CHARLES DARWIN TO T.H. HUXLEY. Ilkley, November 25th .
My dear Huxley,
Your letter has been forwarded to me from Down. Like a good Catholic who has received extreme unction, I can now sing "nunc dimittis." I should have been more than contented with one quarter of what you have said. Exactly fifteen months ago, when I put pen to paper for this volume, I had awful misgivings; and thought perhaps I had deluded myself, like so many have done, and I then fixed in my mind three judges, on whose decision I determined mentally to abide. The judges were Lyell, Hooker, and yourself. It was this which made me so excessively anxious for your verdict. I am now contented, and can sing my nunc dimittis. What a joke it would be if I pat you on the back when you attack some immovable creationist! You have most cleverly hit on one point, which has greatly troubled me; if, as I must think, external conditions produce little DIRECT effect, what the devil determines each particular variation? What makes a tuft of feathers come on a cock's head, or moss on a moss-rose? I shall much like to talk over this with you...
My dear Huxley, I thank you cordially for your letter.
Yours very sincerely, C. DARWIN.
P.S.--Hereafter I shall be particularly curious to hear what you think of my explanation of Embryological similarity. On classification I fear we shall split. Did you perceive the argumentum ad hominem Huxley about kangaroo and bear?
ERASMUS DARWIN (His brother.) TO CHARLES DARWIN. November 23rd .
I am so much weaker in the head, that I hardly know if I can write, but at all events I will jot down a few things that the Dr. (Dr., afterwards Sir Henry Holland.) has said. He has not read much above half, so as he says he can give no definite conclusion, and it is my private belief he wishes to remain in that state...He is evidently in a dreadful state of indecision, and keeps stating that he is not tied down to either view, and that he has always left an escape by the way he has spoken of varieties. I happened to speak of the eye before he had read that part, and it took away his breath--utterly impossible--structure, function, etc., etc., etc., but when he had read it he hummed and hawed, and perhaps it was partly conceivable, and then he fell back on the bones of the ear, which were beyond all probability or conceivability. He mentioned a slight blot, which I also observed, that in speaking of the slave-ants carrying one another, you change the species without giving notice first, and it makes one turn back...
...For myself I really think it is the most interesting book I ever read, and can only compare it to the first knowledge of chemistry, getting into a new world or rather behind the scenes. To me the geographical distribution, I mean the relation of islands to continents, is the most convincing of the proofs, and the relation of the oldest forms to the existing species. I dare say I don't feel enough the absence of varieties, but then I don't in the least know if everything now living were fossilized whether the paleontologists could distinguish them. In fact the a priori reasoning is so entirely satisfactory to me that if the facts won't fit in, why so much the worse for the facts is my feeling. My ague has left me in such a state of torpidity that I wish I had gone through the process of natural selection.
Yours affectionately, E.A.D.
CHARLES DARWIN TO C. LYELL. Ilkley, November [24th, 1859].
My dear Lyell,
Again I have to thank you for a most valuable lot of criticisms in a letter dated 22nd.
This morning I heard also from Murray that he sold the whole edition (First edition, 1250 copies.) the first day to the trade. He wants a new edition instantly, and this utterly confounds me. Now, under water-cure, with all nervous power directed to the skin, I cannot possibly do head-work, and I must make only actually necessary corrections. But I will, as far as I can without my manuscript, take advantage of your suggestions: I must not attempt much.