Thus the second part of the Sketch corresponds roughly to the nine concluding Chapters of the First Edition of the 'Origin.' But we must exclude Chapter VII. ('Origin') on Instinct, which forms a chapter in the first part of the Sketch, and Chapter VIII. ('Origin') on Hybridism, a subject treated in the Sketch with 'Variation under Nature' in the first part.
The following list of the chapters of the second part of the Sketch will illustrate their correspondence with the final chapters of the 'Origin.'
Chapter I. "On the kind of intermediateness necessary, and the number of such intermediate forms." This includes a geological discussion, and corresponds to parts of Chapters VI. and IX. of the 'Origin.'
Chapter II. "The gradual appearance and disappearance of organic beings." Corresponds to Chapter X. of the 'Origin.'
Chapter III. "Geographical Distribution." Corresponds to Chapters XI. and XII. of the 'Origin.'
Chapter IV. "Affinities and Classification of Organic beings."
Chapter V. "Unity of Type," Morphology, Embryology.
Chapter VI. Rudimentary Organs.
These three chapters correspond to Chapter XII. of the 'Origin.'
Chapter VII. Recapitulation and Conclusion. The final sentence of the Sketch, which we saw in its first rough form in the Note Book of 1837, closely resembles the final sentence of the 'Origin,' much of it being identical. The 'Origin' is not divided into two "Parts," but we see traces of such a division having been present in the writer's mind, in this resemblance between the second part of the Sketch and the final chapters of the 'Origin.' That he should speak ('Origin,' Introduction, page 5.) of the chapters on transition, on instinct, on hybridism, and on the geological record, as forming a group, may be due to the division of his early MS. into two parts.
Mr. Huxley, who was good enough to read the Sketch at my request, while remarking that the "main lines of argument," and the illustrations employed are the same, points out that in the 1844 Essay, "much more weight is attached to the influence of external conditions in producing variation, and to the inheritance of acquired habits than in the Origin.'"
It is extremely interesting to find in the Sketch the first mention of principles familiar to us in the 'Origin of Species.' Foremost among these may be mentioned the principle of Sexual Selection, which is clearly enunciated. The important form of selection known as "unconscious," is also given. Here also occurs a statement of the law that peculiarities tend to appear in the offspring at an age corresponding to that at which they occurred in the parent.
Professor Newton, who was so kind as to look through the 1844 Sketch, tells me that my father's remarks on the migration of birds, incidentally given in more than one passage, show that he had anticipated the views of some later writers.
With regard to the general style of the Sketch, it is not to be expected that it should have all the characteristics of the 'Origin,' and we do not, in fact, find that balance and control, that concentration and grasp, which are so striking in the work of 1859.
In the Autobiography (page 68, volume 1) my father has stated what seemed to him the chief flaw of the 1844 Sketch; he had overlooked "one problem of great importance," the problem of the divergence of character. This point is discussed in the 'Origin of Species,' but, as it may not be familiar to all readers, I will give a short account of the difficulty and its solution. The author begins by stating that varieties differ from each other less than species, and then goes on: "Nevertheless, according to my view, varieties are species in process of formation...How then does the lesser difference between varieties become augmented into the greater difference between species?" ('Origin,' 1st edition, page 111.) He shows how an analogous divergence takes place under domestication where an originally uniform stock of horses has been split up into race-horses, dray-horses, etc., and then goes on to explain how the same principle applies to natural species. "From the simple circumstance that the more diversified the descendants from any one species become in structure, constitution, and habits, by so much will they be better enabled to seize on many and widely diversified places in the polity of nature, and so be enabled to increase in numbers."
The principle is exemplified by the fact that if on one plot of ground a single variety of wheat be sown, and on to another a mixture of varieties, in the latter case the produce is greater. More individuals have been able to exist because they were not all of the same variety. An organism becomes more perfect and more fitted to survive when by division of labour the different functions of life are performed by different organs. In the same way a species becomes more efficient and more able to survive when different sections of the species become differentiated so as to fill different stations.
In reading the Sketch of 1844, I have found it difficult to recognise the absence of any definite statement of the principle of divergence as a flaw in the Essay. Descent with modification implies divergence, and we become so habituated to a belief in descent, and therefore in divergence, that we do not notice the absence of proof that divergence is in itself an advantage. As shown in the Autobiography, my father in 1876 found it hardly credible that he should have overlooked the problem and its solution.
The following letter will be more in place here than its chronological position, since it shows what was my father's feeling as to the value of the Sketch at the time of its completion.]
CHARLES DARWIN TO MRS. DARWIN. Down, July 5, 1844.
I have just finished my sketch of my species theory. If, as I believe, my theory in time be accepted even by one competent judge, it will be a considerable step in science.
I therefore write this in case of my sudden death, as my most solemn and last request, which I am sure you will consider the same as if legally entered in my will, that you will devote 400 pounds to its publication, and further, will yourself, or through Hensleigh (Mr. H. Wedgwood.), take trouble in promoting it. I wish that my sketch be given to some competent person, with this sum to induce him to take trouble in its improvement and enlargement. I give to him all my books on Natural History, which are either scored or have references at the end to the pages, begging him carefully to look over and consider such passages as actually bearing, or by possibility bearing, on this subject. I wish you to make a list of all such books as some temptation to an editor. I also request that you will hand over [to] him all those scraps roughly divided in eight or ten brown paper portfolios. The scraps, with copied quotations from various works, are those which may aid my editor. I also request that you, or some amanuensis, will aid in deciphering any of the scraps which the editor may think possibly of use. I leave to the editor's judgment whether to interpolate these facts in the text, or as notes, or under appendices. As the looking over the references and scraps will be a long labour, and as the CORRECTING and enlarging and altering my sketch will also take considerable time, I leave this sum of 400 pounds as some remuneration, and any profits from the work. I consider that for this the editor is bound to get the sketch published either at a publisher's or his own risk. Many of the scrap in the portfolios contains mere rude suggestions and early views, now useless, and many of the facts will probably turn out as having no bearing on my theory.
With respect to editors, Mr. Lyell would be the best if he would undertake it; I believe he would find the work pleasant, and he would learn some facts new to him. As the editor must be a geologist as well as a naturalist, the next best editor would be Professor Forbes of London. The next best (and quite best in many respects) would be Professor Henslow. Dr. Hooker would be VERY good. The next, Mr. Strickland. (After Mr. Strickland's name comes the following sentence, which has been erased but remained legible. "Professor Owen would be very good; but I presume he would not undertake such a work." If none of these would undertake it, I would request you to consult with Mr. Lyell, or some other capable man for some editor, a geologist and naturalist. Should one other hundred pounds make the difference of procuring a good editor, request earnestly that you will raise 500 pounds.
My remaining collections in Natural History may be given to any one or any museum where it would be accepted...
[The following note seems to have formed part of the original letter, but may have been of later date:
"Lyell, especially with the aid of Hooker (and of any good zoological aid), would be best of all. Without an editor will pledge himself to give up time to it, it would be of no use paying such a sum.
"If there should be any difficulty in getting an editor who would go thoroughly into the subject, and think of the bearing of the passages marked in the books and copied out of scraps of paper, then let my sketch be published as it is, stating that it was done several years ago (The words "several years ago and," seem to have been added at a later date.) and from memory without consulting any works, and with no intention of publication in its present form."
The idea that the Sketch of 1844 might remain, in the event of his death, as the only record of his work, seems to have been long in his mind, for in August 1854, when he had finished with the Cirripedes, and was thinking of beginning his "species work," he added on the back of the above letter, "Hooker by far best man to edit my species volume. August 1854."]
THE GROWTH OF THE 'ORIGIN OF SPECIES.'
[The history of my father's life is told more completely in his correspondence with Sir J.D. Hooker than in any other series of letters; and this is especially true of the history of the growth of the 'Origin of Species.' This, therefore, seems an appropriate place for the following notes, which Sir Joseph Hooker has kindly given me. They give, moreover, an interesting picture of his early friendship with my father:—
"My first meeting with Mr. Darwin was in 1839, in Trafalgar Square. I was walking with an officer who had been his shipmate for a short time in the "Beagle" seven years before, but who had not, I believe, since met him. I was introduced; the interview was of course brief, and the memory of him that I carried away and still retain was that of a rather tall and rather broad-shouldered man, with a slight stoop, an agreeable and animated expression when talking, beetle brows, and a hollow but mellow voice; and that his greeting of his old acquaintance was sailor-like—that is, delightfully frank and cordial. I observed him well, for I was already aware of his attainments and labours, derived from having read various proof-sheets of his then unpublished 'Journal.' These had been submitted to Mr. (afterwards Sir Charles) Lyell by Mr. Darwin, and by him sent to his father, Ch. Lyell, Esq., of Kinnordy, who (being a very old friend of my father and taking a kind interest in my projected career as a naturalist) had allowed me to peruse them. At this time I was hurrying on my studies, so as to take my degree before volunteering to accompany Sir James Ross in the Antarctic Expedition, which had just been determined on by the Admiralty; and so pressed for time was I, that I used to sleep with the sheets of the 'Journal' under my pillow, that I might read them between waking and rising. They impressed me profoundly, I might say despairingly, with the variety of acquirements, mental and physical, required in a naturalist who should follow in Darwin's footsteps, whilst they stimulated me to enthusiasm in the desire to travel and observe.
