The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Volume II

Part 3 out of 11

was an unprosperous and unhappy one, full of money difficulties and
darkened by the death of his wife after a few years of marriage.), of
Calcutta, who is much disappointed at hearing that Lord Canning will not
grant any money; so I much fear that all your great pains will be thrown
away. Blyth says (and he is in many respects a very good judge) that his
ideas on species are quite revolutionised...

Down, June 5th [1860].

My dear Hooker,

It is a pleasure to me to write to you, as I have no one to talk about such
matters as we write on. But I seriously beg you not to write to me unless
so inclined; for busy as you are, and seeing many people, the case is very
different between us...

Have you seen --'s abusive article on me?...It out does even the 'North
British' and 'Edinburgh' in misapprehension and misrepresentation. I never
knew anything so unfair as in discussing cells of bees, his ignoring the
case of Melipona, which builds combs almost exactly intermediate between
hive and humble bees. What has -- done that he feels so immeasurably
superior to all us wretched naturalists, and to all political economists,
including that great philosopher Malthus? This review, however, and
Harvey's letter have convinced me that I must be a very bad explainer.
Neither really understand what I mean by Natural Selection. I am inclined
to give up the attempt as hopeless. Those who do not understand, it seems,
cannot be made to understand.

By the way, I think, we entirely agree, except perhaps that I use too
forcible language about selection. I entirely agree, indeed would almost
go further than you when you say that climate (i.e. variability from all
unknown causes) is "an active handmaid, influencing its mistress most
materially." Indeed, I have never hinted that Natural Selection is "the
efficient cause to the exclusion of the other," i.e. variability from
Climate, etc. The very term SELECTION implies something, i.e. variation or
difference, to be selected...

How does your book progress (I mean your general sort of book on plants), I
hope to God you will be more successful than I have been in making people
understand your meaning. I should begin to think myself wholly in the
wrong, and that I was an utter fool, but then I cannot yet persuade myself,
that Lyell, and you and Huxley, Carpenter, Asa Gray, and Watson, etc., are
all fools together. Well, time will show, and nothing but time.

Down, June 6th [1860].

...It consoles me that -- sneers at Malthus, for that clearly shows,
mathematician though he may be, he cannot understand common reasoning. By
the way what a discouraging example Malthus is, to show during what long
years the plainest case may be misrepresented and misunderstood. I have
read the 'Future'; how curious it is that several of my reviewers should
advance such wild arguments, as that varieties of dogs and cats do not
mingle; and should bring up the old exploded doctrine of definite
analogies...I am beginning to despair of ever making the majority
understand my notions. Even Hopkins does not thoroughly. By the way, I
have been so much pleased by the way he personally alludes to me. I must
be a very bad explainer. I hope to Heaven that you will succeed better.
Several reviews and several letters have shown me too clearly how little I
am understood. I suppose "natural selection" was a bad term; but to change
it now, I think, would make confusion worse confounded, nor can I think of
a better; "Natural Preservation" would not imply a preservation of
particular varieties, and would seem a truism, and would not bring man's
and nature's selection under one point of view. I can only hope by
reiterated explanations finally to make the matter clearer. If my MS.
spreads out, I think I shall publish one volume exclusively on variation of
animals and plants under domestication. I want to show that I have not
been quite so rash as many suppose.

Though weary of reviews, I should like to see Lowell's (The late J.A.
Lowell in the 'Christian Examiner' (Boston, U.S., May, 1860.) some time...I
suppose Lowell's difficulty about instinct is the same as Bowen's; but it
seems to me wholly to rest on the assumption that instincts cannot graduate
as finely as structures. I have stated in my volume that it is hardly
possible to know which, i.e. whether instinct or structure, change first by
insensible steps. Probably sometimes instinct, sometimes structure. When
a British insect feeds on an exotic plant, instinct has changed by very
small steps, and their structures might change so as to fully profit by the
new food. Or structure might change first, as the direction of tusks in
one variety of Indian elephants, which leads it to attack the tiger in a
different manner from other kinds of elephants. Thanks for your letter of
the 2nd, chiefly about Murray. (N.B. Harvey of Dublin gives me, in a
letter, the argument of tall men marrying short women, as one of great

I do not quite understand what you mean by saying, "that the more they
prove that you underrate physical conditions, the better for you, as
Geology comes in to your aid."

...I see in Murray and many others one incessant fallacy, when alluding to
slight differences of physical conditions as being very important; namely,
oblivion of the fact that all species, except very local ones, range over a
considerable area, and though exposed to what the world calls considerable
DIVERSITIES, yet keep constant. I have just alluded to this in the
'Origin' in comparing the productions of the Old and the New Worlds.
Farewell, shall you be at Oxford? If H. gets quite well, perhaps I shall
go there.

Yours affectionately,

Down [June 14th, 1860].

...Lowell's review (J.A. Lowell in the 'Christian Examiner,' May 1860.) is
pleasantly written, but it is clear that he is not a naturalist. He quite
overlooks the importance of the accumulation of mere individual
differences, and which, I think I can show, is the great agency of change
under domestication. I have not finished Schaaffhausen, as I read German
so badly. I have ordered a copy for myself, and should like to keep yours
till my own arrives, but will return it to you instantly if wanted. He
admits statements rather rashly, as I dare say I do. I see only one
sentence as yet at all approaching natural selection.

There is a notice of me in the penultimate number of 'All the Year Round,'
but not worth consulting; chiefly a well-done hash of my own words. Your
last note was very interesting and consolatory to me.

I have expressly stated that I believe physical conditions have a more
direct effect on plants than on animals. But the more I study, the more I
am led to think that natural selection regulates, in a state of nature,
most trifling differences. As squared stone, or bricks, or timber, are the
indispensable materials for a building, and influence its character, so is
variability not only indispensable, but influential. Yet in the same
manner as the architect is the ALL important person in a building, so is
selection with organic bodies...

[The meeting of the British Association at Oxford in 1860 is famous for two
pitched battles over the 'Origin of Species.' Both of them originated in
unimportant papers. On Thursday, June 28, Dr. Daubeny of Oxford made a
communication to Section D: "On the final causes of the sexuality of
plants, with particular reference to Mr. Darwin's work on the 'Origin of
Species.'" Mr. Huxley was called on by the President, but tried (according
to the "Athenaeum" report) to avoid a discussion, on the ground "that a
general audience, in which sentiment would unduly interfere with intellect,
was not the public before which such a discussion should be carried on."
However, the subject was not allowed to drop. Sir R. Owen (I quote from
the "Athenaeum", July 7, 1860), who "wished to approach this subject in the
spirit of the philosopher," expressed his "conviction that there were facts
by which the public could come to some conclusion with regard to the
probabilities of the truth of Mr. Darwin's theory." He went on to say that
the brain of the gorilla "presented more differences, as compared with the
brain of man, than it did when compared with the brains of the very lowest
and most problematical of the Quadrumana." Mr. Huxley replied, and gave
these assertions a "direct and unqualified contradiction," pledging himself
to "justify that unusual procedure elsewhere" ('Man's Place in Nature,' by
T.H. Huxley, 1863, page 114.), a pledge which he amply fulfilled. (See the
'Nat. Hist. Review,' 1861.) On Friday there was peace, but on Saturday
30th, the battle arose with redoubled fury over a paper by Dr. Draper of
New York, on the 'Intellectual development of Europe considered with
reference to the views of Mr. Darwin.'

The following account is from an eye-witness of the scene.

"The excitement was tremendous. The Lecture-room, in which it had been
arranged that the discussion should be held, proved far too small for the
audience, and the meeting adjourned to the Library of the Museum, which was
crammed to suffocation long before the champions entered the lists. The
numbers were estimated at from 700 to 1000. Had it been term-time, or had
the general public been admitted, it would have been impossible to have
accommodated the rush to hear the oratory of the bold Bishop. Professor
Henslow, the President of Section D, occupied the chair and wisely
announced in limine that none who had not valid arguments to bring forward
on one side or the other, would be allowed to address the meeting: a
caution that proved necessary, for no fewer than four combatants had their
utterances burked by him, because of their indulgence in vague declamation.

"The Bishop was up to time, and spoke for full half-an-hour with inimitable
spirit, emptiness and unfairness. It was evident from his handling of the
subject that he had been 'crammed' up to the throat, and that he knew
nothing at first hand; in fact, he used no argument not to be found in his
'Quarterly' article. He ridiculed Darwin badly, and Huxley savagely, but
all in such dulcet tones, so persuasive a manner, and in such well-turned
periods, that I who had been inclined to blame the President for allowing a
discussion that could serve no scientific purpose now forgave him from the
bottom of my heart. Unfortunately the Bishop, hurried along on the current
of his own eloquence, so far forgot himself as to push his attempted
advantage to the verge of personality in a telling passage in which he
turned round and addressed Huxley: I forgot the precise words, and quote
from Lyell. 'The Bishop asked whether Huxley was related by his
grandfather's or grandmother's side to an ape.' (Lyell's 'Letters,' vol.
ii. page 335.) Huxley replied to the scientific argument of his opponent
with force and eloquence, and to the personal allusion with a self-
restraint, that gave dignity to his crushing rejoinder."

Many versions of Mr. Huxley's speech were current: the following report of
his conclusion is from a letter addressed by the late John Richard Green,
then an undergraduate, to a fellow-student, now Professor Boyd Dawkins. "I
asserted, and I repeat, that a man has no reason to be ashamed of having an
ape for his grandfather. If there were an ancestor whom I should feel
shame in recalling, it would be a MAN, a man of restless and versatile
intellect, who, not content with an equivocal (Prof. V. Carus, who has a
distinct recollection of the scene, does not remember the word equivocal.
He believes too that Lyell's version of the "ape" sentence is slightly
incorrect.) success in his own sphere of activity, plunges into scientific
questions with which he has no real acquaintance, only to obscure them by
an aimless rhetoric, and distract the attention of his hearers from the
real point at issue by eloquent digressions, and skilled appeals to
religious prejudice."

The letter above quoted continues:

"The excitement was now at its height; a lady fainted and had to be carried
out, and it was some time before the discussion was resumed. Some voices
called for Hooker, and his name having been handed up, the President
invited him to give his view of the theory from the Botanical side. This
he did, demonstrating that the Bishop, by his own showing, had never
grasped the principles of the 'Origin' (With regard to the Bishop's
'Quarterly Review,' my father wrote: "These very clever men think they can
write a review with a very slight knowledge of the book reviewed or subject
in question."), and that he was absolutely ignorant of the elements of
botanical science. The Bishop made no reply, and the meeting broke up.

"There was a crowded conversazione in the evening at the rooms of the
hospitable and genial Professor of Botany, Dr. Daubeny, where the almost
sole topic was the battle of the 'Origin,' and I was much struck with the
fair and unprejudiced way in which the black coats and white cravats of
Oxford discussed the question, and the frankness with which they offered
their congratulations to the winners in the combat.]

Sudbrook Park, Monday night
[July 2nd, 1860].

