Letter 12 To Catherine Darwin

(12/1. The following letter was written to his sister Catherine about two months before Charles Darwin settled at Down:--)

Sunday [July 1842].

You must have been surprised at not having heard sooner about the house. Emma and I only returned yesterday afternoon from sleeping there. I will give you in detail, as my father would like, MY opinion on it--Emma's slightly differs. Position:--about 1/4 of a mile from the small village of Down in Kent--16 miles from St. Paul's--8 1/2 miles from station (with many trains) which station is only 10 from London. This is bad, as the drive from [i.e. on account of] the hills is long. I calculate we are two hours going from London Bridge. Village about forty houses with old walnut trees in the middle where stands an old flint church and the lanes meet. Inhabitants very respectable--infant school--grown up people great musicians--all touch their hats as in Wales and sit at their open doors in the evening; no high road leads through the village. The little pot-house where we slept is a grocer's shop, and the landlord is the carpenter--so you may guess the style of the village. There are butcher and baker and post-office. A carrier goes weekly to London and calls anywhere for anything in London and takes anything anywhere. On the road [from London] to the village, on a fine day the scenery is absolutely beautiful: from close to our house the view is very distant and rather beautiful, but the house being situated on a rather high tableland has somewhat of a desolate air. There is a most beautiful old farm-house, with great thatched barns and old stumps of oak trees, like that of Skelton, one field off. The charm of the place to me is that almost every field is intersected (as alas is ours) by one or more foot-paths. I never saw so many walks in any other county. The country is extraordinarily rural and quiet with narrow lanes and high hedges and hardly any ruts. It is really surprising to think London is only 16 miles off. The house stands very badly, close to a tiny lane and near another man's field. Our field is 15 acres and flat, looking into flat-bottomed valleys on both sides, but no view from the drawing-room, which faces due south, except on our flat field and bits of rather ugly distant horizon. Close in front there are some old (very productive) cherry trees, walnut trees, yew, Spanish chestnut, pear, old larch, Scotch fir and silver fir and old mulberry trees, [which] make rather a pretty group. They give the ground an old look, but from not flourishing much they also give it rather a desolate look. There are quinces and medlars and plums with plenty of fruit, and Morello cherries; but few apples. The purple magnolia flowers against the house. There is a really fine beech in view in our hedge. The kitchen garden is a detestable slip and the soil looks wretched from the quantity of chalk flints, but I really believe it is productive. The hedges grow well all round our field, and it is a noted piece of hayland. This year the crop was bad, but was bought, as it stood, for 2 pounds per acre--that is 30 pounds--the purchaser getting it in. Last year it was sold for 45 pounds--no manure was put on in the interval. Does not this sound well? Ask my father. Does the mulberry and magnolia show it is not very cold in winter, which I fear is the case? Tell Susan it is 9 miles from Knole Park and 6 from Westerham, at which places I hear the scenery is beautiful. There are many very odd views round our house--deepish flat-bottomed valley and nice farm-house, but big, white, ugly, fallow fields;--much wheat grown here. House ugly, looks neither old nor new--walls two feet thick—windows rather small—lower story rather low. Capital study 18 x 18. Dining-room 21 x 18. Drawing-room can easily be added to: is 21 x 15. Three stories, plenty of bedrooms. We could hold the Hensleighs and you and Susan and Erasmus all together. House in good repair. Mr. Cresy a few years ago laid out for the owner 1,500 pounds and made a new roof. Water-pipes over house--two bath-rooms--pretty good offices and good stable-yard, etc., and a cottage. I believe the price is about 2,200 pounds, and I have no doubt I shall get it for one year on lease first to try, so that I shall do nothing to the house at first (last owner kept three cows, one horse, and one donkey, and sold some hay annually from one field). I have no doubt if we complete the purchase I shall at least save 1,000 pounds over Westcroft, or any other house we have seen. Emma was at first a good deal disappointed, and at the country round the house; the day was gloomy and cold with N.E. wind. She likes the actual field and house better than I; the house is just situated as she likes for retirement, not too near or too far from other houses, but she thinks the country looks desolate. I think all chalk countries do, but I am used to Cambridgeshire, which is ten times worse. Emma is rapidly coming round. She was dreadfully bad with toothache and headache in the evening and Friday, but in coming back yesterday she was so delighted with the scenery for the first few miles from Down, that it has worked a great change in her. We go there again the first fine day Emma is able, and we then finally settle what to do.