"It has been a permanent source of happiness to me that I knew so much of Mr. Darwin's scientific work so many years before that intimacy began which ripened into feelings as near to those of reverence for his life, works, and character as is reasonable and proper. It only remains to add to this little episode that I received a copy of the 'Journal' complete,—a gift from Mr. Lyell,—a few days before leaving England.
"Very soon after the return of the Antarctic Expedition my correspondence with Mr. Darwin began (December, 1843) by his sending me a long letter, warmly congratulating me on my return to my family and friends, and expressing a wish to hear more of the results of the expedition, of which he had derived some knowledge from private letters of my own (written to or communicated through Mr. Lyell). Then, plunging at once into scientific matters, he directed my attention to the importance of correlating the Fuegian Flora with that of the Cordillera and of Europe, and invited me to study the botanical collections which he had made in the Galapagos Islands, as well as his Patagonian and Fuegian plants.
"This led to me sending him an outline of the conclusions I had formed regarding the distribution of plants in the southern regions, and the necessity of assuming the destruction of considerable areas of land to account for the relations of the flora of the so-called Antarctic Islands. I do not suppose that any of these ideas were new to him, but they led to an animated and lengthy correspondence full of instruction."
Here follows the letter (1843) to Sir J.D. Hooker above referred to.]
My dear Sir,
I had hoped before this time to have had the pleasure of seeing you and congratulating you on your safe return from your long and glorious voyage. But as I seldom go to London, we may not yet meet for some time—without you are led to attend the Geological Meetings.
I am anxious to know what you intend doing with all your materials—I had so much pleasure in reading parts of some of your letters, that I shall be very sorry if I, as one of the public, have no opportunity of reading a good deal more. I suppose you are very busy now and full of enjoyment: how well I remember the happiness of my first few months of England—it was worth all the discomforts of many a gale! But I have run from the subject, which made me write, of expressing my pleasure that Henslow (as he informed me a few days since by letter) has sent to you my small collection of plants. You cannot think how much pleased I am, as I feared they would have been all lost, and few as they are, they cost me a good deal of trouble. There are a very few notes, which I believe Henslow has got, describing the habitats, etc., of some few of the more remarkable plants. I paid particular attention to the Alpine flowers of Tierra del Fuego, and I am sure I got every plant which was in flower in Patagonia at the seasons when we were there. I have long thought that some general sketch of the Flora of the point of land, stretching so far into the southern seas, would be very curious. Do make comparative remarks on the species allied to the European species, for the advantage of botanical ignoramuses like myself. It has often struck me as a curious point to find out, whether there are many European genera in Tierra del Fuego which are not found along the ridge of the Cordillera; the separation in such case would be so enormous. Do point out in any sketch you draw up, what genera are American and what European, and how great the differences of the species are, when the genera are European, for the sake of the ignoramuses.
I hope Henslow will send you my Galapagos plants (about which Humboldt even expressed to me considerable curiosity)—I took much pains in collecting all I could. A Flora of this archipelago would, I suspect, offer a nearly parallel case to that of St. Helena, which has so long excited interest. Pray excuse this long rambling note, and believe me, my dear sir, yours very sincerely,
Will you be so good as to present my respectful compliments to Sir W. Hooker.
[Referring to Sir J.D. Hooker's work on the Galapagos Flora, my father wrote in 1846:
"I cannot tell you how delighted and astonished I am at the results of your examination; how wonderfully they support my assertion on the differences in the animals of the different islands, about which I have always been fearful."
Again he wrote (1849):—
"I received a few weeks ago your Galapagos papers (These papers include the results of Sir J.D. Hooker's examination of my father's Galapagos plants, and were published by the Linnean Society in 1849.), and I have read them since being here. I really cannot express too strongly my admiration of the geographical discussion: to my judgment it is a perfect model of what such a paper should be; it took me four days to read and think over. How interesting the Flora of the Sandwich Islands appears to be, how I wish there were materials for you to treat its flora as you have done the Galapagos. In the Systematic paper I was rather disappointed in not finding general remarks on affinities, structures, etc., such as you often give in conversation, and such as De Candolle and St. Hilaire introduced in almost all their papers, and which make them interesting even to a non- Botanist."
"Very soon afterwards [continues Sir J.D. Hooker] in a letter dated January 1844, the subject of the 'Origin of Species' was brought forward by him, and I believe that I was the first to whom he communicated his then new ideas on the subject, and which being of interest as a contribution to the history of Evolution, I here copy from his letter":—]
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. [January 11th, 1844.]
Besides a general interest about the southern lands, I have been now ever since my return engaged in a very presumptuous work, and I know no one individual who would not say a very foolish one. I was so struck with the distribution of the Galapagos organisms, etc. etc., and with the character of the American fossil mammifers, etc. etc., that I determined to collect blindly every sort of fact, which could bear any way on what are species. I have read heaps of agricultural and horticultural books, and have never ceased collecting facts. At last gleams of light have come, and I am almost convinced (quite contrary to the opinion I started with) that species are not (it is like confessing a murder) immutable. Heaven forfend me from Lamarck nonsense of a "tendency to progression," "adaptations from the slow willing of animals," etc.! But the conclusions I am led to are not widely different from his; though the means of change are wholly so. I think I have found out (here's presumption!) the simple way by which species become exquisitely adapted to various ends. You will now groan, and think to yourself, "on what a man have I been wasting my time and writing to." I should, five years ago, have thought so...
[The following letter written on February 23, 1844, shows that the acquaintanceship with Sir J.D. Hooker was then fast ripening into friendship. The letter is chiefly of interest as showing the sort of problems then occupying my father's mind:]
I hope you will excuse the freedom of my address, but I feel that as co- circum-wanderers and as fellow labourers (though myself a very weak one) we may throw aside some of the old-world formality...I have just finished a little volume on the volcanic islands which we visited. I do not know how far you care for dry simple geology, but I hope you will let me send you a copy. I suppose I can send it from London by common coach conveyance.
...I am going to ask you some MORE questions, though I daresay, without asking them, I shall see answers in your work, when published, which will be quite time enough for my purposes. First for the Galapagos, you will see in my Journal, that the Birds, though peculiar species, have a most obvious S. American aspect: I have just ascertained the same thing holds good with the sea-shells. It is so with those plants which are peculiar to this archipelago; you state that their numerical proportions are continental (is not this a very curious fact?) but are they related in forms to S. America. Do you know of any other case of an archipelago, with the separate islands possessing distinct representative species? I have always intended (but have not yet done so) to examine Webb and Berthelot on the Canary Islands for this object. Talking with Mr. Bentham, he told me that the separate islands of the Sandwich Archipelago possessed distinct representative species of the same genera of Labiatae: would not this be worth your enquiry? How is it with the Azores; to be sure the heavy western gales would tend to diffuse the same species over that group.
I hope you will (I dare say my hope is quite superfluous) attend to this general kind of affinity in isolated islands, though I suppose it is more difficult to perceive this sort of relation in plants, than in birds or quadrupeds, the groups of which are, I fancy, rather more confined. Can St. Helena be classed, though remotely, either with Africa or S. America? >From some facts, which I have collected, I have been led to conclude that the fauna of mountains are EITHER remarkably similar (sometimes in the presence of the same species and at other times of same genera), OR that they are remarkably dissimilar; and it has occurred to me that possibly part of this peculiarity of the St. Helena and Galapagos floras may be attributed to a great part of these two Floras being mountain Floras. I fear my notes will hardly serve to distinguish much of the habitats of the Galapagos plants, but they may in some cases; most, if not all, of the green, leafy plants come from the summits of the islands, and the thin brown leafless plants come from the lower arid parts: would you be so kind as to bear this remark in mind, when examining my collection.
I will trouble you with only one other question. In discussion with Mr. Gould, I found that in most of the genera of birds which range over the whole or greater part of the world, the individual species have wider ranges, thus the Owl is mundane, and many of the species have very wide ranges. So I believe it is with land and fresh-water shells—and I might adduce other cases. Is it not so with Cryptogamic plants; have not most of the species wide ranges, in those genera which are mundane? I do not suppose that the converse holds, viz.—that when a species has a wide range, its genus also ranges wide. Will you so far oblige me by occasionally thinking over this? It would cost me vast trouble to get a list of mundane phanerogamic genera and then search how far the species of these genera are apt to range wide in their several countries; but you might occasionally, in the course of your pursuits, just bear this in mind, though perhaps the point may long since have occurred to you or other Botanists. Geology is bringing to light interesting facts, concerning the ranges of shells; I think it is pretty well established, that according as the geographical range of a species is wide, so is its persistence and duration in time. I hope you will try to grudge as little as you can the trouble of my letters, and pray believe me very truly yours,
P.S. I should feel extremely obliged for your kind offer of the sketch of Humboldt; I venerate him, and after having had the pleasure of conversing with him in London, I shall still more like to have any portrait of him.
[What follows is quoted from Sir J. Hooker's notes. "The next act in the drama of our lives opens with personal intercourse. This began with an invitation to breakfast with him at his brother's (Erasmus Darwin's) house in Park Street; which was shortly afterwards followed by an invitation to Down to meet a few brother Naturalists. In the short intervals of good health that followed the long illnesses which oftentimes rendered life a burthen to him, between 1844 and 1847, I had many such invitations, and delightful they were. A more hospitable and more attractive home under every point of view could not be imagined—of Society there were most often Dr. Falconer, Edward Forbes, Professor Bell, and Mr. Waterhouse—there were long walks, romps with the children on hands and knees, music that haunts me still. Darwin's own hearty manner, hollow laugh, and thorough enjoyment of home life with friends; strolls with him all together, and interviews with us one by one in his study, to discuss questions in any branch of biological or physical knowledge that we had followed; and which I at any rate always left with the feeling that I had imparted nothing and carried away more than I could stagger under. Latterly, as his health became more seriously affected, I was for days and weeks the only visitor, bringing my work with me and enjoying his society as opportunity offered. It was an established rule that he every day pumped me, as he called it, for half an hour or so after breakfast in his study, when he first brought out a heap of slips with questions botanical, geographical, etc., for me to answer, and concluded by telling me of the progress he had made in his own work, asking my opinion on various points. I saw no more of him till about noon, when I heard his mellow ringing voice calling my name under my window—this was to join him in his daily forenoon walk round the sand-walk. On joining him I found him in a rough grey shooting-coat in summer, and thick cape over his shoulders in winter, and a stout staff in his hand; away we trudged through the garden, where there was always some experiment to visit, and on to the sand-walk, round which a fixed number of turns were taken, during which our conversation usually ran on foreign lands and seas, old friends, old books, and things far off to both mind and eye.
"In the afternoon there was another such walk, after which he again retired till dinner if well enough to join the family; if not, he generally managed to appear in the drawing-room, where seated in his high chair, with his feet in enormous carpet shoes, supported on a high stool—he enjoyed the music or conversation of his family."
Here follows a series of letters illustrating the growth of my father's views, and the nature of his work during this period.]
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Down .
...The conclusion, which I have come at is, that those areas, in which species are most numerous, have oftenest been divided and isolated from other areas, united and again divided; a process implying antiquity and some changes in the external conditions. This will justly sound very hypothetical. I cannot give my reasons in detail; but the most general conclusion, which the geographical distribution of all organic beings, appears to me to indicate, is that isolation is the chief concomitant or cause of the appearance of NEW forms (I well know there are some staring exceptions). Secondly, from seeing how often the plants and animals swarm in a country, when introduced into it, and from seeing what a vast number of plants will live, for instance in England, if kept FREE FROM WEEDS, AND NATIVE PLANTS, I have been led to consider that the spreading and number of the organic beings of any country depend less on its external features, than on the number of forms, which have been there originally created or produced. I much doubt whether you will find it possible to explain the number of forms by proportional differences of exposure; and I cannot doubt if half the species in any country were destroyed or had not been created, yet that country would appear to us fully peopled. With respect to original creation or production of new forms, I have said that isolation appears the chief element. Hence, with respect to terrestrial productions, a tract of country, which had oftenest within the late geological periods subsided and been converted into islands, and reunited, I should expect to contain most forms.
But such speculations are amusing only to one self, and in this case useless, as they do not show any direct line of observation: if I had seen how hypothetical [is] the little, which I have unclearly written, I would not have troubled you with the reading of it. Believe me,—at last not hypothetically,
Yours very sincerely, C. DARWIN.
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, 1844.
...I forget my last letter, but it must have been a very silly one, as it seems I gave my notion of the number of species being in great degree governed by the degree to which the area had been often isolated and divided; I must have been cracked to have written it, for I have no evidence, without a person be willing to admit all my views, and then it does follow; but in my most sanguine moments, all I expect, is that I shall be able to show even to sound Naturalists, that there are two sides to the question of the immutability of species;—that facts can be viewed and grouped under the notion of allied species having descended from common stocks. With respect to books on this subject, I do not know of any systematical ones, except Lamarck's, which is veritable rubbish; but there are plenty, as Lyell, Pritchard, etc., on the view of the immutability. Agassiz lately has brought the strongest argument in favour of immutability. Isidore G. St. Hilaire has written some good Essays, tending towards the mutability-side, in the 'Suites a Buffon,' entitled "Zoolog. Generale." Is it not strange that the author, of such a book as the 'Animaux sans Vertebres,' should have written that insects, which never see their eggs, should WILL (and plants, their seeds) to be of particular forms, so as to become attached to particular objects. The other, common (specially Germanic) notion is hardly less absurd, viz. that climate, food, etc., should make a Pediculus formed to climb hair, or wood-pecker, to climb trees. I believe all these absurd views arise, from no one having, as far as I know, approached the subject on the side of variation under domestication, and having studied all that is known about domestication. I was very glad to hear your criticism on island-floras and on non-diffusion of plants: the subject is too long for a letter: I could defend myself to some considerable extent, but I doubt whether successfully in your eyes, or indeed in my own...
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Down [July, 1844].
...I am now reading a wonderful book for facts on variation—Bronn, 'Geschichte der Natur.' It is stiff German: it forestalls me, sometimes I think delightfully, and sometimes cruelly. You will be ten times hereafter more horrified at me than at H. Watson. I hate arguments from results, but on my views of descent, really Natural History becomes a sublimely grand result-giving subject (now you may quiz me for so foolish an escape of mouth)...I must leave this letter till to-morrow, for I am tired; but I so enjoy writing to you, that I must inflict a little more on you.
Have you any good evidence for absence of insects in small islands? I found thirteen species in Keeling Atoll. Flies are good fertilizers, and I have seen a microscopic Thrips and a Cecidomya take flight from a flower in the direction of another with pollen adhering to them. In Arctic countries a bee seems to go as far N. as any flower...
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Shrewsbury [September, 1845].
My dear Hooker,
I write a line to say that Cosmos (A translation of Humboldt's 'Kosmos.') arrived quite safely [N.B. One sheet came loose in Part I.}, and to thank you for your nice note. I have just begun the introduction, and groan over the style, which in such parts is full half the battle. How true many of the remarks are (i.e. as far as I can understand the wretched English) on the scenery; it is an exact expression of one's own thoughts.
I wish I ever had any books to lend you in return for the many you have lent me...
All of what you kindly say about my species work does not alter one iota my long self-acknowledged presumption in accumulating facts and speculating on the subject of variation, without having worked out my due share of species. But now for nine years it has been anyhow the greatest amusement to me.
Farewell, my dear Hooker, I grieve more than you can well believe, over our prospect of so seldom meeting.
I have never perceived but one fault in you, and that you have grievously, viz. modesty; you form an exception to Sydney Smith's aphorism, that merit and modesty have no other connection, except in their first letter.
Farewell, C. DARWIN.
CHARLES DARWIN TO L. JENYNS (BLOMEFIELD). Down, October 12th, .
My dear Jenyns,
Thanks for your note. I am sorry to say I have not even the tail-end of a fact in English Zoology to communicate. I have found that even trifling observations require, in my case, some leisure and energy, both of which ingredients I have had none to spare, as writing my Geology thoroughly expends both. I had always thought that I would keep a journal and record everything, but in the way I now live I find I observe nothing to record. Looking after my garden and trees, and occasionally a very little walk in an idle frame of mind, fills up every afternoon in the same manner. I am surprised that with all your parish affairs, you have had time to do all that which you have done. I shall be very glad to see your little work (Mr. Jenyns' 'Observations in Natural History.' It is prefaced by an Introduction on "Habits of observing as connected with the study of Natural History," and followed by a "Calendar of Periodic Phenomena in Natural History," with "Remarks on the importance of such Registers." My father seems to be alluding to this Register in the P.S. to the letter dated October 17, 1846.) (and proud should I have been if I could have added a single fact to it). My work on the species question has impressed me very forcibly with the importance of all such works as your intended one, containing what people are pleased generally to call trifling facts. These are the facts which make one understand the working or economy of nature. There is one subject, on which I am very curious, and which perhaps you may throw some light on, if you have ever thought on it; namely, what are the checks and what the periods of life,—by which the increase of any given species is limited. Just calculate the increase of any bird, if you assume that only half the young are reared, and these breed: within the NATURAL (i.e., if free from accidents) life of the parents the number of individuals will become enormous, and I have been much surprised to think how great destruction MUST annually or occasionally be falling on every species, yet the means and period of such destruction is scarcely perceived by us.
I have continued steadily reading and collecting facts on variation of domestic animals and plants, and on the question of what are species. I have a grand body of facts, and I think I can draw some sound conclusions. The general conclusions at which I have slowly been driven from a directly opposite conviction, is that species are mutable, and that allied species are co-descendants from common stocks. I know how much I open myself to reproach for such a conclusion, but I have at least honestly and deliberately come to it. I shall not publish on this subject for several years. At present I am on the Geology of South America. I hope to pick up from your book some facts on slight variations in structure or instincts in the animals of your acquaintance.
Believe me, ever yours, C. DARWIN.
CHARLES DARWIN TO L. JENYNS (REV. L. BLOMEFIELD). Down, [1845?].
