Moseley told me not long ago that he proposed to search at Kerguelen Land the coal beds most carefully, and was absolutely forbidden to do so by Sir W. Thomson, who said that he would undertake the work, and he never once visited them. This puts me in a passion. I hope that you will keep to your intention and make an address on distribution. Though I differ so much from Wallace, his "Island Life" seems to me a wonderful book.
Farewell. I do hope that you may have a most prosperous journey. Give my kindest remembrances to Asa Gray.
LETTER 398. TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, August 12th, 1881.
...I think that I must have expressed myself badly about Humboldt. I should have said that he was more remarkable for his astounding knowledge than for originality. I have always looked at him as, in fact, the founder of the geographical distribution of organisms. I thought that I had read that extinct fossil plants belonging to Australian forms had lately been found in Australia, and all such cases seem to me very interesting, as bearing on development.
I have been so astonished at the apparently sudden coming in of the higher phanerogams, that I have sometimes fancied that development might have slowly gone on for an immense period in some isolated continent or large island, perhaps near the South Pole. I poured out my idle thoughts in writing, as if I had been talking with you.
No fact has so interested me for a heap of years as your case of the plants on the equatorial mountains of Africa; and Wallace tells me that some one (Baker?) has described analogous cases on the mountains of Madagascar (398/1. See Letter 397, note.)...I think that you ought to allude to these cases.
I most fully agree that no problem is more interesting than that of the temperate forms in the southern hemisphere, common to the north. I remember writing about this after Wallace's book appeared, and hoping that you would take it up. The frequency with which the drainage from the land passes through mountain-chains seems to indicate some general law--viz., the successive formation of cracks and lines of elevation between the nearest ocean and the already upraised land; but that is too big a subject for a note.
I doubt whether any insects can be shown with any probability to have been flower feeders before the middle of the Secondary period. Several of the asserted cases have broken down.
Your long letter has stirred many pleasant memories of long past days, when we had many a discussion and many a good fight.
LETTER 399. TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, August 21st, 1881.
I cannot aid you much, or at all. I should think that no one could have thought on the modification of species without thinking of representative species. But I feel sure that no discussion of any importance had been published on this subject before the "Origin," for if I had known of it I should assuredly have alluded to it in the "Origin," as I wished to gain support from all quarters. I did not then know of Von Buch's view (alluded to in my Historical Introduction in all the later editions). Von Buch published his "Isles Canaries" in 1836, and he here briefly argues that plants spread over a continent and vary, and the varieties in time come to be species. He also argues that closely allied species have been thus formed in the SEPARATE valleys of the Canary Islands, but not on the upper and open parts. I could lend you Von Buch's book, if you like. I have just consulted the passage.
I have not Baer's papers; but, as far as I remember, the subject is not fully discussed by him.
I quite agree about Wallace's position on the ocean and continent question.
To return to geographical distribution: As far as I know, no one ever discussed the meaning of the relation between representative species before I did, and, as I suppose, Wallace did in his paper before the Linnean Society. Von Buch's is the nearest approach to such discussion known to me.
LETTER 400. TO W.D. CRICK.
(400/1. The following letters are interesting not only for their own sake, but because they tell the history of the last of Mr.