(12/2. The following fragmentary "Account of Down" was found among Mr. Darwin's papers after the publication of the "Life and Letters." It gives the impression that he intended to write a natural history diary after the manner of Gilbert White, but there is no evidence that this was actually the case.)

1843. May 15th.--The first peculiarity which strikes a stranger unaccustomed to a hilly chalk country is the valleys, with their steep rounded bottoms--not furrowed with the smallest rivulet. On the road to Down from Keston a mound has been thrown across a considerable valley, but even against this mound there is no appearance of even a small pool of water having collected after the heaviest rains. The water all percolates straight downwards. Ascertain average depth of wells, inclination of strata, and springs. Does the water from this country crop out in springs in Holmsdale or in the valley of the Thames? Examine the fine springs in Holmsdale.

The valleys on this platform sloping northward, but exceedingly even, generally run north and south; their sides near the summits generally become suddenly more abrupt, and are fringed with narrow strips, or, as they are here called, "shaws" of wood, sometimes merely by hedgerows run wild. The sudden steepness may generally be perceived, as just before ascending to Cudham Wood, and at Green Hill, where one of the lanes crosses these valleys. These valleys are in all probability ancient sea-bays, and I have sometimes speculated whether this sudden steepening of the sides does not mark the edges of vertical cliffs formed when these valleys were filled with sea-water, as would naturally happen in strata such as the chalk.

In most countries the roads and footpaths ascend along the bottoms of valleys, but here this is scarcely ever the case. All the villages and most of the ancient houses are on the platforms or narrow strips of flat land between the parallel valleys. Is this owing to the summits having existed from the most ancient times as open downs and the valleys having been filled up with brushwood? I have no evidence of this, but it is certain that most of the farmhouses on the flat land are very ancient. There is one peculiarity which would help to determine the footpaths to run along the summits instead of the bottom of the valleys, in that these latter in the middle are generally covered, even far more thickly than the general surface, with broken flints. This bed of flints, which gradually thins away on each side, can be seen from a long distance in a newly ploughed or fallow field as a whitish band. Every stone which ever rolls after heavy rain or from the kick of an animal, ever so little, all tend to the bottom of the valleys; but whether this is sufficient to account for their number I have sometimes doubted, and have been inclined to apply to the case Lyell's theory of solution by rain-water, etc., etc.

The flat summit-land is covered with a bed of stiff red clay, from a few feet in thickness to as much, I believe, as twenty feet: this [bed], though lying immediately on the chalk, and abounding with great, irregularly shaped, unrolled flints, often with the colour and appearance of huge bones, which were originally embedded in the chalk, contains not a particle of carbonate of lime. This bed of red clay lies on a very irregular surface, and often descends into deep round wells, the origin of which has been explained by Lyell. In these cavities are patches of sand like sea-sand, and like the sand which alternates with the great beds of small pebbles derived from the wear-and-tear of chalk-flints, which form Keston, Hayes and Addington Commons. Near Down a rounded chalk-flint is a rarity, though some few do occur; and I have not yet seen a stone of distant origin, which makes a difference--at least to geological eyes--in the very aspect of the country, compared with all the northern counties.

The chalk-flints decay externally, which, according to Berzelius ("Edin. New Phil. Journal," late number), is owing to the flints containing a small proportion of alkali; but, besides this external decay, the whole body is affected by exposure of a few years, so that they will not break with clean faces for building.

This bed of red clay, which renders the country very slippery in the winter months from October to April, does not cover the sides of the valleys; these, when ploughed, show the white chalk, which tint shades away lower in the valley, as insensibly as a colour laid on by a painter's brush.

Nearly all the land is ploughed, and is often left fallow, which gives the country a naked red look, or not unfrequently white, from a covering of chalk laid on by the farmers. Nobody seems at all aware on what principle fresh chalk laid on land abounding with lime does it any good. This, however, is said to have been the practice of the country ever since the period of the Romans, and at present the many white pits on the hill sides, which so frequently afford a picturesque contrast with the overhanging yew trees, are all quarried for this purpose.

The number of different kinds of bushes in the hedgerows, entwined by traveller's joy and the bryonies, is conspicuous compared with the hedges of the northern counties.

March 25th [1844?].--The first period of vegetation, and the banks are clothed with pale-blue violets to an extent I have never seen equalled, and with primroses. A few days later some of the copses were beautifully enlivened by Ranunculus auricomus, wood anemones, and a white Stellaria. Again, subsequently, large areas were brilliantly blue with bluebells. The flowers are here very beautiful, and the number of flowers; [and] the darkness of the blue of the common little Polygala almost equals it to an alpine gentian.

