It is an old and firm conviction of mine, that the Naturalists who accumulate facts and make many partial generalisations are the REAL benefactors of science. Those who merely accumulate facts I cannot very much respect.
I had hoped to have come up for the Club to-morrow, but very much doubt whether I shall be able. Ilkley seems to have done me no essential good. I attended the Bench on Monday, and was detained in adjudicating some troublesome cases 1 1/2 hours longer than usual, and came home utterly knocked up, and cannot rally. I am not worth an old button...Many thanks for your pleasant note.
Ever yours, C. DARWIN.
P.S.--I feel confident that for the future progress of the subject of the origin and manner of formation of species, the assent and arguments and facts of working naturalists, like yourself, are far more important than my own book; so for God's sake do not abuse your Introduction.
H.C. WATSON TO CHARLES DARWIN. Thames Ditton, November 21st .
My dear Sir,
Once commenced to read the 'Origin,' I could not rest till I had galloped through the whole. I shall now begin to re-read it more deliberately. Meantime I am tempted to write you the first impressions, not doubting that they will, in the main, be the permanent impressions:--
1st. Your leading idea will assuredly become recognised as an established truth in science, i.e. "Natural Selection." It has the characteristics of all great natural truths, clarifying what was obscure, simplifying what was intricate, adding greatly to previous knowledge. You are the greatest revolutionist in natural history of this century, if not of all centuries.
2nd. You will perhaps need, in some degree, to limit or modify, possibly in some degree also to extend, your present applications of the principle of natural selection. Without going to matters of more detail, it strikes me that there is one considerable primary inconsistency, by one failure in the analogy between varieties and species; another by a sort of barrier assumed for nature on insufficient grounds and arising from "divergence." These may, however, be faults in my own mind, attributable to yet incomplete perception of your views. And I had better not trouble you about them before again reading the volume.
3rd. Now these novel views are brought fairly before the scientific public, it seems truly remarkable how so many of them could have failed to see their right road sooner. How could Sir C. Lyell, for instance, for thirty years read, write, and think, on the subject of species AND THEIR SUCCESSION, and yet constantly look down the wrong road!
A quarter of a century ago, you and I must have been in something like the same state of mind on the main question, but you were able to see and work out the quo modo of the succession, the all-important thing, while I failed to grasp it. I send by this post a little controversial pamphlet of old date--Combe and Scott. If you will take the trouble to glance at the passages scored on the margin, you will see that, a quarter of a century ago, I was also one of the few who then doubted the absolute distinctness of species, and special creations of them. Yet I, like the rest, failed to detect the quo modo which was reserved for your penetration to DISCOVER, and your discernment to APPLY.
You answered my query about the hiatus between Satyrus and Homo as was expected. The obvious explanation really never occurred to me till some months after I had read the papers in the 'Linnean Proceedings.' The first species of Fere-homo ("Almost-man.") would soon make direct and exterminating war upon his Infra-homo cousins. The gap would thus be made, and then go on increasing, into the present enormous and still widening hiatus. But how greatly this, with your chronology of animal life, will shock the ideas of many men!
Very sincerely, HEWETT C. WATSON.
J.D. HOOKER TO CHARLES DARWIN. Athenaeum, Monday [November 21st, 1859].
My dear Darwin,
I am a sinner not to have written you ere this, if only to thank you for your glorious book--what a mass of close reasoning on curious facts and fresh phenomena--it is capitally written, and will be very successful.