The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Volume II
Part 6 out of 11
My dear Sir,
I return you my SINCERE thanks for your long letter, which I consider a
great compliment, and which is quite full of most interesting facts and
views. Your references and remarks will be of great use should a new
edition of my book ('Variation of Animals and Plants.') be demanded, but
this is hardly probable, for the whole edition was sold within the first
week, and another large edition immediately reprinted, which I should think
would supply the demand for ever. You ask me when I shall publish on the
'Variation of Species in a State of Nature.' I have had the MS. for
another volume almost ready during several years, but I was so much
fatigued by my last book that I determined to amuse myself by publishing a
short essay on the 'Descent of Man.' I was partly led to do this by having
been taunted that I concealed my views, but chiefly from the interest which
I had long taken in the subject. Now this essay has branched out into some
collateral subjects, and I suppose will take me more than a year to
complete. I shall then begin on 'Species,' but my health makes me a very
slow workman. I hope that you will excuse these details, which I have
given to show that you will have plenty of time to publish your views
first, which will be a great advantage to me. Of all the curious facts
which you mention in your letter, I think that of the strong inheritance of
the scalp-muscles has interested me most. I presume that you would not
object to my giving this very curious case on your authority. As I believe
all anatomists look at the scalp-muscles as a remnant of the Panniculus
carnosus which is common to all the lower quadrupeds, I should look at the
unusual development and inheritance of these muscles as probably a case of
reversion. Your observation on so many remarkable men in noble families
having been illegitimate is extremely curious; and should I ever meet any
one capable of writing an essay on this subject, I will mention your
remarks as a good suggestion. Dr. Hooker has several times remarked to me
that morals and politics would be very interesting if discussed like any
branch of natural history, and this is nearly to the same effect with your
CHARLES DARWIN TO L. AGASSIZ.
Down, August 19, 1868.
I thank you cordially for your very kind letter. I certainly thought that
you had formed so low an opinion of my scientific work that it might have
appeared indelicate in me to have asked for information from you, but it
never occurred to me that my letter would have been shown to you. I have
never for a moment doubted your kindness and generosity, and I hope you
will not think it presumption in me to say, that when we met, many years
ago, at the British Association at Southampton, I felt for you the warmest
Your information on the Amazonian fishes has interested me EXTREMELY, and
tells me exactly what I wanted to know. I was aware, through notes given
me by Dr. Gunther, that many fishes differed sexually in colour and other
characters, but I was particularly anxious to learn how far this was the
case with those fishes in which the male, differently from what occurs with
most birds, takes the largest share in the care of the ova and young. Your
letter has not only interested me much, but has greatly gratified me in
other respects, and I return you my sincere thanks for your kindness. Pray
believe me, my dear Sir,
Yours very faithfully,
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, Sunday, August 23 .
My dear old Friend,
I have received your note. I can hardly say how pleased I have been at the
success of your address (Sir Joseph Hooker was President of the British
Association at the Norwich Meeting in 1868.), and of the whole meeting. I
have seen the "Times", "Telegraph", "Spectator", and "Athenaeum", and have
heard of other favourable newspapers, and have ordered a bundle. There is
a "chorus of praise." The "Times" reported miserably, i.e. as far as
errata was concerned; but I was very glad at the leader, for I thought the
way you brought in the megalithic monuments most happy. (The British
Association was desirous of interesting the Government in certain modern
cromlech builders, the Khasia race of East Bengal, in order that their
megalithic monuments might be efficiently described.) I particularly
admired Tyndall's little speech (Professor Tyndall was President of Section
A.)...The "Spectator" pitches a little into you about Theology, in
accordance with its usual spirit...
Your great success has rejoiced my heart. I have just carefully read the
whole address in the "Athenaeum"; and though, as you know, I liked it very
much when you read it to me, yet, as I was trying all the time to find
fault, I missed to a certain extent the effect as a whole; and this now
appears to me most striking and excellent. How you must rejoice at all
your bothering labour and anxiety having had so grand an end. I must say a
word about myself; never has such a eulogium been passed on me, and it
makes me very proud. I cannot get over my AMAZEMENT at what you say about
my botanical work. By Jove, as far as my memory goes, you have
strengthened instead of weakened some of the expressions. What is far more
important than anything personal, is the conviction which I feel that you
will have immensely advanced the belief in the evolution of species. This
will follow from the publicity of the occasion, your position, so
responsible, as President, and your own high reputation. It will make a
great step in public opinion, I feel sure, and I had not thought of this
before. The "Athenaeum" takes your snubbing (Sir Joseph Hooker made some
reference to the review of 'Animals and Plants' in the "Athenaeum" of
February 15, 1868.) with the utmost mildness. I certainly do rejoice over
the snubbing, and hope [the reviewer] will feel it a little. Whenever you
have SPARE time to write again, tell me whether any astronomers (In
discussing the astronomer's objection to Evolution, namely that our globe
has not existed for a long enough period to give time for the assumed
transmutation of living beings, Hooker challenged Whewell's dictum that,
astronomy is the queen of sciences--the only perfect science.) took your
remarks in ill part; as they now stand they do not seem at all too harsh
and presumptuous. Many of your sentences strike me as extremely felicitous
and eloquent. That of Lyell's "under-pinning" (After a eulogium on Sir
Charles Lyell's heroic renunciation of his old views in accepting
Evolution, Sir J.D. Hooker continued, "Well may he be proud of a
superstructure, raised on the foundations of an insecure doctrine, when he
finds that he can underpin it and substitute a new foundation; and after
all is finished, survey his edifice, not only more secure but more
harmonious in its proportion than it was before."), is capital. Tell me,
was Lyell pleased? I am so glad that you remembered my old dedication.
(The 'Naturalist's Voyage' was dedicated to Lyell.) Was Wallace pleased?
How about photographs? Can you spare time for a line to our dear Mrs.
Cameron? She came to see us off, and loaded us with presents of
photographs, and Erasmus called after her, "Mrs. Cameron, there are six
people in this house all in love with you." When I paid her, she cried
out, "Oh what a lot of money!" and ran to boast to her husband.
I must not write any more, though I am in tremendous spirits at your
Yours ever affectionately,
[In the "Athenaeum" of November 29, 1868, appeared an article which was in
fact a reply to Sir Joseph Hooker's remarks at Norwich. He seems to have
consulted my father as to the wisdom of answering the article. My father
wrote on September 1:
"In my opinion Dr. Joseph Dalton Hooker need take no notice of the attack
in the "Athenaeum" in reference to Mr. Charles Darwin. What an ass the man
is to think he cuts one to the quick by giving one's Christian name in
full. How transparently false is the statement that my sole groundwork is
from pigeons, because I state I have worked them out more fully than other
beings! He muddles together two books of Flourens."
The following letter refers to a paper ('Transactions of the Ottawa Academy
of Natural Sciences,' 1868, by John D. Caton, late Chief Justice of
Illinois.) by Judge Caton, of which my father often spoke with admiration:]
CHARLES DARWIN TO JOHN D. CATON.
Down, September 18, 1868.
I beg leave to thank you very sincerely for your kindness in sending me,
through Mr. Walsh, your admirable paper on American Deer.
It is quite full of most interesting observations, stated with the greatest
clearness. I have seldom read a paper with more interest, for it abounds
with facts of direct use for my work. Many of them consist of little
points which hardly any one besides yourself has observed, or perceived the
importance of recording. I would instance the age at which the horns are
developed (a point on which I have lately been in vain searching for
information), the rudiment of horns in the female elk, and especially the
different nature of the plants devoured by the deer and elk, and several
other points. With cordial thanks for the pleasure and instruction which
you have afforded me, and with high respect for your power of observation,
I beg leave to remain, dear Sir,
Yours faithfully and obliged,
[The following extract from a letter (September 24, 1868) to the Marquis de
Saporta, the eminent palaeo-botanist, refers to the growth of evolutionary
views in France (In 1868 he was pleased at being asked to authorise a
French translation of his 'Naturalist's Voyage.':--
"As I have formerly read with great interest many of your papers on fossil
plants, you may believe with what high satisfaction I hear that you are a
believer in the gradual evolution of species. I had supposed that my book
on the 'Origin of Species' had made very little impression in France, and
therefore it delights me to hear a different statement from you. All the
great authorities of the Institute seem firmly resolved to believe in the
immutability of species, and this has always astonished me...almost the one
exception, as far as I know, is M. Gaudry, and I think he will be soon one
of the chief leaders in Zoological Palaeontology in Europe; and now I am
delighted to hear that in the sister department of Botany you take nearly
the same view."]
CHARLES DARWIN TO E. HAECKEL.
Down, November 19 .
My dear Haeckel,
I must write to you again, for two reasons. Firstly, to thank you for your
letter about your baby, which has quite charmed both me and my wife; I
heartily congratulate you on its birth. I remember being surprised in my
own case how soon the paternal instincts became developed, and in you they
seem to be unusually strong,...I hope the large blue eyes and the
principles of inheritance will make your child as good a naturalist as you
are; but, judging from my own experience, you will be astonished to find
how the whole mental disposition of your children changes with advancing
years. A young child, and the same when nearly grown, sometimes differ
almost as much as do a caterpillar and butterfly.
The second point is to congratulate you on the projected translation of
your great work ('Generelle Morphologie,' 1866. No English translation of
this book has appeared.), about which I heard from Huxley last Sunday. I
am heartily glad of it, but how it has been brought about, I know not, for
a friend who supported the supposed translation at Norwich, told me he
thought there would be no chance of it. Huxley tells me that you consent
to omit and shorten some parts, and I am confident that this is very wise.
As I know your object is to instruct the public, you will assuredly thus
get many more readers in England. Indeed, I believe that almost every book
would be improved by condensation. I have been reading a good deal of your
last book ('Die Naturliche Schopfungs-Geschichte,' 1868. It was translated
and published in 1876, under the title, 'The History of Creation.'), and
the style is beautifully clear and easy to me; but why it should differ so
much in this respect from your great work I cannot imagine. I have not yet
read the first part, but began with the chapter on Lyell and myself, which
you will easily believe pleased me VERY MUCH. I think Lyell, who was
apparently much pleased by your sending him a copy, is also much gratified
by this chapter. (See Lyell's interesting letter to Haeckel. 'Life of Sir
C. Lyell,' ii. page 435.) Your chapters on the affinities and genealogy of
the animal kingdom strike me as admirable and full of original thought.
Your boldness, however, sometimes makes me tremble, but as Huxley remarked,
some one must be bold enough to make a beginning in drawing up tables of
descent. Although you fully admit the imperfection of the geological
record, yet Huxley agreed with me in thinking that you are sometimes rather
rash in venturing to say at what periods the several groups first appeared.
I have this advantage over you, that I remember how wonderfully different
any statement on this subject made 20 years ago, would have been to what
would now be the case, and I expect the next 20 years will make quite as
great a difference. Reflect on the monocotyledonous plant just discovered
in the PRIMORDIAL formation in Sweden.
I repeat how glad I am at the prospect of the translation, for I fully
believe that this work and all your works will have a great influence in
the advancement of Science.
