Farewell, yours affectionately, C. DARWIN.
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. December 28th, 1859.
...Have you seen the splendid essay and notice of my book in the "Times"? (December 26th.) I cannot avoid a strong suspicion that it is by Huxley; but I never heard that he wrote in the "Times". It will do grand service,...
C. DARWIN TO T.H. HUXLEY. Down, December 28th .
My dear Huxley,
Yesterday evening, when I read the "Times" of a previous day, I was amazed to find a splendid essay and review of me. Who can the author be? I am intensely curious. It included an eulogium of me which quite touched me, though I am not vain enough to think it all deserved. The author is a literary man, and German scholar. He has read my book very attentively; but, what is very remarkable, it seems that he is a profound naturalist. He knows my Barnacle-book, and appreciates it too highly. Lastly, he writes and thinks with quite uncommon force and clearness; and what is even still rarer, his writing is seasoned with most pleasant wit. We all laughed heartily over some of the sentences. I was charmed with those unreasonable mortals, who know anything, all thinking fit to range themselves on one side. (The reviewer proposes to pass by the orthodox view, according to which the phenomena of the organic world are "the immediate product of a creative fiat, and consequently are out of the domain of science altogether." And he does so "with less hesitation, as it so happens that those persons who are practically conversant with the facts of the case (plainly a considerable advantage) have always thought fit to range themselves" in the category of those holding "views which profess to rest on a scientific basis only, and therefore admit of being argued to their consequences.") Who can it be? Certainly I should have said that there was only one man in England who could have written this essay, and that YOU were the man. But I suppose I am wrong, and that there is some hidden genius of great calibre. For how could you influence Jupiter Olympius and make him give three and a half columns to pure science? The old fogies will think the world will come to an end. Well, whoever the man is, he has done great service to the cause, far more than by a dozen reviews in common periodicals. The grand way he soars above common religious prejudices, and the admission of such views into the "Times", I look at as of the highest importance, quite independently of the mere question of species. If you should happen to be ACQUAINTED with the author, for Heaven-sake tell me who he is?
My dear Huxley, yours most sincerely, C. DARWIN.
[It is impossible to give in a short space an adequate idea of Mr. Huxley's article in the "Times" of December 26. It is admirably planned, so as to claim for the 'Origin' a respectful hearing, and it abstains from anything like dogmatism in asserting the truth of the doctrines therein upheld. A few passages may be quoted:--"That this most ingenious hypothesis enables us to give a reason for many apparent anomalies in the distribution of living beings in time and space, and that it is not contradicted by the main phenomena of life and organisation, appear to us to be unquestionable." Mr. Huxley goes on to recommend to the readers of the 'Origin' a condition of "thatige Skepsis"--a state of "doubt which so loves truth that it neither dares rest in doubting, nor extinguish itself by unjustified belief." The final paragraph is in a strong contrast to Professor Sedgwick and his "ropes of bubbles" (see below). Mr. Huxley writes: "Mr. Darwin abhors mere speculation as nature abhors a vacuum. He is as greedy of cases and precedents as any constitutional lawyer, and all the principles he lays down are capable of being brought to the test of observation and experiment. The path he bids us follow professes to be not a mere airy track, fabricated of ideal cobwebs, but a solid and broad bridge of facts. If it be so, it will carry us safely over many a chasm in our knowledge, and lead us to a region free from the snares of those fascinating but barren virgins, the Final Causes, against whom a high authority has so justly warned us."
There can be no doubt that this powerful essay, appearing as it did in the leading daily Journal, must have had a strong influence on the reading public.