Letter 24 To E Cresy

(24/2. Mr. Cresy was, we believe, an architect: his friendship with Mr. Darwin dates from the settlement at Down.)

Down [after 1847].

Although I have never particularly attended to the points in dispute between Dr. (Richard) King and the other Arctic gentlemen, yet I have carefully read all the articles in the "Athenaeum," and took from them much the same impression as you convey in your letter, for which I thank you. I believe that old sinner, Sir J. Barrow (24/3. Sir John Barrow, (1764-1848): Secretary to the Admiralty. has been at the bottom of all the money wasted over the naval expeditions. So strongly have I felt on this subject, that, when I was appointed on a committee for Nat. Hist. instructions for the present expedition, had I been able to attend I had resolved to express my opinion on the little advantage, comparatively to the expense, gained by them. There have been, I believe, from the beginning eighteen expeditions; this strikes me as monstrous, considering how little is known, for instance, on the interior of Australia. The country has paid dear for Sir John's hobbyhorse. I have very little doubt that Dr. King is quite right in the advantage of land expeditions as far as geography is concerned; and that is now the chief object. (24/4. This sentence would imply that Darwin thought it hopeless to rescue Sir J. Franklin's expedition. If so, the letter must be, at least, as late as 1850. If the eighteen expeditions mentioned above are "search expeditions," it would also bring the date of the letter to 1850.)

LETTER 25. TO RICHARD OWEN. Down [March 26th, 1848].

My dear Owen

I do not know whether your MS. instructions are sent in; but even if they are not sent in, I daresay what I am going to write will be absolutely superfluous (25/1. The results of Mr. Darwin's experience given in the above letter were embodied by Prof. Owen in the section "On the Use of the Microscope on Board Ship," forming part of the article "Zoology" in the "Manual of Scientific Enquiry, Prepared for the Use of Her Majesty's Navy" (London, 1849).), but I have derived such infinitely great advantage from my new simple microscope, in comparison with the one which I used on board the "Beagle," and which was recommended to me by R. Brown ("Life and Letters," I., page 145.), that I cannot forego the mere chance of advantage of urging this on you. The leading point of difference consists simply in having the stage for saucers very large and fixed. Mine will hold a saucer three inches in inside diameter. I have never seen such a microscope as mine, though Chevalier's (from whose plan many points of mine are taken), of Paris, approaches it pretty closely. I fully appreciate the utter ABSURDITY of my giving you advice about means of dissecting; but I have appreciated myself the enormous disadvantage of having worked with a bad instrument, though thought a few years since the best. Please to observe that without you call especial attention to this point, those ignorant of Natural History will be sure to get one of the fiddling instruments sold in shops. If you thought fit, I would point out the differences, which, from my experience, make a useful microscope for the kind of dissection of the invertebrates which a person would be likely to attempt on board a vessel. But pray again believe that I feel the absurdity of this letter, and I write merely from the chance of yourself, possessing great skill and having worked with good instruments, [not being] possibly fully aware what an astonishing difference the kind of microscope makes for those who have not been trained in skill for dissection under water. When next I come to town (I was prevented last time by illness) I must call on you, and report, for my own satisfaction, a really (I think) curious point I have made out in my beloved barnacles. You cannot tell how much I enjoyed my talk with you here.

Ever, my dear Owen, Yours sincerely, C. DARWIN.

P.S.--If I do not hear, I shall understand that my letter is superfluous. Smith and Beck were so pleased with the simple microscope they made for me, that they have made another as a model. If you are consulted by any young naturalists, do recommend them to look at this. I really feel quite a personal gratitude to this form of microscope, and quite a hatred to my old one.

LETTER 26. TO J.S. HENSLOW. Down [April 1st, 1848.]

Thank you for your note and giving me a chance of seeing you in town; but it was out of my power to take advantage of it, for I had previously arranged to go up to London on Monday. I should have much enjoyed seeing you. Thanks also for your address (26/1. An introductory lecture delivered in March 1848 at the first meeting of a Society "for giving instructions to the working classes in Ipswich in various branches of science, and more especially in natural history" ("Memoir of the Rev. J.S. Henslow," by Leonard Jenyns, page 150.), which I like very much. The anecdote about Whewell and the tides I had utterly forgotten; I believe it is near enough to the truth. I rather demur to one sentence of yours--viz., "However delightful any scientific pursuit may be, yet, if it should be wholly unapplied, it is of no more use than building castles in the air." Would not your hearers infer from this that the practical use of each scientific discovery ought to be immediate and obvious to make it worthy of admiration? What a beautiful instance chloroform is of a discovery made from purely scientific researches, afterwards coming almost by chance into practical use! For myself I would, however, take higher ground, for I believe there exists, and I feel within me, an instinct for truth, or knowledge or discovery, of something of the same nature as the instinct of virtue, and that our having such an instinct is reason enough for scientific researches without any practical results ever ensuing from them. You will wonder what makes me run on so, but I have been working very hard for the last eighteen months on the anatomy, etc., of the Cirripedia (on which I shall publish a monograph), and some of my friends laugh at me, and I fear the study of the Cirripedia will ever remain "wholly unapplied," and yet I feel that such study is better than castle-building.