My dear Jenyns,
I am very much obliged to you for the trouble you have taken in having written me so long a note. The question of where, when, and how the check to the increase of a given species falls appears to me particularly interesting, and our difficulty in answering it shows how really ignorant we are of the lives and habits of our most familiar species. I was aware of the bare fact of old birds driving away their young, but had never thought of the effect you so clearly point out, of local gaps in number being thus immediately filled up. But the original difficulty remains; for if your farmers had not killed your sparrows and rooks, what would have become of those which now immigrate into your parish? in the middle of England one is too far distant from the natural limits of the rook and sparrow to suppose that the young are thus far expelled from Cambridgeshire. The check must fall heavily at some time of each species' life; for, if one calculates that only half the progeny are reared and bred, how enormous is the increase! One has, however, no business to feel so much surprise at one's ignorance, when one knows how impossible it is without statistics to conjecture the duration of life and percentage of deaths to births in mankind. If it could be shown that apparently the birds of passage WHICH BREED HERE and increase, return in the succeeding years in about the same number, whereas those that come here for their winter and non-breeding season annually, come here with the same numbers, but return with greatly decreased numbers, one would know (as indeed seems probable) that the check fell chiefly on full-grown birds in the winter season, and not on the eggs and very young birds, which has appeared to me often the most probable period. If at any time any remarks on this subject should occur to you, I should be most grateful for the benefit of them.
With respect to my far distant work on species, I must have expressed myself with singular inaccuracy if I led you to suppose that I meant to say that my conclusions were inevitable. They have become so, after years of weighing puzzles, to myself ALONE; but in my wildest day-dream, I never expect more than to be able to show that there are two sides to the question of the immutability of species, i.e. whether species are DIRECTLY created or by intermediate laws (as with the life and death of individuals). I did not approach the subject on the side of the difficulty in determining what are species and what are varieties, but (though, why I should give you such a history of my doings it would be hard to say) from such facts as the relationship between the living and extinct mammifers in South America, and between those living on the Continent and on adjoining islands, such as the Galapagos. It occured to me that a collection of all such analogous facts would throw light either for or against the view of related species being co-descendants from a common stock. A long searching amongst agricultural and horticultural books and people makes me believe (I well know how absurdly presumptuous this must appear) that I see the way in which new varieties become exquisitely adapted to the external conditions of life and to other surrounding beings. I am a bold man to lay myself open to being thought a complete fool, and a most deliberate one. From the nature of the grounds which make me believe that species are mutable in form, these grounds cannot be restricted to the closest-allied species; but how far they extend I cannot tell, as my reasons fall away by degrees, when applied to species more and more remote from each other. Pray do not think that I am so blind as not to see that there are numerous immense difficulties in my notions, but they appear to me less than on the common view. I have drawn up a sketch and had it copied (in 200 pages) of my conclusions; and if I thought at some future time that you would think it worth reading, I should, of course, be most thankful to have the criticism of so competent a critic. Excuse this very long and egotistical and ill- written letter, which by your remarks you had led me into, and believe me,
Yours very truly, C. DARWIN.
CHARLES DARWIN TO L. JENYNS (BLOMEFIELD). Down, October 17th, 1846.
I have taken a most ungrateful length of time in thanking you for your very kind present of your 'Observations.' But I happened to have had in hand several other books, and have finished yours only a few days ago. I found it very pleasant reading, and many of your facts interested me much. I think I was more interested, which is odd, with your notes on some of the lower animals than on the higher ones. The introduction struck me as very good; but this is what I expected, for I well remember being quite delighted with a preliminary essay to the first number of the 'Annals of Natural History.' I missed one discussion, and think myself ill-used, for I remember your saying you would make some remarks on the weather and barometer, as a guide for the ignorant in prediction. I had also hoped to have perhaps met with some remarks on the amount of variation in our common species. Andrew Smith once declared he would get some hundreds of specimens of larks and sparrows from all parts of Great Britain, and see whether, with finest measurements, he could detect any proportional variations in beaks or limbs, etc. This point interests me from having lately been skimming over the absurdly opposite conclusions of Gloger and Brehm; the one making half-a-dozen species out of every common bird, and the other turning so many reputed species into one. Have you ever done anything of this kind, or have you ever studied Gloger's or Brehm's works? I was interested in your account of the martins, for I had just before been utterly perplexed by noticing just such a proceeding as you describe: I counted seven, one day lately, visiting a single nest and sticking dirt on the adjoining wall. I may mention that I once saw some squirrels eagerly splitting those little semi-transparent spherical galls on the back of oak- leaves for the maggot within; so that they are insectivorous. A Cychrus rostratus once squirted into my eyes and gave me extreme pain; and I must tell you what happened to me on the banks of the Cam, in my early entomological days: under a piece of bark I found two Carabi (I forget which), and caught one in each hand, when lo and behold I saw a sacred Panagaeus crux major! I could not bear to give up either of my Carabi, and to lose Panagaeus was out of the question; so that in despair I gently seized one of the Carabi between my teeth, when to my unspeakable disgust and pain the little inconsiderate beast squirted his acid down my throat, and I lost both Carabi and Panagaeus! I was quite astonished to hear of a terrestrial Planaria; for about a year or two ago I described in the 'Annals of Natural History' several beautifully coloured terrestrial species of the Southern Hemisphere, and thought it quite a new fact. By the way, you speak of a sheep with a broken leg not having flukes: I have heard my father aver that a fever, or any SERIOUS ACCIDENT, as a broken limb, will cause in a man all the intestinal worms to be evacuated. Might not this possibly have been the case with the flukes in their early state?
I hope you were none the worse for Southampton (The meeting of the British Association.); I wish I had seen you looking rather fatter. I enjoyed my week extremely, and it did me good. I missed you the last few days, and we never managed to see much of each other; but there were so many people there, that I for one hardly saw anything of any one. Once again I thank you very cordially for your kind present, and the pleasure it has given me, and believe me,
Ever most truly yours, C. DARWIN.
P.S.—I have quite forgotten to say how greatly interested I was with your discussion on the statistics of animals: when will Natural History be so perfect that such points as you discuss will be perfectly known about any one animal?
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Malvern, June 13 .
...At last I am going to press with a small poor first-fruit of my confounded Cirripedia, viz. the fossil pedunculate cirripedia. You ask what effect studying species has had on my variation theories; I do not think much—I have felt some difficulties more. On the other hand, I have been struck (and probably unfairly from the class) with the variability of every part in some slight degree of every species. When the same organ is RIGOROUSLY compared in many individuals, I always find some slight variability, and consequently that the diagnosis of species from minute differences is always dangerous. I had thought the same parts of the same species more resemble (than they do anyhow in Cirripedia) objects cast in the same mould. Systematic work would be easy were it not for this confounded variation, which, however, is pleasant to me as a speculatist, though odious to me as a systematist. Your remarks on the distinctness (so unpleasant to me) of the Himalayan Rubi, willows, etc., compared with those of northern [Europe?], etc., are very interesting; if my rude species- sketch had any SMALL share in leading you to these observations, it has already done good and ample service, and may lay its bones in the earth in peace. I never heard anything so strange as Falconer's neglect of your letters; I am extremely glad you are cordial with him again, though it must have cost you an effort. Falconer is a man one must love...May you prosper in every way, my dear Hooker.
Your affectionate friend, C. DARWIN.
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, Wednesday [September, n.d.].
...Many thanks for your letter received yesterday, which, as always, set me thinking: I laughed at your attack at my stinginess in changes of level towards Forbes (Edward Forbes, 1815-1854, born in the Isle of Man. His best known work was his Report on the distribution of marine animals at different depths in the Mediterranean. An important memoir of his is referred to in my father's 'Autobiography.' He held successively the posts of Curator to the Geological Society's Museum, and Professor of Natural History in the Museum of Practical Geology; shortly before he died he was appointed Professor of Natural History in the University of Edinburgh. He seems to have impressed his contemporaries as a man of strikingly versatile and vigorous mind. The above allusion to changes of level refers to Forbes's tendency to explain the facts of geographical distribution by means of an active geological imagination.), being so liberal towards myself; but I must maintain, that I have never let down or upheaved our mother-earth's surface, for the sake of explaining any one phenomenon, and I trust I have very seldom done so without some distinct evidence. So I must still think it a bold step (perhaps a very true one) to sink into the depths of ocean, within the period of existing species, so large a tract of surface. But there is no amount or extent of change of level, which I am not fully prepared to admit, but I must say I should like better evidence, than the identity of a few plants, which POSSIBLY (I do not say probably) might have been otherwise transported. Particular thanks for your attempt to get me a copy of 'L'Espece' (Probably Godron's essay, published by the Academy of Nancy in 1848-49, and afterwards as a separate book in 1859.), and almost equal thanks for your criticisms on him: I rather misdoubted him, and felt not much inclined to take as gospel his facts. I find this one of my greatest difficulties with foreign authors, viz. judging of their credibility. How painfully (to me) true is your remark, that no one has hardly a right to examine the question of species who has not minutely described many. I was, however, pleased to hear from Owen (who is vehemently opposed to any mutability in species), that he thought it was a very fair subject, and that there was a mass of facts to be brought to bear on the question, not hitherto collected. My only comfort is (as I mean to attempt the subject), that I have dabbled in several branches of Natural History, and seen good specific men work out my species, and know something of geology (an indispensable union); and though I shall get more kicks than half-pennies, I will, life serving, attempt my work. Lamarck is the only exception, that I can think of, of an accurate describer of species at least in the Invertebrate Kingdom, who has disbelieved in permanent species, but he in his absurd though clever work has done the subject harm, as has Mr. Vestiges, and, as (some future loose naturalist attempting the same speculations will perhaps say) has Mr. D...
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, September 25th .
My dear Hooker,
I have read your paper with great interest; it seems all very clear, and will form an admirable introduction to the New Zealand Flora, or to any Flora in the world. How few generalizers there are among systematists; I really suspect there is something absolutely opposed to each other and hostile in the two frames of mind required for systematising and reasoning on large collections of facts. Many of your arguments appear to me very well put, and, as far as my experience goes, the candid way in which you discuss the subject is unique. The whole will be very useful to me whenever I undertake my volume, though parts take the wind very completely out of my sails; it will be all nuts to me...for I have for some time determined to give the arguments on BOTH sides (as far as I could), instead of arguing on the mutability side alone.
In my own Cirripedial work (by the way, thank you for the dose of soft solder; it does one—or at least me—a great deal of good)—in my own work I have not felt conscious that disbelieving in the mere PERMANENCE of species has made much difference one way or the other; in some few cases (if publishing avowedly on doctrine of non-permanence), I should NOT have affixed names, and in some few cases should have affixed names to remarkable varieties. Certainly I have felt it humiliating, discussing and doubting, and examining over and over again, when in my own mind the only doubt has been whether the form varied TO-DAY OR YESTERDAY (not to put too fine a point on it, as Snagsby (In 'Bleak House.') would say). After describing a set of forms as distinct species, tearing up my MS., and making them one species, tearing that up and making them separate, and then making them one again (which has happened to me), I have gnashed my teeth, cursed species, and asked what sin I had committed to be so punished. But I must confess that perhaps nearly the same thing would have happened to me on any scheme of work.
I am heartily glad to hear your Journal (Sir J.D. Hooker's 'Himalayan Journal.') is so much advanced; how magnificently it seems to be illustrated! An "Oriental Naturalist," with lots of imagination and not too much regard to facts, is just the man to discuss species! I think your title of 'A Journal of a Naturalist in the East' very good; but whether "in the Himalaya" would not be better, I have doubted, for the East sounds rather vague...
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. .
My dear Hooker,
I have no remarks at all worth sending you, nor, indeed, was it likely that I should, considering how perfect and elaborated an essay it is. ('New Zealand Flora,' 1853.) As far as my judgment goes, it is the most important discussion on the points in question ever published. I can say no more. I agree with almost everything you say; but I require much time to digest an essay of such quality. It almost made me gloomy, partly from feeling I could not answer some points which theoretically I should have liked to have been different, and partly from seeing SO FAR BETTER DONE than I COULD have done, discussions on some points which I had intended to have taken up...
I much enjoyed the slaps you have given to the provincial species-mongers. I wish I could have been of the slightest use: I have been deeply interested by the whole essay, and congratulate you on having produced a memoir which I believe will be memorable. I was deep in it when your most considerate note arrived, begging me not to hurry. I thank Mrs. Hooker and yourself most sincerely for your wish to see me. I will not let another summer pass without seeing you at Kew, for indeed I should enjoy it much...
You do me really more honour than I have any claim to, putting me in after Lyell on ups and downs. In a year or two's time, when I shall be at my species book (if I do not break down), I shall gnash my teeth and abuse you for having put so many hostile facts so confoundedly well.
Ever yours affectionately, C. DARWIN.
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, March 26th .
My dear Hooker,
I had hoped that you would have had a little breathing-time after your Journal, but this seems to be very far from the case; and I am the more obliged (and somewhat contrite) for the long letter received this morning, MOST juicy with news and MOST interesting to me in many ways. I am very glad indeed to hear of the reforms, etc., in the Royal Society. With respect to the Club (The Philosophical Club, to which my father was elected (as Professor Bonney is good enough to inform me) on April 24, 1854. He resigned his membership in 1864. The Club was founded in 1847. The number of members being limited to 47, it was proposed to christen it "the Club of 47," but the name was never adopted. The nature of the Club may be gathered from its first rule: "The purpose of the Club is to promote as much as possible the scientific objects of the Royal Society; to facilitate intercourse between those Fellows who are actively engaged in cultivating the various branches of Natural Science, and who have contributed to its progress; to increase the attendance at the evening meetings, and to encourage the contribution and discussion of papers." The Club met for dinner (at first) at 6, and the chair was to be quitted at 8.15, it being expected that members would go to the Royal Society. Of late years the dinner has been at 6.30, the Society meeting in the afternoon.), I am deeply interested; only two or three days ago, I was regretting to my wife, how I was letting drop and being dropped by nearly all my acquaintances, and that I would endeavour to go oftener to London; I was not then thinking of the Club, which, as far as any one thing goes, would answer my exact object in keeping up old and making some new acquaintances. I will therefore come up to London for every (with rare exceptions) Club-day, and then my head, I think, will allow me on an average to go to every other meeting. But it is grievous how often any change knocks me up. I will further pledge myself, as I told Lyell, to resign after a year, if I did not attend pretty often, so that I should AT WORST encumber the Club temporarily. If you can get me elected, I certainly shall be very much pleased. Very many thanks for answers about Glaciers. I am very glad to hear of the second Edition (Of the Himalayan Journal.) so very soon; but am not surprised, for I have heard of several, in our small circle, reading it with very much pleasure. I shall be curious to hear what Humboldt will say: it will, I should think, delight him, and meet with more praise from him than any other book of Travels, for I cannot remember one, which has so many subjects in common with him. What a wonderful old fellow he is...By the way, I hope, when you go to Hitcham, towards the end of May, you will be forced to have some rest. I am grieved to hear that all the bad symptoms have not left Henslow; it is so strange and new to feel any uneasiness about his health. I am particularly obliged to you for sending me Asa Gray's letter; how very pleasantly he writes. To see his and your caution on the species-question ought to overwhelm me in confusion and shame; it does make me feel deuced uncomfortable...It is delightful to hear all that he says on Agassiz: how very singular it is that so EMINENTLY clever a man, with such IMMENSE knowledge on many branches of Natural History, should write as he does. Lyell told me that he was so delighted with one of his (Agassiz) lectures on progressive development, etc., etc., that he went to him afterwards and told him, "that it was so delightful, that he could not help all the time wishing it was true." I seldom see a Zoological paper from North America, without observing the impress of Agassiz's doctrines—another proof, by the way, of how great a man he is. I was pleased and surprised to see A. Gray's remarks on crossing, obliterating varieties, on which, as you know, I have been collecting facts for these dozen years. How awfully flat I shall feel, if when I get my notes together on species, etc., etc., the whole thing explodes like an empty puff-ball. Do not work yourself to death.
Ever yours most truly, C. DARWIN.
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, November 5th .
My dear Hooker,
I was delighted to get your note yesterday. I congratulate you very heartily (On the award to him of the Royal Society's Medal.), and whether you care much or little, I rejoice to see the highest scientific judgment- court in Great Britain recognise your claims. I do hope Mrs. Hooker is pleased, and E. desires me particularly to send her cordial congratulations ...I pity you from the very bottom of my heart about your after-dinner speech, which I fear I shall not hear. Without you have a very much greater soul than I have (and I believe that you have), you will find the medal a pleasant little stimulus, when work goes badly, and one ruminates that all is vanity, it is pleasant to have some tangible proof, that others have thought something of one's labours.
Good-bye my dear Hooker, I can assure [you] that we both most truly enjoyed your and Mrs. Hooker's visit here. Farewell.
My dear Hooker, your sincere friend, C. DARWIN.
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. March 7 .
...I have just finished working well at Wollaston's (Thomas Vernon Wollaston died (in his fifty-seventh year, as I believe) on January 4, 1878. His health forcing him in early manhood to winter in the south, he devoted himself to a study of the Coleoptera of Madeira, the Cape de Verdes, and St. Helena, whence he deduced evidence in support of the belief in the submerged continent of 'Atlantis.' In an obituary notice by Mr. Rye ('Nature,' 1878) he is described as working persistently "upon a broad conception of the science to which he was devoted," while being at the same time "accurate, elaborate, and precise ad punctum, and naturally of a minutely critical habit." His first scientific paper was written when he was an undergraduate at Jesus College, Cambridge. While at the University, he was an Associate and afterwards a Member of the Ray Club: this is a small society which still meets once a week, and where the undergraduate members, or Associates, receive much kindly encouragement from their elders.) 'Insecta Maderensia': it is an ADMIRABLE work. There is a very curious point in the astounding proportion of Coleoptera that are apterous; and I think I have guessed the reason, viz., that powers of flight would be injurious to insects inhabiting a confined locality, and expose them to be blown to the sea: to test this, I find that the insects inhabiting the Dezerte Grande, a quite small islet, would be still more exposed to this danger, and here the proportion of apterous insects is even considerably greater than on Madeira Proper. Wollaston speaks of Madeira and the other Archipelagoes as being "sure and certain witnesses of Forbes' old continent," and of course the Entomological world implicitly follows this view. But to my eyes it would be difficult to imagine facts more opposed to such a view. It is really disgusting and humiliating to see directly opposite conclusions drawn from the same facts.
I have had some correspondence with Wollaston on this and other subjects, and I find that he coolly assumes, (1) that formerly insects possessed greater migratory powers than now, (2) that the old land was SPECIALLY rich in centres of creation, (3) that the uniting land was destroyed before the special creations had time to diffuse, and (4) that the land was broken down before certain families and genera had time to reach from Europe or Africa the points of land in question. Are not these a jolly lot of assumptions? and yet I shall see for the next dozen or score of years Wollaston quoted as proving the former existence of poor Forbes' Atlantis.
I hope I have not wearied you, but I thought you would like to hear about this book, which strikes me as EXCELLENT in its facts, and the author a most nice and modest man.
Most truly yours, C. DARWIN.
CHARLES DARWIN TO W.D. FOX. Down, March 19th .
My dear Fox,
How long it is since we have had any communication, and I really want to hear how the world goes with you; but my immediate object is to ask you to observe a point for me, and as I know now you are a very busy man with too much to do, I shall have a good chance of your doing what I want, as it would be hopeless to ask a quite idle man. As you have a Noah's Ark, I do not doubt that you have pigeons. (How I wish by any chance they were fantails!) Now what I want to know is, at what age nestling pigeons have their tail feathers sufficiently developed to be counted. I do not think I ever saw a young pigeon. I am hard at work at my notes collecting and comparing them, in order in some two or three years to write a book with all the facts and arguments, which I can collect, FOR AND VERSUS the immutability of species. I want to get the young of our domestic breeds, to see how young, and to what degree the differences appear. I must either breed myself (which is no amusement but a horrid bore to me) the pigeons or buy their young; and before I go to a seller, whom I have heard of from Yarrell, I am really anxious to know something about their development, not to expose my excessive ignorance, and therefore be excessively liable to be cheated and gulled. With respect to the ONE point of the tail feathers, it is of course in relation to the wonderful development of tail feathers in the adult fantail. If you had any breed of poultry pure, I would beg a chicken with exact age stated, about a week or fortnight old! To be sent in a box by post, if you could have the heart to kill one; and secondly, would let me pay postage...Indeed, I should be very glad to have a nestling common pigeon sent, for I mean to make skeletons, and have already just begun comparing wild and tame ducks. And I think the results rather curious ("I have just been testing practically what disuse does in reducing parts; I have made skeleton of wild and tame duck (oh, the smell of well- boiled, high duck!!) and I find the tame-duck wing ought, according to scale of wild prototype, to have its two wings 360 grains in weight, but it has it only 317."—A letter to Sir J. Hooker, 1855.), for on weighing the several bones very carefully, when perfectly cleaned the proportional weights of the two have greatly varied, the foot of the tame having largely increased. How I wish I could get a little wild duck of a week old, but that I know is almost impossible.
With respect to ourselves, I have not much to say; we have now a terribly noisy house with the whooping cough, but otherwise are all well. Far the greatest fact about myself is that I have at last quite done with the everlasting barnacles. At the end of the year we had two of our little boys very ill with fever and bronchitis, and all sorts of ailments. Partly for amusement, and partly for change of air, we went to London and took a house for a month, but it turned out a great failure, for that dreadful frost just set in when we went, and all our children got unwell, and E. and I had coughs and colds and rheumatism nearly all the time. We had put down first on our list of things to do, to go and see Mrs. Fox, but literally after waiting some time to see whether the weather would not improve, we had not a day when we both could go out.
I do hope before very long you will be able to manage to pay us a visit. Time is slipping away, and we are getting oldish. Do tell us about yourself and all your large family.
I know you will help me IF YOU CAN with information about the young pigeons; and anyhow do write before very long.
My dear Fox, your sincere old friend, C. DARWIN.
P.S.—Amongst all sorts of odds and ends, with which I am amusing myself, I am comparing the seeds of the variations of plants. I had formerly some wild cabbage seeds, which I gave to some one, was it to you? It is a THOUSAND to one it was thrown away, if not I should be very glad of a pinch of it.
[The following extract from a letter to Mr. Fox (March 27th, 1855) refers to the same subject as the last letter, and gives some account of the "species work:" "The way I shall kill young things will be to put them under a tumbler glass with a teaspoon of ether or chloroform, the glass being pressed down on some yielding surface, and leave them for an hour or two, young have such power of revivication. (I have thus killed moths and butterflies.) The best way would be to send them as you procure them, in pasteboard chip-box by post, on which you could write and just tie up with string; and you will REALLY make me happier by allowing me to keep an account of postage, etc. Upon my word I can hardly believe that ANY ONE could be so good-natured as to take such trouble and do such a very disagreeable thing as kill babies; and I am very sure I do not know one soul who, except yourself, would do so. I am going to ask one thing more; should old hens of any above poultry (not duck) die or become so old as to be USELESS, I wish you would send her to me per rail, addressed to C. Darwin, care of Mr. Acton, Post-office, Bromley, Kent." Will you keep this address? as shortest way for parcels. But I do not care so much for this, as I could buy the old birds dead at Baily to make skeletons. I should have written at once even if I had not heard from you, to beg you not to take trouble about pigeons, for Yarrell has persuaded me to attempt it, and I am now fitting up a place, and have written to Baily about prices, etc., etc. SOMETIME (when you are better) I should like very much to hear a little about your "Little Call Duck"; why so-called? And where you got it? and what it is like?...I was so ignorant I do not even know there were three varieties of Dorking fowl: how do they differ?...
I forget whether I ever told you what the object of my present work is,—it is to view all facts that I can master (eheu, eheu, how ignorant I find I am) in Natural History (as on geographical distribution, palaeontology, classification, hybridism, domestic animals and plants, etc., etc., etc.) to see how far they favour or are opposed to the notion that wild species are mutable or immutable: I mean with my utmost power to give all arguments and facts on both sides. I have a NUMBER of people helping me in every way, and giving me most valuable assistance; but I often doubt whether the subject will not quite overpower me.
So much for the quasi-business part of my letter. I am very very sorry to hear so indifferent account of your health: with your large family your life is very precious, and I am sure with all your activity and goodness it ought to be a happy one, or as happy as can reasonably be expected with all the cares of futurity on one.
One cannot expect the present to be like the old Crux-major days at the foot of those noble willow stumps, the memory of which I revere. I now find my little entomology which I wholly owe to you, comes in very useful. I am very glad to hear that you have given yourself a rest from Sunday duties. How much illness you have had in your life! Farewell my dear Fox. I assure you I thank you heartily for your proffered assistance."]
CHARLES DARWIN TO W.D. FOX. Down, May 7th .
My dear Fox,
My correspondence has cost you a deal of trouble, though this note will not. I found yours on my return home on Saturday after a week's work in London. Whilst there I saw Yarrell, who told me he had carefully examined all points in the Call Duck, and did not feel any doubt about it being specifically identical, and that it had crossed freely with common varieties in St. James's Park. I should therefore be very glad for a seven-days' duckling and for one of the old birds, should one ever die a natural death. Yarrell told me that Sabine had collected forty varieties of the common duck!...Well, to return to business; nobody, I am sure, could fix better for me than you the characteristic age of little chickens; with respect to skeletons, I have feared it would be impossible to make them, but I suppose I shall be able to measure limbs, etc., by feeling the joints. What you say about old cocks just confirms what I thought, and I will make my skeletons of old cocks. Should an old wild turkey ever die, please remember me; I do not care for a baby turkey, nor for a mastiff. Very many thanks for your offer. I have puppies of bull-dogs and greyhound in salt, and I have had cart-horse and race-horse young colts carefully measured. Whether I shall do any good I doubt. I am getting out of my depth.
Most truly yours, C. DARWIN.
[An extract from a letter to Mr. Fox may find a place here, though of a later date, viz. July, 1855:
"Many thanks for the seven days' old white Dorking, and for the other promised ones. I am getting quite a 'chamber of horrors,' I appreciate your kindness even more than before; for I have done the black deed and murdered an angelic little fantail and pouter at ten days old. I tried chloroform and ether for the first, and though evidently a perfectly easy death, it was prolonged; and for the second I tried putting lumps of cyanide of potassium in a very large damp bottle, half an hour before putting in the pigeon, and the prussic acid gas thus generated was very quickly fatal."
A letter to Mr. Fox (May 23rd, 1855) gives the first mention of my father's laborious piece of work on the breeding of pigeons:
"I write now to say that I have been looking at some of our mongrel chickens, and I should say ONE WEEK OLD would do very well. The chief points which I am, and have been for years, very curious about, is to ascertain whether the YOUNG of our domestic breeds differ as much from each other as do their parents, and I have no faith in anything short of actual measurement and the Rule of Three. I hope and believe I am not giving so much trouble without a motive of sufficient worth. I have got my fantails and pouters (choice birds, I hope, as I paid 20 shillings for each pair from Baily) in a grand cage and pigeon-house, and they are a decided amusement to me, and delight to H."
In the course of my father's pigeon-fancying enterprise he necessarily became acquainted with breeders, and was fond of relating his experiences as a member of the Columbarian and Philoperistera Clubs, where he met the purest enthusiasts of the "fancy," and learnt much of the mysteries of their art. In writing to Mr. Huxley some years afterwards, he quotes from a book on 'Pigeons' by Mr. J. Eaton, in illustration of the "extreme attention and close observation" necessary to be a good fancier.
"In his [Mr. Eaton's] treatise, devoted to the Almond Tumbler ALONE, which is a sub-variety of the short-faced variety, which is a variety of the Tumbler, as that is of the Rock-pigeon, Mr. Eaton says: 'There are some of the young fanciers who are over-covetous, who go for all the five properties at once [i.e., the five characteristic points which are mainly attended to,—C.D.], they have their reward by getting nothing.' In short, it is almost beyond the human intellect to attend to ALL the excellencies of the Almond Tumbler!
"To be a good breeder, and to succeed in improving any breed, beyond everything enthusiasm is required. Mr. Eaton has gained lots of prizes, listen to him.
"'If it was possible for noblemen and gentlemen to know the amazing amount of solace and pleasure derived from the Almond Tumbler, when they begin to understand their (i.e., the tumbler's) properties, I should think that scarce any nobleman or gentleman would be without their aviaries of Almond Tumblers.'"
My father was fond of quoting this passage, and always with a tone of fellow-feeling for the author, though, no doubt, he had forgotten his own wonderings as a child that "every gentleman did not become an ornithologist."—('Autobiography,' page 32.)
To Mr. W.B. Tegetmeier, the well-known writer on poultry, etc., he was indebted for constant advice and co-operation. Their correspondence began in 1855, and lasted to 1881, when my father wrote: "I can assure you that I often look back with pleasure to the old days when I attended to pigeons, fowls, etc., and when you gave me such valuable assistance. I not rarely regret that I have had so little strength that I have not been able to keep up old acquaintances and friendships." My father's letters to Mr. Tegetmeier consist almost entirely of series of questions relating to the different breeds of fowls, pigeons, etc., and are not, therefore interesting. In reading through the pile of letters, one is much struck by the diligence of the writer's search for facts, and it is made clear that Mr. Tegetmeier's knowledge and judgment were completely trusted and highly valued by him. Numerous phrases, such as "your note is a mine of wealth to me," occur, expressing his sense of the value of Mr. Tegetmeier's help, as well as words expressing his warm appreciation of Mr. Tegetmeier's unstinting zeal and kindness, or his "pure and disinterested love of science." On the subject of hive-bees and their combs, Mr. Tegetmeier's help was also valued by my father, who wrote, "your paper on 'Bees-cells,' read before the British Association, was highly useful and suggestive to me."
To work out the problems on the Geographical Distributions of animals and plants on evolutionary principles, he had to study the means by which seeds, eggs, etc., can be transported across wide spaces of ocean. It was this need which gave an interest to the class of experiment to which the following letters allude.]
CHARLES DARWIN TO W.D. FOX. Down, May 17th .
My dear Fox,
You will hate the very sight of my hand-writing; but after this time I promise I will ask for nothing more, at least for a long time. As you live on sandy soil, have you lizards at all common? If you have, should you think it too ridiculous to offer a reward for me for lizard's eggs to the boys in your school; a shilling for every half-dozen, or more if rare, till you got two or three dozen and send them to me? If snake's eggs were brought in mistake it would be very well, for I want such also; and we have neither lizards nor snakes about here. My object is to see whether such eggs will float on sea water, and whether they will keep alive thus floating for a month or two in my cellar. I am trying experiments on transportation of all organic beings that I can; and lizards are found on every island, and therefore I am very anxious to see whether their eggs stand sea water. Of course this note need not be answered, without, by a strange and favourable chance, you can some day answer it with the eggs.
Your most troublesome friend, C. DARWIN.
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. April 13th .
...I have had one experiment some little time in progress, which will, I think, be interesting, namely, seeds in salt water immersed in water of 32- 33 degrees, which I have and shall long have, as I filled a great tank with snow. When I wrote last I was going to triumph over you, for my experiment had in a slight degree succeeded; but this, with infinite baseness, I did not tell, in hopes that you would say that you would eat all the plants which I could raise after immersion. It is very aggravating that I cannot in the least remember what you did formerly say that made me think you scoffed at the experiments vastly; for you now seem to view the experiment like a good Christian. I have in small bottles out of doors, exposed to variation of temperature, cress, radish, cabbages, lettuces, carrots, and celery, and onion seed—four great families. These, after immersion for exactly one week, have all germinated, which I did not in the least expect (and thought how you would sneer at me); for the water of nearly all, and of the cress especially, smelt very badly, and the cress seed emitted a wonderful quantity of mucus (the 'Vestiges' would have expected them to turn into tadpoles), so as to adhere in a mass; but these seeds germinated and grew splendidly. The germination of all (especially cress and lettuces) has been accelerated, except the cabbages, which have come up very irregularly, and a good many, I think, dead. One would have thought, from their native habitat, that the cabbage would have stood well. The Umbelliferae and onions seem to stand the salt well. I wash the seed before planting them. I have written to the "Gardeners' Chronicle" (A few words asking for information. The results were published in the 'Gardeners' Chronicle,' May 26, November 24, 1855. In the same year (page 789) he sent a P.S. to his former paper, correcting a misprint and adding a few words on the seeds of the Leguminosae. A fuller paper on the germination of seeds after treatment in salt water, appeared in the 'Linnaean Soc. Journal,' 1857, page 130.), though I doubt whether it was worth while. If my success seems to make it worth while, I will send a seed list, to get you to mark some different classes of seeds. To-day I replant the same seeds as above after fourteen days' immersion. As many sea-currents go a mile an hour, even in a week they might be transported 168 miles; the Gulf Stream is said to go fifty and sixty miles a day. So much and too much on this head; but my geese are always swans...
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. [April 14th, 1855.]
...You are a good man to confess that you expected the cress would be killed in a week, for this gives me a nice little triumph. The children at first were tremendously eager, and asked me often, "whether I should beat Dr. Hooker!" The cress and lettuce have just vegetated well after twenty- one days' immersion. But I will write no more, which is a great virtue in me; for it is to me a very great pleasure telling you everything I do.
...If you knew some of the experiments (if they may be so-called) which I am trying, you would have a good right to sneer, for they are so ABSURD even in MY opinion that I dare not tell you.
Have not some men a nice notion of experimentising? I have had a letter telling me that seeds MUST have GREAT power of resisting salt water, for otherwise how could they get to islands? This is the true way to solve a problem!
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Down .
My dear Hooker,
You have been a very good man to exhale some of your satisfaction in writing two notes to me; you could not have taken a better line in my opinion; but as for showing your satisfaction in confounding my experiments, I assure you I am quite enough confounded—those horrid seeds, which, as you truly observe, if they sink they won't float.
I have written to Scoresby and have had a rather dry answer, but very much to the purpose, and giving me no hopes of any law unknown to me which might arrest their everlasting descent into the deepest depths of the ocean. By the way it was very odd, but I talked to Col. Sabine for half an hour on the subject, and could not make him see with respect to transportal the difficulty of the sinking question! The bore is, if the confounded seeds will sink, I have been taking all this trouble in salting the ungrateful rascals for nothing.
Everything has been going wrong with me lately; the fish at the Zoological Society ate up lots of soaked seeds, and in imagination they had in my mind been swallowed, fish and all, by a heron, had been carried a hundred miles, been voided on the banks of some other lake and germinated splendidly, when lo and behold, the fish ejected vehemently, and with disgust equal to my own, ALL the seeds from their mouths. (In describing these troubles to Mr. Fox, my father wrote:—"All nature is perverse and will not do as I wish it; and just at present I wish I had my old barnacles to work at, and nothing new." The experiment ultimately succeeded, and he wrote to Sir J. Hooker:—"I find fish will greedily eat seeds of aquatic grasses, and that millet-seed put into fish and given to a stork, and then voided, will germinate. So this is the nursery rhyme of 'this is the stick that beats the pig,' etc., etc.,")
But I am not going to give up the floating yet: in first place I must try fresh seeds, though of course it seems far more probable that they will sink; and secondly, as a last resource, I must believe in the pod or even whole plant or branch being washed into the sea; with floods and slips and earthquakes; this must continually be happening, and if kept wet, I fancy the pods, etc. etc., would not open and shed their seeds. Do try your Mimosa seed at Kew.
I had intended to have asked you whether the Mimosa scandens and Guilandina bonduc grows at Kew, to try fresh seeds. R. Brown tells me he believes four W. Indian seeds have been washed on shores of Europe. I was assured at Keeling Island that seeds were not rarely washed on shore: so float they must and shall! What a long yarn I have been spinning.
If you have several of the Loffoden seeds, do soak some in tepid water, and get planted with the utmost care: this is an experiment after my own heart, with chances 1000 to 1 against its success.
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, May 11th .
My dear Hooker,—I have just received your note. I am most sincerely and heartily glad at the news (The appointment of Sir J.D. Hooker as Assistant Director of the Royal Gardens at Kew.) it contains, and so is my wife. Though the income is but a poor one, yet the certainty, I hope, is satisfactory to yourself and Mrs. Hooker. As it must lead in future years to the Directorship, I do hope you look at it, as a piece of good fortune. For my own taste I cannot fancy a pleasanter position, than the Head of such a noble and splendid place; far better, I should think, than a Professorship in a great town. The more I think of it, the gladder I am. But I will say no more; except that I hope Mrs. Hooker is pretty well pleased...
As the "Gardeners' Chronicle" put in my question, and took notice of it, I think I am bound to send, which I had thought of doing next week, my first report to Lindley to give him the option of inserting it; but I think it likely that he may not think it fit for a Gardening periodical. When my experiments are ended (should the results appear worthy) and should the 'Linnean Journal' not object to the previous publication of imperfect and provisional reports, I should be DELIGHTED to insert the final report there; for it has cost me so much trouble, that I should think that probably the result was worthy of more permanent record than a newspaper; but I think I am bound to send it first to Lindley.
I begin to think the floating question more serious than the germinating one; and am making all the inquiries which I can on the subject, and hope to get some little light on it...
I hope you managed a good meeting at the Club. The Treasurership must be a plague to you, and I hope you will not be Treasurer for long: I know I would much sooner give up the Club than be its Treasurer.
Farewell, Mr. Assistant Director and dear friend, C. DARWIN.
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. June 5th, 1855.
...Miss Thorley (A lady who was for many years a governess in the family.) and I are doing A LITTLE BOTANICAL WORK! for our amusement, and it does amuse me very much, viz., making a collection of all the plants, which grow in a field, which has been allowed to run waste for fifteen years, but which before was cultivated from time immemorial; and we are also collecting all the plants in an adjoining and SIMILAR but cultivated field; just for the fun of seeing what plants have survived or died out. Hereafter we shall want a bit of help in naming puzzlers. How dreadfully difficult it is to name plants.
What a REMARKABLY nice and kind letter Dr. A. Gray has sent me in answer to my troublesome queries; I retained your copy of his 'Manual' till I heard from him, and when I have answered his letter, I will return it to you.
I thank you much for Hedysarum: I do hope it is not very precious, for as I told you it is for probably a MOST foolish purpose. I read somewhere that no plant closes its leaves so promptly in darkness, and I want to cover it up daily for half an hour, and see if I can teach it to close by itself, or more easily than at first in darkness...I cannot make out why you would prefer a continental transmission, as I think you do, to carriage by sea. I should have thought you would have been pleased at as many means of transmission as possible. For my own pet theoretic notions, it is quite indifferent whether they are transmitted by sea or land, as long as some tolerably probable way is shown. But it shocks my philosophy to create land, without some other and independent evidence. Whenever we meet, by a very few words I should, I think, more clearly understand your views...
I have just made out my first grass, hurrah! hurrah! I must confess that fortune favours the bold, for, as good luck would have it, it was the easy Anthoxanthum odoratum: nevertheless it is a great discovery; I never expected to make out a grass in all my life, so hurrah! It has done my stomach surprising good...
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, [June?] 15th, .
My dear Hooker,
I just write one line to say that the Hedysarum is come QUITE SAFELY, and thank you for it.
You cannot imagine what amusement you have given me by naming those three grasses: I have just got paper to dry and collect all grasses. If ever you catch quite a beginner, and want to give him a taste of Botany, tell him to make a perfect list of some little field or wood. Both Miss Thorley and I agree that it gives a really uncommon interest to the work, having a nice little definite world to work on, instead of the awful abyss and immensity of all British Plants.
Adios. I was really consummately impudent to express my opinion "on the retrograde step" ("To imagine such enormous geological changes within the period of the existence of now living beings, on no other ground but to account for their distribution, seems to me, in our present state of ignorance on the means of transportal, an almost retrograde step in science."—Extract from the paper on 'Salt Water and Seeds' in "Gardeners' Chronicle", May 26, 1855.), and I deserved a good snub, and upon reflection I am very glad you did not answer me in "Gardeners' Chronicle".
I have been VERY MUCH interested with the Florula. (Godron's 'Florula Juvenalis,' which gives an interesting account of plants introduced in imported wool.)
[Writing on June 5th to Sir J.D. Hooker, my father mentions a letter from Dr. Asa Gray. The letter referred to was an answer to the following:]
CHARLES DARWIN TO ASA GRAY. (The well-known American Botanist. My father's friendship with Dr. Gray began with the correspondence of which the present is the first letter. An extract from a letter to Sir J. Hooker, 1857, shows that my father's strong personal regard for Dr. Gray had an early origin: "I have been glad to see A. Gray's letters; there is always something in them that shows that he is a very lovable man.") Down, April 25th .
My dear Sir,
I hope that you will remember that I had the pleasure of being introduced to you at Kew. I want to beg a great favour of you, for which I well know I can offer no apology. But the favour will not, I think, cause you much trouble, and will greatly oblige me. As I am no botanist, it will seem so absurd to you my asking botanical questions; that I may premise that I have for several years been collecting facts on "variation," and when I find that any general remark seems to hold good amongst animals, I try to test it in Plants. [Here follows a request for information on American Alpine plants, and a suggestion as to publishing on the subject.] I can assure you that I perceive how presumptuous it is in me, not a botanist, to make even the most trifling suggestion to such a botanist as yourself; but from what I saw and have heard of you from our dear and kind friend Hooker, I hope and think you will forgive me, and believe me, with much respect,
Dear sir, yours very faithfully, CHARLES DARWIN.
CHARLES DARWIN TO ASA GRAY. Down, June 8th .
My dear Sir,
I thank you cordially for your remarkably kind letter of the 22d. ult., and for the extremely pleasant and obliging manner in which you have taken my rather troublesome questions. I can hardly tell you how much your list of Alpine plants has interested me, and I can now in some degree picture to myself the plants of your Alpine summits. The new edition of your Manual is CAPITAL news for me. I know from your preface how pressed you are for room, but it would take no space to append (Eu) in brackets to any European plant, and, as far as I am concerned, this would answer every purpose. (This suggestion Dr. Gray adopted in subsequent editions.) From my own experience, whilst making out English plants in our manuals, it has often struck me how much interest it would give if some notion of their range had been given; and so, I cannot doubt, your American inquirers and beginners would much like to know which of their plants were indigenous and which European. Would it not be well in the Alpine plants to append the very same addition which you have now sent me in MS.? though here, owing to your kindness, I do not speak selfishly, but merely pro bono Americano publico. I presume it would be too troublesome to give in your manual the habitats of those plants found west of the Rocky Mountains, and likewise those found in Eastern Asia, taking the Yenesei (?),—which, if I remember right, according to Gmelin, is the main partition line of Siberia. Perhaps Siberia more concerns the northern Flora of North America. The ranges of plants to the east and west, viz., whether most found are in Greenland and Western Europe, or in E. Asia, appears to me a very interesting point as tending to show whether the migration has been eastward or westward. Pray believe me that I am most entirely conscious that the ONLY USE of these remarks is to show a botanist what points a non-botanist is curious to learn; for I think every one who studies profoundly a subject often becomes unaware [on] what points the ignorant require information. I am so very glad that you think of drawing up some notice on your geographical distribution, for the air of the Manual strikes me as in some points better adapted for comparison with Europe than that of the whole of North America. You ask me to state definitely some of the points on which I much wish for information; but I really hardly can, for they are so vague; and I rather wish to see what results will come out from comparisons, than have as yet defined objects. I presume that, like other botanists, you would give, for your area, the proportion (leaving out introduced plants) to the whole of the great leading families: this is one point I had intended (and, indeed, have done roughly) to tabulate from your book, but of course I could have done it only VERY IMPERFECTLY. I should also, of course, have ascertained the proportion, to the whole Flora, of the European plants (leaving out introduced) AND OF THE SEPARATE GREAT FAMILIES, in order to speculate on means of transportal. By the way, I ventured to send a few days ago a copy of the "Gardeners' Chronicle" with a short report by me of some trifling experiments which I have been trying on the power of seeds to withstand sea water. I do not know whether it has struck you, but it has me, that it would be advisable for botanists to give in WHOLE NUMBERS, as well as in the lowest fraction, the proportional numbers of the families, thus I make out from your Manual that of the INDIGENOUS plants the proportion of the Umbelliferae are 36/1798 = 1/49; for, without one knows the WHOLE numbers, one cannot judge how really close the numbers of the plants of the same family are in two distant countries; but very likely you may think this superfluous. Mentioning these proportional numbers, I may give you an instance of the sort of points, and how vague and futile they often are, which I ATTEMPT to work out...; reflecting on R. Brown's and Hooker's remark, that near identity of proportional numbers of the great families in two countries, shows probably that they were once continuously united, I thought I would calculate the proportions of, for instance, the INTRODUCED Compositae in Great Britain to all the introduced plants, and the result was, 10/92 = 1/9.2. In our ABORIGINAL or indigenous flora the proportion is 1/10; and in many other cases I found an equally striking correspondence. I then took your Manual, and worked out the same question; here I find in the Compositae an almost equally striking correspondence, viz. 24/206 = 1/8 in the introduced plants, and 223/1798 = 1/8 in the indigenous; but when I came to the other families I found the proportion entirely different, showing that the coincidences in the British Flora were probably accidental!