The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Volume II
Part 4 out of 11
it longer. In your hands it will thrive and have a fair chance of being
developed without delay into some type of the Columbidae--say a Pouter or a
My dear Darwin, I have been rambling through the north of Italy, and
Germany lately. Everywhere have I heard your views and your admirable
essay canvassed--the views of course often dissented from, according to the
special bias of the speaker--but the work, its honesty of purpose, grandeur
of conception, felicity of illustration, and courageous exposition, always
referred to in terms of the highest admiration. And among your warmest
friends no one rejoiced more heartily in the just appreciation of Charles
Darwin than did
Yours very truly,
CHARLES DARWIN TO HUGH FALCONER.
Down [June 24, 1861].
My dear Falconer,
I have just received your note, and by good luck a day earlier than
properly, and I lose not a moment in answering you, and thanking you
heartily for your offer of the valuable specimen; but I have no aquarium
and shall soon start for Torquay, so that it would be a thousand pities
that I should have it. Yet I should certainly much like to see it, but I
fear it is impossible. Would not the Zoological Society be the best place?
and then the interest which many would take in this extraordinary animal
would repay you for your trouble.
Kind as you have been in taking this trouble and offering me this specimen,
to tell the truth I value your note more than the specimen. I shall keep
your note amongst a very few precious letters. Your kindness has quite
Yours affectionately and gratefully,
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
2 Hesketh Crescent, Torquay,
July 13 .
...I hope Harvey is better; I got his review (The 'Dublin Hospital
Gazette,' May 15, 1861. The passage referred to is at page 150.) of me a
day or two ago, from which I infer he must be convalescent; it's very good
and fair; but it is funny to see a man argue on the succession of animals
from Noah's Deluge; as God did not then wholly destroy man, probably he did
not wholly destroy the races of other animals at each geological period! I
never expected to have a helping hand from the Old Testament...
CHARLES DARWIN TO C. LYELL.
2, Hesketh Crescent, Torquay,
July 20 .
My dear Lyell,
I sent you two or three days ago a duplicate of a good review of the
'Origin' by a Mr. Maw (Mr. George Maw, of Benthall Hall. The review was
published in the 'Zoologist,' July, 1861. On the back of my father's copy
is written, "Must be consulted before new edit. of 'Origin'"--words which
are wanting on many more pretentious notices, on which frequently occur my
father's brief o/-, or "nothing new."), evidently a thoughtful man, as I
thought you might like to have it, as you have so many...
This is quite a charming place, and I have actually walked, I believe, good
two miles out and back, which is a grand feat.
I saw Mr. Pengelly (William Pengelly, the geologist, and well-known
explorer of the Devonshire caves.) the other day, and was pleased at his
enthusiasm. I do not in the least know whether you are in London. Your
illness must have lost you much time, but I hope you have nearly got your
great job of the new edition finished. You must be very busy, if in
London, so I will be generous, and on honour bright do not expect any
answer to this dull little note...
CHARLES DARWIN TO ASA GRAY.
Down, September 17 [1861?].
My dear Gray,
I thank you sincerely for your very long and interesting letter, political
and scientific, of August 27th and 29th, and September 2nd received this
morning. I agree with much of what you say, and I hope to God we English
are utterly wrong in doubting (1) whether the N. can conquer the S.; (2)
whether the N. has many friends in the South, and (3) whether you noble men
of Massachusetts are right in transferring your own good feelings to the
men of Washington. Again I say I hope to God we are wrong in doubting on
these points. It is number (3) which alone causes England not to be
enthusiastic with you. What it may be in Lancashire I know not, but in S.
England cotton has nothing whatever to do with our doubts. If abolition
does follow with your victory, the whole world will look brighter in my
eyes, and in many eyes. It would be a great gain even to stop the spread
of slavery into the Territories; if that be possible without abolition,
which I should have doubted. You ought not to wonder so much at England's
coldness, when you recollect at the commencement of the war how many
propositions were made to get things back to the old state with the old
line of latitude, but enough of this, all I can say is that Massachusetts
and the adjoining States have the full sympathy of every good man whom I
see; and this sympathy would be extended to the whole Federal States, if we
could be persuaded that your feelings were at all common to them. But
enough of this. It is out of my line, though I read every word of news,
and formerly well studied Olmsted...
Your question what would convince me of Design is a poser. If I saw an
angel come down to teach us good, and I was convinced from others seeing
him that I was not mad, I should believe in design. If I could be
convinced thoroughly that life and mind was in an unknown way a function of
other imponderable force, I should be convinced. If man was made of brass
or iron and no way connected with any other organism which had ever lived,
I should perhaps be convinced. But this is childish writing.
I have lately been corresponding with Lyell, who, I think, adopts your idea
of the stream of variation having been led or designed. I have asked him
(and he says he will hereafter reflect and answer me) whether he believes
that the shape of my nose was designed. If he does I have nothing more to
say. If not, seeing what Fanciers have done by selecting individual
differences in the nasal bones of pigeons, I must think that it is
illogical to suppose that the variations, which natural selection preserves
for the good of any being have been designed. But I know that I am in the
same sort of muddle (as I have said before) as all the world seems to be in
with respect to free will, yet with everything supposed to have been
foreseen or pre-ordained.
Farewell, my dear Gray, with many thanks for your interesting letter.
Your unmerciful correspondent.
CHARLES DARWIN TO H.W. BATES.
Down, December 3 .
My dear Sir,
I thank you for your extremely interesting letter, and valuable references,
though God knows when I shall come again to this part of my subject. One
cannot of course judge of style when one merely hears a paper (On Mimetic
Butterflies, read before the Linnean Soc., November 21, 1861. For my
father's opinion of it when published, see below.), but yours seemed to me
very clear and good. Believe me that I estimate its value most highly.
Under a general point of view, I am quite convinced (Hooker and Huxley took
the same view some months ago) that a philosophic view of nature can solely
be driven into naturalists by treating special subjects as you have done.
Under a special point of view, I think you have solved one of the most
perplexing problems which could be given to solve. I am glad to hear from
Hooker that the Linnean Society will give plates if you can get drawings...
Do not complain of want of advice during your travels; I dare say part of
your great originality of views may be due to the necessity of self-
exertion of thought. I can understand that your reception at the British
Museum would damp you; they are a very good set of men, but not the sort to
appreciate your work. In fact I have long thought that TOO MUCH systematic
work [and] description somehow blunts the faculties. The general public
appreciates a good dose of reasoning, or generalisation, with new and
curious remarks on habits, final causes, etc. etc., far more than do the
I am extremely glad to hear that you have begun your travels...I am very
busy, but I shall be TRULY glad to render any aid which I can by reading
your first chapter or two. I do not think I shall be able to correct
style, for this reason, that after repeated trials I find I cannot correct
my own style till I see the MS. in type. Some are born with a power of
good writing, like Wallace; others like myself and Lyell have to labour
very hard and slowly at every sentence. I find it a very good plan, when I
cannot get a difficult discussion to please me, to fancy that some one
comes into the room and asks me what I am doing; and then try at once and
explain to the imaginary person what it is all about. I have done this for
one paragraph to myself several times, and sometimes to Mrs. Darwin, till I
see how the subject ought to go. It is, I think, good to read one's MS.
aloud. But style to me is a great difficulty; yet some good judges think I
have succeeded, and I say this to encourage you.
What I THINK I can do will be to tell you whether parts had better be
shortened. It is good, I think, to dash "in media res," and work in later
any descriptions of country or any historical details which may be
necessary. Murray likes lots of wood-cuts--give some by all means of ants.
The public appreciate monkeys--our poor cousins. What sexual differences
are there in monkeys? Have you kept them tame? if so, about their
expression. I fear that you will hardly read my vile hand-writing, but I
cannot without killing trouble write better.
You shall have my candid opinion on your MS., but remember it is hard to
judge from MS., one reads slowly, and heavy parts seem much heavier. A
first-rate judge thought my Journal very poor; now that it is in print, I
happen to know, he likes it. I am sure you will understand why I am so
I was a LITTLE disappointed in Wallace's book ('Travels on the Amazon and
Rio Negro,' 1853.) on the Amazon; hardly facts enough. On the other hand,
in Gosse's book (Probably the 'Naturalist's Sojourn in Jamaica,' 1851.)
there is not reasoning enough to my taste. Heaven knows whether you will
care to read all this scribbling...
I am glad you had a pleasant day with Hooker (In a letter to Sir J.D.
Hooker (December 1861), my father wrote: "I am very glad to hear that you
like Bates. I have seldom in my life been more struck with a man's power
of mind."), he is an admirably good man in every sense.
[The following extract from a letter to Mr. Bates on the same subject is
interesting as giving an idea of the plan followed by my father in writing
his 'Naturalist's Voyage:'
"As an old hackneyed author, let me give you a bit of advice, viz. to
strike out every word which is not quite necessary to the current subject,
and which could not interest a stranger. I constantly asked myself, would
a stranger care for this? and struck out or left in accordingly. I think
too much pains cannot be taken in making the style transparently clear and
throwing eloquence to the dogs."
Mr. Bates's book, 'The Naturalist on the Amazons,' was published in 1865,
but the following letter may be given here rather than in its due
CHARLES DARWIN TO H.W. BATES.
Down, April 18, 1863.
I have finished volume i. My criticisms may be condensed into a single
sentence, namely, that it is the best work of Natural History Travels ever
published in England. Your style seems to me admirable. Nothing can be
better than the discussion on the struggle for existence, and nothing
better than the description of the Forest scenery. (In a letter to Lyell
my father wrote: "He [i.e. Mr. Bates] is second only to Humboldt in
describing a tropical forest.") It is a grand book, and whether or not it
sells quickly, it will last. You have spoken out boldly on Species; and
boldness on the subject seems to get rarer and rarer. How beautifully
illustrated it is. The cut on the back is most tasteful. I heartily
congratulate you on its publication.
The "Athenaeum" ("I have read the first volume of Bates's Book; it is
capital, and I think the best Natural History Travels ever published in
England. He is bold about Species, etc., and the "Athenaeum" coolly says
'he bends his facts' for this purpose."--(From a letter to Sir J.D.
Hooker.)) was rather cold, as it always is, and insolent in the highest
degree about your leading facts. Have you seen the "Reader"? I can send
it to you if you have not seen it...
CHARLES DARWIN TO ASA GRAY.
Down, December 11 .
My dear Gray,
Many and cordial thanks for your two last most valuable notes. What a
thing it is that when you receive this we may be at war, and we two be
bound, as good patriots, to hate each other, though I shall find this
hating you very hard work. How curious it is to see two countries, just
like two angry and silly men, taking so opposite a view of the same
transaction! I fear there is no shadow of doubt we shall fight if the two
Southern rogues are not given up. (The Confederate Commissioners Slidell
and Mason were forcibly removed from the "Trent", a West India mail steamer
on November 8, 1861. The news that the U.S. agreed to release them reached
England on January 8, 1862.) And what a wretched thing it will be if we
fight on the side of slavery. No doubt it will be said that we fight to
get cotton; but I fully believe that this has not entered into the motive
in the least. Well, thank Heaven, we private individuals have nothing to
do with so awful a responsibility. Again, how curious it is that you seem
to think that you can conquer the South; and I never meet a soul, even
those who would most wish it, who thinks it possible--that is, to conquer
and retain it. I do not suppose the mass of people in your country will
believe it, but I feel sure if we do go to war it will be with the utmost
reluctance by all classes, Ministers of Government and all. Time will
show, and it is no use writing or thinking about it. I called the other
day on Dr. Boott, and was pleased to find him pretty well and cheerful. I
see, by the way, he takes quite an English opinion of American affairs,
though an American in heart. (Dr. Boott was born in the U.S.) Buckle
might write a chapter on opinion being entirely dependent on longitude!
...With respect to Design, I feel more inclined to show a white flag than
to fire my usual long-range shot. I like to try and ask you a puzzling
question, but when you return the compliment I have great doubts whether it
is a fair way of arguing. If anything is designed, certainly man must be:
one's "inner consciousness" (though a false guide) tells one so; yet I
cannot admit that man's rudimentary mammae...were designed. If I was to
say I believed this, I should believe it in the same incredible manner as
the orthodox believe the Trinity in Unity. You say that you are in a haze;
I am in thick mud; the orthodox would say in fetid, abominable mud; yet I
cannot keep out of the question. My dear Gray, I have written a deal of
Yours most cordially,
[Owing to the illness from scarlet fever of one of his boys, he took a
house at Bournemouth in the autumn. He wrote to Dr. Gray from Southampton
(August 21, 1862):--
"We are a wretched family, and ought to be exterminated. We slept here to
rest our poor boy on his journey to Bournemouth, and my poor dear wife
sickened with scarlet fever, and has had it pretty sharply, but is
recovering well. There is no end of trouble in this weary world. I shall
not feel safe till we are all at home together, and when that will be I
know not. But it is foolish complaining."
Dr. Gray used to send postage stamps to the scarlet fever patient; with
regard to this good-natured deed my father wrote--
"I must just recur to stamps; my little man has calculated that he will now
have 6 stamps which no other boy in the school has. Here is a triumph.
Your last letter was plaistered with many coloured stamps, and he long
surveyed the envelope in bed with much quiet satisfaction."
The greater number of the letters of 1862 deal with the Orchid work, but
the wave of conversion to Evolution was still spreading, and reviews and
letters bearing on the subject still came in numbers. As an example of the
odd letters he received may be mentioned one which arrived in January of
this year "from a German homoeopathic doctor, an ardent admirer of the
'Origin.' Had himself published nearly the same sort of book, but goes
much deeper. Explains the origin of plants and animals on the principles
of homoeopathy or by the law of spirality. Book fell dead in Germany.
Therefore would I translate it and publish it in England."]
CHARLES DARWIN TO T.H. HUXLEY.
Down, [January?] 14 .
My dear Huxley,
I am heartily glad of your success in the North (This refers to two of Mr.
Huxley's lectures, given before the Philosophical Institution of Edinburgh
in 1862. The substance of them is given in 'Man's Place in Nature.'), and
thank you for your note and slip. By Jove you have attacked Bigotry in its
stronghold. I thought you would have been mobbed. I am so glad that you
will publish your Lectures. You seem to have kept a due medium between
extreme boldness and caution. I am heartily glad that all went off so
well. I hope Mrs. Huxley is pretty well...I must say one word on the
Hybrid question. No doubt you are right that here is a great hiatus in the
argument; yet I think you overrate it--you never allude to the excellent
evidence of VARIETIES of Verbascum and Nicotiana being partially sterile
together. It is curious to me to read (as I have to-day) the greatest
crossing GARDENER utterly pooh-poohing the distinction which BOTANISTS make
on this head, and insisting how frequently crossed VARIETIES produce
sterile offspring. Do oblige me by reading the latter half of my Primula
paper in the 'Linn. Journal,' for it leads me to suspect that sterility
will hereafter have to be largely viewed as an acquired or SELECTED
character--a view which I wish I had had facts to maintain in the 'Origin.'
(The view here given will be discussed in the chapter on hetero-styled
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, January 25 .
My dear Hooker,
Many thanks for your last Sunday's letter, which was one of the pleasantest
I ever received in my life. We are all pretty well redivivus, and I am at
work again. I thought it best to make a clean breast to Asa Gray; and told
him that the Boston dinner, etc. etc., had quite turned my stomach, and
that I almost thought it would be good for the peace of the world if the
United States were split up; on the other hand, I said that I groaned to
think of the slave-holders being triumphant, and that the difficulties of
making a line of separation were fearful. I wonder what he will say...Your
notion of the Aristocrat being kenspeckle, and the best men of a good lot
being thus easily selected is new to me, and striking. The 'Origin' having
made you in fact a jolly old Tory, made us all laugh heartily. I have
sometimes speculated on this subject; primogeniture (My father had a strong
feeling as to the injustice of primogeniture, and in a similar spirit was
often indignant over the unfair wills that appear from time to time. He
would declare energetically that if he were law-giver no will should be
valid that was not published in the testator's lifetime; and this he
maintained would prevent much of the monstrous injustice and meanness
apparent in so many wills.) is dreadfully opposed to selection; suppose the
first-born bull was necessarily made by each farmer the begetter of his
stock! On the other hand, as you say, ablest men are continually raised to
the peerage, and get crossed with the older Lord-breeds, and the Lords
continually select the most beautiful and charming women out of the lower
ranks; so that a good deal of indirect selection improves the Lords.
Certainly I agree with you the present American row has a very Torifying
influence on us all. I am very glad to hear you are beginning to print the
'Genera;' it is a wonderful satisfaction to be thus brought to bed, indeed
it is one's chief satisfaction, I think, though one knows that another
bantling will soon be developing...
CHARLES DARWIN TO MAXWELL MASTERS. (Dr. Masters is a well-known vegetable
teratologist, and has been for many years the editor of the "Gardeners'
Down, February 26 .
My dear Sir,
I am much obliged to you for sending me your article (Refers to a paper on
"Vegetable Morphology," by Dr. Masters, in the 'British and Foreign Medico-
Chirurgical Review' for 1862), which I have just read with much interest.
The history, and a good deal besides, was quite new to me. It seems to me
capitally done, and so clearly written. You really ought to write your
larger work. You speak too generously of my book; but I must confess that
you have pleased me not a little; for no one, as far as I know, has ever
remarked on what I say on classification--a part, which when I wrote it,
pleased me. With many thanks to you for sending me your article, pray
My dear Sir, yours sincerely,
[In the spring of this year (1862) my father read the second volume of
Buckle's 'History of Civilisation." The following strongly expressed
opinion about it may be worth quoting:--
"Have you read Buckle's second volume? It has interested me greatly; I do
not care whether his views are right or wrong, but I should think they
contained much truth. There is a noble love of advancement and truth
throughout; and to my taste he is the very best writer of the English
language that ever lived, let the other be who he may."]
CHARLES DARWIN TO ASA GRAY.
Down, March 15 .
My dear Gray,
Thanks for the newspapers (though they did contain digs at England), and
for your note of February 18th. It is really almost a pleasure to receive
stabs from so smooth, polished, and sharp a dagger as your pen. I heartily
wish I could sympathise more fully with you, instead of merely hating the
South. We cannot enter into your feelings; if Scotland were to rebel, I
presume we should be very wrath, but I do not think we should care a penny
what other nations thought. The millennium must come before nations love
each other; but try and do not hate me. Think of me, if you will as a poor
blinded fool. I fear the dreadful state of affairs must dull your interest
I believe that your pamphlet has done my book GREAT good; and I thank you
from my heart for myself; and believing that the views are in large part
true, I must think that you have done natural science a good turn. Natural
Selection seems to be making a little progress in England and on the
Continent; a new German edition is called for, and a French (In June, 1862,
my father wrote to Dr. Gray: "I received, 2 or 3 days ago, a French
translation of the 'Origin,' by a Madlle. Royer, who must be one of the
cleverest and oddest women in Europe: is an ardent Deist, and hates
Christianity, and declares that natural selection and the struggle for life
will explain all morality, nature of man, politics, etc. etc.! She makes
some very curious and good hits, and says she shall publish a book on these
subjects." Madlle. Royer added foot-notes to her translation, and in many
places where the author expresses great doubt, she explains the difficulty,
or points out that no real difficulty exists.) one has just appeared. One
of the best men, though at present unknown, who has taken up these views,
is Mr. Bates; pray read his 'Travels in Amazonia,' when they appear; they
will be very good, judging from MS. of the first two chapters.
...Again I say, do not hate me.
Ever yours most truly,
CHARLES DARWIN TO C. LYELL.
1 Carlton Terrace, Southampton (The house of his son William.),
August 22, .
...I heartily hope that you (I.e. 'The Antiquity of Man.') will be out in
October...you say that the Bishop and Owen will be down on you; the latter
hardly can, for I was assured that Owen in his Lectures this spring
advanced as a new idea that wingless birds had lost their wings by disuse,
also that magpies stole spoons, etc., from a REMNANT of some instinct like
that of the Bower-Bird, which ornaments its playing-passage with pretty
feathers. Indeed, I am told that he hinted plainly that all birds are
descended from one...
Your P.S. touches on, as it seems to me, very difficult points. I am glad
to see [that] in the 'Origin,' I only say that the naturalists generally
consider that low organisms vary more than high; and this I think certainly
is the general opinion. I put the statement this way to show that I
considered it only an opinion probably true. I must own that I do not at
all trust even Hooker's contrary opinion, as I feel pretty sure that he has
not tabulated any result. I have some materials at home, I think I
attempted to make this point out, but cannot remember the result.
Mere variability, though the necessary foundation of all modifications, I
believe to be almost always present, enough to allow of any amount of
selected change; so that it does not seem to me at all incompatible that a
group which at any one period (or during all successive periods) varies
less, should in the long course of time have undergone more modification
than a group which is generally more variable.
Placental animals, e.g. might be at each period less variable than
Marsupials, and nevertheless have undergone more DIFFERENTIATION and
development than marsupials, owing to some advantage, probably brain
I am surprised, but do not pretend to form an opinion at Hooker's statement
that higher species, genera, etc., are best limited. It seems to me a bold
Looking to the 'Origin,' I see that I state that the productions of the
land seem to change quicker than those of the sea (Chapter X., page 339, 3d
edition), and I add there is some reason to believe that organisms
considered high in the scale change quicker than those that are low. I
remember writing these sentences after much deliberation...I remember well
feeling much hesitation about putting in even the guarded sentences which I
did. My doubts, I remember, related to the rate of change of the Radiata
in the Secondary formation, and of the Foraminifera in the oldest Tertiary
CHARLES DARWIN TO C. LYELL.
Down, October 1 .
...I found here (On his return from Bournemouth.) a short and very kind
note of Falconer, with some pages of his 'Elephant Memoir,' which will be
published, in which he treats admirably on long persistence of type. I
thought he was going to make a good and crushing attack on me, but to my
great satisfaction, he ends by pointing out a loophole, and adds (Falconer,
"On the American Fossil Elephant," in the 'Nat. Hist. Review,' 1863, page
81. The words preceding those cited by my father make the meaning of his
quotation clearer. The passage begins as follows: "The inferences which I
draw from these facts are not opposed to one of the leading propositions of
Darwin's theory. With him," etc. etc.) "with him I have no faith that the
mammoth and other extinct elephants made their appearance suddenly...The
most rational view seems to be that they are the modified descendants of
earlier progenitors, etc." This is capital. There will not be soon one
good palaeontologist who believes in immutability. Falconer does not allow
for the Proboscidean group being a failing one, and therefore not likely to
be giving off new races.
