The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 166 of 188

Charles Darwin to J.D. Hooker.

November 1858.

…I had vowed not to mention my everlasting Abstract to you again, for I am sure I have bothered you far more than enough about it; but, as you allude to its previous publication, I may say that I have the chapters on Instinct and Hybridism to abstract, which may take a fortnight each; and my materials for Palaeontology, Geographical Distribution, and Affinities, being less worked up, I dare say each of these will take me three weeks, so that I shall not have done at soonest till April, and then my Abstract will in bulk make a small volume. I never give more than one or two instances, and I pass over briefly all difficulties, and yet I cannot make my Abstract shorter, to be satisfactory, than I am now doing, and yet it will expand to a small volume…

[About this time my father revived his old knowledge of beetles in helping his boys in their collecting. He sent a short notice to the ‘Entomologist’s Weekly Intelligencer,’ June 25th, 1859, recording the capture of Licinus silphoides, Clytus mysticus, Panagaeus 4-pustulatus. The notice begins with the words, “We three very young collectors having lately taken in the parish of Down,” etc., and is signed by three of his boys, but was clearly not written by them. I have a vivid recollection of the pleasure of turning out my bottle of dead beetles for my father to name, and the excitement, in which he fully shared, when any of them proved to be uncommon ones. The following letters to Mr. Fox (November 13, 1858), and to Sir John Lubbock, illustrate this point:]

Charles Darwin to W.D. Fox.

Down, November 13th [1858].

…W., my son, is now at Christ’s College, in the rooms above yours. My old Gyp, Impey, was astounded to hear that he was my son, and very simply asked, “Why, has he been long married?” What pleasant hours those were when I used to come and drink coffee with you daily! I am reminded of old days by my third boy having just begun collecting beetles, and he caught the other day Brachinus crepitans, of immortal Whittlesea Mere memory. My blood boiled with old ardour when he caught a Licinus–a prize unknown to me…

Charles Darwin to John Lubbock.

Thursday [before 1857].

Dear Lubbock,

I do not know whether you care about beetles, but for the chance I send this in a bottle, which I never remember having seen; though it is excessively rash to speak from a twenty-five-year old remembrance. Whenever we meet you can tell me whether you know it…

I feel like an old war-horse at the sound of the trumpet, when I read about the capturing of rare beetles–is not this a magnanimous simile for a decayed entomologist?–It really almost makes me long to begin collecting again. Adios.

“Floreat Entomologia”!–to which toast at Cambridge I have drunk many a glass of wine. So again, “Floreat Entomologia.” N.B. I have not now been drinking any glasses full of wine.


Charles Darwin to Herbert Spencer.

Down, November 25th [1858].

Dear Sir,

I beg permission to thank you sincerely for your very kind present of your Essays. (‘Essays, Scientific, Political, and Speculative,’ by Herbert Spencer, 1858-74.) I have already read several of them with much interest. Your remarks on the general argument of the so-called development theory seems to me admirable. I am at present preparing an Abstract of a larger work on the changes of species; but I treat the subject simply as a naturalist, and not from a general point of view, otherwise, in my opinion, your argument could not have been improved on, and might have been quoted by me with great advantage. Your article on Music has also interested me much, for I had often thought on the subject, and had come to nearly the same conclusion with you, though unable to support the notion in any detail. Furthermore, by a curious coincidence, expression has been for years a persistent subject with me for loose speculation, and I must entirely agree with you that all expression has some biological meaning. I hope to profit by your criticism on style, and with very best thanks, I beg leave to remain, dear Sir,

Yours truly obliged,
C. Darwin.

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