The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 156 of 188

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 today, so good-bye.

My dear friend, yours,

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…

Chapter 1.XIII. The Writing of the ‘Origin of Species.’

June 18, 1858 to November, 1859.

[The letters given in the present chapter tell their story with sufficient clearness, and need but a few words of explanation. Mr. Wallace’s Essay, referred to in the first letter, bore the sub-title, ‘On the Tendency of Varieties to depart indefinitely from the Original Type,’ was published in the Linnean Society’s Journal (1858, volume iii. page 53) as part of the joint paper of “Messrs. C. Darwin and A. Wallace,” of which the full title was ‘On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection.’

My father’s contribution to the paper consisted of (1) Extracts from the sketch of 1844; (2) part of a letter addressed to Dr Asa Gray, dated September 5, 1857, and which is given above. The paper was “communicated” to the Society by Sir Charles Lyell and Sir Joseph Hooker, in whose prefatory letter, a clear account of the circumstances of the case is given.

Referring to Mr. Wallace’s Essay, they wrote:

“So highly did Mr. Darwin appreciate the value of the views therein set forth, that he proposed, in a letter to Sir Charles Lyell, to obtain Mr. Wallace’s consent to allow the Essay to be published as soon as possible. Of this step we highly approved, provided Mr. Darwin did not withhold from the public, as he was strongly inclined to do (in favour of Mr. Wallace), the memoir which he had himself written on the same subject, and which, as before stated, one of us had perused in 1844, and the contents of which we had both of us been privy to for many years. On representing this to Mr. Darwin, he gave us permission to make what use we thought proper of his memoir, etc.; and in adopting our present course, of presenting it to the Linnean Society, we have explained to him that we are not solely considering the relative claims to priority of himself and his friend, but the interests of science generally.”]


Charles Darwin to C. Lyell.

Down, 18th [June 1858].

My dear Lyell,

Some year or so ago you recommended me to read a paper by Wallace in the ‘Annals’ (‘Annals and Magazine of Natural History’, 1855.), which had interested you, and, as I was writing to him, I knew this would please him much, so I told him. He has to-day sent me the enclosed, and asked me to forward it to you. It seems to me well worth reading. Your words have come true with a vengeance–that I should be forestalled. You said this, when I explained to you here very briefly my views of ‘Natural Selection’ depending on the struggle for existence. I never saw a more striking coincidence; if Wallace had my MS. sketch written out in 1842, he could not have made a better short abstract! Even his terms now stand as heads of my chapters. Please return me the MS., which he does not say he wishes me to publish, but I shall of course, at once write and offer to send to any journal. So all my originality, whatever it may amount to, will be smashed, though my book, if it will ever have any value, will not be deteriorated; as all the labour consists in the application of the theory.

I hope you will approve of Wallace’s sketch, that I may tell him what you say.

My dear Lyell, yours most truly,
C. Darwin.


  1. ScottS-M Identiconcomment_author_IP, $comment->comment_author); }else{echo $gravatar_link;}}*/ ?>

    ScottS-M wrote:

    That must have been an unpleasant surprise.

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