Believe me, my dear Haeckel, your sincere friend,
[It was in November of this year that he sat for the bust by Mr. Woolner:
"I should have written long ago, but I have been pestered with stupid
letters, and am undergoing the purgatory of sitting for hours to Woolner,
who, however, is wonderfully pleasant, and lightens as much as man can, the
penance; as far as I can judge, it will make a fine bust."
If I may criticise the work of so eminent a sculptor as Mr. Woolner, I
should say that the point in which the bust fails somewhat as a portrait,
is that it has a certain air, almost of pomposity, which seems to me
foreign to my father's expression.]
[At the beginning of the year he was at work in preparing the fifth edition
of the 'Origin.' This work was begun on the day after Christmas, 1868, and
was continued for "forty-six days," as he notes in his diary, i.e. until
February 10th, 1869. He then, February 11th, returned to Sexual Selection,
and continued at this subject (excepting for ten days given up to Orchids,
and a week in London), until June 10th, when he went with his family to
North Wales, where he remained about seven weeks, returning to Down on July
Caerdeon, the house where he stayed, is built on the north shore of the
beautiful Barmouth estuary, and is pleasantly placed, in being close to
wild hill country behind, as well as to the picturesque wooded "hummocks,"
between the steeper hills and the river. My father was ill and somewhat
depressed throughout this visit, and I think felt saddened at being
imprisoned by his want of strength, and unable even to reach the hills over
which he had once wandered for days together.
He wrote from Caerdeon to Sir J.D. Hooker (June 22nd):--
"We have been here for ten days, how I wish it was possible for you to pay
us a visit here; we have a beautiful house with a terraced garden, and a
really magnificent view of Cader, right opposite. Old Cader is a grand
fellow, and shows himself off superbly with every changing light. We
remain here till the end of July, when the H. Wedgwoods have the house. I
have been as yet in a very poor way; it seems as soon as the stimulus of
mental work stops, my whole strength gives way. As yet I have hardly
crawled half a mile from the house, and then have been fearfully fatigued.
It is enough to make one wish oneself quiet in a comfortable tomb."
With regard to the fifth edition of the 'Origin,' he wrote to Mr. Wallace
(January 22, 1869):--
"I have been interrupted in my regular work in preparing a new edition of
the 'Origin,' which has cost me much labour, and which I hope I have
considerably improved in two or three important points. I always thought
individual differences more important than single variations, but now I
have come to the conclusion that they are of paramount importance, and in
this I believe I agree with you. Fleeming Jenkin's arguments have
This somewhat obscure sentence was explained, February 2, in another letter
to Mr. Wallace:--
"I must have expressed myself atrociously; I meant to say exactly the
reverse of what you have understood. F. Jenkin argued in the 'North
British Review' against single variations ever being perpetuated, and has
convinced me, though not in quite so broad a manner as here put. I always
thought individual differences more important; but I was blind and thought
that single variations might be preserved much oftener than I now see is
possible or probable. I mentioned this in my former note merely because I
believed that you had come to a similar conclusion, and I like much to be
in accord with you. I believe I was mainly deceived by single variations
offering such simple illustrations, as when man selects."
The late Mr. Fleeming Jenkin's review, on the 'Origin of Species,' was
published in the 'North British Review' for June 1867. It is not a little
remarkable that the criticisms, which my father, as I believe, felt to be
the most valuable ever made on his views should have come, not from a
professed naturalist but from a Professor of Engineering.
It is impossible to give in a short compass an account of Fleeming Jenkin's
argument. My father's copy of the paper (ripped out of the volume as
usual, and tied with a bit of string) is annotated in pencil in many
places. I may quote one passage opposite which my father has written "good
sneers"--but it should be remembered that he used the word "sneer" in
rather a special sense, not as necessarily implying a feeling of bitterness
in the critic, but rather in the sense of "banter." Speaking of the 'true
believer,' Fleeming Jenkin says, page 293:--
"He can invent trains of ancestors of whose existence there is no evidence;
he can marshal hosts of equally imaginary foes; he can call up continents,
floods, and peculiar atmospheres; he can dry up oceans, split islands, and
parcel out eternity at will; surely with these advantages he must be a dull
fellow if he cannot scheme some series of animals and circumstances
explaining our assumed difficulty quite naturally. Feeling the difficulty
of dealing with adversaries who command so huge a domain of fancy, we will
abandon these arguments, and trust to those which at least cannot be
assailed by mere efforts of imagination."
In the fifth edition of the 'Origin,' my father altered a passage in the
Historical Sketch (fourth edition page xviii.). He thus practically gave
up the difficult task of understanding whether or no Sir R. Owen claims to
have discovered the principle of Natural Selection. Adding, "As far as the
mere enunciation of the principle of Natural Selection is concerned, it is
quite immaterial whether or not Professor Owen preceded me, for both of
us...were long ago preceded by Dr. Wells and Mr. Matthew."
A somewhat severe critique on the fifth edition, by Mr. John Robertson,
appeared in the "Athenaeum", August 14, 1869. The writer comments with
some little bitterness on the success of the 'Origin:' "Attention is not
acceptance. Many editions do not mean real success. The book has sold;
the guess has been talked over; and the circulation and discussion sum up
the significance of the editions." Mr. Robertson makes the true, but
misleading statement: "Mr. Darwin prefaces his fifth English edition with
an Essay, which he calls 'An Historical Sketch,' etc." As a matter of fact
the Sketch appeared in the third edition in 1861.
Mr. Robertson goes on to say that the Sketch ought to be called a
collection of extracts anticipatory or corroborative of the hypothesis of
Natural Selection. "For no account is given of any hostile opinions. The
fact is very significant. This historical sketch thus resembles the
histories of the reign of Louis XVIII., published after the Restoration,
from which the Republic and the Empire, Robespierre and Buonaparte were
The following letter to Prof. Victor Carus gives an idea of the character
of the new edition of the 'Origin:']
CHARLES DARWIN TO VICTOR CARUS.
Down, May 4, 1869.
...I have gone very carefully through the whole, trying to make some parts
clearer, and adding a few discussions and facts of some importance. The
new edition is only two pages at the end longer than the old; though in one
part nine pages in advance, for I have condensed several parts and omitted
some passages. The translation I fear will cause you a great deal of
trouble; the alterations took me six weeks, besides correcting the press;
you ought to make a special agreement with M. Koch [the publisher]. Many
of the corrections are only a few words, but they have been made from the
evidence on various points appearing to have become a little stronger or
Thus I have been led to place somewhat more value on the definite and
direct action of external conditions; to think the lapse of time, as
measured by years, not quite so great as most geologists have thought; and
to infer that single variations are of even less importance, in comparison
with individual differences, than I formerly thought. I mention these
points because I have been thus led to alter in many places A FEW WORDS;
and unless you go through the whole new edition, one part will not agree
with another, which would be a great blemish...
[The desire that his views might spread in France was always strong with my
father, and he was therefore justly annoyed to find that in 1869 the Editor
of the first French edition had brought out a third edition without
consulting the author. He was accordingly glad to enter into an
arrangement for a French translation of the fifth edition; this was
undertaken by M. Reinwald, with whom he continued to have pleasant
relations as the publisher of many of his books into French.
He wrote to Sir J.D. Hooker:--
"I must enjoy myself and tell you about Mdlle. C. Royer, who translated the
'Origin' into French, and for whose second edition I took infinite trouble.
She has now just brought out a third edition without informing me, so that
all the corrections, etc., in the fourth and fifth English editions are
lost. Besides her enormously long preface to the first edition, she has
added a second preface abusing me like a pick-pocket for Pangenesis, which
of course has no relation to the 'Origin.' So I wrote to Paris; and
Reinwald agrees to bring out at once a new translation from the fifth
English edition, in competition with her third edition...This fact shows
that "evolution of species" must at last be spreading in France."
With reference to the spread of Evolution among the orthodox, the following
letter is of some interest. In March he received, from the author, a copy
of a lecture by Rev. T.R.R. Stebbing, given before the Torquay Natural
History Society, February 1, 1869, bearing the title "Darwinism." My
father wrote to Mr. Stebbing:]
I am very much obliged to you for your kindness in sending me your spirited
and interesting lecture; if a layman had delivered the same address, he
would have done good service in spreading what, as I hope and believe, is
to a large extent the truth; but a clergyman in delivering such an address
does, as it appears to me, much more good by his power to shake ignorant
prejudices, and by setting, if I may be permitted to say so, an admirable
example of liberality.
With sincere respect, I beg leave to remain,
Dear Sir, yours faithfully and obliged,
[The references to the subject of expression in the following letter are
explained by the fact that my father's original intention was to give his
essay on this subject as a chapter in the 'Descent of Man,' which in its
turn grew, as we have seen, out of a proposed chapter in 'Animals and
CHARLES DARWIN TO F. MULLER.
Down, February 22 [1869?].
...Although you have aided me to so great an extent in many ways, I am
going to beg for any information on two other subjects. I am preparing a
discussion on "Sexual Selection," and I want much to know how low down in
the animal scale sexual selection of a particular kind extends. Do you
know of any lowly organised animals, in which the sexes are separated, and
in which the male differs from the female in arms of offence, like the
horns and tusks of male mammals, or in gaudy plumage and ornaments, as with
birds and butterflies? I do not refer to secondary sexual characters, by
which the male is able to discover the female, like the plumed antennae of
moths, or by which the male is enabled to seize the female, like the
curious pincers described by you in some of the lower Crustaceans. But
what I want to know is, how low in the scale sexual differences occur which
require some degree of self-consciousness in the males, as weapons by which
they fight for the female, or ornaments which attract the opposite sex.
Any differences between males and females which follow different habits of
life would have to be excluded. I think you will easily see what I wish to
learn. A priori, it would never have been anticipated that insects would
have been attracted by the beautiful colouring of the opposite sex, or by
the sounds emitted by the various musical instruments of the male
Orthoptera. I know no one so likely to answer this question as yourself,
and should be grateful for any information, however small.
My second subject refers to expression of countenance, to which I have long
attended, and on which I feel a keen interest; but to which, unfortunately,
I did not attend when I had the opportunity of observing various races of
man. It has occurred to me that you might, without much trouble, make a
FEW observations for me, in the course of some months, on Negroes, or
possibly on native South Americans, though I care most about Negroes;
accordingly I enclose some questions as a guide, and if you could answer me
even one or two I should feel truly obliged. I am thinking of writing a
little essay on the Origin of Mankind, as I have been taunted with
concealing my opinions, and I should do this immediately after the
completion of my present book. In this case I should add a chapter on the
cause or meaning of expression...
[The remaining letters of this year deal chiefly with the books, reviews,
etc., which interested him.]
CHARLES DARWIN TO H. THIEL.
Down, February 25, 1869.
On my return home after a short absence, I found your very courteous note,
and the pamphlet ('Ueber einige Formen der Landwirthschaftlichen
Genossenschaften.' by Dr. H. Thiel, then of the Agricultural Station at
Poppelsdorf.), and I hasten to thank you for both, and for the very
honourable mention which you make of my name. You will readily believe how
much interested I am in observing that you apply to moral and social
questions analogous views to those which I have used in regard to the
modification of species. It did not occur to me formerly that my views
could be extended to such widely different, and most important, subjects.