He adds that he does not think Natural Selection suffices. I do not quite
see the force of his argument, and he apparently overlooks that I say over
and over again that Natural Selection can do nothing without variability,
and that variability is subject to the most complex fixed laws...
[In his letters to Sir J.D. Hooker, about the end of this year, are
occasional notes on the progress of the 'Variation of Animals and Plants.'
Thus on November 24th he wrote: "I hardly know why I am a little sorry,
but my present work is leading me to believe rather more in the direct
action of physical conditions. I presume I regret it, because it lessens
the glory of natural selection, and is so confoundedly doubtful. Perhaps I
shall change again when I get all my facts under one point of view, and a
pretty hard job this will be."
Again, on December 22nd, "To-day I have begun to think of arranging my
concluding chapters on Inheritance, Reversion, Selection, and such things,
and am fairly paralyzed how to begin and how to end, and what to do, with
my huge piles of materials."]
CHARLES DARWIN TO ASA GRAY.
Down, November 6 .
My dear Gray,
When your note of October 4th and 13th (chiefly about Max Muller) arrived,
I was nearly at the end of the same book ('Lectures on the Science of
Language,' 1st edition 1861.), and had intended recommending you to read
it. I quite agree that it is extremely interesting, but the latter part
about the FIRST origin of language much the least satisfactory. It is a
marvellous problem...[There are] covert sneers at me, which he seems to get
the better of towards the close of the book. I cannot quite see how it
will forward "my cause," as you call it; but I can see how any one with
literary talent (I do not feel up to it) could make great use of the
subject in illustration. (Language was treated in the manner here
indicated by Sir C. Lyell in the 'Antiquity of Man.' Also by Prof.
Schleicher, whose pamphlet was fully noticed in the "Reader", February 27,
1864 (as I learn from one of Prof. Huxley's 'Lay Sermons').) What pretty
metaphors you would make from it! I wish some one would keep a lot of the
most noisy monkeys, half free, and study their means of communication!
A book has just appeared here which will, I suppose, make a noise, by
Bishop Colenso ('The Pentateuch and Book of Joshua critically examined,'
six parts, 1862-71.), who, judging from extracts, smashes most of the Old
testament. Talking of books, I am in the middle of one which pleases me,
though it is very innocent food, viz., Miss Coopers 'Journal of a
Naturalist.' Who is she? She seems a very clever woman, and gives a
capital account of the battle between OUR and YOUR weeds. Does it not hurt
your Yankee pride that we thrash you so confoundedly? I am sure Mrs. Gray
will stick up for your own weeds. Ask her whether they are not more
honest, downright good sort of weeds. The book gives an extremely pretty
picture of one of your villages; but I see your autumn, though so much more
gorgeous than ours, comes on sooner, and that is one comfort...
CHARLES DARWIN TO H.W. BATES.
Down, November 20 .
I have just finished, after several reads, your paper. (This refers to Mr.
Bates's paper, "Contributions to an Insect Fauna of the Amazons Valley"
('Linn. Soc. Trans.' xxiii., 1862), in which the now familiar subject of
mimicry was founded. My father wrote a short review of it in the 'Natural
History Review,' 1863, page 219, parts of which occur in this review almost
verbatim in the later editions of the 'Origin of Species.' A striking
passage occurs showing the difficulties of the case from a creationist's
point of view:--
"By what means, it may be asked, have so many butterflies of the Amazonian
region acquired their deceptive dress? Most naturalists will answer that
they were thus clothed from the hour of their creation--an answer which
will generally be so far triumphant that it can be met only by long-drawn
arguments; but it is made at the expense of putting an effectual bar to all
further enquiry. In this particular case, moreover, the creationist will
meet with special difficulties; for many of the mimicking forms of Leptalis
can be shown by a graduated series to be merely varieties of one species;
other mimickers are undoubtedly distinct species, or even distinct genera.
So again, some of the mimicked forms can be shown to be merely varieties;
but the greater number must be ranked as distinct species. Hence the
creationist will have to admit that some of these forms have become
imitators, by means of the laws of variation, whilst others he must look at
as separately created under their present guise; he will further have to
admit that some have been created in imitation of forms not themselves
created as we now see them, but due to the laws of variation? Prof.
Agassiz, indeed, would think nothing of this difficulty; for he believes
that not only each species and each variety, but that groups of
individuals, though identically the same, when inhabiting distinct
countries, have been all separately created in due proportional numbers to
the wants of each land. Not many naturalists will be content thus to
believe that varieties and individuals have been turned out all ready made,
almost as a manufacturer turns out toys according to the temporary demand
of the market.") In my opinion it is one of the most remarkable and
admirable papers I ever read in my life. The mimetic cases are truly
marvellous, and you connect excellently a host of analogous facts. The
illustrations are beautiful, and seem very well chosen; but it would have
saved the reader not a little trouble, if the name of each had been
engraved below each separate figure. No doubt this would have put the
engraver into fits, as it would have destroyed the beauty of the plate. I
am not at all surprised at such a paper having consumed much time. I am
rejoiced that I passed over the whole subject in the 'Origin,' for I should
have made a precious mess of it. You have most clearly stated and solved a
wonderful problem. No doubt with most people this will be the cream of the
paper; but I am not sure that all your facts and reasonings on variation,
and on the segregation of complete and semi-complete species, is not really
more, or at least as valuable, a part. I never conceived the process
nearly so clearly before; one feels present at the creation of new forms.
I wish, however, you had enlarged a little more on the pairing of similar
varieties; a rather more numerous body of facts seems here wanted. Then,
again, what a host of curious miscellaneous observations there are--as on
related sexual and individual variability: these will some day, if I live,
be a treasure to me.
With respect to mimetic resemblance being so common with insects, do you
not think it may be connected with their small size; they cannot defend
themselves; they cannot escape by flight, at least, from birds, therefore
they escape by trickery and deception?
I have one serious criticism to make, and that is about the title of the
paper; I cannot but think that you ought to have called prominent attention
in it to the mimetic resemblances. Your paper is too good to be largely
appreciated by the mob of naturalists without souls; but, rely on it, that
it will have LASTING value, and I cordially congratulate you on your first
great work. You will find, I should think, that Wallace will fully
appreciate it. How gets on your book? Keep your spirits up. A book is no
light labour. I have been better lately, and working hard, but my health
is very indifferent. How is your health? Believe me, dear Bates,
Yours very sincerely,
THE SPREAD OF EVOLUTION.
'VARIATION OF ANIMALS AND PLANTS'
[His book on animals and plants under domestication was my father's chief
employment in the year 1863. His diary records the length of time spent
over the composition of its chapters, and shows the rate at which he
arranged and wrote out for printing the observations and deductions of
The three chapters in volume ii. on inheritance, which occupy 84 pages of
print, were begun in January and finished on April 1st; the five on
crossing, making 106 pages, were written in eight weeks, while the two
chapters on selection, covering 57 pages, were begun on June 16th and
finished on July 20th.
The work was more than once interrupted by ill health, and in September,
what proved to be the beginning of a six month's illness, forced him to
leave home for the water-cure at Malvern. He returned in October and
remained ill and depressed, in spite of the hopeful opinion of one of the
most cheery and skilful physicians of the day. Thus he wrote to Sir J.D.
Hooker in November:--
"Dr. Brinton has been here (recommended by Busk); he does not believe my
brain or heart are primarily affected, but I have been so steadily going
down hill, I cannot help doubting whether I can ever crawl a little uphill
again. Unless I can, enough to work a little, I hope my life may be very
short, for to lie on a sofa all day and do nothing but give trouble to the
best and kindest of wives and good dear children is dreadful."
The minor works in this year were a short paper in the 'Natural History
Review' (N.S. vol. iii. page 115), entitled "On the so-called 'Auditory-
Sac' of Cirripedes," and one in the 'Geological Society's Journal' (vol.
xix), on the "Thickness of the Pampaean Formation near Buenos Ayres." The
paper on Cirripedes was called forth by the criticisms of a German
naturalist Krohn (Krohn stated that the structures described by my father
as ovaries were in reality salivary glands, also that the oviduct runs down
to the orifice described in the 'Monograph of the Cirripedia' as the
auditory meatus.), and is of some interest in illustration of my father's
readiness to admit an error.
With regard to the spread of a belief in Evolution, it could not yet be
said that the battle was won, but the growth of belief was undoubtedly
rapid. So that, for instance, Charles Kingsley could write to F.D. Maurice
(Kingsley's 'Life,' ii, page 171.):
"The state of the scientific mind is most curious; Darwin is conquering
everywhere, and rushing in like a flood, by the mere force of truth and
Mr. Huxley was as usual active in guiding and stimulating the growing
tendency to tolerate or accept the views set forth in the 'Origin of
Species.' He gave a series of lectures to working men at the School of
Mines in November, 1862. These were printed in 1863 from the shorthand
notes of Mr. May, as six little blue books, price 4 pence each, under the
title, 'Our Knowledge of the Causes of Organic Nature.' When published
they were read with interest by my father, who thus refers to them in a
letter to Sir J.D. Hooker:--
"I am very glad you like Huxley's lectures. I have been very much struck
with them, especially with the 'Philosophy of Induction.' I have
quarrelled with him for overdoing sterility and ignoring cases from Gartner
and Kolreuter about sterile varieties. His Geology is obscure; and I
rather doubt about man's mind and language. But it seems to me ADMIRABLY
done, and, as you say, "Oh my," about the praise of the 'Origin.' I can't
help liking it, which makes me rather ashamed of myself."
My father admired the clearness of exposition shown in the lectures, and in
the following letter urges their author to make use of his powers for the
advantage of students:]
CHARLES DARWIN TO T.H. HUXLEY.
November 5 .
I want to make a suggestion to you, but which may probably have occurred to
you. -- was reading your Lectures and ended by saying, "I wish he would
write a book." I answered, "he has just written a great book on the
skull." "I don't call that a book," she replied, and added, "I want
something that people can read; he does write so well." Now, with your
ease in writing, and with knowledge at your fingers' ends, do you not think
you could write a popular Treatise on Zoology? Of course it would be some
waste of time, but I have been asked more than a dozen times to recommend
something for a beginner and could only think of Carpenter's Zoology. I am
sure that a striking Treatise would do real service to science by educating
naturalists. If you were to keep a portfolio open for a couple of years,
and throw in slips of paper as subjects crossed your mind, you would soon
have a skeleton (and that seems to me the difficulty) on which to put the
flesh and colours in your inimitable manner. I believe such a book might
have a brilliant success, but I did not intend to scribble so much about
Give my kindest remembrance to Mrs. Huxley, and tell her I was looking at
'Enoch Arden,' and as I know how she admires Tennyson, I must call her
attention to two sweetly pretty lines (page 105)...
...and he meant, he said he meant,
Perhaps he meant, or partly meant, you well.