LETTER 27. TO J.D. HOOKER, at Dr. Falconer's, Botanic Garden, Calcutta.

Down, May 10th, 1848.

I was indeed delighted to see your handwriting; but I felt almost sorry when I beheld how long a letter you had written. I know that you are indomitable in work, but remember how precious your time is, and do not waste it on your friends, however much pleasure you may give them. Such a letter would have cost me half-a-day's work. How capitally you seem going on! I do envy you the sight of all the glorious vegetation. I am much pleased and surprised that you have been able to observe so much in the animal world. No doubt you keep a journal, and an excellent one it will be, I am sure, when published. All these animal facts will tell capitally in it. I can quite comprehend the difficulty you mention about not knowing what is known zoologically in India; but facts observed, as you will observe them, are none the worse for reiterating. Did you see Mr. Blyth in Calcutta? He would be a capital man to tell you what is known about Indian Zoology, at least in the Vertebrata. He is a very clever, odd, wild fellow, who will never do what he could do, from not sticking to any one subject. By the way, if you should see him at any time, try not to forget to remember me very kindly to him; I liked all I saw of him. Your letter was the very one to charm me, with all its facts for my Species-book, and truly obliged I am for so kind a remembrance of me. Do not forget to make enquiries about the origin, even if only traditionally known, of any varieties of domestic quadrupeds, birds, silkworms, etc. Are there domestic bees? if so hives ought to be brought home. Of all the facts you mention, that of the wild [illegible], when breeding with the domestic, producing offspring somewhat sterile, is the most surprising: surely they must be different species. Most zoologists would absolutely disbelieve such a statement, and consider the result as a proof that they were distinct species. I do not go so far as that, but the case seems highly improbable. Blyth has studied the Indian Ruminantia. I have been much struck about what you say of lowland plants ascending mountains, but the alpine not descending. How I do hope you will get up some mountains in Borneo; how curious the result will be! By the way, I never heard from you what affinity the Maldive flora has, which is cruel, as you tempted me by making me guess. I sometimes groan over your Indian journey, when I think over all your locked up riches. When shall I see a memoir on Insular floras, and on the Pacific? What a grand subject Alpine floras of the world (27/1. Mr. William Botting Hemsley, F.R.S., of the Royal Gardens, Kew, is now engaged on a monograph of the high-level Alpine plants of the world.) would be, as far as known; and then you have never given a coup d'oeil on the similarity and dissimilarity of Arctic and Antarctic floras. Well, thank heavens, when you do come back you will be nolens volens a fixture. I am particularly glad you have been at the Coal; I have often since you went gone on maundering on the subject, and I shall never rest easy in Down churchyard without the problem be solved by some one before I die. Talking of dying makes me tell you that my confounded stomach is much the same; indeed, of late has been rather worse, but for the last year, I think, I have been able to do more work. I have done nothing besides the barnacles, except, indeed, a little theoretical paper on erratic boulders

