
obliged (and somewhat contrite) for the long letter received this morning,
MOST juicy with news and MOST interesting to me in many ways. I am very
glad indeed to hear of the reforms, etc., in the Royal Society. With
respect to the Club (The Philosophical Club, to which my father was elected
(as Professor Bonney is good enough to inform me) on April 24, 1854. He
resigned his membership in 1864. The Club was founded in 1847. The number
of members being limited to 47, it was proposed to christen it "the Club of
47," but the name was never adopted. The nature of the Club may be
gathered from its first rule: "The purpose of the Club is to promote as
much as possible the scientific objects of the Royal Society; to facilitate
intercourse between those Fellows who are actively engaged in cultivating
the various branches of Natural Science, and who have contributed to its
progress; to increase the attendance at the evening meetings, and to
encourage the contribution and discussion of papers." The Club met for
dinner (at first) at 6, and the chair was to be quitted at 8.15, it being
expected that members would go to the Royal Society. Of late years the
dinner has been at 6.30, the Society meeting in the afternoon.), I am
deeply interested; only two or three days ago, I was regretting to my wife,
how I was letting drop and being dropped by nearly all my acquaintances,
and that I would endeavour to go oftener to London; I was not then thinking
of the Club, which, as far as any one thing goes, would answer my exact
object in keeping up old and making some new acquaintances. I will
therefore come up to London for every (with rare exceptions) Club-day, and
then my head, I think, will allow me on an average to go to every other
meeting. But it is grievous how often any change knocks me up. I will
further pledge myself, as I told Lyell, to resign after a year, if I did
not attend pretty often, so that I should AT WORST encumber the Club
temporarily. If you can get me elected, I certainly shall be very much
pleased. Very many thanks for answers about Glaciers. I am very glad to
hear of the second Edition (Of the Himalayan Journal.) so very soon; but am
not surprised, for I have heard of several, in our small circle, reading it
with very much pleasure. I shall be curious to hear what Humboldt will
say: it will, I should think, delight him, and meet with more praise from
him than any other book of Travels, for I cannot remember one, which has so
many subjects in common with him. What a wonderful old fellow he is...By
the way, I hope, when you go to Hitcham, towards the end of May, you will
be forced to have some rest. I am grieved to hear that all the bad
symptoms have not left Henslow; it is so strange and new to feel any
uneasiness about his health. I am particularly obliged to you for sending
me Asa Gray's letter; how very pleasantly he writes. To see his and your
caution on the species-question ought to overwhelm me in confusion and
shame; it does make me feel deuced uncomfortable...It is delightful to hear
all that he says on Agassiz: how very singular it is that so EMINENTLY
clever a man, with such IMMENSE knowledge on many branches of Natural
History, should write as he does. Lyell told me that he was so delighted
with one of his (Agassiz) lectures on progressive development, etc., etc.,
that he went to him afterwards and told him, "that it was so delightful,
that he could not help all the time wishing it was true." I seldom see a
Zoological paper from North America, without observing the impress of
Agassiz's doctrines--another proof, by the way, of how great a man he is.
I was pleased and surprised to see A. Gray's remarks on crossing,
obliterating varieties, on which, as you know, I have been collecting facts
for these dozen years. How awfully flat I shall feel, if when I get my
notes together on species, etc., etc., the whole thing explodes like an
empty puff-ball. Do not work yourself to death.
Ever yours most truly,
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, November 5th .
My dear Hooker,
I was delighted to get your note yesterday. I congratulate you very
heartily (On the award to him of the Royal Society's Medal.), and whether
you care much or little, I rejoice to see the highest scientific judgment-
court in Great Britain recognise your claims. I do hope Mrs. Hooker is
pleased, and E. desires me particularly to send her cordial congratulations
...I pity you from the very bottom of my heart about your after-dinner
speech, which I fear I shall not hear. Without you have a very much
greater soul than I have (and I believe that you have), you will find the
medal a pleasant little stimulus, when work goes badly, and one ruminates
that all is vanity, it is pleasant to have some tangible proof, that others
have thought something of one's labours.
