The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 123 of 188

The same difference of treatment is shown elsewhere in this chapter. Thus the gradation in the form of beak presented by the thirteen allied species of finch is described in the first edition (page 461) without comment. Whereas in the second edition (page 380) he concludes:–

“One might really fancy that from an original paucity of birds in this Archipelago, one species has been taken and modified for different ends.”

On the whole it seems to me remarkable that the difference between the two editions is not greater; it is another proof of the author’s caution and self-restraint in the treatment of his theory. After reading the second edition of the ‘Journal,’ we find with a strong sense of surprise how far developed were his views in 1837. We are enabled to form an opinion on this point from the note-books in which he wrote down detached thoughts and queries. I shall quote from the first note-book, completed between July 1837 and February 1838: and this is the more worth doing, as it gives us an insight into the condition of his thoughts before the reading of Malthus. The notes are written in his most hurried style, so many words being omitted, that it is often difficult to arrive at the meaning. With a few exceptions (indicated by square brackets) (In the extracts from the note-book ordinary brackets represent my father’s parentheses.) I have printed the extracts as written; the punctuation, however, has been altered, and a few obvious slips corrected where it seemed necessary. The extracts are not printed in order, but are roughly classified. (On the first page of the note-book, is written “Zoonomia”; this seems to refer to the first few pages in which reproduction by gemmation is discussed, and where the “Zoonomia” is mentioned. Many pages have been cut out of the note-book, probably for use in writing the Sketch of 1844, and these would have no doubt contained the most interesting extracts.)

“Propagation explains why modern animals same type as extinct, which is law, almost proved.”

“We can see why structure is common in certain countries when we can hardly believe necessary, but if it was necessary to one forefather, the result would be as it is. Hence antelopes at Cape of Good Hope; marsupials at Australia.”

“Countries longest separated greatest differences–if separated from immersage, possibly two distinct types, but each having its representatives–as in Australia.”

“Will this apply to whole organic kingdom when our planet first cooled?”

The two following extracts show that he applied the theory of evolution to the “whole organic kingdom” from plants to man.

“If we choose to let conjecture run wild, then animals, our fellow brethren in pain, disease, death, suffering and famine–our slaves in the most laborious works, our companions in our amusements–they may partake [of?] our origin in one common ancestor–we may be all melted together.”

“The different intellects of man and animals not so great as between living things without thought (plants), and living things with thought (animals).”

The following extracts are again concerned with an a priori view of the probability of the origin of species by descent [“propagation,” he called it.].

“The tree of life should perhaps be called the coral of life, base of branches dead; so that passages cannot be seen.”

“There never may have been grade between pig and tapir, yet from some common progenitor. Now if the intermediate ranks had produced infinite species, probably the series would have been more perfect.”

At another place, speaking of intermediate forms he says:–

“Cuvier objects to propagation of species by saying, why have not some intermediate forms been discovered between Palaeotherium, Megalonyx, Mastodon, and the species now living? Now according to my view (in S. America) parent of all Armadilloes might be brother to Megatherium–uncle now dead.”

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