Charles Darwin.

The life and letters of Charles Darwin : including an autobiographical chapter (Volume 2) online

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of the deluges of submarine porphyritic lavas, of which they
are built ; and, as I have stated, I saw to a certain extent the
causes of the obliteration of the points of eruption. I was
also not a little pleased to see my volcanic book quoted, for
I thought it was completely dead and forgotten. What fine
work will Mr. Judd assuredly do ! ... Now I have eased
my mind; and so farewell, with both E. D.'s and C. D.'s very
kind remembrances to Miss Lyell.

Yours affectionately,


[Sir Charles Lyell's reply to the above letter must have
been one of the latest that my father received from his old
friend, and it is with this letter that the volumes of his pub-
lished correspondence closes.]

* On the Ancient Volcanoes of the Highlands, 'Journal of Geolog.
Soc.,' 1874.

f Sir Charles Lyell returned from Scotland towards the end of Sep-

i874-] ANTS. 369

C. Darwin to Aug. Ford.

Down, October 15, 1874.

MY DEAR SIR, I have now read the whole of your admir-
able work * and seldom in my life have I been more inter-
ested by any book. There are so many interesting facts and
discussions, that I hardly know which to specify ; but. I think,
firstly, the newest points to me have been about the size of
the brain in the three sexes, together with your suggestion
that increase of mind power may have led to the sterility of
the workers. Secondly about the battles of the ants, and
your curious account of the enraged ants being held by their
comrades until they calmed down. Thirdly, the evidence of
ants of the same community being the offspring of brothers
and sisters. You admit, I think, that new communities will
often be the product of a cross between not-related ants.
Fritz Miiller has made some interesting observations on this
head with respect to Termites. The case of Anergates is
most perplexing in many ways, but I have such faith in the
law of occasional crossing that I believe an explanation will
hereafter be found, such as the dimorphism of either sex and
the occasional production of winged males. I see that you
are puzzled how ants of the same community recognize each
other; I once placed two (F. rufa) in a pill-box smelling
strongly of asafcetida and after a day returned them to their
homes ; they were threatened, but at last recognized. I made
the trial thinking that they might know each other by their
odour ; but this cannot have been the case, and I have often
fancied that they must have some common signal. Your
last chapter is one great mass of wonderful facts and sugges-
tions, and the whole profoundly interesting. I have seldom
been more gratified than by [your] honourable mention of my

I should like to tell you one little observation which 1
made with care many years ago ; I saw ants {Formica rufa]


* ' Les Fourmis de la Suisse,' 4to, 1874.


carrying cocoons from a nest which was the largest I ever saw
and which was well known to all the country people near,
and an old man, apparently about eighty years of age, told
me that he had known it ever since he was a boy. The ants
carrying the cocoons did not appear to be emigrating; fol-
lowing the line, I saw many ascending a tall fir tree still car-
rying their cocoons. But when I looked closely I found that
all the cocoons were empty cases. This astonished me, and
next day I got a man to observe with me, and we again saw
ants bringing empty cocoons out of the nest; each of us fixed
on one ant and slowly followed it, and repeated the observa-
tion on many others. We thus found that some ants soon
dropped their empty cocoons ; others carried them for many
yards, as much as thirty paces, and others carried them high
up the fir tree out of sight. Now here I think we have one
instinct in contest with another and mistaken one. The first
instinct being to carry the empty cocoons out of the nest, and
it would have been sufficient to have laid them on the heap
of rubbish, as the first breath of wind would have blown them
away. And then came in the contest with the other very
powerful instinct of preserving and carrying their cocoons as
long as possible ; and this they could not help doing although
the cocoons were empty. According as the one or other
instinct was the stronger in each individual ant, so did it
carry the empty cocoon to a greater or less distance. If this
little observation should ever prove of any use to you, you
are quite at liberty to use it. Again thanking you cordially
for the great pleasure which your work has given me, I re-
main with much respect,

Yours sincerely,


P.S. If you read English easily I should like to send
you Mr. Belt's book, as I think you would like it as much as
did Fritz Miiller.


C. Darwin to J. Fiske.

Down, December 8, 1874.

