THE UNFINISHED BOOKby@charlesdarwin


by Charles DarwinJanuary 24th, 2023
Read on Terminal Reader
Read this story w/o Javascript
tldt arrow

Too Long; Didn't Read

MAY 1856 TO JUNE 1858. [In the Autobiographical chapter (page 69,) my father wrote:—"Early in 1856 Lyell advised me to write out my views pretty fully, and I began at once to do so on a scale three or four times as extensive as that which was afterwards followed in my 'Origin of Species;' yet it was only an abstract of the materials which I had collected." The letters in the present chapter are chiefly concerned with the preparation of this unfinished book.
featured image - THE UNFINISHED BOOK
Charles Darwin HackerNoon profile picture

Life and Letters of Charles Darwin — Volume 1 by Charles Darwin, is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. THE UNFINISHED BOOK


MAY 1856 TO JUNE 1858.

[In the Autobiographical chapter (page 69,) my father wrote:—"Early in 1856 Lyell advised me to write out my views pretty fully, and I began at once to do so on a scale three or four times as extensive as that which was afterwards followed in my 'Origin of Species;' yet it was only an abstract of the materials which I had collected." The letters in the present chapter are chiefly concerned with the preparation of this unfinished book.

The work was begun on May 14th, and steadily continued up to June 1858, when it was interrupted by the arrival of Mr. Wallace's MS. During the two years which we are now considering he wrote ten chapters (that is about one-half) of the projected book. He remained for the most part at home, but paid several visits to Dr. Lane's Water-Cure Establishment at Moor Park, during one of which he made a pilgrimage to the shrine of Gilbert White at Selborne.]



...With respect to your suggestion of a sketch of my views, I hardly know what to think, but will reflect on it, but it goes against my prejudices. To give a fair sketch would be absolutely impossible, for every proposition requires such an array of facts. If I were to do anything, it could only refer to the main agency of change—selection—and perhaps point out a very few of the leading features, which countenance such a view, and some few of the main difficulties. But I do not know what to think; I rather hate the idea of writing for priority, yet I certainly should be vexed if any one were to publish my doctrines before me. Anyhow, I thank you heartily for your sympathy. I shall be in London next week, and I will call on you on Thursday morning for one hour precisely, so as not to lose much of your time and my own; but will you let me this time come as early as 9 o'clock, for I have much which I must do in the morning in my strongest time? Farewell, my dear old patron.

Yours, C. DARWIN.

By the way, THREE plants have come up out of the earth, perfectly enclosed in the roots of the trees. And twenty-nine plants in the table-spoonful of mud, out of the little pond; Hooker was surprised at this, and struck with it, when I showed him how much mud I had scraped off one duck's feet.

If I did publish a short sketch, where on earth should I publish it?

If I do NOT hear, I shall understand that I may come from 9 to 10 on Thursday.


...I very much want advice and TRUTHFUL consolation if you can give it. I had a good talk with Lyell about my species work, and he urges me strongly to publish something. I am fixed against any periodical or Journal, as I positively will NOT expose myself to an Editor or a Council, allowing a publication for which they might be abused. If I publish anything it must be a VERY THIN and little volume, giving a sketch of my views and difficulties; but it is really dreadfully unphilosophical to give a resume, without exact references, of an unpublished work. But Lyell seemed to think I might do this, at the suggestion of friends, and on the ground, which I might state, that I had been at work for eighteen (The interval of eighteen years, from 1837 when he began to collect facts, would bring the date of this letter to 1855, not 1856, nevertheless the latter seems the more probable date.) years, and yet could not publish for several years, and especially as I could point out difficulties which seemed to me to require especial investigation. Now what think you? I should be really grateful for advice. I thought of giving up a couple of months and writing such a sketch, and trying to keep my judgment open whether or no to publish it when completed. It will be simply impossible for me to give exact references; anything important I should state on the authority of the author generally; and instead of giving all the facts on which I ground my opinion, I could give by memory only one or two. In the Preface I would state that the work could not be considered strictly scientific, but a mere sketch or outline of a future work in which full references, etc. should be given. Eheu, eheu, I believe I should sneer at any one else doing this, and my only comfort is, that I TRULY never dreamed of it, till Lyell suggested it, and seems deliberately to think it advisable.

I am in a peck of troubles and do pray forgive me for troubling you.

Yours affectionately, C. DARWIN.


...Now for a MORE IMPORTANT! subject, viz., my own self: I am extremely glad you think well of a separate "Preliminary Essay" (i.e., if anything whatever is published; for Lyell seemed rather to doubt on this head) (The meaning of the sentence in parentheses is obscure.); but I cannot bear the idea of BEGGING some Editor and Council to publish, and then perhaps to have to APOLOGISE humbly for having led them into a scrape. In this one respect I am in the state which, according to a very wise saying of my father's, is the only fit state for asking advice, viz., with my mind firmly made up, and then, as my father used to say, GOOD advice was very comfortable, and it was easy to reject BAD advice. But Heaven knows I am not in this state with respect to publishing at all any preliminary essay. It yet strikes me as quite unphilosophical to publish results without the full details which have lead to such results.

It is a melancholy, and I hope not quite true view of yours that facts will prove anything, and are therefore superfluous! But I have rather exaggerated, I see, your doctrine. I do not fear being tied down to error, i.e., I feel pretty sure I should give up anything false published in the preliminary essay, in my larger work; but I may thus, it is very true, do mischief by spreading error, which as I have often heard you say is much easier spread than corrected. I confess I lean more and more to at least making the attempt and drawing up a sketch and trying to keep my judgment, whether to publish, open. But I always return to my fixed idea that it is dreadfully unphilosophical to publish without full details. I certainly think my future work in full would profit by hearing what my friends or critics (if reviewed) thought of the outline.

To any one but you I should apologise for such long discussion on so personal an affair; but I believe, and indeed you have proved it by the trouble you have taken, that this would be superfluous.

Yours truly obliged, CH. DARWIN.

P.S. What you say (for I have just re-read your letter) that the Essay might supersede and take away all novelty and value from any future larger Book, is very true; and that would grieve me beyond everything. On the other hand (again from Lyell's urgent advice), I published a preliminary sketch of the Coral Theory, and this did neither good nor harm. I begin MOST HEARTILY to wish that Lyell had never put this idea of an Essay into my head.


"I am delighted that I may say (with absolute truth) that my essay is published at your suggestion, but I hope it will not need so much apology as I at first thought; for I have resolved to make it nearly as complete as my present materials allow. I cannot put in all which you suggest, for it would appear too conceited."

FROM A LETTER TO W.D. FOX. Down, June 14th [1856].

"...What you say about my Essay, I dare say is very true; and it gave me another fit of the wibber-gibbers: I hope that I shall succeed in making it modest. One great motive is to get information on the many points on which I want it. But I tremble about it, which I should not do, if I allowed some three or four more years to elapse before publishing anything..."

[The following extracts from letters to Mr. Fox are worth giving, as showing how great was the accumulation of material which now had to be dealt with.

June 14th [1856].

"Very many thanks for the capital information on cats; I see I had blundered greatly, but I know I had somewhere your original notes; but my notes are so numerous during nineteen years' collection, that it would take me at least a year to go over and classify them."

November 1856.

"Sometimes I fear I shall break down, for my subject gets bigger and bigger with each month's work."]

CHARLES DARWIN TO C. LYELL Down, 16th [June, 1856].

My dear Lyell,

I am going to do the most impudent thing in the world. But my blood gets hot with passion and turns cold alternately at the geological strides, which many of your disciples are taking.

Here, poor Forbes made a continent to [i.e., extending to] North America and another (or the same) to the Gulf weed; Hooker makes one from New Zealand to South America and round the World to Kerguelen Land. Here is Wollaston speaking of Madeira and P. Santo "as the sure and certain witnesses of a former continent." Here is Woodward writes to me, if you grant a continent over 200 or 300 miles of ocean depths (as if that was nothing), why not extend a continent to every island in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans? And all this within the existence of recent species! If you do not stop this, if there be a lower region for the punishment of geologists, I believe, my great master, you will go there. Why, your disciples in a slow and creeping manner beat all the old Catastrophists who ever lived. You will live to be the great chief of the Catastrophists.

There, I have done myself a great deal of good, and have exploded my passion.

So my master, forgive me, and believe me, ever yours, C. DARWIN.

P.S. Don't answer this, I did it to ease myself.

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Down [June] 17th, 1856.