Such a gem as this is enough to make me young again, and like poetry with
My dear Huxley,
[In another letter (January 1865) he returns to the above suggestion,
though he was in general strongly opposed to men of science giving up to
the writing of text-books, or to teaching, the time that might otherwise
have been given to original research.
"I knew there was very little chance of your having time to write a popular
Treatise on Zoology, but you are about the one man who could do it. At the
time I felt it would be almost a sin for you to do it, as it would of
course destroy some original work. On the other hand I sometimes think
that general and popular treatises are almost as important for the progress
of science as original work."
The series of letters will continue the history of the year 1863.]
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, January 3 .
My dear Hooker,
I am burning with indignation and must exhale...I could not get to sleep
till past 3 last night for indignation (It would serve no useful purpose if
I were to go into the matter which so strongly roused my father's anger.
It was a question of literary dishonesty, in which a friend was the
sufferer, but which in no way affected himself.)...
Now for pleasanter subjects; we were all amused at your defence of stamp
collecting and collecting generally...But, by Jove, I can hardly stomach a
grown man collecting stamps. Who would ever have thought of your
collecting Wedgwoodware! but that is wholly different, like engravings or
pictures. We are degenerate descendants of old Josiah W., for we have not
a bit of pretty ware in the house.
...Notwithstanding the very pleasant reason you give for our not enjoying a
holiday, namely, that we have no vices, it is a horrid bore. I have been
trying for health's sake to be idle, with no success. What I shall now
have to do, will be to erect a tablet in Down Church, "Sacred to the
Memory, etc.," and officially die, and then publish books, "by the late
Charles Darwin," for I cannot think what has come over me of late; I always
suffered from the excitement of talking, but now it has become ludicrous.
I talked lately 1 1/2 hours (broken by tea by myself) with my nephew, and I
was [ill] half the night. It is a fearful evil for self and family.
Good-night. Ever yours.
[The following letter to Sir Julius von Haast (Sir Julius von Haast was a
German by birth, but had long been resident in New Zealand. He was, in
1862, Government Geologist to the Province of Canterbury.), is an example
of the sympathy which he felt with the spread and growth of science in the
colonies. It was a feeling not expressed once only, but was frequently
present in his mind, and often found utterance. When we, at Cambridge, had
the satisfaction of receiving Sir J. von Haast into our body as a Doctor of
Science (July 1886), I had the opportunity of hearing from him of the vivid
pleasure which this, and other letters from my father, gave him. It was
pleasant to see how strong had been the impression made by my father's
warm-hearted sympathy--an impression which seemed, after more than twenty
years, to be as fresh as when it was first received:]
CHARLES DARWIN TO JULIUS VON HAAST.
Down, January 22 .
I thank you most sincerely for sending me your Address and the Geological
Report. (Address to the 'Philosophical Institute of Canterbury (N.Z.).'
The "Report" is given in "The New Zealand Government Gazette, Province of
Canterbury", October 1862.) I have seldom in my life read anything more
spirited and interesting than your address. The progress of your colony
makes one proud, and it is really admirable to see a scientific institution
founded in so young a nation. I thank you for the very honourable notice
of my 'Origin of Species.' You will easily believe how much I have been
interested by your striking facts on the old glacial period, and I suppose
the world might be searched in vain for so grand a display of terraces.
You have, indeed, a noble field for scientific research and discovery. I
have been extremely much interested by what you say about the tracks of
supposed [living] mammalia. Might I ask, if you succeed in discovering
what the creatures are, you would have the great kindness to inform me?
Perhaps they may turn out something like the Solenhofen bird creature, with
its long tail and fingers, with claws to its wings! I may mention that in
South America, in completely uninhabited regions, I found spring rat-traps,
baited with CHEESE, were very successful in catching the smaller mammals.
I would venture to suggest to you to urge on some of the capable members of
your institution to observe annually the rate and manner of spreading of
European weeds and insects, and especially to observe WHAT NATIVE PLANTS
MOST FAIL; this latter point has never been attended to. Do the introduced
hive-bees replace any other insect? etc. All such points are, in my
opinion, great desiderata in science. What an interesting discovery that
of the remains of prehistoric man!
Believe me, dear Sir,
With the most cordial respect and thanks,
Yours very faithfully,
CHARLES DARWIN TO CAMILLE DARESTE. (Professor Dareste is a well-known
worker in Animal Teratology. He was in 1863 living at Lille, but has since
then been called to Paris. My father took a special interest in Dareste's
work on the production of monsters, as bearing on the causes of variation.)
Down, February 16 .
Dear and respected Sir,
I thank you sincerely for your letter and your pamphlet. I had heard (I
think in one of M. Quatrefages' books) of your work, and was most anxious
to read it, but did not know where to find it. You could not have made me
a more valuable present. I have only just returned home, and have not yet
read your work; when I do if I wish to ask any questions I will venture to
trouble you. Your approbation of my book on Species has gratified me
extremely. Several naturalists in England, North America, and Germany,
have declared that their opinions on the subject have in some degree been
modified, but as far as I know, my book has produced no effect whatever in
France, and this makes me the more gratified by your very kind expression
of approbation. Pray believe me, dear Sir, with much respect,
Yours faithfully and obliged,
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, February 24 .
My dear Hooker,
I am astonished at your note, I have not seen the "Athenaeum" (In the
'Antiquity of Man,' first edition, page 480, Lyell criticised somewhat
severely Owen's account of the difference between the Human and Simian
brains. The number of the "Athenaeum" here referred to (1863, page 262)
contains a reply by Professor Owen to Lyell's strictures. The surprise
expressed by my father was at the revival of a controversy which every one
believed to be closed. Prof. Huxley ("Medical Times", October 25, 1862,
quoted in 'Man's Place in Nature,' page 117) spoke of the "two years during
which this preposterous controversy has dragged its weary length." And
this no doubt expressed a very general feeling.) but I have sent for it,
and may get it to-morrow; and will then say what I think.
I have read Lyell's book. ['The Antiquity of Man.'] the whole certainty
struck me as a compilation, but of the highest class, for when possible the
facts have been verified on the spot, making it almost an original work.
The Glacial chapters seem to me best, and in parts magnificent. I could
hardly judge about Man, as all the gloss of novelty was completely worn
off. But certainly the aggregation of the evidence produced a very
striking effect on my mind. The chapter comparing language and changes of
species, seems most ingenious and interesting. He has shown great skill in
picking out salient points in the argument for change of species; but I am
deeply disappointed (I do not mean personally) to find that his timidity
prevents him giving any judgment...From all my communications with him I
must ever think that he has really entirely lost faith in the immutability
of species; and yet one of his strongest sentences is nearly as follows:
"If it should EVER (The italics are not Lyell's.) be rendered highly
probable that species change by variation and natural selection," etc.,
etc. I had hoped he would have guided the public as far as his own belief
went...One thing does please me on this subject, that he seems to
appreciate your work. No doubt the public or a part may be induced to
think that as he gives to us a larger space than to Lamarck, he must think
there is something in our views. When reading the brain chapter, it struck
me forcibly that if he had said openly that he believed in change of
species, and as a consequence that man was derived from some Quadrumanous
animal, it would have been very proper to have discussed by compilation the
differences in the most important organ, viz. the brain. As it is, the
chapter seems to me to come in rather by the head and shoulders. I do not
think (but then I am as prejudiced as Falconer and Huxley, or more so) that
it is too severe; it struck me as given with judicial force. It might
perhaps be said with truth that he had no business to judge on a subject on
which he knows nothing; but compilers must do this to a certain extent.
(You know I value and rank high compilers, being one myself!) I have taken
you at your word, and scribbled at great length. If I get the "Athenaeum"
to-morrow, I will add my impression of Owen's letter.
...The Lyells are coming here on Sunday evening to stay till Wednesday. I
dread it, but I must say how much disappointed I am that he has not spoken
out on species, still less on man. And the best of the joke is that he
thinks he has acted with the courage of a martyr of old. I hope I may have
taken an exaggerated view of his timidity, and shall PARTICULARLY be glad
of your opinion on this head. (On this subject my father wrote to Sir
Joseph Hooker: "Cordial thanks for your deeply interesting letters about
Lyell, Owen, and Co. I cannot say how glad I am to hear that I have not
been unjust about the species-question towards Lyell. I feared I had been
unreasonable.") When I got his book I turned over the pages, and saw he
had discussed the subject of species, and said that I thought he would do
more to convert the public than all of us, and now (which makes the case
worse for me) I must, in common honesty, retract. I wish to Heaven he had
said not a word on the subject.
I have read the "Athenaeum". I do not think Lyell will be nearly so much
annoyed as you expect. The concluding sentence is no doubt very stinging.
No one but a good anatomist could unravel Owen's letter; at least it is
quite beyond me.
...Lyell's memory plays him false when he says all anatomists were
astonished at Owen's paper ("On the Characters, etc., of the Class
Mammalia." 'Linn. Soc. Journal,' ii, 1858.); it was often quoted with
approbation. I WELL remember Lyell's admiration at this new
classification! (Do not repeat this.) I remember it, because, though I
knew nothing whatever about the brain, I felt a conviction that a
classification thus founded on a single character would break down, and it
seemed to me a great error not to separate more completely the
What an accursed evil it is that there should be all this quarrelling
within, what ought to be, the peaceful realms of science. I will go to my
own present subject of inheritance and forget it all for a time. Farewell,
my dear old friend,
CHARLES DARWIN TO ASA GRAY.
Down, February 23 .
...If you have time to read you will be interested by parts of Lyell's book
on man; but I fear that the best part, about the Glacial period, may be too
geological for any one except a regular geologist. He quotes you at the
end with gusto. By the way, he told me the other day how pleased some had
been by hearing that they could purchase your pamphlet. The "Parthenon"
also speaks of it as the ablest contribution to the literature of the
subject. It delights me when I see your work appreciated.
The Lyells come here this day week, and I shall grumble at his excessive
caution...The public may well say, if such a man dare not or will not speak
out his mind, how can we who are ignorant form even a guess on the subject?
Lyell was pleased when I told him lately that you thought that language
might be used as an excellent illustration of derivation of species; you
will see that he has an ADMIRABLE chapter on this...
I read Cairns's excellent Lecture (Prof. J.E. Cairns, 'The Slave Power,
etc.: an attempt to explain the real issues involved in the American
contest.' 1862.), which shows so well how your quarrel arose from Slavery.
It made me for a time wish honestly for the North; but I could never help,
though I tried, all the time thinking how we should be bullied and forced
into a war by you, when you were triumphant. But I do most truly think it
dreadful that the South, with its accursed slavery, should triumph, and
spread the evil. I think if I had power, which thank God, I have not, I
would let you conquer the border States, and all west of the Mississippi,
and then force you to acknowledge the cotton States. For do you not now
begin to doubt whether you can conquer and hold them? I have inflicted a
long tirade on you.
"The Times" is getting more detestable (but that is too weak a word) than
ever. My good wife wishes to give it up, but I tell her that is a pitch of
heroism to which only a woman is equal. To give up the "Bloody Old
'Times'," as Cobbett used to call it, would be to give up meat, drink and
air. Farewell, my dear Gray,
Yours most truly,
CHARLES DARWIN TO C. LYELL.
