Letter 53 To Jd Hooker

(53/1. The following letter is chiefly of interest as showing the amount and kind of work required for Darwin's conclusions on "large genera varying," which occupy no more than two or three pages in the "Origin" (Edition I., page 55). Some correspondence on the subject is given in the "Life and Letters," II., pages 102-5.)

Down, August 22nd [1857].

Your handwriting always rejoices the cockles of my heart; though you have no reason to be "overwhelmed with shame," as I did not expect to hear.

I write now chiefly to know whether you can tell me how to write to Hermann Schlagenheit (is this spelt right?) (53/2. Schlagintweit.), for I believe he is returned to England, and he has poultry skins for me from W. Elliot of Madras.

I am very glad to hear that you have been tabulating some Floras about varieties. Will you just tell me roughly the result? Do you not find it takes much time? I am employing a laboriously careful schoolmaster, who does the tabulating and dividing into two great cohorts, more carefully than I can. This being so, I should be very glad some time to have Koch, Webb's Canaries, and Ledebour, and Grisebach, but I do not know even where Rumelia is. I shall work the British flora with three separate Floras; and I intend dividing the varieties into two classes, as Asa Gray and Henslow give the materials, and, further, A. Gray and H.C. Watson have marked for me the forms, which they consider real species, but yet are very close to others; and it will be curious to compare results. If it will all hold good it is very important for me; for it explains, as I think, all classification, i.e. the quasi-branching and sub-branching of forms, as if from one root, big genera increasing and splitting up, etc., as you will perceive. But then comes in, also, what I call a principle of divergence, which I think I can explain, but which is too long, and perhaps you would not care to hear. As you have been on this subject, you might like to hear what very little is complete (for my schoolmaster has had three weeks' holidays)--only three cases as yet, I see.

BABINGTON--British Flora.

593 species in genera of 5 and 593 (odd chance equal) in upwards have in a thousand genera of 3 and downwards have species presenting vars. in a thousand presenting vars. 134/1000.* 37/1000.

(*53/3. This sentence may be interpreted as follows: The number of species which present varieties are 134 per thousand in genera of 5 species and upwards. The result is obtained from tabulation of 593 species.)

HOOKER--New Zealand.

Genera with 4 species and With 3 species and downwards upwards, 150/1000. 114/1000.

GODRON--Central France.

With 5 species and upwards With 3 species and downwards 160/1000. 105/1000.

I do not enter into details on omitting introduced plants and very varying genera, as Rubus, Salix, Rosa, etc., which would make the result more in favour.

I enjoyed seeing Henslow extremely, though I was a good way from well at the time. Farewell, my dear Hooker: do not forget your visit here some time.

LETTER 54. TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, November 14th [1857].

On Tuesday I will send off from London, whither I go on that day, Ledebour's three remaining volumes, Grisebach and Cybele, i.e., all that I have, and most truly am I obliged to you for them. I find the rule, as yet, of the species varying most in the large genera universal, except in Miquel's very brief and therefore imperfect list of the Holland flora, which makes me very anxious to tabulate a fuller flora of Holland. I shall remain in London till Friday morning, and if quite convenient to send me two volumes of D.C. Prodromus, I could take them home and tabulate them. I should think a volume with a large best known natural family, and a volume with several small broken families would be best, always supposing that the varieties are conspicuously marked in both. Have you the volume published by Lowe on Madeira? If so and if any varieties are marked I should much like to see it, to see if I can make out anything about habitats of vars. in so small an area--a point on which I have become very curious. I fear there is no chance of your possessing Forbes and Hancock "British Shells," a grand work, which I much wish to tabulate.

Very many thanks for seed of Adlumia cirrhosa, which I will carefully observe. My notice in the G. Ch. on Kidney Beans (54.1 "On the Agency of Bees in the Fertilisation of Papilionaceous Flowers" ("Gardeners' Chronicle," 1857, page 725).) has brought me a curious letter from an intelligent gardener, with a most remarkable lot of beans, crossed in a marvellous manner IN THE FIRST GENERATION, like the peas sent to you by Berkeley and like those experimentalised on by Gartner and by Wiegmann. It is a very odd case; I shall sow these seeds and see what comes up. How very odd that pollen of one form should affect the outer coats and size of the bean produced by pure species!...

You know how I work subjects: namely, if I stumble on any general remark, and if I find it confirmed in any other very distinct class, then I try to find out whether it is true,--if it has any bearing on my work. The following, perhaps, may be important to me. Dr. Wight remarks that Cucurbitaceae (55/1. Wight, "Remarks on the Fruit of the Natural Order Cucurbitaceae" ("Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist." VIII., page 261). R. Wight, F.R.S. (1796-1872) was Superintendent of the Madras Botanic Garden.) is a very isolated family, and has very diverging affinities. I find, strongly put and illustrated, the very same remark in the genera of hymenoptera. Now, it is not to me at first apparent why a very distinct and isolated group should be apt to have more divergent affinities than a less isolated group. I am aware that most genera have more affinities than in two ways, which latter, perhaps, is the commonest case. I see how infinitely vague all this is; but I should very much like to know what you and Mr. Bentham (if he will read this), who have attended so much to the principles of classification, think of this. Perhaps the best way would be to think of half a dozen most isolated groups of plants, and then consider whether the affinities point in an unusual number of directions. Very likely you may think the whole question too vague to be worth consideration.

