Had I referred to all authors consulted for every fact, I should have greatly increased the bulk of the book, while a large portion of the references would be valueless in a few years, owing to later and better authorities. My experience of referring to references has generally been most unsatisfactory. One finds, nine times out of ten, the fact is stated, and nothing more; or a reference to some third work not at hand!

I wish I could get into the habit of giving chapter and verse for every fact and extract; but I am too lazy, and generally in a hurry, having to consult books against time, when in London for a day.

However, I will try to do something to mend this matter, should I have to prepare another edition.

I return you Forel's letter. It does not advance the question much; neither do I think it likely that even the complete observation he thinks necessary would be of much use, because it may well be that the ova, or larvae, or imagos of the beetles are not carried systematically by the ants, but only occasionally, owing to some exceptional circumstances. This might produce a great effect in distribution, yet be so rare as never to come under observation.

Several of your remarks in previous letters I shall carefully consider. I know that, compared with the extent of the subject, my book is in many parts crude and ill-considered; but I thought, and still think, it better to make some generalisations wherever possible, as I am not at all afraid of having to alter my views in many points of detail. I was so overwhelmed with zoological details, that I never went through the Geological Society's "Journal" as I ought to have done, and as I mean to do before writing more on the subject.

LETTER 394. TO F. BUCHANAN WHITE.

(394/1. "Written in acknowledgment of a copy of a paper (published by me in the "Proceedings of the Zoological Society") on the Hemiptera of St. Helena, but discussing the origin of the whole fauna and flora of that island."--F.B.W.)

Down, September 23rd. [1878].

I have now read your paper, and I hope that you will not think me presumptuous in writing another line to say how excellent it seems to me. I believe that you have largely solved the problem of the affinities of the inhabitants of this most interesting little island, and this is a delightful triumph.

LETTER 395. TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, July 22nd [1879].

I have just read Ball's Essay. (395/1. The late John Ball's lecture "On the Origin of the Flora of the Alps" in the "Proceedings of the R. Geogr. Soc." 1879. Ball argues (page 18) that "during ancient Palaeozoic times, before the deposition of the Coal-measures, the atmosphere contained twenty times as much carbonic acid gas and considerably less oxygen than it does at present." He further assumes that in such an atmosphere the percentage of CO2 in the higher mountains would be excessively different from that at the sea-level, and appends the result of calculations which gives the amount of CO2 at the sea-level as 100 per 10,000 by weight, at a height of 10,000 feet as 12.5 per 10,000. Darwin understands him to mean that the Vascular Cryptogams and Gymnosperms could stand the sea-level atmosphere, whereas the Angiosperms would only be able to exist in the higher regions where the percentage of CO2 was small. It is not clear to us that Ball relies so largely on the condition of the atmosphere as regards CO2. If he does he is clearly in error, for everything we know of assimilation points to the conclusion that 100 per 10,000 (1 per cent.) is by no means a hurtful amount of CO2, and that it would lead to an especially vigorous assimilation. Mountain plants would be more likely to descend to the plains to share in the rich feast than ascend to higher regions to avoid it. Ball draws attention to the imperfection of our plant records as regards the floras of mountain regions. It is, he thinks, conceivable that there existed a vegetation on the Carboniferous mountains of which no traces have been preserved in the rocks.

More Letters of Charles Darwin Volume II Page 13

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book