MY DEAR SIR, You must allow me to thank you for the
very great interest with which I have at last slowly read the
whole of your work.* I have long wished to know some-
thing about the views of the many great men whose doctrines
you give. With the exception of special points I did not
even understand H. Spencer's general doctrine ; for his style
is too hard work for me. I never in my life read so lucid an
expositor (and therefore thinker) as you are ; and I think
that I understand nearly the whole perhaps less clearly
about Cosmic Theism and Causation than other parts. It is
hopeless to attempt out of so much to specify what has inter-
ested me most, and probably you would not care to hear. I
wish some chemist would attempt to ascertain the result of
the cooling of heated gases of the proper kinds, in relation
to your hypothesis of the origin of living matter. It pleased
me to find that here and there I had arrived from my own
crude thoughts at some of the same conclusions with you ;
though I could seldom or never have given my reasons for
such conclusions. I find that my mind is so fixed by the
inductive method, that I cannot appreciate deductive reason-
ing : I must begin with a good body of facts and not from a
principle (in which I always suspect some fallacy) and then
as much deduction as you please. This may be very narrow-
minded ; but the result is that such parts of H. Spencer, as I
have read with care impress my mind with the idea of his
inexhaustible wealth of suggestion, but never convince me ;
and so I find it with some others. I believe the cause to lie
in the frequency with which I have found first-formed theo-
ries [to be] erroneous. I thank you for the honourable men-
tion which you make of my works. Parts of the ' Descent of
Man ' must have appeared laughably weak to you : never-
theless, I have sent you a new edition just published. Thank-

* 'Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy,' 2 vols. 8vo. 1874.

3/2 MISCELLANEA. [1875

ing you for the profound interest and profit with which I have
read your work. I remain,

My dear Sir, yours very faithfully,



[The only work, not purely botanical, which occupied my
father in the present year was the correction of the second
edition of ' The Variation of Animals and Plants,' and on
this he was engaged from the beginning of July till October
3rd. The rest of the year was taken up with his work on in-
sectivorous plants, and on cross-fertilisation, as will be shown
in a later chapter. The chief alterations in the second edi-
tion of ' Animals and Plants ' are in the eleventh chapter on
" Bud-variation and on certain anomalous modes of repro-
duction ;" the chapter on Pangenesis "was also largely al-
tered and remodelled." He mentions briefly some of the au-
thors who have noticed the doctrine. Professor Delpino's
' Sulla Darwiniana Teoria della Pangenesi ' (1869), an adverse
but fair criticism, seems to have impressed him as valuable.
Of another critique my father characteristically says,* " Dr.
Lionel Beale ('Nature,' May u, 1871, p. 26) sneers at the
whole doctrine with much acerbity and some justice." He
also points out that, in Mantegazza's ' Elementi di Igiene,'
the theory of Pangenesis was clearly foreseen.

In connection with this subject, a letter of my father's to
'Nature' (April 27, 1871) should be mentioned. A paper by
Mr. Galton had been read before the Royal Society (March
30, 1871) in which were described experiments, on intertrans-
fusion of blood, designed to test the truth of the hypothesis
of pangenesis. My father, while giving all due credit to Mr.
Galton for his ingenious experiments, does not allow that
pangenesis has " as yet received its death-blow, though from
presenting so many vulnerable points its life is always in

* 'Animals and Plants,' 2nd edit. vol. ii. p. 350.


He seems to have found the work of correcting very
wearisome, for he wrote :

" I have no news about myself, as I am merely slaving
over the sickening work of preparing new editions. I wish I
could get a touch of poor Lyell's feelings, that it was delight-
ful to improve a sentence, like a painter improving a pic-

The feeling of effort or strain over this piece of work, is
shown in a letter to Professor Haeckel :

" What I shall do in future if I live, Heaven only knows ;
I ought perhaps to avoid general and large subjects, as too
difficult for me with my advancing years, and I suppose en-
feebled brain."

At the end of March, in this year, the portrait for which
he was sitting to Mr. Ouless was finished. He felt the sit-
tings a great fatigue, in spite of Mr. Ouless's considerate de-
sire to spare him as far as was possible. In a letter to Sir J.
D. Hooker he wrote, " I look a very venerable, acute, melan-
choly old dog; whether I really look so I do not know."
The picture is in the possession of the family, and is known
to many through M. Rajon's etching. Mr. Ouless's portrait
is, in my opinion, the finest representation of my father that
has been produced.