(27/2. "On the Transportal of Erratic Boulders from a Lower to a Higher Level" ("Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc." Volume IV., pages 315-23. 1848). In this paper Darwin favours the view that the transport of boulders was effected by coast-ice. An earlier paper entitled "Notes on the Effects produced by the ancient Glaciers of Caernarvonshire, and on the Boulders transported by floating Ice" ("Phil. Mag." 1842, page 352) is spoken of by Sir Archibald Geikie as standing "almost at the top of the long list of English contributions to the history of the Ice Age" ("Charles Darwin," "Nature" Series, page 23).), and Scientific Geological Instructions for the Admiralty Volume (27/3. "A manual of Scientific Enquiry, prepared for the use of Her Majesty's Navy, and adapted for Travellers in General." Edited by Sir John F.W. Herschel, Bart. Section VI.--Geology--by Charles Darwin. London, 1849. See "Life and Letters," pages 328-9.), which cost me some trouble. This work, which is edited by Sir J. Herschel, is a very good job, inasmuch as the captains of men-of-war will now see that the Admiralty cares for science, and so will favour naturalists on board. As for a man who is not scientific by nature, I do not believe instructions will do him any good; and if he be scientific and good for anything the instructions will be superfluous. I do not know who does the Botany; Owen does the Zoology, and I have sent him an account of my new simple microscope, which I consider perfect, even better than yours by Chevalier. N.B. I have got a 1/8 inch object-glass, and it is grand. I have been getting on well with my beloved Cirripedia, and get more skilful in dissection. I have worked out the nervous system pretty well in several genera, and made out their ears and nostrils (27/4. For the olfactory sacs see Darwin's "Monograph of the Cirripedia," 1851, page 52.), which were quite unknown. I have lately got a bisexual cirripede, the male being microscopically small and parasitic within the sack of the female. I tell you this to boast of my species theory, for the nearest closely allied genus to it is, as usual, hermaphrodite, but I had observed some minute parasites adhering to it, and these parasites I now can show are supplemental males, the male organs in the hermaphrodite being unusually small, though perfect and containing zoosperms: so we have almost a polygamous animal, simple females alone being wanting. I never should have made this out, had not my species theory convinced me, that an hermaphrodite species must pass into a bisexual species by insensibly small stages; and here we have it, for the male organs in the hermaphrodite are beginning to fail, and independent males ready formed. But I can hardly explain what I mean, and you will perhaps wish my barnacles and species theory al Diavolo together. But I don't care what you say, my species theory is all gospel. We have had only one party here: viz., of the Lyells, Forbes, Owen, and Ramsay, and we both missed you and Falconer very much...I know more of your history than you will suppose, for Miss Henslow most good-naturedly sent me a packet of your letters, and she wrote me so nice a little note that it made me quite proud. I have not heard of anything in the scientific line which would interest you. Sir H. De la Beche (27/5. The Presidential Address delivered by De la Beche before the Geological Society in 1848 ("Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc." Volume IV., "Proceedings," page xxi, 1848).) gave a very long and rather dull address; the most interesting part was from Sir J. Ross. Mr. Beete Jukes figured in it very prominently: it really is a very nice quality in Sir Henry, the manner in which he pushes forward his subordinates. Jukes has since read what was considered a very valuable paper. The man, not content with moustaches, now sports an entire beard, and I am sure thinks himself like Jupiter tonans. There was a short time since a not very creditable discussion at a meeting of the Royal Society, where Owen fell foul of Mantell with fury and contempt about belemnites. What wretched doings come from the order of fame; the love of truth alone would never make one man attack another bitterly. My paper is full, so I must wish you with all my heart farewell. Heaven grant that your health may keep good.

LETTER 28. TO J.S. HENSLOW. The Lodge, Malvern, May 6th, 1849.

Your kind note has been forwarded to me here. You will be surprised to hear that we all--children, servants, and all--have been here for nearly two months. All last autumn and winter my health grew worse and worse: incessant sickness, tremulous hands, and swimming head. I thought I was going the way of all flesh. Having heard of much success in some cases from the cold-water cure, I determined to give up all attempts to do anything and come here and put myself under Dr. Gully. It has answered to a considerable extent: my sickness much checked and considerable strength gained. Dr. G., moreover (and I hear he rarely speaks confidently), tells me he has little doubt but that he can cure me in the course of time--time, however, it will take. I have experienced enough to feel sure that the cold-water cure is a great and powerful agent and upsetter of all constitutional habits. Talking of habits, the cruel wretch has made me leave off snuff--that chief solace of life. We thank you most sincerely for your prompt and early invitation to Hitcham for the British Association for 1850 (28/1. The invitation was probably not for 1850, but for 1851, when the Association met at Ipswich.): if I am made well and strong, most gladly will I accept it; but as I have been hitherto, a drive every day of half a dozen miles would be more than I could stand with attending any of the sections. I intend going to Birmingham (28/2. The Association met at Birmingham in 1849.) if able; indeed, I am bound to attempt it, for I am honoured beyond all measure in being one of the Vice-Presidents. I am uncommonly glad you will be there; I fear, however, we shall not have any such charming trips as Nuneham and Dropmore. (28/3. In a letter to Hooker (October 12th, 1849) Darwin speaks of "that heavenly day at Dropmore." ("Life and Letters," I., page 379.)) We shall stay here till at least June 1st, perhaps till July 1st; and I shall have to go on with the aqueous treatment at home for several more months. One most singular effect of the treatment is that it induces in most people, and eminently in my case, the most complete stagnation of mind. I have ceased to think even of barnacles! I heard some time since from Hooker...How capitally he seems to have succeeded in all his enterprises! You must be very busy now. I happened to be thinking the other day over the Gamlingay trip to the Lilies of the Valley (28/4. The Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) is recorded from Gamlingay by Professor Babington in his "Flora of Cambridgeshire," page 234. (London, 1860.)): ah, those were delightful days when one had no such organ as a stomach, only a mouth and the masticating appurtenances. I am very much surprised at what you say, that men are beginning to work in earnest [at] Botany. What a loss it will be for Natural History that you have ceased to reside all the year in Cambridge!

LETTER 29. TO J.F. ROYLE. Down, September 1st [184-?].

I return you with very many thanks your valuable work. I am sure I have not lost any slip or disarranged the loose numbers. I have been interested by looking through the volumes, though I have not found quite so much as I had thought possible about the varieties of the Indian domestic animals and plants, and the attempts at introduction have been too recent for the effects (if any) of climate to have been developed. I have, however, been astonished and delighted at the evidence of the energetic attempts to do good by such numbers of people, and most of them evidently not personally interested in the result. Long may our rule flourish in India. I declare all the labour shown in these transactions is enough by itself to make one proud of one's countrymen...

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment