(33/1. The following letter is one of the earliest of the long series addressed to Mr. Huxley.)
Down, April 23rd .
I have got out all the specimens, which I have thought could by any possibility be of any use to you; but I have not looked at them, and know not what state they are in, but should be much pleased if they are of the smallest use to you. I enclose a catalogue of habitats: I thought my notes would have turned out of more use. I have copied out such few points as perhaps would not be apparent in preserved specimens. The bottle shall go to Mr. Gray on Thursday next by our weekly carrier.
I am very much obliged for your paper on the Mollusca (33/2. The paper of Huxley's is "On the Morphology of the Cephalous Mollusca, etc." ("Phil. Trans. R. Soc." Volume 143, Part I., 1853, page 29.)); I have read it all with much interest: but it would be ridiculous in me to make any remarks on a subject on which I am so utterly ignorant; but I can see its high importance. The discovery of the type or "idea" (33/3. Huxley defines his use of the word "archetype" at page 50: "All that I mean is the conception of a form embodying the most general propositions that can be affirmed respecting the Cephalous Mollusca, standing in the same relation to them as the diagram to a geometrical theorem, and like it, at once, imaginary and true.") (in your sense, for I detest the word as used by Owen, Agassiz & Co.) of each great class, I cannot doubt, is one of the very highest ends of Natural History; and certainly most interesting to the worker-out. Several of your remarks have interested me: I am, however, surprised at what you say versus "anamorphism" (33/4. The passage referred to is at page 63: "If, however, all Cephalous Mollusks...be only modifications by excess or defect of the parts of a definite archetype, then, I think, it follows as a necessary consequence, that no anamorphism takes place in this group. There is no progression from a lower to a higher type, but merely a more or less complete evolution of one type." Huxley seems to use the term anamorphism in a sense differing from that of some writers. Thus in Jourdan's "Dictionnaire des Termes Usites dans les Sciences Naturelles," 1834, it is defined as the production of an atypical form either by arrest or excess of development.), I should have thought that the archetype in imagination was always in some degree embryonic, and therefore capable [of]
and generally undergoing further development.
Is it not an extraordinary fact, the great difference in position of the heart in different species of Cleodora? (33/5. A genus of Pteropods.) I am a believer that when any part, usually constant, differs considerably in different allied species that it will be found in some degree variable within the limits of the same species. Thus, I should expect that if great numbers of specimens of some of the species of Cleodora had been examined with this object in view, the position of the heart in some of the species would have been found variable. Can you aid me with any analogous facts?
I am very much pleased to hear that you have not given up the idea of noticing my cirripedial volume. All that I have seen since confirms everything of any importance stated in that volume--more especially I have been able rigorously to confirm in an anomalous species, by the clearest evidence, that the actual cellular contents of the ovarian tubes, by the gland-like action of a modified portion of the continuous tube, passes into the cementing stuff: in fact cirripedes make glue out of their own unformed eggs! (33/6. On Darwin's mistake in this point see "Life and Letters," III., page 2.)
Pray believe me, Yours sincerely, C. DARWIN.
I told the above case to Milne Edwards, and I saw he did not place the smallest belief in it.
LETTER 34. TO T.H. HUXLEY. Down, September 2nd, .
My second volume on the everlasting barnacles is at last published (34/1. "A Monograph of the Sub-class Cirripedia. II. The Balanidae, the Verrucidae." Ray Society, 1854.), and I will do myself the pleasure of sending you a copy to Jermyn Street next Thursday, as I have to send another book then to Mr. Baily.
And now I want to ask you a favour--namely, to answer me two questions. As you are so perfectly familiar with the doings, etc., of all Continental naturalists, I want you to tell me a few names of those whom you think would care for my volume. I do not mean in the light of puffing my book, but I want not to send copies to those who from other studies, age, etc., would view it as waste paper. From assistance rendered me, I consider myself bound to send copies to: (1) Bosquet of Maestricht, (2) Milne Edwards, (3) Dana, (4) Agassiz, (5) Muller, (6) W. Dunker of Hesse Cassel.
Now I have five or six other copies to distribute, and will you be so very kind as to help me? I had thought of Von Siebold, Loven, d'Orbigny, Kolliker, Sars, Kroyer, etc., but I know hardly anything about any of them.
