The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 158 of 188

Charles Darwin to J.D. Hooker.

Down, Tuesday [June 29, 1858].

…I have received your letters. I cannot think now (So soon after the death, from scarlet fever, of his infant child.) on the subject, but soon will. But I can see that you have acted with more kindness, and so has Lyell, even than I could have expected from you both, most kind as you are.

I can easily get my letter to Asa Gray copied, but it is too short.

…God bless you. You shall hear soon, as soon as I can think.

Yours affectionately,
C. Darwin.

Charles Darwin to J.D. Hooker.

Tuesday night [June 29, 1858].

My dear Hooker,

I have just read your letter, and see you want the papers at once. I am quite prostrated, and can do nothing, but I send Wallace, and the abstract (“Abstract” is here used in the sense of “extract;” in this sense also it occurs in the ‘Linnean Journal,’ where the sources of my father’s paper are described.) of my letter to Asa Gray, which gives most imperfectly only the means of change, and does not touch on reasons for believing that species do change. I dare say all is too late. I hardly care about it. But you are too generous to sacrifice so much time and kindness. It is most generous, most kind. I send my sketch of 1844 solely that you may see by your own handwriting that you did read it. I really cannot bear to look at it. Do not waste much time. It is miserable in me to care at all about priority.

The table of contents will show what it is.

I would make a similar, but shorter and more accurate sketch for the ‘Linnean Journal.’

I will do anything. God bless you, my dear kind friend.

I can write no more. I send this by my servant to Kew.

C. Darwin.

[The following letter is that already referred to as forming part of the joint paper published in the Linnean Society’s ‘Journal,’ 1858]:–

Charles Darwin to Asa Gray.

Down, September 5th [1857]. (The date is given as October in the ‘Linnean Journal.’ The extracts were printed from a duplicate undated copy in my father’s possession, on which he had written, “This was sent to Asa Gray 8 or 9 months ago, I think October 1857.”)

My dear Gray,

I forget the exact words which I used in my former letter, but I dare say I said that I thought you would utterly despise me when I told you what views I had arrived at, which I did because I thought I was bound as an honest man to do so. I should have been a strange mortal, seeing how much I owe to your quite extraordinary kindness, if in saying this I had meant to attribute the least bad feeling to you. Permit me to tell you that, before I had ever corresponded with you, Hooker had shown me several of your letters (not of a private nature), and these gave me the warmest feeling of respect to you; and I should indeed be ungrateful if your letters to me, and all I have heard of you, had not strongly enhanced this feeling. But I did not feel in the least sure that when you knew whither I was tending, that you might not think me so wild and foolish in my views (God knows, arrived at slowly enough, and I hope conscientiously), that you would think me worth no more notice or assistance. To give one example: the last time I saw my dear old friend Falconer, he attacked me most vigorously, but quite kindly, and told me, “You will do more harm than any ten Naturalists will do good. I can see that you have already corrupted and half-spoiled Hooker!!” Now when I see such strong feeling in my oldest friends, you need not wonder that I always expect my views to be received with contempt. But enough and too much of this.

I thank you most truly for the kind spirit of your last letter. I agree to every word in it, and think I go as far as almost any one in seeing the grave difficulties against my doctrine. With respect to the extent to which I go, all the arguments in favour of my notions fall rapidly away, the greater the scope of forms considered. But in animals, embryology leads me to an enormous and frightful range. The facts which kept me longest scientifically orthodox are those of adaptation–the pollen-masses in asclepias–the mistletoe, with its pollen carried by insects, and seed by birds–the woodpecker, with its feet and tail, beak and tongue, to climb the tree and secure insects. To talk of climate or Lamarckian habit producing such adaptations to other organic beings is futile. This difficulty I believe I have surmounted. As you seem interested in the subject, and as it is an immense advantage to me to write to you and to hear, ever so briefly, what you think, I will enclose (copied, so as to save you trouble in reading) the briefest abstract of my notions on the means by which Nature makes her species. Why I think that species have really changed, depends on general facts in the affinities, embryology, rudimentary organs, geological history, and geographical distribution of organic beings. In regard to my Abstract, you must take immensely on trust, each paragraph occupying one or two chapters in my book. You will, perhaps, think it paltry in me, when I ask you not to mention my doctrine; the reason is, if any one, like the author of the ‘Vestiges,’ were to hear of them, he might easily work them in, and then I should have to quote from a work perhaps despised by naturalists, and this would greatly injure any chance of my views being received by those alone whose opinions I value. [Here follows a discussion on “large genera varying,” which has no direct connection with the remainder of the letter.]

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