There are large tracts of woodland, [cut down] about once every ten years; some of these enclosures seem to be very ancient. On the south side of Cudham Wood a beech hedge has grown to Brobdignagian size, with several of the huge branches crossing each other and firmly grafted together.

Larks abound here, and their songs sound most agreeably on all sides; nightingales are common. Judging from an odd cooing note, something like the purring of a cat, doves are very common in the woods.

June 25th.--The sainfoin fields are now of the most beautiful pink, and from the number of hive-bees frequenting them the humming noise is quite extraordinary. This humming is rather deeper than the humming overhead, which has been continuous and loud during all these last hot days over almost every field. The labourers here say it is made by "air-bees," and one man, seeing a wild bee in a flower different from the hive kind, remarked: "That, no doubt, is an air-bee." This noise is considered as a sign of settled fair weather.

CHAPTER 1.II.--EVOLUTION, 1844-1858.

(Chapter II./1. Since the publication of the "Life and Letters," Mr. Huxley's obituary notice of Charles Darwin has appeared. (Chapter II./2. 'Proc. R. Soc." volume 44, 1888, and "Collected Essays (Darwiniana)," page 253, 1899.) This masterly paper is, in our opinion, the finest of the great series of Darwinian essays which we owe to Mr. Huxley. We would venture to recommend it to our readers as the best possible introduction to these pages. There is, however, one small point in which we differ from Mr. Huxley. In discussing the growth of Mr. Darwin's evolutionary views, Mr. Huxley quotes from the autobiography (Chapter II./3. "Life and Letters," I., page 82. Some account of the origin of his evolutionary views is given in a letter to Jenyns (Blomefield), "Life and Letters," II. page 34.) a passage in which the writer describes the deep impression made on his mind by certain groups of facts observed in South America. Mr. Huxley goes on: "The facts to which reference is here made were, without doubt, eminently fitted to attract the attention of a philosophical thinker; but, until the relations of the existing with the extinct species, and of the species of the different geographical areas with one another, were determined with some exactness, they afforded but an unsafe foundation for speculation. It was not possible that this determination should have been effected before the return of the "Beagle" to England; and thus the date (Chapter II./4. The date in question is July 1837, when he "opened first note-book on Transmutation of Species.') which Darwin (writing in 1837) assigns to the dawn of the new light which was rising in his mind, becomes intelligible." This seems to us inconsistent with Darwin's own statement that it was especially the character of the "species on Galapagos Archipelago" which had impressed him. (Chapter II./5. See "Life and Letters," I., page 276.) This must refer to the zoological specimens: no doubt he was thinking of the birds, but these he had himself collected in

1835 (Chapter II./6. He wrote in his "Journal," page 394, "My attention was first thoroughly aroused, by comparing together the numerous specimens shot by myself and several other parties on board," etc.), and no accurate determination of the forms was necessary to impress on him the remarkable characteristic species of the different islands. We agree with Mr. Huxley that 1837 is the date of the "new light which was rising in his mind." That the dawn did not come sooner seems to us to be accounted for by the need of time to produce so great a revolution in his conceptions. We do not see that Mr. Huxley's supposition as to the effect of the determination of species, etc., has much weight. Mr. Huxley quotes a letter from Darwin to Zacharias, "But I did not become convinced that species were mutable until, I think, two or three years [after 1837] had elapsed" (see Letter 278). This passage, which it must be remembered was written in 1877, is all but irreconcilable with the direct evidence of the 1837 note-book. A series of passages are quoted from it in the "Life and Letters," Volume II., pages 5 et seq., and these it is impossible to read without feeling that he was convinced of immutability. He had not yet attained to a clear idea of Natural Selection, and therefore his views may not have had, even to himself, the irresistible convincing power they afterwards gained; but that he was, in the ordinary sense of the word, convinced of the truth of the doctrine of evolution we cannot doubt. He thought it "almost useless" to try to prove the truth of evolution until the cause of change was discovered. And it is natural that in later life he should have felt that conviction was wanting till that cause was made out. (Chapter II./7. See "Charles Darwin, his Life told, etc." 1892, page 165.) For the purposes of the present chapter the point is not very material. We know that in 1842 he wrote the first sketch of his theory, and that it was greatly amplified in 1844. So that, at the date of the first letters of this chapter, we know that he had a working hypothesis of evolution which did not differ in essentials from that given in the "Origin of Species."

