LETTER 217. TO C. LYELL. Down, October 4th .
With respect to the points in your note, I may sometimes have expressed myself with ambiguity. At the end of Chapter XXIII., where I say that marked races are not often (you omit "often") produced by changed conditions (217/1. "Hence, although it must be admitted that new conditions of life do sometimes definitely affect organic beings, it may be doubted whether well-marked races have often been produced by the direct action of changed conditions without the aid of selection either by man or nature." ("Animals and Plants," Volume II., page 292, 1868.)), I intended to refer to the direct action of such conditions in causing variation, and not as leading to the preservation or destruction of certain forms. There is as wide a difference in these two respects as between voluntary selection by man and the causes which induce variability. I have somewhere in my book referred to the close connection between Natural Selection and the action of external conditions in the sense which you specify in your note. And in this sense all Natural Selection may be said to depend on changed conditions. In the "Origin" I think I have underrated (and from the cause which you mention) the effects of the direct action of external conditions in producing varieties; but I hope in Chapter XXIII. I have struck as fair a balance as our knowledge permits.
It is wonderful to me that you have patience to read my slips, and I cannot but regret, as they are so imperfect; they must, I think, give you a wrong impression, and had I sternly refused, you would perhaps have thought better of my book. Every single slip is greatly altered, and I hope improved.
With respect to the human ovule, I cannot find dimensions given, though I have often seen the statement. My impression is that it would be just or barely visible if placed on a clear piece of glass. Huxley could answer your question at once.
I have not been well of late, and have made slow progress, but I think my book will be finished by the middle of November.
LETTER 218. A.R. WALLACE TO CHARLES DARWIN. [End of February, 1868]
I am in the second volume of your book, and I have been astonished at the immense number of interesting facts you have brought together. I read the chapter on pangenesis first, for I could not wait. I can hardly tell you how much I admire it. It is a positive comfort to me to have any feasible explanation of a difficulty that has always been haunting me, and I shall never be able to give it up till a better one supplies its place,--and that I think hardly possible. You have now fairly beaten Spencer on his own ground, for he really offered no solution of the difficulties of the problem. The incomprehensible minuteness and vast numbers of the physiological germs or atoms (which themselves must be compounded of numbers of Spencer's physiological units) is the only difficulty; but that is only on a par with the difficulties in all conceptions of matter, space, motion, force, etc.
As I understood Spencer, his physiological units were identical throughout each species, but slightly different in each different species; but no attempt was made to show how the identical form of the parent or ancestors came to be built up of such units.