My dear Hooker,

I have just received your letter. I have been very poorly, with almost
continuous bad headache for forty-eight hours, and I was low enough, and
thinking what a useless burthen I was to myself and all others, when your
letter came, and it has so cheered me; your kindness and affection brought
tears into my eyes. Talk of fame, honour, pleasure, wealth, all are dirt
compared with affection; and this is a doctrine with which, I know, from
your letter, that you will agree with from the bottom of your heart...How I
should have liked to have wandered about Oxford with you, if I had been
well enough; and how still more I should have liked to have heard you
triumphing over the Bishop. I am astonished at your success and audacity.
It is something unintelligible to me how any one can argue in public like
orators do. I had no idea you had this power. I have read lately so many
hostile views, that I was beginning to think that perhaps I was wholly in
the wrong, and that -- was right when he said the whole subject would be
forgotten in ten years; but now that I hear that you and Huxley will fight
publicly (which I am sure I never could do), I fully believe that our cause
will, in the long-run, prevail. I am glad I was not in Oxford, for I
should have been overwhelmed, with my [health] in its present state.

Sudbrook Park, Richmond,
July 3rd [1860].

...I had a letter from Oxford, written by Hooker late on Sunday night,
giving me some account of the awful battles which have raged about species
at Oxford. He tells me you fought nobly with Owen (but I have heard no
particulars), and that you answered the B. of O. capitally. I often think
that my friends (and you far beyond others) have good cause to hate me, for
having stirred up so much mud, and led them into so much odious trouble.
If I had been a friend of myself, I should have hated me. (How to make
that sentence good English, I know not.) But remember, if I had not
stirred up the mud, some one else certainly soon would. I honour your
pluck; I would as soon have died as tried to answer the Bishop in such an

[On July 20th, my father wrote to Mr. Huxley:

"From all that I hear from several quarters, it seems that Oxford did the
subject great good. It is of enormous importance, the showing the world
that a few first-rate men are not afraid of expressing their opinion."]

[July 1860].

...I have just read the 'Quarterly.' ('Quarterly Review,' July 1860. The
article in question was by Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, and was
afterwards published in his "Essays Contributed to the 'Quarterly Review,'
1874." The passage from the 'Anti-Jacobin' gives the history of the
evolution of space from the "primaeval point or punctum saliens of the
universe," which is conceived to have moved "forward in a right line ad
infinitum, till it grew tired; after which the right line, which it had
generated, would begin to put itself in motion in a lateral direction,
describing an area of infinite extent. This area, as soon as it became
conscious of its own existence, would begin to ascend or descend according
as its specific gravity would determine it, forming an immense solid space
filled with vacuum, and capable of containing the present universe."

The following (page 263) may serve as an example of the passages in which
the reviewer refers to Sir Charles Lyell:--"That Mr. Darwin should have
wandered from this broad highway of nature's works into the jungle of
fanciful assumption is no small evil. We trust that he is mistaken in
believing that he may count Sir C. Lyell as one of his converts. We know,
indeed, that the strength of the temptations which he can bring to bear
upon his geological brother...Yet no man has been more distinct and more
logical in the denial of the transmutation of species than Sir C. Lyell,
and that not in the infancy of his scientific life, but in its full vigour
and maturity." The Bishop goes on to appeal to Lyell, in order that with
his help "this flimsy speculation may be as completely put down as was what
in spite of all denials we must venture to call its twin though less
instructed brother, the 'Vestiges of Creation.'"

With reference to this article, Mr. Brodie Innes, my father's old friend
and neighbour, writes:--"Most men would have been annoyed by an article
written with the Bishop's accustomed vigour, a mixture of argument and
ridicule. Mr. Darwin was writing on some parish matter, and put a
postscript--'If you have not seen the last 'Quarterly,' do get it; the
Bishop of Oxford has made such capital fun of me and my grandfather.' By a
curious coincidence, when I received the letter, I was staying in the same
house with the Bishop, and showed it to him. He said, 'I am very glad he
takes it in that way, he is such a capital fellow.'") It is uncommonly
clever; it picks out with skill all the most conjectural parts, and brings
forward well all the difficulties. It quizzes me quite splendidly by
quoting the 'Anti-Jacobin' versus my Grandfather. You are not alluded to,
nor, strange to say, Huxley; and I can plainly see, here and there, --'s
hand. The concluding pages will make Lyell shake in his shoes. By Jove,
if he sticks to us, he will be a real hero. Good-night. Your well-
quizzed, but not sorrowful, and affectionate friend.


I can see there has been some queer tampering with the Review, for a page
has been cut out and reprinted.

[Writing on July 22 to Dr. Asa Gray my father thus refers to Lyell's

"Considering his age, his former views and position in society, I think his
conduct has been heroic on this subject."]

[Hartfield, Sussex] July 22nd [1860].

My dear Gray,

Owing to absence from home at water-cure and then having to move my sick
girl to whence I am now writing, I have only lately read the discussion in
Proc. American Acad. (April 10, 1860. Dr. Gray criticised in detail
"several of the positions taken at the preceding meeting by Mr. [J.A.]
Lowell, Prof. Bowen and Prof. Agassiz." It was reprinted in the
"Athenaeum", August 4, 1860.), and now I cannot resist expressing my
sincere admiration of your most clear powers of reasoning. As Hooker
lately said in a note to me, you are more than ANY ONE else the thorough
master of the subject. I declare that you know my book as well as I do
myself; and bring to the question new lines of illustration and argument in
a manner which excites my astonishment and almost my envy! I admire these
discussions, I think, almost more than your article in Silliman's Journal.
Every single word seems weighed carefully, and tells like a 32-pound shot.
It makes me much wish (but I know that you have not time) that you could
write more in detail, and give, for instance, the facts on the variability
of the American wild fruits. The "Athenaeum" has the largest circulation,
and I have sent my copy to the editor with a request that he would
republish the first discussion; I much fear he will not, as he reviewed the
subject in so hostile a spirit...I shall be curious [to see] and will order
the August number, as soon as I know that it contains your review of
Reviews. My conclusion is that you have made a mistake in being a
botanist, you ought to have been a lawyer.

...Henslow (Professor Henslow was mentioned in the December number of
'Macmillan's Magazine' as being an adherent of Evolution. In consequence
of this he published, in the February number of the following year, a
letter defining his position. This he did by means of an extract from a
letter addressed to him by the Rev. L. Jenyns (Blomefield) which "very
nearly," as he says, expressed his views. Mr. Blomefield wrote, "I was not
aware that you had become a convert to his (Darwin's) theory, and can
hardly suppose you have accepted it as a whole, though, like myself, you
may go to the length of imagining that many of the smaller groups, both of
animals and plants, may at some remote period have had a common parentage.
I do not with some say that the whole of his theory cannot be true--but
that it is very far from proved; and I doubt its ever being possible to
prove it.") and Daubeny are shaken. I hear from Hooker that he hears from
Hochstetter that my views are making very considerable progress in Germany,
and the good workers are discussing the question. Bronn at the end of his
translation has a chapter of criticism, but it is such difficult German
that I have not yet read it. Hopkins's review in 'Fraser' is thought the
best which has appeared against us. I believe that Hopkins is so much
opposed because his course of study has never led him to reflect much on
such subjects as geographical distribution, classification, homologies,
etc., so that he does not feel it a relief to have some kind of

Hartfield [Sussex], July 30th [1860].

...I had lots of pleasant letters about the British Association, and our
side seems to have got on very well. There has been as much discussion on
the other side of the Atlantic as on this. No one I think understands the
whole case better than Asa Gray, and he has been fighting nobly. He is a
capital reasoner. I have sent one of his printed discussions to our
"Athenaeum", and the editor says he will print it. The 'Quarterly' has
been out some time. It contains no malice, which is wonderful...It makes
me say many things which I do not say. At the end it quotes all your
conclusions against Lamarck, and makes a solemn appeal to you to keep firm
in the true faith. I fancy it will make you quake a little. -- has
ingeniously primed the Bishop (with Murchison) against you as head of the
uniformitarians. The only other review worth mentioning, which I can think
of, is in the third No. of the 'London Review,' by some geologist, and
favorable for a wonder. It is very ably done, and I should like much to
know who is the author. I shall be very curious to hear on your return
whether Bronn's German translation of the 'Origin' has drawn any attention
to the subject. Huxley is eager about a 'Natural History Review,' which he
and others are going to edit, and he has got so many first-rate assistants,
that I really believe he will make it a first-rate production. I have been
doing nothing, except a little botanical work as amusement. I shall
hereafter be very anxious to hear how your tour has answered. I expect
your book on the geological history of Man will, with a vengeance, be a
bomb-shell. I hope it will not be very long delayed. Our kindest
remembrances to Lady Lyell. This is not worth sending, but I have nothing
better to say.

Yours affectionately,

Down, July 30th, [1860?].

My dear Watkins,

Your note gave me real pleasure. Leading the retired life which I do, with
bad health, I oftener think of old times than most men probably do; and
your face now rises before me, with the pleasant old expression, as vividly
as if I saw you.

My book has been well abused, praised, and splendidly quizzed by the Bishop
of Oxford; but from what I see of its influence on really good workers in
science, I feel confident that, IN THE MAIN, I am on the right road. With
respect to your question, I think the arguments are valid, showing that all
animals have descended from four or five primordial forms; and that analogy
and weak reasons go to show that all have descended from some single

Farewell, my old friend. I look back to old Cambridge days with unalloyed

Believe me, yours most sincerely,

August 6th, 1860.

My dear Darwin,

I have to announce a new and great ally for you...

Von Baer writes to me thus:--Et outre cela, je trouve que vous ecrivez
encore des redactions. Vous avez ecrit sur l'ouvrage de M. Darwin une
critique dont je n'ai trouve que des debris dans un journal allemand. J'ai
oublie le nom terrible du journal anglais dans lequel se trouve votre
recension. En tout cas aussi je ne peux pas trouver le journal ici. Comme
je m'interesse beaucoup pour les idees de M. Darwin, sur lesquelles j'ai
parle publiquement et sur lesquelles je ferai peut-etre imprimer quelque
chose--vous m'obligeriez infiniment si vous pourriez me faire parvenir ce
que vous avez ecrit sur ces idees.

"J'ai enonce les memes idees sur la transformation des types ou origine
d'especes que M. Darwin. (See Vol. I.) Mais c'est seulement sur la
geographie zoologique que je m'appuie. Vous trouverez, dans le dernier
chapitre du traite 'Ueber Papuas und Alfuren,' que j'en parle tres
decidement sans savoir que M. Darwin s'occupait de cet objet."

The treatise to which Von Baer refers he gave me when over here, but I have
not been able to lay hands on it since this letter reached me two days ago.
When I find it I will let you know what there is in it.

Ever yours faithfully,

Down, August 8 [1860].

