(39/1. The following letter shows Darwin's interest in the adjudication of the Royal medals. The year 1855 was the last during which he served on the Council of the Society. He had previously served in 1849-50.)
Down, March 31st, 1855.
I have thought and enquired much about Westwood, and I really think he amply deserves the gold medal. But should you think of some one with higher claim I am quite ready to give up. Indeed, I suppose without I get some one to second it, I cannot propose him.
Will you be so kind as to read the enclosed, and return it to me? Should I send it to Bell? That is, without you demur or convince me. I had thought of Hancock, a higher class of labourer; but, as far as I can weigh, he has not, as yet, done so much as Westwood. I may state that I read the whole "Classification" (39/2. Possibly Westwood's "Introduction to the Modern Classification of Insects" (1839).) before I was on the Council, and ever thought on the subject of medals. I fear my remarks are rather lengthy, but to do him justice I could not well shorten them. Pray tell me frankly whether the enclosed is the right sort of thing, for though I was once on the Council of the Royal, I never attended any meetings, owing to bad health.
With respect to the Copley medal (39/3. The Copley Medal was given to Lyell in 1858.), I have a strong feeling that Lyell has a high claim, but as he has had the Royal Medal I presume that it would be thought objectionable to propose him; and as I intend (you not objecting and converting me) to propose W. for the Royal, it would, of course, appear intolerably presumptuous to propose for the Copley also.
Shall you attend the Council of the Royal Society on Thursday next? I have not been very well of late, and I doubt whether I can attend; and if I could do anything (pray conceal the scandalous fact), I want to go to the Crystal Palace to meet the Horners, Lyells, and a party. So I want to know whether you will speak for me most strongly for Barrande. You know better than I do his admirable labours on the development of trilobites, and his most important work on his Lower or Primordial Zone. I enclose an old note of Lyell's to show what he thinks. With respect to Dana, whom I also proposed, you know well his merits. I can speak most highly of his classificatory work on crustacea and his Geographical Distribution. His Volcanic Geology is admirable, and he has done much good work on coral reefs.
If you attend, do not answer this; but if you cannot be at the Council, please inform me, and I suppose I must, if I can, attend.
Thank you for your abstract of your lecture at the Royal Institution, which interested me much, and rather grieved me, for I had hoped things had been in a slight degree otherwise. (40/1. "On certain Zoological Arguments commonly adduced in favour of the hypothesis of the Progressive Development of Animal Life," Discourse, Friday, April 20, 1855: "Proceedings R.I." (1855). Published also in "Huxley's Scientific Memoirs." The lecturer dwelt chiefly on the argument of Agassiz, which he summarises as follows: "Homocercal fishes have in their embryonic state heterocercal tails; therefore heterocercality is, so far, a mark of an embryonic state as compared with homocercality, and the earlier heterocercal fish are embryonic as compared with the later homocercal." He shows that facts do not support this view, and concludes generally "that there is no real parallel between the successive forms assumed in the development of the life of the individual at present and those which have appeared at different epochs in the past.") I heard some time ago that before long I might congratulate you on becoming a married man. (40/2. Mr. Huxley was married July 21st, 1855.) From my own experience of some fifteen years, I am very sure that there is nothing in this wide world which more deserves congratulation, and most sincerely and heartily do I congratulate you, and wish you many years of as much happiness as this world can afford.
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