To realise the amount of work that was in progress during the period covered by Chapter II., it should be remembered that during part of the time--namely, from 1846 to 1854--he was largely occupied by his work on the Cirripedes. (Chapter II./8. "Life and Letters," I. page 346.) This research would have fully occupied a less methodical workman, and even to those who saw him at work it seemed his whole occupation. Thus (to quote a story of Lord Avebury's) one of Mr. Darwin's children is said to have asked, in regard to a neighbour, "Then where does he do his barnacles?" as though not merely his father, but all other men, must be occupied on that group.

Sir Joseph Hooker, to whom the first letter in this chapter is addressed, was good enough to supply a note on the origin of his intimacy with Mr. Darwin, and this is published in the "Life and Letters." (Chapter II./9. Ibid., II., page 19. See also "Nature," 1899, June 22nd, page 187, where some reminiscences are published, which formed part of Sir Joseph's speech at the unveiling of Darwin's statue in the Oxford Museum.) The close intercourse that sprang up between them was largely carried on by correspondence, and Mr. Darwin's letters to Sir Joseph have supplied most valuable biographical material. But it should not be forgotten that, quite apart from this, science owes much to this memorable friendship, since without Hooker's aid Darwin's great work would hardly have been carried out on the botanical side. And Sir Joseph did far more than supply knowledge and guidance in technical matters: Darwin owed to him a sympathetic and inspiriting comradeship which cheered and refreshed him to the end of his life.

A sentence from a letter to Hooker written in 1845 shows, quite as well as more serious utterances, how quickly the acquaintance grew into friendship.

"Farewell! What a good thing is community of tastes! I feel as if I had known you for fifty years. Adios." And in illustration of the permanence of the sympathetic bond between them, we quote a letter of 1881 written forty-two years after the first meeting with Sir Joseph in Trafalgar Square (see "Life and Letters," II., page 19). Mr. Darwin wrote: "Your letter has cheered me, and the world does not look a quarter so black this morning as it did when I wrote before. Your friendly words are worth their weight in gold.")

LETTER 13. TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, Thursday [January 11th, 1844].

My dear Sir

I must write to thank you for your last letter, and to tell you how much all your views and facts interest me. I must be allowed to put my own interpretation on what you say of "not being a good arranger of extended views"--which is, that you do not indulge in the loose speculations so easily started by every smatterer and wandering collector. I look at a strong tendency to generalise as an entire evil.

What you say of Mr. Brown is humiliating; I had suspected it, but would not allow myself to believe in such heresy. Fitz-Roy gave him a rap in his preface (13/1. In the preface to the "Surveying Voyages of the 'Adventure' and the 'Beagle,' 1826-30, forming Volume I of the work, which includes the later voyage of the "Beagle," Captain Fitz-Roy wrote (March, 1839): "Captain King took great pains in forming and preserving a botanical collection, aided by a person embarked solely for that purpose. He placed this collection in the British Museum, and was led to expect that a firstrate botanist would have examined and described it; but he has been disappointed." A reference to Robert Brown's dilatoriness over King's collection occurs in the "Life and Letters," I., page 274, note.), and made him very indignant, but it seems a much harder one would not have been wasted. My cryptogamic collection was sent to Berkeley; it was not large. I do not believe he has yet published an account, but he wrote to me some year ago that he had described [the specimens] and mislaid all his descriptions. Would it not be well for you to put yourself in communication with him, as otherwise something will perhaps be twice laboured over? My best (though poor) collection of the cryptogams was from the Chonos Islands.

Would you kindly observe one little fact for me, whether any species of plant, peculiar to any island, as Galapagos, St. Helena, or New Zealand, where there are no large quadrupeds, have hooked seeds--such hooks as, if observed here, would be thought with justness to be adapted to catch into wool of animals.

Would you further oblige me some time by informing me (though I forget this will certainly appear in your "Antarctic Flora") whether in islands like St. Helena, Galapagos, and New Zealand, the number of families and genera are large compared with the number of species, as happens in coral islands, and as, I believe, in the extreme Arctic land. Certainly this is the case with marine shells in extreme Arctic seas. Do you suppose the fewness of species in proportion to number of large groups in coral islets is owing to the chance of seeds from all orders getting drifted to such new spots, as I have supposed. Did you collect sea-shells in Kerguelen-land? I should like to know their character.

Your interesting letters tempt me to be very unreasonable in asking you questions; but you must not give yourself any trouble about them, for I know how fully and worthily you are employed. (13/2. The rest of the letter has been previously published in "Life and Letters," II., page 23.)

