Page images
PDF
EPUB

Again, on July 12, he writes: "I feel very doubtful how far I shall succeed in answering Mivart. It is so difficult to answer objections to doubtful points and make the discussion readable. The worst of it is, that I cannot possibly hnnt through all my references for isolated points—it would take me three weeks of intolerably hard work. I wish I had your power of arguing clearly. At present I feel sick of everything, and if I could occupy my time and forget my daily discomforts, or rather miseries, I would never publish another word. But I shall cheer up, I dare say, soon, having only just got over a bad attack. Farewell. God knows why I bother you about myself.

“I can say nothing more about missing links than I have said. I should rely much on pre-Silurian times; but then comes Sir W. Thompson like an odious spectre. Farewell."

I give these extracts because they serve to explain why Darwin did not publish the systematic series of volumes dealing with the whole of the subjects treated in the “ Origin.” With his almost constant and most depressing ill-health, the real wonder is that he did so much. We can, therefore, fully understand why, when he had published the “ Descent of Man," in 1871, and the second editions of that work and of the" Animals and Plants," in 1875, with the intervening “Expression of Emotions,” in 1872, he should devote himself almost entirely to the long series of observations and experiments upon living plants, which constituted his relaxation and delight, and resulted in that series of volumes which are of the greatest value and interest to all students of the marvels and mysteries of vegetable life. And when, in 1881, he published his last volume upon “Worms,” giving the result of observations and experiments carried on for fortyfour years, he enjoyed the great satisfaction of its being a wonderful success, while it was received by the reviewers with unanimous praise and applause.

During this latter period of his life I had but little correspondence with him, as I had no knowledge whatever of the subjects he was then working on. But he still continued to

write to me occasionally, either referring kindly to my own work or sending me facts or suggestions which he thought would be of interest to me. I will here give only some extracts from a few of the latest of the letters I received from him.

On November 3, 1880, he wrote me the following very kind letter upon my “Island Life," on which I had asked for his criticism :

“I have now read your book, and it has interested me deeply. It is quite excellent, and seems to me the best book which you have ever published; but this may be merely because I have read it last. As I went on I made a few notes, chiefly where I differed slightly from you; but God knows whether they are worth your reading. You will be disappointed with many of them ; but it will show that I had the will, though I did not know the way to do what you wanted.

“I have said nothing on the infinitely many passages and views, which I admired and which were new to me. My notes are badly expressed, but I thought that you would excuse my taking any pains with my style. I wish my confounded handwriting was better. I had a note the other day from Hooker, and I can see that he is much pleased with the dedication."

With this came seven foolscap pages of notes, many giving facts from his extensive reading which I had not

There were also a good many doubts and suggestions on the very difficult questions in the discussion of the causes of the glacial epochs. Chapter xxiii., discussing the Arctic element in south temperate floras, was the part he most objected to, saying, “This is rather too speculative for my old noddle. I must think that you overrate the importance of new surfaces on mountains and dispersal from mountain to mountain. I still believe in Alpine plants having lived on the lowlands and in the southern tropical regions having been cooled during glacial periods, and thus only can I understand character of floras on the isolated African mountains. It appears to me that you are not justified

seen.

in arguing from dispersal to oceanic islands to mountains. Not only in latter cases currents of sea are absent, but what is there to make birds fly direct from one Alpine summit to another? There is left only storms of wind, and if it is probable or possible that seeds may thus be carried for great distances, I do not believe that there is at present any evidence of their being thus carried more than a few miles.”

This is the most connected piece of criticism in the notes, and I therefore give it verbatim. My general reply is printed in “More Letters,” vol. iii. p. 22. Of course I carefully considered all Darwin's suggestions and facts in later editions of my book, and made use of several of them. The last, as above quoted, I shall refer to again when considering the few important matters as to which I arrived at different conclusions from Darwin. But I will first give another letter, two months later, in which he recurs to the same subject.

“ Down, January 2, 1881. “MY DEAR WALLACE,

“The case which you give is a very striking one, and I had overlooked it in Nature ; but I remain as great a heretic as ever. Any supposition seems to me more probable than that the seeds of plants should have been blown from the mountains of Abyssinia, or other central mountains of Africa, to the mountains of Madagascar. It seems to me almost infinitely more probable that Madagascar extended far to the south during the glacial period, and that the S. hemisphere was, according to Croll, then more temperate ; and that the whole of Africa was then peopled with some temperate forms, which crossed chiefly by agency of birds and sea-currents, and some few by the wind, from the shores of Africa to Madagascar subsequently ascending to the mountains.

“How lamentable it is that two men should take such

1

Nature, December 9, 1880. The substance of this article by Mr. Baker, of Kew, is given in "More Letters," vol. iii. p. 25, in a footnote.

widely different views, with the same facts before them ; but this seems to be almost regularly our case, and much do I regret it. I am fairly well, but always feel half dead with fatigue. I heard but an indifferent account of your health some time ago, but trust that you are now somewhat stronger.

“Believe me, my dear Wallace,
“Yours very sincerely,

“CH. DARWIN."

It is really quite pathetic how much he felt difference of opinion from his friends. I, of course, should have liked to have been able to convert him to my views, but I did not feel it so much as he seemed to do. In letters to Sir Joseph Hooker (in February and August, 1881) he again states his view as against mine very strongly (“More Letters,” iii. pp. 25 and 27); and this, so far as I know, is the last reference he made to the subject. The last letter I received from him was entirely on literary and political subjects, and, as usual, very kind and friendly. As it makes no reference to our controversies, and touches on questions never introduced before in our correspondence, I think it will be interesting to give it entire.

"Down, July 12, 1881. “MY DEAR WALLACE,

“I have been heartily glad to get your note and hear some news of you. I will certainly order . Progress and Poverty,' for the subject is a most interesting one.

But I read many years ago some books on political economy, and they produced a disastrous effect on my mind, viz., utterly to distrust my own judgment on the subject, and to doubt much every one else's judgment ! So I feel pretty sure that Mr. George's book will only make my mind worse confounded than it is at present. I also have just finished a book which has interested me greatly, but whether it would interest any one else I know not. It is the Creed of Science,' by W. Graham, A.M. Who or what he is I know not, but he

discusses many great subjects, such as the existence of God, immortality, the moral sense, the progress of society, etc. I think some of his propositions rest on very uncertain foundations, and I could get no clear idea of his notions about God. Notwithstanding this and other blemishes, the book has interested me extremely. Perhaps I have been to some extent deluded, as he manifestly ranks too high what I have done.

“I am delighted to hear that you spend so much time out-of-doors and in your garden. From Newman's old book (I forget title) about the country near Godalming, it must be charming.

“We have just returned home after spending five weeks on Ullswater. The scenery is quite charming, but I cannot walk, and everything tries me, even seeing scenery, talking with any one, or reading much. What I shall do with my few remaining years of life I can hardly tell. I have everything to make me happy and contented, but life has become very wearysome to me. I heard lately from Miss Buckley in relation to Lyell's Life, and she mentioned that you were thinking of Switzerland, which I should think and hope that you would enjoy much.

“I see that you are going to write on the most difficult political question, the land. Something ought to be done, but what is the rub. I hope that you will (not) turn renegade to natural history; but I suppose that politics are very tempting

th all good wishes for yourself and family,
“ Believe me, my dear Wallace,
“Yours very sincerely,

“ CHARLES DARWIN."

This letter is, to me, perhaps the most interesting I ever received from Darwin, since it shows that it was only the engrossing interests of his scientific and literary work, performed under the drawback of almost constant ill-health, that prevented him from taking a more active part in the discussion of those social and political questions that so

« EelmineJätka »