...I have been very deeply interested by Wollaston's book ('The Variation of Species,' 1856.), though I differ GREATLY from many of his doctrines. Did you ever read anything so rich, considering how very far he goes, as his denunciations against those who go further: "Most mischievous," "absurd," "unsound." Theology is at the bottom of some of this. I told him he was like Calvin burning a heretic. It is a very valuable and clever book in my opinion. He has evidently read very little out of his own line. I urged him to read the New Zealand essay. His Geology also is rather eocene, as I told him. In fact I wrote most frankly; he says he is sure that ultra-honesty is my characteristic: I do not know whether he meant it as a sneer; I hope not. Talking of eocene geology, I got so wrath about the Atlantic continent, more especially from a note from Woodward (who has published a capital book on shells), who does not seem to doubt that every island in the Pacific and Atlantic are the remains of continents, submerged within period of existing species, that I fairly exploded, and wrote to Lyell to protest, and summed up all the continents created of late years by Forbes (the head sinner!) YOURSELF, Wollaston, and Woodward, and a pretty nice little extension of land they make altogether! I am fairly rabid on the question and therefore, if not wrong already, am pretty sure to become so...

I have enjoyed your note much. Adios, C. DARWIN.

P.S. [June] 18th. Lyell has written me a CAPITAL letter on your side, which ought to upset me entirely, but I cannot say it does quite.

Though I must try and cease being rabid and try to feel humble, and allow you all to make continents, as easily as a cook does pancakes.

CHARLES DARWIN TO C. LYELL. Down, June 25th [1856].

My dear Lyell,

I will have the following tremendous letter copied to make the reading easier, and as I want to keep a copy.

As you say you would like to hear my reasons for being most unwilling to believe in the continental extensions of late authors, I gladly write them, as, without I am convinced of my error, I shall have to give them condensed in my essay, when I discuss single and multiple creation; I shall therefore be particularly glad to have your general opinion on them. I may QUITE LIKELY have persuaded myself in my wrath that there is more in them than there is. If there was much more reason to admit a continental extension in any one or two instances (as in Madeira) than in other cases, I should feel no difficulty whatever. But if on account of European plants, and littoral sea shells, it is thought necessary to join Madeira to the mainland, Hooker is quite right to join New Holland to New Zealand, and Auckland Island (and Raoul Island to N.E.), and these to S. America and the Falklands, and these to Tristan d'Acunha, and these to Kerguelen Land; thus making, either strictly at the same time, or at different periods, but all within the life of recent beings, an almost circumpolar belt of land. So again Galapagos and Juan Fernandez must be joined to America; and if we trust to littoral see shells, the Galapagos must have been joined to the Pacific Islands (2400 miles distant) as well as to America, and as Woodward seems to think all the islands in the Pacific into a magnificent continent; also the islands in the Southern Indian Ocean into another continent, with Madagascar and Africa, and perhaps India. In the North Atlantic, Europe will stretch half-way across the ocean to the Azores, and further north right across. In short, we must suppose probably, half the present ocean was land within the period of living organisms. The Globe within this period must have had a quite different aspect. Now the only way to test this, that I can see, is to consider whether the continents have undergone within this same period such wonderful permutations. In all North and South and Central America, we have both recent and miocene (or eocene) shells, quite distinct on the opposite sides, and hence I cannot doubt that FUNDAMENTALLY America has held its place since at least, the miocene period. In Africa almost all the living shells are distinct on the opposite sides of the inter-tropical regions, short as the distance is compared to the range of marine mollusca, in uninterrupted seas; hence I infer that Africa has existed since our present species were created. Even the isthmus of Suez and the Aralo-Caspian basin have had a great antiquity. So I imagine, from the tertiary deposits, has India. In Australia the great fauna of extinct marsupials shows that before the present mammals appeared, Australia was a separate continent. I do not for one second doubt that very large portions of all these continents have undergone GREAT changes of level within this period, but yet I conclude that fundamentally they stood as barriers in the sea, where they now stand; and therefore I should require the weightiest evidence to make me believe in such immense changes within the period of living organisms in our oceans, where, moreover, from the great depths, the changes must have been vaster in a vertical sense.


Submerge our present continents, leaving a few mountain peaks as islands, and what will the character of the islands be,—Consider that the Pyrenees, Sierra Nevada, Apennines, Alps, Carpathians, are non-volcanic, Etna and Caucasus, volcanic. In Asia, Altai and Himalaya, I believe non-volcanic. In North Africa the non-volcanic, as I imagine, Alps of Abyssinia and of the Atlas. In South Africa, the Snow Mountains. In Australia, the non-volcanic Alps. In North America, the White Mountains, Alleghanies and Rocky Mountains—some of the latter alone, I believe, volcanic. In South America to the east, the non-volcanic [Silla?] of Caracas, and Itacolumi of Brazil, further south the Sierra Ventanas, and in the Cordilleras, many volcanic but not all. Now compare these peaks with the oceanic islands; as far as known all are volcanic, except St. Paul's (a strange bedevilled rock), and the Seychelles, if this latter can be called oceanic, in the line of Madagascar; the Falklands, only 500 miles off, are only a shallow bank; New Caledonia, hardly oceanic, is another exception. This argument has to me great weight. Compare on a Geographical map, islands which, we have SEVERAL reasons to suppose, were connected with mainland, as Sardinia, and how different it appears. Believing, as I am inclined, that continents as continents, and oceans as oceans, are of immense antiquity—I should say that if any of the existing oceanic islands have any relation of any kind to continents, they are forming continents; and that by the time they could form a continent, the volcanoes would be denuded to their cores, leaving peaks of syenite, diorite, or porphyry. But have we nowhere any last wreck of a continent, in the midst of the ocean? St. Paul's Rock, and such old battered volcanic islands, as St. Helena, may be; but I think we can see some reason why we should have less evidence of sinking than of rising continents (if my view in my Coral volume has any truth in it, viz.: that volcanic outbursts accompany rising areas), for during subsidence there will be no compensating agent at work, in rising areas there will be the ADDITIONAL element of outpoured volcanic matter.


Considering the depth of the ocean, I was, before I got your letter, inclined vehemently to dispute the vast amount of subsidence, but I must strike my colours. With respect to coral reefs, I carefully guarded against its being supposed that a continent was indicated by the groups of atolls. It is difficult to guess, as it seems to me, the amount of subsidence indicated by coral reefs; but in such large areas as the Lowe Archipelago, the Marshall Archipelago, and Laccadive group, it would, judging, from the heights of existing oceanic archipelagoes, be odd, if some peaks of from 8000 to 10,000 feet had not been buried. Even after your letter a suspicion crossed me whether it would be fair to argue from subsidences in the middle of the greatest oceans to continents; but refreshing my memory by talking with Ramsay in regard to the probable thickness in one vertical line of the Silurian and carboniferous formation, it seems there must have been AT LEAST 10,000 feet of subsidence during these formations in Europe and North America, and therefore during the continuance of nearly the same set of organic beings. But even 12,000 feet would not be enough for the Azores, or for Hooker's continent; I believe Hooker does not infer a continuous continent, but approximate groups of islands, with, if we may judge from existing continents, not PROFOUNDLY deep sea between them; but the argument from the volcanic nature of nearly every existing oceanic island tell against such supposed groups of islands,—for I presume he does not suppose a mere chain of volcanic islands belting the southern hemisphere.


The supposed continental extensions do not seem to me, perfectly to account for all the phenomena of distribution on islands; as the absence of mammals and Batrachians; the absence of certain great groups of insects on Madeira, and of Acaciae and Banksias, etc., in New Zealand; the paucity of plants in some cases, etc. Not that those who believe in various accidental means of dispersal, can explain most of these cases; but they may at least say that these facts seem hardly compatible with former continuous land.


For these several reasons, and especially considering it certain (in which you will agree) that we are extremely ignorant of means of dispersal, I cannot avoid thinking that Forbes' 'Atlantis,' was an ill-service to science, as checking a close study of means of dissemination. I shall be really grateful to hear, as briefly as you like, whether these arguments have any weight with you, putting yourself in the position of an honest judge. I told Hooker that I was going to write to you on this subject; and I should like him to read this; but whether he or you will think it worth time and postage remains to be proved.

Yours most truly, CHARLES DARWIN.

[On July 8th he wrote to Sir Charles Lyell.

"I am sorry you cannot give any verdict on Continental extensions; and I infer that you think my argument of not much weight against such extensions. I know I wish I could believe so."]

CHARLES DARWIN TO ASA GRAY. Down, July 20th [1856].

