Charles Darwin.

Life and Letters of Charles Darwin — Volume 2 online

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CHAPTER 2.I. - The Publication of the 'Origin of Species' - October 3,
1859, to December 31, 1859.

CHAPTER 2.II. - The 'Origin of Species' (continued) - 1860.

CHAPTER 2.III. - The Spread of Evolution - 1861-1862.

CHAPTER 2.IV. - The Spread of Evolution. 'Variation of Animals and
Plants' - 1863-1866.

CHAPTER 2.V. - The Publication of the 'Variation of Animals and Plants
under Domestication' - January 1867-June 1868.

CHAPTER 2.VI. - Work on 'Man' - 1864-1870.

CHAPTER 2.VII. - The Publication of the 'Descent of Man.' Work on
'Expression' - 1871-1873.

CHAPTER 2.VIII. - Miscellanea, including Second Editions of 'Coral
Reefs,' the 'Descent of Man,' and the 'Variation of Animals and
Plants' - 1874 and 1875.

CHAPTER 2.IX. - Miscellanea (continued). A Revival of Geological
Work - The Book on Earthworms - Life of Erasmus Darwin - Miscellaneous
Letters - 1876-1882.


CHAPTER 2.X. - Fertilisation of Flowers - 1839-1880.

CHAPTER 2.XI. - The 'Effects of Cross- and Self-Fertilisation in the
Vegetable Kingdom' - 1866-1877.

CHAPTER 2.XII. - 'Different Forms of Flowers on Plants of the same
Species' - 1860-1878.

CHAPTER 2.XIII. - Climbing and Insectivorous Plants - 1863-1875.

CHAPTER 2.XIV. - The 'Power of Movement in Plants' - 1878-1881.

CHAPTER 2.XV. - Miscellaneous Botanical Letters - 1873-1882....

CHAPTER 2.XVI. - Conclusion.


I. - The Funeral in Westminster Abbey.

II. - List of Works by C. Darwin.

III. - Portraits.

IV. - Honours, Degrees, Societies, etc.


- led to comprehend true affinities. My theory would give zest to recent
& Fossil Comparative Anatomy: it would lead to study of instincts,
heredity, & mind heredity, whole metaphysics, it would lead to closest
examination of hybridity & generation, causes of change in order to know
what we have come from & to what we tend, to what circumstances favour
crossing & what prevents it, this & direct examination of direct
passages of structure in species, might lead to laws of change, which
would then be main object of study, to guide our speculations.




OCTOBER 3, 1859, TO DECEMBER 31, 1859.


[Under the date of October 1st, 1859, in my father's Diary occurs the
entry: "Finished proofs (thirteen months and ten days) of Abstract
on 'Origin of Species'; 1250 copies printed. The first edition was
published on November 24th, and all copies sold first day."

On October 2d he started for a water-cure establishment at Ilkley, near
Leeds, where he remained with his family until December, and on the 9th
of that month he was again at Down. The only other entry in the Diary
for this year is as follows: "During end of November and beginning of
December, employed in correcting for second edition of 3000 copies;
multitude of letters."

The first and a few of the subsequent letters refer to proof sheets, and
to early copies of the 'Origin' which were sent to friends before the
book was published.]

C. LYELL TO CHARLES DARWIN. (Part of this letter is given in the 'Life
of Sir Charles Lyell,' volume ii. page 325.) October 3d, 1859.

My dear Darwin,

I have just finished your volume and right glad I am that I did my best
with Hooker to persuade you to publish it without waiting for a time
which probably could never have arrived, though you lived till the age
of a hundred, when you had prepared all your facts on which you ground
so many grand generalizations.

It is a splendid case of close reasoning, and long substantial argument
throughout so many pages; the condensation immense, too great perhaps
for the uninitiated, but an effective and important preliminary
statement, which will admit, even before your detailed proofs appear,
of some occasional useful exemplification, such as your pigeons and
cirripedes, of which you make such excellent use.