Down, March 6, .
...I have been of course deeply interested by your book. ('Antiquity of
Man.') I have hardly any remarks worth sending, but will scribble a little
on what most interested me. But I will first get out what I hate saying,
viz., that I have been greatly disappointed that you have not given
judgment and spoken fairly out what you think about the derivation of
species. I should have been contented if you had boldly said that species
have not been separately created, and had thrown as much doubt as you like
on how far variation and natural selection suffices. I hope to Heaven I am
wrong (and from what you say about Whewell it seems so), but I cannot see
how your chapters can do more good than an extraordinary able review. I
think the "Parthenon" is right, that you will leave the public in a fog.
No doubt they may infer that as you give more space to myself, Wallace, and
Hooker, than to Lamarck, you think more of us. But I had always thought
that your judgment would have been an epoch in the subject. All that is
over with me, and I will only think on the admirable skill with which you
have selected the striking points, and explained them. No praise can be
too strong, in my opinion, for the inimitable chapter on language in
comparison with species.
(After speculating on the sudden appearance of individuals far above the
average of the human race, Lyell asks if such leaps upwards in the scale of
intellect may not "have cleared at one bound the space which separated the
higher stage of the unprogressive intelligence of the inferior animals from
the first and lowest form of improvable reason manifested by man.") page
505--A sentence at the top of the page makes me groan...
I know you will forgive me for writing with perfect freedom, for you must
know how deeply I respect you as my old honoured guide and master. I
heartily hope and expect that your book will have gigantic circulation and
may do in many ways as much good as it ought to do. I am tired, so no
more. I have written so briefly that you will have to guess my meaning. I
fear my remarks are hardly worth sending. Farewell, with kindest
remembrance to Lady Lyell.
[Mr. Huxley has quoted (vol. i. page 546) some passages from Lyell's
letters which show his state of mind at this time. The following passage,
from a letter of March 11th to my father, is also of much interest:--
"My feelings, however, more than any thought about policy or expediency,
prevent me from dogmatising as to the descent of man from the brutes,
which, though I am prepared to accept it, takes away much of the charm from
my speculations on the past relating to such matters...But you ought to be
satisfied, as I shall bring hundreds towards you who, if I treated the
matter more dogmatically, would have rebelled."]
CHARLES DARWIN TO C. LYELL.
Down, 12 [March, 1863].
My dear Lyell,
I thank you for your very interesting and kind, I may say, charming letter.
I feared you might be huffed for a little time with me. I know some men
would have been so. I have hardly any more criticisms, anyhow, worth
writing. But I may mention that I felt a little surprise that old B. de
Perthes (1788-1868. See footnote below.) was not rather more honourably
mentioned. I would suggest whether you could not leave out some references
to the 'Principles;' one for the real student is as good as a hundred, and
it is rather irritating, and gives a feeling of incompleteness to the
general reader to be often referred to other books. As you say that you
have gone as far as you believe on the species question, I have not a word
to say; but I must feel convinced that at times, judging from conversation,
expressions, letters, etc., you have as completely given up belief in
immutability of specific forms as I have done. I must still think a clear
expression from you, IF YOU COULD HAVE GIVEN IT, would have been potent
with the public, and all the more so, as you formerly held opposite
opinions. The more I work the more satisfied I become with variation and
natural selection, but that part of the case I look at as less important,
though more interesting to me personally. As you ask for criticisms on
this head (and believe me that I should not have made them unasked), I may
specify (pages 412, 413) that such words as "Mr. D. labours to show," "is
believed by the author to throw light," would lead a common reader to think
that you yourself do NOT at all agree, but merely think it fair to give my
opinion. Lastly, you refer repeatedly to my view as a modification of
Lamarck's doctrine of development and progression. If this is your
deliberate opinion there is nothing to be said, but it does not seem so to
me. Plato, Buffon, my grandfather before Lamarck, and others, propounded
the OBVIOUS views that if species were not created separately they must
have descended from other species, and I can see nothing else in common
between the 'Origin' and Lamarck. I believe this way of putting the case
is very injurious to its acceptance, as it implies necessary progression,
and closely connects Wallace's and my views with what I consider, after two
deliberate readings, as a wretched book, and one from which (I well
remember my surprise) I gained nothing. But I know you rank it higher,
which is curious, as it did not in the least shake your belief. But
enough, and more than enough. Please remember you have brought it all down
I am very sorry to hear about Falconer's "reclamation." ("Falconer, whom I
referred to oftener than to any other author, says I have not done justice
to the part he took in resuscitating the cave question, and says he shall
come out with a separate paper to prove it. I offered to alter anything in
the new edition, but this he declined.--C. Lyell to C. Darwin, March 11,
1863; Lyell's 'Life,' vol. ii. page 364.) I hate the very word, and have a
sincere affection for him.
Did you ever read anything so wretched as the "Athenaeum" reviews of you,
and of Huxley ('Man's Place in Nature,' 1863.) especially. Your OBJECT to
make man old, and Huxley's OBJECT to degrade him. The wretched writer has
not a glimpse what the discovery of scientific truth means. How splendid
some pages are in Huxley, but I fear the book will not be popular...
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down [March 13, 1863].
I should have thanked you sooner for the "Athenaeum" and very pleasant
previous note, but I have been busy, and not a little uncomfortable from
frequent uneasy feeling of fullness, slight pain and tickling about the
heart. But as I have no other symptoms of heart complaint I do not suppose
it is affected...I have had a most kind and delightfully candid letter from
Lyell, who says he spoke out as far as he believes. I have no doubt his
belief failed him as he wrote, for I feel sure that at times he no more
believed in Creation than you or I. I have grumbled a bit in my answer to
him at his ALWAYS classing my work as a modification of Lamarck's, which it
is no more than any author who did not believe in immutability of species,
and did believe in descent. I am very sorry to hear from Lyell that
Falconer is going to publish a formal reclamation of his own claims...
It is cruel to think of it, but we must go to Malvern in the middle of
April; it is ruin to me. (He went to Hartfield in Sussex, on April 27, and
to Malvern in the autumn.)...
CHARLES DARWIN TO C. LYELL.
Down, March 17 .
My dear Lyell,
I have been much interested by your letters and enclosure, and thank you
sincerely for giving me so much time when you must be so busy. What a
curious letter from B. de P. [Boucher de Perthes]. He seems perfectly
satisfied, and must be a very amiable man. I know something about his
errors, and looked at his book many years ago, and am ashamed to think that
I concluded the whole was rubbish! Yet he has done for man something like
what Agassiz did for glaciers. (In his 'Antiquites Celtiques' (1847),
Boucher de Perthes described the flint tools found at Abbeville with bones
of rhinoceros, hyaena, etc. "But the scientific world had no faith in the
statement that works of art, however rude, had been met with in undisturbed
beds of such antiquity." ('Antiquity of Man,' first edition, page 95).)
I cannot say that I agree with Hooker about the public not liking to be
told what to conclude, IF COMING FROM ONE IN YOUR POSITION. But I am
heartily sorry that I was led to make complaints, or something very like
complaints, on the manner in which you have treated the subject, and still
more so anything about myself. I steadily ENDEAVOUR never to forget my
firm belief that no one can at all judge about his own work. As for
Lamarck, as you have such a man as Grove with you, you are triumphant; not
that I can alter my opinion that to me it was an absolutely useless book.
Perhaps this was owing to my always searching books for facts, perhaps from
knowing my grandfather's earlier and identically the same speculation. I
will only further say that if I can analyse my own feelings (a very
doubtful process), it is nearly as much for your sake as for my own, that I
so much wish that your state of belief could have permitted you to say
boldly and distinctly out that species were not separately created. I have
generally told you the progress of opinion, as I have heard it, on the
species question. A first-rate German naturalist (No doubt Haeckel, whose
monograph on the Radiolaria was published in 1862. In the same year
Professor W. Preyer of Jena published a dissertation on Alca impennis,
which was one of the earliest pieces of special work on the basis of the
'Origin of Species.') (I now forget the name!), who has lately published a
grand folio, has spoken out to the utmost extent on the 'Origin.' De
Candolle, in a very good paper on "Oaks," goes, in Asa Gray's opinion, as
far as he himself does; but De Candolle, in writing to me, says WE, "we
think this and that;" so that I infer he really goes to the full extent
with me, and tells me of a French good botanical palaeontologist (name
forgotten) (The Marquis de Saporta.), who writes to De Candolle that he is
sure that my views will ultimately prevail. But I did not intend to have
written all this. It satisfies me with the final results, but this result,
I begin to see, will take two or three lifetimes. The entomologists are
enough to keep the subject back for half a century. I really pity your
having to balance the claims of so many eager aspirants for notice; it is
clearly impossible to satisfy all...Certainly I was struck with the full
and due honour you conferred on Falconer. I have just had a note from
Hooker...I am heartily glad that you have made him so conspicuous; he is so
honest, so candid, and so modest...
I have read --. I could find nothing to lay hold of, which in one sense I
am very glad of, as I should hate a controversy; but in another sense I am
very sorry for, as I long to be in the same boat with all my friends...I am
heartily glad the book is going off so well.
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down [March 29, 1863].
...Many thanks for "Athenaeum", received this morning, and to be returned
to-morrow morning. Who would have ever thought of the old stupid
"Athenaeum" taking to Oken-like transcendental philosophy written in
Owenian style! (This refers to a review of Dr. Carpenter's 'Introduction
to the study of Foraminifera,' that appeared in the "Athenaeum" of March
28, 1863 (page 417). The reviewer attacks Dr. Carpenter's views in as much
as they support the doctrine of Descent; and he upholds spontaneous
generation (Heterogeny) in place of what Dr. Carpenter, naturally enough,
believed in, viz. the genetic connection of living and extinct
Foraminifera. In the next number is a letter by Dr. Carpenter, which
chiefly consists of a protest against the reviewer's somewhat contemptuous
classification of Dr. Carpenter and my father as disciple and master. In
the course of the letter Dr. Carpenter says--page 461:--
"Under the influence of his foregone conclusion that I have accepted Mr.
Darwin as my master, and his hypothesis as my guide, your reviewer
represents me as blind to the significance of the general fact stated by
me, that 'there has been no advance in the foraminiferous type from the
palaeozoic period to the present time.' But for such a foregone conclusion
he would have recognised in this statement the expression of my conviction
that the present state of scientific evidence, instead of sanctioning the
idea that the descendants of the primitive type or types of Foraminifera
can ever rise to any higher grade, justifies the ANTI-DARWINIAN influence,
that however widely they diverge from each other and from their originals,
THEY STILL REMAIN FORAMINIFERA.")...It will be some time before we see
"slime, protoplasm, etc.," generating a new animal. (On the same subject
my father wrote in 1871: "It is often said that all the conditions for the
first production of a living organism are now present, which could ever
have been present. But if (and oh! what a big if!) we could conceive in
some warm little pond, with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts,
light, heat, electricity, etc., present, that a proteine compound was
chemically formed ready to undergo still more complex changes, at the
present day such matter would be instantly devoured or absorbed, which
would not have been the case before living creatures were formed.") But I
have long regretted that I truckled to public opinion, and used the
Pentateuchal term of creation (This refers to a passage in which the
reviewer of Dr. Carpenter's books speaks of "an operation of force," or "a
concurrence of forces which have now no place in nature," as being, "a
creative force, in fact, which Darwin could only express in Pentateuchal
terms as the primordial form 'into which life was first breathed.'" The
conception of expressing a creative force as a primordial form is the
Reviewer's.), by which I really meant "appeared" by some wholly unknown
process. It is mere rubbish, thinking at present of the origin of life;
one might as well think of the origin of matter.
