Could you make anything out of a history of the great steps in the progress of Botany, as representing the whole of Natural History? Heaven protect you! I suppose there are men to whom such a job would not be so awful as it appears to me...If you had time, you ought to read an article by W. Bagehot in the April number of the "Fortnightly" (215/2. "Physic and Politics," "Fortnightly Review," Volume III., page 452, 1868.), applying Natural Selection to early or prehistoric politics, and, indeed, to late politics,--this you know is your view.
LETTER 216. A.R. WALLACE TO CHARLES DARWIN. 9, St. Mark's Crescent, N.W., August 16th .
I ought to have written before to thank you for the copies of your papers on Primula and on "Cross-unions of Dimorphic Plants, etc." The latter is particularly interesting and the conclusion most important; but I think it makes the difficulty of how these forms, with their varying degrees of sterility, originated, greater than ever. If "natural selection" could not accumulate varying degrees of sterility for the plant's benefit, then how did sterility ever come to be associated with one cross of a trimorphic plant rather than another? The difficulty seems to be increased by the consideration that the advantage of a cross with a distinct individual is gained just as well by illegitimate as by legitimate unions. By what means, then, did illegitimate unions ever become sterile? It would seem a far simpler way for each plant's pollen to have acquired a prepotency on another individual's stigma over that of the same individual, without the extraordinary complication of three differences of structure and eighteen different unions with varying degrees of sterility!
However, the fact remains an excellent answer to the statement that sterility of hybrids proves the absolute distinctness of the parents.
I have been reading with great pleasure Mr. Bentham's last admirable address (216/1. "Proc. Linn. Soc." 1867-8, page lvii.), in which he so well replies to the gross misstatements of the "Athenaeum;" and also says award in favour of pangenesis. I think we may now congratulate you on having made a valuable convert, whose opinions on the subject, coming so late and being evidently so well considered, will have much weight.
I am going to Norwich on Tuesday to hear Dr. Hooker, who I hope will boldly promulgate "Darwinism" in his address. (216/2. Sir Joseph Hooker's Presidential Address at the British Association Meeting.) Shall we have the pleasure of seeing you there?
I am engaged in negociations about my book.
Hoping you are well and getting on with your next volumes.