The answer would be, as it seems to me, that important morphological characters, such as the position of the ovules and the relative position of the stamens to the ovarium (hypogynous, perigynous, etc.) are sometimes variable in the same species, as I incidentally mention when treating of the ray-florets in the Compositae and Umbelliferae; and I do not see how Nageli could maintain that differences in such characters prove an inherent tendency towards perfection. I see that I have forgotten to say that you have my fullest consent to append any discussion which you may think fit to the new edition. As for myself I cannot believe in spontaneous generation, and though I expect that at some future time the principle of life will be rendered intelligible, at present it seems to me beyond the confines of science.
LETTER 194. TO T.H. HUXLEY. Down, December 22nd [1866?].
I suppose that you have received Hackel's book (194/1. "Generelle Morphologie," 1866.) some time ago, as I have done. Whenever you have had time to read through some of it, enough to judge by, I shall be very curious to hear your judgment. I have been able to read a page or two here and there, and have been interested and instructed by parts. But my vague impression is that too much space is given to methodical details, and I can find hardly any facts or detailed new views. The number of new words, to a man like myself, weak in his Greek, is something dreadful. He seems to have a passion for defining, I daresay very well, and for coining new words. From my very vague notions on the book, and from its immense size, I should fear a translation was out of the question. I see he often quotes both of us with praise. I am sure I should like the book much, if I could read it straight off instead of groaning and swearing at each sentence. I have not yet had time to read your Physiology (194/2. "Lessons in Elementary Physiology," 1866.) book, except one chapter; but I have just re-read your book on "Man's Place, etc.," and I think I admire it more this second time even than the first. I doubt whether you will ever have time, but if ever you have, do read the chapter on hybridism in the new edition of the "Origin" (194/3. Fourth Edition (1866).), for I am very anxious to make you think less seriously on that difficulty. I have improved the chapter a good deal, I think, and have come to more definite views. Asa Gray and Fritz Muller (the latter especially) think that the new facts on illegitimate offspring of dimorphic plants, throw much indirect light on the subject. Now that I have worked up domestic animals, I am convinced of the truth of the Pallasian (194/4. See Letter 80.) view of loss of sterility under domestication, and this seems to me to explain much. But I had no intention, when I began this note, of running on at such length on hybridism; but you have been Objector-General on this head.
(195/1. For another letter of Mr. Darwin's to him see "Life and Letters," III., page 57.)
I do not know whether you will forgive a stranger addressing you. My name may possibly be known to you. I am now writing a book on the variation of animals and plants under domestication; and there is one little piece of information which it is more likely that you could give me than any man in the world, if you can spare half an hour from your professional labours, and are inclined to be so kind. I am collecting all accounts of what some call "sports," that is, of what I shall call "bud-variations," i.e. a moss- rose suddenly appearing on a Provence rose--a nectarine on a peach, etc. Now, what I want to know, and which is not likely to be recorded in print, is whether very slight differences, too slight to be worth propagating, thus appear suddenly by buds. As every one knows, in raising seedlings you may have every gradation from individuals identical with the parent, to slight varieties, to strongly marked varieties. Now, does this occur with buds or do only rather strongly marked varieties thus appear at rare intervals of time by buds? (195/2. Mr. Rivers could not give a decided answer, but he did not remember to have seen slight bud-variations. The question is discussed in "Variation under Domestication," Edition II., Volume I., page 443.) I should be most grateful for information. I may add that if you have observed in your enormous experience any remarkable "bud-variations," and could spare time to inform me, and allow me to quote them on your authority, it would be the greatest favour. I feel sure that these "bud-variations" are most interesting to any one endeavouring to make out what little can be made out on the obscure subject of variation.
LETTER 196. TO T. RIVERS. Down, January 7th [1867?].
I thank you much for your letter and the parcel of shoots. The case of the yellow plum is a treasure, and is now safely recorded on your authority in its proper place, in contrast with A. Knight's case of the yellow magnum bonum sporting into red. (196/1. See "Variation under Domestication," Edition II., Volume I., page 399.) I could see no difference in the shoots, except that those of the yellow were thicker, and I presume that this is merely accidental: as you do not mention it, I further presume that there are no further differences in leaves or flowers of the two plums. I am very glad to hear about the yellow ash, and that you yourself have seen the jessamine case. I must confess that I hardly fully believed in it; but now I do, and very surprising it is.
In an old French book, published in Amsterdam in 1786 (I think), there is an account, apparently authentic and attested by the writer as an eye- witness, of hyacinth bulbs of two colours being cut in two and grafted, and they sent up single stalks with differently coloured flowers on the two sides, and some flowers parti-coloured. I once thought of offering 5 pounds reward in the "Cottage Gardener" for such a plant; but perhaps it would seem too foolish. No instructions are given when to perform the operation; I have tried two or three times, and utterly failed. I find that I have a grand list of "bud-variations," and to-morrow shall work up such cases as I have about rose-sports, which seem very numerous, and which I see you state to occur comparatively frequently.