...It is not a little egotistical, but I should like to tell you (and I do not THINK I have) how I view my work. Nineteen years (!) ago it occurred to me that whilst otherwise employed on Natural History, I might perhaps do good if I noted any sort of facts bearing on the question of the origin of species, and this I have since been doing. Either species have been independently created, or they have descended from other species, like varieties from one species. I think it can be shown to be probable that man gets his most distinct varieties by preserving such as arise best worth keeping and destroying the others, but I should fill a quire if I were to go on. To be brief, I ASSUME that species arise like our domestic varieties with MUCH extinction; and then test this hypothesis by comparison with as many general and pretty well-established propositions as I can find made out,—in geographical distribution, geological history, affinities, etc., etc. And it seems to me that, SUPPOSING that such hypothesis were to explain such general propositions, we ought, in accordance with the common way of following all sciences, to admit it till some better hypothesis be found out. For to my mind to say that species were created so and so is no scientific explanation, only a reverent way of saying it is so and so. But it is nonsensical trying to show how I try to proceed in the compass of a note. But as an honest man, I must tell you that I have come to the heterodox conclusion that there are no such things as independently created species—that species are only strongly defined varieties. I know that this will make you despise me. I do not much underrate the many HUGE difficulties on this view, but yet it seems to me to explain too much, otherwise inexplicable, to be false. Just to allude to one point in your last note, viz., about species of the same genus GENERALLY having a common or continuous area; if they are actual lineal descendants of one species, this of course would be the case; and the sadly too many exceptions (for me) have to be explained by climatal and geological changes. A fortiori on this view (but on exactly same grounds), all the individuals of the same species should have a continuous distribution. On this latter branch of the subject I have put a chapter together, and Hooker kindly read it over. I thought the exceptions and difficulties were so great that on the whole the balance weighed against my notions, but I was much pleased to find that it seemed to have considerable weight with Hooker, who said he had never been so much staggered about the permanence of species.

I must say one word more in justification (for I feel sure that your tendency will be to despise me and my crotchets), that all my notions about HOW species change are derived from long continued study of the works of (and converse with) agriculturists and horticulturists; and I believe I see my way pretty clearly on the means used by nature to change her species and ADAPT them to the wondrous and exquisitely beautiful contingencies to which every living being is exposed...

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, July 30th 1856.

My dear Hooker,

Your letter is of MUCH value to me. I was not able to get a definite answer from Lyell (On the continental extensions of Forbes and others.), as you will see in the enclosed letters, though I inferred that he thought nothing of my arguments. Had it not been for this correspondence, I should have written sadly too strongly. You may rely on it I shall put my doubts moderately. There never was such a predicament as mine: here you continental extensionists would remove enormous difficulties opposed to me, and yet I cannot honestly admit the doctrine, and must therefore say so. I cannot get over the fact that not a fragment of secondary or palaeozoic rock has been found on any island above 500 or 600 miles from a mainland. You rather misunderstand me when you think I doubt the POSSIBILITY of subsidence of 20,000 or 30,000 feet; it is only probability, considering such evidence as we have independently of distribution. I have not yet worked out in full detail the distribution of mammalia, both IDENTICAL and allied, with respect to the ONE ELEMENT OF DEPTH OF THE SEA; but as far as I have gone, the results are to me surprisingly accordant with my very most troublesome belief in not such great geographical changes as you believe; and in mammalia we certainly know more of MEANS of distribution than in any other class. Nothing is so vexatious to me, as so constantly finding myself drawing different conclusions from better judges than myself, from the same facts.

I fancy I have lately removed many (not geographical) great difficulties opposed to my notions, but God knows it may be all hallucination.

Please return Lyell's letters.

What a capital letter of Lyell's that to you is, and what a wonderful man he is. I differ from him greatly in thinking that those who believe that species are NOT fixed will multiply specific names: I know in my own case my most frequent source of doubt was whether others would not think this or that was a God-created Barnacle, and surely deserved a name. Otherwise I should only have thought whether the amount of difference and permanence was sufficient to justify a name: I am, also, surprised at his thinking it immaterial whether species are absolute or not: whenever it is proved that all species are produced by generation, by laws of change, what good evidence we shall have of the gaps in formations. And what a science Natural History will be, when we are in our graves, when all the laws of change are thought one of the most important parts of Natural History.

I cannot conceive why Lyell thinks such notions as mine or of 'Vestiges,' will invalidate specific centres. But I must not run on and take up your time. My MS. will not, I fear, be copied before you go abroad. With hearty thanks.

Ever yours, C. DARWIN.

P.S.—After giving much condensed, my argument versus continental extensions, I shall append some such sentence, as that two better judges than myself have considered these arguments, and attach no weight to them.

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, August 5th [1856].

...I quite agree about Lyell's letters to me, which, though to me interesting, have afforded me no new light. Your letters, under the GEOLOGICAL point of view, have been more valuable to me. You cannot imagine how earnestly I wish I could swallow continental extension, but I cannot; the more I think (and I cannot get the subject out of my head), the more difficult I find it. If there were only some half-dozen cases, I should not feel the least difficulty; but the generality of the facts of all islands (except one or two) having a considerable part of their productions in common with one or more mainlands utterly staggers me. What a wonderful case of the Epacridae! It is most vexatious, also humiliating, to me that I cannot follow and subscribe to the way in which you strikingly put your view of the case. I look at your facts (about Eucalyptus, etc.) as DAMNING against continental extension, and if you like also damning against migration, or at least of ENORMOUS difficulty. I see the ground of our difference (in a letter I must put myself on an equality in arguing) lies, in my opinion, that scarcely anything is known of means of distribution. I quite agree with A. De Candolle's (and I dare say your) opinion that it is poor work putting together the merely POSSIBLE means of distribution; but I see no other way in which the subject can be attacked, for I think that A. De Candolle's argument, that no plants have been introduced into England except by man's agency, [is] of no weight. I cannot but think that the theory of continental extension does do some little harm as stopping investigation of the means of dispersal, which, whether NEGATIVE or positive, seems to me of value; when negatived, then every one who believes in single centres will have to admit continental extensions.

...I see from your remarks that you do not understand my notions (whether or no worth anything) about modification; I attribute very little to the direct action of climate, etc. I suppose, in regard to specific centres, we are at cross purposes; I should call the kitchen garden in which the red cabbage was produced, or the farm in which Bakewell made the Shorthorn cattle, the specific centre of these SPECIES! And surely this is centralisation enough!

I thank you most sincerely for all your assistance; and whether or no my book may be wretched, you have done your best to make it less wretched. Sometimes I am in very good spirits and sometimes very low about it. My own mind is decided on the question of the origin of species; but, good heavens, how little that is worth!...

[With regard to "specific centres," a passage from a letter dated July 25, 1856, by Sir Charles Lyell to Sir J.D. Hooker ('Life' ii. page 216) is of interest:

"I fear much that if Darwin argues that species are phantoms, he will also have to admit that single centres of dispersion are phantoms also, and that would deprive me of much of the value which I ascribe to the present provinces of animals and plants, as illustrating modern and tertiary changes in physical geography."

He seems to have recognised, however, that the phantom doctrine would soon have to be faced, for he wrote in the same letter: "Whether Darwin persuades you and me to renounce our faith in species (when geological epochs are considered) or not, I foresee that many will go over to the indefinite modifiability doctrine."

In the autumn my father was still working at geographical distribution, and again sought the aid of Sir J.D. Hooker.

A LETTER TO SIR J.D. HOOKER [September, 1856].

"In the course of some weeks, you unfortunate wretch, you will have my MS. on one point of Geographical Distribution. I will however, never ask such a favour again; but in regard to this one piece of MS., it is of infinite importance to me for you to see it; for never in my life have I felt such difficulty what to do, and I heartily wish I could slur the whole subject over."

In a letter to Sir J.D. Hooker (June, 1856), the following characteristic passage occurs, suggested, no doubt, by the kind of work which his chapter on Geographical Distribution entailed:

"There is wonderful ill logic in his [E. Forbes'] famous and admirable memoir on distribution, as it appears to me, now that I have got it up so as to give the heads in a page. Depend on it, my saying is a true one, viz., that a compiler is a GREAT man, and an original man a commonplace man. Any fool can generalise and speculate; but, oh, my heavens! To get up AT SECOND HAND a New Zealand Flora, that is work."

CHARLES DARWIN TO W.D. FOX. October 3 [1856].