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., and with the character of the American fossil mammifers, 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...(13/3. On the questions here dealt with see the interesting letter to Jenyns in the "Life and Letters," II., page 34.)

...What a curious, wonderful case is that of the Lycopodium! (14/1. Sir J.D. Hooker wrote, November 8, 1844: "I am firmly convinced (but not enough to print it) that L. Selago varies in Van Diemen's Land into L. varium. Two more different SPECIES (as they have hitherto been thought), per se cannot be conceived, but nowhere else do they vary into one another, nor does Selago vary at all in England.")..! suppose you would hardly have expected them to be more varying than a phanerogamic plant. I trust you will work the case out, and, even if unsupported, publish it, for you can surely do this with due caution. I have heard of some analogous facts, though on the smallest scale, in certain insects being more variable in one district than in another, and I think the same holds with some land-shells. By a strange chance I had noted to ask you in this letter an analogous question, with respect to genera, in lieu of individual species,--that is, whether you know of any case of a genus with most of its species being variable (say Rubus) in one continent, having another set of species in another continent non-variable, or not in so marked a manner. Mr. Herbert (14/2. No doubt Dean Herbert, the horticulturist. See "Life and Letters," I., page 343.) incidentally mentioned in a letter to me that the heaths at the Cape of Good Hope were very variable, whilst in Europe they are (?) not so; but then the species here are few in comparison, so that the case, even if true, is not a good one. In some genera of insects the variability appears to be common in distant parts of the world. In shells, I hope hereafter to get much light on this question through fossils. If you can help me, I should be very much obliged: indeed, all your letters are most useful to me.

MONDAY:--Now for your first long letter, and to me quite as interesting as long. Several things are quite new to me in it--viz., for one, your belief that there are more extra-tropical than intra-tropical species. I see that my argument from the Arctic regions is false, and I should not have tried to argue against you, had I not fancied that you thought that equability of climate was the direct cause of the creation of a greater or lesser number of species. I see you call our climate equable; I should have thought it was the contrary. Anyhow, the term is vague, and in England will depend upon whether a person compares it with the United States or Tierra del

Fuego. In my Journal (page 342) I see I state that in South Chiloe, at a height of about 1,000 feet, the forests had a Fuegian aspect: I distinctly recollect that at the sea-level in the middle of Chiloe the forest had almost a tropical aspect. I should like much to hear, if you make out, whether the N. or S. boundaries of a plant are the most restricted; I should have expected that the S. would be, in the temperate regions, from the number of antagonist species being greater. N.B. Humboldt, when in London, told me of some river (14/3. The Obi (see "Flora Antarctica," page 211, note). Hooker writes: "Some of the most conspicuous trees attain either of its banks, but do not cross them.") in N.E. Europe, on the opposite banks of which the flora was, on the same soil and under same climate, widely different!

I forget (14/4. The last paragraph is published in "Life and Letters," II., page 29.) 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.

(14/5. The remainder of the foregoing letter is published in the "Life and Letters," II., page 29. It is interesting as giving his views on the mutability of species. Thus he wrote: "With respect to books on this subject, I do not know any systematical ones, except Lamarck's, which is veritable rubbish; but there are plenty, as Lyell, Pritchard, etc., on the view of the immutability." By "Pritchard" is no doubt intended James Cowles "Prichard," author of the "Physical History of Mankind." Prof. Poulton has given in his paper, "A remarkable Anticipation of Modern Views on Evolution" (14/6. "Science Progress," Volume I., April 1897, page 278.), an interesting study of Prichard's work. He shows that Prichard was in advance of his day in his views on the non-transmission of acquired characters. Prof. Poulton also tries to show that Prichard was an evolutionist. He allows that Prichard wrote with hesitation, and that in the later editions of his book his views became weaker. But, even with these qualifications, we think that Poulton has unintentionally exaggerated the degree to which Prichard believed in evolution.

One of Prichard's strongest sentences is quoted by Poulton (loc. cit., page 16); it occurs in the "Physical History of Mankind," Ed. 2, Volume II., page 570:--

"Is it not probable that the varieties which spring up within the limits of particular species are further adaptations of structure to the circumstances under which the tribe is destined to exist? Varieties branch out from the common form of a species, just as the forms of species deviate from the common type of a genus. Why should the one class of phenomena be without end or utility, a mere effect of contingency or chance, more than the other?"

If this passage, and others similar to it, stood alone, we might agree with Prof. Poulton; but this is impossible when we find in Volume I. of the same edition, page 90, the following uncompromising statement of immutability:--

"The meaning attached to the term species, in natural history, is very simple and obvious. It includes only one circumstance--namely, an original distinctness and constant transmission of any character. A race of animals, or plants, marked by any peculiarities of structure which have always been constant and undeviating, constitutes a species."

On page 91, in speaking of the idea that the species which make up a genus may have descended from a common form, he says:--

"There must, indeed, be some principle on which the phenomena of resemblance, as well as those of diversity, may be explained; and the reference of several forms to a common type seems calculated to suggest the idea of some original affinity; but, as this is merely a conjecture, it must be kept out of sight when our inquiries respect matters of fact only."

This view is again given in Volume II., page 569, where he asks whether we should believe that "at the first production of a genus, when it first grew into existence, some slight modification in the productive causes stamped it originally with all these specific diversities? Or is it most probable that the modification was subsequent to its origin, and that the genus at its first creation was one and uniform, and afterwards became diversified by the influence of external agents?" He concludes that "the former of these suppositions is the conclusion to which we are led by all that can be ascertained respecting the limits of species, and the extent of variation under the influence of causes at present existing and operating."

In spite of the fact that Prichard did not carry his ideas to their logical conclusion, it may perhaps excite surprise that Mr. Darwin should have spoken of him as absolutely on the side of immutability.

We believe it to be partly accounted for (as Poulton suggests) by the fact that Mr. Darwin possessed only the third edition (1836 and 1837) and the fourth edition (1841-51). (14/7. The edition of 1841-51 consists of reprints of the third edition and three additional volumes of various dates. Volumes I. and II. are described in the title-page as the fourth edition; Volumes III. and IV. as the third edition, and Volume V. has no edition marked in the title.) In neither of these is the evolutionary point of view so strong as in the second edition.

We have gone through all the passages marked by Mr. Darwin for future reference in the third and fourth editions, and have been only able to find the following, which occurs in the third edition (Volume I., 1836, page 242) (14/8. There is also (ed. 1837, Volume II., page 344) a vague reference to Natural Selection, of which the last sentence is enclosed in pencil in inverted commas, as though Mr. Darwin had intended to quote it: "In other parts of Africa the xanthous variety [of man] often appears, but does not multiply. Individuals thus characterised are like seeds which perish in an uncongenial soil.")

"The variety in form, prevalent among all organised productions of nature, is found to subsist between individual beings of whatever species, even when they are offspring of the same parents. Another circumstance equally remarkable is the tendency which exists in almost every tribe, whether of animals or of plants, to transmit to their offspring and to perpetuate in their race all individual peculiarities which may thus have taken their rise. These two general facts in the economy of organised beings lay a foundation for the existence of diversified races, originating from the same primitive stock and within the limits of identical species."

On the following page (page 243) a passage (not marked by Mr. Darwin) emphasises the limitation which Prichard ascribed to the results of variation and inheritance:--

"Even those physiologists who contend for what is termed the indefinite nature of species admit that they have limits at present and under ordinary circumstances. Whatever diversities take place happen without breaking in upon the characteristic type of the species. This is transmitted from generation to generation: goats produce goats, and sheep, sheep."

The passage on page 242 occurs in the reprint of the 1836-7 edition which forms part of the 1841-51 edition, but is not there marked by Mr. Darwin. He notes at the end of Volume I. ofthe 1836-7 edition: "March, 1857. I have not looked through all these [i.e. marked passages], but I have gone through the later edition"; and a similar entry is in Volume II. of the third edition. It is therefore easy to understand how he came to overlook the passage on page 242 when he began the fuller statement of his species theory which is referred to in the "Life and Letters" as the "unfinished book." In the historical sketch prefixed to the "Origin of Species" writers are named as precursors whose claims are less strong than Prichard's, and it is certain that Mr. Darwin would have given an account of him if he had thought of him as an evolutionist.

The two following passages will show that Mr. Darwin was, from his knowledge of Prichard's books, justified in classing him among those who did not believe in the mutability of species:

"The various tribes of organised beings were originally placed by the Creator in certain regions, for which they are by their nature peculiarly adapted. Each species had only one beginning in a single stock: probably a single pair, as Linnaeus supposed, was first called into being in some particular spot, and the progeny left to disperse themselves to as great a distance from the original centre of their existence as the locomotive powers bestowed on them, or their capability of bearing changes of climate and other physical agencies, may have enabled them to wander." (14/9. Prichard, third edition, 1836-7, Volume I., page 96.)