I mean that, when, as I fully expect, a new edition is soon called for,
you may here and there insert an actual case to relieve the vast
number of abstract propositions. So far as I am concerned, I am so well
prepared to take your statements of facts for granted, that I do
not think the "pieces justificatives" when published will make much
difference, and I have long seen most clearly that if any concession
is made, all that you claim in your concluding pages will follow. It is
this which has made me so long hesitate, always feeling that the case of
Man and his races, and of other animals, and that of plants is one and
the same, and that if a "vera causa" be admitted for one, instead of a
purely unknown and imaginary one, such as the word "Creation," all the
consequences must follow.

I fear I have not time to-day, as I am just leaving this place, to
indulge in a variety of comments, and to say how much I was delighted
with Oceanic Islands - Rudimentary Organs - Embryology - the genealogical
key to the Natural System, Geographical Distribution, and if I went on I
should be copying the heads of all your chapters. But I will say a word
of the Recapitulation, in case some slight alteration, or at least,
omission of a word or two be still possible in that.

In the first place, at page 480, it cannot surely be said that the most
eminent naturalists have rejected the view of the mutability of species?
You do not mean to ignore G. St. Hilaire and Lamarck. As to the latter,
you may say, that in regard to animals you substitute natural selection
for volition to a certain considerable extent, but in his theory of the
changes of plants he could not introduce volition; he may, no doubt,
have laid an undue comparative stress on changes in physical conditions,
and too little on those of contending organisms. He at least was for the
universal mutability of species and for a genealogical link between
the first and the present. The men of his school also appealed to
domesticated varieties. (Do you mean LIVING naturalists?) (In the
published copies of the first edition, page 480, the words are "eminent
living naturalists.")

The first page of this most important summary gives the adversary an
advantage, by putting forth so abruptly and crudely such a startling
objection as the formation of "the eye," not by means analogous to man's
reason, or rather by some power immeasurably superior to human reason,
but by superinduced variation like those of which a cattle-breeder
avails himself. Pages would be required thus to state an objection and
remove it. It would be better, as you wish to persuade, to say nothing.
Leave out several sentences, and in a future edition bring it out more
fully. Between the throwing down of such a stumbling-block in the way of
the reader, and the passage to the working ants, in page 460, there
are pages required; and these ants are a bathos to him before he has
recovered from the shock of being called upon to believe the eye to have
been brought to perfection, from a state of blindness or purblindness,
by such variations as we witness. I think a little omission would
greatly lessen the objectionableness of these sentences if you have not
time to recast and amplify.

... But these are small matters, mere spots on the sun. Your comparison
of the letters retained in words, when no longer wanted for the sound,
to rudimentary organs is excellent, as both are truly genealogical.

The want of peculiar birds in Madeira is a greater difficulty than
seemed to me allowed for. I could cite passages where you show that
variations are superinduced from the new circumstances of new colonists,
which would require some Madeira birds, like those of the Galapagos, to
be peculiar. There has been ample time in the case of Madeira and Porto

You enclose your sheets in old MS., so the Post Office very properly
charge them as letters, 2 pence extra. I wish all their fines on MS.
were worth as much. I paid 4 shillings 6 pence for such wash the other
day from Paris, from a man who can prove 300 deluges in the valley of
the Seine.

With my hearty congratulations to you on your grand work, believe me,

Ever very affectionately yours, CHAS. LYELL.

CHARLES DARWIN TO C. LYELL. Ilkley, Yorkshire, October 11th [1859].

My dear Lyell,

I thank you cordially for giving me so much of your valuable time in
writing me the long letter of 3d, and still longer of 4th. I wrote a
line with the missing proof-sheet to Scarborough. I have adopted most
thankfully all your minor corrections in the last chapter, and the
greater ones as far as I could with little trouble. I damped the opening
passage about the eye (in my bigger work I show the gradations in
structure of the eye) by putting merely "complex organs." But you are a
pretty Lord Chancellor to tell the barrister on one side how best to
win the cause! The omission of "living" before eminent naturalists was a
dreadful blunder.


