The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 179 of 188

Charles Darwin to J.D. Hooker.

Ilkley, Yorkshire, October 15th [1859].

My dear Hooker,

Be a good man and screw out time enough to write me a note and tell me a little about yourself, your doings, and belongings.

Is your Introduction fairly finished? I know you will abuse it, and I know well how much I shall like it. I have been here nearly a fortnight, and it has done me very much good, though I sprained my ankle last Sunday, which has quite stopped walking. All my family come here on Monday to stop three or four weeks, and then I shall go back to the great establishment, and stay a fortnight; so that if I can keep my spirits, I shall stay eight weeks here, and thus give hydropathy a fair chance. Before starting here I was in an awful state of stomach, strength, temper, and spirits. My book has been completely finished some little time; as soon as copies are ready, of course one will be sent you. I hope you will mark your copy with scores, so that I may profit by any criticisms. I should like to hear your general impression. From Lyell’s letters, he thinks favourably of it, but seems staggered by the lengths to which I go. But if you go any considerable length in the admission of modification, I can see no possible means of drawing the line, and saying here you must stop. Lyell is going to reread my book, and I yet entertain hopes that he will be converted, or perverted, as he calls it. Lyell has been extremely kind in writing me three volume-like letters; but he says nothing about dispersal during the glacial period. I should like to know what he thinks on this head. I have one question to ask: Would it be any good to send a copy of my book to Decaisne? and do you know any philosophical botanists on the Continent, who read English and care for such subjects? if so, give their addresses. How about Andersson in Sweden? You cannot think how refreshing it is to idle away the whole day, and hardly ever think in the least about my confounded book which half-killed me. I much wish I could hear of your taking a real rest. I know how very strong you are, mentally, but I never will believe you can go on working as you have worked of late with impunity. You will some day stretch the string too tight. Farewell, my good, and kind, and dear friend,

Yours affectionately,
C. Darwin.

Charles Darwin to T.H. Huxley.

Ilkley, Otley, Yorkshire, October 15th [1859].

My dear Huxley,

I am here hydropathising and coming to life again, after having finished my accursed book, which would have been easy work to any one else, but half-killed me. I have thought you would give me one bit of information, and I know not to whom else to apply; viz., the addresses of Barrande, Von Siebold, Keyserling (I dare say Sir Roderick would know the latter).

Can you tell me of any good and speculative foreigners to whom it would be worth while to send copies of my book, on the ‘Origin of Species’? I doubt whether it is worth sending to Siebold. I should like to send a few copies about, but how many I can afford I know not yet till I hear what price Murray affixes.

I need not say that I will send, of course, one to you, in the first week of November. I hope to send copies abroad immediately. I shall be intensely curious to hear what effect the book produces on you. I know that there will be much in it which you will object to, and I do not doubt many errors. I am very far from expecting to convert you to many of my heresies; but if, on the whole, you and two or three others think I am on the right road, I shall not care what the mob of naturalists think. The penultimate chapter (Chapter XIII. is on Classification, Morphology, Embryology, and Rudimentary Organs.), though I believe it includes the truth, will, I much fear, make you savage. Do not act and say, like Macleay versus Fleming, “I write with aqua fortis to bite into brass.”

Ever yours,
C. Darwin.

Charles Darwin to C. Lyell.

Ilkley, Yorkshire,
October 20th [1859].

My dear Lyell,

I have been reading over all your letters consecutively, and I do not feel that I have thanked you half enough for the extreme pleasure which they have given me, and for their utility. I see in them evidence of fluctuation in the degree of credence you give to the theory; nor am I at all surprised at this, for many and many fluctuations I have undergone.

There is one point in your letter which I did not notice, about the animals (and many plants) naturalised in Australia, which you think could not endure without man’s aid. I cannot see how man does aid the feral cattle. But, letting that pass, you seem to think, that because they suffer prodigious destruction during droughts, that they would all be destroyed. In the “gran secos” of La Plata, the indigenous animals, such as the American deer, die by thousands, and suffer apparently as much as the cattle. In parts of India, after a drought, it takes ten or more years before the indigenous mammals get up to their full number again. Your argument would, I think, apply to the aborigines as well as to the feral.

An animal or plant which becomes feral in one small territory might be destroyed by climate, but I can hardly believe so, when once feral over several large territories. Again, I feel inclined to swear at climate: do not think me impudent for attacking you about climate. You say you doubt whether man could have existed under the Eocene climate, but man can now withstand the climate of Esquimaux-land and West Equatorial Africa; and surely you do not think the Eocene climate differed from the present throughout all Europe, as much as the Arctic regions differ from Equatorial Africa?

With respect to organisms being created on the American type in America, it might, I think, be said that they were so created to prevent them being too well created, so as to beat the aborigines; but this seems to me, somehow, a monstrous doctrine.

I have reflected a good deal on what you say on the necessity of continued intervention of creative power. I cannot see this necessity; and its admission, I think, would make the theory of Natural Selection valueless. Grant a simple Archetypal creature, like the Mud-fish or Lepidosiren, with the five senses and some vestige of mind, and I believe natural selection will account for the production of every vertebrate animal.

Farewell; forgive me for indulging in this prose, and believe me, with cordial thanks,

Your ever attached disciple,
C. Darwin.

P.S.–When, and if, you reread, I supplicate you to write on the margin the word “expand,” when too condensed, or “not clear.” or “?.” Such marks would cost you little trouble, and I could copy them and reflect on them, and their value would be infinite to me.

My larger book will have to be wholly re-written, and not merely the present volume expanded; so that I want to waste as little time over this volume as possible, if another edition be called for; but I fear the subject will be too perplexing, as I have treated it, for general public.

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