The following letter refers to the death of Sir Charles
Lyell, which took place on February 22nd, 1875, * n ^ s sev ~
enty-eighth year.]

C. Darwin to Miss Buckley (nmv Mrs. Fisher)*

Down, February 23, 1875.

MY DEAR Miss BUCKLEY, I am grieved to hear of the
death of my old and kind friend, though I knew that it could
not be long delayed, and that it was a happy thing that his
life should not have been prolonged, as I suppose that his
mind would inevitably have suffered. I am glad that Lady

* Mrs. Fisher acted as Secretary to Sir Charles Lyell.

374 MISCELLANEA. [1875.

Lyell * has been saved this terrible blow. His death makes
me think of the time when I first saw him, and how full of
sympathy and interest he was about what I could tell him of
coral reefs and South America. I think that this sympathy
with the work of every other naturalist was one of the finest
features of his character. How completely he revolutionised
Geology : for I can remember something of pre-Lyellian

I never forget that almost everything which I have done
in science I owe to the study of his great works. Well, he
has had a grand and happy career, and no one ever worked
with a truer zeal in a noble cause. It seems strange to me
that I shall never again sit with him and Lady Lyell at their
breakfast. I am very much obliged to you for having so
kindly written to me.

Pray give our kindest remembrances to Miss Lyell, and I
hope that she has not suffered much in health, from fatigue
and anxiety.

Believe me, my dear Miss Buckley,

Yours very sincerely,


C. Darwin to J. D. Hooker.

Down, February 25 [1875].

MY DEAR HOOKER, Your letter so full of feeling has
interested me greatly. I cannot say that I felt his [Lyell's]
death much, for I fully expected it, and have looked for some
little time at his career as finished.

I dreaded nothing so much as his surviving with impaired
mental powers. He was, indeed, a noble man in very many
ways ; perhaps in none more than in his warm sympathy with
the work of others. How vividly I can recall my first con-
versation with him, and how he astonished me by his interest
in what I told him. How grand also was his candour and

* Lady Lyell died in 1873.


pure love of truth. Well, he is gone, and I feel as if we were
all soon to go. ... I am deeply rejoiced about Westminster
Abbey,* the possibility of which had not occurred to me
when I wrote before. I did think that his works were the
most enduring of all testimonials (as you say) to him ; but
then I did not like the idea of his passing away with no out-
ward sign of what scientific men thought of his merits. Now
all this is changed, and nothing can be better than West-
minster Abbey. Mrs. Lyell has asked me to be one of the
pall-bearers, but I have written to say that I dared not, as I
should so likely fail in the midst of the ceremony, and have
my head whirling off my shoulders. All this affair must have
cost you much fatigue and worry, and how I do wish you
were out of England. . . .

[In 1881 he wrote to Mrs. Fisher in reference to her article
on Sir Charles Lyell in the ' Encyclopaedia Britannica ' :

" For such a publication I suppose you do not want to say
much about his private character, otherwise his strong sense
of humour and love of society might have been added. Also
his extreme interest in the progress of the world, and in the
happiness of mankind. Also his freedom from all religious
bigotry, though these perhaps would be a superfluity."

The following refers to the Zoological station at Naples,
a subject on which my father felt an enthusiastic interest :]

C. Darwin to Anton Dohrn.

Down [1875 ?].

MY DEAR DR. DOHRN, Many thanks for your most kind
letter, I most heartily rejoice at your improved health and at
the success of your grand undertaking, which will have so
much influence on the progress of Zoology throughout

If we look to England alone, what capital work has already
been done at the Station by Balfour and Ray Lankester. . . .

* Sir C. Lyell was buried in Westminster Abbey.

376 MISCELLANEA. [1875.

When you come to England, I suppose that you will bring
Mrs. Dohrn, and we shall be delighted to see you both here.
I have often boasted that I have had a live Uhlan in my
house ! It will be very interesting to me to read your new
views on the ancestry of the Vertebrates. I shall be sorry to
give up the Ascidians, to whom I feel profound gratitude;
but the great thing, as it appears to me, is that any link what-
ever should be found between the main divisions of the Ani-
mal Kingdom. . . .

C. Darwin to August Weismann.

Down, December 6, 1875.

