15, Marine Parade, Eastbourne, Friday 5th [October, 1860].
I have two notes to thank you for, and I return Wollaston. It has always seemed to me rather strange that Forbes, Wollaston and Co. should argue, from the presence of allied, and not identical species in islands, for the former continuity of land.
They argue, I suppose, from the species being allied in different regions of the same continent, though specifically distinct. But I think one might on the creative doctrine argue with equal force in a directly reverse manner, and say that, as species are so often markedly distinct, yet allied, on islands, all our continents existed as islands first, and their inhabitants were first created on these islands, and since became mingled together, so as not to be so distinct as they now generally are on islands.
LETTER 115. TO H.G. BRONN. Down, October 5th .
I ought to apologise for troubling you, but I have at last carefully read your excellent criticisms on my book. (115/1. Bronn added critical remarks to his German translation of the "Origin": see "Life and Letters," II., page 279.) I agree with much of them, and wholly with your final sentence. The objections and difficulties which may be urged against my view are indeed heavy enough almost to break my back, but it is not yet broken! You put very well and very fairly that I can in no one instance explain the course of modification in any particular instance. I could make some sort of answer to your case of the two rats; and might I not turn round and ask him who believes in the separate creation of each species, why one rat has a longer tail or shorter ears than another? I presume that most people would say that these characters were of some use, or stood in some connection with other parts; and if so, Natural Selection would act on them. But as you put the case, it tells well against me. You argue most justly against my question, whether the many species were created as eggs (115/2. See Letter 110.) or as mature, etc. I certainly had no right to ask that question. I fully agree that there might have been as well a hundred thousand creations as eight or ten, or only one. But then, on the view of eight or ten creations (i.e. as many as there are distinct types of structure) we can on my view understand the homological and embryological resemblance of all the organisms of each type, and on this ground almost alone I disbelieve in the innumerable acts of creation. There are only two points on which I think you have misunderstood me. I refer only to one Glacial period as affecting the distribution of organic beings; I did not wish even to allude to the doubtful evidence of glacial action in the Permian and Carboniferous periods. Secondly, I do not believe that the process of development has always been carried on at the same rate in all different parts of the world. Australia is opposed to such belief. The nearly contemporaneous equal development in past periods I attribute to the slow migration of the higher and more dominant forms over the whole world, and not to independent acts of development in different parts. Lastly, permit me to add that I cannot see the force of your objection, that nothing is effected until the origin of life is explained: surely it is worth while to attempt to follow out the action of electricity, though we know not what electricity is.
If you should at any time do me the favour of writing to me, I should be very much obliged if you would inform me whether you have yourself examined Brehm's subspecies of birds; for I have looked through some of his writings, but have never met an ornithologist who believed in his [illegible]. Are these subspecies really characteristic of certain different regions of Germany?
Should you write, I should much like to know how the German edition sells.
LETTER 116. TO J.S. HENSLOW. October 26th .
Many thanks for your note and for all the trouble about the seeds, which will be most useful to me next spring. On my return home I will send the shillings. (116/1. Shillings for the little girls in Henslow's parish who collected seeds for Darwin.) I concluded that Dr. Bree had blundered about the Celts. I care not for his dull, unvarying abuse of me, and singular misrepresentation. But at page 244 he in fact doubts my deliberate word, and that is the act of a man who has not the soul of a gentleman in him. Kingsley is "the celebrated author and divine" (116/2. "Species not Transmutable," by C.R. Bree. After quoting from the "Origin," Edition II., page 481, the words in which a celebrated author and divine confesses that "he has gradually learnt to see that it is just as noble a conception of the Deity to believe that He created a few original forms, etc.," Dr. Bree goes on: "I think we ought to have had the name of this divine given with this remarkable statement. I confess that I have not yet fully made up my mind that any divine could have ever penned lines so fatal to the truths he is called upon to teach.") whose striking sentence I give in the second edition with his permission. I did not choose to ask him to let me use his name, and as he did not volunteer, I had of course no choice. (116/3. We are indebted to Mr. G.W. Prothero for calling our attention to the following striking passage from the works of a divine of this period:--"Just a similar scepticism has been evinced by nearly all the first physiologists of the day, who have joined in rejecting the development theories of Lamarck and the 'Vestiges'...Yet it is now acknowledged under the high sanction of the name of Owen that 'creation' is only another name for our ignorance of the mode of production...while a work has now appeared by a naturalist of the most acknowledged authority, Mr. Darwin's masterly volume on the 'Origin of Species,' by the law of 'natural selection,' which now substantiates on undeniable grounds the very principle so long denounced by the first naturalists--the origination of new species by natural causes: a work which must soon bring about an entire revolution of opinion in favour of the grand principle of the self-evolving powers of nature."--Prof. Baden Powell's "Study of the Evidences of Christianity," "Essays and Reviews," 7th edition, 1861 (pages 138, 139).)
Dr. Freke has sent me his paper, which is far beyond my scope—something like the capital quiz in the "Anti-Jacobin" on my grandfather, which was quoted in the "Quarterly Review."
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