I now want to ask your opinion, and for facts on a point; and as I shall often want to do this during the next year or two, so let me say, once for all, that you must not take trouble out of mere good nature (of which towards me you have a most abundant stock), but you must consider, in regard to the trouble any question may take, whether you think it worth while--as all loss of time so far lessens your original work--to give me facts to be quoted on your authority in my work. Do not think I shall be disappointed if you cannot spare time; for already I have profited enormously from your judgment and knowledge. I earnestly beg you to act as I suggest, and not take trouble solely out of good-nature.

My point is as follows: Harvey gives the case of Fucus varying remarkably, and yet in same way under most different conditions. D. Don makes same remark in regard to Juncus bufonius in England and India. Polygala vulgaris has white, red, and blue flowers in Faroe, England, and I think Herbert says in Zante. Now such cases seem to me very striking, as showing how little relation some variations have to climatal conditions.

Do you think there are many such cases? Does Oxalis corniculata present exactly the same varieties under very different climates?

How is it with any other British plants in New Zealand, or at the foot of the Himalaya? Will you think over this and let me hear the result?

One other question: do you remember whether the introduced Sonchus in New Zealand was less, equally, or more common than the aboriginal stock of the same species, where both occurred together? I forget whether there is any other case parallel with this curious one of the Sonchus...

I have been making good, though slow, progress with my book, for facts have been falling nicely into groups, enlightening each other.

LETTER 57. TO T.H. HUXLEY. Moor Park, Farnham, Surrey [1857?].

Your letter has been forwarded to me here, where I am profiting by a few weeks' rest and hydropathy. Your letter has interested and amused me much. I am extremely glad you have taken up the Aphis (57/1. Professor Huxley's paper on the organic reproduction of Aphis is in the "Trans. Linn. Soc." XXII. (1858), page 193. Prof. Owen had treated the subject in his introductory Hunterian lecture "On Parthenogenesis" (1849). His theory cannot be fully given here. Briefly, he holds that parthenogenesis is due to the inheritance of a "remnant of spermatic virtue": when the "spermatic force" or "virtue" is exhausted fresh impregnation occurs. Huxley severely criticises both Owen's facts and his theory.) question, but, for Heaven's sake, do not come the mild Hindoo (whatever he may be) to Owen; your father confessor trembles for you. I fancy Owen thinks much of this doctrine of his; I never from the first believed it, and I cannot but think that the same power is concerned in producing aphides without fertilisation, and producing, for instance, nails on the amputated stump of a man's fingers, or the new tail of a lizard. By the way, I saw somewhere during the last week or so a statement of a man rearing from the same set of eggs winged and wingless aphides, which seemed new to me. Does not some Yankee say that the American viviparous aphides are winged? I am particularly glad that you are ruminating on the act of fertilisation: it has long seemed to me the most wonderful and curious of physiological problems. I have often and often speculated for amusement on the subject, but quite fruitlessly. Do you not think that the conjugation of the Diatomaceae will ultimately throw light on the subject? But the other day I came to the conclusion that some day we shall have cases of young being produced from spermatozoa or pollen without an ovule. Approaching the subject from the side which attracts me most, viz., inheritance, I have lately been inclined to speculate, very crudely and indistinctly, that propagation by true fertilisation will turn out to be a sort of mixture, and not true fusion, of two distinct individuals, or rather of innumerable individuals, as each parent has its parents and ancestors. I can understand on no other view the way in which crossed forms go back to so large an extent to ancestral forms. But all this, of course, is infinitely crude. I hope to be in London in the course of this month, and there are two or three points which, for my own sake, I want to discuss briefly with you.

LETTER 58. TO T.H. HUXLEY. Down, September 26th [1857].

Thanks for your very pleasant note. It amuses me to see what a bug-bear I have made myself to you; when having written some very pungent and good sentence it must be very disagreeable to have my face rise up like an ugly ghost. (58/1. This probably refers to Darwin's wish to moderate a certain pugnacity in Huxley.) I have always suspected Agassiz of superficiality and wretched reasoning powers; but I think such men do immense good in their way. See how he stirred up all Europe about glaciers. By the way, Lyell has been at the glaciers, or rather their effects, and seems to have done good work in testing and judging what others have done...

In regard to classification and all the endless disputes about the "Natural System," which no two authors define in the same way, I believe it ought, in accordance to my heterodox notions, to be simply genealogical. But as we have no written pedigrees you will, perhaps, say this will not help much; but I think it ultimately will, whenever heterodoxy becomes orthodoxy, for it will clear away an immense amount of rubbish about the value of characters, and will make the difference between analogy and homology clear. The time will come, I believe, though I shall not live to see it, when we shall have very fairly true genealogical trees of each great kingdom of Nature.

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