The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 167 of 188

Charles Darwin to J.D. Hooker.

Down, December 24th [1858].

My dear Hooker,

Your news about your unsolicited salary and house is jolly, and creditable to the Government. My room (28 x 19), with divided room above, with all fixtures (and painted), not furniture, and plastered outside, cost about 500 pounds. I am heartily glad of this news.

Your facts about distribution are, indeed, very striking. I remember well that none of your many wonderful facts in your several works, perplexed me, for years, more than the migration having been mainly from north to south, and not in the reverse direction. I have now at last satisfied myself (but that is very different from satisfying others) on this head; but it would take a little volume to fully explain myself. I did not for long see the bearing of a conclusion, at which I had arrived, with respect to this subject. It is, that species inhabiting a very large area, and therefore existing in large numbers, and which have been subjected to the severest competition with many other forms, will have arrived, through natural selection, at a higher stage of perfection than the inhabitants of a small area. Thus I explain the fact of so many anomalies, or what may be called “living fossils,” inhabiting now only fresh water, having been beaten out, and exterminated in the sea, by more improved forms; thus all existing Ganoid fishes are fresh water, as [are] Lepidosiren and Ornithorhynchus, etc. The plants of Europe and Asia, as being the largest territory, I look at as the most “improved,” and therefore as being able to withstand the less-perfected Australian plants; [whilst] these could not resist the Indian. See how all the productions of New Zealand yield to those of Europe. I dare say you will think all this utter bosh, but I believe it to be solid truth.

You will, I think, admit that Australian plants, flourishing so in India, is no argument that they could hold their own against the ten thousand natural contingencies of other plants, insects, animals, etc., etc. With respect to South West Australia and the Cape, I am shut up, and can only d–n the whole case.

…You say you should like to see my MS., but you did read and approve of my long Glacial chapter, and I have not yet written my Abstract on the whole of the Geographical Distribution, nor shall I begin it for two or three weeks. But either Abstract or the old MS. I should be delighted to send you, especially the Abstract chapter…

I have now written 330 folio pages of my abstract, and it will require 150-200 [more]; so that it will make a printed volume of 400 pages, and must be printed separately, which I think will be better in many respects. The subject really seems to me too large for discussion at any Society, and I believe religion would be brought in by men whom I know.

I am thinking of a 12mo volume, like Lyell’s fourth or fifth edition of the ‘Principles.’…

I have written you a scandalously long note. So now good-bye, my dear Hooker,

Ever yours,
C. Darwin.

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