The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 174 of 188

Charles Darwin to J.D. Hooker.

Down, May 11th [1859].

My dear Hooker,

Thank you for telling me about obscurity of style. But on my life no nigger with lash over him could have worked harder at clearness than I have done. But the very difficulty to me, of itself leads to the probability that I fail. Yet one lady who has read all my MS. has found only two or three obscure sentences, but Mrs. Hooker having so found it, makes me tremble. I will do my best in proofs. You are a good man to take the trouble to write about it.

With respect to our mutual muddle (“When I go over the chapter I will see what I can do, but I hardly know how I am obscure, and I think we are somehow in a mutual muddle with respect to each other, from starting from some fundamentally different notions.”–Letter of May 6, 1859.), I never for a moment thought we could not make our ideas clear to each other by talk, or if either of us had time to write in extenso.

I imagine from some expressions (but if you ask me what, I could not answer) that you look at variability as some necessary contingency with organisms, and further that there is some necessary tendency in the variability to go on diverging in character or degree. if you do, I do not agree. “Reversion” again (a form of inheritance), I look at as in no way directly connected with Variation, though of course inheritance is of fundamental importance to us, for if a variation be not inherited, it is of no significance to us. It was on such points as these I fancied that we perhaps started differently.

I fear that my book will not deserve at all the pleasant things you say about it; and Good Lord, how I do long to have done with it!

Since the above was written, I have received and have been much interested by A. Gray. I am delighted at his note about my and Wallace’s paper. He will go round, for it is futile to give up very many species, and stop at an arbitrary line at others. It is what my grandfather called Unitarianism, “a feather bed to catch a falling Christian.”…

Charles Darwin to J.D. Hooker.

Down, May 18th [1859].

My dear Hooker,

My health has quite failed. I am off to-morrow for a week of Hydropathy. I am very very sorry to say that I cannot look over any proofs (Of Sir J. Hooker’s Introduction to the ‘Flora of Australia.’) in the week, as my object is to drive the subject out of my head. I shall return to-morrow week. If it be worth while, which probably it is not, you could keep back any proofs till my return home.

In haste, ever yours,
C. Darwin.

[Ten days later he wrote to Sir J.D. Hooker:

“…I write one word to say that I shall return on Saturday, and if you have any proof-sheets to send, I shall be glad to do my best in any criticisms.

I had…great prostration of mind and body, but entire rest, and the douche, and ‘Adam Bede,’ have together done me a world of good.”]

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