The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 127 of 188

Chapter II. “The gradual appearance and disappearance of organic beings.” Corresponds to Chapter X. of the ‘Origin.’

Chapter III. “Geographical Distribution.” Corresponds to Chapters XI. and XII. of the ‘Origin.’

Chapter IV. “Affinities and Classification of Organic beings.”

Chapter V. “Unity of Type,” Morphology, Embryology.

Chapter VI. Rudimentary Organs.

These three chapters correspond to Chapter XII. of the ‘Origin.’

Chapter VII. Recapitulation and Conclusion. The final sentence of the Sketch, which we saw in its first rough form in the Note Book of 1837, closely resembles the final sentence of the ‘Origin,’ much of it being identical. The ‘Origin’ is not divided into two “Parts,” but we see traces of such a division having been present in the writer’s mind, in this resemblance between the second part of the Sketch and the final chapters of the ‘Origin.’ That he should speak (‘Origin,’ Introduction, page 5.) of the chapters on transition, on instinct, on hybridism, and on the geological record, as forming a group, may be due to the division of his early MS. into two parts.

Mr. Huxley, who was good enough to read the Sketch at my request, while remarking that the “main lines of argument,” and the illustrations employed are the same, points out that in the 1844 Essay, “much more weight is attached to the influence of external conditions in producing variation, and to the inheritance of acquired habits than in the Origin.'”

It is extremely interesting to find in the Sketch the first mention of principles familiar to us in the ‘Origin of Species.’ Foremost among these may be mentioned the principle of Sexual Selection, which is clearly enunciated. The important form of selection known as “unconscious,” is also given. Here also occurs a statement of the law that peculiarities tend to appear in the offspring at an age corresponding to that at which they occurred in the parent.

Professor Newton, who was so kind as to look through the 1844 Sketch, tells me that my father’s remarks on the migration of birds, incidentally given in more than one passage, show that he had anticipated the views of some later writers.

With regard to the general style of the Sketch, it is not to be expected that it should have all the characteristics of the ‘Origin,’ and we do not, in fact, find that balance and control, that concentration and grasp, which are so striking in the work of 1859.

In the Autobiography (page 68, volume 1) my father has stated what seemed to him the chief flaw of the 1844 Sketch; he had overlooked “one problem of great importance,” the problem of the divergence of character. This point is discussed in the ‘Origin of Species,’ but, as it may not be familiar to all readers, I will give a short account of the difficulty and its solution. The author begins by stating that varieties differ from each other less than species, and then goes on: “Nevertheless, according to my view, varieties are species in process of formation…How then does the lesser difference between varieties become augmented into the greater difference between species?” (‘Origin,’ 1st edition, page 111.) He shows how an analogous divergence takes place under domestication where an originally uniform stock of horses has been split up into race-horses, dray-horses, etc., and then goes on to explain how the same principle applies to natural species. “From the simple circumstance that the more diversified the descendants from any one species become in structure, constitution, and habits, by so much will they be better enabled to seize on many and widely diversified places in the polity of nature, and so be enabled to increase in numbers.”

The principle is exemplified by the fact that if on one plot of ground a single variety of wheat be sown, and on to another a mixture of varieties, in the latter case the produce is greater. More individuals have been able to exist because they were not all of the same variety. An organism becomes more perfect and more fitted to survive when by division of labour the different functions of life are performed by different organs. In the same way a species becomes more efficient and more able to survive when different sections of the species become differentiated so as to fill different stations.

In reading the Sketch of 1844, I have found it difficult to recognise the absence of any definite statement of the principle of divergence as a flaw in the Essay. Descent with modification implies divergence, and we become so habituated to a belief in descent, and therefore in divergence, that we do not notice the absence of proof that divergence is in itself an advantage. As shown in the Autobiography, my father in 1876 found it hardly credible that he should have overlooked the problem and its solution.

The following letter will be more in place here than its chronological position, since it shows what was my father’s feeling as to the value of the Sketch at the time of its completion.]

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