MY DEAR SIR, I have been profoundly interested by your
essay on Amblystoma,* and think that you have removed a
great stumbling-block in the way of Evolution. I once thought
of reversion in this case ; but in a crude and imperfect manner.
I write now to call your attention to the sterility of moths
when hatched out of their proper season ; I give references in
chapter 18 of my 'Variation under Domestication' (vol.-ii.
p. 157, of English edition), and these cases illustrate, I think,
the sterility of Amblystoma. Would it not be worth while to
examine the reproductive organs of those individuals of wing-
less Hemiptera which occasionally have wings, as in the case
of the bed-bug. I think I have heard that the females of
Mutilla sometimes have wings.. These cases must be due. to
reversion. I dare say many anomalous cases will be here-
after explained on the same principle.

I hinted at this explanation in the extraordinary case of
the black-shouldered peacock, the so-called Pavo nigripennis
given in my * Var. under Domest. ; ' and I might have been
bolder, as the variety is in many respects intermediate between
the two known species.

With much respect,

Yours sincerely,


' Umwandlung des Axolotl.'

1875.] VIVISECTION. 377


[It was in November 1875 that my father gave his evidence
before the Royal Commission on Vivisection.* I have, there-
fore, placed together here the matter relating to this subject,
irrespective of date. Something has already been said of my
father's strong feeling with regard to suffering both in man
and beast. It was indeed one of the strongest feelings in his
nature, and was exemplified in matters small and great, in
his sympathy with the educational miseries of dancing dogs,
or in his horror at the sufferings of slaves.f

The remembrance of screams, or other sounds heard in
Brazil, when he was powerless to interfere with what he
believed to be the torture of a slave, haunted him for years,
especially at night. In smaller matters, where he could inter-
fere, he did so vigorously. He returned one day from his
walk pale and faint from having seen a horse ill-used, and from
the agitation of violently remonstrating with the man. On
another occasion he saw a horse-breaker teaching his son to
ride, the little boy was frightened and the man was rough ;
my father stopped, and jumping out of the carriage reproved
the man in no measured terms.

One other little incident may be mentioned, showing that
his humanity to animals was well known in his own neigh-
bourhood. A visitor, driving from Orpington to Down, told

* See vol. i. p. 118.

f He once made an attempt to free a patient in a mad-house, who (as
he wrongly supposed) was sane. He had some correspondence with the
gardener at the asylum, and on one occasion he found a letter from a
patient enclosed with one from the gardener. The letter was rational in
tone and declared that the writer was sane and wrongfully confined.

My father wrote to the Lunacy Commissioners (without explaining the
source of his information) and in due time heard that the man had been
visited by the Commissioners, and that he was certainly insane. Some
time afterwards the patient was discharged, and wrote to thank my father
for his interference, adding that he had undoubtedly been insane, when
he wrote his former letter.

3/8 MISCELLANEA. [1875.

the man to go faster, "Why," said the driver, "If 1 had
whipped the horse this much, driving Mr. Darwin, he would
have got out of the carriage and abused me well."

With respect to the special point under consideration,
the sufferings of animals subjected to experiment, nothing
could show a stronger feeling than the following extract from
a letter to Professor Ray Lankester (March 22, 1871) :

" You ask about my opinion on vivisection. I quite agree
that it is justifiable for real investigations on physiology ; but
not for mere damnable and detestable curiosity. It is a
subject which makes me sick with horror, so I will not say
another word about it, else I shall not sleep to-night."

An extract from Sir Thomas Farrer's notes shows how
strongly he expressed himself in a similar manner in con-
versation :

" The last time I had any conversation with him was at my
house in Bryanston Square, just before one of his last seizures.
He was then deeply interested in the vivisection question ;
and what he said made a deep impression on me. He was a
man eminently fond of animals and tender to them ; he would
not knowingly have inflicted pain on a living creature ; but
he entertained the strongest opinion that to prohibit experi-
ments on living animals, would be to put a stop to the know-
ledge of and the remedies for pain and disease."

