The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 178 of 188

Charles Darwin to W.D. Fox.

Down, September 23rd [1859].

My dear Fox,

I was very glad to get your letter a few days ago. I was wishing to hear about you, but have been in such an absorbed, slavish, overworked state, that I had not heart without compulsion to write to any one or do anything beyond my daily work. Though your account of yourself is better, I cannot think it at all satisfactory, and I wish you would soon go to Malvern again. My father used to believe largely in an old saying that, if a man grew thinner between fifty and sixty years of age, his chance of long life was poor, and that on the contrary it was a very good sign if he grew fatter; so that your stoutness, I look at as a very good omen. My health has been as bad as it well could be all this summer; and I have kept on my legs, only by going at short intervals to Moor Park; but I have been better lately, and, thank Heaven, I have at last as good as done my book, having only the index and two or three revises to do. It will be published in the first week in November, and a copy shall be sent you. Remember it is only an Abstract (but has cost me above thirteen months to write!!), and facts and authorities are far from given in full. I shall be curious to hear what you think of it, but I am not so silly as to expect to convert you. Lyell has read about half of the volume in clean sheets, and gives me very great kudos. He is wavering so much about the immutability of species, that I expect he will come round. Hooker has come round, and will publish his belief soon. So much for my abominable volume, which has cost me so much labour that I almost hate it. On October 3rd I start for Ilkley, but shall take three days for the journey! It is so late that we shall not take a house; but I go there alone for three or four weeks, then return home for a week and go to Moor Park for three or four weeks, and then I shall get a moderate spell of hydropathy: and I intend, if I can keep to my resolution, of being idle this winter. But I fear ennui will be as bad as a bad stomach…

Charles Darwin to C. Lyell.

Down, September 25th [1859].

My dear Lyell,

I send by this post four corrected sheets. I have altered the sentence about the Eocene fauna being beaten by recent, thanks to your remark. But I imagined that it would have been clear that I supposed the climate to be nearly similar; you do not doubt, I imagine, that the climate of the eocene and recent periods in different parts of the world could be matched. Not that I think climate nearly so important as most naturalists seem to think. In my opinion no error is more mischievous than this.

I was very glad to find that Hooker, who read over, in MS., my Geographical chapters, quite agreed in the view of the greater importance of organic relations. I should like you to consider page 77 and reflect on the case of any organism in the midst of its range.

I shall be curious hereafter to hear what you think of distribution during the glacial and preceding warmer periods. I am so glad you do not think the Chapter on the Imperfection of the Geological Record exaggerated; I was more fearful about this chapter than about any part.

Embryology in Chapter VIII. is one of my strongest points I think. But I must not bore you by running on. My mind is so wearisomely full of the subject.

I do thank you for your eulogy at Aberdeen. I have been so wearied and exhausted of late that I have for months doubted whether I have not been throwing away time and labour for nothing. But now I care not what the universal world says; I have always found you right, and certainly on this occasion I am not going to doubt for the first time. Whether you go far, or but a very short way with me and others who believe as I do, I am contented, for my work cannot be in vain. You would laugh if you knew how often I have read your paragraph, and it has acted like a little dram…

C. Darwin.

Charles Darwin to C. Lyell.

Down, September 30th [1859].

My dear Lyell,

I sent off this morning the last sheets, but without index, which is not in type. I look at you as my Lord High Chancellor in Natural Science, and therefore I request you, after you have finished, just to rerun over the heads in the Recapitulation-part of last chapter. I shall be deeply anxious to hear what you decide (if you are able to decide) on the balance of the pros and contras given in my volume, and of such other pros and contras as may occur to you. I hope that you will think that I have given the difficulties fairly. I feel an entire conviction that if you are now staggered to any moderate extent, that you will come more and more round, the longer you keep the subject at all before your mind. I remember well how many long years it was before I could look into the faces of some of the difficulties and not feel quite abashed. I fairly struck my colours before the case of neuter insects.

I suppose that I am a very slow thinker, for you would be surprised at the number of years it took me to see clearly what some of the problems were which had to be solved, such as the necessity of the principle of divergence of character, the extinction of intermediate varieties, on a continuous area, with graduated conditions; the double problem of sterile first crosses and sterile hybrids, etc., etc.

Looking back, I think it was more difficult to see what the problems were than to solve them, so far as I have succeeded in doing, and this seems to me rather curious. Well, good or bad, my work, thank God, is over; and hard work, I can assure you, I have had, and much work which has never borne fruit. You can see, by the way I am scribbling, that I have an idle and rainy afternoon. I was not able to start for Ilkley yesterday as I was too unwell; but I hope to get there on Tuesday or Wednesday. Do, I beg you, when you have finished my book and thought a little over it, let me hear from you. Never mind and pitch into me, if you think it requisite; some future day, in London possibly, you may give me a few criticisms in detail, that is, if you have scribbled any remarks on the margin, for the chance of a second edition.

Murray has printed 1250 copies, which seems to me rather too large an edition, but I hope he will not lose.

I make as much fuss about my book as if it were my first. Forgive me, and believe me, my dear Lyell,

Yours most sincerely,
C. Darwin.

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