Good-bye my dear Hooker, I can assure [you] that we both most truly enjoyed
your and Mrs. Hooker's visit here. Farewell.
My dear Hooker, your sincere friend,
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
March 7 .
...I have just finished working well at Wollaston's (Thomas Vernon
Wollaston died (in his fifty-seventh year, as I believe) on January 4,
1878. His health forcing him in early manhood to winter in the south, he
devoted himself to a study of the Coleoptera of Madeira, the Cape de
Verdes, and St. Helena, whence he deduced evidence in support of the belief
in the submerged continent of 'Atlantis.' In an obituary notice by Mr. Rye
('Nature,' 1878) he is described as working persistently "upon a broad
conception of the science to which he was devoted," while being at the same
time "accurate, elaborate, and precise ad punctum, and naturally of a
minutely critical habit." His first scientific paper was written when he
was an undergraduate at Jesus College, Cambridge. While at the University,
he was an Associate and afterwards a Member of the Ray Club: this is a
small society which still meets once a week, and where the undergraduate
members, or Associates, receive much kindly encouragement from their
elders.) 'Insecta Maderensia': it is an ADMIRABLE work. There is a very
curious point in the astounding proportion of Coleoptera that are apterous;
and I think I have guessed the reason, viz., that powers of flight would be
injurious to insects inhabiting a confined locality, and expose them to be
blown to the sea: to test this, I find that the insects inhabiting the
Dezerte Grande, a quite small islet, would be still more exposed to this
danger, and here the proportion of apterous insects is even considerably
greater than on Madeira Proper. Wollaston speaks of Madeira and the other
Archipelagoes as being "sure and certain witnesses of Forbes' old
continent," and of course the Entomological world implicitly follows this
view. But to my eyes it would be difficult to imagine facts more opposed
to such a view. It is really disgusting and humiliating to see directly
opposite conclusions drawn from the same facts.
I have had some correspondence with Wollaston on this and other subjects,
and I find that he coolly assumes, (1) that formerly insects possessed
greater migratory powers than now, (2) that the old land was SPECIALLY rich
in centres of creation, (3) that the uniting land was destroyed before the
special creations had time to diffuse, and (4) that the land was broken
down before certain families and genera had time to reach from Europe or
Africa the points of land in question. Are not these a jolly lot of
assumptions? and yet I shall see for the next dozen or score of years
Wollaston quoted as proving the former existence of poor Forbes' Atlantis.
I hope I have not wearied you, but I thought you would like to hear about
this book, which strikes me as EXCELLENT in its facts, and the author a
most nice and modest man.
Most truly yours,
CHARLES DARWIN TO W.D. FOX.
Down, March 19th .
My dear Fox,
How long it is since we have had any communication, and I really want to
hear how the world goes with you; but my immediate object is to ask you to
observe a point for me, and as I know now you are a very busy man with too
much to do, I shall have a good chance of your doing what I want, as it
would be hopeless to ask a quite idle man. As you have a Noah's Ark, I do
not doubt that you have pigeons. (How I wish by any chance they were
fantails!) Now what I want to know is, at what age nestling pigeons have
their tail feathers sufficiently developed to be counted. I do not think I
ever saw a young pigeon. I am hard at work at my notes collecting and
comparing them, in order in some two or three years to write a book with
all the facts and arguments, which I can collect, FOR AND VERSUS the
immutability of species. I want to get the young of our domestic breeds,
to see how young, and to what degree the differences appear. I must either
breed myself (which is no amusement but a horrid bore to me) the pigeons or
buy their young; and before I go to a seller, whom I have heard of from
Yarrell, I am really anxious to know something about their development, not
to expose my excessive ignorance, and therefore be excessively liable to be
cheated and gulled. With respect to the ONE point of the tail feathers, it
is of course in relation to the wonderful development of tail feathers in
the adult fantail. If you had any breed of poultry pure, I would beg a
chicken with exact age stated, about a week or fortnight old! To be sent
in a box by post, if you could have the heart to kill one; and secondly,
would let me pay postage...Indeed, I should be very glad to have a nestling
common pigeon sent, for I mean to make skeletons, and have already just
begun comparing wild and tame ducks. And I think the results rather
curious ("I have just been testing practically what disuse does in reducing
parts; I have made skeleton of wild and tame duck (oh, the smell of well-
boiled, high duck!!) and I find the tame-duck wing ought, according to
scale of wild prototype, to have its two wings 360 grains in weight, but it
has it only 317."--A letter to Sir J. Hooker, 1855.), for on weighing the
several bones very carefully, when perfectly cleaned the proportional
weights of the two have greatly varied, the foot of the tame having largely
increased. How I wish I could get a little wild duck of a week old, but
that I know is almost impossible.