My second question, it is merely a chance whether you can answer,--it is whether I can send these books or any of them (in some cases accompanied by specimens), through the Royal Society: I have some vague idea of having heard that the Royal Society did sometimes thus assist members.
I have just been reading your review of the "Vestiges" (34/2. In his chapter on the "Reception of the Origin of Species" ("Life and Letters," II., pages 188-9), Mr. Huxley wrote: "and the only review I ever have qualms of conscience about, on the ground of needless savagery, is one I wrote on the 'Vestiges.'" The article is in the "British and Foreign Medico-chirurgical Review," XIII., 1854, page 425. The "great man" referred to below is Owen: see Huxley's review, page 439, and Huxley's "Life." I., page 94.), and the way you handle a great Professor is really exquisite and inimitable. I have been extremely interested in other parts, and to my mind it is incomparably the best review I have read on the "Vestiges"; but I cannot think but that you are rather hard on the poor author. I must think that such a book, if it does no other good, spreads the taste for Natural Science.
But I am perhaps no fair judge, for I am almost as unorthodox about species as the "Vestiges" itself, though I hope not quite so unphilosophical. How capitally you analyse his notion about law. I do not know when I have read a review which interested me so much. By Heavens, how the blood must have gushed into the capillaries when a certain great man (whom with all his faults I cannot help liking) read it!
I am rather sorry you do not think more of Agassiz's embryological stages (34/3. See "Origin," Edition VI., page 310: also Letter 40, Note.), for though I saw how exceedingly weak the evidence was, I was led to hope in its truth.
With respect to "highness" and "lowness," my ideas are only eclectic and not very clear. It appears to me that an unavoidable wish to compare all animals with men, as supreme, causes some confusion; and I think that nothing besides some such vague comparison is intended, or perhaps is even possible, when the question is whether two kingdoms such as the Articulata or Mollusca are the highest. Within the same kingdom I am inclined to think that "highest" usually means that form which has undergone most
"morphological differentiation" from the common embryo or archetype of the class; but then every now and then one is bothered (as Milne Edwards has remarked) by "retrograde development," i.e., the mature animal having fewer and less important organs than its own embryo. The specialisation of parts to different functions, or "the division of physiological labour" (35/1. A slip of the pen for "physiological division of labour.") of Milne Edwards exactly agrees (and to my mind is the best definition, when it can be applied) with what you state is your idea in regard to plants. I do not think zoologists agree in any definite ideas on this subject; and my ideas are not clearer than those of my brethren.
I have had the house full of visitors, and when I talk I can do absolutely nothing else; and since then I have been poorly enough, otherwise I should have answered your letter long before this, for I enjoy extremely discussing such points as those in your last note. But what a villain you are to heap gratuitous insults on my ELASTIC theory: you might as well call the virtue of a lady elastic, as the virtue of a theory accommodating in its favours. Whatever you may say, I feel that my theory does give me some advantages in discussing these points. But to business: I keep my notes in such a way, viz., in bulk, that I cannot possibly lay my hand on any reference; nor as far as the vegetable kingdom is concerned do I distinctly remember having read any discussion on general highness or lowness, excepting Schleiden (I fancy) on Compositae being highest. Ad. de Jussieu (36/1. "Monographie de la Famille des Malpighiacees," by Adrien de Jussieu, "Arch. du Museum." Volume III., page 1, 1843.), in "Arch. du Museum," Tome 3, discusses the value of characters of degraded flowers in the Malpighiaceae, but I doubt whether this at all concerns you. Mirbel somewhere has discussed some such question.
Plants lie under an enormous disadvantage in respect to such discussions in not passing through larval stages. I do not know whether you can distinguish a plant low from non-development from one low from degradation, which theoretically, at least, are very distinct. I must agree with Forbes that a mollusc may be higher than one articulate animal and lower than another; if one was asked which was highest as a whole, the Molluscan or Articulate Kingdom, I should look to and compare the highest in each, and not compare their archetypes (supposing them to be known, which they are not.)
But there are, in my opinion, more difficult cases than any we have alluded to, viz., that of fish--but my ideas are not clear enough, and I do not suppose you would care to hear what I obscurely think on this subject. As far as my elastic theory goes, all I care about is that very ancient organisms (when different from existing) should tend to resemble the larval or embryological stages of the existing.
