As you allude in your paper to the believers in change of species, you will be glad to hear that very many of the very best men are coming round in Germany. I have lately heard of Hackel, Gegenbauer, F. Muller, Leuckart, Claparede, Alex. Braun, Schleiden, etc. So it is, I hear, with the younger Frenchmen.
LETTER 184. TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, January 19th .
It is working hours, but I am trying to take a day's holiday, for I finished and despatched yesterday my Climbing paper. For the last ten days I have done nothing but correct refractory sentences, and I loathe the whole subject like tartar emetic. By the way, I am convinced that you want a holiday, and I think so because you took the devil's name in vain so often in your last note. Can you come here for Sunday? You know how I should like it, and you will be quiet and dull enough here to get plenty of rest. I have been thinking with regret about what you said in one of your later notes, about having neglected to make notes on the gradation of character in your genera; but would it be too late? Surely if you looked over names in series the facts would come back, and you might surely write a fine paper "On the gradation of important characters in the genera of plants." As for unimportant characters, I have made their perfect gradation a very prominent point with respect to the means of climbing, in my paper. I begin to think that one of the commonest means of transition is the same individual plant having the same part in different states: thus Corydalis claviculata, if you look to one leaf, may be called a tendril-bearer; if you look to another leaf it may be called a leaf- climber. Now I am sure I remember some cases with plants in which important parts such as the position of the ovule differ: differences in the spire of leaves on lateral and terminal branches, etc.
There was not much in last "Natural History Review" which interested me except colonial floras (184/1. "Nat. Hist. Review," 1865, page 46. A review of Grisebach's "Flora of the British West Indian Islands" and Thwaites' "Enumeratio Plantarum Zeylaniae." The point referred to is given at page 57: "More than half the Flowering Plants belong to eleven Orders in the case of the West Indies, and to ten in that of Ceylon, whilst with but one exception the Ceylon Orders are the same as the West Indian." The reviewer speculates on the meaning of the fact "in relation to the hypothesis of an intertropical cold epoch, such as Mr. Darwin demands for the migration of the Northern Flora to the Southern hemisphere.") and the report on the sexuality of cryptogams. I suppose the former was by Oliver; how extremely curious is the fact of similarity of Orders in the Tropics! I feel a conviction that it is somehow connected with Glacial destruction, but I cannot "wriggle" comfortably at all on the subject. I am nearly sure that Dana makes out that the greatest number of crustacean forms inhabit warmer temperate regions.
I have had an enormous letter from Leo Lesquereux (after doubts, I did not think it worth sending you) on Coal Flora: he wrote some excellent articles in "Silliman" again [my] "Origin" views; but he says now after repeated reading of the book he is a convert! But how funny men's minds are! he says he is chiefly converted because my books make the Birth of Christ, Redemption by Grace, etc., plain to him!
LETTER 185. TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, February 9th .
I quite agree how humiliating the slow progress of man is, but every one has his own pet horror, and this slow progress or even personal annihilation sinks in my mind into insignificance compared with the idea or rather I presume certainty of the sun some day cooling and we all freezing. To think of the progress of millions of years, with every continent swarming with good and enlightened men, all ending in this, and with probably no fresh start until this our planetary system has been again converted into red-hot gas. Sic transit gloria mundi, with a vengeance...
LETTER 186. TO B.D. WALSH. Down, March 27th .