With respect to ourselves, I have not much to say; we have now a terribly
noisy house with the whooping cough, but otherwise are all well. Far the
greatest fact about myself is that I have at last quite done with the
everlasting barnacles. At the end of the year we had two of our little
boys very ill with fever and bronchitis, and all sorts of ailments. Partly
for amusement, and partly for change of air, we went to London and took a
house for a month, but it turned out a great failure, for that dreadful
frost just set in when we went, and all our children got unwell, and E. and
I had coughs and colds and rheumatism nearly all the time. We had put down
first on our list of things to do, to go and see Mrs. Fox, but literally
after waiting some time to see whether the weather would not improve, we
had not a day when we both could go out.
I do hope before very long you will be able to manage to pay us a visit.
Time is slipping away, and we are getting oldish. Do tell us about
yourself and all your large family.
I know you will help me IF YOU CAN with information about the young
pigeons; and anyhow do write before very long.
My dear Fox, your sincere old friend,
P.S.--Amongst all sorts of odds and ends, with which I am amusing myself, I
am comparing the seeds of the variations of plants. I had formerly some
wild cabbage seeds, which I gave to some one, was it to you? It is a
THOUSAND to one it was thrown away, if not I should be very glad of a pinch
[The following extract from a letter to Mr. Fox (March 27th, 1855) refers
to the same subject as the last letter, and gives some account of the
"species work:" "The way I shall kill young things will be to put them
under a tumbler glass with a teaspoon of ether or chloroform, the glass
being pressed down on some yielding surface, and leave them for an hour or
two, young have such power of revivication. (I have thus killed moths and
butterflies.) The best way would be to send them as you procure them, in
pasteboard chip-box by post, on which you could write and just tie up with
string; and you will REALLY make me happier by allowing me to keep an
account of postage, etc. Upon my word I can hardly believe that ANY ONE
could be so good-natured as to take such trouble and do such a very
disagreeable thing as kill babies; and I am very sure I do not know one
soul who, except yourself, would do so. I am going to ask one thing more;
should old hens of any above poultry (not duck) die or become so old as to
be USELESS, I wish you would send her to me per rail, addressed to C.
Darwin, care of Mr. Acton, Post-office, Bromley, Kent." Will you keep this
address? as shortest way for parcels. But I do not care so much for this,
as I could buy the old birds dead at Baily to make skeletons. I should
have written at once even if I had not heard from you, to beg you not to
take trouble about pigeons, for Yarrell has persuaded me to attempt it, and
I am now fitting up a place, and have written to Baily about prices, etc.,
etc. SOMETIME (when you are better) I should like very much to hear a
little about your "Little Call Duck"; why so-called? And where you got it?
and what it is like?...I was so ignorant I do not even know there were
three varieties of Dorking fowl: how do they differ?...
I forget whether I ever told you what the object of my present work is,--it
is to view all facts that I can master (eheu, eheu, how ignorant I find I
am) in Natural History (as on geographical distribution, palaeontology,
classification, hybridism, domestic animals and plants, etc., etc., etc.)
to see how far they favour or are opposed to the notion that wild species
are mutable or immutable: I mean with my utmost power to give all
arguments and facts on both sides. I have a NUMBER of people helping me in
every way, and giving me most valuable assistance; but I often doubt
whether the subject will not quite overpower me.
