I am glad to receive to-day an advertisement of your book. I have been wonderfully interested by the articles in the "Contemporary." Those were splendid hits about the Prince of Wales and Gladstone. (262/2. See "The Study of Sociology," page 392. Mr. Gladstone, in protest against some words of Mr. Spencer, had said that the appearance of great men "in great crises of human history" were events so striking "that men would be liable to term them providential in a pre-scientific age." On this Mr. Spencer remarks that "in common with the ancient Greek Mr. Gladstone regards as irreligious any explanation of Nature which dispenses with immediate Divine superintendence." And as an instance of the partnership "between the ideas of natural causation and of providential interference," he instances a case where a prince "gained popularity by outliving certain abnormal changes in his blood," and where "on the occasion of his recovery providential aid and natural causation were unitedly recognised by a thanksgiving to God and a baronetcy to the doctor." The passage on Toryism is on page 395, where Mr. Spencer, with his accustomed tolerance, writes: "The desirable thing is that a growth of ideas and feelings tending to produce modification shall be joined with a continuance of ideas and feelings tending to preserve stability." And from this point of view he concludes it to be very desirable that "one in Mr. Gladstone's position should think as he does." The matter is further discussed in the notes to Chapter XVI., page 423.) I never before read a good defence of Toryism. In one place (but I cannot for the life of me recollect where or what it exactly was) I thought that you would have profited by my principle (i.e. if you do not reject it) given in my "Descent of Man," that new characters which appear late in life are those which are transmitted to the same sex alone. I have advanced some pretty strong evidence, and the principle is of great importance in relation to secondary sexual likenesses. (262/3. This refers to Mr. Spencer's discussion of the evolution of the mental traits characteristic of women. At page 377 he points out the importance of the limitation of heredity by sex in this relation. A striking generalisation on this question is given in the "Descent of Man," Edition I., Volume II., page 285: that when the adult male differs from the adult female, he differs in the same way from the young of both sexes. Can this law be applied in the case in which the adult female possesses characters not possessed by the male: for instance, the high degree of intuitive power of reading the mental states of others and of concealing her own--characters which Mr. Spencer shows to be accounted for by the relations between the husband and wife in a state of savagery. If so, the man should resemble "the young of both sexes" in the absence of these special qualities. This seems to be the case with some masculine characteristics, and childishness of man is not without recognition among women: for instance, by Dolly Winthrop in "Silas Marner," who is content with bread for herself, but bakes cake for children and men, whose "stomichs are made so comical, they want a change-- they do, I know, God help 'em.") I have applied it to man and woman, and possibly it was here that I thought that you would have profited by the doctrine. I fear that this note will be almost illegible, but I am very tired.
LETTER 263. G.J. ROMANES TO CHARLES DARWIN.
(263/1. This is, we believe, the first letter addressed by the late Mr. Romanes to Mr. Darwin. It was put away with another on the same subject, and inscribed "Romanes on Abortion, with my answer (very important)." Mr. Darwin's answer given below is printed from his rough draft, which is in places barely decipherable. On the subject of these letters consult Romanes, "Darwin and after Darwin," Volume II., page 99, 1895.)
Dunskaith, Parkhill, Ross-shire, July 10th, 1874.
Knowing that you do not dissuade the more attentive of your readers from communicating directly to yourself any ideas they may have upon subjects connected with your writings, I take the liberty of sending the enclosed copy of a letter, which I have recently addressed to Mr. Herbert Spencer. You will perceive that the subject dealt with is the same as that to which a letter of mine in last week's "Nature" [July 2nd, page 164] refers--viz., "Disuse as a Reducing Cause in Species." In submitting this more detailed exposition of my views to your consideration, I should like to state again what I stated in "Nature" some weeks ago, viz., that in propounding the cessation of selection as a reducing cause, I do not suppose that I am suggesting anything which has not occurred to you already. Not only is this principle embodied in the theory set forth in the article on Rudimentary Organs ("Nature," Volume IX.); but it is more than once hinted at in the "Origin," in the passages where rudimentary organs are said to be more variable than others, because no longer under the restraining influence of Natural Selection. And still more distinctly is this principle recognised in page 120.
Thus, in sending you the enclosed letter, I do not imagine that I am bringing any novel suggestions under your notice. As I see that you have already applied the principle in question to the case of artificially-bred structures, I cannot but infer that you have pondered it in connection with naturally-bred structures. What objection, however, you can have seen to this principle in this latter connection, I am unable to divine; and so I think the best course for me to pursue is the one I adopt--viz., to send you my considerations in full.
In the absence of express information, the most natural inference is that the reason you refuse to entertain the principle in question, is because you show the backward tendency of indiscriminate variability [to be] inadequate to contend with the conservative tendency of long inheritance. The converse of this is expressed in the words "That the struggle between Natural Selection on the one hand, and the tendency to reversion and variability on the other hand, will in the course of time cease; and that the most abnormally developed organs may be made constant, I see no reason to doubt" ("Origin," page 121). Certainly not, if, as I doubt not, the word "constant" is intended to bear a relative signification; but to say that constancy can ever become absolute--i.e., that any term of inheritance could secure to an organ a total immunity from the smallest amount of spontaneous variability--to say this would be unwarrantable. Suppose, for instance, that for some reason or other a further increase in the size of a bat's wing should now suddenly become highly beneficial to that animal: we can scarcely suppose that variations would not be forthcoming for Natural Selection to seize upon (unless the limit of possible size has now been reached, which is an altogether distinct matter). And if we suppose that minute variations on the side of increase are thus even now occasionally taking place, much more is it probable that similar variations on the side of decrease are now taking place--i.e., that if the conservative influence of Natural Selection were removed for a long period of time, more variations would ensue below the present size of bat's wings, than above it. To this it may be added, that when the influence of "speedy selection" is removed, it seems in itself highly probable that the structure would, for this reason, become more variable, for the only reason why it ever ceased to be variable (i.e., after attaining its maximum size), was because of the influence of selection constantly destroying those individuals in which a tendency to vary occurred. When, therefore, this force antagonistic to variability was removed, it seems highly probable that the latter principle would again begin to assert itself, and this in a cumulative manner. Those individuals in which a tendency to vary occurred being no longer cut off, they would have as good a chance of leaving progeny to inherit their fluctuating disposition as would their more inflexible companions.
LETTER 264. TO G.J. ROMANES. July 16th, 1874.