Mr. Wallace points out that "hardly a small island on the globe but has some land-shells peculiar to it"--and he goes so far as to say that probably air-breathing mollusca have been chiefly distributed by air- or water-carriage, rather than by voluntary dispersal on the land.) When you have read these passages, and looked at the general facts which lead to them, I shall be glad to hear if you still differ from me.

Though, of course, present results as to the origin and migrations of genera of mammals will have to be modified owing to new discoveries, I cannot help thinking that much will remain unaffected, because in all geographical and geological discoveries the great outlines are soon reached, the details alone remain to be modified. I also think much of the geological evidence is now so accordant with, and explanatory of, Geographical Distribution, that it is prima facie correct in outline. Nevertheless, such vast masses of new facts will come out in the next few years that I quite dread the labour of incorporating them in a new edition.

I hope your health is improved; and when, quite at your leisure, you have waded through my book, I trust you will again let me have a few lines of friendly criticism and advice.

LETTER 391. TO A.R. WALLACE. Down, June 17th, 1876.

I have now finished the whole of Volume I., with the same interest and admiration as before; and I am convinced that my judgment was right and that it is a memorable book, the basis of all future work on the subject. I have nothing particular to say, but perhaps you would like to hear my impressions on two or three points. Nothing has struck me more than the admirable and convincing manner in which you treat Java. To allude to a very trifling point, it is capital about the unadorned head of the Argus- pheasant. (391/1. See "Descent of Man," Edition I., pages 90 and 143, for drawings of the Argus pheasant and its markings. The ocelli on the wing feathers were favourite objects of Mr. Darwin, and sometimes formed the subject of the little lectures which on rare occasions he would give to a visitor interested in Natural History. In Mr. Wallace's book the meaning of the ocelli comes in by the way, in the explanation of Plate IX., "A Malayan Forest with some of its peculiar Birds." Mr. Wallace (volume i., page 340) points out that the head of the Argus pheasant is, during the display of the wings, concealed from the view of a spectator in front, and this accounts for the absence of bright colour on the head--a most unusual point in a pheasant. The case is described as a "remarkable confirmation of Mr. Darwin's views, that gaily coloured plumes are developed in the male bird for the purpose of attractive display." For the difference of opinion between the two naturalists on the broad question of coloration see "Life and Letters," III., page 123. See Letters 440-453.) How plain a thing is, when it is once pointed out! What a wonderful case is that of Celebes: I am glad that you have slightly modified your views with respect to Africa. (391/2. "I think this must refer to the following passage in 'Geog. Dist. of Animals,' Volume I., pages 286-7. 'At this period (Miocene) Madagascar was no doubt united with Africa, and helped to form a great southern continent which must at one time have extended eastward as far as Southern India and Ceylon; and over the whole of this the lemurine type no doubt prevailed.' At the time this was written I had not paid so much attention to islands, and in my "Island Life" I have given ample reasons for my belief that the evidence of extinct animals does not require any direct connection between Southern India and Africa."--Note by Mr. Wallace.) And this leads me to say that I cannot swallow the so-called continent of Lemuria--i.e., the direct connection of Africa and Ceylon. (391/3. See "Geographical Distribution," I., page 76. The name Lemuria was proposed by Mr. Sclater for an imaginary submerged continent extending from Madagascar to Ceylon and Sumatra.

More Letters of Charles Darwin Volume II Page 10

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book