You are right, there is a screw out here; I thought no one would have
detected it; I blundered in omitting a discussion, which I have written
out in full. But once for all, let me say as an excuse, that it was most
difficult to decide what to omit. Birds, which have struggled in their
own homes, when settled in a body, nearly simultaneously in a new
country, would not be subject to much modification, for their mutual
relations would not be much disturbed. But I quite agree with you, that
in time they ought to undergo some. In Bermuda and Madeira they have, as
I believe, been kept constant by the frequent arrival, and the crossing
with unaltered immigrants of the same species from the mainland. In
Bermuda this can be proved, in Madeira highly probable, as shown me
by letters from E.V. Harcourt. Moreover, there are ample grounds for
believing that the crossed offspring of the new immigrants (fresh blood
as breeders would say), and old colonists of the same species would
be extra vigorous, and would be the most likely to survive; thus the
effects of such crossing in keeping the old colonists unaltered would be
much aided.


I cannot agree with you, that species if created to struggle with
American forms, would have to be created on the American type. Facts
point diametrically the other way. Look at the unbroken and untilled
ground in La Plata, COVERED with European products, which have no near
affinity to the indigenous products. They are not American types which
conquer the aborigines. So in every island throughout the world. Alph.
De Candolle's results (though he does not see its full importance), that
thoroughly well naturalised [plants] are in general very different from
the aborigines (belonging in large proportion of cases to non-indigenous
genera) is most important always to bear in mind. Once for all, I am
sure, you will understand that I thus write dogmatically for brevity


This doctrine is superfluous (and groundless) on the theory of Natural
Selection, which implies no NECESSARY tendency to progression. A monad,
if no deviation in its structure profitable to it under its EXCESSIVELY
SIMPLE conditions of life occurred, might remain unaltered from long
before the Silurian Age to the present day. I grant there will generally
be a tendency to advance in complexity of organisation, though in beings
fitted for very simple conditions it would be slight and slow. How could
a complex organisation profit a monad? if it did not profit it there
would be no advance. The Secondary Infusoria differ but little from the
living. The parent monad form might perfectly well survive unaltered
and fitted for its simple conditions, whilst the offspring of this
very monad might become fitted for more complex conditions. The one
primordial prototype of all living and extinct creatures may, it is
possible, be now alive! Moreover, as you say, higher forms might be
occasionally degraded, the snake Typhlops SEEMS (?!) to have the habits
of earth-worms. So that fresh creatures of simple forms seem to me
wholly superfluous.


I am not sure that I understand your remarks which follow the above.
We must under present knowledge assume the creation of one or of a few
forms in the same manner as philosophers assume the existence of a power
of attraction without any explanation. But I entirely reject, as in my
judgment quite unnecessary, any subsequent addition "of new powers and
attributes and forces;" or of any "principle of improvement," except in
so far as every character which is naturally selected or preserved is in
some way an advantage or improvement, otherwise it would not have been
selected. If I were convinced that I required such additions to the
theory of natural selection, I would reject it as rubbish, but I have
firm faith in it, as I cannot believe, that if false, it would explain
so many whole classes of facts, which, if I am in my senses, it seems
to explain. As far as I understand your remarks and illustrations, you
doubt the possibility of gradations of intellectual powers. Now, it
seems to me, looking to existing animals alone, that we have a very fine
gradation in the intellectual powers of the Vertebrata, with one rather
wide gap (not half so wide as in many cases of corporeal structure),
between say a Hottentot and a Ourang, even if civilised as much mentally
as the dog has been from the wolf. I suppose that you do not doubt that
the intellectual powers are as important for the welfare of each being
as corporeal structure; if so, I can see no difficulty in the most
intellectual individuals of a species being continually selected;
and the intellect of the new species thus improved, aided probably by
effects of inherited mental exercise. I look at this process as now
going on with the races of man; the less intellectual races being
exterminated. But there is not space to discuss this point. If I
understand you, the turning-point in our difference must be, that you
think it impossible that the intellectual powers of a species should
be much improved by the continued natural selection of the most
intellectual individuals. To show how minds graduate, just reflect how
impossible every one has yet found it, to define the difference in mind
of man and the lower animals; the latter seem to have the very same
attributes in a much lower stage of perfection than the lowest savage. I
would give absolutely nothing for the theory of Natural Selection, if
it requires miraculous additions at any one stage of descent. I think
Embryology, Homology, Classification, etc., etc., show us that all
vertebrata have descended from one parent; how that parent appeared we
know not. If you admit in ever so little a degree, the explanation which
I have given of Embryology, Homology and Classification, you will
find it difficult to say: thus far the explanation holds good, but no
further; here we must call in "the addition of new creative forces."
I think you will be driven to reject all or admit all: I fear by your
letter it will be the former alternative; and in that case I shall feel
sure it is my fault, and not the theory's fault, and this will certainly
comfort me. With regard to the descent of the great Kingdoms (as
Vertebrata, Articulata, etc.) from one parent, I have said in the
conclusion, that mere analogy makes me think it probable; my arguments
and facts are sound in my judgment only for each separate kingdom.