With much respect, I beg leave to remain, dear Sir,
Yours faithfully and obliged,
CHARLES DARWIN TO T.H. HUXLEY.
Down, March 19 .
My dear Huxley,
Thanks for your 'Address.' (In his 'Anniversary Address' to the Geological
Society, 1869, Mr. Huxley criticised Sir William Thomson's paper ('Trans.
Geol. Soc., Glasgow,' volume iii.) "On Geological Time.") People complain
of the unequal distribution of wealth, but it is a much greater shame and
injustice that any one man should have the power to write so many brilliant
essays as you have lately done. There is no one who writes like you...If I
were in your shoes, I should tremble for my life. I agree with all you
say, except that I must think that you draw too great a distinction between
the evolutionists and the uniformitarians.
I find that the few sentences which I have sent to press in the 'Origin'
about the age of the world will do fairly well...
CHARLES DARWIN TO A.R. WALLACE.
Down, March 22 .
My dear Wallace,
I have finished your book ('The Malay Archipelago,' etc., 1869.); it seems
to me excellent, and at the same time most pleasant to read. That you ever
returned alive is wonderful after all your risks from illness and sea
voyages, especially that most interesting one to Waigiou and back. Of all
the impressions which I have received from your book, the strongest is that
your perseverance in the cause of science was heroic. Your descriptions of
catching the splendid butterflies have made me quite envious, and at the
same time have made me feel almost young again, so vividly have they
brought before my mind old days when I collected, though I never made such
captures as yours. Certainly collecting is the best sport in the world. I
shall be astonished if your book has not a great success; and your splendid
generalizations on Geographical Distribution, with which I am familiar from
your papers, will be new to most of your readers. I think I enjoyed most
the Timor case, as it is best demonstrated; but perhaps Celebes is really
the most valuable. I should prefer looking at the whole Asiatic continent
as having formerly been more African in its fauna, than admitting the
former existence of a continent across the Indian Ocean...
[The following letter refers to Mr. Wallace's article in the April number
of the 'Quarterly Review' (My father wrote to Mr. Murray: "The article by
Wallace is inimitably good, and it is a great triumph that such an article
should appear in the 'Quarterly,' and will make the Bishop of Oxford and --
gnash their teeth."), 1869, which to a large extent deals with the tenth
edition of Sir Charles Lyell's 'Principles,' published in 1867 and 1868.
The review contains a striking passage on Sir Charles Lyell's confession of
evolutionary faith in the tenth edition of his 'Principles,' which is worth
quoting: "The history of science hardly presents so striking an instance
of youthfulness of mind in advanced life as is shown by this abandonment of
opinions so long held and so powerfully advocated; and if we bear in mind
the extreme caution, combined with the ardent love of truth which
characterise every work which our author has produced, we shall be
convinced that so great a change was not decided on without long and
anxious deliberation, and that the views now adopted must indeed be
supported by arguments of overwhelming force. If for no other reason than
that Sir Charles Lyell in his tenth edition has adopted it, the theory of
Mr. Darwin deserves an attentive and respectful consideration from every
earnest seeker after truth."]
CHARLES DARWIN TO A.R. WALLACE.
Down, April 14, 1869.
My dear Wallace,
I have been wonderfully interested by your article, and I should think
Lyell will be much gratified by it. I declare if I had been editor, and
had the power of directing you, I should have selected for discussion the
very points which you have chosen. I have often said to younger geologists
(for I began in the year 1830) that they did not know what a revolution
Lyell had effected; nevertheless, your extracts from Cuvier have quite
astonished me. Though not able really to judge, I am inclined to put more
confidence in Croll than you seem to do; but I have been much struck by
many of your remarks on degradation. Thomson's views of the recent age of
the world have been for some time one of my sorest troubles, and so I have
been glad to read what you say. Your exposition of Natural Selection seems
to me inimitably good; there never lived a better expounder than you. I
was also much pleased at your discussing the difference between our views
and Lamarck's. One sometimes sees the odious expression, "Justice to
myself compels me to say," etc., but you are the only man I ever heard of
who persistently does himself an injustice, and never demands justice.
Indeed, you ought in the review to have alluded to your paper in the
'Linnean Journal,' and I feel sure all our friends will agree in this. But
you cannot "Burke" yourself, however much you may try, as may be seen in
half the articles which appear. I was asked but the other day by a German
professor for your paper, which I sent him. Altogether I look at your
article as appearing in the 'Quarterly' as an immense triumph for our
cause. I presume that your remarks on Man are those to which you alluded
in your note. If you had not told me I should have thought that they had
been added by some one else. As you expected, I differ grievously from
you, and I am very sorry for it. I can see no necessity for calling in an
additional and proximate cause in regard to man. (Mr. Wallace points out
that any one acquainted merely with the "unaided productions of nature,"
might reasonably doubt whether a dray-horse, for example, could have been
developed by the power of man directing the "action of the laws of
variation, multiplication, and survival, for his own purpose. We know,
however, that this has been done, and we must therefore admit the
possibility that in the development of the human race, a higher
intelligence has guided the same laws for nobler ends.") But the subject
is too long for a letter. I have been particularly glad to read your
discussion because I am now writing and thinking much about man.
I hope that your Malay book sells well; I was extremely pleased with the
article in the 'Quarterly Journal of Science,' inasmuch as it is thoroughly
appreciative of your work: alas! you will probably agree with what the
writer says about the uses of the bamboo.
I hear that there is also a good article in the "Saturday Review", but have
heard nothing more about it. Believe me my dear Wallace,
Yours ever sincerely,
CHARLES DARWIN TO C. LYELL.
Down, May 4 .
My dear Lyell,
I have been applied to for some photographs (carte de visite) to be copied
to ornament the diplomas of honorary members of a new Society in Servia!
Will you give me one for this purpose? I possess only a full-length one of
you in my own album, and the face is too small, I think, to be copied.
I hope that you get on well with your work, and have satisfied yourself on
the difficult point of glacier lakes. Thank heaven, I have finished
correcting the new edition of the 'Origin,' and am at my old work of Sexual
Wallace's article struck me as ADMIRABLE; how well he brought out the
revolution which you effected some 30 years ago. I thought I had fully
appreciated the revolution, but I was astounded at the extracts from
Cuvier. What a good sketch of natural selection! but I was dreadfully
disappointed about Man, it seems to me incredibly strange...; and had I not
known to the contrary, would have sworn it had been inserted by some other
hand. But I believe that you will not agree quite in all this.
My dear Lyell, ever yours sincerely,
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.L.A. DE QUATREFAGES.
Down, May 28 [1869 or 1870].
I have received and read your volume (Essays reprinted from the 'Revue des
Deux Mondes,' under the title 'Histoire Naturelle Generale,' etc., 1869.),
and am much obliged for your present. The whole strikes me as a
wonderfully clear and able discussion, and I was much interested by it to
the last page. It is impossible that any account of my views could be
fairer, or, as far as space permitted, fuller, than that which you have
given. The way in which you repeatedly mention my name is most gratifying
to me. When I had finished the second part, I thought that you had stated
the case so favourably that you would make more converts on my side than on
your own side. On reading the subsequent parts I had to change my sanguine
view. In these latter parts many of your strictures are severe enough, but
all are given with perfect courtesy and fairness. I can truly say I would
rather be criticised by you in this manner than praised by many others. I
agree with some of your criticisms, but differ entirely from the remainder;
but I will not trouble you with any remarks. I may, however, say, that you
must have been deceived by the French translation, as you infer that I
believe that the Parus and the Nuthatch (or Sitta) are related by direct
filiation. I wished only to show by an imaginary illustration, how either
instincts or structures might first change. If you had seen Canis
Magellanicus alive you would have perceived how foxlike its appearance is,
or if you had heard its voice, I think that you would never have hazarded
the idea that it was a domestic dog run wild; but this does not much
concern me. It is curious how nationality influences opinion; a week
hardly passes without my hearing of some naturalist in Germany who supports
my views, and often puts an exaggerated value on my works; whilst in France
I have not heard of a single zoologist, except M. Gaudry (and he only
partially), who supports my views. But I must have a good many readers as
my books are translated, and I must hope, notwithstanding your strictures,
that I may influence some embryo naturalists in France.
You frequently speak of my good faith, and no compliment can be more
delightful to me, but I may return you the compliment with interest, for
every word which you write bears the stamp of your cordial love for the
truth. Believe me, dear Sir, with sincere respect,
Yours very faithfully,
CHARLES DARWIN TO T.H. HUXLEY.
Down, October 14 .
My dear Huxley,
I have been delighted to see your review of Haeckel (A review of Haeckel's
'Schopfungs-Geschichte.' The "Academy", 1869. Reprinted in 'Critiques and
Addresses,' page 303.), and as usual you pile honours high on my head. But
I write now (REQUIRING NO ANSWER) to groan a little over what you have said
about rudimentary organs. (In discussing Teleology and Haeckel's
"Dysteleology," Prof. Huxley says:--"Such cases as the existence of lateral
rudiments of toes, in the foot of a horse, place us in a dilemma. For
either these rudiments are of no use to the animals, in which case...they
surely ought to have disappeared; or they are of some use to the animal, in
which case they are of no use as arguments against Teleology."--('Critiques
and Addresses,' page 308.) Many heretics will take advantage of what you
have said. I cannot but think that the explanation given at page 541 of
the last edition of the 'Origin' of the long retention of rudimentary
organs and of their greater relative size during early life, is
satisfactory. Their final and complete abortion seems to me a much greater
difficulty. Do look in my 'Variations under Domestication,' volume ii.
page 397, at what Pangenesis suggests on this head, though I did not dare
to put in the 'Origin.' The passage bears also a little on the struggle
between the molecules or gemmules. ("It is a probable hypothesis, that
what the world is to organisms in general, each organism is to the
molecules of which it is composed. Multitudes of these having diverse
tendencies, are competing with one another for opportunity to exist and
multiply; and the organism, as a whole, is as much the product of the
molecules which are victorious as the Fauna, or Flora, of a country is the
product of the victorious organic beings in it."--('Critiques and
Addresses,' page 309.) There is likewise a word or two indirectly bearing
on this subject at pages 394-395. It won't take you five minutes, so do
look at these passages. I am very glad that you have been bold enough to
give your idea about Natural Selection amongst the molecules, though I can
not quite follow you.
1870 AND BEGINNING OF 1871.
[My father wrote in his Diary:--"The whole of this year  at work on
the 'Descent of Man.'...Went to Press August 30, 1870."
The letters are again of miscellaneous interest, dealing, not only with his
work, but also serving to indicate the course of his reading.]
CHARLES DARWIN TO E. RAY LANKESTER.
Down, March 15 .
