Letter 175a To Erasmus Darwin

Down, June 30th, 1864.

(175A.1. The preceding letter contains a reference to the prolonged period of ill-health which Darwin suffered in 1863 and 1864, and in this connection the present letter is of interest.

The Copley Medal was given to him in 1864.)

I had not heard a word about the Copley Medal. Please give Falconer my cordial thanks for his interest about me. I enclose the list of everything published by me except a few unimportant papers. Ask Falconer not to mention that I sent the list, as some one might say I had been canvassing, which is an odious imputation. The origin of the Voyage in the "Beagle" was that Fitz-Roy generously offered to give up half his cabin to any one who would volunteer to go as naturalist. Beaufort wrote to Cambridge, and I volunteered. Fitz-Roy never persuaded me to give up the voyage on account of sickness, nor did I ever think of doing so, though I suffered considerably; but I do not believe it was the cause of my subsequent ill-health, which has lost me so many years, and therefore I should not think the sea-sickness was worth notice. It would save you trouble to forward this with my kindest remembrances to Falconer.

(176/1. The following letter was the beginning of a correspondence with Mr. B.D. Walsh, whom C.V. Riley describes as "one of the ablest and most thorough entomologists of our time.")

LETTER 176. B.D. WALSH TO CHARLES DARWIN. Rock Island, Illinois, U.S., April 29th, 1864.

(176/2. The words in square brackets are restorations of parts torn off the original letter.)

More than thirty years ago I was introduced to you at your rooms in Christ's College by A.W. Grisebach, and had the pleasure of seeing your noble collection of British Coleoptera. Some years afterwards I became a Fellow of Trinity, and finally gave up my Fellowship rather than go into Orders, and came to this country. For the last five or six years I have been paying considerable attention to the insect fauna of the U.S., some of the fruits of which you will see in the enclosed pamphlets. Allow me to take this opportunity of thanking you for the publication of your "Origin of Species," which I read three years ago by the advice of a botanical friend, though I had a strong prejudice against what I supposed then to be your views. The first perusal staggered me, the second convinced me, and the oftener I read it the more convinced I am of the general soundness of your theory.

As you have called upon naturalists that believe in your views to give public testimony of their convictions, I have directed your attention on the outside of one or two of my pamphlets to the particular passages in which [I] have done so. You will please accept these papers from me in token of my respect and admiration.

As you may see from the latest of these papers, I [have] recently made the remarkable discover that there [are the] so-called "three sexes" not only in social insects but [also in the] strictly solitary genus Cynips.

When is your great work to make its appearance? [I should be] much pleased to receive a few lines from you.

LETTER 177. TO B.D. WALSH. Down, October 21st [1864].

Ill-health has prevented me from sooner thanking you for your very kind letter and several memoirs.

I have been very much pleased to see how boldly and clearly you speak out on the modification of species. I thank you for giving me the pages of reference; but they were superfluous, for I found so many original and profound remarks that I have carefully looked through all the papers. I hope that your discovery about the Cynips (177/1. "On Dimorphism in the hymenopterous genus Cynips," "Proc. Entom. Soc. Philadelphia," March, 1864. Mr. Walsh's view is that Cynips quercus aciculata is a dimorphous form of Cynips q. spongifica, and occurs only as a female. Cynips q. spongifica also produces spongifica females and males from other galls at a different time of year.) will hold good, for it is a remarkable one, and I for one have often marvelled what could be the meaning of the case. I will lend your paper to my neighbour Mr. Lubbock, who I know is much interested in the subject. Incidentally I shall profit by your remarks on galls. If you have time I think a rather hopeless experiment would be worth trying; anyhow, I should have tried it had my health permitted. It is to insert a minute grain of some organic substance, together with the poison from bees, sand-wasps, ichneumons, adders, and even alkaloid poisons into the tissues of fitting plants for the chance of monstrous growths being produced. (177/2. See "Life and Letters," III., page 346, for an account of experiments attempted in this direction by Mr. Darwin in 1880. On the effects of injuring plant-tissues, see Massart, "La Cicatrisation, etc." in Tome LVII. of the "Memoires Couronnes" of the Brussels Academy.)

My health has long been poor, and I have lately suffered from a long illness which has interrupted all work, but I am now recommencing a volume in connection with the "Origin."

P.S.--If you write again I should very much like to hear what your life in your new country is.

What can be the meaning or use of the great diversity of the external generative organs in your cases, in Bombus, and the phytophagous coleoptera?

What can there be in the act of copulation necessitating such complex and diversified apparatus?

LETTER 178. TO W.H. FLOWER. Down, July 11th, 1864.

I am truly obliged for all the trouble which you have taken for me, and for your very interesting note. I had only vaguely heard it said that frogs had a rudiment of a sixth toe; had I known that such great men had looked to the point I should not have dreamed of looking myself. The rudiment sent to you was from a full-grown frog; so that if these bones are the two cuneiforms they must, I should think, be considered to be in a rudimentary condition. This afternoon my gardener brought in some tadpoles with the hind-legs alone developed, and I looked at the rudiment. At this age it certainly looks extremely like a digit, for the extremity is enlarged like that of the adjoining real toe, and the transverse articulation seems similar. I am sorry that the case is doubtful, for if these batrachians had six toes, I certainly think it would have thrown light on the truly extraordinary strength of inheritance in polydactylism in so many animals, and especially on the power of regeneration in amputated supernumerary digits. (178/1. In the first edition of "Variation under Domestication" the view here given is upheld, but in the second edition (Volume I., page 459) Darwin withdrew his belief that the development of supernumerary digits in man is "a case of reversion to a lowly-organised progenitor provided with more than five digits." See Letters 161, 270.)

LETTER 179. TO J.D. HOOKER. Down [October 22nd, 1864].

The Lyells have been here, and were extremely pleasant, but I saw them only occasionally for ten minutes, and when they went I had an awful day [of illness]; but I am now slowly getting up to my former standard. I shall soon be confined to a living grave, and a fearful evil it is.

I suppose you have read Tyndall. (179/1. Probably Tyndall "On the

Conformation of the Alps" ("Phil. Mag." 1864, page 255).) I have now come round again to Ramsay's view, (179/2. "Phil. Mag." 1864, page 293.) for the third or fourth time; but Lyell says when I read his discussion in the "Elements," I shall recant for the fifth time. (179/3. This refers to a discussion on the "Connection of the predominance of Lakes with Glacial Action" ("Elements," Edition VI., pages 168-74). Lyell adheres to the views expressed in the "Antiquity of Man" (1863) against Ramsay's theory of the origin of lake basins by ice action.) What a capital writer Tyndall is!

In your last note you ask what the Bardfield oxlip is. It is P. elatior of Jacq., which certainly looks, when growing, to common eyes different from the common oxlip. I will fight you to the death that as primrose and cowslip are different in appearance (not to mention odour, habitat and range), and as I can now show that, when they cross, the intermediate offspring are sterile like ordinary hybrids, they must be called as good species as a man and a gorilla.

I agree that if Scott's red cowslip grew wild or spread itself and did not vary [into] common cowslip (and we have absolutely no proof of primrose or cowslip varying into each other), and as it will not cross with the cowslip, it would be a perfectly good species. The power of remaining for a good long period constant I look at as the essence of a species, combined with an appreciable amount of difference; and no one can say there is not this amount of difference between primrose and oxlip.

(PLATE: HUGH FALCONER, 1844. From a photograph by Hill & Adamson.)

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