I am glad to hear what you say about parallelism: I am an utter disbeliever of any parallelism more than mere accident. It is very strange, but I think Forbes is often rather fanciful; his "Polarity" (36/2. See Letter 41, Note.) makes me sick--it is like "magnetism" turning a table.
If I can think of any one likely to take your "Illustrations" (36/3. "Illustrations of Himalayan Plants from Drawings made by J.F. Cathcart." Folio, 1855.), I will send the advertisement. If you want to make up some definite number so as to go to press, I will put my name down with PLEASURE (and I hope and believe that you will trust me in saying so), though I should not in the course of nature subscribe to any horticultural work:--act for me.
I am really truly sorry to hear about your [health]. I entreat you to write down your own case,--symptoms, and habits of life,--and then consider your case as that of a stranger; and I put it to you, whether common sense would not order you to take more regular exercise and work your brain less. (N.B. Take a cold bath and walk before breakfast.) I am certain in the long run you would not lose time. Till you have a thoroughly bad stomach, you will not know the really great evil of it, morally, physically, and every way. Do reflect and act resolutely. Remember your troubled heart-action formerly plainly told how your constitution was tried. But I will say no more—excepting that a man is mad to risk health, on which everything, including his children's inherited health, depends. Do not hate me for this lecture. Really I am not surprised at your having some headache after Thursday evening, for it must have been no small exertion making an abstract of all that was said after dinner. Your being so engaged was a bore, for there were several things that I should have liked to have talked over with you. It was certainly a first-rate dinner, and I enjoyed it extremely, far more than I expected. Very far from disagreeing with me, my London visits have just lately taken to suit my stomach admirably; I begin to think that dissipation, high-living, with lots of claret, is what I want, and what I had during the last visit. We are going to act on this same principle, and in a very profligate manner have just taken a pair of season-tickets to see the Queen open the Crystal Palace. (37/1. Queen Victoria opened the Crystal Palace at Sydenham on June 10th, 1854.) How I wish there was any chance of your being there! The last grand thing we were at together answered, I am sure, very well, and that was the Duke's funeral.
Have you seen Forbes' introductory lecture (37/2. Edward Forbes was appointed to a Professorship at Edinburgh in May, 1854.) in the "Scotsman" (lent me by Horner)? it is really ADMIRABLY done, though without anything, perhaps, very original, which could hardly be expected: it has given me even a higher opinion than I before had, of the variety and polish of his intellect. It is, indeed, an irreparable loss to London natural history society. I wish, however, he would not praise so much that old brown dry stick Jameson. Altogether, to my taste, it is much the best introductory lecture I have ever read. I hear his anniversary address is very good.
Adios, my dear Hooker; do be wise and good, and be careful of your stomach, within which, as I know full well, lie intellect, conscience, temper, and the affections.
LETTER 38. TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, December 2nd .
You are a pretty fellow to talk of funking the returning thanks at the dinner for the medal. (38/1. The Royal medal was given to Sir Joseph in 1854.) I heard that it was decidedly the best speech of the evening, given "with perfect fluency, distinctness, and command of language," and that you showed great self-possession: was the latter the proverbially desperate courage of a coward? But you are a pretty fellow to be so desperately afraid and then to make the crack speech. Many such an ordeal may you have to go through! I do not know whether Sir William [Hooker] would be contented with Lord Rosse's (38/2. President of the Royal Society 184854.) speech on giving you the medal; but I am very much pleased with it, and really the roll of what you have done was, I think, splendid. What a great pity he half spoiled it by not having taken the trouble just to read it over first. Poor Hofmann (38/3. August Wilhelm Hofmann, the other medallist of 1854.) came off in this respect even worse. It is really almost arrogant insolence against every one not an astronomer.
The next morning I was at a very pleasant breakfast party at Sir R. Inglis's. (38/4. Sir Robert Inglis, President of the British Association in 1847. Apparently Darwin was present at the afternoon meeting, but not at the dinner.) I have received, with very many thanks, the aberrant genera; but I have not had time to consider them, nor your remarks on Australian botanical geography.
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Have you ever been envious of people who seem to have no end of clever ideas, who are able to think quickly in any situation, or who seem to have flawless memories? Could it be that they're just born smarter or quicker than the rest of us? Or are there some secrets that they might know that we don't?