My dear Sir,
I do not know whether you will consider me a very troublesome man, but I
have just finished your book ('Comparative Longevity.'), and can not resist
telling you how the whole has much interested me. No doubt, as you say,
there must be much speculation on such a subject, and certain results can
not be reached; but all your views are highly suggestive, and to my mind
that is high praise. I have been all the more interested as I am now
writing on closely allied though not quite identical points. I was pleased
to see you refer to my much despised child, 'Pangenesis,' who I think will
some day, under some better nurse, turn out a fine stripling. It has also
pleased me to see how thoroughly you appreciate (and I do not think that
this is general with the men of science) H. Spencer; I suspect that
hereafter he will be looked at as by far the greatest living philosopher in
England; perhaps equal to any that have lived. But I have no business to
trouble you with my notions. With sincere thanks for the interest which
your work has given me,
I remain, yours very faithfully,
[The next letter refers to Mr. Wallace's 'Natural Selection' (1870), a
collection of essays reprinted with certain alterations of which a list is
given in the volume:]
CHARLES DARWIN TO A.R. WALLACE.
Down, April 20 .
My dear Wallace,
I have just received your book, and read the preface. There never has been
passed on me, or indeed on any one, a higher eulogium than yours. I wish
that I fully deserved it. Your modesty and candour are very far from new
to me. I hope it is a satisfaction to you to reflect--and very few things
in my life have been more satisfactory to me--that we have never felt any
jealousy towards each other, though in one sense rivals. I believe that I
can say this of myself with truth, and I am absolutely sure that it is true
You have been a good Christian to give a list of your additions, for I want
much to read them, and I should hardly have had time just at present to
have gone through all your articles. Of course I shall immediately read
those that are new or greatly altered, and I will endeavour to be as honest
as can reasonably be expected. Your book looks remarkably well got up.
Believe me, my dear Wallace, to remain,
Yours very cordially,
[Here follow one or two letters indicating the progress of the 'Descent of
Man;' the woodcuts referred to were being prepared for that work:]
CHARLES DARWIN TO A. GUNTHER. (Dr. Gunther, Keeper of Zoology in the
March 23, [1870?].
As I do not know Mr. Ford's address, will you hand him this note, which is
written solely to express my unbounded admiration of the woodcuts. I
fairly gloat over them. The only evil is that they will make all the other
woodcuts look very poor! They are all excellent, and for the feathers I
declare I think it the most wonderful woodcut I ever saw; I can not help
touching it to make sure that it is smooth. How I wish to see the two
other, and even more important, ones of the feathers, and the four [of]
reptiles, etc. Once again accept my very sincere thanks for all your
kindness. I am greatly indebted to Mr. Ford. Engravings have always
hitherto been my greatest misery, and now they are a real pleasure to me.
Yours very sincerely,
P.S.--I thought I should have been in press by this time, but my subject
has branched off into sub-branches, which have cost me infinite time, and
heaven knows when I shall have all my MS. ready, but I am never idle.
CHARLES DARWIN TO A. GUNTHER.
May 15 .
My dear Dr. Gunther,
Sincere thanks. Your answers are wonderfully clear and complete. I have
some analogous questions on reptiles, etc., which I will send in a few
days, and then I think I shall cause no more trouble. I will get the books
you refer me to. The case of the Solenostoma (In most of the Lophobranchii
the male has a marsupial sack in which the eggs are hatched, and in these
species the male is slightly brighter coloured than the female. But in
Solenostoma the female is the hatcher, and is also the more brightly
coloured.--'Descent of Man,' ii. 21.) is magnificent, so exactly analogous
to that of those birds in which the female is the more gay, but ten times
better for me, as she is the incubator. As I crawl on with the successive
classes I am astonished to find how similar the rules are about the nuptial
or "wedding dress" of all animals. The subject has begun to interest me in
an extraordinary degree; but I must try not to fall into my common error of
being too speculative. But a drunkard might as well say he would drink a
little and not too much! My essay, as far as fishes, batrachians and
reptiles are concerned, will be in fact yours, only written by me. With
Yours very sincerely,
[The following letter is of interest, as showing the excessive care and
pains which my father took in forming his opinion on a difficult point:]
CHARLES DARWIN TO A.R. WALLACE.
Down, September 23 [undated].
My dear Wallace,
I am very much obliged for all your trouble in writing me your long letter,
which I will keep by me and ponder over. To answer it would require at
least 200 folio pages! If you could see how often I have re-written some
pages you would know how anxious I am to arrive as near as I can to the
truth. I lay great stress on what I know takes place under domestication;
I think we start with different fundamental notions on inheritance. I find
it is most difficult, but not I think impossible, to see how, for instance,
a few red feathers appearing on the head of a male bird, and which ARE AT
FIRST TRANSMITTED TO BOTH SEXES, could come to be transmitted to males
alone. It is not enough that females should be produced from the males
with red feathers, which should be destitute of red feathers; but these
females must have a LATENT TENDENCY to produce such feathers, otherwise
they would cause deterioration in the red head-feathers of their male
offspring. Such latent tendency would be shown by their producing the red
feathers when old, or diseased in their ovaria. But I have no difficulty
in making the whole head red if the few red feathers in the male from the
first tended to be sexually transmitted. I am quite willing to admit that
the female may have been modified, either at the same time or subsequently,
for protection by the accumulation of variations limited in their
transmission to the female sex. I owe to your writings the consideration
of this latter point. But I cannot yet persuade myself that females ALONE
have often been modified for protection. Should you grudge the trouble
briefly to tell me whether you believe that the plainer head and less
bright colours of a female chaffinch, the less red on the head and less
clean colours of the female goldfinch, the much less red on the breast of
the female bull-finch, the paler crest of golden-crested wren, etc., have
been acquired by them for protection. I cannot think so any more than I
can that the considerable differences between female and male house
sparrow, or much greater brightness of the male Parus coeruleus (both of
which build under cover) than of the female Parus, are related to
protection. I even mis-doubt much whether the less blackness of the female
blackbird is for protection.
Again, can you give me reasons for believing that the moderate differences
between the female pheasant, the female Gallus bankiva, the female black
grouse, the pea-hen, the female partridge, [and their respective males,]
have all special references to protection under slightly different
conditions? I, of course, admit that they are all protected by dull
colours, derived, as I think, from some dull-ground progenitor; and I
account partly for their difference by partial transference of colour from
the male and by other means too long to specify; but I earnestly wish to
see reason to believe that each is specially adapted for concealment to its
I grieve to differ from you, and it actually terrifies me and makes me
constantly distrust myself. I fear we shall never quite understand each
other. I value the cases of bright-coloured, incubating male fishes, and
brilliant female butterflies, solely as showing that one sex may be made
brilliant without any necessary transference of beauty to the other sex;
for in these cases I cannot suppose that beauty in the other sex was
checked by selection.
I fear this letter will trouble you to read it. A very short answer about
your belief in regard to the female finches and gallinaceae would suffice.
Believe me, my dear Wallace,
Yours very sincerely,
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
Down, May 25 .
...Last Friday we all went to the Bull Hotel at Cambridge to see the boys,
and for a little rest and enjoyment. The backs of the Colleges are simply
paradisaical. On Monday I saw Sedgwick, who was most cordial and kind; in
the morning I thought his brain was enfeebled; in the evening he was
brilliant and quite himself. His affection and kindness charmed us all.
My visit to him was in one way unfortunate; for after a long sit he
proposed to take me to the museum, and I could not refuse, and in
consequence he utterly prostrated me; so that we left Cambridge next
morning, and I have not recovered the exhaustion yet. Is it not
humiliating to be thus killed by a man of eighty-six, who evidently never
dreamed that he was killing me? As he said to me, "Oh, I consider you as a
mere baby to me!" I saw Newton several times, and several nice friends of
F.'s. But Cambridge without dear Henslow was not itself; I tried to get to
the two old houses, but it was too far for me...
CHARLES DARWIN TO B.J. SULIVAN. (Admiral Sir James Sulivan was a
lieutenant on board the "Beagle".)
Down, June 30 .
My dear Sulivan,
It was very good of you to write to me so long a letter, telling me much
about yourself and your children, which I was extremely glad to hear.
Think what a benighted wretch I am, seeing no one and reading but little in
the newspapers, for I did not know (until seeing the paper of your Natural
History Society) that you were a K.C.B. Most heartily glad I am that the
Government have at last appreciated your most just claim for this high
distinction. On the other hand, I am sorry to hear so poor an account of
your health; but you were surely very rash to do all that you did and then
pass through so exciting a scene as a ball at the Palace. It was enough to
have tired a man in robust health. Complete rest will, however, I hope,
quite set you up again. As for myself, I have been rather better of late,
and if nothing disturbs me I can do some hours' work every day. I shall
this autumn publish another book partly on man, which I dare say many will
decry as very wicked. I could have travelled to Oxford, but could no more
have withstood the excitement of a commemoration (This refers to an
invitation to receive the honorary degree of D.C.L. He was one of those
nominated for the degree by Lord Salisbury on assuming the office of
Chancellor of the University of Oxford. The fact that the honour was
declined on the score of ill-health was published in the "Oxford University
Gazette", June 17, 1870.) than I could a ball at Buckingham Palace. Many
thanks for your kind remarks about my boys. Thank God, all give me
complete satisfaction; my fourth stands second at Woolwich, and will be an
Engineer Officer at Christmas. My wife desires to be very kindly
remembered to Lady Sulivan, in which I very sincerely join, and in
congratulation about your daughter's marriage. We are at present solitary,
for all our younger children are gone a tour in Switzerland. I had never
heard a word about the success of the T. del Fuego mission. It is most
wonderful, and shames me, as I always prophesied utter failure. It is a
grand success. I shall feel proud if your Committee think fit to elect me
an honorary member of your society. With all good wishes and affectionate
remembrances of ancient days,
Believe me, my dear Sulivan,
Your sincere friend,
[My father's connection with the South American Mission, which is referred
to in the above letter, has given rise to some public comment, and has been
to some extent misunderstood. The Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking at
the annual meeting of the South American Missionary Society, April 21st,
1885 (I quote a 'Leaflet,' published by the Society.), said that the
Society "drew the attention of Charles Darwin, and made him, in his pursuit
of the wonders of the kingdom of nature, realise that there was another
kingdom just as wonderful and more lasting." Some discussion on the
subject appeared in the "Daily News" of April 23rd, 24th, 29th, 1885, and
finally Admiral Sir James Sulivan, on April 24th, wrote to the same
journal, giving a clear account of my father's connection with the
"Your article in the "Daily News" of yesterday induces me to give you a
correct statement of the connection between the South American Missionary
Society and Mr. Charles Darwin, my old friend and shipmate for five years.
I have been closely connected with the Society from the time of Captain
Allen Gardiner's death, and Mr. Darwin has often expressed to me his
conviction that it was utterly useless to send Missionaries to such a set
of savages as the Fuegians, probably the very lowest of the human race. I
had always replied that I did not believe any human beings existed too low
to comprehend the simple message of the Gospel of Christ. After many
years, I think about 1869 (It seems to have been in 1867.), but I cannot
find the letter, he wrote to me that the recent accounts of the Mission
proved to him that he had been wrong and I right in our estimates of the
native character, and the possibility of doing them good through
Missionaries; and he requested me to forward to the Society an enclosed
cheque for 5 pounds, as a testimony of the interest he took in their good
work. On June 6th, 1874, he wrote: 'I am very glad to hear so good an
account of the Fuegians, and it is wonderful.' On June 10th, 1879: 'The
progress of the Fuegians is wonderful, and had it not occurred would have
been to me quite incredible.' On January 3rd, 1880: 'Your extracts' [from
a journal] 'about the Fuegians are extremely curious, and have interested
me much. I have often said that the progress of Japan was the greatest
wonder in the world, but I declare that the progress of Fuegia is almost
equally wonderful. On March 20th, 1881: 'The account of the Fuegians
interested not only me, but all my family. It is truly wonderful what you
have heard from Mr. Bridges about their honesty and their language. I
certainly should have predicted that not all the Missionaries in the world
could have done what has been done.' On December 1st, 1881, sending me his
annual subscription to the Orphanage at the Mission Station, he wrote:
'Judging from the "Missionary Journal", the Mission in Tierra del Fuego
seems going on quite wonderfully well.'"]
