« EelmineJätka »
when, after weeks of study, a whole series of specimens, which seemed at first hardly distinguishable, are gradually separated into well-defined species, and order arises out of chaos.
The series of papers on birds and insects now described, together with others on the physical geography of the archipelago and its various races of man, furnished me with the necessary materials for that general sketch of the natural history of the islands and of the various interesting problems which arise from its study, which has made my "Malay Archipelago" the most popular of my books. At the same time it opened up so many fields of research as to render me indisposed for further technical work in the mere description of my collections, which I should certainly never have been able to complete. I therefore now began to dispose of various portions of my insects to students of special groups, who undertook to publish lists of them with descriptions of the new species, reserving for myself only a few boxes of duplicates to serve as mementoes of the exquisite or fantastic organisms which I had procured during my eight years' wanderings.
In order that my scientific friends might be able to see the chief treasures which I had brought home, I displayed a series of the rarest and most beautiful of my birds and butterflies in Mr. Sims's large photographic gallery in the same manner as I had found so effective with my New Guinea collections at Ternate. The entire series of my parrots, pigeons, and paradise birds, when laid out on long tables covered with white paper, formed a display of brilliant colours, strange forms, and exquisite texture that could hardly be surpassed; and when to these were added the most curious and beautiful among the warblers, flycatchers, drongos, starlings, gapers, ground thrushes, woodpeckers, barbets, cuckoos, trogons, kingfishers, hornbills, and pheasants, the general effect of the whole, and the impression it gave of the inexhaustible variety and beauty of nature in her richest treasure houses, was far superior to that of any collection of stuffed and mounted birds I have ever seen.
This mode of exhibiting bird skins is especially suitable for artificial light, and I believe that if a portion of the enormous wealth of the national collection in unmounted bird skins were used for evening display in the public galleries, it would be exceedingly attractive. Different regions or subregions might be illustrated by showing specimens of all the most distinct and remarkable species that characterize them, and each month during the winter a fresh series might be shown, and thus all parts of the world in turn represented. And in the case of insects the permanent series shown in the public galleries might be thus arranged, those of each region or of the well-marked subregions being kept quite separate. This would be not only more instructive, but very much more interesting, because such large numbers of persons have now visited or resided in various foreign countries, and a still larger number have friends or relatives living abroad, and all these would be especially interested in seeing the butterflies, beetles, and birds which are found there. In this way it would be possible to supply the great want in all public museums—a geographical rather than a purely systematic arrangement for the bulk of the collections exhibited to the public. The systematic portion so exhibited might be limited to the most distinctive types of organization, and these might be given in a moderate-sized room.
Having thus prepared the way by these preliminary studies, I devoted the larger portion of my time in the years 1867 and 1868 to writing my "Malay Archipelago." I had previously read what works I could procure on the islands, and had made numerous extracts from the old voyagers on the parts I myself was acquainted with. These added much to the interest of my own accounts of the manners and character of the people, and by means of a tolerably full journal and the various papers I had written, I had no difficulty in going steadily on with my work. As my publishers wished the book to be well illustrated, I had to spend a good deal of time in deciding on the plates and getting them drawn, either from my own sketches, from photographs, or from actual specimens, and having obtained the services of the best artists and wood engravers then in London, the result was, on the whole, satisfactory. I would particularly indicate the frontispiece by Wolf as a most artistic and spirited picture, while the two plates of beetles by Robinson, the “twelve-wired” and “king" birds of paradise by Keulemaus, and the head of the black cockatoo by Wood, are admirable specimens of life-like drawing and fine wood engraving. I was especially indebted to Mr. T. Baines, the well-known African traveller, and the first artist to depict the Victoria Falls and numerous scenes of Kaffir life, for the skill with which he has infused life and movement into an outline sketch of my own, of “Dobbo in the Trading Season."
The book was published in 1869, but during its progress, and while it was slowly passing through the press, I wrote several important papers, among which was one in the Quarterly Review for April, 1889, on “Geological Climates and the Origin of Species,” which was in large part a review and eulogy of Sir Charles Lyell's great work, “ The Principles of Geology," which greatly pleased him as well as Darwin. A considerable part of this article was devoted to a discussion of Mr. Croll's explanation of the glacial epoch, and, by a combination of his views with those of Lyell on the great effect of changed distribution of sea and land, or of differences in altitude, I showed how we might arrive at a better explanation than either view by itself could give us. As the article was too long, a good deal of it had to be cut out, but it served as the foundation for my more detailed examination of the whole question when writing my “ Island Life,” twelve years later.
As soon as the proofs of the “Malay Archipelago" were out of my hands, I began the preparation of a small volume of my scattered articles dealing with various aspects of the theory of Natural Selection. Many of these had appeared in little known periodicals, and were now carefully revised,
or partially rewritten, while two new ones were added. The longest article, occupying nearly a quarter of the volume, was one which I had written in 1865-6, but which was not published in the Westminster Review) till July, 1867, and was entitled “Mimicry, and other Protective Resemblances among Animals.” In this article I endeavoured to give a general account of the whole subject of protective resemblance, of which theory, what was termed by Bates "mimicry,” is a very curious special case. I called attention to the wide extent of the phenomenon, and showed that it pervades animal life from mammals to fishes and through every grade of the insect tribes. I pointed out that the whole series of phenomena depend upon the great principle of the utility of every character, upon the need of protection or of concealment by almost all animals, and upon the known fact that no character are so variable as colour, and that therefore concealment has been most easily obtained by colour modification.
Coming to the subject of "mimicry” I gave a popular account of its principle, with numerous illustrations of its existence in all the chief groups of insects, not only in the tropics, but even in our own country. I also showed, I think for the first time, that it occurs among birds in a few wellmarked cases, and also in at least one instance among mammalia, and I explained why we could not expect it to occur more frequently among these higher animals.
Two other articles which may be just mentioned are those entitled “A Theory of Birds' Nests” and “The Limits of Natural Selection applied to Man.” In the first I pointed out the important relation that exists between concealed nests and the bright colours of female birds, leading to conclusions adverse to Mr. Darwin's theory of colours and ornaments in the males being the result of female choice. In the other (the last in the volume) I apply Darwin's principle of natural selection, acting solely by means of " utilities,” to show that certain physical modifications and mental faculties in man could not have been acquired through the preservation of useful variations, because there is some direct evidence to show that they were not and are not useful in the ordinary sense, or, as Professor Lloyd Morgan well puts it, not of “life-preserving value," while there is absolutely no evidence to show that they were so. In reply, Darwin has appealed to the effects of female choice in developing these characteristics, of which, however, not a particle of evidence is to be found among existing savage races.
Besides the literary and scientific work now described, in the last three years of the period now dealt with I contributed about twenty letters or short papers to various periodicals, delivered several lectures, and reviewed a dozen books, including such important works as Darwin's “Descent of Man" and Galton's "Hereditary Genius." I also gave a Presidential Address to the Entomological Society in January, 1871, in which I discussed the interesting problems arising from the peculiarities of insular insects as especially illustrated by the beetles of Madeira.
As it was during the ten years of which I have now sketched my scientific and literary work that I saw most of my various scientific friends and acquaintances, and it was also in this period that the course of my future life and work was mainly determined, I will devote the next five chapters to a short summary of my more personal affairs, together with a few recollections of those friends with whom I became most familiar.