The second passage is annotated by Mr. Darwin with a shower of exclamation marks:

"The meaning attached to the term SPECIES in natural history is very definite and intelligible. It includes only the following conditions--namely, separate origin and distinctness of race, evinced by the constant transmission of some characteristic peculiarity of organisation. A race of animals or of plants marked by any peculiar character which has always been constant and undeviating constitutes a species; and two races are considered as specifically different, if they are distinguished from each other by some characteristic which one cannot be supposed to have acquired, or the other to have lost through any known operation of physical causes; for we are hence led to conclude that the tribes thus distinguished have not descended from the same original stock." (14/10. Prichard, ed. 18367, Volume I., page 106. This passage is almost identical with that quoted from the second edition, Volume I., page 90. The latter part, from "and two races...," occurs in the second edition, though not quoted above.)

As was his custom, Mr. Darwin pinned at the end of the first volume of the 1841-51 edition a piece of paper containing a list of the pages where marked passages occur. This paper bears, written in pencil, "How like my book all this will be!" The words appear to refer to Prichard's discussion on the dispersal of animals and plants; they certainly do not refer to the evolutionary views to be found in the book.)

Thank you exceedingly for your long letter, and I am in truth ashamed of the time and trouble you have taken for me; but I must some day write again to you on the subject of your letter. I will only now observe that you have extended my remark on the range of species of shells into the range of genera or groups. Analogy from shells would only go so far, that if two or three species...were found to range from America to India, they would be found to extend through an unusual thickness of strata--say from the Upper Cretaceous to its lowest bed, or the Neocomian. Or you may reverse it and say those species which range throughout the whole Cretaceous, will have wide ranges: viz., from America through Europe to India (this is one actual case with shells in the Cretaceous period).

I ought to have written sooner to say that I am very willing to subscribe 1 pound 1 shilling to the African man (though it be murder on a small scale), and will send you a Post-office-order payable to Kew, if you will be so good as to take charge of it. Thanks for your information about the Antarctic Zoology; I got my numbers when in Town on Thursday: would it be asking your publisher to take too much trouble to send your Botany ["Flora Antarctica," by J.D. Hooker, 1844] to the Athenaeum Club? he might send two or three numbers together. I am really ashamed to think of your having given me such a valuable work; all I can say is that I appreciate your present in two ways--as your gift, and for its great use to my species-work. I am very glad to hear that you mean to attack this subject some day. I wonder whether we shall ever be public combatants; anyhow, I congratulate myself in a most unfair advantage of you, viz., in having extracted more facts and views from you than from any one other person. I daresay your explanation of polymorphism on volcanic islands may be the right one; the reason I am curious about it is, the fact of the birds on the Galapagos being in several instances very fine-run species--that is, in comparing them, not so much one with another, as with their analogues from the continent. I have somehow felt, like you, that an alpine form of a plant is not a true variety; and yet I cannot admit that the simple fact of the cause being assignable ought to prevent its being called a variety; every variation must have some cause, so that the difference would rest on our knowledge in being able or not to assign the cause. Do you consider that a true variety should be produced by causes acting through the parent? But even taking this definition, are you sure that alpine forms are not inherited from one, two, or three generations? Now, would not this be a curious and valuable experiment (16/1. For an account of work of this character, see papers by G. Bonnier in the "Revue Generale," Volume II., 1890; "Ann. Sc. Nat." Volume XX.; "Revue Generale," Volume VII.), viz., to get seeds of some alpine plant, a little more hairy, etc., etc., than its lowland fellow, and raise seedlings at Kew: if this has not been done, could you not get it done? Have you anybody in Scotland from whom you could get the seeds?

I have been interested by your remarks on Senecia and Gnaphalium: would it not be worth while (I should be very curious to hear the result) to make a short list of the generally considered variable or polymorphous genera, as Rosa, Salix, Rubus, etc., etc., and reflect whether such genera are generally mundane, and more especially whether they have distinct or identical (or closely allied) species in their different and distant habitats.

Don't forget me, if you ever stumble on cases of the same species being MORE or LESS variable in different countries.

With respect to the word "sterile" as used for male or polleniferous flowers, it has always offended my ears dreadfully; on the same principle that it would to hear a potent stallion, ram or bull called sterile, because they did not bear, as well as beget, young.