My dear Huxley,

Your note contained magnificent news, and thank you heartily for sending it
me. Von Baer weighs down with a vengeance all the virulence of [the
'Edinburgh' reviewer] and weak arguments of Agassiz. If you write to Von
Baer, for heaven's sake tell him that we should think one nod of
approbation on our side, of the greatest value; and if he does write
anything, beg him to send us a copy, for I would try and get it translated
and published in the "Athenaeum" and in 'Silliman' to touch up
Agassiz...Have you seen Agassiz's weak metaphysical and theological attack
on the 'Origin' in the last 'Silliman'? (The 'American Journal of Science
and Arts' (commonly called 'Silliman's Journal'), July 1860. Printed from
advanced sheets of vol. iii. of 'Contributions to the Nat. Hist. of the
U.S.' My father's copy has a pencilled "Truly" opposite the following
passage:--"Unless Darwin and his followers succeed in showing that the
struggle for life tends to something beyond favouring the existence of
certain individuals over that of other individuals, they will soon find
that they are following a shadow.") I would send it you, but apprehend it
would be less trouble for you to look at it in London than return it to me.
R. Wagner has sent me a German pamphlet ('Louis Agassiz's Prinzipien der
Classification, etc., mit Rucksicht auf Darwins Ansichten. Separat-Abdruck
aus den Gottingischen gelehrten Anzeigen,' 1860.), giving an abstract of
Agassiz's 'Essay on Classification,' "mit Rucksicht auf Darwins Ansichten,"
etc. etc. He won't go very "dangerous lengths," but thinks the truth lies
half-way between Agassiz and the 'Origin.' As he goes thus far he will,
nolens volens, have to go further. He says he is going to review me in
[his] yearly Report. My good and kind agent for the propagation of the
Gospel--i.e. the devil's gospel.

Ever yours,

Down, August 11th [1860].

...I have laughed at Woodward thinking that you were a man who could be
influenced in your judgment by the voice of the public; and yet after
mortally sneering at him, I was obliged to confess to myself, that I had
had fears, what the effect might be of so many heavy guns fired by great
men. As I have (sent by Murray) a spare 'Quarterly Review,' I send it by
this post, as it may amuse you. The Anti-Jacobin part amused me. It is
full of errors, and Hooker is thinking of answering it. There has been a
cancelled page; I should like to know what gigantic blunder it contained.
Hooker says that -- has played on the Bishop, and made him strike whatever
note he liked; he has wished to make the article as disagreeable to you as
possible. I will send the "Athenaeum" in a day or two.

As you wish to hear what reviews have appeared, I may mention that Agassiz
has fired off a shot in the last 'Silliman,' not good at all, denies
variations and rests on the perfection of Geological evidence. Asa Gray
tells me that a very clever friend has been almost converted to our side by
this review of Agassiz's...Professor Parsons (Theophilus Parsons, Professor
of Law in Harvard University.) has published in the same 'Silliman' a
speculative paper correcting my notions, worth nothing. In the 'Highland
Agricultural Journal' there is a review by some Entomologist, not worth
much. This is all that I can remember...As Huxley says, the platoon firing
must soon cease. Hooker and Huxley, and Asa Gray, I see, are determined to
stick to the battle and not give in; I am fully convinced that whenever you
publish, it will produce a great effect on all TRIMMERS, and on many
others. By the way I forgot to mention Daubeny's pamphlet ('Remarks on the
final causes of the sexuality of plants with particular reference to Mr.
Darwin's work on the "Origin of Species."'--British Association Report,
1860.), very liberal and candid, but scientifically weak. I believe Hooker
is going nowhere this summer; he is excessively busy...He has written me
many, most nice letters. I shall be very curious to hear on your return
some account of your Geological doings. Talking of Geology, you used to be
interested about the "pipes" in the chalk. About three years ago a
perfectly circular hole suddenly appeared in a flat grass field to
everyone's astonishment, and was filled up with many waggon loads of earth;
and now two or three days ago, again it has circularly subsided about two
feet more. How clearly this shows what is still slowly going on. This
morning I recommenced work, and am at dogs; when I have written my short
discussion on them, I will have it copied, and if you like, you can then
see how the argument stands, about their multiple origin. As you seemed to
think this important, it might be worth your reading; though I do not feel
sure that you will come to the same probable conclusion that I have done.
By the way, the Bishop makes a very telling case against me, by
accumulating several instances where I speak very doubtfully; but this is
very unfair, as in such cases as this of the dog, the evidence is and must
be very doubtful...

Down, August 11 [1860].

My dear Gray,

On my return home from Sussex about a week ago, I found several articles
sent by you. The first article, from the 'Atlantic Monthly,' I am very
glad to possess. By the way, the editor of the "Athenaeum" (August 4,
1860.) has inserted your answer to Agassiz, Bowen, and Co., and when I
therein read them, I admired them even more than at first. They really
seemed to be admirable in their condensation, force, clearness and novelty.

I am surprised that Agassiz did not succeed in writing something better.
How absurd that logical quibble--"if species do not exist, how can they
vary?" As if any one doubted their temporary existence. How coolly he
assumes that there is some clearly defined distinction between individual
differences and varieties. It is no wonder that a man who calls identical
forms, when found in two countries, distinct species, cannot find variation
in nature. Again, how unreasonable to suppose that domestic varieties
selected by man for his own fancy should resemble natural varieties or
species. The whole article seems to me poor; it seems to me hardly worth a
detailed answer (even if I could do it, and I much doubt whether I possess
your skill in picking out salient points and driving a nail into them), and
indeed you have already answered several points. Agassiz's name, no doubt,
is a heavy weight against us...

If you see Professor Parsons, will you thank him for the extremely liberal
and fair spirit in which his Essay ('Silliman's Journal,' July, 1860.) is
written. Please tell him that I reflected much on the chance of favourable
monstrosities (i.e. great and sudden variation) arising. I have, of
course, no objection to this, indeed it would be a great aid, but I do not
allude to the subject, for, after much labour, I could find nothing which
satisfied me of the probability of such occurrences. There seems to me in
almost every case too much, too complex, and too beautiful adaptation, in
every structure, to believe in its sudden production. I have alluded under
the head of beautifully hooked seeds to such possibility. Monsters are apt
to be sterile, or NOT to transmit monstrous peculiarities. Look at the
fineness of gradation in the shells of successive SUB-STAGES of the same
great formation; I could give many other considerations which made me doubt
such view. It holds, to a certain extent, with domestic productions no
doubt, where man preserves some abrupt change in structure. It amused me
to see Sir R. Murchison quoted as a judge of affinities of animals, and it
gave me a cold shudder to hear of any one speculating about a true
crustacean giving birth to a true fish! (Parson's, loc. cit. page 5,
speaking of Pterichthys and Cephalaspis, says:--"Now is it too much to
infer from these facts that either of these animals, if a crustacean, was
so nearly a fish that some of its ova may have become fish; or, if itself a
fish, was so nearly a crustacean that it may have been born from the ovum
of a crustacean?")

Yours most truly,

Down, September 1st [1860].

My dear Lyell,

I have been much interested by your letter of the 28th, received this
morning. It has DELIGHTED me, because it demonstrates that you have
thought a good deal lately on Natural Selection. Few things have surprised
me more than the entire paucity of objections and difficulties new to me in
the published reviews. Your remarks are of a different stamp and new to
me. I will run through them, and make a few pleadings such as occur to me.

I put in the possibility of the Galapagos having been CONTINUOUSLY joined
to America, out of mere subservience to the many who believe in Forbes's
doctrine, and did not see the danger of admission, about small mammals
surviving there in such case. The case of the Galapagos, from certain
facts on littoral sea-shells (viz. Pacific Ocean and South American
littoral species), in fact convinced me more than in any other case of
other islands, that the Galapagos had never been continuously united with
the mainland; it was mere base subservience, and terror of Hooker and Co.

With respect to atolls, I think mammals would hardly survive VERY LONG,
even if the main islands (for as I have said in the Coral Book, the outline
of groups of atolls do not look like a former CONTINENT) had been tenanted
by mammals, from the extremely small area, the very peculiar conditions,
and the probability that during subsidence all or nearly all atolls have
been breached and flooded by the sea many times during their existence as

I cannot conceive any existing reptile being converted into a mammal. From
homologies I should look at it as certain that all mammals had descended
from some single progenitor. What its nature was, it is impossible to
speculate. More like, probably, the Ornithorhynchus or Echidna than any
known form; as these animals combine reptilian characters (and in a less
degree bird character) with mammalian. We must imagine some form as
intermediate, as is Lepidosiren now, between reptiles and fish, between
mammals and birds on the one hand (for they retain longer the same
embryological character) and reptiles on the other hand. With respect to a
mammal not being developed on any island, besides want of time for so
prodigious a development, there must have arrived on the island the
necessary and peculiar progenitor, having a character like the embryo of a
mammal; and not an ALREADY DEVELOPED reptile, bird or fish.

We might give to a bird the habits of a mammal, but inheritance would
retain almost for eternity some of the bird-like structure, and prevent a
new creature ranking as a true mammal.

I have often speculated on antiquity of islands, but not with your
precision, or at all under the point of view of Natural Selection NOT
having done what might have been anticipated. The argument of littoral
Miocene shells at the Canary Islands is new to me. I was deeply impressed
(from the amount of the denudation) [with the] antiquity of St. Helena, and
its age agrees with the peculiarity of the flora. With respect to bats at
New Zealand (N.B. There are two or three European bats in Madeira, and I
think in the Canary Islands) not having given rise to a group of non-volant
bats, it is, now you put the case, surprising; more especially as the genus
of bats in New Zealand is very peculiar, and therefore has probably been
long introduced, and they now speak of Cretacean fossils there. But the
first necessary step has to be shown, namely, of a bat taking to feed on
the ground, or anyhow, and anywhere, except in the air. I am bound to
confess I do know one single such fact, viz. of an Indian species killing
frogs. Observe, that in my wretched Polar Bear case, I do show the first
step by which conversion into a whale "would be easy," "would offer no
difficulty"!! So with seals, I know of no fact showing any the least
incipient variation of seals feeding on the shore. Moreover, seals wander
much; I searched in vain, and could not find ONE case of any species of
seal confined to any islands. And hence wanderers would be apt to cross
with individuals undergoing any change on an island, as in the case of land
birds of Madeira and Bermuda. The same remark applies even to bats, as
they frequently come to Bermuda from the mainland, though about 600 miles
distant. With respect to the Amblyrhynchus of the Galapagos, one may infer
as probable, from marine habits being so rare with Saurians, and from the
terrestrial species being confined to a few central islets, that its
progenitor first arrived at the Galapagos; from what country it is
impossible to say, as its affinity I believe is not very clear to any known
species. The offspring of the terrestrial species was probably rendered
marine. Now in this case I do not pretend I can show variation in habits;
but we have in the terrestrial species a vegetable feeder (in itself a
rather unusual circumstance), largely on LICHENS, and it would not be a
great change for its offspring to feed first on littoral algae and then on
submarine algae. I have said what I can in defence, but yours is a good
line of attack. We should, however, always remember that no change will
ever be effected till a variation in the habits or structure or of both
CHANCE to occur in the right direction, so as to give the organism in
question an advantage over other already established occupants of land or
water, and this may be in any particular case indefinitely long. I am very
glad you will read my dogs MS., for it will be important to me to see what
you think of the balance of evidence. After long pondering on a subject it
is often hard to judge. With hearty thanks for your most interesting
letter. Farewell.

My dear old master,

Down, September 2nd [1860].

My dear Hooker,

I am astounded at your news received this morning. I am become such an old
fogy that I am amazed at your spirit. For God's sake do not go and get
your throat cut. Bless my soul, I think you must be a little insane. I
must confess it will be a most interesting tour; and, if you get to the top
of Lebanon, I suppose extremely interesting--you ought to collect any
beetles under stones there; but the Entomologists are such slow coaches. I
dare say no result could be made out of them. [They] have never worked the
Alpines of Britain.