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, Friday night [April 17, 1863].
My dear Hooker,
I have heard from Oliver that you will be now at Kew, and so I am going to
amuse myself by scribbling a bit. I hope you have thoroughly enjoyed your
tour. I never in my life saw anything like the spring flowers this year.
What a lot of interesting things have been lately published. I liked
extremely your review of De Candolle. What an awfully severe article that
by Falconer on Lyell ("Athenaeum", April 4, 1863, page 459. The writer
asserts that justice has not been done either to himself or Mr. Prestwich--
that Lyell has not made it clear that it was their original work which
supplied certain material for the 'Antiquity of Man.' Falconer attempts to
draw an unjust distinction between a "philosopher" (here used as a polite
word for compiler) like Sir Charles Lyell, and original observers,
presumably such as himself, and Mr. Prestwich. Lyell's reply was published
in the "Athenaeum", April 18, 1863. It ought to be mentioned that a letter
from Mr. Prestwich ("Athenaeum", page 555), which formed part of the
controversy, though of the nature of a reclamation, was written in a very
different spirit and tone from Dr. Falconer's.); I am very sorry for it; I
think Falconer on his side does not do justice to old Perthes and
Schmerling...I shall be very curious to see how he [Lyell] answers it to-
morrow. (I have been compelled to take in the "Athenaeum" for a while.) I
am very sorry that Falconer should have written so spitefully, even if
there is some truth in his accusations; I was rather disappointed in
Carpenter's letter, no one could have given a better answer, but the chief
object of his letter seems to me to be to show that though he has touched
pitch he is not defiled. No one would suppose he went so far as to believe
all birds came from one progenitor. I have written a letter to the
"Athenaeum" ("Athenaeum", 1863, page 554: "The view given by me on the
origin or derivation of species, whatever its weaknesses may be, connects
(as has been candidly admitted by some of its opponents, such as Pictet,
Bronn, etc.), by an intelligible thread of reasoning, a multitude of facts:
such as the formation of domestic races by man's selection,--the
classification and affinities of all organic beings,--the innumerable
gradations in structure and instincts,--the similarity of pattern in the
hand, wing, or paddle of animals of the same great class,--the existence of
organs become rudimentary by disuse,--the similarity of an embryonic
reptile, bird, and mammal, with the retention of traces of an apparatus
fitted for aquatic respiration; the retention in the young calf of incisor
teeth in the upper jaw, etc.--the distribution of animals and plants, and
their mutual affinities within the same region,--their general geological
succession, and the close relationship of the fossils in closely
consecutive formations and within the same country; extinct marsupials
having preceded living marsupials in Australia, and armadillo-like animals
having preceded and generated armadilloes in South America,--and many other
phenomena, such as the gradual extinction of old forms and their gradual
replacement by new forms better fitted for their new conditions in the
struggle for life. When the advocate of Heterogeny can thus connect large
classes of facts, and not until then, he will have respectful and patient
listeners.") (the first and last time I shall take such a step) to say,
under the cloak of attacking Heterogeny, a word in my own defence. My
letter is to appear next week, so the Editor says; and I mean to quote
Lyell's sentence (See the next letter.) in his second edition, on the
principle if one puffs oneself, one had better puff handsomely...
CHARLES DARWIN TO C. LYELL.
Down, April 18 .
My dear Lyell,
I was really quite sorry that you had sent me a second copy (The second
edition of the 'Antiquity of Man' was published a few months after the
first had appeared.) of your valuable book. But after a few hours my
sorrow vanished for this reason: I have written a letter to the
"Athenaeum", in order, under the cloak of attacking the monstrous article
on Heterogeny, to say a word for myself in answer to Carpenter, and now I
have inserted a few sentences in allusion to your analogous objection
(Lyell objected that the mammalia (e.g. bats and seals) which alone have
been able to reach oceanic islands ought to have become modified into
various terrestrial forms fitted to fill various places in their new home.
My father pointed out in the "Athenaeum" that Sir Charles has in some
measure answered his own objection, and went on to quote the "amended
sentence" ('Antiquity of Man,' 2nd Edition page 469) as showing how far
Lyell agreed with the general doctrines of the "Origin of Species': "Yet
we ought by no means to undervalue the importance of the step which will
have been made, should it hereafter become the generally received opinion
of men of science (as I fully expect it will) that the past changes of the
organic world have been brought about by the subordinate agency of such
causes as Variation and Natural Selection." In the first edition the words
(as I fully expect it will," do not occur.) about bats on islands, and then
with infinite slyness have quoted your amended sentence, with your
parenthesis ("as I fully believe") (My father here quotes Lyell
incorrectly; see the previous foot-note.); I do not think you can be
annoyed at my doing this, and you see, that I am determined as far as I
can, that the public shall see how far you go. This is the first time I
have ever said a word for myself in any journal, and it shall, I think, be
the last. My letter is short, and no great things. I was extremely
concerned to see Falconer's disrespectful and virulent letter. I like
extremely your answer just read; you take a lofty and dignified position,
to which you are so well entitled. (In a letter to Sir J.D. Hooker he
wrote: "I much like Lyell's letter. But all this squabbling will greatly
sink scientific men. I have seen sneers already in the 'Times'.")
I suspect that if you had inserted a few more superlatives in speaking of
the several authors there would have been none of this horrid noise. No
one, I am sure, who knows you could doubt about your hearty sympathy with
every one who makes any little advance in science. I still well remember
my surprise at the manner in which you listened to me in Hart Street on my
return from the "Beagle's" voyage. You did me a world of good. It is
horridly vexatious that so frank and apparently amiable a man as Falconer
should have behaved so. (It is to this affair that the extract from a
letter to Falconer, given in volume i., refers.) Well it will all soon be
[In reply to the above-mentioned letter of my father's to the "Athenaeum",
an article appeared in that Journal (May 2nd, 1863, page 586), accusing my
father of claiming for his views the exclusive merit of "connecting by an
intelligible thread of reasoning" a number of facts in morphology, etc.
The writer remarks that, "The different generalizations cited by Mr. Darwin
as being connected by an intelligible thread of reasoning exclusively
through his attempt to explain specific transmutation are in fact related
to it in this wise, that they have prepared the minds of naturalists for a
better reception of such attempts to explain the way of the origin of
species from species."
To this my father replied in the "Athenaeum" of May 9th, 1863:]
Down, May 5 .
I hope that you will grant me space to own that your reviewer is quite
correct when he states that any theory of descent will connect, "by an
intelligible thread of reasoning," the several generalizations before
specified. I ought to have made this admission expressly; with the
reservation, however, that, as far as I can judge, no theory so well
explains or connects these several generalizations (more especially the
formation of domestic races in comparison with natural species, the
principles of classification, embryonic resemblance, etc.) as the theory,
or hypothesis, or guess, if the reviewer so likes to call it, of Natural
Selection. Nor has any other satisfactory explanation been ever offered of
the almost perfect adaptation of all organic beings to each other, and to
their physical conditions of life. Whether the naturalist believes in the
views given by Lamarck, by Geoffrey St. Hilaire, by the author of the
'Vestiges,' by Mr. Wallace and myself, or in any other such view, signifies
extremely little in comparison with the admission that species have
descended from other species, and have not been created immutable; for he
who admits this as a great truth has a wide field opened to him for further
inquiry. I believe, however, from what I see of the progress of opinion on
the Continent, and in this country, that the theory of Natural Selection
will ultimately be adopted, with, no doubt, many subordinate modifications
[In the following, he refers to the above letter to the "Athenaeum:]
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Leith Hill Place,
Saturday [May 11, 1863].
My dear Hooker,
You give good advice about not writing in newspapers; I have been gnashing
my teeth at my own folly; and this not caused by --'s sneers, which were so
good that I almost enjoyed them. I have written once again to own to a
certain extent of truth in what he says, and then if I am ever such a fool
again, have no mercy on me. I have read the squib in "Public Opinion"
("Public Opinion", April 23, 1863. A lively account of a police case, in
which the quarrels of scientific men are satirised. Mr. John Bull gives
"The whole neighbourhood was unsettled by their disputes; Huxley quarrelled
with Owen, Owen with Darwin, Lyell with Owen, Falconer and Prestwich with
Lyell, and Gray the menagerie man with everybody. He had pleasure,
however, in stating that Darwin was the quietest of the set. They were
always picking bones with each other and fighting over their gains. If
either of the gravel sifters or stone breakers found anything, he was
obliged to conceal it immediately, or one of the old bone collectors would
be sure to appropriate it first and deny the theft afterwards, and the
consequent wrangling and disputes were as endless as they were wearisome.
"Lord Mayor.--Probably the clergyman of the parish might exert some
influence over them?
"The gentleman smiled, shook his head, and stated that he regretted to say
that no class of men paid so little attention to the opinions of the clergy
as that to which these unhappy men belonged."); it is capital; if there is
more, and you have a copy, do lend it. It shows well that a scientific man
had better be trampled in dirt than squabble. I have been drawing
diagrams, dissecting shoots, and muddling my brains to a hopeless degree
about the divergence of leaves, and have of course utterly failed. But I
can see that the subject is most curious, and indeed astonishing...
[The next letter refers to Mr. Bentham's presidential address to the
Linnean Society (May 25, 1863). Mr. Bentham does not yield to the new
theory of Evolution, "cannot surrender at discretion as long as many
important outworks remain contestable." But he shows that the great body
of scientific opinion is flowing in the direction of belief.
The mention of Pasteur by Mr. Bentham is in reference to the promulgation
"as it were ex cathedra," of a theory of spontaneous generation by the
reviewer of Dr. Carpenter in the "Athenaeum" (March 28, 1863). Mr. Bentham
points out that in ignoring Pasteur's refutation of the supposed facts of
spontaneous generation, the writer fails to act with "that impartiality
which every reviewer is supposed to possess."]
CHARLES DARWIN TO G. BENTHAM.
Down, May 22 .
My dear Bentham,
I am much obliged for your kind and interesting letter. I have no fear of
anything that a man like you will say annoying me in the very least degree.
On the other hand, any approval from one whose judgment and knowledge I
have for many years so sincerely respected, will gratify me much. The
objection which you well put, of certain forms remaining unaltered through
long time and space, is no doubt formidable in appearance, and to a certain
extent in reality according to my judgment. But does not the difficulty
rest much on our silently assuming that we know more than we do? I have
literally found nothing so difficult as to try and always remember our
ignorance. I am never weary, when walking in any new adjoining district or
country, of reflecting how absolutely ignorant we are why certain old
plants are not there present, and other new ones are, and others in
different proportions. If we once fully feel this, then in judging the
theory of Natural Selection, which implies that a form will remain
unaltered unless some alteration be to its benefit, is it so very wonderful
that some forms should change much slower and much less, and some few
should have changed not at all under conditions which to us (who really
know nothing what are the important conditions) seem very different.
