(220/1. In "Nature," May 25th, 1871, page 69, appeared a letter on pangenesis from Mr. A.C. Ranyard, dealing with the difficulty that the "sexual elements produced upon the scion" have not been shown to be affected by the stock. Mr. Darwin, in an annotated copy of this letter, disputes the accuracy of the statement, but adds: "THE BEST OBJECTION YET RAISED." He seems not to have used Mr. Ranyard's remarks in the 2nd edition of the "Variation of Animals and Plants," 1875.)
LETTER 221. TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, May 21st .
I know that you have been overworking yourself, and that makes you think that you are doing nothing in science. If this is the case (which I do not believe), your intellect has all run to letter-writing, for I never in all my life received a pleasanter one than your last. It greatly amused us all. How dreadfully severe you are on the Duke (221/1. The late Duke of Argyll, whose "Reign of Law" Sir J.D. Hooker had been reading.): I really think too severe, but then I am no fair judge, for a Duke, in my eyes, is no common mortal, and not to be judged by common rules! I pity you from the bottom of my soul about the address (221/2. Sir Joseph was President of the British Association at Norwich in 1868: see "Life and Letters," III., page 100. The reference to "Insular Floras" is to Sir Joseph's lecture at the Nottingham meeting of the British Association in 1866: see "Life and Letters," III., page 47.): it makes my flesh creep; but when I pitied you to Huxley, he would not join at all, and would only say that you did and delivered your Insular Flora lecture so admirably in every way that he would not bestow any pity on you. He felt certain that you would keep your head high up. Nevertheless, I wish to God it was all over for your sake. I think, from several long talks, that Huxley will give an excellent and original lecture on Geograph. Distrib. of birds. I have been working very hard--too hard of late--on Sexual Selection, which turns out a gigantic subject; and almost every day new subjects turn up requiring investigation and leading to endless letters and searches through books. I am bothered, also, with heaps of foolish letters on all sorts of subjects, but I am much interested in my subject, and sometimes see gleams of light. All my other letters have prevented me indulging myself in writing to you; but I suddenly found the locust grass (221/3. No doubt the plants raised from seeds taken from locust dung sent by Mr. Weale from South Africa. The case is mentioned in the fifth edition of the "Origin," published in 1869, page 439.) yesterday in flower, and had to despatch it at once. I suppose some of your assistants will be able to make the genus out without great trouble. I have done little in experiment of late, but I find that mignonette is absolutely sterile with pollen from the same plant. Any one who saw stamen after stamen bending upwards and shedding pollen over the stigmas of the same flower would declare that the structure was an admirable contrivance for self-fertilisation. How utterly mysterious it is that there should be some difference in ovules and contents of pollen- grains (for the tubes penetrate own stigma) causing fertilisation when these are taken from any two distinct plants, and invariably leading to impotence when taken from the same plant! By Jove, even Pan. (221/4. Pangenesis.) won't explain this. It is a comfort to me to think that you will be surely haunted on your death-bed for not honouring the great god Pan. I am quite delighted at what you say about my book, and about Bentham; when writing it, I was much interested in some parts, but latterly I thought quite as poorly of it as even the "Athenaeum." It ought to be read abroad for the sake of the booksellers, for five editions have come or are coming out abroad! I am ashamed to say that I have read only the organic part of Lyell, and I admire all that I have read as much as you. It is a comfort to know that possibly when one is seventy years old one's brain may be good for work. It drives me mad, and I know it does you too, that one has no time for reading anything beyond what must be read: my room is encumbered with unread books. I agree about Wallace's wonderful cleverness, but he is not cautious enough in my opinion. I find I must (and I always distrust myself when I differ from him) separate rather widely from him all about birds' nests and protection; he is riding that hobby to death. I never read anything so miserable as Andrew Murray's criticism on Wallace in the last number of his Journal. (221/5. See "Journal of Travel and Natural History," Volume I., No. 3, page 137, London, 1868, for Andrew Murray's "Reply to Mr. Wallace's Theory of Birds' Nests," which appeared in the same volume, page 73. The "Journal" came to an end after the publication of one volume for 1867-8.) I believe this Journal will die, and I shall not cry: what a contrast with the old "Natural History Review."
LETTER 222. TO J.D. HOOKER. Freshwater, Isle of Wight, July 28th .
I am glad to hear that you are going (222/1. In his Presidential Address at Norwich.) to touch on the statement that the belief in Natural Selection is passing away. I do not suppose that even the "Athenaeum" would pretend that the belief in the common descent of species is passing away, and this is the more important point. This now almost universal belief in the evolution (somehow) of species, I think may be fairly attributed in large part to the "Origin." It would be well for you to look at the short Introduction of Owen's "Anat. of Invertebrates," and see how fully he admits the descent of species.
Of the "Origin," four English editions, one or two American, two French, two German, one Dutch, one Italian, and several (as I was told) Russian editions. The translations of my book on "Variation under Domestication" are the results of the "Origin;" and of these two English, one American, one German, one French, one Italian, and one Russian have appeared, or will soon appear. Ernst Hackel wrote to me a week or two ago, that new discussions and reviews of the "Origin" are continually still coming out in Germany, where the interest on the subject certainly does not diminish. I have seen some of these discussions, and they are good ones. I apprehend that the interest on the subject has not died out in North America, from observing in Professor and Mrs. Agassiz's Book on Brazil how exceedingly anxious he is to destroy me. In regard to this country, every one can judge for himself, but you would not say interest was dying out if you were to look at the last number of the "Anthropological Review," in which I am incessantly sneered at. I think Lyell's "Principles" will produce a considerable effect. I hope I have given you the sort of information which you want. My head is rather unsteady, which makes my handwriting worse than usual.
If you argue about the non-acceptance of Natural Selection, it seems to me a very striking fact that the Newtonian theory of gravitation, which seems to every one now so certain and plain, was rejected by a man so extraordinarily able as Leibnitz. The truth will not penetrate a preoccupied mind.
Wallace (222/2. Wallace, "Westminster Review," July, 1867. The article begins: "There is no more convincing proof of the truth of a comprehensive theory, than its power of absorbing and finding a place for new facts, and its capability of interpreting phenomena, which had been previously looked upon as unaccountable anomalies..." Mr. Wallace illustrates his statement that "a false theory will never stand this test," by Edward Forbes' "polarity" speculations (see page 84 of the present volume) and Macleay's "Circular" and "Quinarian System" published in his "Horae Entomologicae," 1821, and developed by Swainson in the natural history volumes of "Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopaedia." Mr. Wallace says that a "considerable number of well-known naturalists either spoke approvingly of it, or advocated similar principles, and for a good many years it was decidedly in the ascendant...yet it quite died out in a few short years, its very existence is now a matter of history, and so rapid was its fall that...Swainson, perhaps, lived to be the last man who believed in it. Such is the course of a false theory. That of a true one is very different, as may be well seen by the progress of opinion on the subject of Natural Selection."