I am glad I was not in Oxford, for I should have been overwhelmed, with my [health] in its present state.

CHARLES DARWIN TO T.H. HUXLEY. Sudbrook Park, Richmond, July 3rd [1860].

...I had a letter from Oxford, written by Hooker late on Sunday night, giving me some account of the awful battles which have raged about species at Oxford. He tells me you fought nobly with Owen (but I have heard no particulars), and that you answered the B. of O. capitally. I often think that my friends (and you far beyond others) have good cause to hate me, for having stirred up so much mud, and led them into so much odious trouble. If I had been a friend of myself, I should have hated me. (How to make that sentence good English, I know not.) But remember, if I had not stirred up the mud, some one else certainly soon would. I honour your pluck; I would as soon have died as tried to answer the Bishop in such an assembly...

[On July 20th, my father wrote to Mr. Huxley:

"From all that I hear from several quarters, it seems that Oxford did the subject great good. It is of enormous importance, the showing the world that a few first-rate men are not afraid of expressing their opinion."]

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER. [July 1860].

...I have just read the 'Quarterly.' ('Quarterly Review,' July 1860. The article in question was by Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, and was afterwards published in his "Essays Contributed to the 'Quarterly Review,' 1874." The passage from the 'Anti-Jacobin' gives the history of the evolution of space from the "primaeval point or punctum saliens of the universe," which is conceived to have moved "forward in a right line ad infinitum, till it grew tired; after which the right line, which it had generated, would begin to put itself in motion in a lateral direction, describing an area of infinite extent. This area, as soon as it became conscious of its own existence, would begin to ascend or descend according as its specific gravity would determine it, forming an immense solid space filled with vacuum, and capable of containing the present universe."

The following (page 263) may serve as an example of the passages in which the reviewer refers to Sir Charles Lyell:--"That Mr. Darwin should have wandered from this broad highway of nature's works into the jungle of fanciful assumption is no small evil. We trust that he is mistaken in believing that he may count Sir C. Lyell as one of his converts. We know, indeed, that the strength of the temptations which he can bring to bear upon his geological brother...Yet no man has been more distinct and more logical in the denial of the transmutation of species than Sir C. Lyell, and that not in the infancy of his scientific life, but in its full vigour and maturity." The Bishop goes on to appeal to Lyell, in order that with his help "this flimsy speculation may be as completely put down as was what in spite of all denials we must venture to call its twin though less instructed brother, the 'Vestiges of Creation.'"

With reference to this article, Mr. Brodie Innes, my father's old friend and neighbour, writes:--"Most men would have been annoyed by an article written with the Bishop's accustomed vigour, a mixture of argument and ridicule. Mr. Darwin was writing on some parish matter, and put a postscript--'If you have not seen the last 'Quarterly,' do get it; the Bishop of Oxford has made such capital fun of me and my grandfather.' By a curious coincidence, when I received the letter, I was staying in the same house with the Bishop, and showed it to him. He said, 'I am very glad he takes it in that way, he is such a capital fellow.'") It is uncommonly clever; it picks out with skill all the most conjectural parts, and brings forward well all the difficulties. It quizzes me quite splendidly by quoting the 'Anti-Jacobin' versus my Grandfather. You are not alluded to, nor, strange to say, Huxley; and I can plainly see, here and there, --'s hand. The concluding pages will make Lyell shake in his shoes.

The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Volume II Page 56

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book