He admits statements rather rashly, as I dare say I do. I see only one sentence as yet at all approaching natural selection.

There is a notice of me in the penultimate number of 'All the Year Round,' but not worth consulting; chiefly a well-done hash of my own words. Your last note was very interesting and consolatory to me.

I have expressly stated that I believe physical conditions have a more direct effect on plants than on animals. But the more I study, the more I am led to think that natural selection regulates, in a state of nature, most trifling differences. As squared stone, or bricks, or timber, are the indispensable materials for a building, and influence its character, so is variability not only indispensable, but influential. Yet in the same manner as the architect is the ALL important person in a building, so is selection with organic bodies...

[The meeting of the British Association at Oxford in 1860 is famous for two pitched battles over the 'Origin of Species.' Both of them originated in unimportant papers. On Thursday, June 28, Dr. Daubeny of Oxford made a communication to Section D: "On the final causes of the sexuality of plants, with particular reference to Mr. Darwin's work on the 'Origin of Species.'" Mr. Huxley was called on by the President, but tried (according to the "Athenaeum" report) to avoid a discussion, on the ground "that a general audience, in which sentiment would unduly interfere with intellect, was not the public before which such a discussion should be carried on." However, the subject was not allowed to drop. Sir R. Owen (I quote from the "Athenaeum", July 7, 1860), who "wished to approach this subject in the spirit of the philosopher," expressed his "conviction that there were facts by which the public could come to some conclusion with regard to the probabilities of the truth of Mr. Darwin's theory." He went on to say that the brain of the gorilla "presented more differences, as compared with the brain of man, than it did when compared with the brains of the very lowest and most problematical of the Quadrumana." Mr. Huxley replied, and gave these assertions a "direct and unqualified contradiction," pledging himself to "justify that unusual procedure elsewhere" ('Man's Place in Nature,' by T.H. Huxley, 1863, page 114.), a pledge which he amply fulfilled. (See the 'Nat. Hist. Review,' 1861.) On Friday there was peace, but on Saturday 30th, the battle arose with redoubled fury over a paper by Dr. Draper of New York, on the 'Intellectual development of Europe considered with reference to the views of Mr. Darwin.'

The following account is from an eye-witness of the scene.

"The excitement was tremendous. The Lecture-room, in which it had been arranged that the discussion should be held, proved far too small for the audience, and the meeting adjourned to the Library of the Museum, which was crammed to suffocation long before the champions entered the lists. The numbers were estimated at from 700 to 1000. Had it been term-time, or had the general public been admitted, it would have been impossible to have accommodated the rush to hear the oratory of the bold Bishop. Professor Henslow, the President of Section D, occupied the chair and wisely announced in limine that none who had not valid arguments to bring forward on one side or the other, would be allowed to address the meeting: a caution that proved necessary, for no fewer than four combatants had their utterances burked by him, because of their indulgence in vague declamation.

"The Bishop was up to time, and spoke for full half-an-hour with inimitable spirit, emptiness and unfairness. It was evident from his handling of the subject that he had been 'crammed' up to the throat, and that he knew nothing at first hand; in fact, he used no argument not to be found in his 'Quarterly' article. He ridiculed Darwin badly, and Huxley savagely, but all in such dulcet tones, so persuasive a manner, and in such well-turned periods, that I who had been inclined to blame the President for allowing a discussion that could serve no scientific purpose now forgave him from the bottom of my heart.

The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Volume II Page 54

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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