Letter 163 To Jd Hooker

(163/1. The following extract refers to Owen's paper in the "Linn. Soc. Journal," June, 1857, in which the classification of the Mammalia by cerebral characters was proposed. In spite of the fact that men and apes are placed in distinct Sub-Classes, Owen speaks (in the foot-note of which Huxley made such telling effect) of the determination of the difference between Homo and Pithecus as the anatomist's difficulty. (See Letter 119.))

July 5th, 1857.

What a capital number of the "Linnean Journal!" Owen's is a grand paper; but I cannot swallow Man making a division as distinct from a chimpanzee as an Ornithorhynchus from a horse; I wonder what a chimpanzee would say to this? (163/2. According to Owen the sub-class Archencephala contains only the genus Homo: the Gyrencephala contains both chimpanzee and horse, the Lyencephala contains Ornithorhynchus.)

LETTER 164. TO T.H. HUXLEY. Down [February?] 26th, 1863.

I have just finished with very great interest "Man's Place." (164/1. "Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature," 1863 (preface dated January 1863).) I never fail to admire the clearness and condensed vigour of your style, as one calls it, but really of your thought. I have no criticisms; nor is it likely that I could have. But I think you could have added some interesting matter on the character or disposition of the young ourangs which have been kept in France and England. I should have thought you might have enlarged a little on the later embryological changes in man and on his rudimentary structure, tail as compared with tail of higher monkeys, intermaxillary bone, false ribs, and I daresay other points, such as muscles of ears, etc., etc. I was very much struck with admiration at the opening pages of Part II. (and oh! what a delicious sneer, as good as a dessert, at page 106) (164/2. Huxley, op. cit., page 106. After saying that "there is but one hypothesis regarding the origin of species of animals in general which has any scientific existence—that propounded by Mr. Darwin," and after a few words on Lamarck, he goes on: "And though I have heard of the announcement of a formula touching 'the ordained continuous becoming of organic forms,' it is obvious that it is the first duty of a hypothesis to be intelligible, and that a qua-qua-versal proposition of this kind, which may be read backwards or forwards, or sideways, with exactly the same amount of significance, does not really exist, though it may seem to do so." The "formula" in question is Owen's.): but my admiration is unbounded at pages 109 to 112. I declare I never in my life read anything grander. Bacon himself could not have charged a few paragraphs with more condensed and cutting sense than you have done. It is truly grand. I regret extremely that you could not, or did not, end your book (not that I mean to say a word against the Geological History) with these pages. With a book, as with a fine day, one likes it to end with a glorious sunset. I congratulate you on its publication; but do not be disappointed if it does not sell largely: parts are highly scientific, and I have often remarked that the best books frequently do not get soon appreciated: certainly large sale is no proof of the highest merit. But I hope it may be widely distributed; and I am rejoiced to see in your note to Miss Rhadamanthus (164/3. This refers to Mr. Darwin's daughter (now Mrs. Litchfield), whom Mr. Huxley used to laugh at for the severity of her criticisms.) that a second thousand is called for of the little book. What a letter that is of Owen's in the "Athenaeum" (164/4. A letter by Owen in the "Athenaeum," February 21st, 1863, replying to strictures on his treatment of the brain question, which had appeared in Lyell's "Antiquity of Man."); how cleverly he will utterly muddle and confound the public. Indeed he quite muddled me, till I read again your "concise statement" (164/5. This refers to a section (pages 113-18) in "Man's Place in Nature," headed "A succinct History of the Controversy respecting the Cerebral Structure of Man and the Apes." Huxley follows the question from Owen's attempt to classify the mammalia by cerebral characters, published by the "Linn. Soc." in 1857, up to his revival of the subject at the Cambridge meeting of the British Association in 1862. It is a tremendous indictment of Owen, and seems to us to conclude not unfittingly with a citation from Huxley's article in the "Medical Times," October 11th, 1862. Huxley here points out that special investigations have been made into the question at issue "during the last two years" by Allen Thomson, Rolleston, Marshall, Flower, Schroeder van der Kolk and Vrolik, and that "all these able and conscientious observers" have testified to the accuracy of his statements, "while not a single anatomist, great or small, has supported Professor Owen." He sums up the case once more, and concludes: "The question has thus become one of personal veracity. For myself I will accept no other issue than this, grave as it is, to the present controversy.") (which is capitally clear), and then I saw that my suspicion was true that he has entirely changed his ground to size of Brain. How candid he shows himself to have taken the slipped Brain! (164/6. Owen in the "Athenaeum," February 21st, 1863, admits that in the brain which he used in illustration of his statements "the cerebral hemispheres had glided forward and apart behind so as to expose a portion of the cerebellum.") I am intensely curious to see whether Lyell will answer. (164/7. Lyell's answer was in the "Athenaeum" March 7th, 1863.) Lyell has been, I fear, rather rash to enter on a subject on which he of course knows nothing by himself. By heavens, Owen will shake himself, when he sees what an antagonist he has made for himself in you. With hearty admiration, Farewell.

I am fearfully disappointed at Lyell's excessive caution (164/8. In the "Antiquity of Man": see "Life and Letters," III., page 8.) in expressing any judgment on Species or [on the] origin of Man.

LETTER 165. TO JOHN SCOTT. Down, March 6th, 1863.

I thank you for your criticisms on the "Origin," and which I have not time to discuss; but I cannot help doubting, from your expression of an "INNATE...selective principle," whether you fully comprehend what is meant by Natural Selection. Certainly when you speak of weaker (i.e. less well adapted) forms crossing with the stronger, you take a widely different view from what I do on the struggle for existence; for such weaker forms could not exist except by the rarest chance. With respect to utility, reflect that 99/100ths part of the structure of each being is due to inheritance of formerly useful structures. Pray read what I have said on "correlation." Orchids ought to show us how ignorant we are of what is useful. No doubt hundreds of cases could be advanced of which no explanation could be offered; but I must stop. Your letter has interested me much. I am very far from strong, and have great fear that I must stop all work for a couple of months for entire rest, and leave home. It will be ruin to all my work.

LETTER 166. TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, April 23rd [1863].

The more I think of Falconer's letter (166/1. Published in the "Athenaeum" April 4th, 1863, page 459. The writer asserts that Lyell did not make it clear that certain material made use of in the "Antiquity of Man" was supplied by the original work of Mr. Prestwich and himself. (See "Life and Letters," III., page 19.)) the more grieved I am; he and Prestwich (the latter at least must owe much to the "Principles") assume an absurdly unwarrantable position with respect to Lyell. It is too bad to treat an old hero in science thus. I can see from a note from Falconer (about a wonderful fossil Brazilian Mammal, well called Meso- or Typo-therium) that he expects no sympathy from me. He will end, I hope, by being sorry. Lyell lays himself open to a slap by saying that he would come to show his original observations, and then not distinctly doing so; he had better only have laid claim, on this one point of man, to verification and compilation.

Altogether, I much like Lyell's letter. But all this squabbling will greatly sink scientific men. I have seen a sneer already in the "Times."

Was this article helpful?

0 0
The Power Of Charisma

The Power Of Charisma

You knowthere's something about you I like. I can't put my finger on it and it's not just the fact that you will download this ebook but there's something about you that makes you attractive.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment