On reading however what I said, and had written somewhat hastily, it has struck me that what I have said might bear the former interpretation in the eyes of persons who might not read other papers of mine, and indeed other parts of the same Address, in which my adhesion, whatever it is worth, to your views in general is plainly enough implied. I have ventured to write this explanation to you for several reasons.

LETTER 415. TO G. ROLLESTON. Bassett, Southampton, September 2nd [1875].

I am much obliged to you for having sent me your Address, which has interested me greatly. I quite subscribe to what you say about Mr. Bagehot's striking remark, and wish I had not quoted it. I can perceive no sort of reflection or blame on anything which I have written, and I know well that I deserve many a good slap on the face. The decrease of savage populations interests me much, and I should like you some time to look at a discussion on this subject which I have introduced in the second edition of the "Descent of Man," and which you can find (for I have no copy here) in the list of additions. The facts have convinced me that lessened fertility and the poor constitution of the children is one chief cause of such decrease; and that the case is strictly parallel to the sterility of many wild animals when made captive, the civilisation of savages and the captivity of wild animals leading to the same result.

LETTER 416. TO ERNST KRAUSE. Down, June 30th, 1877.

I have been much interested by your able argument against the belief that the sense of colour has been recently acquired by man. (416/1. See "Kosmos," June 1877, page 264, a review of Dr. Hugo Magnus' "Die Geschichtliche Entwickelung des Farbensinnes," 1877. The first part is chiefly an account of the author's views; Dr. Krause's argument begins at page 269. The interest felt by Mr. Darwin is recorded by the numerous pencil-marks on the margin of his copy.) The following observation bears on this subject.

I attended carefully to the mental development of my young children, and with two, or as I believe three of them, soon after they had come to the age when they knew the names of all common objects, I was startled by observing that they seemed quite incapable of affixing the right names to the colours in coloured engravings, although I tried repeatedly to teach them. I distinctly remember declaring that they were colour-blind, but this afterwards proved a groundless fear.

On communicating this fact to another person he told me that he had observed a nearly similar case. Therefore the difficulty which young children experience either in distinguishing, or more probably in naming colours, seems to deserve further investigation. I will add that it formerly appeared to me that the gustatory sense, at least in the case of my own infants, and very young children, differed from that of grown-up persons. This was shown by their not disliking rhubarb mixed with a little sugar and milk, which is to us abominably nauseous; and in their strong taste for the sourest and most austere fruits, such as unripe gooseberries and crabapples.

(PLATE: G.J. ROMANES, 1891. Elliott & Fry, photo. Walker and Cockerell, ph. sc.)

LETTER 417. TO G.J. ROMANES. [Barlaston], August 20th, 1878.

(417/1. Part of this letter (here omitted) is published in "Life and Letters," III., page 225, and the whole in the "Life and Letters of G.J. Romanes," page 74. The lecture referred to was on animal intelligence, and was given at the Dublin meeting of the British Association.)

...The sole fault which I find with your lecture is that it is too short, and this is a rare fault. It strikes me as admirably clear and interesting. I meant to have remonstrated that you had not discussed sufficiently the necessity of signs for the formation of abstract ideas of any complexity, and then I came on the discussion on deaf mutes. This latter seems to me one of the richest of all the mines, and is worth working carefully for years, and very deeply.

More Letters of Charles Darwin Volume II Page 28

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book