If you come across any Brine lakes, do attend to their minute flora and
fauna; I have often been surprised how little this has been attended to.

I have had a long letter from Lyell, who starts ingenious difficulties
opposed to Natural Selection, because it has not done more than it has.
This is very good, as it shows that he has thoroughly mastered the subject;
and shows he is in earnest. Very striking letter altogether and it
rejoices the cockles of my heart.

...How I shall miss you, my best and kindest of friends. God bless you.

Yours ever affectionately,

Down, September 10 [1860].

...You will be weary of my praise, but it (Dr. Gray in the 'Atlantic
Monthly' for July, 1860.) does strike me as quite admirably argued, and so
well and pleasantly written. Your many metaphors are inimitably good. I
said in a former letter that you were a lawyer, but I made a gross mistake,
I am sure that you are a poet. No, by Jove, I will tell you what you are,
a hybrid, a complex cross of lawyer, poet, naturalist and theologian! Was
there ever such a monster seen before?

I have just looked through the passages which I have marked as appearing to
me extra good, but I see that they are too numerous to specify, and this is
no exaggeration. My eye just alights on the happy comparison of the
colours of the prism and our artificial groups. I see one little error of
fossil CATTLE in South America.

It is curious how each one, I suppose, weighs arguments in a different
balance: embryology is to me by far the strongest single class of facts in
favour of change of forms, and not one, I think, of my reviewers has
alluded to this. Variation not coming on at a very early age, and being
inherited at not a very early corresponding period, explains, as it seems
to me, the grandest of all facts in natural history, or rather in zoology,
viz. the resemblance of embryos.

[Dr. Gray wrote three articles in the 'Atlantic Monthly' for July, August,
and October, which were reprinted as a pamphlet in 1861, and now form
chapter iii. in 'Darwiniana' (1876), with the heading 'Natural Selection
not inconsistent with Natural Theology.']

Down, September 12th [1860].

My dear Lyell,

I never thought of showing your letter to any one. I mentioned in a letter
to Hooker that I had been much interested by a letter of yours with
original objections, founded chiefly on Natural Selection not having done
so much as might have been expected...In your letter just received, you
have improved your case versus Natural Selection; and it would tell with
the public (do not be tempted by its novelty to make it too strong); yet is
seems to me, not REALLY very killing, though I cannot answer your case,
especially, why Rodents have not become highly developed in Australia. You
must assume that they have inhabited Australia for a very long period, and
this may or may not be the case. But I feel that our ignorance is so
profound, why one form is preserved with nearly the same structure, or
advances in organisation or even retrogrades, or becomes extinct, that I
cannot put very great weight on the difficulty. Then, as you say often in
your letter, we know not how many geological ages it may have taken to make
any great advance in organisation. Remember monkeys in the Eocene
formations: but I admit that you have made out an excellent objection and
difficulty, and I can give only unsatisfactory and quite vague answers,
such as you have yourself put; however, you hardly put weight enough on the
absolute necessity of variations first arising in the right direction,
videlicet, of seals beginning to feed on the shore.

I entirely agree with what you say about only one species of many becoming
modified. I remember this struck me much when tabulating the varieties of
plants, and I have a discussion somewhere on this point. It is absolutely
implied in my ideas of classification and divergence that only one or two
species, of even large genera, give birth to new species; and many whole
genera become WHOLLY extinct...Please see page 341 of the 'Origin.' But I
cannot remember that I have stated in the 'Origin' the fact of only very
few species in each genus varying. You have put the view much better in
your letter. Instead of saying, as I often have, that very few species
vary at the same time, I ought to have said, that very few species of a
genus EVER vary so as to become modified; for this is the fundamental
explanation of classification, and is shown in my engraved diagram...

I quite agree with you on the strange and inexplicable fact of
Ornithorhynchus having been preserved, and Australian Trigonia, or the
Silurian Lingula. I always repeat to myself that we hardly know why any
one single species is rare or common in the best-known countries. I have
got a set of notes somewhere on the inhabitants of fresh water; and it is
singular how many of these are ancient, or intermediate forms; which I
think is explained by the competition having been less severe, and the rate
of change of organic forms having been slower in small confined areas, such
as all the fresh waters make compared with sea or land.

I see that you do allude in the last page, as a difficulty, to Marsupials
not having become Placentals in Australia; but this I think you have no
right at all to expect; for we ought to look at Marsupials and Placentals
as having descended from some intermediate and lower form. The argument of
Rodents not having become highly developed in Australia (supposing that
they have long existed there) is much stronger. I grieve to see you hint
at the creation "of distinct successive types, as well as of a certain
number of distinct aboriginal types." Remember, if you admit this, you
give up the embryological argument (THE WEIGHTIEST OF ALL TO ME), and the
morphological or homological argument. You cut my throat, and your own
throat; and I believe will live to be sorry for it. So much for species.

The striking extract which E. copied was your own writing!! in a note to
me, many long years ago--which she copied and sent to Mme. Sismondi; and
lately my aunt, in sorting her letters, found E.'s and returned them to
her...I have been of late shamefully idle, i.e. observing (Drosera) instead
of writing, and how much better fun observing is than writing.

Yours affectionately,

15 Marine Parade, Eastbourne,
Sunday [September 23rd, 1860].

My dear Lyell,

I got your letter of the 18th just before starting here. You speak of
saving me trouble in answering. Never think of this, for I look at every
letter of yours as an honour and pleasure, which is a pretty deal more than
I can say of some of the letters which I receive. I have now one of 13
CLOSELY WRITTEN FOLIO PAGES to answer on species!...

I have a very decided opinion that all mammals must have descended from a
SINGLE parent. Reflect on the multitude of details, very many of them of
extremely little importance to their habits (as the number of bones of the
head, etc., covering of hair, identical embryological development, etc.
etc.). Now this large amount of similarity I must look at as certainly due
to inheritance from a common stock. I am aware that some cases occur in
which a similar or nearly similar organ has been acquired by independent
acts of natural selection. But in most of such cases of these apparently
so closely similar organs, some important homological difference may be
detected. Please read page 193, beginning, "The electric organs," and
trust me that the sentence, "In all these cases of two very distinct
species," etc. etc., was not put in rashly, for I went carefully into every
case. Apply this argument to the whole frame, internal and external, of
mammifers, and you will see why I think so strongly that all have descended
from one progenitor. I have just re-read your letter, and I am not
perfectly sure that I understand your point.

I enclose two diagrams showing the sort of manner I CONJECTURE that mammals
have been developed. I thought a little on this when writing page 429,
beginning, "Mr. Waterhouse." (Please read the paragraph.) I have not
knowledge enough to choose between these two diagrams. If the brain of
Marsupials in embryo closely resembles that of Placentals, I should
strongly prefer No.2, and this agrees with the antiquity of Microlestes.
As a general rule I should prefer No.1 diagram; whether or not Marsupials
have gone on being developed, or rising in rank, from a very early period
would depend on circumstances too complex for even a conjecture. Lingula
has not risen since the Silurian epoch, whereas other molluscs may have

Here appear two diagrams.

Diagram I.

Mammals, not true Marsupials nor true Placentals.
2 branches
Branch I, True Placental, from which branch off
a branch terminating in Ruminants and Pachyderms,
and terminates in Quadrumana.
Branch II, True Marsupial, from which branches off
Kangaroo family
an unnamed branch terminating in 2 unnamed branches
and terminates in Didelphys Family.

Diagram II.

True Marsupials, lowly developed.
True Marsupials, highly developed.
2 branches
Branch I, Placentals, from which branch off
a branch terminating in Ruminants and Pachyderms,
and terminates in Quadrumana.
Branch II, Present Marsupials, splitting into two branches terminating in
Kangaroo family (with 2 unnamed branches) and
Didelphys family.

A, in the two diagrams, represents an unknown form, probably intermediate
between Mammals, Reptiles, and Birds, as intermediate as Lepidosiren now is
between Fish and Batrachians. This unknown form is probably more closely
related to Ornithorhynchus than to any other known form.

I do not think that the multiple origin of dogs goes against the single
origin of man...All the races of man are so infinitely closer together than
to any ape, that (as in the case of descent of all mammals from one
progenitor), I should look at all races of men as having certainly
descended from one parent. I should look at it as probable that the races
of men were less numerous and less divergent formerly than now, unless,
indeed, some lower and more aberrant race even than the Hottentot has
become extinct. Supposing, as I do for one believe, that our dogs have
descended from two or three wolves, jackals, etc., yet these have, on OUR
VIEW, descended from a single remote unknown progenitor. With domestic
dogs the question is simply whether the whole amount of difference has been
produced since man domesticated a single species; or whether part of the
difference arises in the state of nature. Agassiz and Co. think the negro
and Caucasian are now distinct species, and it is a mere vain discussion
whether, when they were rather less distinct, they would, on this standard
of specific value, deserve to be called species.

I agree with your answer which you give to yourself on this point; and the
simile of man now keeping down any new man which might be developed,
strikes me as good and new. The white man is "improving off the face of
the earth" even races nearly his equals. With respect to islands, I think
I would trust to want of time alone, and not to bats and Rodents.

N.B.--I know of no rodents on oceanic islands (except my Galapagos mouse,
which MAY have been introduced by man) keeping down the development of
other classes. Still MUCH more weight I should attribute to there being
now, neither in islands nor elsewhere, [any] known animals of a grade of
organisation intermediate between mammals, fish, reptiles, etc., whence a
new mammal could be developed. If every vertebrate were destroyed
throughout the world, except our NOW WELL-ESTABLISHED reptiles, millions of
ages might elapse before reptiles could become highly developed on a scale
equal to mammals; and, on the principle of inheritance, they would make
some quite NEW CLASS, and not mammals; though POSSIBLY more intellectual!
I have not an idea that you will care for this letter, so speculative.

Most truly yours,

Down, September 26 [1860].

...I have had a letter of fourteen folio pages from Harvey against my book,
with some ingenious and new remarks; but it is an extraordinary fact that
he does not understand at all what I mean by Natural Selection. I have
begged him to read the Dialogue in next 'Silliman,' as you never touch the
subject without making it clearer. I look at it as even more extraordinary
that you never say a word or use an epithet which does not express fully my
meaning. Now Lyell, Hooker, and others, who perfectly understand my book,
yet sometimes use expressions to which I demur. Well, your extraordinary
labour is over; if there is any fair amount of truth in my view, I am well
assured that your great labour has not been thrown away...

I yet hope and almost believe, that the time will come when you will go
further, in believing a very large amount of modification of species, than
you did at first or do now. Can you tell me whether you believe further or
more firmly than you did at first? I should really like to know this. I
can perceive in my immense correspondence with Lyell, who objected to much
at first, that he has, perhaps unconsciousnessly to himself, converted
himself very much during the last six months, and I think this is the case
even with Hooker. This fact gives me far more confidence than any other

15 Marine Parade, Eastbourne,
Friday evening [September 28th, 1860].

...I am very glad to hear about the Germans reading my book. No one will
be converted who has not independently begun to doubt about species. Is
not Krohn (There are two papers by Aug. Krohn, one on the Cement Glands,
and the other on the development of Cirripedes, 'Wiegmann's Archiv,' xxv.
and xxvi. My father has remarked that he "blundered dreadfully about the
cement glands," 'Autobiography.') a good fellow? I have long meant to
write to him. He has been working at Cirripedes, and has detected two or
three gigantic blunders,...about which, I thank Heaven, I spoke rather
doubtfully. Such difficult dissection that even Huxley failed. It is
chiefly the interpretation which I put on parts that is so wrong, and not
the parts which I describe. But they were gigantic blunders, and why I say
all this is because Krohn, instead of crowing at all, pointed out my errors
with the utmost gentleness and pleasantness. I have always meant to write
to him and thank him. I suppose Dr. Krohn, Bonn, would reach him.

