But to business: I keep my notes in such a way, viz., in bulk, that I cannot possibly lay my hand on any reference; nor as far as the vegetable kingdom is concerned do I distinctly remember having read any discussion on general highness or lowness, excepting Schleiden (I fancy) on Compositae being highest. Ad. de Jussieu (36/1. "Monographie de la Famille des Malpighiacees," by Adrien de Jussieu, "Arch. du Museum." Volume III., page 1, 1843.), in "Arch. du Museum," Tome 3, discusses the value of characters of degraded flowers in the Malpighiaceae, but I doubt whether this at all concerns you. Mirbel somewhere has discussed some such question.

Plants lie under an enormous disadvantage in respect to such discussions in not passing through larval stages. I do not know whether you can distinguish a plant low from non-development from one low from degradation, which theoretically, at least, are very distinct. I must agree with Forbes that a mollusc may be higher than one articulate animal and lower than another; if one was asked which was highest as a whole, the Molluscan or Articulate Kingdom, I should look to and compare the highest in each, and not compare their archetypes (supposing them to be known, which they are not.)

But there are, in my opinion, more difficult cases than any we have alluded to, viz., that of fish--but my ideas are not clear enough, and I do not suppose you would care to hear what I obscurely think on this subject. As far as my elastic theory goes, all I care about is that very ancient organisms (when different from existing) should tend to resemble the larval or embryological stages of the existing.

I am glad to hear what you say about parallelism: I am an utter disbeliever of any parallelism more than mere accident. It is very strange, but I think Forbes is often rather fanciful; his "Polarity" (36/2. See Letter 41, Note.) makes me sick--it is like "magnetism" turning a table.

If I can think of any one likely to take your "Illustrations" (36/3. "Illustrations of Himalayan Plants from Drawings made by J.F. Cathcart." Folio, 1855.), I will send the advertisement. If you want to make up some definite number so as to go to press, I will put my name down with PLEASURE (and I hope and believe that you will trust me in saying so), though I should not in the course of nature subscribe to any horticultural work:-- act for me.

LETTER 37. TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, [May] 29th, 1854.

I am really truly sorry to hear about your [health]. I entreat you to write down your own case,--symptoms, and habits of life,--and then consider your case as that of a stranger; and I put it to you, whether common sense would not order you to take more regular exercise and work your brain less. (N.B. Take a cold bath and walk before breakfast.) I am certain in the long run you would not lose time. Till you have a thoroughly bad stomach, you will not know the really great evil of it, morally, physically, and every way. Do reflect and act resolutely. Remember your troubled heart- action formerly plainly told how your constitution was tried. But I will say no more--excepting that a man is mad to risk health, on which everything, including his children's inherited health, depends. Do not hate me for this lecture. Really I am not surprised at your having some headache after Thursday evening, for it must have been no small exertion making an abstract of all that was said after dinner. Your being so engaged was a bore, for there were several things that I should have liked to have talked over with you. It was certainly a first-rate dinner, and I enjoyed it extremely, far more than I expected. Very far from disagreeing with me, my London visits have just lately taken to suit my stomach admirably; I begin to think that dissipation, high-living, with lots of claret, is what I want, and what I had during the last visit. We are going to act on this same principle, and in a very profligate manner have just taken a pair of season-tickets to see the Queen open the Crystal Palace. (37/1.

More Letters of Charles Darwin Volume I Page 49

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book