The Anti-Vivisection agitation, to which the following
letters refer, seems to have become specially active in 1874,
as may be seen, e.g. by the index to ' Nature ' for that year,
in which the word " Vivisection," suddenly comes into promi-
nence. But before that date the subject had received the
earnest attention of biologists. Thus at the Liverpool Meet-
ing of the British Association in 1870, a Committee was ap-
pointed, which reported, defining the circumstances and
conditions under which, in the opinion of the signatories, ex-
periments on living animals were justifiable. In the spring of
1875, Lord Hartismere introduced a Bill into the Upper
House to regulate the course of physiological research. Short-
ly afterwards a Bill more just towards science in its provisions

i8 7 5-l VIVISECTION. 3 ; 9

was introduced to the House of Commons by Messrs. Lyon
Playfair, Walpole, and Ashley. It was however, withdrawn
on the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into
the whole question. The Commissioners were Lords Card-
well and Winmarleigh, Mr. W. E. Forster, Sir J. B. Karslake,
Mr. Huxley, Professor Erichssen, and Mr. R. H. Hutton :
they commenced their inquiry in July, 1875, and the Report
was published early in the following year.

In the early summer of 1876, Lord Carnarvon's Bill, en-
titled, "An Act to amend the Law relating to Cruelty to
Animals," was introduced. It cannot be denied that the
framers of this Bill, yielding to the unreasonable clamour of
the public, went far beyond the recommendations of the Royal
Commission. As a correspondent in ' Nature ' put it (1876,
p. 248), "the evidence on the strength of which legislation
was recommended went beyond the facts, the Report went
beyond the evidence, the Recommendations beyond the
Report ; and the Bill can hardly be said to have gone be-
yond the Recommendations ; but rather to have contradicted

The legislation which my father worked for, as described
in the following letters, was practically what was introduced
as Dr. Lyon Playfair's Bill.]

C. Darwin to Mrs. Lit ch field*

January 4, 1875.

MY DEAR H. Your letter has led me to think over vivi-
section (I wish some new word like anaes-section could be
invented f) for some hours, and I will jot down my conclusions,
which will appear very unsatisfactory to you. I have long
thought physiology one of the greatest of sciences, sure sooner,

* His daughter.

f He communicated to 'Nature' (Sep. 30, 1880) an article by Dr.
Wilder, of Cornell University, an abstract of which was published (p. 517).
Dr. Wilder advocated the use of the word ' Callisection ' for painless opera-
tions on animals.

380 MISCELLANEA. [1875.

or more probably later, greatly to benefit mankind ; but,
judging from all other sciences, the benefits will accrue only
indirectly in the search for abstract truth. It is certain that
physiology can progress only by experiments on living ani-
mals. Therefore the proposal to limit research to points of
which we can now see the bearings in regard to health, &c.,
I look at as puerile. 1 thought at first it would be good to
limit vivisection to public laboratories ; but I have heard only
of those in London and Cambridge, and I think Oxford ; but
probably there may be a few others. Therefore only men
living in a few great towns would carry on investigation, and
this I should consider a great evil. If private men were per-
mitted to work in their own houses, and required a licence, I
do not see who is to determine whether any particular man
should receive one. It is young unknown men who are the
most likely to do good work. I would gladly punish severely
any one who operated on an animal not rendered insensible,
if the experiment made this possible ; but here again I do not
see that a magistrate or jury could possibly determine such a
point. Therefore I conclude, if (as is likely) some experi-
ments have been tried too often, or anaesthetics have not been
used when they could have been, the cure must be in the
improvement of humanitarian feelings. Under this point of
view I have rejoiced at the present agitation. If stringent
laws are passed, and this is likely, seeing how unscientific the
House of Commons is, and that the gentlemen of England
are humane, as long as their sports are not considered, which
entailed a hundred or thousand-fold more suffering than the
experiments of physiologists if such laws are passed, the re-
sult will assuredly be that physiology, which has been until
within the last few years at a standstill in England, will lan-
guish or quite cease. It will then be carried on solely on the
Continent; and there will be so many the fewer workers on
this grand subject, and this I should greatly regret. By the
way, F. Balfour, who has worked for two or three years in the
laboratory at Cambridge, declares to George that he has never
seen an experiment, except with animals rendered insensible.


No doubt the names of Doctors will have great weight with
the House of Commons ; but very many practitioners neither
know nor care anything about the progress of knowledge. I
cannot at present see my way to sign any petition, without
hearing what physiologists thought would be its effect, and

Online LibraryCharles DarwinThe life and letters of Charles Darwin : including an autobiographical chapter (Volume 2) → online text (page 30 of 45)