With respect to your geological-map suggestion, I wish with all my heart I could follow it; but just reflect on the number of measurements requisite; why, at present it could not be done even in England, even with the assumption of the land having simply risen any exact number of feet. But subsidence in most cases has hopelessly complexed the problem: see what Jordanhill-Smith (16/2. James Smith, of Jordan Hill, author of a paper "On the Geology of Gibraltar" ("Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc." Volume II., page 41, 1846).) says of the dance up and down, many times, which Gibraltar has had all within the recent period. Such maps as Lyell (16/3. "Principles of Geology," 1875, Volume I., Plate I, page 254.) has published of sea and land at the beginning of the Tertiary period must be excessively inaccurate: it assumes that every part on which Tertiary beds have not been deposited, must have then been dry land,--a most doubtful assumption.

I have been amused by Chambers v. Hooker on the K. Cabbage. I see in the "Explanations" (the spirit of which, though not the facts, ought to shame Sedgwick) that "Vestiges" considers all land-animals and plants to have passed from marine forms; so Chambers is quite in accordance. Did you hear Forbes, when here, giving the rather curious evidence (from a similarity in error) that Chambers must be the author of the "Vestiges": your case strikes me as some confirmation. I have written an unreasonably long and dull letter, so farewell. (16/4. "Explanations: A Sequel to the Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation" was published in 1845, after the appearance of the fourth edition of the "Vestiges," by way of reply to the criticisms on the original book. The "K. cabbage" referred to at the beginning of the paragraph is Pringlea antiscorbutica," the "Kerguelen Cabbage" described by Sir J.D. Hooker in his "Flora Antarctica." What Chambers wrote on this subject we have not discovered. The mention of Sedgwick is a reference to his severe review of the "Vestiges" in the "Edinburgh Review," 1845, volume 82, page 1. Darwin described it as savouring "of the dogmatism of the pulpit" ("Life and Letters," I., page 344). Mr. Ireland's edition of the "Vestiges" (1844), in which Robert Chambers was first authentically announced as the author, contains (page xxix) an extract from a letter written by Chambers in 1860, in which the following passage occurs, "The April number of the 'Edinburgh Review"' (1860) makes all but a direct amende for the abuse it poured upon my work a number of years ago." This is the well-known review by Owen, to which references occur in the "Life and Letters," II., page 300. The amende to the "Vestiges" is not so full as the author felt it to be; but it was clearly in place in a paper intended to belittle the "Origin"; it also gave the reviewer (page 511) an opportunity for a hit at Sedgwick and his 1845 review.)

LETTER 17. TO L. BLOMEFIELD [JENYNS]. Down. February 14th [1845].

I have taken my leisure in thanking you for your last letter and discussion, to me very interesting, on the increase of species. Since your letter, I have met with a very similar view in Richardson, who states that the young are driven away by the old into unfavourable districts, and there mostly perish. When one meets with such unexpected statistical returns on the increase and decrease and proportion of deaths and births amongst mankind, and in this well-known country of ours, one ought not to be in the least surprised at one's ignorance, when, where, and how the endless increase of our robins and sparrows is checked.

Thanks for your hints about terms of "mutation," etc.; I had some suspicions that it was not quite correct, and yet I do not see my way to arrive at any better terms. It will be years before I publish, so that I shall have plenty of time to think of better words. Development would perhaps do, only it is applied to the changes of an individual during its growth. I am, however, very glad of your remark, and will ponder over it.

We are all well, wife and children three, and as flourishing as this horrid, house-confining, tempestuous weather permits.

I hope you are getting on well with your lectures, and that you have enjoyed some pleasant walks during the late delightful weather. I write to tell you (as perhaps you might have had fears on the subject) that your books have arrived safely. I am exceedingly obliged to you for them, and will take great care of them; they will take me some time to read carefully.

I send to-day the corrected MS. of the first number of my "Journal" (18/1. In 1842 he had written to his sister: "Talking of money, I reaped the other day all the profit which I shall ever get from my "Journal" ["Journal of Researches, etc."] which consisted in paying Mr. Colburn 21 pounds 10 shillings for the copies which I presented to different people; 1,337 copies have been sold. This is a comfortable arrangement, is it not?" He was proved wrong in his gloomy prophecy, as the second edition was published by Mr. Murray in 1845.) in the Colonial Library, so that if you chance to know of any gross mistake in the first 214 pages (if you have my "Journal"), I should be obliged to you to tell me.

Do not answer this for form's sake; for you must be very busy. We have just had the Lyells here, and you ought to have a wife to stop your working too much, as Mrs. Lyell peremptorily stops Lyell.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment