The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 168 of 188

Charles Darwin to J.D. Hooker.

Down, January 20th, 1859.

My dear Hooker,

I should very much like to borrow Heer at some future time, for I want to read nothing perplexing at present till my Abstract is done. Your last very instructive letter shall make me very cautious on the hyper-speculative points we have been discussing.

When you say you cannot master the train of thoughts, I know well enough that they are too doubtful and obscure to be mastered. I have often experienced what you call the humiliating feeling of getting more and more involved in doubt the more one thinks of the facts and reasoning on doubtful points. But I always comfort myself with thinking of the future, and in the full belief that the problems which we are just entering on, will some day be solved; and if we just break the ground we shall have done some service, even if we reap no harvest.

I quite agree that we only differ in degree about the means of dispersal, and that I think a satisfactory amount of accordance. You put in a very striking manner the mutation of our continents, and I quite agree; I doubt only about our oceans.

I also agree (I am in a very agreeing frame of mind) with your argumentum ad hominem, about the highness of the Australian Flora from the number of species and genera; but here comes in a superlative bothering element of doubt, viz., the effect of isolation.

The only point in which I presumptuously rather demur is about the status of the naturalised plants in Australia. I think Muller speaks of their having spread largely beyond cultivated ground; and I can hardly believe that our European plants would occupy stations so barren that the native plants could not live there. I should require much evidence to make me believe this. I have written this note merely to thank you, as you will see it requires no answer.

I have heard to my amazement this morning from Phillips that the Geological Council have given me the Wollaston Medal!!!

Ever yours,
Charles Darwin.

Charles Darwin to J.D. Hooker.

Down, January 23d, 1859.

…I enclose letters to you and me from Wallace. I admire extremely the spirit in which they are written. I never felt very sure what he would say. He must be an amiable man. Please return that to me, and Lyell ought to be told how well satisfied he is. These letters have vividly brought before me how much I owe to your and Lyell’s most kind and generous conduct in all this affair.

…How glad I shall be when the Abstract is finished, and I can rest!…

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