CHARLES DARWIN TO JOHN LUBBOCK.
Down, July 17, 1870.
My dear Lubbock,
As I hear that the Census will be brought before the House to-morrow, I
write to say how much I hope that you will express your opinion on the
desirability of queries in relation to consanguineous marriages being
inserted. As you are aware, I have made experiments on the subject during
several years; AND IT IS MY CLEAR CONVICTION THAT THERE IS NOW AMPLE
EVIDENCE OF THE EXISTENCE OF A GREAT PHYSIOLOGICAL LAW, RENDERING AN
ENQUIRY WITH REFERENCE TO MANKIND OF MUCH IMPORTANCE. IN ENGLAND AND MANY
PARTS OF EUROPE THE MARRIAGES OF COUSINS ARE OBJECTED TO FROM THEIR
SUPPOSED INJURIOUS CONSEQUENCES; BUT THIS BELIEF RESTS ON NO DIRECT
EVIDENCE. IT IS THEREFORE MANIFESTLY DESIRABLE THAT THE BELIEF SHOULD
EITHER BE PROVED FALSE, OR SHOULD BE CONFIRMED, so that in this latter case
the marriages of cousins might be discouraged. If the proper queries are
inserted, the returns would show whether married cousins have in their
households on the night of the census as many children as have parents of
who are not related; and should the number prove fewer, we might safely
infer either lessened fertility in the parents, or which is more probable,
lessened vitality in the offspring.
It is, moreover, much to be wished that the truth of the often repeated
assertion that consanguineous marriages lead to deafness, and dumbness,
blindness, etc., should be ascertained; and all such assertions could be
easily tested by the returns from a single census.
Yours very sincerely,
[When the Census Act was passing through the House of Commons, Sir John
Lubbock and Dr. Playfair attempted to carry out this suggestion. The
question came to a division, which was lost, but not by many votes.
The subject of cousin marriages was afterwards investigated by my brother.
("Marriages between First Cousins in England, and their Effects.' By
George Darwin. 'Journal of the Statistical Society,' June, 1875.) The
results of this laborious piece of work were negative; the author sums up
in the sentence:--
"My paper is far from giving any thing like a satisfactory solution of the
question as to the effects of consanguineous marriages, but it does, I
think, show that the assertion that this question has already been set at
rest, cannot be substantiated."]
PUBLICATION OF THE 'DESCENT OF MAN.'
WORK ON 'EXPRESSION.'
[The last revise of the 'Descent of Man' was corrected on January 15th,
1871, so that the book occupied him for about three years. He wrote to Sir
J. Hooker: "I finished the last proofs of my book a few days ago, the work
half-killed me, and I have not the most remote idea whether the book is
He also wrote to Dr. Gray:--
"I have finished my book on the 'Descent of Man,' etc., and its publication
is delayed only by the Index: when published, I will send you a copy, but
I do not know that you will care about it. Parts, as on the moral sense,
will, I dare say, aggravate you, and if I hear from you, I shall probably
receive a few stabs from your polished stiletto of a pen."
The book was published on February 24, 1871. 2500 copies were printed at
first, and 5000 more before the end of the year. My father notes that he
received for this edition 1470 pounds. The letters given in the present
chapter deal with its reception, and also with the progress of the work on
Expression. The letters are given, approximately, in chronological order,
an arrangement which necessarily separates letters of kindred subject-
matter, but gives perhaps a truer picture of the mingled interests and
labours of my father's life.
Nothing can give a better idea (in small compass) of the growth of
Evolutionism and its position at this time, than a quotation from Mr.
Huxley ('Contemporary Review,' 1871.):--
"The gradual lapse of time has now separated us by more than a decade from
the date of the publication of the 'Origin of Species;' and whatever may be
thought or said about Mr. Darwin's doctrines, or the manner in which he has
propounded them, this much is certain, that in a dozen years the 'Origin of
Species' has worked as complete a revolution in Biological Science as the
'Principia' did in Astronomy;" and it has done so, "because, in the words
of Helmholtz, it contains 'an essentially new creative thought.' And, as
time has slipped by, a happy change has come over Mr. Darwin's critics.
The mixture of ignorance and insolence which at first characterised a large
proportion of the attacks with which he was assailed, is no longer the sad
distinction of anti-Darwinian criticism."
A passage in the Introduction to the 'Descent of Man' shows that the author
recognised clearly this improvement in the position of Evolution. "When a
naturalist like Carl Vogt ventures to say in his address, as President of
the National Institution of Geneva (1869), 'personne en Europe au moins,
n'ose plus soutenir la creation independante et de toutes pieces, des
especes,' it is manifest that at least a large number of naturalists must
admit that species are the modified descendants of other species; and this
especially holds good with the younger and rising naturalists...Of the
older and honoured chiefs in natural science, many, unfortunately, are
still opposed to Evolution in every form."
In Mr. James Hague's pleasantly written article, "A Reminiscence of Mr.
Darwin" ('Harper's Magazine,' October 1884), he describes a visit to my
father "early in 1871" (it must have been at the end of February, within a
week after the publication of the book.), shortly after the publication of
the 'Descent of Man.' Mr. Hague represents my father as "much impressed by
the general assent with which his views had been received," and as
remarking that "everybody is talking about it without being shocked."
Later in the year the reception of the book is described in different
language in the 'Edinburgh Review' (July 1871. An adverse criticism. The
reviewer sums up by saying that: "Never perhaps in the history of
philosophy have such wide generalisations been derived from such a small
basis of fact."): "On every side it is raising a storm of mingled wrath,
wonder, and admiration."
With regard to the subsequent reception of the 'Descent of Man,' my father
wrote to Dr. Dohrn, February 3, 1872:--
"I did not know until reading your article (In 'Das Ausland.'), that my
'Descent of Man' had excited so much furore in Germany. It has had an
immense circulation in this country and in America, but has met the
approval of hardly any naturalists as far as I know. Therefore I suppose
it was a mistake on my part to publish it; but, anyhow, it will pave the
way for some better work."
The book on the 'Expression of the Emotions' was begun on January 17th,
1871, the last proof of the 'Descent of Man' having been finished on
January 15th. The rough copy was finished by April 27th, and shortly after
this (in June) the work was interrupted by the preparation of a sixth
edition of the 'Origin.' In November and December the proofs of the
'Expression' book were taken in hand, and occupied him until the following
year, when the book was published.
Some references to the work on Expression have occurred in letters already
given, showing that the foundation of the book was, to some extent, laid
down for some years before he began to write it. Thus he wrote to Dr. Asa
Gray, April 15, 1867:--
"I have been lately getting up and looking over my old notes on Expression,
and fear that I shall not make so much of my hobby-horse as I thought I
could; nevertheless, it seems to me a curious subject which has been
It should, however, be remembered that the subject had been before his
mind, more or less, from 1837 or 1838, as I judge from entries in his early
note-books. It was in December, 1839, that he began to make observations
The work required much correspondence, not only with missionaries and
others living among savages, to whom he sent his printed queries, but among
physiologists and physicians. He obtained much information from Professor
Donders, Sir W. Bowman, Sir James Paget, Dr. W. Ogle, Dr. Crichton Browne,
as well as from other observers.
The first letter refers to the 'Descent of Man.']
CHARLES DARWIN TO A.R. WALLACE.
Down, January 30 .
My dear Wallace,
(In the note referred to, dated January 27, Mr. Wallace wrote:--
"Many thanks for your first volume which I have just finished reading
through with the greatest pleasure and interest; and I have also to thank
you for the great tenderness with which you have treated me and my
The heresy is the limitation of natural selection as applied to man. My
father wrote ('Descent of Man,' i. page 137):--"I cannot therefore
understand how it is that Mr. Wallace maintains that 'natural selection
could only have endowed the savage with a brain a little superior to that
of an ape.'" In the above quoted letter Mr. Wallace wrote:--"Your chapters
on 'Man' are of intense interest, but as touching my special heresy not as
yet altogether convincing, though of course I fully agree with every word
and every argument which goes to prove the evolution or development of man
out of a lower form.")
Your note has given me very great pleasure, chiefly because I was so
anxious not to treat you with the least disrespect, and it is so difficult
to speak fairly when differing from any one. If I had offended you, it
would have grieved me more than you will readily believe. Secondly, I am
greatly pleased to hear that Volume I. interests you; I have got so sick of
the whole subject that I felt in utter doubt about the value of any part.
I intended, when speaking of females not having been specially modified for
protection, to include the prevention of characters acquired by the male
being transmitted to the female; but I now see it would have been better to
have said "specially acted on," or some such term. Possibly my intention
may be clearer in Volume II. Let me say that my conclusions are chiefly
founded on the consideration of all animals taken in a body, bearing in
mind how common the rules of sexual differences appear to be in all
classes. The first copy of the chapter on Lepidoptera agreed pretty
closely with you. I then worked on, came back to Lepidoptera, and thought
myself compelled to alter it--finished Sexual Selection and for the last
time went over Lepidoptera, and again I felt forced to alter it. I hope to
God there will be nothing disagreeable to you in Volume II., and that I
have spoken fairly of your views; I am fearful on this head, because I have
just read (but not with sufficient care) Mivart's book ('The Genesis of
Species,' by St. G. Mivart, 1871.), and I feel ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that he
meant to be fair (but he was stimulated by theological fervour); yet I do
not think he has been quite fair...The part which, I think, will have most
influence is where he gives the whole series of cases like that of the
whalebone, in which we cannot explain the gradational steps; but such cases
have no weight on my mind--if a few fish were extinct, who on earth would
have ventured even to conjecture that lungs had originated in a swim-
bladder? In such a case as the Thylacine, I think he was bound to say that
the resemblance of the jaw to that of the dog is superficial; the number
and correspondence and development of teeth being widely different. I
think again when speaking of the necessity of altering a number of
characters together, he ought to have thought of man having power by
selection to modify simultaneously or almost simultaneously many points, as
in making a greyhound or racehorse--as enlarged upon in my 'Domestic
Animals.' Mivart is savage or contemptuous about my "moral sense," and so
probably will you be. I am extremely pleased that he agrees with my
position, AS FAR AS ANIMAL NATURE IS CONCERNED, of man in the series; or if
anything, thinks I have erred in making him too distinct.
Forgive me for scribbling at such length. You have put me quite in good
spirits; I did so dread having been unintentionally unfair towards your
views. I hope earnestly the second volume will escape as well. I care now
very little what others say. As for our not quite agreeing, really in such
complex subjects, it is almost impossible for two men who arrive
independently at their conclusions to agree fully, it would be unnatural
for them to do so.