...I remember you protested against Lyell's advice of writing a SKETCH of my species doctrines. Well, when I began I found it such unsatisfactory work that I have desisted, and am now drawing up my work as perfect as my materials of nineteen years' collecting suffice, but do not intend to stop to perfect any line of investigation beyond current work. Thus far and no farther I shall follow Lyell's urgent advice. Your remarks weighed with me considerably. I find to my sorrow it will run to quite a big book. I have found my careful work at pigeons really invaluable, as enlightening me on many points on variation under domestication. The copious old literature, by which I can trace the gradual changes in the breeds of pigeons has been extraordinarily useful to me. I have just had pigeons and fowls ALIVE from the Gambia! Rabbits and ducks I am attending to pretty carefully, but less so than pigeons. I find most remarkable differences in the skeletons of rabbits. Have you ever kept any odd breeds of rabbits, and can you give me any details? One other question: You used to keep hawks; do you at all know, after eating a bird, how soon after they throw up the pellet?

No subject gives me so much trouble and doubt and difficulty as the means of dispersal of the same species of terrestrial productions on the oceanic islands. Land mollusca drive me mad, and I cannot anyhow get their eggs to experimentise their power of floating and resistance to the injurious action of salt water. I will not apologise for writing so much about my own doings, as I believe you will like to hear. Do sometime, I beg you, let me hear how you get on in health; and IF SO INCLINED, let me have some words on call-ducks.

My dear Fox, yours affectionately, CH. DARWIN.

[With regard to his book he wrote (November 10th) to Sir Charles Lyell]:

"I am working very steadily at my big book; I have found it quite impossible to publish any preliminary essay or sketch; but am doing my work as completely as my present materials allow without waiting to perfect them. And this much acceleration I owe to you."]

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, Sunday [October 1856].

My dear Hooker,

The seeds are come all safe, many thanks for them. I was very sorry to run away so soon and miss any part of my MOST pleasant evening; and I ran away like a Goth and Vandal without wishing Mrs. Hooker good-bye; but I was only just in time, as I got on the platform the train had arrived.

I was particularly glad of our discussion after dinner, fighting a battle with you always clears my mind wonderfully. I groan to hear that A. Gray agrees with you about the condition of Botanical Geography. All I know is that if you had had to search for light in Zoological Geography you would by contrast, respect your own subject a vast deal more than you now do. The hawks have behaved like gentlemen, and have cast up pellets with lots of seeds in them; and I have just had a parcel of partridge's feet well caked with mud!!! (The mud in such cases often contains seeds, so that plants are thus transported.) Adios.

Your insane and perverse friend, C. DARWIN.

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, November 4th [1856].

My dear Hooker,

I thank you more CORDIALLY than you will think probable, for your note. Your verdict (On the MS. relating to geographical distribution.) has been a great relief. On my honour I had no idea whether or not you would say it was (and I knew you would say it very kindly) so bad, that you would have begged me to have burnt the whole. To my own mind my MS. relieved me of some few difficulties, and the difficulties seemed to me pretty fairly stated, but I had become so bewildered with conflicting facts, evidence, reasoning and opinions, that I felt to myself that I had lost all judgment. Your general verdict is INCOMPARABLY more favourable than I had anticipated...

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, November 23rd [1856].

My dear Hooker,

I fear I shall weary you with letters, but do not answer this, for in truth and without flattery, I so value your letters, that after a heavy batch, as of late, I feel that I have been extravagant and have drawn too much money, and shall therefore have to stint myself on another occasion.

When I sent my MS. I felt strongly that some preliminary questions on the causes of variation ought to have been sent you. Whether I am right or wrong in these points is quite a separate question, but the conclusion which I have come to, quite independently of geographical distribution, is that external conditions (to which naturalists so often appeal) do by themselves VERY LITTLE. How much they do is the point of all others on which I feel myself very weak. I judge from the facts of variation under domestication, and I may yet get more light. But at present, after drawing up a rough copy on this subject, my conclusion is that external conditions do EXTREMELY little, except in causing mere variability. This mere variability (causing the child NOT closely to resemble its parent) I look at as VERY different from the formation of a marked variety or new species. (No doubt the variability is governed by laws, some of which I am endeavouring very obscurely to trace.) The formation of a strong variety or species I look a as almost wholly due to the selection of what may be incorrectly called CHANCE variations or variability. This power of selection stands in the most direct relation to time, and in the state of nature can be only excessively slow. Again, the slight differences selected, by which a race or species is at last formed, stands, as I think can be shown (even with plants, and obviously with animals), in a far more important relation to its associates than to external conditions. Therefore, according to my principles, whether right or wrong, I cannot agree with your proposition that time, and altered conditions, and altered associates, are 'convertible terms.' I look at the first and the last as FAR more important: time being important only so far as giving scope to selection. God knows whether you will perceive at what I am driving. I shall have to discuss and think more about your difficulty of the temperate and sub-arctic forms in the S. hemisphere than I have yet done. But I am inclined to think that I am right (if my general principles are right), that there would be little tendency to the formation of a new species, during the period of migration, whether shorter or longer, though considerable variability may have supervened...

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. December 24th [1856].

...How I do wish I lived near you to discuss matters with. I have just been comparing definitions of species, and stating briefly how systematic naturalists work out their subjects. Aquilegia in the Flora Indica was a capital example for me. It is really laughable to see what different ideas are prominent in various naturalists' minds, when they speak of "species;" in some, resemblance is everything and descent of little weight—in some, resemblance seems to go for nothing, and Creation the reigning idea—in some, descent is the key,—in some, sterility an unfailing test, with others it is not worth a farthing. It all comes, I believe, from trying to define the undefinable. I suppose you have lost the odd black seed from the birds' dung, which germinated,—anyhow, it is not worth taking trouble over. I have now got about a dozen seeds out of small birds' dung. Adios,

My dear Hooker, ever yours, C. DARWIN.

CHARLES DARWIN TO ASA GRAY. Down, January 1st [1857?].

My dear Dr Gray,

I have received the second part of your paper ('Statistics of the Flora of the Northern United States.' "Silliman's Journal", 1857.), and though I have nothing particular to say, I must send you my thanks and hearty admiration. The whole paper strikes me as quite exhausting the subject, and I quite fancy and flatter myself I now appreciate the character of your Flora. What a difference in regard to Europe your remark in relation to the genera makes! I have been eminently glad to see your conclusion in regard to the species of large genera widely ranging; it is in strict conformity with the results I have worked out in several ways. It is of great importance to my notions. By the way you have paid me a GREAT compliment ("From some investigations of his own, this sagacious naturalist inclines to think that [the species of] large genera range over a larger area than the species of small genera do."—Asa Gray, loc. cit.): to be SIMPLY mentioned even in such a paper I consider a very great honour. One of your conclusions makes me groan, viz., that the line of connection of the strictly alpine plants is through Greenland. I should EXTREMELY like to see your reasons published in detail, for it "riles" me (this is a proper expression, is it not?) dreadfully. Lyell told me, that Agassiz having a theory about when Saurians were first created, on hearing some careful observations opposed to this, said he did not believe it, "for Nature never lied." I am just in this predicament, and repeat to you that, "Nature never lies," ergo, theorisers are always right...

Overworked as you are, I dare say you will say that I am an odious plague; but here is another suggestion! I was led by one of my wild speculations to conclude (though it has nothing to do with geographical distribution, yet it has with your statistics) that trees would have a strong tendency to have flowers with dioecious, monoecious or polygamous structure. Seeing that this seemed so in Persoon, I took one little British Flora, and discriminating trees from bushes according to Loudon, I have found that the result was in species, genera and families, as I anticipated. So I sent my notions to Hooker to ask him to tabulate the New Zealand Flora for this end, and he thought my result sufficiently curious, to do so; and the accordance with Britain is very striking, and the more so, as he made three classes of trees, bushes, and herbaceous plants. (He says further he shall work the Tasmanian Flora on the same principle.) The bushes hold an intermediate position between the other two classes. It seems to me a curious relation in itself, and is very much so, if my theory and explanation are correct. (See 'Origin,' Edition i., page 100.)

With hearty thanks, your most troublesome friend, C. DARWIN.

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, April 12th [1857].

My dear Hooker,

Your letter has pleased me much, for I never can get it out of my head, that I take unfair advantage of your kindness, as I receive all and give nothing. What a splendid discussion you could write on the whole subject of variation! The cases discussed in your last note are valuable to me (though odious and damnable), as showing how profoundly ignorant we are on the causes of variation. I shall just allude to these cases, as a sort of sub-division of polymorphism a little more definite, I fancy, than the variation of, for instance, the Rubi, and equally or more perplexing.

