You might trust Mr. Waterhouse implicitly, which I fear, as [illegible] goes, is more than can be said for all entomologists. I presume, if you thought of either scheme, Sir Charles Lyell could easily see the gentlemen and arrange it; but, if not, I could do so when next I come to town, which, however, will not be for three or four weeks.
With respect to giving your children a taste for Natural History, I will venture one remark--viz., that giving them specimens in my opinion would tend to destroy such taste. Youngsters must be themselves collectors to acquire a taste; and if I had a collection of English lepidoptera, I would be systematically most miserly, and not give my boys half a dozen butterflies in the year. Your eldest has the brow of an observer, if there be the least truth in phrenology. We are all better, but we have been of late a poor household.
LETTER 43. TO J.D. HOOKER. Down .
I should have less scruple in troubling you if I had any confidence what my work would turn out. Sometimes I think it will be good, at other times I really feel as much ashamed of myself as the author of the "Vestiges" ought to be of himself. I know well that your kindness and friendship would make you do a great deal for me, but that is no reason that I should be unreasonable. I cannot and ought not to forget that all your time is employed in work certain to be valuable. It is superfluous in me to say that I enjoy exceedingly writing to you, and that your answers are of the greatest possible service to me. I return with many thanks the proof on Aquilegia (43/1. This seems to refer to the discussion on the genus Aquilegia in Hooker and Thomson's "Flora Indica," 1855, Volume I., Systematic Part, page 44. The authors' conclusion is that "all the European and many of the Siberian forms generally recognised belong to one very variable species." With regard to cirripedes, Mr. Darwin spoke of "certain just perceptible differences which blend together and constitute varieties and not species" ("Life and Letters," I., page 379).): it has interested me much. It is exactly like my barnacles; but for my particular purpose, most unfortunately, both Kolreuter and Gartner have worked chiefly on A. vulgaris and canadensis and atro-purpurea, and these are just the species that you seem not to have studied. N.B. Why do you not let me buy the Indian Flora? You are too magnificent.
Now for a short ride on my chief (at present) hobbyhorse, viz. aberrant genera. What you say under your remarks on Lepidodendron seems just the case that I want, to give some sort of evidence of what we both believe in, viz. how groups came to be anomalous or aberrant; and I think some sort of proof is required, for I do not believe very many naturalists would at all admit our view.
Thank you for the caution on large anomalous genera first catching attention. I do not quite agree with your "grave objection to the whole process," which is "that if you multiply the anomalous species by 100, and divide the normal by the same, you will then reverse the names..." For, to take an example, Ornithorhynchus and Echidna would not be less aberrant if each had a dozen (I do not say 100, because we have no such cases in the animal kingdom) species instead of one. What would really make these two genera less anomalous would be the creation of many genera and sub-families round and radiating from them on all sides. Thus if Australia were destroyed, Didelphys in S. America would be wonderfully anomalous (this is your case with Proteaceae), whereas now there are so many genera and little sub-families of Marsupiata that the group cannot be called aberrant or anomalous. Sagitta (and the earwig) is one of the most anomalous animals in the world, and not a bit the less because there are a dozen species. Now, my point (which, I think is a slightly new point of view) is, if it is extinction which has made the genus anomalous, as a general rule the same causes of extinction would allow the existence of only a few species in such genera.