So much for the quasi-business part of my letter. I am very very sorry to
hear so indifferent account of your health: with your large family your
life is very precious, and I am sure with all your activity and goodness it
ought to be a happy one, or as happy as can reasonably be expected with all
the cares of futurity on one.
One cannot expect the present to be like the old Crux-major days at the
foot of those noble willow stumps, the memory of which I revere. I now
find my little entomology which I wholly owe to you, comes in very useful.
I am very glad to hear that you have given yourself a rest from Sunday
duties. How much illness you have had in your life! Farewell my dear Fox.
I assure you I thank you heartily for your proffered assistance."]
CHARLES DARWIN TO W.D. FOX.
Down, May 7th .
My dear Fox,
My correspondence has cost you a deal of trouble, though this note will
not. I found yours on my return home on Saturday after a week's work in
London. Whilst there I saw Yarrell, who told me he had carefully examined
all points in the Call Duck, and did not feel any doubt about it being
specifically identical, and that it had crossed freely with common
varieties in St. James's Park. I should therefore be very glad for a
seven-days' duckling and for one of the old birds, should one ever die a
natural death. Yarrell told me that Sabine had collected forty varieties
of the common duck!...Well, to return to business; nobody, I am sure, could
fix better for me than you the characteristic age of little chickens; with
respect to skeletons, I have feared it would be impossible to make them,
but I suppose I shall be able to measure limbs, etc., by feeling the
joints. What you say about old cocks just confirms what I thought, and I
will make my skeletons of old cocks. Should an old wild turkey ever die,
please remember me; I do not care for a baby turkey, nor for a mastiff.
Very many thanks for your offer. I have puppies of bull-dogs and greyhound
in salt, and I have had cart-horse and race-horse young colts carefully
measured. Whether I shall do any good I doubt. I am getting out of my
Most truly yours,
[An extract from a letter to Mr. Fox may find a place here, though of a
later date, viz. July, 1855:
"Many thanks for the seven days' old white Dorking, and for the other
promised ones. I am getting quite a 'chamber of horrors,' I appreciate
your kindness even more than before; for I have done the black deed and
murdered an angelic little fantail and pouter at ten days old. I tried
chloroform and ether for the first, and though evidently a perfectly easy
death, it was prolonged; and for the second I tried putting lumps of
cyanide of potassium in a very large damp bottle, half an hour before
putting in the pigeon, and the prussic acid gas thus generated was very
A letter to Mr. Fox (May 23rd, 1855) gives the first mention of my father's
laborious piece of work on the breeding of pigeons:
"I write now to say that I have been looking at some of our mongrel
chickens, and I should say ONE WEEK OLD would do very well. The chief
points which I am, and have been for years, very curious about, is to
ascertain whether the YOUNG of our domestic breeds differ as much from each
other as do their parents, and I have no faith in anything short of actual
measurement and the Rule of Three. I hope and believe I am not giving so
much trouble without a motive of sufficient worth. I have got my fantails
and pouters (choice birds, I hope, as I paid 20 shillings for each pair
from Baily) in a grand cage and pigeon-house, and they are a decided
amusement to me, and delight to H."
In the course of my father's pigeon-fancying enterprise he necessarily
became acquainted with breeders, and was fond of relating his experiences
as a member of the Columbarian and Philoperistera Clubs, where he met the
purest enthusiasts of the "fancy," and learnt much of the mysteries of
their art. In writing to Mr. Huxley some years afterwards, he quotes from
a book on 'Pigeons' by Mr. J. Eaton, in illustration of the "extreme
attention and close observation" necessary to be a good fancier.
"In his [Mr. Eaton's] treatise, devoted to the Almond Tumbler ALONE, which
is a sub-variety of the short-faced variety, which is a variety of the
Tumbler, as that is of the Rock-pigeon, Mr. Eaton says: 'There are some of
the young fanciers who are over-covetous, who go for all the five
properties at once [i.e., the five characteristic points which are mainly
attended to,--C.D.], they have their reward by getting nothing.' In short,
it is almost beyond the human intellect to attend to ALL the excellencies
of the Almond Tumbler!