I have just been putting my notes together on variations APPARENTLY due to the immediate and direct action of external causes; and I have been struck with one result. The most firm sticklers for independent creation admit, that the fur of the SAME species is thinner towards the south of the range of the same species than to the north—that the SAME shells are brighter-coloured to the south than north; that the same [shell] is paler-coloured in deep water—that insects are smaller and darker on mountains—more livid and testaceous near sea—that plants are smaller and more hairy and with brighter flowers on mountains: now in all such, and other cases, distinct species in the two zones follow the same rule, which seems to me to be most simply explained by species, being only strongly marked varieties, and therefore following the same laws as recognised and admitted varieties. I mention all this on account of the variation of plants in ascending mountains; I have quoted the foregoing remark only generally with no examples, for I add, there is so much doubt and dispute what to call varieties; but yet I have stumbled on so many casual remarks on VARIETIES of plants on mountains being so characterised, that I presume there is some truth in it. What think you? Do you believe there is ANY tendency in VARIETIES, as GENERALLY so-called, of plants to become more hairy and with proportionally larger and brighter-coloured flowers in ascending a mountain?

I have been interested in my "weed garden," of 3 x 2 feet square: I mark each seedling as it appears, and I am astonished at the number that come up, and still more at the number killed by slugs, etc. Already 59 have been so killed; I expected a good many, but I had fancied that this was a less potent check than it seems to be, and I attributed almost exclusively to mere choking, the destruction of the seedlings. Grass-seedlings seem to suffer much less than exogens...

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Moor Park, Farnham [April (?) 1857].

My dear Hooker,

Your letter has been forwarded to me here, where I am undergoing hydropathy for a fortnight, having been here a week, and having already received an amount of good which is quite incredible to myself and quite unaccountable. I can walk and eat like a hearty Christian, and even my nights are good. I cannot in the least understand how hydropathy can act as it certainly does on me. It dulls one's brain splendidly; I have not thought about a single species of any kind since leaving home. Your note has taken me aback; I thought the hairiness, etc., of Alpine SPECIES was generally admitted; I am sure I have seen it alluded to a score of times. Falconer was haranguing on it the other day to me. Meyen or Gay, or some such fellow (whom you would despise), I remember, makes some remark on Chilian Cordillera plants. Wimmer has written a little book on the same lines, and on VARIETIES being so characterised in the Alps. But after writing to you, I confess I was staggered by finding one man (Moquin-Tandon, I think) saying that Alpine flowers are strongly inclined to be white, and Linnaeus saying that cold makes plants APETALOUS, even the same species! Are Arctic plants often apetalous? My general belief from my compiling work is quite to agree with what you say about the little direct influence of climate; and I have just alluded to the hairiness of Alpine plants as an EXCEPTION. The odoriferousness would be a good case for me if I knew of VARIETIES being more odoriferous in dry habitats.

I fear that I have looked at the hairiness of Alpine plants as so generally acknowledged that I have not marked passages, so as at all to see what kind of evidence authors advance. I must confess, the other day, when I asked Falconer, whether he knew of INDIVIDUAL plants losing or acquiring hairiness when transported, he did not. But now THIS SECOND, my memory flashes on me, and I am certain I have somewhere got marked a case of hairy plants from the Pyrenees losing hairs when cultivated at Montpellier. Shall you think me very impudent if I tell you that I have sometimes thought that (quite independently of the present case), you are a little too hard on bad observers; that a remark made by a bad observer CANNOT be right; an observer who deserves to be damned you would utterly damn. I feel entire deference to any remark you make out of your own head; but when in opposition to some poor devil, I somehow involuntarily feel not quite so much, but yet much deference for your opinion. I do not know in the least whether there is any truth in this my criticism against you, but I have often thought I would tell you it.

I am really very much obliged for your letter, for, though I intended to put only one sentence and that vaguely, I should probably have put that much too strongly.

Ever, my dear Hooker, yours most truly, C. DARWIN.

P.S. This note, as you see, has not anything requiring an answer.

The distribution of fresh-water molluscs has been a horrid incubus to me, but I think I know my way now; when first hatched they are very active, and I have had thirty or forty crawl on a dead duck's foot; and they cannot be jerked off, and will live fifteen and even twenty-four hours out of water.

[The following letter refers to the expedition of the Austrian frigate "Novara"; Lyell had asked my father for suggestions.]

CHARLES DARWIN TO C. LYELL. Down, February 11th [1857].

My dear Lyell,

I was glad to see in the newspapers about the Austrian Expedition. I have nothing to add geologically to my notes in the Manual. (The article "Geology" in the Admiralty Manual of Scientific Enquiry.) I do not know whether the Expedition is tied down to call at only fixed spots. But if there be any choice or power in the scientific men to influence the places—this would be most desirable. It is my most deliberate conviction that nothing would aid more, Natural History, than careful collecting and investigating ALL THE PRODUCTIONS of the most isolated islands, especially of the southern hemisphere. Except Tristan d'Acunha and Kerguelen Land, they are very imperfectly known; and even at Kerguelen Land, how much there is to make out about the lignite beds, and whether there are signs of old Glacial action. Every sea shell and insect and plant is of value from such spots. Some one in the Expedition especially ought to have Hooker's New Zealand Essay. What grand work to explore Rodriguez, with its fossil birds, and little known productions of every kind. Again the Seychelles, which, with the Cocos so near, must be a remnant of some older land. The outer island of Juan Fernandez is little known. The investigation of these little spots by a band of naturalists would be grand; St. Paul's and Amsterdam would be glorious, botanically, and geologically. Can you not recommend them to get my 'Journal' and 'Volcanic Islands' on account of the Galapagos. If they come from the north it will be a shame and a sin if they do not call at Cocos Islet, one of the Galapagos. I always regretted that I was not able to examine the great craters on Albemarle Island, one of the Galapagos. In New Zealand urge on them to look out for erratic boulders and marks of old glaciers.

Urge the use of the dredge in the Tropics; how little or nothing we know of the limit of life downward in the hot seas?

My present work leads me to perceive how much the domestic animals have been neglected in out of the way countries.

The Revillagigedo Island off Mexico, I believe, has never been trodden by foot of naturalist.

If the expedition sticks to such places as Rio, Cape of Good Hope, Ceylon and Australia, etc., it will not do much.

Ever yours most truly, C. DARWIN.

[The following passage occurs in a letter to Mr. Fox, February 22, 1857, and has reference to the book on Evolution on which he was still at work. The remainder of the letter is made up in details of no interest:

"I am got most deeply interested in my subject; though I wish I could set less value on the bauble fame, either present or posthumous, than I do, but not I think, to any extreme degree: yet, if I know myself, I would work just as hard, though with less gusto, if I knew that my book would be published for ever anonymously."]

CHARLES DARWIN TO A.R. WALLACE. Moor Park, May 1st, 1857.

My dear Sir,

I am much obliged for your letter of October 10th, from Celebes, received a few days ago; in a laborious undertaking, sympathy is a valuable and real encouragement. By your letter and even still more by your paper ('On the law that has regulated the introduction of new species.'—Ann. Nat. Hist., 1855.) in the Annals, a year or more ago, I can plainly see that we have thought much alike and to a certain extent have come to similar conclusions. In regard to the Paper in the Annals, I agree to the truth of almost every word of your paper; and I dare say that you will agree with me that it is very rare to find oneself agreeing pretty closely with any theoretical paper; for it is lamentable how each man draws his own different conclusions from the very same facts. This summer will make the 20th year (!) since I opened my first note-book, on the question how and in what way do species and varieties differ from each other. I am now preparing my work for publication, but I find the subject so very large, that though I have written many chapters, I do not suppose I shall go to press for two years. I have never heard how long you intend staying in the Malay Archipelago; I wish I might profit by the publication of your Travels there before my work appears, for no doubt you will reap a large harvest of facts. I have acted already in accordance with your advice of keeping domestic varieties, and those appearing in a state of nature, distinct; but I have sometimes doubted of the wisdom of this, and therefore I am glad to be backed by your opinion. I must confess, however, I rather doubt the truth of the now very prevalent doctrine of all our domestic animals having descended from several wild stocks; though I do not doubt that it is so in some cases. I think there is rather better evidence on the sterility of hybrid animals than you seem to admit: and in regard to plants the collection of carefully recorded facts by Kolreuter and Gaertner (and Herbert,) is ENORMOUS. I most entirely agree with you on the little effects of "climatal conditions," which one sees referred to ad nauseam in all books: I suppose some very little effect must be attributed to such influences, but I fully believe that they are very slight. It is really IMPOSSIBLE to explain my views (in the compass of a letter), on the causes and means of variation in a state of nature; but I have slowly adopted a distinct and tangible idea,—whether true or false others must judge; for the firmest conviction of the truth of a doctrine by its author, seems, alas, not to be the slightest guarantee of truth!...

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Moor Park, Saturday [May 2nd, 1857].