Yours ever, very sincerely,
[Professor Haeckel seems to have been one of the first to write to my
father about the 'Descent of Man.' I quote from his reply:--
"I must send you a few words to thank you for your interesting, and I may
truly say, charming letter. I am delighted that you approve of my book, as
far as you have read it. I felt very great difficulty and doubt how often
I ought to allude to what you have published; strictly speaking every idea,
although occurring independently to me, if published by you previously
ought to have appeared as if taken from your works, but this would have
made my book very dull reading; and I hoped that a full acknowledgment at
the beginning would suffice. (In the introduction to the 'Descent of Man'
the author wrote:--
"This last naturalist [Haeckel]...has recently...published his 'Naturliche
Schopfungs-geschichte,' in which he fully discusses the genealogy of man.
If this work had appeared before my essay had been written, I should
probably never have completed it. Almost all the conclusions at which I
have arrived, I find confirmed by this naturalist, whose knowledge on many
points is much fuller than mine.") I cannot tell you how glad I am to find
that I have expressed my high admiration of your labours with sufficient
clearness; I am sure that I have not expressed it too strongly."]
CHARLES DARWIN TO A.R. WALLACE.
Down, March 16, 1871.
My dear Wallace,
I have just read your grand review. ("Academy", March 15, 1871.) It is in
every way as kindly expressed towards myself as it is excellent in matter.
The Lyells have been here, and Sir C. remarked that no one wrote such good
scientific reviews as you, and as Miss Buckley added, you delight in
picking out all that is good, though very far from blind to the bad. In
all this I most entirely agree. I shall always consider your review as a
great honour; and however much my book may hereafter be abused, as no doubt
it will be, your review will console me, notwithstanding that we differ so
greatly. I will keep your objections to my views in my mind, but I fear
that the latter are almost stereotyped in my mind. I thought for long
weeks about the inheritance and selection difficulty, and covered quires of
paper with notes in trying to get out of it, but could not, though clearly
seeing that it would be a great relief if I could. I will confine myself
to two or three remarks. I have been much impressed with what you urge
against colour (Mr. Wallace says that the pairing of butterflies is
probably determined by the fact that one male is stronger-winged, or more
pertinacious than the rest, rather than by the choice of the females. He
quotes the case of caterpillars which are brightly coloured and yet
sexless. Mr. Wallace also makes the good criticism that the 'Descent of
Man' consists of two books mixed together.) in the case of insects, having
been acquired through sexual selection. I always saw that the evidence was
very weak; but I still think, if it be admitted that the musical
instruments of insects have been gained through sexual selection, that
there is not the least improbability in colour having been thus gained.
Your argument with respect to the denudation of mankind and also to
insects, that taste on the part of one sex would have to remain nearly the
same during many generations, in order that sexual selection should produce
any effect, I agree to; and I think this argument would be sound if used by
one who denied that, for instance, the plumes of birds of Paradise had been
so gained. I believe you admit this, and if so I do not see how your
argument applies in other cases. I have recognized for some short time
that I have made a great omission in not having discussed, as far as I
could, the acquisition of taste, its inherited nature, and its permanence
within pretty close limits for long periods.
[With regard to the success of the 'Descent of Man,' I quote from a letter
to Professor Ray Lankester (March 22, 1871):--
"I think you will be glad to hear, as a proof of the increasing liberality
of England, that my book has sold wonderfully...and as yet no abuse (though
some, no doubt, will come, strong enough), and only contempt even in the
poor old 'Athenaeum'."
As to reviews that struck him he wrote to Mr. Wallace (March 24, 1871):--
"There is a very striking second article on my book in the 'Pall Mall'.
The articles in the "Spectator" ("Spectator", March 11 and 18, 1871. With
regard to the evolution of conscience the reviewer thinks that my father
comes much nearer to the "kernel of the psychological problem" than many of
his predecessors. The second article contains a good discussion of the
bearing of the book on the question of design, and concludes by finding in
it a vindication of Theism more wonderful than that in Paley's 'Natural
Theology.') have also interested me much."
On March 20 he wrote to Mr. Murray:--
"Many thanks for the "Nonconformist" [March 8, 1871]. I like to see all
that is written, and it is of some real use. If you hear of reviewers in
out-of-the-way papers, especially the religious, as "Record", "Guardian",
"Tablet", kindly inform me. It is wonderful that there has been no abuse
("I feel a full conviction that my chapter on man will excite attention and
plenty of abuse, and I suppose abuse is as good as praise for selling a
book."--(from a letter to Mr. Murray, January 31, 1867.) as yet, but I
suppose I shall not escape. On the whole, the reviews have been highly
The following extract from a letter to Mr. Murray (April 13, 1871) refers
to a review in the "Times". ("Times", April 7 and 8, 1871. The review is
not only unfavourable as regards the book under discussion, but also as
regards Evolution in general, as the following citation will show: "Even
had it been rendered highly probable, which we doubt, that the animal
creation has been developed into its numerous and widely different
varieties by mere evolution, it would still require an independent
investigation of overwhelming force and completeness to justify the
presumption that man is but a term in this self-evolving series.")
"I have no idea who wrote the "Times" review. He has no knowledge of
science, and seems to me a wind-bag full of metaphysics and classics, so
that I do not much regard his adverse judgment, though I suppose it will
injure the sale."
A review of the 'Descent of Man,' which my father spoke of as "capital,"
appeared in the "Saturday Review" (March 4 and 11, 1871). A passage from
the first notice (March 4) may be quoted in illustration of the broad basis
as regards general acceptance, on which the doctrine of Evolution now
stood: "He claims to have brought man himself, his origin and
constitution, within that unity which he had previously sought to trace
through all lower animal forms. The growth of opinion in the interval, due
in chief measure to his own intermediate works, has placed the discussion
of this problem in a position very much in advance of that held by it
fifteen years ago. The problem of Evolution is hardly any longer to be
treated as one of first principles; nor has Mr. Darwin to do battle for a
first hearing of his central hypothesis, upborne as it is by a phalanx of
names full of distinction and promise, in either hemisphere."
The infolded point of the human ear, discovered by Mr. Woolner, and
described in the 'Descent of Man,' seems especially to have struck the
popular imagination; my father wrote to Mr. Woolner:--
"The tips to the ears have become quite celebrated. One reviewer
('Nature') says they ought to be called, as I suggested in joke, Angulus
Woolnerianus. ('Nature' April 6, 1871. The term suggested is Angulus
Woolnerii.) A German is very proud to find that he has the tips well
developed, and I believe will send me a photograph of his ears."]
CHARLES DARWIN TO JOHN BRODIE INNES. (Rev. J. Brodie Innes, of Milton
Brodie, formerly Vicar of Down.)
Down, May 29 .
My dear Innes,
I have been very glad to receive your pleasant letter, for to tell you the
truth, I have sometimes wondered whether you would not think me an outcast
and a reprobate after the publication of my last book ['Descent']. (In a
former letter of my father's to Mr. Innes:--"We often differed, but you are
one of those rare mortals from whom one can differ and yet feel no shade of
animosity, and that is a thing which I should feel very proud of, if any
one could say it of me.") I do not wonder at all at your not agreeing with
me, for a good many professed naturalists do not. Yet when I see in how
extraordinary a manner the judgment of naturalists has changed since I
published the 'Origin,' I feel convinced that there will be in ten years
quite as much unanimity about man, as far as his corporeal frame is
[The following letters addressed to Dr. Ogle deal with the progress of the
work on expression.]
Down, March 12 .
My dear Dr. Ogle,
I have received both your letters, and they tell me all that I wanted to
know in the clearest possible way, as, indeed, all your letters have ever
done. I thank you cordially. I will give the case of the murderer
('Expression of the Emotions,' page 294. The arrest of a murderer, as
witnessed by Dr. Ogle in a hospital.) in my hobby-horse essay on
expression. I fear that the Eustachian tube question must have cost you a
deal of labour; it is quite a complete little essay. It is pretty clear
that the mouth is not opened under surprise merely to improve the hearing.
Yet why do deaf men generally keep their mouths open? The other day a man
here was mimicking a deaf friend, leaning his head forward and sideways to
the speaker, with his mouth well open; it was a lifelike representation of
a deaf man. Shakespeare somewhere says: "Hold your breath, listen" or
"hark," I forget which. Surprise hurries the breath, and it seems to me
one can breathe, at least hurriedly, much quieter through the open mouth
than through the nose. I saw the other day you doubted this. As objection
is your province at present, I think breathing through the nose ought to
come within it likewise, so do pray consider this point, and let me hear
your judgment. Consider the nose to be a flower to be fertilised, and then
you will make out all about it. (Dr. Ogle had corresponded with my father
on his own observations on the fertilisation of flowers.) I have had to
allude to your paper on 'Sense of Smell' (Medico-chirurg. Trans. liii.); is
the paging right, namely, 1, 2, 3? If not, I protest by all the gods
against the plan followed by some, of having presentation copies falsely
paged; and so does Rolleston, as he wrote to me the other day. In haste.
Yours very sincerely,
CHARLES DARWIN TO W. OGLE.
Down, March 25 .
My dear Dr. Ogle,
You will think me a horrid bore, but I beg you, IN RELATION TO A NEW POINT
FOR OBSERVATION, to imagine as well as you can that you suddenly come
across some dreadful object, and act with a sudden little start, a SHUDDER
OF HORROR; please do this once or twice, and observe yourself as well as
you can, and AFTERWARDS read the rest of this note, which I have
consequently pinned down. I find, to my surprise, whenever I act thus my
platysma contracts. Does yours? (N.B.--See what a man will do for
science; I began this note with a horrid fib, namely, that I want you to
attend to a new point. (The point was doubtless described as a new one, to
avoid the possibility of Dr. Ogle's attention being directed to the
platysma, a muscle which had been the subject of discussion in other
letters.)) I will try and get some persons thus to act who are so lucky as
not to know that they even possess this muscle, so troublesome for any one
making out about expression. Is a shudder akin to the rigor or shivering
before fever? If so, perhaps the platysma could be observed in such cases.
Paget told me that he had attended much to shivering, and had written in
MS. on the subject, and been much perplexed about it. He mentioned that
passing a catheter often causes shivering. Perhaps I will write to him
about the platysma. He is always most kind in aiding me in all ways, but
he is so overworked that it hurts my conscience to trouble him, for I have
a conscience, little as you have reason to think so. Help me if you can,
and forgive me. Your murderer case has come in splendidly as the acme of
prostration from fear.
Yours very sincerely,
CHARLES DARWIN TO DR. OGLE.
Down, April 29 .
My dear Dr. Ogle,
I am truly obliged for all the great trouble which you have so kindly
taken. I am sure you have no cause to say that you are sorry you can give
me no definite information, for you have given me far more than I ever
expected to get. The action of the platysma is not very important for me,
but I believe that you will fully understand (for I have always fancied
that our minds were very similar) the intolerable desire I had not to be
utterly baffled. Now I know that it sometimes contracts from fear and from
shuddering, but not apparently from a prolonged state of fear such as the
[Mr. Mivart's 'Genesis of Species,'--a contribution to the literature of
Evolution, which excited much attention--was published in 1871, before the
appearance of the 'Descent of Man.' To this book the following letter
(June 21, 1871) from the late Chauncey Wright to my father refers.
