1, Carlton Terrace, Southampton, August 22nd .
You say that the Bishop and Owen will be down on you (140/1. This refers to the "Antiquity of Man," which was published in 1863.): the latter hardly can, for I was assured that Owen, in his lectures this spring, advanced as a new idea that wingless birds had lost their wings by disuse. (140/2. The first paragraph of this letter was published in "Life and Letters," II., pages 387, 388.) Also that magpies stole spoons, etc., from a remnant of some instinct like that of the bower-bird, which ornaments its playing passage with pretty feathers. Indeed, I am told that he hinted plainly that all birds are descended from one. What an unblushing man he must be to lecture thus after abusing me so, and never to have openly retracted, or alluded to my book!
LETTER 141. TO JOHN LUBBOCK (LORD AVEBURY). Cliff Cottage, Bournemouth, September 5th .
Many thanks for your pleasant note in return for all my stupid trouble. I did not fully appreciate your insect-diving case (141/1. "On two Aquatic
Hymenoptera, one of which uses its Wings in Swimming." By John Lubbock. "Trans. Linn. Soc." Volume XXIV., 1864, pages 135-42.) [Read May 7th, 1863.] In this paper Lubbock describes a new species of Polynema--P. natans--which swims by means of its wings, and is capable of living under water for several hours; the other species, referred to a new genus Prestwichia, lives under water, holds its wings motionless and uses its legs as oars.) before your last note, nor had I any idea that the fact was new, though new to me. It is really very interesting. Of course you will publish an account of it. You will then say whether the insect can fly well through the air. (141/2. In describing the habits of Polynema, Lubbock writes, "I was unfortunately unable to ascertain whether they could fly" (loc. cit., page 137).) My wife asked, "How did he find that it stayed four hours under water without breathing?" I answered at once: "Mrs. Lubbock sat four hours watching." I wonder whether I am right.
I long to be at home and at steady work, and I hope we may be in another month. I fear it is hopeless my coming to you, for I am squashier than ever, but hope two shower-baths a day will give me a little strength, so that you will, I hope, come to us. It is an age since I have seen you or any scientific friend.
I heard from Lyell the other day in the Isle of Wight, and from Hooker in Scotland. About Huxley I know nothing, but I hope his book progresses, for I shall be very curious to see it. (141/3. "Man's Place in Nature." London, 1863.)
I do nothing here except occasionally look at a few flowers, and there are very few here, for the country is wonderfully barren.
See what it is to be well trained. Horace said to me yesterday, "If every one would kill adders they would come to sting less." I answered: "Of course they would, for there would be fewer." He replied indignantly: "I did not mean that; but the timid adders which run away would be saved, and in time would never sting at all." Natural selection of cowards!
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