Letter 119 To Th Huxley

(119/1. This refers to the first number of the new series of the "Natural History Review," 1861, a periodical which Huxley was largely instrumental in founding, and of which he was an editor (see Letter 107). The first series was published in Dublin, and ran to seven volumes between 1854 and 1860. The new series came to an end in 1865.)

I have just finished No. 1 of the "Natural History Review," and must congratulate you, as chiefly concerned, on its excellence. The whole seems to me admirable,--so admirable that it is impossible that other numbers should be so good, but it would be foolish to expect it. I am rather a croaker, and I do rather fear that the merit of the articles will be above the run of common readers and subscribers. I have been much interested by your brain article. (119/2. The "Brain article" of Huxley bore the title "On the Zoological Relations of Man with the Lower Animals," and appeared in No. 1, January 1861, page 67. It was Mr. Huxley's vindication of the unqualified contradiction given by him at the Oxford meeting of the British Association to Professor Owen's assertions as to the difference between the brains of man and the higher apes. The sentence omitted by Owen in his lecture before the University of Cambridge was a footnote on the close structural resemblance between Homo and Pithecus, which occurs in his paper on the characters of the class Mammalia in the "Linn. Soc. Journal," Volume II., 1857, page 20. According to Huxley the lecture, or "Essay on the Classification of the Mammalia," was, with this omission, a reprint of the Linnean paper. In "Man's Place in Nature," page 110, note, Huxley remarks: "Surely it is a little singular that the 'anatomist,' who finds it 'difficult' to 'determine the difference' between Homo and Pithecus, should yet range them, on anatomical grounds, in distinct sub-classes.") What a complete and awful smasher (and done like a "buttered angel") it is for Owen! What a humbug he is to have left out the sentence in the lecture before the orthodox Cambridge dons! I like Lubbock's paper very much: how well he writes. (119/3. Sir John Lubbock's paper was a review of Leydig on the Daphniidae. M'Donnell's was "On the Homologies of the Electric Organ of the Torpedo," afterwards used in the "Origin" (see Edition VI., page 150).) M'Donnell, of course, pleases me greatly. But I am very curious to know who wrote the Protozoa article: I shall hear, if it be not a secret, from Lubbock. It strikes me as very good, and, by Jove, how Owen is shown up--"this great and sound reasoner"! By the way, this reminds me of a passage which I have just observed in Owen's address at Leeds, which a clever reviewer might turn into good fun. He defines (page xc) and further on amplifies his definition that creation means "a process he knows not what." And in a previous sentence he says facts shake his confidence that the Apteryx in New Zealand and Red Grouse in England are "distinct creations." So that he has no confidence that these birds were produced by "processes he knows not what!" To what miserable inconsistencies and rubbish this truckling to opposite opinions leads the great generaliser! (119/4. In the "Historical Sketch," which forms part of the later editions of the "Origin," Mr. Darwin made use of Owen's Leeds Address in the manner sketched above. See "Origin," Edition VI., page xvii.)

Farewell: I heartily rejoice in the clear merit of this number. I hope Mrs. Huxley goes on well. Etty keeps much the same, but has not got up to the same pitch as when you were here. Farewell.

LETTER 120. TO JAMES LAMONT. Down, February 25 th [1861].

I am extremely much obliged for your very kind present of your beautiful work, "Seasons with the Sea-Horses;" and I have no doubt that I shall find much interesting from so careful and acute an observer as yourself. (120/1. "Seasons with the Sea-Horses; or, Sporting Adventures in the Northern Seas." London, 1861. Mr. Lamont (loc. cit., page 273) writes: "The polar bear seems to me to be nothing more than a variety of the bears inhabiting Northern Europe, Asia, and America; and it surely requires no very great stretch of the imagination to suppose that this variety was originally created, not as we see him now, but by individuals of Ursus arctos in Siberia, who, finding their means of subsistence running short, and pressed by hunger, ventured on the ice and caught some seals. These individuals would find that they could make a subsistence in this way, and would take up their residence on the shore and gradually take to a life on the ice...Then it stands to reason that those individuals who might happen to be palest in colour would have the best chance of succeeding in surprising seals...The process of Natural Selection would do the rest, and Ursus arctos would in the course of a few thousands, or a few millions of years, be transformed into the variety at present known as Ursus maritimus." The author adds the following footnote (op. cit., page 275): "It will be obvious to any one that I follow Mr. Darwin in these remarks; and, although the substance of this chapter was written in Spitzbergen, before "The Origin of Species" was published, I do not claim any originality for my views; and I also cheerfully acknowledge that, but for the publication of that work in connection with the name of so distinguished a naturalist, I never would have ventured to give to the world my own humble opinions on the subject.")

P.S. I have just been cutting the leaves of your book, and have been very much pleased and surprised at your note about what you wrote in Spitzbergen. As you thought it out independently, it is no wonder that you so clearly understand Natural Selection, which so few of my reviewers do or pretend not to do.

I never expected to see any one so heroically bold as to defend my bear illustration. (120/2. "In North America the black bear was seen by Hearne swimming for hours with widely open mouth, thus catching, almost like a whale, insects in the water."--"Origin," Edition VI., page 141. See Letter 110.) But a man who has done all that you have done must be bold! It is laughable how often I have been attacked and misrepresented about this bear. I am much pleased with your remarks, and thank you cordially for coming to the rescue.

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Brain Blaster

Brain Blaster

Have you ever been envious of people who seem to have no end of clever ideas, who are able to think quickly in any situation, or who seem to have flawless memories? Could it be that they're just born smarter or quicker than the rest of us? Or are there some secrets that they might know that we don't?

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