"To be a good breeder, and to succeed in improving any breed, beyond
everything enthusiasm is required. Mr. Eaton has gained lots of prizes,
listen to him.
"'If it was possible for noblemen and gentlemen to know the amazing amount
of solace and pleasure derived from the Almond Tumbler, when they begin to
understand their (i.e., the tumbler's) properties, I should think that
scarce any nobleman or gentleman would be without their aviaries of Almond
My father was fond of quoting this passage, and always with a tone of
fellow-feeling for the author, though, no doubt, he had forgotten his own
wonderings as a child that "every gentleman did not become an
ornithologist."--('Autobiography,' page 32.)
To Mr. W.B. Tegetmeier, the well-known writer on poultry, etc., he was
indebted for constant advice and co-operation. Their correspondence began
in 1855, and lasted to 1881, when my father wrote: "I can assure you that
I often look back with pleasure to the old days when I attended to pigeons,
fowls, etc., and when you gave me such valuable assistance. I not rarely
regret that I have had so little strength that I have not been able to keep
up old acquaintances and friendships." My father's letters to Mr.
Tegetmeier consist almost entirely of series of questions relating to the
different breeds of fowls, pigeons, etc., and are not, therefore
interesting. In reading through the pile of letters, one is much struck by
the diligence of the writer's search for facts, and it is made clear that
Mr. Tegetmeier's knowledge and judgment were completely trusted and highly
valued by him. Numerous phrases, such as "your note is a mine of wealth to
me," occur, expressing his sense of the value of Mr. Tegetmeier's help, as
well as words expressing his warm appreciation of Mr. Tegetmeier's
unstinting zeal and kindness, or his "pure and disinterested love of
science." On the subject of hive-bees and their combs, Mr. Tegetmeier's
help was also valued by my father, who wrote, "your paper on 'Bees-cells,'
read before the British Association, was highly useful and suggestive to
To work out the problems on the Geographical Distributions of animals and
plants on evolutionary principles, he had to study the means by which
seeds, eggs, etc., can be transported across wide spaces of ocean. It was
this need which gave an interest to the class of experiment to which the
following letters allude.]
CHARLES DARWIN TO W.D. FOX.
Down, May 17th .
My dear Fox,
You will hate the very sight of my hand-writing; but after this time I
promise I will ask for nothing more, at least for a long time. As you live
on sandy soil, have you lizards at all common? If you have, should you
think it too ridiculous to offer a reward for me for lizard's eggs to the
boys in your school; a shilling for every half-dozen, or more if rare, till
you got two or three dozen and send them to me? If snake's eggs were
brought in mistake it would be very well, for I want such also; and we have
neither lizards nor snakes about here. My object is to see whether such
eggs will float on sea water, and whether they will keep alive thus
floating for a month or two in my cellar. I am trying experiments on
transportation of all organic beings that I can; and lizards are found on
every island, and therefore I am very anxious to see whether their eggs
stand sea water. Of course this note need not be answered, without, by a
strange and favourable chance, you can some day answer it with the eggs.
Your most troublesome friend,
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
April 13th .