(Chauncey Wright was born at Northampton, Massachusetts, September 20,
1830, and came of a family settled in that town since 1654. He became in
1852 a computer in the Nautical Almanac office at Cambridge, Mass., and
lived a quiet uneventful life, supported by the small stipend of his
office, and by what he earned from his occasional articles, as well as by a
little teaching. He thought and read much on metaphysical subjects, but on
the whole with an outcome (as far as the world was concerned) not
commensurate to the power of his mind. He seems to have been a man of
strong individuality, and to have made a lasting impression on his friends.
He died in September, 1875.)]:
"I send...revised proofs of an article which will be published in the July
number of the 'North American Review,' sending it in the hope that it will
interest or even be of greater value to you. Mr. Mivart's book ['Genesis
of Species'] of which this article is substantially a review, seems to me a
very good background from which to present the considerations which I have
endeavoured to set forth in the article, in defence and illustration of the
theory of Natural Selection. My special purpose has been to contribute to
the theory by placing it in its proper relations to philosophical enquiries
in general." ('Letters of Chauncey Wright,' by J.B. Thayer. Privately
printed, 1878, page 230.)
With regard to the proofs received from Mr. Wright, my father wrote to Mr.
Down, July 9 .
My dear Wallace,
I send by this post a review by Chauncey Wright, as I much want your
opinion of it as soon as you can send it. I consider you an incomparably
better critic than I am. The article, though not very clearly written, and
poor in parts from want of knowledge, seems to me admirable. Mivart's book
is producing a great effect against Natural Selection, and more especially
against me. Therefore if you think the article even somewhat good I will
write and get permission to publish it as a shilling pamphlet, together
with the MS. additions (enclosed), for which there was not room at the end
of the review...
I am now at work at a new and cheap edition of the 'Origin,' and shall
answer several points in Mivart's book, and introduce a new chapter for
this purpose; but I treat the subject so much more concretely, and I dare
say less philosophically, than Wright, that we shall not interfere with
each other. You will think me a bigot when I say, after studying Mivart, I
was never before in my life so convinced of the GENERAL (i.e. not in
detail) truth of the views in the 'Origin.' I grieve to see the omission
of the words by Mivart, detected by Wright. ('North American Review,'
volume 113, pages 83, 84. Chauncey Wright points out that the words
omitted are "essential to the point on which he [Mr. Mivart] cites Mr.
Darwin's authority." It should be mentioned that the passage from which
words are omitted is not given within inverted commas by Mr. Mivart.) I
complained to Mivart that in two cases he quotes only the commencement of
sentences by me, and thus modifies my meaning; but I never supposed he
would have omitted words. There are other cases of what I consider unfair
treatment. I conclude with sorrow that though he means to be honourable he
is so bigoted that he cannot act fairly...
CHARLES DARWIN TO CHAUNCEY WRIGHT.
Down, July 14, 1871.
My dear Sir,
I have hardly ever in my life read an article which has given me so much
satisfaction as the review which you have been so kind as to send me. I
agree to almost everything which you say. Your memory must be wonderfully
accurate, for you know my works as well as I do myself, and your power of
grasping other men's thoughts is something quite surprising; and this, as
far as my experience goes, is a very rare quality. As I read on I
perceived how you have acquired this power, viz. by thoroughly analyzing
...Now I am going to beg a favour. Will you provisionally give me
permission to reprint your article as a shilling pamphlet? I ask only
provisionally, as I have not yet had time to reflect on the subject. It
would cost me, I fancy, with advertisements, some 20 or 30 pounds; but the
worst is that, as I hear, pamphlets never will sell. And this makes me
doubtful. Should you think it too much trouble to send me a title FOR THE
CHANCE? The title ought, I think, to have Mr. Mivart's name on it.
...If you grant permission and send a title, you will kindly understand
that I will first make further enquiries whether there is any chance of a
pamphlet being read.
Pray believe me yours very sincerely obliged,
[The pamphlet was published in the autumn, and on October 23 my father
wrote to Mr. Wright:--
"It pleases me much that you are satisfied with the appearance of your
pamphlet. I am sure it will do our cause good service; and this same
opinion Huxley has expressed to me. ('Letters of Chauncey Wright,' page
CHARLES DARWIN TO A.R. WALLACE.
Down, July 12 .
...I feel very doubtful how far I shall succeed in answering Mivart, it is
so difficult to answer objections to doubtful points, and make the
discussion readable. I shall make only a selection. The worst of it is,
that I cannot possibly hunt through all my references for isolated points,
it would take me three weeks of intolerably hard work. I wish I had your
power of arguing clearly. At present I feel sick of everything, and if I
could occupy my time and forget my daily discomforts, or rather miseries, I
would never publish another word. But I shall cheer up, I dare say, soon,
having only just got over a bad attack. Farewell; God knows why I bother
you about myself. I can say nothing more about missing-links than what I
have said. I should rely much on pre-silurian times; but then comes Sir W.
Thomson like an odious spectre. Farewell.
...There is a most cutting review of me in the 'Quarterly' (July 1871.); I
have only read a few pages. The skill and style make me think of Mivart.
I shall soon be viewed as the most despicable of men. This 'Quarterly
Review' tempts me to republish Ch. Wright, even if not read by any one,
just to show some one will say a word against Mivart, and that his (i.e.
Mivart's) remarks ought not to be swallowed without some reflection...God
knows whether my strength and spirit will last out to write a chapter
versus Mivart and others; I do so hate controversy and feel I shall do it
[The above-mentioned 'Quarterly' review was the subject of an article by
Mr. Huxley in the November number of the 'Contemporary Review.' Here,
also, are discussed Mr. Wallace's 'Contribution to the Theory of Natural
Selection,' and the second edition of Mr. Mivart's 'Genesis of Species.'
What follows is taken from Mr. Huxley's article. The 'Quarterly' reviewer,
though being to some extent an evolutionist, believes that Man "differs
more from an elephant or a gorilla, than do these from the dust of the
earth on which they tread." The reviewer also declares that my father has
"with needless opposition, set at naught the first principles of both
philosophy and religion." Mr. Huxley passes from the 'Quarterly'
reviewer's further statement, that there is no necessary opposition between
evolution and religion, to the more definite position taken by Mr. Mivart,
that the orthodox authorities of the Roman Catholic Church agree in
distinctly asserting derivative creation, so that "their teachings
harmonise with all that modern science can possibly require." Here Mr.
Huxley felt the want of that "study of Christian philosophy" (at any rate,
in its Jesuitic garb), which Mr. Mivart speaks of, and it was a want he at
once set to work to fill up. He was then staying at St. Andrews, whence he
wrote to my father:--
"By great good luck there is an excellent library here, with a good copy of
Suarez (The learned Jesuit on whom Mr. Mivart mainly relies.), in a dozen
big folios. Among these I dived, to the great astonishment of the
librarian, and looking into them 'as the careful robin eyes the delver's
toil' (vide 'Idylls'), I carried off the two venerable clasped volumes
which were most promising." Even those who know Mr. Huxley's unrivalled
power of tearing the heart out of a book must marvel at the skill with
which he has made Suarez speak on his side. "So I have come out," he
wrote, "in the new character of a defender of Catholic orthodoxy, and upset
Mivart out of the mouth of his own prophet."
The remainder of Mr. Huxley's critique is largely occupied with a
dissection of the 'Quarterly' reviewer's psychology, and his ethical views.
He deals, too, with Mr. Wallace's objections to the doctrine of Evolution
by natural causes when applied to the mental faculties of Man. Finally, he
devotes a couple of pages to justifying his description of the 'Quarterly'
reviewer's "treatment of Mr. Darwin as alike unjust and unbecoming."
It will be seen that the two following letters were written before the
publication of Mr. Huxley's article.]
CHARLES DARWIN TO T.H. HUXLEY.
Down, September 21 .
My dear Huxley,
Your letter has pleased me in many ways, to a wonderful degree...What a
wonderful man you are to grapple with those old metaphysico-divinity books.
It quite delights me that you are going to some extent to answer and attack
Mivart. His book, as you say, has produced a great effect; yesterday I
perceived the reverberations from it, even from Italy. It was this that
made me ask Chauncey Wright to publish at my expense his article, which
seems to me very clever, though ill-written. He has not knowledge enough
to grapple with Mivart in detail. I think there can be no shadow of doubt
that he is the author of the article in the 'Quarterly Review'...I am
preparing a new edition of the 'Origin,' and shall introduce a new chapter
in answer to miscellaneous objections, and shall give up the greater part
to answer Mivart's cases of difficulty of incipient structures being of no
use: and I find it can be done easily. He never states his case fairly,
and makes wonderful blunders...The pendulum is now swinging against our
side, but I feel positive it will soon swing the other way; and no mortal
man will do half as much as you in giving it a start in the right
direction, as you did at the first commencement. God forgive me for
writing so long and egotistical a letter; but it is your fault, for you
have so delighted me; I never dreamed that you would have time to say a
word in defence of the cause which you have so often defended. It will be
a long battle, after we are dead and gone...Great is the power of
CHARLES DARWIN TO T.H. HUXLEY.
Down, September 30 .
My dear Huxley,
It was very good of you to send the proof-sheets, for I was VERY anxious to
read your article. I have been delighted with it. How you do smash
Mivart's theology: it is almost equal to your article versus Comte
('Fortnightly Review,' 1869. With regard to the relations of Positivism to
Science my father wrote to Mr. Spencer in 1875: "How curious and amusing
it is to see to what an extent the Positivists hate all men of science; I
fancy they are dimly conscious what laughable and gigantic blunders their
prophet made in predicting the course of science."),--that never can be
transcended...But I have been preeminently glad to read your discussion on
[the 'Quarterly' reviewer's] metaphysics, especially about reason and his
definition of it. I felt sure he was wrong, but having only common
observation and sense to trust to, I did not know what to say in my second
edition of my 'Descent.' Now a footnote and reference to you will do the
work...For me, this is one of the most IMPORTANT parts of the review. But
for PLEASURE, I have been particularly glad that my few words ('Descent of
Man,' volume i. page 87. A discussion on the question whether an act done
impulsively or instinctively can be called moral.) on the distinction, if
it can be so called, between Mivart's two forms of morality, caught your
attention. I am so pleased that you take the same view, and give
authorities for it; but I searched Mill in vain on this head. How well you
argue the whole case. I am mounting climax on climax; for after all there
is nothing, I think, better in your whole review than your arguments v.
Wallace on the intellect of savages. I must tell you what Hooker said to
me a few years ago. "When I read Huxley, I feel quite infantile in
intellect." By Jove I have felt the truth of this throughout your review.
What a man you are. There are scores of splendid passages, and vivid
flashes of wit. I have been a good deal more than merely pleased by the
concluding part of your review; and all the more, as I own I felt mortified
by the accusation of bigotry, arrogance, etc., in the 'Quarterly Review.'
But I assure you, he may write his worst, and he will never mortify me
My dear Huxley, yours gratefully,
CHARLES DARWIN TO F. MULLER.
Haredene, Albury, August 2 .