My dear Hooker,

You have shaved the hair off the Alpine plants pretty effectually. The case of the Anthyllis will make a "tie" with the believed case of Pyrenees plants becoming glabrous at low levels. If I DO find that I have marked such facts, I will lay the evidence before you. I wonder how the belief could have originated! Was it through final causes to keep the plants warm? Falconer in talk coupled the two facts of woolly Alpine plants and mammals. How candidly and meekly you took my Jeremiad on your severity to second-class men. After I had sent it off, an ugly little voice asked me, once or twice, how much of my noble defence of the poor in spirit and in fact, was owing to your having not seldom smashed favourite notions of my own. I silenced the ugly little voice with contempt, but it would whisper again and again. I sometimes despise myself as a poor compiler as heartily as you could do, though I do NOT despise my whole work, as I think there is enough known to lay a foundation for the discussion on the origin of species. I have been led to despise and laugh at myself as a compiler, for having put down that "Alpine plants have large flowers," and now perhaps I may write over these very words, "Alpine plants have small or apetalous flowers!"...

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, [May] 16th [1857].

My dear Hooker,

You said—I hope honestly—that you did not dislike my asking questions on general points, you of course answering or not as time or inclination might serve. I find in the animal kingdom that the proposition that any part or organ developed normally (i.e., not a monstrosity) in a species in any HIGH or UNUSUAL degree, compared with the same part or organ in allied species, tends to be HIGHLY VARIABLE. I cannot doubt this from my mass of collected facts. To give an instance, the Cross-bill is very abnormal in the structure of its bill compared with other allied Fringillidae, and the beak is EMINENTLY VARIABLE. The Himantopus, remarkable from the wonderful length of its legs, is VERY variable in the length of its legs. I could give MANY most striking and curious illustrations in all classes; so many that I think it cannot be chance. But I have NONE in the vegetable kingdom, owing, as I believe, to my ignorance. If Nepenthes consisted of ONE or two species in a group with a pitcher developed, then I should have expected it to have been very variable; but I do not consider Nepenthes a case in point, for when a whole genus or group has an organ, however anomalous, I do not expect it to be variable,—it is only when one or few species differ greatly in some one part or organ from the forms CLOSELY ALLIED to it in all other respects, that I believe such part or organ to be highly variable. Will you turn this in your mind? It is an important apparent LAW (!) for me.

Ever yours, C. DARWIN.

P.S.—I do not know how far you will care to hear, but I find Moquin-Tandon treats in his 'Teratologie' on villosity of plants, and seems to attribute more to dryness than altitude; but seems to think that it must be admitted that mountain plants are villose, and that this villosity is only in part explained by De Candolle's remark that the dwarfed condition of mountain plants would condense the hairs, and so give them the APPEARANCE of being more hairy. He quotes Senebier, 'Physiologie Vegetale,' as authority—I suppose the first authority, for mountain plants being hairy.

If I could show positively that the endemic species were more hairy in dry districts, then the case of the varieties becoming more hairy in dry ground would be a fact for me.

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, June 3rd [1857].

My dear Hooker,

I am going to enjoy myself by having a prose on my own subjects to you, and this is a greater enjoyment to me than you will readily understand, as I for months together do not open my mouth on Natural History. Your letter is of great value to me, and staggers me in regard to my proposition. I dare say the absence of botanical facts may in part be accounted for by the difficulty of measuring slight variations. Indeed, after writing, this occurred to me; for I have Crucianella stylosa coming into flower, and the pistil ought to be very variable in length, and thinking of this I at once felt how could one judge whether it was variable in any high degree. How different, for instance, from the beak of a bird! But I am not satisfied with this explanation, and am staggered. Yet I think there is something in the law; I have had so many instances, as the following: I wrote to Wollaston to ask him to run through the Madeira Beetles and tell me whether any one presented anything very anomalous in relation to its allies. He gave me a unique case of an enormous head in a female, and then I found in his book, already stated, that the size of the head was ASTONISHINGLY variable. Part of the difference with plants may be accounted for by many of my cases being secondary male or FEMALE characters, but then I have striking cases with hermaphrodite Cirripedes. The cases seem to me far too numerous for accidental coincidences, of great variability and abnormal development. I presume that you will not object to my putting a note saying that you had reflected over the case, and though one or two cases seemed to support, quite as many or more seemed wholly contradictory. This want of evidence is the more surprising to me, as generally I find any proposition more easily tested by observations in botanical works, which I have picked up, than in zoological works. I never dreamed that you had kept the subject at all before your mind. Altogether the case is one more of my MANY horrid puzzles. My observations, though on so infinitely a small scale, on the struggle for existence, begin to make me see a little clearer how the fight goes on. Out of sixteen kinds of seed sown on my meadow, fifteen have germinated, but now they are perishing at such a rate that I doubt whether more than one will flower. Here we have choking which has taken place likewise on a great scale, with plants not seedlings, in a bit of my lawn allowed to grow up. On the other hand, in a bit of ground, 2 by 3 feet, I have daily marked each seedling weed as it has appeared during March, April and May, and 357 have come up, and of these 277 have ALREADY been killed chiefly by slugs. By the way, at Moor Park, I saw rather a pretty case of the effects of animals on vegetation: there are enormous commons with clumps of old Scotch firs on the hills, and about eight or ten years ago some of these commons were enclosed, and all round the clumps nice young trees are springing up by the million, looking exactly as if planted, so many are of the same age. In other parts of the common, not yet enclosed, I looked for miles and not ONE young tree could be seen. I then went near (within quarter of a mile of the clumps) and looked closely in the heather, and there I found tens of thousands of young Scotch firs (thirty in one square yard) with their tops nibbled off by the few cattle which occasionally roam over these wretched heaths. One little tree, three inches high, by the rings appeared to be twenty-six years old, with a short stem about as thick as a stick of sealing-wax. What a wondrous problem it is, what a play of forces, determining the kind and proportion of each plant in a square yard of turf! It is to my mind truly wonderful. And yet we are pleased to wonder when some animal or plant becomes extinct.

I am so sorry that you will not be at the Club. I see Mrs. Hooker is going to Yarmouth; I trust that the health of your children is not the motive. Good-bye.

My dear Hooker, ever yours, C. DARWIN.

P.S.—I believe you are afraid to send me a ripe Edwardsia pod, for fear I should float it from New Zealand to Chile!!!

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, June 5 [1857].

My dear Hooker,

I honour your conscientious care about the medals. (The Royal Society's medals.) Thank God! I am only an amateur (but a much interested one) on the subject.

It is an old notion of mine that more good is done by giving medals to younger men in the early part of their career, than as a mere reward to men whose scientific career is nearly finished. Whether medals ever do any good is a question which does not concern us, as there the medals are. I am almost inclined to think that I would rather lower the standard, and give medals to young workers than to old ones with no ESPECIAL claims. With regard to especial claims, I think it just deserving your attention, that if general claims are once admitted, it opens the door to great laxity in giving them. Think of the case of a very rich man, who aided SOLELY with his money, but to a grand extent—or such an inconceivable prodigy as a minister of the Crown who really cared for science. Would you give such men medals? Perhaps medals could not be better applied than EXCLUSIVELY to such men. I confess at present I incline to stick to especial claims which can be put down on paper...

I am much confounded by your showing that there are not obvious instances of my (or rather Waterhouse's) law of abnormal developments being highly variable. I have been thinking more of your remark about the difficulty of judging or comparing variability in plants from the great general variability of parts. I should look at the law as more completely smashed if you would turn in your mind for a little while for cases of great variability of an organ, and tell me whether it is moderately easy to pick out such cases; For IF THEY CAN BE PICKED OUT, and, notwithstanding, do not coincide with great or abnormal development, it would be a complete smasher. It is only beginning in your mind at the variability end of the question instead of at the abnormality end. PERHAPS cases in which a part is highly variable in all the species of a group should be excluded, as possibly being something distinct, and connected with the perplexing subject of polymorphism. Will you perfect your assistance by further considering, for a little, the subject this way?

I have been so much interested this morning in comparing all my notes on the variation of the several species of the genus Equus and the results of their crossing. Taking most strictly analogous facts amongst the blessed pigeons for my guide, I believe I can plainly see the colouring and marks of the grandfather of the Ass, Horse, Quagga, Hemionus and Zebra, some millions of generations ago! Should not I [have] sneer[ed] at any one who made such a remark to me a few years ago; but my evidence seems to me so good that I shall publish my vision at the end of my little discussion on this genus.

I have of late inundated you with my notions, you best of friends and philosophers.

Adios, C. DARWIN.

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Moor Park, Farnham, June 25th [1857].