I cannot see yet how the multiple origin of dog can be properly brought as
argument for the multiple origin of man. Is not your feeling a remnant of
the deeply impressed one on all our minds, that a species is an entity,
something quite distinct from a variety? Is it not that the dog case
injures the argument from fertility, so that one main argument that the
races of man are varieties and not species--i.e., because they are fertile
inter se, is much weakened?

I quite agree with what Hooker says, that whatever variation is possible
under culture, is POSSIBLE under nature; not that the same form would ever
be accumulated and arrived at by selection for man's pleasure, and by
natural selection for the organism's own good.

Talking of "natural selection;" if I had to commence de novo, I would have
used "natural preservation." For I find men like Harvey of Dublin cannot
understand me, though he has read the book twice. Dr. Gray of the British
Museum remarked to me that, "SELECTION was obviously impossible with
plants! No one could tell him how it could be possible!" And he may now
add that the author did not attempt it to him!

Yours ever affectionately,

15 Marine Parade, Eastbourne,
October 8th [1860].

My dear Lyell,

I send the [English] translation of Bronn (A MS. translation of Bronn's
chapter of objections at the end of his German translation of the 'Origin
of Species.'), the first part of the chapter with generalities and praise
is not translated. There are some good hits. He makes an apparently, and
in part truly, telling case against me, says that I cannot explain why one
rat has a longer tail and another longer ears, etc. But he seems to muddle
in assuming that these parts did not all vary together, or one part so
insensibly before the other, as to be in fact contemporaneous. I might ask
the creationist whether he thinks these differences in the two rats of any
use, or as standing in some relation from laws of growth; and if he admits
this, selection might come into play. He who thinks that God created
animals unlike for mere sport or variety, as man fashions his clothes, will
not admit any force in my argumentum ad hominem.

Bronn blunders about my supposing several Glacial periods, whether or no
such ever did occur.

He blunders about my supposing that development goes on at the same rate in
all parts of the world. I presume that he has misunderstood this from the
supposed migration into all regions of the more dominant forms.

I have ordered Dr. Bree ('Species not Transmutable,' by C.R. Bree, 1860.),
and will lend it to you, if you like, and if it turns out good.

...I am very glad that I misunderstood you about species not having the
capacity to vary, though in fact few do give birth to new species. It
seems that I am very apt to misunderstand you; I suppose I am always
fancying objections. Your case of the Red Indian shows me that we agree

I had a letter yesterday from Thwaites of Ceylon, who was much opposed to
me. He now says, "I find that the more familiar I become with your views
in connection with the various phenomena of nature, the more they commend
themselves to my mind."

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.M. RODWELL. (Rev. J.M. Rodwell, who was at Cambridge
with my father, remembers him saying:--"It strikes me that all our
knowledge about the structure of our earth is very much like what an old
hen would know of a hundred acre field, in a corner of which she is
15 Marine Parade, Eastbourne.
November 5th [1860].

My dear Sir,

I am extremely much obliged for your letter, which I can compare only to a
plum-pudding, so full it is of good things. I have been rash about the
cats ("Cats with blue eyes are invariably deaf," 'Origin of Species,'
edition i. page 12.): yet I spoke on what seemed to me, good authority.
The Rev. W.D. Fox gave me a list of cases of various foreign breeds in
which he had observed the correlation, and for years he had vainly sought
an exception. A French paper also gives numerous cases, and one very
curious case of a kitten which GRADUALLY lost the blue colour in its eyes
and as gradually acquired its power of hearing. I had not heard of your
uncle, Mr. Kirby's case (William Kirby, joint author with Spence, of the
well-known 'Introduction to Entomology,' 1818.) (whom I, for as long as I
can remember, have venerated) of care in breeding cats. I do not know
whether Mr. Kirby was your uncle by marriage, but your letters show me that
you ought to have Kirby blood in your veins, and that if you had not taken
to languages you would have been a first-rate naturalist.

I sincerely hope that you will be able to carry out your intention of
writing on the "Birth, Life, and Death of Words." Anyhow, you have a
capital title, and some think this the most difficult part of a book. I
remember years ago at the Cape of Good Hope, Sir J. Herschel saying to me,
I wish some one would treat language as Lyell has treated geology. What a
linguist you must be to translate the Koran! Having a vilely bad head for
languages, I feel an awful respect for linguists.

I do not know whether my brother-in-law, Hensleigh Wedgwood's 'Etymological
Dictionary' would be at all in your line; but he treats briefly on the
genesis of words; and, as it seems to me, very ingeniously. You kindly say
that you would communicate any facts which might occur to you, and I am
sure that I should be most grateful. Of the multitude of letters which I
receive, not one in a thousand is like yours in value.

With my cordial thanks, and apologies for this untidy letter written in
haste, pray believe me, my dear Sir,

Yours sincerely obliged,

November 20th [1860].

...I have not had heart to read Phillips ('Life on the Earth.') yet, or a
tremendous long hostile review by Professor Bowen in the 4to Mem. of the
American Academy of Sciences. ("Remarks on the latest form of the
Development Theory." By Francis Bowen, Professor of Natural Religion and
Moral Philosophy, at Harvard University. 'American Academy of Arts and
Sciences,' vol. viii.) (By the way, I hear Agassiz is going to thunder
against me in the next part of the 'Contributions.') Thank you for telling
me of the sale of the 'Origin,' of which I had not heard. There will be
some time, I presume, a new edition, and I especially want your advice on
one point, and you know I think you the wisest of men, and I shall be
ABSOLUTELY GUIDED BY YOUR ADVICE. It has occurred to me, that it would
PERHAPS be a good plan to put a set of notes (some twenty to forty or
fifty) to the 'Origin,' which now has none, exclusively devoted to errors
of my reviewers. It has occurred to me that where a reviewer has erred, a
common reader might err. Secondly, it will show the reader that he must
not trust implicitly to reviewers. Thirdly, when any special fact has been
attacked, I should like to defend it. I would show no sort of anger. I
enclose a mere rough specimen, done without any care or accuracy--done from
memory alone--to be torn up, just to show the sort of thing that has

It seems to me it would have a good effect, and give some confidence to the
reader. It would [be] a horrid bore going through all the reviews.

Yours affectionately,

[Here follow samples of foot-notes, the references to volume and page being
left blank. It will be seen that in some cases he seems to have forgotten
that he was writing foot-notes, and to have continued as if writing to

*Dr. Bree asserts that I explain the structure of the cells of the Hive Bee
by "the exploded doctrine of pressure." But I do not say one word which
directly or indirectly can be interpreted into any reference to pressure.

*The 'Edinburgh' Reviewer quotes my work as saying that the "dorsal
vertebrae of pigeons vary in number, and disputes the fact." I nowhere
even allude to the dorsal vertebrae, only to the sacral and caudal

*The 'Edinburgh' Reviewer throws a doubt on these organs being the
Branchiae of Cirripedes. But Professor Owen in 1854 admits, without
hesitation, that they are Branchiae, as did John Hunter long ago.

*The confounded Wealden Calculation to be struck out, and a note to be
inserted to the effect that I am convinced of its inaccuracy from a review
in the "Saturday Review", and from Phillips, as I see in his Table of
Contents that he alludes to it.

*Mr. Hopkins ('Fraser') states--I am quoting only from vague memory--that,
"I argue in favour of my views from the extreme imperfection of the
Geological Record," and says this is the first time in the history of
Science he has ever heard of ignorance being adduced as an argument. But I
repeatedly admit, in the most emphatic language which I can use, that the
imperfect evidence which Geology offers in regard to transitorial forms is
most strongly opposed to my views. Surely there is a wide difference in
fully admitting an objection, and then in endeavouring to show that it is
not so strong as it at first appears, and in Mr. Hopkins's assertion that I
found my argument on the Objection.

*I would also put a note to "Natural Selection," and show how variously it
has been misunderstood.

*A writer in the 'Edinburgh Philosophical Journal' denies my statement that
the Woodpecker of La Plata never frequents trees. I observed its habits
during two years, but, what is more to the purpose, Azara, whose accuracy
all admit, is more emphatic than I am in regard to its never frequenting
trees. Mr. A. Murray denies that it ought to be called a woodpecker; it
has two toes in front and two behind, pointed tail feathers, a long pointed
tongue, and the same general form of body, the same manner of flight,
colouring and voice. It was classed, until recently, in the same genus--
Picus--with all other woodpeckers, but now has been ranked as a distinct
genus amongst the Picidae. It differs from the typical Picus only in the
beak, not being quite so strong, and in the upper mandible being slightly
arched. I think these facts fully justify my statement that it is "in all
essential parts of its organisation" a Woodpecker.]

Down, November 22 [1860].

My dear Huxley,

For heaven's sake don't write an anti-Darwinian article; you would do it so
confoundedly well. I have sometimes amused myself with thinking how I
could best pitch into myself, and I believe I could give two or three good
digs; but I will see you -- first before I will try. I shall be very
impatient to see the Review. (The first number of the new series of the
'Nat. Hist. Review' appeared in 1861.) If it succeeds it may really do
much, very much good...

I heard to-day from Murray that I must set to work at once on a new edition
(The 3rd edition.) of the 'Origin.' [Murray] says the Reviews have not
improved the sale. I shall always think those early reviews, almost
entirely yours, did the subject an ENORMOUS service. If you have any
important suggestions or criticisms to make on any part of the 'Origin,' I
should, of course, be very grateful for [them]. For I mean to correct as
far as I can, but not enlarge. How you must be wearied with and hate the
subject, and it is God's blessing if you do not get to hate me. Adios.

Down, November 24th [1860].

My dear Lyell,

I thank you much for your letter. I had got to take pleasure in thinking
how I could best snub my reviewers; but I was determined, in any case, to
follow your advice, and, before I had got to the end of your letter, I was
convinced of the wisdom of your advice. ("I get on slowly with my new
edition. I find that your advice was EXCELLENT. I can answer all reviews,
without any direct notice of them, by a little enlargement here and there,
with here and there a new paragraph. Bronn alone I shall treat with the
respect of giving his objections with his name. I think I shall improve my
book a good deal, and add only some twenty pages."--From a letter to Lyell,
December 4th, 1860.) What an advantage it is to me to have such friends as
you. I shall follow every hint in your letter exactly.

I have just heard from Murray; he says he sold 700 copies at his sale, and
that he has not half the number to supply; so that I must begin at once (On
the third edition of the 'Origin of Species,' published in April 1861.)...

P.S.--I must tell you one little fact which has pleased me. You may
remember that I adduce electrical organs of fish as one of the greatest
difficulties which have occurred to me, and -- notices the passage in a
singularly disingenuous spirit. Well, McDonnell, of Dublin (a first-rate
man), writes to me that he felt the difficulty of the whole case as
overwhelming against me. Not only are the fishes which have electric
organs very remote in scale, but the organ is near the head in some, and
near the tail in others, and supplied by wholly different nerves. It seems
impossible that there could be any transition. Some friend, who is much
opposed to me, seems to have crowed over McDonnell, who reports that he
said to himself, that if Darwin is right, there must be homologous organs
both near the head and tail in other non-electric fish. He set to work,
and, by Jove, he has found them! ('On an organ in the Skate, which appears
to be the homologue of the electrical organ of the Torpedo,' by R.
McDonnell, 'Nat. Hist. Review,' 1861, page 57.) so that some of the
difficulty is removed; and is it not satisfactory that my hypothetical
notions should have led to pretty discoveries? McDonnell seems very
cautious; he says, years must pass before he will venture to call himself a
believer in my doctrine, but that on the subjects which he knows well,
viz., Morphology and Embryology, my views accord well, and throw light on
the whole subject.

Down, November 26th, 1860.

My dear Gray,

I have to thank you for two letters. The latter with corrections, written
before you received my letter asking for an American reprint, and saying
that it was hopeless to print your reviews as a pamphlet, owing to the
impossibility of getting pamphlets known. I am very glad to say that the
August or second 'Atlantic' article has been reprinted in the 'Annals and
Magazine of Natural History'; but I have not seen it there. Yesterday I
read over with care the third article; and it seems to me, as before,
ADMIRABLE. But I grieve to say that I cannot honestly go as far as you do
about Design. I am conscious that I am in an utterly hopeless muddle. I
cannot think that the world, as we see it, is the result of chance; and yet
I cannot look at each separate thing as the result of Design. To take a
crucial example, you lead me to infer (page 414) that you believe "that
variation has been led along certain beneficial lines." I cannot believe
this; and I think you would have to believe, that the tail of the Fantail
was led to vary in the number and direction of its feathers in order to
gratify the caprice of a few men. Yet if the Fantail had been a wild bird,
and had used its abnormal tail for some special end, as to sail before the
wind, unlike other birds, every one would have said, "What a beautiful and
designed adaptation." Again, I say I am, and shall ever remain, in a
hopeless muddle.

Thank you much for Bowen's 4to. review. ('Memoirs of the American Academy
of Arts and Sciences,' vol. viii.) The coolness with which he makes all
animals to be destitute of reason is simply absurd. It is monstrous at
page 103, that he should argue against the possibility of accumulative
variation, and actually leave out, entirely, selection! The chance that an
improved Short-horn, or improved Pouter-pigeon, should be produced by
accumulative variation without man's selection is as almost infinity to
nothing; so with natural species without natural selection. How capitally
in the 'Atlantic' you show that Geology and Astronomy are, according to
Bowen, Metaphysics; but he leaves out this in the 4to. Memoir.

I have not much to tell you about my Book. I have just heard that Du Bois-
Reymond agrees with me. The sale of my book goes on well, and the
multitude of reviews has not stopped the sale...; so I must begin at once
on a new corrected edition. I will send you a copy for the chance of your
ever re-reading; but, good Heavens, how sick you must be of it!

Down, December 2nd [1860].

...I have got fairly sick of hostile reviews. Nevertheless, they have been
of use in showing me when to expatiate a little and to introduce a few new
discussions. OF COURSE I will send you a copy of the new edition.

I entirely agree with you, that the difficulties on my notions are
terrific, yet having seen what all the Reviews have said against me, I have
far more confidence in the GENERAL truth of the doctrine than I formerly
had. Another thing gives me confidence, viz. that some who went half an
inch with me now go further, and some who were bitterly opposed are now
less bitterly opposed. And this makes me feel a little disappointed that
you are not inclined to think the general view in some slight degree more
probable than you did at first. This I consider rather ominous. Otherwise
I should be more contented with your degree of belief. I can pretty
plainly see that, if my view is ever to be generally adopted, it will be by
young men growing up and replacing the old workers, and then young ones
finding that they can group facts and search out new lines of investigation
better on the notion of descent, than on that of creation. But forgive me
for running on so egotistically. Living so solitary as I do, one gets to
think in a silly manner of one's own work.

Ever yours very sincerely,

Down, December 11th [1860].

...I heard from A. Gray this morning; at my suggestion he is going to
reprint the three 'Atlantic' articles as a pamphlet, and send 250 copies to
England, for which I intend to pay half the cost of the whole edition, and
shall give away, and try to sell by getting a few advertisements put in,
and if possible notices in Periodicals.

...David Forbes has been carefully working the Geology of Chile, and as I
value praise for accurate observation far higher than for any other
quality, forgive (if you can) the INSUFFERABLE vanity of my copying the
last sentence in his note: "I regard your Monograph on Chile as, without
exception, one of the finest specimens of Geological enquiry." I feel
inclined to strut like a Turkey-cock!




[The beginning of the year 1861 saw my father with the third chapter of
'The Variation of Animals and Plants' still on his hands. It had been
begun in the previous August, and was not finished until March 1861. He
was, however, for part of this time (I believe during December 1860 and
January 1861) engaged in a new edition (2000 copies) of the 'Origin,' which
was largely corrected and added to, and was published in April 1861.

With regard to this, the third edition, he wrote to Mr. Murray in December

"I shall be glad to hear when you have decided how many copies you will
print off--the more the better for me in all ways, as far as compatible
with safety; for I hope never again to make so many corrections, or rather
additions, which I have made in hopes of making my many rather stupid
reviewers at least understand what is meant. I hope and think I shall
improve the book considerably."

An interesting feature in the new edition was the "Historical Sketch of the
Recent Progress of Opinion on the Origin of Species" (The Historical Sketch
had already appeared in the first German edition (1860) and the American
edition. Bronn states in the German edition (footnote, page 1) that it was
his critique in the 'N. Jahrbuch fur Mineralogie' that suggested the idea
of such a sketch to my father.) which now appeared for the first time, and
was continued in the later editions of the work. It bears a strong impress
of the author's personal character in the obvious wish to do full justice
to all his predecessors,--though even in this respect it has not escaped
some adverse criticism.

Towards the end of the present year (1861), the final arrangements for the
first French edition of the 'Origin' were completed, and in September a
copy of the third English edition was despatched to Mdlle. Clemence Royer,
who undertook the work of translation. The book was now spreading on the
Continent, a Dutch edition had appeared, and, as we have seen, a German
translation had been published in 1860. In a letter to Mr. Murray
(September 10, 1861), he wrote, "My book seems exciting much attention in
Germany, judging from the number of discussions sent me." The silence had
been broken, and in a few years the voice of German science was to become
one of the strongest of the advocates of evolution.

During all the early part of the year (1861) he was working at the mass of
details which are marshalled in order in the early chapter of 'Animals and
Plants.' Thus in his Diary occur the laconic entries, "May 16, Finished
Fowls (eight weeks); May 31, Ducks."

On July 1, he started, with his family, for Torquay, where he remained
until August 27--a holiday which he characteristically enters in his diary
as "eight weeks and a day." The house he occupied was in Hesketh Crescent,
a pleasantly placed row of houses close above the sea, somewhat removed
from what was then the main body of the town, and not far from the
beautiful cliffed coast-line in the neighbourhood of Anstey's Cove.

During the Torquay holiday, and for the remainder of the year, he worked at
the fertilisation of orchids. This part of the year 1861 is not dealt with
in the present chapter, because (as explained in the preface) the record of
his life, as told in his letters, seems to become clearer when the whole of
his botanical work is placed together and treated separately. The present
series of chapters will, therefore, include only the progress of his works
in the direction of a general amplification of the 'Origin of Species'--
e.g., the publication of 'Animals and Plants,' 'Descent of Man,' etc.]

Down, January 15 [1861].

My dear Hooker,

The sight of your handwriting always rejoices the very cockles of my

I most fully agree to what you say about Huxley's Article ('Natural History
Review,' 1861, page 67, "On the Zoological Relations of Man with the Lower
Animals." This memoir had its origin in a discussion at the previous
meeting of the British Association, when Professor Huxley felt himself
"compelled to give a diametrical contradiction to certain assertions
respecting the differences which obtain between the brains of the higher
apes and of man, which fell from Professor Owen." But in order that his
criticisms might refer to deliberately recorded words, he bases them on
Professor Owen's paper, "On the Characters, etc., of the Class Mammalia,"
read before the Linnean Society in February and April, 1857, in which he
proposed to place man not only in a distinct order, but in "a distinct sub-
class of the Mammalia"--the Archencephala.), and the power of writing...The
whole review seems to me excellent. How capitally Oliver has done the
resume of botanical books. Good Heavens, how he must have read!...

I quite agree that Phillips ('Life on the Earth' (1860), by Prof. Phillips,
containing the substance of the Rede Lecture (May 1860).) is unreadably
dull. You need not attempt Bree. (The following sentence (page 16) from
'Species not Transmutable,' by Dr. Bree, illustrates the degree in which he
understood the 'Origin of Species': "The only real difference between Mr.
Darwin and his two predecessors" [Lamarck and the 'Vestiges'] "is this:--
that while the latter have each given a mode by which they conceive the
great changes they believe in have been brought about, Mr. Darwin does no
such thing." After this we need not be surprised at a passage in the
preface: "No one has derived greater pleasure than I have in past days
from the study of Mr. Darwin's other works, and no one has felt a greater
degree of regret that he should have imperilled his fame by the publication
of his treatise upon the 'Origin of Species.'")...

If you come across Dr. Freke on 'Origin of Species by means of Organic
Affinity,' read a page here and there...He tells the reader to observe
[that his result] has been arrived at by "induction," whereas all my
results are arrived at only by "analogy." I see a Mr. Neale has read a
paper before the Zoological Society on 'Typical Selection;' what it means I
know not. I have not read H. Spencer, for I find that I must more and more
husband the very little strength which I have. I sometimes suspect I shall
soon entirely fail...As soon as this dreadful weather gets a little milder,
I must try a little water cure. Have you read the 'Woman in White'? the
plot is wonderfully interesting. I can recommend a book which has
interested me greatly, viz. Olmsted's 'Journey in the Back Country.' It is
an admirably lively picture of man and slavery in the Southern States...

February 2, 1861.

My dear Lyell,

I have thought you would like to read the enclosed passage in a letter from
A. Gray (who is printing his reviews as a pamphlet ("Natural Selection not
inconsistent with Natural Theology," from the 'Atlantic Monthly' for July,
August, and October, 1860; published by Trubner.), and will send copies to
England), as I think his account is really favourable in high degree to

"I wish I had time to write you an account of the lengths to which Bowen
and Agassiz, each in their own way, are going. The first denying all
heredity (all transmission except specific) whatever. The second coming
near to deny that we are genetically descended from our great-great-
grandfathers; and insisting that evidently affiliated languages, e.g.
Latin, Greek, Sanscrit, owe none of their similarities to a community of
origin, are all autochthonal; Agassiz admits that the derivation of
languages, and that of species or forms, stand on the same foundation, and
that he must allow the latter if he allows the former, which I tell him is
perfectly logical."

Is not this marvellous?

Ever yours,

Down, February 4 [1861].