My dear Sir,
Your last letter has interested me greatly; it is wonderfully rich in facts
and original thoughts. First, let me say that I have been much pleased by
what you say about my book. It has had a VERY LARGE sale; but I have been
much abused for it, especially for the chapter on the moral sense; and most
of my reviewers consider the book as a poor affair. God knows what its
merits may really be; all that I know is that I did my best. With
familiarity I think naturalists will accept sexual selection to a greater
extent than they now seem inclined to do. I should very much like to
publish your letter, but I do not see how it could be made intelligible,
without numerous coloured illustrations, but I will consult Mr. Wallace on
this head. I earnestly hope that you keep notes of all your letters, and
that some day you will publish a book: 'Notes of a Naturalist in S.
Brazil,' or some such title. Wallace will hardly admit the possibility of
sexual selection with Lepidoptera, and no doubt it is very improbable.
Therefore, I am very glad to hear of your cases (which I will quote in the
next edition) of the two sets of Hesperiadae, which display their wings
differently, according to which surface is coloured. I cannot believe that
such display is accidental and purposeless...
No fact of your letter has interested me more than that about mimicry. It
is a capital fact about the males pursuing the wrong females. You put the
difficulty of the first steps in imitation in a most striking and
CONVINCING manner. Your idea of sexual selection having aided protective
imitation interests me greatly, for the same idea had occurred to me in
quite different cases, viz. the dulness of all animals in the Galapagos
Islands, Patagonia, etc., and in some other cases; but I was afraid even to
hint at such an idea. Would you object to my giving some such sentence as
follows: "F. Muller suspects that sexual selection may have come into
play, in aid of protective imitation, in a very peculiar manner, which will
appear extremely improbable to those who do not fully believe in sexual
selection. It is that the appreciation of certain colour is developed in
those species which frequently behold other species thus ornamented."
Again let me thank you cordially for your most interesting letter...
CHARLES DARWIN TO E.B. TYLOR.
Down, [September 24, 1871].
My dear Sir,
I hope that you will allow me to have the pleasure of telling you how
greatly I have been interested by your 'Primitive Culture,' now that I have
finished it. It seems to me a most profound work, which will be certain to
have permanent value, and to be referred to for years to come. It is
wonderful how you trace animism from the lower races up to the religious
belief of the highest races. It will make me for the future look at
religion--a belief in the soul, etc.--from a new point of view. How
curious, also, are the survivals or rudiments of old customs...You will
perhaps be surprised at my writing at so late a period, but I have had the
book read aloud to me, and from much ill-health of late could only stand
occasional short reads. The undertaking must have cost you gigantic
labour. Nevertheless, I earnestly hope that you may be induced to treat
morals in the same enlarged yet careful manner, as you have animism. I
fancy from the last chapter that you have thought of this. No man could do
the work so well as you, and the subject assuredly is a most important and
interesting one. You must now possess references which would guide you to
a sound estimation of the morals of savages; and how writers like Wallace,
Lubbock, etc., etc., do differ on this head. Forgive me for troubling you,
and believe me, with much respect,
Yours very sincerely,
[At the beginning of the year the sixth edition of the 'Origin,' which had
been begun in June, 1871, was nearly completed. The last sheet was revised
on January 10, 1872, and the book was published in the course of the month.
This volume differs from the previous ones in appearance and size--it
consists of 458 pages instead of 596 pages and is a few ounces lighter; it
is printed on bad paper, in small type, and with the lines unpleasantly
close together. It had, however, one advantage over previous editions,
namely that it was issued at a lower price. It is to be regretted that
this the final edition of the 'Origin' should have appeared in so
unattractive a form; a form which has doubtless kept off many readers from
The discussion suggested by the 'Genesis of Species' was perhaps the most
important addition to the book. The objection that incipient structures
cannot be of use was dealt with in some detail, because it seemed to the
author that this was the point in Mr. Mivart's book which has struck most
readers in England.
It is a striking proof of how wide and general had become the acceptance of
his views that my father found it necessary to insert (sixth edition, page
424), the sentence: "As a record of a former state of things, I have
retained in the foregoing paragraphs and also elsewhere, several sentences
which imply that naturalists believe in the separate creation of each
species; and I have been much censured for having thus expressed myself.
But undoubtedly this was the general belief when the first edition of the
present work appeared...Now things are wholly changed, and almost every
naturalist admits the great principle of evolution."
A small correction introduced into this sixth edition is connected with one
of his minor papers: "Note on the habits of the Pampas Woodpecker."
(Zoolog. Soc. Proc. 1870.) In the fifth edition of the 'Origin,' page 220,
"Yet as I can assert not only from my own observation, but from that of the
accurate Azara, it [the ground woodpecker] never climbs a tree." The paper
in question was a reply to Mr. Hudson's remarks on the woodpecker in a
previous number of the same journal. The last sentence of my father's
paper is worth quoting for its temperate tone: "Finally, I trust that Mr.
Hudson is mistaken when he says that any one acquainted with the habits of
this bird might be induced to believe that I 'had purposely wrested the
truth' in order to prove my theory. He exonerates me from this charge; but
I should be loath to think that there are many naturalists who, without any
evidence, would accuse a fellow-worker of telling a deliberate falsehood to
prove his theory." In the sixth edition, page 142, the passage runs "in
certain large districts it does not climb trees." And he goes on to give
Mr. Hudson's statement that in other regions it does frequent trees.
One of the additions in the sixth edition (page 149), was a reference to
Mr. A. Hyatt's and Professor Cope's theory of "acceleration." With regard
to this he wrote (October 10, 1872) in characteristic words to Mr. Hyatt:--
"Permit me to take this opportunity to express my sincere regret at having
committed two grave errors in the last edition of my 'Origin of Species,'
in my allusion to yours and Professor Cope's views on acceleration and
retardation of development. I had thought that Professor Cope had preceded
you; but I now well remember having formerly read with lively interest, and
marked, a paper by you somewhere in my library, on fossil Cephalapods with
remarks on the subject. It seems also that I have quite misrepresented
your joint view. This has vexed me much. I confess that I have never been
able to grasp fully what you wish to show, and I presume that this must be
owing to some dulness on my part."
Lastly, it may be mentioned that this cheap edition being to some extent
intended as a popular one, was made to include a glossary of technical
terms, "given because several readers have complained...that some of the
terms used were unintelligible to them." The glossary was compiled by Mr.
Dallas, and being an excellent collection of clear and sufficient
definitions, must have proved useful to many readers.]
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.L.A. DE QUATREFAGES.
Down, January 15, 1872.
My dear Sir,
I am much obliged for your very kind letter and exertions in my favour. I
had thought that the publication of my last book ['Descent of Man'] would
have destroyed all your sympathy with me, but though I estimated very
highly your great liberality of mind, it seems that I underrated it.
I am gratified to hear that M. Lacaze-Duthiers will vote (He was not
elected as a corresponding member of the French Academy until 1878.) for
me, for I have long honoured his name. I cannot help regretting that you
should expend your valuable time in trying to obtain for me the honour of
election, for I fear, judging from the last time, that all your labour will
be in vain. Whatever the result may be, I shall always retain the most
lively recollection of your sympathy and kindness, and this will quite
console me for my rejection.
With much respect and esteem, I remain, dear Sir,
Yours truly obliged,
P.S.--With respect to the great stress which you lay on man walking on two
legs, whilst the quadrumana go on all fours, permit me to remind you that
no one much values the great difference in the mode of locomotion, and
consequently in structure, between seals and the terrestrial carnivora, or
between the almost biped kangaroos and other marsupials.
CHARLES DARWIN TO AUGUST WEISMANN. (Professor of Zoology in Freiburg.)
Down, April 5, 1872.
My dear Sir,
I have now read your essay ('Ueber den Einfluss der Isolirung auf die
Artbildung.' Leipzig, 1872.) with very great interest. Your view of the
'Origin' of local races through "Amixie," is altogether new to me, and
seems to throw an important light on an obscure problem. There is,
however, something strange about the periods or endurance of variability.
I formerly endeavoured to investigate the subject, not by looking to past
time, but to species of the same genus widely distributed; and I found in
many cases that all the species, with perhaps one or two exceptions, were
variable. It would be a very interesting subject for a conchologist to
investigate, viz., whether the species of the same genus were variable
during many successive geological formations. I began to make enquiries on
this head, but failed in this, as in so many other things, from the want of
time and strength. In your remarks on crossing, you do not, as it seems to
me, lay nearly stress enough on the increased vigour of the offspring
derived from parents which have been exposed to different conditions. I
have during the last five years been making experiments on this subject
with plants, and have been astonished at the results, which have not yet
In the first part of your essay, I thought that you wasted (to use an
English expression) too much powder and shot on M. Wagner (Prof. Wagner has
written two essays on the same subject. 'Die Darwin'sche Theorie und das
Migrationsgesetz, in 1868, and 'Ueber den Einfluss der Geographischen
Isolirung, etc.,' an address to the Bavarian Academy of Sciences at Munich,
1870.); but I changed my opinion when I saw how admirably you treated the
whole case, and how well you used the facts about the Planorbis. I wish I
had studied this latter case more carefully. The manner in which, as you
show, the different varieties blend together and make a constant whole,
agrees perfectly with my hypothetical illustrations.
Many years ago the late E. Forbes described three closely consecutive beds
in a secondary formation, each with representative forms of the same fresh-
water shells: the case is evidently analogous with that of Hilgendorf
("Ueber Planorbis multiformis im Steinheimer Susswasser-kalk."
Monatsbericht of the Berlin Academy, 1866.), but the interesting connecting
varieties or links were here absent. I rejoice to think that I formerly
said as emphatically as I could, that neither isolation nor time by
themselves do anything for the modification of species. Hardly anything in
your essay has pleased me so much personally, as to find that you believe
to a certain extent in sexual selection. As far as I can judge, very few
naturalists believe in this. I may have erred on many points, and extended
the doctrine too far, but I feel a strong conviction that sexual selection
will hereafter be admitted to be a powerful agency. I cannot agree with
what you say about the taste for beauty in animals not easily varying. It
may be suspected that even the habit of viewing differently coloured
surrounding objects would influence their taste, and Fritz Muller even goes
so far as to believe that the sight of gaudy butterflies might influence
the taste of distinct species. There are many remarks and statements in
your essay which have interested me greatly, and I thank you for the
pleasure which I have received from reading it.
With sincere respect, I remain,
My dear Sir, yours very faithfully,
P.S.--If you should ever be induced to consider the whole doctrine of
sexual selection, I think that you will be led to the conclusion, that
characters thus gained by one sex are very commonly transferred in a
greater or less degree to the other sex.
[With regard to Moritz Wagner's first Essay, my father wrote to that
naturalist, apparently in 1868:]
Dear and respected Sir,
I thank you sincerely for sending me your 'Migrationsgesetz, etc.,' and for
the very kind and most honourable notice which you have taken of my works.
That a naturalist who has travelled into so many and such distant regions,
and who has studied animals of so many classes, should, to a considerable
extent, agree with me, is, I can assure you, the highest gratification of
which I am capable...Although I saw the effects of isolation in the case of
islands and mountain-ranges, and knew of a few instances of rivers, yet the
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