...I have had one experiment some little time in progress, which will, I
think, be interesting, namely, seeds in salt water immersed in water of 32-
33 degrees, which I have and shall long have, as I filled a great tank with
snow. When I wrote last I was going to triumph over you, for my experiment
had in a slight degree succeeded; but this, with infinite baseness, I did
not tell, in hopes that you would say that you would eat all the plants
which I could raise after immersion. It is very aggravating that I cannot
in the least remember what you did formerly say that made me think you
scoffed at the experiments vastly; for you now seem to view the experiment
like a good Christian. I have in small bottles out of doors, exposed to
variation of temperature, cress, radish, cabbages, lettuces, carrots, and
celery, and onion seed--four great families. These, after immersion for
exactly one week, have all germinated, which I did not in the least expect
(and thought how you would sneer at me); for the water of nearly all, and
of the cress especially, smelt very badly, and the cress seed emitted a
wonderful quantity of mucus (the 'Vestiges' would have expected them to
turn into tadpoles), so as to adhere in a mass; but these seeds germinated
and grew splendidly. The germination of all (especially cress and
lettuces) has been accelerated, except the cabbages, which have come up
very irregularly, and a good many, I think, dead. One would have thought,
from their native habitat, that the cabbage would have stood well. The
Umbelliferae and onions seem to stand the salt well. I wash the seed
before planting them. I have written to the "Gardeners' Chronicle" (A few
words asking for information. The results were published in the
'Gardeners' Chronicle,' May 26, November 24, 1855. In the same year (page
789) he sent a P.S. to his former paper, correcting a misprint and adding a
few words on the seeds of the Leguminosae. A fuller paper on the
germination of seeds after treatment in salt water, appeared in the
'Linnaean Soc. Journal,' 1857, page 130.), though I doubt whether it was
worth while. If my success seems to make it worth while, I will send a
seed list, to get you to mark some different classes of seeds. To-day I
replant the same seeds as above after fourteen days' immersion. As many
sea-currents go a mile an hour, even in a week they might be transported
168 miles; the Gulf Stream is said to go fifty and sixty miles a day. So
much and too much on this head; but my geese are always swans...
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
[April 14th, 1855.]
...You are a good man to confess that you expected the cress would be
killed in a week, for this gives me a nice little triumph. The children at
first were tremendously eager, and asked me often, "whether I should beat
Dr. Hooker!" The cress and lettuce have just vegetated well after twenty-
one days' immersion. But I will write no more, which is a great virtue in
me; for it is to me a very great pleasure telling you everything I do.
...If you knew some of the experiments (if they may be so-called) which I
am trying, you would have a good right to sneer, for they are so ABSURD
even in MY opinion that I dare not tell you.
Have not some men a nice notion of experimentising? I have had a letter
telling me that seeds MUST have GREAT power of resisting salt water, for
otherwise how could they get to islands? This is the true way to solve a
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
My dear Hooker,
You have been a very good man to exhale some of your satisfaction in
writing two notes to me; you could not have taken a better line in my
opinion; but as for showing your satisfaction in confounding my
experiments, I assure you I am quite enough confounded--those horrid seeds,
which, as you truly observe, if they sink they won't float.
I have written to Scoresby and have had a rather dry answer, but very much
to the purpose, and giving me no hopes of any law unknown to me which might
arrest their everlasting descent into the deepest depths of the ocean. By
the way it was very odd, but I talked to Col. Sabine for half an hour on
the subject, and could not make him see with respect to transportal the
difficulty of the sinking question! The bore is, if the confounded seeds
will sink, I have been taking all this trouble in salting the ungrateful
rascals for nothing.
Everything has been going wrong with me lately; the fish at the Zoological
Society ate up lots of soaked seeds, and in imagination they had in my mind
been swallowed, fish and all, by a heron, had been carried a hundred miles,
been voided on the banks of some other lake and germinated splendidly, when
lo and behold, the fish ejected vehemently, and with disgust equal to my
own, ALL the seeds from their mouths. (In describing these troubles to Mr.
Fox, my father wrote:--"All nature is perverse and will not do as I wish
it; and just at present I wish I had my old barnacles to work at, and
nothing new." The experiment ultimately succeeded, and he wrote to Sir J.
Hooker:--"I find fish will greedily eat seeds of aquatic grasses, and that
millet-seed put into fish and given to a stork, and then voided, will
germinate. So this is the nursery rhyme of 'this is the stick that beats
the pig,' etc., etc.,")
But I am not going to give up the floating yet: in first place I must try
fresh seeds, though of course it seems far more probable that they will
sink; and secondly, as a last resource, I must believe in the pod or even
whole plant or branch being washed into the sea; with floods and slips and
earthquakes; this must continually be happening, and if kept wet, I fancy
the pods, etc. etc., would not open and shed their seeds. Do try your
Mimosa seed at Kew.