My dear Hooker,

This requires no answer, but I will ask you whenever we meet. Look at enclosed seedling gorses, especially one with the top knocked off. The leaves succeeding the cotyledons being almost clover-like in shape, seems to me feebly analogous to embryonic resemblances in young animals, as, for instance, the young lion being striped. I shall ask you whether this is so...(See 'Power of Movement in Plants,' page 414.)

Dr. Lane (The physician at Moor Park.) and wife, and mother-in-law, Lady Drysdale, are some of the nicest people I ever met.

I return home on the 30th. Good-bye, my dear Hooker.

Ever yours, C. DARWIN.

[Here follows a group of letters, of various dates, bearing on the question of large genera varying.]

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. March 11th [1858].

I was led to all this work by a remark of Fries, that the species in large genera were more closely related to each other than in small genera; and if this were so, seeing that varieties and species are so hardly distinguishable, I concluded that I should find more varieties in the large genera than in the small...Some day I hope you will read my short discussion on the whole subject. You have done me infinite service, whatever opinion I come to, in drawing my attention to at least the possibility or the probability of botanists recording more varieties in the large than in the small genera. It will be hard work for me to be candid in coming to my conclusion.

Ever yours, most truly, C. DARWIN.

P.S.—I shall be several weeks at my present job. The work has been turning out badly for me this morning, and I am sick at heart; and, oh! how I do hate species and varieties.

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. July 14th [1857?].

...I write now to supplicate most earnestly a favour, viz., the loan of "Boreau, Flore du centre de la France", either 1st or 2nd edition, last best; also "Flora Ratisbonensis," by Dr. Furnrohr, in 'Naturhist. Topographie von Regensburg, 1839.' If you can POSSIBLY spare them, will you send them at once to the enclosed address. If you have not them, will you send one line by return of post: as I must try whether Kippist (The late Mr. Kippist was at this time in charge of the Linnean Society's Library.) can anyhow find them, which I fear will be nearly impossible in the Linnean Library, in which I know they are.

I have been making some calculations about varieties, etc., and talking yesterday with Lubbock, he has pointed out to me the grossest blunder which I have made in principle, and which entails two or three weeks' lost work; and I am at a dead-lock till I have these books to go over again, and see what the result of calculation on the right principle is. I am the most miserable, bemuddled, stupid dog in all England, and am ready to cry with vexation at my blindness and presumption.

Ever yours, most miserably, C. DARWIN.

CHARLES DARWIN TO JOHN LUBBOCK. Down, [July] 14th [1857].

My dear Lubbock,

You have done me the greatest possible service in helping me to clarify my brains. If I am as muzzy on all subjects as I am on proportion and chance,—what a book I shall produce!

I have divided the New Zealand Flora as you suggested, there are 329 species in genera of 4 and upwards, and 323 in genera of 3 and less.

The 339 species have 51 species presenting one or more varieties. The 323 species have only 37. Proportionately (339: 323:: 51: 48.5) they ought to have had 48 1/2 species presenting vars. So that the case goes as I want it, but not strong enough, without it be general, for me to have much confidence in. I am quite convinced yours is the right way; I had thought of it, but should never have done it had it not been for my most fortunate conversation with you.

Un quite shocked to find how easily I am muddled, for I had before thought over the subject much, and concluded my way was fair. It is dreadfully erroneous.

What a disgraceful blunder you have saved me from. I heartily thank you.

Ever yours, C. DARWIN.

P.S.—It is enough to make me tear up all my MS. and give up in despair.

It will take me several weeks to go over all my materials. But oh, if you knew how thankful I am to you!

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, August [1857].

My dear Hooker,

It is a horrid bore you cannot come soon, and I reproach myself that I did not write sooner. How busy you must be! with such a heap of botanists at Kew. Only think, I have just had a letter from Henslow, saying he will come here between 11th and 15th! Is not that grand? Many thanks about Furnrohr. I must humbly supplicate Kippist to search for it: he most kindly got Boreau for me.

I am got extremely interested in tabulating, according to mere size of genera, the species having any varieties marked by Greek letters or otherwise: the result (as far as I have yet gone) seems to me one of the most important arguments I have yet met with, that varieties are only small species—or species only strongly marked varieties. The subject is in many ways so very important for me; I wish much you would think of any well-worked Floras with from 1000-2000 species, with the varieties marked. It is good to have hair-splitters and lumpers. (Those who make many species are the "splitters," and those who make few are the "lumpers.") I have done, or am doing:—

Has not Koch published a good German Flora? Does he mark varieties? Could you send it me? Is there not some grand Russian Flora, which perhaps has varieties marked? The Floras ought to be well known.

I am in no hurry for a few weeks. Will you turn this in your head when, if ever, you have leisure? The subject is very important for my work, though I clearly see MANY causes of error...

CHARLES DARWIN TO ASA GRAY. Down, February 21st [1859].

My dear Gray,

My last letter begged no favour, this one does: but it will really cost you very little trouble to answer to me, and it will be of very GREAT service to me, owing to a remark made to me by Hooker, which I cannot credit, and which was suggested to him by one of my letters. He suggested my asking you, and I told him I would not give the least hint what he thought. I generally believe Hooker implicitly, but he is sometimes, I think, and he confesses it, rather over critical, and his ingenuity in discovering flaws seems to me admirable. Here is my question:—"Do you think that good botanists in drawing up a local Flora, whether small or large, or in making a Prodromus like De Candolle's, would almost universally, but unintentionally and unconsciously, tend to record (i.e., marking with Greek letters and giving short characters) varieties in the large or in the small genera? Or would the tendency be to record the varieties about equally in genera of all sizes? Are you yourself conscious on reflection that you have attended to, and recorded more carefully the varieties in large or small, or very small genera?"

I know what fleeting and trifling things varieties very often are; but my query applies to such as have been thought worth marking and recording. If you could screw time to send me ever so brief an answer to this, pretty soon, it would be a great service to me.

Yours most truly obliged, CH. DARWIN.

P.S.—Do you know whether any one has ever published any remarks on the geographical range of varieties of plants in comparison with the species to which they are supposed to belong? I have in vain tried to get some vague idea, and with the exception of a little information on this head given me by Mr. Watson in a paper on Land Shells in United States, I have quite failed; but perhaps it would be difficult for you to give me even a brief answer on this head, and if so I am not so unreasonable, I ASSURE YOU, as to expect it.

If you are writing to England soon, you could enclose other letters [for] me to forward.

Please observe the question is not whether there are more or fewer varieties in larger or smaller genera, but whether there is a stronger or weaker tendency in the minds of botanists to RECORD such in large or small genera.

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, May 6th [1858].

...I send by this post my MS. on the "commonness," "range," and "variation" of species in large and small genera. You have undertaken a horrid job in so very kindly offering to read it, and I thank you warmly. I have just corrected the copy, and am disappointed in finding how tough and obscure it is; I cannot make it clearer, and at present I loathe the very sight of it. The style of course requires further correction, and if published I must try, but as yet see not how, to make it clearer.

If you have much to say and can have patience to consider the whole subject, I would meet you in London on the Phil. Club day, so as to save you the trouble of writing. For Heaven's sake, you stern and awful judge and sceptic, remember that my conclusions may be true, notwithstanding that Botanists may have recorded more varieties in large than in small genera. It seems to me a mere balancing of probabilities. Again I thank you most sincerely, but I fear you will find it a horrid job.

Ever yours, C. DARWIN.

P.S.—As usual, Hydropathy has made a man of me for a short time: I hope the sea will do Mrs. Hooker much good.

CHARLES DARWIN TO A.R. WALLACE. Down, December 22nd, 1857.

My dear Sir,

I thank you for your letter of September 27th. I am extremely glad to hear how you are attending to distribution in accordance with theoretical ideas. I am a firm believer that without speculation there is no good and original observation. Few travellers have attended to such points as you are now at work on; and, indeed, the whole subject of distribution of animals is dreadfully behind that of plants. You say that you have been somewhat surprised at no notice having been taken of your paper in the Annals. ('On the law that has regulated the introduction of New Species.' Ann. Nat. Hist., 1855.) I cannot say that I am, for so very few naturalists care for anything beyond the mere description of species. But you must not suppose that your paper has not been attended to: two very good men, Sir C. Lyell, and Mr. E. Blyth at Calcutta, specially called my attention to it. Though agreeing with you on your conclusions in that paper, I believe I go much further than you; but it is too long a subject to enter on my speculative notions. I have not yet seen your paper on the distribution of animals in the Aru Islands. I shall read it with the utmost interest; for I think that the most interesting quarter of the whole globe in respect to distribution, and I have long been very imperfectly trying to collect data for the Malay Archipelago. I shall be quite prepared to subscribe to your doctrine of subsidence; indeed, from the quite independent evidence of the Coral Reefs I coloured my original map (in my Coral volume) of the Aru Islands as one of subsidence, but got frightened and left it uncoloured. But I can see that you are inclined to go much further than I am in regard to the former connection of oceanic islands with continents. Ever since poor E. Forbes propounded this doctrine it has been eagerly followed; and Hooker elaborately discusses the former connection of all the Antarctic Islands and New Zealand and South America. About a year ago I discussed this subject much with Lyell and Hooker (for I shall have to treat of it), and wrote out my arguments in opposition; but you will be glad to hear that neither Lyell nor Hooker thought much of my arguments. Nevertheless, for once in my life, I dare withstand the almost preternatural sagacity of Lyell.

