The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 161 of 188

Charles Darwin to C. Lyell.

King’s Head Hotel, Sandown, Isle of Wight, July 18th [1858].

…We are established here for ten days, and then go on to Shanklin, which seems more amusing to one, like myself, who cannot walk. We hope much that the sea may do H. and L. good. And if it does, our expedition will answer, but not otherwise.

I have never half thanked you for all the extraordinary trouble and kindness you showed me about Wallace’s affair. Hooker told me what was done at the Linnean Society, and I am far more than satisfied, and I do not think that Wallace can think my conduct unfair in allowing you and Hooker to do whatever you thought fair. I certainly was a little annoyed to lose all priority, but had resigned myself to my fate. I am going to prepare a longer abstract; but it is really impossible to do justice to the subject, except by giving the facts on which each conclusion is grounded, and that will, of course, be absolutely impossible. Your name and Hooker’s name appearing as in any way the least interested in my work will, I am certain, have the most important bearing in leading people to consider the subject without prejudice. I look at this as so very important, that I am almost glad of Wallace’s paper for having led to this.

My dear Lyell, yours most gratefully,
Ch. Darwin.

[The following letter refers to the proof-sheets of the Linnean paper. The ‘introduction’ means the prefatory letter signed by Sir C. Lyell and Sir J.D. Hooker.]

Charles Darwin to J.D. Hooker.

King’s Head Hotel, Sandown, Isle of Wight,
July 21st [1858].

My dear Hooker,

I received only yesterday the proof-sheets, which I now return. I think your introduction cannot be improved.

I am disgusted with my bad writing. I could not improve it, without rewriting all, which would not be fair or worth while, as I have begun on a better abstract for the Linnean Society. My excuse is that it never was intended for publication. I have made only a few corrections in the style; but I cannot make it decent, but I hope moderately intelligible. I suppose some one will correct the revise. (Shall I?)

Could I have a clean proof to send to Wallace?

I have not yet fully considered your remarks on big genera (but your general concurrence is of the highest possible interest to me); nor shall I be able till I re-read my MS.; but you may rely on it that you never make a remark to me which is lost from inattention. I am particularly glad you do not object to my stating your objections in a modified form, for they always struck me as very important, and as having much inherent value, whether or no they were fatal to my notions. I will consider and reconsider all your remarks…

I have ordered Bentham, for, as — says, it will be very curious to see a Flora written by a man who knows nothing of British plants!!

I am very glad at what you say about my Abstract, but you may rely on it that I will condense to the utmost. I would aid in money if it is too long. (That is to say, he would help to pay for the printing, if it should prove too long for the Linnean Society.) In how many ways you have aided me!

Yours affectionately,
C. Darwin.

[The ‘Abstract’ mentioned in the last sentence of the preceding letter was in fact the ‘Origin of Species,’ on which he now set to work. In his ‘Autobiography’ he speaks of beginning to write in September, but in his Diary he wrote, “July 20 to August 12, at Sandown, began Abstract of Species book.” “September 16, Recommenced Abstract.” The book was begun with the idea that it would be published as a paper, or series of papers, by the Linnean Society, and it was only in the late autumn that it became clear that it must take the form of an independent volume.]

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