Certainly a priori we might have anticipated that all the plants anciently
introduced into Australia would have undergone some modification; but the
fact that they have not been modified does not seem to me a difficulty of
weight enough to shake a belief grounded on other arguments. I have
expressed myself miserably, but I am far from well to-day.
I am very glad that you are going to allude to Pasteur; I was struck with
infinite admiration at his work. With cordial thanks, believe me, dear
Yours very sincerely,
P.S.--In fact, the belief in Natural Selection must at present be grounded
entirely on general considerations. (1) On its being a vera causa, from
the struggle for existence; and the certain geological fact that species do
somehow change. (2) From the analogy of change under domestication by
man's selection. (3) And chiefly from this view connecting under an
intelligible point of view a host of facts. When we descend to details, we
can prove that no one species has changed [i.e. we cannot prove that a
single species has changed]; nor can we prove that the supposed changes are
beneficial, which is the groundwork of the theory. Nor can we explain why
some species have changed and others have not. The latter case seems to me
hardly more difficult to understand precisely and in detail than the former
case of supposed change. Bronn may ask in vain, the old creationist school
and the new school, why one mouse has longer ears than another mouse, and
one plant more pointed leaves than another plant.
CHARLES DARWIN TO G. BENTHAM.
Down, June 19 .
My dear Bentham,
I have been extremely much pleased and interested by your address, which
you kindly sent me. It seems to be excellently done, with as much judicial
calmness and impartiality as the Lord Chancellor could have shown. But
whether the "immutable" gentlemen would agree with the impartiality may be
doubted, there is too much kindness shown towards me, Hooker, and others,
they might say. Moreover I verily believe that your address, written as it
is, will do more to shake the unshaken and bring on those leaning to our
side, than anything written directly in favour of transmutation. I can
hardly tell why it is, but your address has pleased me as much as Lyell's
book disappointed me, that is, the part on species, though so cleverly
written. I agree with all your remarks on the reviewers. By the way,
Lecoq (Author of 'Geographie Botanique.' 9 vols. 1854-58.) is a believer in
the change of species. I, for one, can conscientiously declare that I
never feel surprised at any one sticking to the belief of immutability;
though I am often not a little surprised at the arguments advanced on this
side. I remember too well my endless oscillations of doubt and difficulty.
It is to me really laughable when I think of the years which elapsed before
I saw what I believe to be the explanation of some parts of the case; I
believe it was fifteen years after I began before I saw the meaning and
cause of the divergence of the descendants of any one pair. You pay me
some most elegant and pleasing compliments. There is much in your address
which has pleased me much, especially your remarks on various naturalists.
I am so glad that you have alluded so honourably to Pasteur. I have just
read over this note; it does not express strongly enough the interest which
I have felt in reading your address. You have done, I believe, a real good
turn to the RIGHT SIDE. Believe me, dear Bentham,
Yours very sincerely,
[In my father's diary for 1864 is the entry, "Ill all January, February,
March." About the middle of April (seven months after the beginning of the
illness in the previous autumn) his health took a turn for the better. As
soon as he was able to do any work, he began to write his papers on
Lythrum, and on Climbing Plants, so that the work which now concerns us did
not begin until September, when he again set to work on 'Animals and
Plants.' A letter to Sir J.D. Hooker gives some account of the re-
commencement of the work: "I have begun looking over my old MS., and it is
as fresh as if I had never written it; parts are astonishingly dull, but
yet worth printing, I think; and other parts strike me as very good. I am
a complete millionaire in odd and curious little facts, and I have been
really astounded at my own industry whilst reading my chapters on
Inheritance and Selection. God knows when the book will ever be completed,
for I find that I am very weak and on my best days cannot do more than one
or one and a half hours' work. It is a good deal harder than writing about
my dear climbing plants."
In this year he received the greatest honour which a scientific man can
receive in this country--the Copley Medal of the Royal Society. It is
presented at the Anniversary Meeting on St. Andrew's Day (November 30), the
medalist being usually present to receive it, but this the state of my
father's health prevented. He wrote to Mr. Fox on this subject:--
"I was glad to see your hand-writing. The Copley, being open to all
sciences and all the world, is reckoned a great honour; but excepting from
several kind letters, such things make little difference to me. It shows,
however, that Natural Selection is making some progress in this country,
and that pleases me. The subject, however, is safe in foreign lands."
To Sir J.D. Hooker, also, he wrote:--
"How kind you have been about this medal; indeed, I am blessed with many
good friends, and I have received four or five notes which have warmed my
heart. I often wonder that so old a worn-out dog as I am is not quite
forgotten. Talking of medals, has Falconer had the Royal? he surely ought
to have it, as ought John Lubbock. By the way, the latter tells me that
some old members of the Royal are quite shocked at my having the Copley.
Do you know who?"
He wrote to Mr. Huxley:--
"I must and will answer you, for it is a real pleasure for me to thank you
cordially for your note. Such notes as this of yours, and a few others,
are the real medal to me, and not the round bit of gold. These have given
me a pleasure which will long endure; so believe in my cordial thanks for
Sir Charles Lyell, writing to my father in November 1864 ('Life,' vol. ii.
page 384), speaks of the supposed malcontents as being afraid to crown
anything so unorthodox as the 'Origin.' But he adds that if such were
their feelings "they had the good sense to draw in their horns." It
appears, however, from the same letter, that the proposal to give the
Copley Medal to my father in the previous year failed owing to a similar
want of courage--to Lyell's great indignation.
In the "Reader", December 3, 1864, General Sabine's presidential address at
the Anniversary Meeting is reported at some length. Special weight was
laid on my father's work in Geology, Zoology, and Botany, but the 'Origin
of Species' is praised chiefly as containing "a mass of observations," etc.
It is curious that as in the case of his election to the French
Institution, so in this case, he was honoured not for the great work of his
life, but for his less important work in special lines. The paragraph in
General Sabine's address which refers to the 'Origin of Species,' is as
"In his most recent work 'On the Origin of Species,' although opinions may
be divided or undecided with respect to its merits in some respects, all
will allow that it contains a mass of observations bearing upon the habits,
structure, affinities, and distribution of animals, perhaps unrivalled for
interest, minuteness, and patience of observation. Some amongst us may
perhaps incline to accept the theory indicated by the title of this work,
while others may perhaps incline to refuse, or at least to remit it to a
future time, when increased knowledge shall afford stronger grounds for its
ultimate acceptance or rejection. Speaking generally and collectively, we
have expressly omitted it from the grounds of our award."
I believe I am right in saying that no little dissatisfaction at the
President's manner of allusion to the 'Origin' was felt by some Fellows of
The presentation of the Copley Medal is of interest in another way,
inasmuch as it led to Sir C. Lyell making, in his after-dinner speech, a
"confession of faith as to the 'Origin.'" He wrote to my father ('Life,'
vol. ii. page 384), "I said I had been forced to give up my old faith
without thoroughly seeing my way to a new one. But I think you would have
been satisfied with the length I went."]
CHARLES DARWIN TO T.H. HUXLEY.
Down, October 3 .
My dear Huxley,
If I do not pour out my admiration of your article ("Criticisms on the
Origin of Species," 'Nat. Hist. Review,' 1864. Republished in 'Lay
Sermons,' 1870, page 328. The work of Professor Kolliker referred to is
'Ueber die Darwin'sche Schopfungstheorie' (Leipzig, 1864). Toward
Professor Kolliker my father felt not only the respect due to so
distinguished a naturalist (a sentiment well expressed in Professor
Huxley's review), but he had also a personal regard for him, and often
alluded with satisfaction to the visit which Professor Kolliker paid at
Down.) on Kolliker, I shall explode. I never read anything better done. I
had much wished his article answered, and indeed thought of doing so
myself, so that I considered several points. You have hit on all, and on
some in addition, and oh! by Jove, how well you have done it. As I read on
and came to point after point on which I had thought, I could not help
jeering and scoffing at myself, to see how infinitely better you had done
it than I could have done. Well, if any one, who does not understand
Natural Selection, will read this, he will be a blockhead if it is not as
clear as daylight. Old Flourens ('Examen du livre de M. Darwin sur
l'origine des especes.' Par P. Flourens. 8vo. Paris, 1864.) was hardly
worth the powder and shot; but how capitally you bring in about the
Academician, and your metaphor of the sea-sand is INIMITABLE.
It is a marvel to me how you can resist becoming a regular reviewer. Well,
I have exploded now, and it has done me a deal of good...
[In the same article in the 'Natural History Review,' Mr. Huxley speaks of
the book above alluded to by Flourens, the Secretaire Perpetuel of the
Academie des Sciences, as one of the two "most elaborate criticisms" of the
'Origin of Species' of the year. He quotes the following passage:--
"M. Darwin continue: 'Aucune distinction absolue n'a ete et ne peut etre
entre les especes et les varietes!' Je vous ai deja dit que vous vous
trompiez; une distinction absolue separe les varietes d'avec les especes."
Mr. Huxley remarks on this, "Being devoid of the blessings of an Academy in
England, we are unaccustomed to see our ablest men treated in this way even
by a Perpetual Secretary." After demonstrating M. Flourens'
misapprehension of Natural Selection, Mr. Huxley says, "How one knows it
all by heart, and with what relief one reads at page 65 'Je laisse M.
On the same subject my father wrote to Mr. Wallace:--
"A great gun, Flourens, has written a little dull book against me which
pleases me much, for it is plain that our good work is spreading in France.
He speaks of the "engouement" about this book [the 'Origin'] "so full of
empty and presumptuous thoughts." The passage here alluded to is as
"Enfin l'ouvrage de M. Darwin a paru. On ne peut qu'etre frappe du talent
de l'auteur. Mais que d'idees obscures, que d'idees fausses! Quel jargon
metaphysique jete mal a propos dans l'histoire naturelle, qui tombe dans le
galimatias des qu'elle sort des idees claires, des idees justes. Quel
langage pretentieux et vide! Quelles personifications pueriles et
surannees! O lucidite! O solidite de l'esprit francais, que devenez-
[This was again a time of much ill-health, but towards the close of the
year he began to recover under the care of the late Dr. Bence-Jones, who
dieted him severely, and as he expressed it, "half-starved him to death."
He was able to work at 'Animals and Plants' until nearly the end of April,
and from that time until December he did practically no work, with the
exception of looking over the 'Origin of Species' for a second French
edition. He wrote to Sir J.D. Hooker:--"I am, as it were, reading the
'Origin' for the first time, for I am correcting for a second French
edition: and upon my life, my dear fellow, it is a very good book, but oh!
my gracious, it is tough reading, and I wish it were done." (Towards the
end of the year my father received the news of a new convert to his views,
in the person of the distinguished American naturalist Lesquereux. He
wrote to Sir J.D. Hooker: "I have had an enormous letter from Leo
Lesquereux (after doubts, I did not think it worth sending you) on Coal
Flora. He wrote some excellent articles in 'Silliman' against 'Origin'
views; but he says now, after repeated reading of the book, he is a
The following letter refers to the Duke of Argyll's address to the Royal
Society of Edinburgh, December 5th, 1864, in which he criticises the
'Origin of Species.' My father seems to have read the Duke's address as
reported in the "Scotsman" of December 6th, 1865. In a letter to my father
(January 16, 1865, 'Life,' vol. ii. page 385), Lyell wrote, "The address is
a great step towards your views--far greater, I believe, than it seems when
read merely with reference to criticisms and objections."]