I dare say I have not been guarded enough, but might not the term
inferiority include less perfect adaptation to physical conditions?

My remarks apply not to single species, but to groups or genera; the
species of most genera are adapted at least to rather hotter, and rather
less hot, to rather damper and dryer climates; and when the several
species of a group are beaten and exterminated by the several species of
another group, it will not, I think, generally be from EACH new species
being adapted to the climate, but from all the new species having some
common advantage in obtaining sustenance, or escaping enemies. As groups
are concerned, a fairer illustration than negro and white in Liberia
would be the almost certain future extinction of the genus ourang by
the genus man, not owing to man being better fitted for the climate, but
owing to the inherited intellectual inferiority of the Ourang-genus
to Man-genus, by his intellect, inventing fire-arms and cutting
down forests. I believe from reasons given in my discussion, that
acclimatisation is readily effected under nature. It has taken me
so many years to disabuse my mind of the TOO great importance of
climate - its important influence being so conspicuous, whilst that of a
struggle between creature and creature is so hidden - that I am inclined
to swear at the North Pole, and, as Sydney Smith said, even to speak
disrespectfully of the Equator. I beg you often to reflect (I have found
NOTHING so instructive) on the case of thousands of plants in the middle
point of their respective ranges, and which, as we positively know, can
perfectly well withstand a little more heat and cold, a little more damp
and dry, but which in the metropolis of their range do not exist in vast
numbers, although if many of the other inhabitants were destroyed [they]
would cover the ground. We thus clearly see that their numbers are kept
down, in almost every case, not by climate, but by the struggle with
other organisms. All this you will perhaps think very obvious; but,
until I repeated it to myself thousands of times, I took, as I believe,
a wholly wrong view of the whole economy of nature...


I am so much pleased that you approve of this chapter; you would be
astonished at the labour this cost me; so often was I, on what I believe
was, the wrong scent.


On the theory of Natural Selection there is a wide distinction between
Rudimentary Organs and what you call germs of organs, and what I call
in my bigger book "nascent" organs. An organ should not be called
rudimentary unless it be useless - as teeth which never cut through the
gums - the papillae, representing the pistil in male flowers, wing of
Apteryx, or better, the little wings under soldered elytra. These organs
are now plainly useless, and a fortiori, they would be useless in a
less developed state. Natural Selection acts exclusively by preserving
successive slight, USEFUL modifications. Hence Natural Selection cannot
possibly make a useless or rudimentary organ. Such organs are solely due
to inheritance (as explained in my discussion), and plainly bespeak an
ancestor having the organ in a useful condition. They may be, and
often have been, worked in for other purposes, and then they are only
rudimentary for the original function, which is sometimes plainly
apparent. A nascent organ, though little developed, as it has to be
developed must be useful in every stage of development. As we cannot
prophesy, we cannot tell what organs are now nascent; and nascent organs
will rarely have been handed down by certain members of a class from a
remote period to the present day, for beings with any important organ
but little developed, will generally have been supplanted by their
descendants with the organ well developed. The mammary glands in
Ornithorhynchus may, perhaps, be considered as nascent compared with
the udders of a cow - Ovigerous frena, in certain cirripedes, are nascent
branchiae - in [illegible] the swim bladder is almost rudimentary for
this purpose, and is nascent as a lung. The small wing of penguin, used
only as a fin, might be nascent as a wing; not that I think so; for
the whole structure of the bird is adapted for flight, and a penguin
so closely resembles other birds, that we may infer that its wings have
probably been modified, and reduced by natural selection, in accordance
with its sub-aquatic habits. Analogy thus often serves as a guide in
distinguishing whether an organ is rudimentary or nascent. I believe the
Os coccyx gives attachment to certain muscles, but I can not doubt that
it is a rudimentary tail. The bastard wing of birds is a rudimentary
digit; and I believe that if fossil birds are found very low down in the
series, they will be seen to have a double or bifurcated wing. Here is a
bold prophecy!