I had intended to have asked you whether the Mimosa scandens and Guilandina
bonduc grows at Kew, to try fresh seeds. R. Brown tells me he believes
four W. Indian seeds have been washed on shores of Europe. I was assured
at Keeling Island that seeds were not rarely washed on shore: so float
they must and shall! What a long yarn I have been spinning.
If you have several of the Loffoden seeds, do soak some in tepid water, and
get planted with the utmost care: this is an experiment after my own
heart, with chances 1000 to 1 against its success.
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, May 11th .
My dear Hooker,--I have just received your note. I am most sincerely and
heartily glad at the news (The appointment of Sir J.D. Hooker as Assistant
Director of the Royal Gardens at Kew.) it contains, and so is my wife.
Though the income is but a poor one, yet the certainty, I hope, is
satisfactory to yourself and Mrs. Hooker. As it must lead in future years
to the Directorship, I do hope you look at it, as a piece of good fortune.
For my own taste I cannot fancy a pleasanter position, than the Head of
such a noble and splendid place; far better, I should think, than a
Professorship in a great town. The more I think of it, the gladder I am.
But I will say no more; except that I hope Mrs. Hooker is pretty well
As the "Gardeners' Chronicle" put in my question, and took notice of it, I
think I am bound to send, which I had thought of doing next week, my first
report to Lindley to give him the option of inserting it; but I think it
likely that he may not think it fit for a Gardening periodical. When my
experiments are ended (should the results appear worthy) and should the
'Linnean Journal' not object to the previous publication of imperfect and
provisional reports, I should be DELIGHTED to insert the final report
there; for it has cost me so much trouble, that I should think that
probably the result was worthy of more permanent record than a newspaper;
but I think I am bound to send it first to Lindley.
I begin to think the floating question more serious than the germinating
one; and am making all the inquiries which I can on the subject, and hope
to get some little light on it...
I hope you managed a good meeting at the Club. The Treasurership must be a
plague to you, and I hope you will not be Treasurer for long: I know I
would much sooner give up the Club than be its Treasurer.
Farewell, Mr. Assistant Director and dear friend,
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
June 5th, 1855.
...Miss Thorley (A lady who was for many years a governess in the family.)
and I are doing A LITTLE BOTANICAL WORK! for our amusement, and it does
amuse me very much, viz., making a collection of all the plants, which grow
in a field, which has been allowed to run waste for fifteen years, but
which before was cultivated from time immemorial; and we are also
collecting all the plants in an adjoining and SIMILAR but cultivated field;
just for the fun of seeing what plants have survived or died out.
Hereafter we shall want a bit of help in naming puzzlers. How dreadfully
difficult it is to name plants.
What a REMARKABLY nice and kind letter Dr. A. Gray has sent me in answer to
my troublesome queries; I retained your copy of his 'Manual' till I heard
from him, and when I have answered his letter, I will return it to you.
I thank you much for Hedysarum: I do hope it is not very precious, for as
I told you it is for probably a MOST foolish purpose. I read somewhere
that no plant closes its leaves so promptly in darkness, and I want to
cover it up daily for half an hour, and see if I can teach it to close by
itself, or more easily than at first in darkness...I cannot make out why
you would prefer a continental transmission, as I think you do, to carriage
by sea. I should have thought you would have been pleased at as many means
of transmission as possible. For my own pet theoretic notions, it is quite
indifferent whether they are transmitted by sea or land, as long as some
tolerably probable way is shown. But it shocks my philosophy to create
land, without some other and independent evidence. Whenever we meet, by a
very few words I should, I think, more clearly understand your views...
I have just made out my first grass, hurrah! hurrah! I must confess that
fortune favours the bold, for, as good luck would have it, it was the easy
Anthoxanthum odoratum: nevertheless it is a great discovery; I never
expected to make out a grass in all my life, so hurrah! It has done my
stomach surprising good...
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, [June?] 15th, .
My dear Hooker,
I just write one line to say that the Hedysarum is come QUITE SAFELY, and
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