You ask about land-shells on islands far distant from continents: Madeira has a few identical with those of Europe, and here the evidence is really good, as some of them are sub-fossil. In the Pacific Islands there are cases of identity, which I cannot at present persuade myself to account for by introduction through man's agency; although Dr. Aug. Gould has conclusively shown that many land-shells have thus been distributed over the Pacific by man's agency. These cases of introduction are most plaguing. Have you not found it so in the Malay Archipelago? It has seemed to me in the lists of mammals of Timor and other islands, that SEVERAL in all probability have been naturalised...

You ask whether I shall discuss "man." I think I shall avoid the whole subject, as so surrounded with prejudices; though I fully admit that it is the highest and most interesting problem for the naturalist. My work, on which I have now been at work more or less for twenty years, will not fix or settle anything; but I hope it will aid by giving a large collection of facts, with one definite end. I get on very slowly, partly from ill-health, partly from being a very slow worker. I have got about half written; but I do not suppose I shall publish under a couple of years. I have now been three whole months on one chapter on Hybridism!

I am astonished to see that you expect to remain out three or four years more. What a wonderful deal you will have seen, and what interesting areas—the grand Malay Archipelago and the richest parts of South America! I infinitely admire and honour your zeal and courage in the good cause of Natural Science; and you have my very sincere and cordial good wishes for success of all kinds, and may all your theories succeed, except that on Oceanic Islands, on which subject I will do battle to the death.

Pray believe me, my dear sir, yours very sincerely, C. DARWIN.

CHARLES DARWIN TO W.D. FOX. February 8th [1858].

...I am working very hard at my book, perhaps too hard. It will be very big, and I am become most deeply interested in the way facts fall into groups. I am like Croesus overwhelmed with my riches in facts, and I mean to make my book as perfect as ever I can. I shall not go to press at soonest for a couple of years...

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. February 23rd [1858].

...I was not much struck with the great Buckle, and I admired the way you stuck up about deduction and induction. I am reading his book ('The History of Civilisation.'), which, with much sophistry, as it seems to me, is WONDERFULLY clever and original, and with astounding knowledge.

I saw that you admired Mrs. Farrer's 'Questa tomba' of Beethoven thoroughly; there is something grand in her sweet tones.

Farewell. I have partly written this note to drive bee's-cells out of my head; for I am half-mad on the subject to try to make out some simple steps from which all the wondrous angles may result. (He had much correspondence on this subject with the late Professor Miller of Cambridge.)

I was very glad to see Mrs. Hooker on Friday; how well she appears to be and looks.

Forgive your intolerable but affectionate friend, C. DARWIN.

CHARLES DARWIN TO W.D. FOX. Down, April 16th [1858].

My dear Fox,

I want you to observe one point for me, on which I am extremely much interested, and which will give you no trouble beyond keeping your eyes open, and that is a habit I know full well that you have.

I find horses of various colours often have a spinal band or stripe of different and darker tint than the rest of the body; rarely transverse bars on the legs, generally on the under-side of the front legs, still more rarely a very faint transverse shoulder-stripe like an ass.

Is there any breed of Delamere forest ponies? I have found out little about ponies in these respects. Sir P. Egerton has, I believe, some quite thoroughbred chestnut horses; have any of them the spinal stripe? Mouse-coloured ponies, or rather small horses, often have spinal and leg bars. So have dun horses (by dun I mean real colour of cream mixed with brown, bay, or chestnut). So have sometimes chestnuts, but I have not yet got a case of spinal stripe in chestnut, race horse, or in quite heavy cart-horse. Any fact of this nature of such stripes in horses would be MOST useful to me. There is a parallel case in the legs of the donkey, and I have collected some most curious cases of stripes appearing in various crossed equine animals. I have also a large mass of parallel facts in the breeds of pigeons about the wing bars. I SUSPECT it will throw light on the colour of the primeval horse. So do help me if occasion turns up...My health has been lately very bad from overwork, and on Tuesday I go for a fortnight's hydropathy. My work is everlasting. Farewell.

My dear Fox, I trust you are well. Farewell, C. DARWIN.

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. Moor Park, Farnham [April 26th, 1858].

...I have just had the innermost cockles of my heart rejoiced by a letter from Lyell. I said to him (or he to me) that I believed from the character of the flora of the Azores, that icebergs must have been stranded there; and that I expected erratic boulders would be detected embedded between the upheaved lava-beds; and I got Lyell to write to Hartung to ask, and now H. says my question explains what had astounded him, viz., large boulders (and some polished) of mica-schist, quartz, sandstone, etc., some embedded, and some 40 and 50 feet above the level of the sea, so that he had inferred that they had not been brought as ballast. Is this not beautiful?

The water-cure has done me some good, but I [am] nothing to boast of to-day, so good-bye.

My dear friend, yours, C.D.

CHARLES DARWIN TO C. LYELL. Moor Park, Farnham, April 26th [1858].

My dear Lyell,

I have come here for a fortnight's hydropathy, as my stomach had got, from steady work, into a horrid state. I am extremely much obliged to you for sending me Hartung's interesting letter. The erratic boulders are splendid. It is a grand case of floating ice versus glaciers. He ought to have compared the northern and southern shores of the islands. It is eminently interesting to me, for I have written a very long chapter on the subject, collecting briefly all the geological evidence of glacial action in different parts of the world, and then at great length (on the theory of species changing) I have discussed the migration and modification of plants and animals, in sea and land, over a large part of the world. To my mind, it throws a flood of light on the whole subject of distribution, if combined with the modification of species. Indeed, I venture to speak with some little confidence on this, for Hooker, about a year ago, kindly read over my chapter, and though he then demurred gravely to the general conclusion, I was delighted to hear a week or two ago that he was inclined to come round pretty strongly to my views of distribution and change during the glacial period. I had a letter from Thompson, of Calcutta, the other day, which helps me much, as he is making out for me what heat our temperate plants can endure. But it is too long a subject for a note; and I have written thus only because Hartung's note has set the whole subject afloat in my mind again. But I will write no more, for my object here is to think about nothing, bathe much, walk much, eat much, and read much novels. Farewell, with many thanks, and very kind remembrance to Lady Lyell.

Ever yours, C. DARWIN.

CHARLES DARWIN TO MRS. DARWIN. Moor Park, Wednesday, April [1858].

The weather is quite delicious. Yesterday, after writing to you, I strolled a little beyond the glade for an hour and a half, and enjoyed myself—the fresh yet dark-green of the grand Scotch firs, the brown of the catkins of the old birches, with their white stems, and a fringe of distant green from the larches made an excessively pretty view. At last I fell fast asleep on the grass, and awoke with a chorus of birds singing around me, and squirrels running up the trees, and some woodpeckers laughing, and it was as pleasant and rural a scene as ever I saw, and I did not care one penny how any of the beasts or birds had been formed. I sat in the drawing-room till after eight, and then went and read the Chief Justice's summing up, and thought Bernard (Simon Bernard was tried in April 1858 as an accessory to Orsini's attempt on the life of the Emperor of the French. The verdict was "not guilty.") guilty, and then read a bit of my novel, which is feminine, virtuous, clerical, philanthropical, and all that sort of thing, but very decidedly flat. I say feminine, for the author is ignorant about money matters, and not much of a lady—for she makes her men say, "My Lady." I like Miss Craik very much, though we have some battles, and differ on every subject. I like also the Hungarian; a thorough gentleman, formerly attache at Paris, and then in the Austrian cavalry, and now a pardoned exile, with broken health. He does not seem to like Kossuth, but says, he is certain [he is] a sincere patriot, most clever and eloquent, but weak, with no determination of character...

About HackerNoon Book Series: We bring you the most important technical, scientific, and insightful public domain books.

This book is part of the public domain. Charles Darwin (2000). Life and Letters of Charles Darwin — Volume 1. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved October 2022, from

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at, located at