To admit prophetic germs, is tantamount to rejecting the theory of
Natural Selection.

I am very glad you think it worth while to run through my book again, as
much, or more, for the subject's sake as for my own sake. But I look at
your keeping the subject for some little time before your mind - raising
your own difficulties and solving them - as far more important than
reading my book. If you think enough, I expect you will be perverted,
and if you ever are, I shall know that the theory of Natural Selection,
is, in the main, safe; that it includes, as now put forth, many errors,
is almost certain, though I cannot see them. Do not, of course, think of
answering this; but if you have other OCCASION to write again, just
say whether I have, in ever so slight a degree, shaken any of your
objections. Farewell. With my cordial thanks for your long letters and
valuable remarks,

Believe me, yours most truly, C. DARWIN.

P.S. - You often allude to Lamarck's work; I do not know what you think
about it, but it appeared to me extremely poor; I got not a fact or idea
from it.

CHARLES DARWIN TO L. AGASSIZ. (Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz, born at
Mortier, on the lake of Morat in Switzerland, on May 28, 1807. He
emigrated to America in 1846, where he spent the rest of his life, and
died December 14, 1873. His 'Life,' written by his widow, was published
in 1885. The following extract from a letter to Agassiz (1850) is worth
giving, as showing how my father regarded him, and it may be added that
his cordial feelings towards the great American naturalist remained
strong to the end of his life: -

"I have seldom been more deeply gratified than by receiving your most
kind present of 'Lake Superior.' I had heard of it, and had much wished
to read it, but I confess that it was the very great honour of having in
my possession a work with your autograph as a presentation copy that has
given me such lively and sincere pleasure. I cordially thank you for
it. I have begun to read it with uncommon interest, which I see will
increase as I go on.") Down, November 11th [1859].

My dear Sir,

I have ventured to send you a copy of my book (as yet only an abstract)
on the 'Origin of Species.' As the conclusions at which I have arrived
on several points differ so widely from yours, I have thought (should
you at any time read my volume) that you might think that I had sent it
to you out of a spirit of defiance or bravado; but I assure you that
I act under a wholly different frame of mind. I hope that you will at
least give me credit, however erroneous you may think my conclusions,
for having earnestly endeavoured to arrive at the truth. With sincere
respect, I beg leave to remain,

Yours, very faithfully, CHARLES DARWIN.

CHARLES DARWIN TO A. DE CANDOLLE. Down, November 11th [1859].

Dear Sir,

I have thought that you would permit me to send you (by Messrs. Williams
and Norgate, booksellers) a copy of my work (as yet only an abstract)
on the 'Origin of Species.' I wish to do this, as the only, though quite
inadequate manner, by which I can testify to you the extreme interest
which I have felt, and the great advantage which I have derived, from
studying your grand and noble work on Geographical Distribution. Should
you be induced to read my volume, I venture to remark that it will be
intelligible only by reading the whole straight through, as it is very
much condensed. It would be a high gratification to me if any portion
interested you. But I am perfectly well aware that you will entirely
disagree with the conclusion at which I have arrived.

You will probably have quite forgotten me; but many years ago you did
me the honour of dining at my house in London to meet M. and Madame
Sismondi (Jessie Allen, sister of Mrs. Josiah Wedgwood of Maer.), the
uncle and aunt of my wife. With sincere respect, I beg to remain,

Yours, very faithfully, CHARLES DARWIN.

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