My dear Hooker,

I was delighted to get your long chatty letter, and to hear that you are
thawing towards science. I almost wish you had remained frozen rather
longer; but do not thaw too quickly and strongly. No one can work long as
you used to do. Be idle; but I am a pretty man to preach, for I cannot be
idle, much as I wish it, and am never comfortable except when at work. The
word holiday is written in a dead language for me, and much I grieve at it.
We thank you sincerely for your kind sympathy about poor H. [his
daughter]...She has now come up to her old point, and can sometimes get up
for an hour or two twice a day...Never to look to the future or as little
as possible is becoming our rule of life. What a different thing life was
in youth with no dread in the future; all golden, if baseless, hopes.

...With respect to the 'Natural History Review' I can hardly think that
ladies would be so very sensitive about "lizards' guts;" but the
publication is at present certainly a sort of hybrid, and original
illustrated papers ought hardly to appear in a review. I doubt its ever
paying; but I shall much regret if it dies. All that you say seems very
sensible, but could a review in the strict sense of the word be filled with
readable matter?

I have been doing little, except finishing the new edition of the 'Origin,'
and crawling on most slowly with my volume of 'Variation under

[The following letter refers to Mr. Bates's paper, "Contributions to an
Insect Fauna of the Amazon Valley," in the 'Transactions of the
Entomological Society,' vol.5, N.S. (The paper was read November 24, 1860.)
Mr. Bates points out that with the return, after the glacial period, of a
warmer climate in the equatorial regions, the "species then living near the
equator would retreat north and south to their former homes, leaving some
of their congeners, slowly modified re-people the zone
they had forsaken." In this case the species now living at the equator
ought to show clear relationship to the species inhabiting the regions
about the 25th parallel, whose distant relatives they would of course be.
But this is not the case, and this is the difficulty my father refers to.
Mr. Belt has offered an explanation in his 'Naturalist in Nicaragua'
(1874), page 266. "I believe the answer is that there was much
extermination during the glacial period, that many species (and some
genera, etc., as, for instance, the American horse), did not survive
it...but that a refuge was found for many species on lands now below the
ocean, that were uncovered by the lowering of the sea, caused by the
immense quantity of water that was locked up in frozen masses on the

Down, 27th [March 1861].

My dear Hooker,

I had intended to have sent you Bates's article this very day. I am so
glad you like it. I have been extremely much struck with it. How well he
argues, and with what crushing force against the glacial doctrine. I
cannot wriggle out of it: I am dumbfounded; yet I do believe that some
explanation some day will appear, and I cannot give up equatorial cooling.
It explains so much and harmonises with so much. When you write (and much
interested I shall be in your letter) please say how far floras are
generally uniform in generic character from 0 to 25 degrees N. and S.

Before reading Bates, I had become thoroughly dissatisfied with what I
wrote to you. I hope you may get Bates to write in the 'Linnean.'

Here is a good joke: H.C. Watson (who, I fancy and hope, is going to
review the new edition (third edition of 2000 copies, published in April,
1861.) of the 'Origin') says that in the first four paragraphs of the
introduction, the words "I," "me," "my," occur forty-three times! I was
dimly conscious of the accursed fact. He says it can be explained
phrenologically, which I suppose civilly means, that I am the most
egotistically self-sufficient man alive; perhaps so. I wonder whether he
will print this pleasing fact; it beats hollow the parentheses in
Wollaston's writing.

_I_ am, MY dear Hooker, ever yours,

P.S.--Do not spread this pleasing joke; it is rather too biting.

Down, [April] 23? [1861].

...I quite agree with what you say on Lieutenant Hutton's Review (In the
'Geologist,' 1861, page 132, by Lieutenant Frederick Wollaston Hutton, now
Professor of Biology and Geology at Canterbury College, New Zealand.) (who
he is I know not); it struck me as very original. He is one of the very
few who see that the change of species cannot be directly proved, and that
the doctrine must sink or swim according as it groups and explains
phenomena. It is really curious how few judge it in this way, which is
clearly the right way. I have been much interested by Bentham's paper ("On
the Species and Genera of Plants, etc.," 'Natural History Review,' 1861,
page 133.) in the N.H.R., but it would not, of course, from familiarity
strike you as it did me. I liked the whole; all the facts on the nature of
close and varying species. Good Heavens! to think of the British botanists
turning up their noses, and saying that he knows nothing of British plants!
I was also pleased at his remarks on classification, because it showed me
that I wrote truly on this subject in the 'Origin.' I saw Bentham at the
Linnean Society, and had some talk with him and Lubbock, and Edgeworth,
Wallich, and several others. I asked Bentham to give us his ideas of
species; whether partially with us or dead against us, he would write
EXCELLENT matter. He made no answer, but his manner made me think he might
do so if urged; so do you attack him. Every one was speaking with
affection and anxiety of Henslow. (Prof. Henslow was in his last illness.)
I dined with Bell at the Linnean Club, and liked my dinner...Dining out is
such a novelty to me that I enjoyed it. Bell has a real good heart. I
liked Rolleston's paper, but I never read anything so obscure and not self-
evident as his 'Canons.' (George Rolleston, M.D., F.R.S., 1829-1881.
Linacre Professor of Anatomy and Physiology at Oxford. A man of much
learning, who left but few published works, among which may be mentioned
his handbook 'Forms of Animal Life.' For the 'Canons,' see 'Nat. Hist.
Review,' 1861, page 206.)...I called on R. Chambers, at his very nice house
in St. John's Wood, and had a very pleasant half-hour's talk; he is really
a capital fellow. He made one good remark and chuckled over it, that the
laymen universally had treated the controversy on the 'Essays and Reviews'
as a merely professional subject, and had not joined in it, but had left it
to the clergy. I shall be anxious for your next letter about Henslow.
(Sir Joseph Hooker was Prof. Henslow's son-in-law.) Farewell, with sincere
sympathy, my old friend,


P.S.--We are very much obliged for the 'London Review.' We like reading
much of it, and the science is incomparably better than in the "Athenaeum".
You shall not go on very long sending it, as you will be ruined by pennies
and trouble, but I am under a horrid spell to the "Athenaeum" and the
"Gardener's Chronicle", but I have taken them in for so many years, that I
CANNOT give them up.

[The next letter refers to Lyell's visit to the Biddenham gravel-pits near
Bedford in April 1861. The visit was made at the invitation of Mr. James
Wyatt, who had recently discovered two stone implements "at the depth of
thirteen feet from the surface of the soil," resting "immediately on solid
beds of oolitic-limestone." ('Antiquity of Man,' fourth edition, page
214.) Here, says Sir C. Lyell, "I...for the first time, saw evidence which
satisfied me of the chronological relations of those three phenomena--the
antique tools, the extinct mammalia, and the glacial formation."]

Down, April 12 [1861].

My dear Lyell,

I have been most deeply interested by your letter. You seem to have done
the grandest work, and made the greatest step, of any one with respect to

It is an especial relief to hear that you think the French superficial
deposits are deltoid and semi-marine; but two days ago I was saying to a
friend, that the unknown manner of the accumulation of these deposits,
seemed the great blot in all the work done. I could not stomach debacles
or lacustrine beds. It is grand. I remember Falconer told me that he
thought some of the remains in the Devonshire caverns were pre-glacial, and
this, I presume, is now your conclusion for the older celts with hyena and
hippopotamus. It is grand. What a fine long pedigree you have given the
human race!

I am sure I never thought of parallel roads having been accumulated during
subsidence. I think I see some difficulties on this view, though, at first
reading your note, I jumped at the idea. But I will think over all I saw
there. I am (stomacho volente) coming up to London on Tuesday to work on
cocks and hens, and on Wednesday morning, about a quarter before ten, I
will call on you (unless I hear to the contrary), for I long to see you. I
congratulate you on your grand work.

Ever yours,

P.S.--Tell Lady Lyell that I was unable to digest the funereal ceremonies
of the ants, notwithstanding that Erasmus has often told me that I should
find some day that they have their bishops. After a battle I have always
seen the ants carry away the dead for food. Ants display the utmost
economy, and always carry away a dead fellow-creature as food. But I have
just forwarded two most extraordinary letters to Busk, from a backwoodsman
in Texas, who has evidently watched ants carefully, and declares most
positively that they plant and cultivate a kind of grass for store food,
and plant other bushes for shelter! I do not know what to think, except
that the old gentleman is not fibbing intentionally. I have left the
responsibility with Busk whether or no to read the letters. (I.e. to read
them before the Linnean Society.)

CHARLES DARWIN TO THOMAS DAVIDSON. (Thomas Davidson, F.R.S., born in
Edinburgh, May 17, 1817; died 1885. His researches were chiefly connected
with the sciences of geology and palaeontology, and were directed
especially to the elucidation of the characters, classification, history,
geological and geographical distribution of recent and fossil Brachiopoda.
On this subject he brought out an important work, 'British Fossil
Brachiopoda,' 5 vols. 4to. (Cooper, 'Men of the Time,' 1884.))
Down, April 26, 1861.

My dear Sir,

I hope that you will excuse me for venturing to make a suggestion to you
which I am perfectly well aware it is a very remote chance that you would
adopt. I do not know whether you have read my 'Origin of Species'; in that
book I have made the remark, which I apprehend will be universally
admitted, that AS A WHOLE, the fauna of any formation is intermediate in
character between that of the formations above and below. But several
really good judges have remarked to me how desirable it would be that this
should be exemplified and worked out in some detail and with some single
group of beings. Now every one will admit that no one in the world could
do this better than you with Brachiopods. The result might turn out very
unfavourable to the views which I hold; if so, so much the better for those
who are opposed to me. ("Mr. Davidson is not at all a full believer in
great changes of species, which will make his work all the more valuable.--
C. Darwin to R. Chambers (April 30, 1861).) But I am inclined to suspect
that on the whole it would be favourable to the notion of descent with
modification; for about a year ago, Mr. Salter (John William Salter; 1820-
1869. He entered the service of the Geological Survey in 1846, and
ultimately became its Palaeontologist, on the retirement of Edward Forbes,
and gave up the office in 1863. He was associated with several well-known
naturalists in their work--with Sedgwick, Murchison, Lyell, Ramsay, and
Huxley. There are sixty entries under his name in the Royal Society
Catalogue. The above facts are taken from an obituary notice of Mr. Salter
in the 'Geological Magazine,' 1869.) in the Museum in Jermyn Street, glued
on a board some Spirifers, etc., from three palaeozoic stages, and arranged
them in single and branching lines, with horizontal lines marking the
formations (like the diagram in my book, if you know it), and the result
seemed to me very striking, though I was too ignorant fully to appreciate
the lines of affinities. I longed to have had these shells engraved, as
arranged by Mr. Salter, and connected by dotted lines, and would have
gladly paid the expense: but I could not persuade Mr. Salter to publish a
little paper on the subject. I can hardly doubt that many curious points
would occur to any one thoroughly instructed in the subject, who would
consider a group of beings under this point of view of descent with
modification. All those forms which have come down from an ancient period
very slightly modified ought, I think, to be omitted, and those forms alone
considered which have undergone considerable change at each successive
epoch. My fear is whether brachiopods have changed enough. The absolute
amount of difference of the forms in such groups at the opposite extremes
of time ought to be considered, and how far the early forms are
intermediate in character between those which appeared much later in time.
The antiquity of a group is not really diminished, as some seem vaguely to
think, because it has transmitted to the present day closely allied forms.
Another point is how far the succession of each genus is unbroken, from the
first time it appeared to its extinction, with due allowance made for
formations poor in fossils. I cannot but think that an important essay
(far more important than a hundred literary reviews) might be written by
one like yourself, and without very great labour. I know it is highly
probable that you may not have leisure, or not care for, or dislike the
subject, but I trust to your kindness to forgive me for making this
suggestion. If by any extraordinary good fortune you were inclined to take
up this notion, I would ask you to read my Chapter X. on Geological
Succession. And I should like in this case to be permitted to send you a
copy of the new edition, just published, in which I have added and
corrected somewhat in Chapters IX. and X.