CHARLES DARWIN TO C. LYELL.
Down, January 22, .
My dear Lyell,
I thank you for your very interesting letter. I have the true English
instinctive reverence for rank, and therefore liked to hear about the
Princess Royal. ("I had...an animated conversation on Darwinism with the
Princess Royal, who is a worthy daughter of her father, in the reading of
good books, and thinking of what she reads. She was very much au fait at
the 'Origin,' and Huxley's book, the 'Antiquity,' etc."--(Lyell's 'Life,'
vol. ii. page 385.) You ask what I think of the Duke's address, and I
shall be glad to tell you. It seems to me EXTREMELY clever, like
everything I have read of his; but I am not shaken--perhaps you will say
that neither gods nor men could shake me. I demur to the Duke reiterating
his objection that the brilliant plumage of the male humming-bird could not
have been acquired through selection, at the same time entirely ignoring my
discussion (page 93, 3rd edition) on beautiful plumage being acquired
through SEXUAL selection. The duke may think this insufficient, but that
is another question. All analogy makes me quite disagree with the Duke
that the difference in the beak, wing and tail, are not of importance to
the several species. In the only two species which I have watched, the
difference in flight and in the use of the tail was conspicuously great.
The Duke, who knows my Orchid book so well, might have learnt a lesson of
caution from it, with respect to his doctrine of differences for mere
variety or beauty. It may be confidently said that no tribe of plants
presents such grotesque and beautiful differences, which no one until
lately, conjectured were of any use; but now in almost every case I have
been able to show their important service. It should be remembered that
with humming birds or orchids, a modification in one part will cause
correlated changes in other parts. I agree with what you say about beauty.
I formerly thought a good deal on the subject, and was led quite to
repudiate the doctrine of beauty being created for beauty's sake. I demur
also to the Duke's expression of "new births." That may be a very good
theory, but it is not mine, unless indeed he calls a bird born with a beak
1/100th of an inch longer than usual "a new birth;" but this is not the
sense in which the term would usually be understood. The more I work the
more I feel convinced that it is by the accumulation of such extremely
slight variations that new species arise. I do not plead guilty to the
Duke's charge that I forget that natural selection means only the
preservation of variations which independently arise. ("Strictly speaking,
therefore, Mr. Darwin's theory is not a theory on the Origin of Species at
all, but only a theory on the causes which lead to the relative success and
failure of such new forms as may be born into the world."--"Scotsman",
December 6, 1864.) I have expressed this in as strong language as I could
use, but it would have been infinitely tedious had I on every occasion thus
guarded myself. I will cry "peccavi" when I hear of the Duke or you
attacking breeders for saying that man has made his improved shorthorns, or
pouter pigeons, or bantams. And I could quote still stronger expressions
used by agriculturists. Man does make his artificial breeds, for his
selective power is of such importance relatively to that of the slight
spontaneous variations. But no one will attack breeders for using such
expressions, and the rising generation will not blame me.
Many thanks for your offer of sending me the 'Elements.' (Sixth edition in
one volume.) I hope to read it all, but unfortunately reading makes my
head whiz more than anything else. I am able most days to work for two or
three hours, and this makes all the difference in my happiness. I have
resolved not to be tempted astray, and to publish nothing till my volume on
Variation is completed. You gave me excellent advice about the footnotes
in my Dog chapter, but their alteration gave me infinite trouble, and I
often wished all the dogs, and I fear sometimes you yourself, in the nether
We (dictator and writer) send our best love to Lady Lyell.
P.S.--If ever you should speak with the Duke on the subject, please say how
much interested I was with his address.
[In his autobiographical sketch my father has remarked that owing to
certain early memories he felt the honour of being elected to the Royal and
Royal Medical Societies of Edinburgh "more than any similar honour." The
following extract from a letter to Sir Joseph Hooker refers to his election
to the former of these societies. The latter part of the extract refers to
the Berlin Academy, to which he was elected in 1878:--
"Here is a really curious thing, considering that Brewster is President and
Balfour Secretary. I have been elected Honorary Member of the Royal
Society of Edinburgh. And this leads me to a third question. Does the
Berlin Academy of Sciences send their Proceedings to Honorary Members? I
want to know, to ascertain whether I am a member; I suppose not, for I
think it would have made some impression on me; yet I distinctly remember
receiving some diploma signed by Ehrenberg. I have been so careless; I
have lost several diplomas, and now I want to know what Societies I belong
to, as I observe every [one] tacks their titles to their names in the
catalogue of the Royal Soc."]
CHARLES DARWIN TO C. LYELL.
Down, February 21 .
My dear Lyell,
I have taken a long time to thank you very much for your present of the
I am going through it all, reading what is new, and what I have forgotten,
and this is a good deal.
I am simply astonished at the amount of labour, knowledge, and clear
thought condensed in this work. The whole strikes me as something quite
grand. I have been particularly interested by your account of Heer's work
and your discussion on the Atlantic Continent. I am particularly delighted
at the view which you take on this subject; for I have long thought Forbes
did an ill service in so freely making continents.
I have also been very glad to read your argument on the denudation of the
Weald, and your excellent resume on the Purbeck Beds; and this is the point
at which I have at present arrived in your book. I cannot say that I am
quite convinced that there is no connection beyond that pointed out by you,
between glacial action and the formation of lake basins; but you will not
much value my opinion on this head, as I have already changed my mind some
I want to make a suggestion to you. I found the weight of your volume
intolerable, especially when lying down, so with great boldness cut it into
two pieces, and took it out of its cover; now could not Murray without any
other change add to his advertisement a line saying, "if bound in two
volumes, one shilling or one shilling and sixpence extra." You thus might
originate a change which would be a blessing to all weak-handed readers.
Believe me, my dear Lyell,
Yours most sincerely,
Originate a second REAL BLESSING and have the edges of the sheets cut like
a bound book. (This was a favourite reform of my father's. He wrote to
the "Athenaeum" on the subject, February 5, 1867, pointing out how that a
book cut, even carefully, with a paper knife collects dust on its edges far
more than a machine-cut book. He goes on to quote the case of a lady of
his acquaintance who was in the habit of cutting books with her thumb, and
finally appeals to the "Athenaeum" to earn the gratitude of children "who
have to cut through dry and pictureless books for the benefit of their
elders." He tried to introduce the reform in the case of his own books,
but found the conservatism of booksellers too strong for him. The
presentation copies, however, of all his later books were sent out with the
CHARLES DARWIN TO JOHN LUBBOCK.
Down, June 11 .
My dear Lubbock,
The latter half of your book ('Prehistoric Times,' 1865.) has been read
aloud to me, and the style is so clear and easy (we both think it
perfection) that I am now beginning at the beginning. I cannot resist
telling you how excellently well, in my opinion, you have done the very
interesting chapter on savage life. Though you have necessarily only
compiled the materials the general result is most original. But I ought to
keep the term original for your last chapter, which has struck me as an
admirable and profound discussion. It has quite delighted me, for now the
public will see what kind of man you are, which I am proud to think I
discovered a dozen years ago.
I do sincerely wish you all success in your election and in politics; but
after reading this last chapter, you must let me say: oh, dear! oh, dear!
P.S.--You pay me a superb compliment ('Prehistoric Times,' page 487, where
the words, "the discoveries of a Newton or a Darwin," occur.), but I fear
you will be quizzed for it by some of your friends as too exaggerated.
[The following letter refers to Fritz Muller's book, 'Fur Darwin,' which
was afterwards translated, at my father's suggestion, by Mr. Dallas. It is
of interest as being the first of the long series of letters which my
father wrote to this distinguished naturalist. They never met, but the
correspondence with Muller, which continued to the close of my father's
life, was a source of very great pleasure to him. My impression is that of
all his unseen friends Fritz Muller was the one for whom he had the
strongest regard. Fritz Muller is the brother of another distinguished
man, the late Hermann Muller, the author of 'Die Befruchtung der Blumen,'
and of much other valuable work:]
CHARLES DARWIN TO F. MULLER.
Down, August 10 .
My dear Sir,
I have been for a long time so ill that I have only just finished hearing
read aloud your work on species. And now you must permit me to thank you
cordially for the great interest with which I have read it. You have done
admirable service in the cause in which we both believe. Many of your
arguments seem to me excellent, and many of your facts wonderful. Of the
latter, nothing has surprised me so much as the two forms of males. I have
lately investigated the cases of dimorphic plants, and I should much like
to send you one or two of my papers if I knew how. I did send lately by
post a paper on climbing plants, as an experiment to see whether it would
reach you. One of the points which has struck me most in your paper is
that on the differences in the air-breathing apparatus of the several
forms. This subject appeared to me very important when I formerly
considered the electric apparatus of fishes. Your observations on
Classification and Embryology seem to me very good and original. They show
what a wonderful field there is for enquiry on the development of
crustacea, and nothing has convinced me so plainly what admirable results
we shall arrive at in Natural History in the course of a few years. What a
marvellous range of structure the crustacea present, and how well adapted
they are for your enquiry! Until reading your book I knew nothing of the
Rhizocephala; pray look at my account and figures of Anelasma, for it seems
to me that this latter cirripede is a beautiful connecting link with the
If ever you have any opportunity, as you are so skilful a dissector, I much
wish that you would look to the orifice at the base of the first pair of
cirrhi in cirripedes, and at the curious organ in it, and discover what its
nature is; I suppose I was quite in error, yet I cannot feel fully
satisfied at Krohn's (See vol. ii., pages 138, 187.) observations. Also if
you ever find any species of Scalpellum, pray look for complemental males;
a German author has recently doubted my observations for no reason except
that the facts appeared to him so strange.
Permit me again to thank you cordially for the pleasure which I have
derived from your work and to express my sincere admiration for your
Believe me, dear Sir, with sincere respect,
Yours very faithfully,
P.S.--I do not know whether you care at all about plants, but if so, I
should much like to send you my little work on the 'Fertilization of
Orchids,' and I think I have a German copy.
Could you spare me a photograph of yourself? I should much like to possess
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, Thursday, 27th [September, 1865].
My dear Hooker,
I had intended writing this morning to thank Mrs. Hooker most sincerely for
her last and several notes about you, and now your own note in your hand
has rejoiced me. To walk between five and six miles is splendid, with a
little patience you must soon be well. I knew you had been very ill, but I
hardly knew how ill, until yesterday, when Bentham (from the Cranworths
(Robert Rolfe, Lord Cranworth, and Lord Chancellor of England, lived at
Holwood, near Down.)) called here, and I was able to see him for ten
minutes. He told me also a little about the last days of your father (Sir
William Hooker; 1785-1865. He took charge of the Royal Gardens at Kew, in
1840, when they ceased to be the private gardens of the Royal Family. In
doing so, he gave up his professorship at Glasgow--and with it half of his
income. He founded the herbarium and library, and within ten years he
succeeded in making the gardens the first in the world. It is, thus, not
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