Pray excuse this long letter, and believe me,
My dear Sir, yours very faithfully,

P.S.--I write so bad a hand that I have had this note copied.

Down, April 30, 1861.

My dear Sir,

I thank you warmly for your letter; I did not in the least know that you
had attended to my work. I assure you that the attention which you have
paid to it, considering your knowledge and the philosophical tone of your
mind (for I well remember one remarkable letter you wrote to me, and have
looked through your various publications), I consider one of the highest,
perhaps the very highest, compliments which I have received. I live so
solitary a life that I do not often hear what goes on, and I should much
like to know in what work you have published some remarks on my book. I
take a deep interest in the subject, and I hope not simply an egotistical
interest; therefore you may believe how much your letter has gratified me;
I am perfectly contented if any one will fairly consider the subject,
whether or not he fully or only very slightly agrees with me. Pray do not
think that I feel the least surprise at your demurring to a ready
acceptance; in fact, I should not much respect anyone's judgment who did
so: that is, if I may judge others from the long time which it has taken
me to go round. Each stage of belief cost me years. The difficulties are,
as you say, many and very great; but the more I reflect, the more they seem
to me to be due to our underestimating our ignorance. I belong so much to
old times that I find that I weigh the difficulties from the imperfection
of the geological record, heavier than some of the younger men. I find, to
my astonishment and joy, that such good men as Ramsay, Jukes, Geikie, and
one old worker, Lyell, do not think that I have in the least exaggerated
the imperfection of the record. (Professor Sedgwick treated this part of
the 'Origin of Species' very differently, as might have been expected from
his vehement objection to Evolution in general. In the article in the
"Spectator" of March 24, 1860, already noticed, Sedgwick wrote: "We know
the complicated organic phenomena of the Mesozoic (or Oolitic) period. It
defies the transmutationist at every step. Oh! but the document, says
Darwin, is a fragment; I will interpolate long periods to account for all
the changes. I say, in reply, if you deny my conclusion, grounded on
positive evidence, I toss back your conclusion, derived from negative
evidence,--the inflated cushion on which you try to bolster up the defects
of your hypothesis." [The punctuation of the imaginary dialogue is
slightly altered from the original, which is obscure in one place.]) If my
views ever are proved true, our current geological views will have to be
considerably modified. My greatest trouble is, not being able to weigh the
direct effects of the long-continued action of changed conditions of life
without any selection, with the action of selection on mere accidental (so
to speak) variability. I oscillate much on this head, but generally return
to my belief that the direct action of the conditions of life has not been
great. At least this direct action can have played an extremely small part
in producing all the numberless and beautiful adaptations in every living
creature. With respect to a person's belief, what does rather surprise me
is that any one (like Carpenter) should be willing TO GO SO VERY FAR as to
believe that all birds may have descended from one parent, and not go a
little farther and include all the members of the same great division; for
on such a scale of belief, all the facts in Morphology and in Embryology
(the most important in my opinion of all subjects) become mere Divine
mockeries...I cannot express how profoundly glad I am that some day you
will publish your theoretical view on the modification and endurance of
Brachiopodous species; I am sure it will be a most valuable contribution to

Pray forgive this very egotistical letter, but you yourself are partly to
blame for having pleased me so much. I have told Murray to send a copy of
my new edition to you, and have written your name.

With cordial thanks, pray believe me, my dear Sir,

Yours very sincerely,

[In Mr. Davidson's Monograph on British Brachiopoda, published shortly
afterwards by the Palaeontographical Society, results such as my father
anticipated were to some extent obtained. "No less than fifteen commonly
received species are demonstrated by Mr. Davidson by the aid of a long
series of transitional forms to appertain type." "Lyell,
'Antiquity of Man,' first edition, page 428.)

In the autumn of 1860, and the early part of 1861, my father had a good
deal of correspondence with Professor Asa Gray on a subject to which
reference has already been made--the publication in the form of a pamphlet,
of Professor Gray's three articles in the July, August, and October numbers
of the 'Atlantic Monthly,' 1860. The pamphlet was published by Messrs.
Trubner, with reference to whom my father wrote, "Messrs. Trubner have been
most liberal and kind, and say they shall make no charge for all their
trouble. I have settled about a few advertisements, and they will
gratuitously insert one in their own periodicals."

The reader will find these articles republished in Dr. Gray's 'Darwiniana,'
page 87, under the title "Natural Selection not inconsistent with Natural
Theology." The pamphlet found many admirers among those most capable of
judging of its merits, and my father believed that it was of much value in
lessening opposition, and making converts to Evolution. His high opinion
of it is shown not only in his letters, but by the fact that he inserted a
special notice of it in a most prominent place in the third edition of the
'Origin.' Lyell, among others, recognised its value as an antidote to the
kind of criticism from which the cause of Evolution suffered. Thus my
father wrote to Dr. Gray:--"Just to exemplify the use of your pamphlet, the
Bishop of London was asking Lyell what he thought of the review in the
'Quarterly,' and Lyell answered, 'Read Asa Gray in the 'Atlantic.'". It
comes out very clearly that in the case of such publications as Dr. Gray's,
my father did not rejoice over the success of his special view of
Evolution, viz. that modification is mainly due to Natural Selection; on
the contrary, he felt strongly that the really important point was that the
doctrine of Descent should be accepted. Thus he wrote to Professor Gray
(May 11, 1863), with reference to Lyell's 'Antiquity of Man':--

"You speak of Lyell as a judge; now what I complain of is that he declines
to be a judge...I have sometimes almost wished that Lyell had pronounced
against me. When I say 'me,' I only mean CHANGE OF SPECIES BY DESCENT.
That seems to me the turning-point. Personally, of course, I care much
about Natural Selection; but that seems to me utterly unimportant, compared
to the question of Creation OR Modification."]

Down, April 11 [1861].

My dear Gray,

I was very glad to get your photograph: I am expecting mine, which I will
send off as soon as it comes. It is an ugly affair, and I fear the fault
does not lie with the photographer...Since writing last, I have had several
letters full of the highest commendation of your Essay; all agree that it
is by far the best thing written, and I do not doubt it has done the
'Origin' much good. I have not yet heard how it has sold. You will have
seen a review in the "Gardeners' Chronicle". Poor dear Henslow, to whom I
owe much, is dying, and Hooker is with him. Many thanks for two sets of
sheets of your Proceedings. I cannot understand what Agassiz is driving
at. You once spoke, I think, of Professor Bowen as a very clever man. I
should have thought him a singularly unobservant man from his writings. He
never can have seen much of animals, or he would have seen the difference
of old and wise dogs and young ones. His paper about hereditariness beats
everything. Tell a breeder that he might pick out his worst INDIVIDUAL
animals and breed from them, and hope to win a prize, and he would think

[Professor Henslow died on May 16, 1861, from a complication of bronchitis,
congestion of the lungs, and enlargement of the heart. His strong
constitution was slow in giving way, and he lingered for weeks in a painful
condition of weakness, knowing that his end was near, and looking at death
with fearless eyes. In Mr. Blomefield's (Jenyns) 'Memoir of Henslow'
(1862) is a dignified and touching description of Prof. Sedgwick's farewell
visit to his old friend. Sedgwick said afterwards that he had never seen
"a human being whose soul was nearer heaven."

My father wrote to Sir J.D. Hooker on hearing of Henslow's death, "I fully
believe a better man never walked this earth."

He gave his impressions of Henslow's character in Mr. Blomefield's
'Memoir.' In reference to these recollections he wrote to Sir J.D. Hooker
(May 30, 1861):--

"This morning I wrote my recollections and impressions of character of poor
dear Henslow about the year 1830. I liked the job, and so have written
four or five pages, now being copied. I do not suppose you will use all,
of course you can chop and change as much as you like. If more than a
sentence is used, I should like to see a proof-page, as I never can write
decently till I see it in print. Very likely some of my remarks may appear
too trifling, but I thought it best to give my thoughts as they arose, for
you or Jenyns to use as you think fit.

"You will see that I have exceeded your request, but, as I said when I
began, I took pleasure in writing my impression of his admirable

Down, June 5 [1861].

My dear Gray,

I have been rather extra busy, so have been slack in answering your note of
May 6th. I hope you have received long ago the third edition of the
'Origin.'...I have heard nothing from Trubner of the sale of your Essay,
hence fear it has not been great; I wrote to say you could supply more. I
send a copy to Sir J. Herschel, and in his new edition of his 'Physical
Geography' he has a note on the 'Origin of Species,' and agrees, to a
certain limited extent, but puts in a caution on design--much like
yours...I have been led to think more on this subject of late, and grieve
to say that I come to differ more from you. It is not that designed
variation makes, as it seems to me, my deity "Natural Selection"
superfluous, but rather from studying, lately, domestic variation, and
seeing what an enormous field of undesigned variability there is ready for
natural selection to appropriate for any purpose useful to each creature.

I thank you much for sending me your review of Phillips. ('Life on the
Earth,' 1860.) I remember once telling you a lot of trades which you ought
to have followed, but now I am convinced that you are a born reviewer. By
Jove, how well and often you hit the nail on the head! You rank Phillips's
book higher than I do, or than Lyell does, who thinks it fearfully
retrograde. I amused myself by parodying Phillips's argument as applied to
domestic variation; and you might thus prove that the duck or pigeon has
not varied because the goose has not, though more anciently domesticated,
and no good reason can be assigned why it has not produced many varieties

I never knew the newspapers so profoundly interesting. North America does
not do England justice; I have not seen or heard of a soul who is not with
the North. Some few, and I am one of them, even wish to God, though at the
loss of millions of lives, that the North would proclaim a crusade against
slavery. In the long-run, a million horrid deaths would be amply repaid in
the cause of humanity. What wonderful times we live in! Massachusetts
seems to show noble enthusiasm. Great God! How I should like to see the
greatest curse on earth--slavery--abolished!

Farewell. Hooker has been absorbed with poor dear revered Henslow's
affairs. Farewell.

Ever yours,

31 Sackville St., W., June 23, 1861.

My dear Darwin,

I have been to Adelsberg cave and brought back with me a live Proteus
anguinus, designed for you from the moment I got it; i.e. if you have got
an aquarium and would care to have it. I only returned last night from the
continent, and hearing from your brother that you are about to go to
Torquay, I lose no time in making you the offer. The poor dear animal is
still alive--although it has had no appreciable means of sustenance for a
month--and I am most anxious to get rid of the responsibility of starving


Back to Full Books