I should have much liked to have met you in London, but I cannot leave home, as my wife is recovering from a rather sharp fever attack, and I am myself slaving to finish my S. American Geology (21/2. "Geological Observations in South America" (London), 1846.), of which, thanks to all Plutonic powers, two-thirds are through the press, and then I shall feel a comparatively free man. Have you any thoughts of Southampton? (21/3. The British Association met at Southampton in 1846.) I have some vague idea of going there, and should much enjoy meeting you.
LETTER 22. TO J.D. HOOKER. Shrewsbury [end of February 1846].
I came here on account of my father's health, which has been sadly failing of late, but to my great joy he has got surprisingly better...I had not heard of your botanical appointment (22/1. Sir Joseph was appointed Botanist to the Geological Survey in 1846.), and am very glad of it, more especially as it will make you travel and give you change of work and relaxation. Will you some time have to examine the Chalk and its junction with London Clay and Greensand? If so our house would be a good central place, and my horse would be at your disposal. Could you not spin a long week out of this examination? it would in truth delight us, and you could bring your papers (like Lyell) and work at odd times. Forbes has been writing to me about his subsidence doctrines; I wish I had heard his full details, but I have expressed to him in my ignorance my objections, which rest merely on its too great hypothetical basis; I shall be curious, when I meet him, to hear what he says. He is also speculating on the gulf-weed. I confess I cannot appreciate his reasoning about his Miocene continent, but I daresay it is from want of knowledge.
You allude to the Sicily flora not being peculiar, and this being caused by its recent elevation (well established) in the main part: you will find Lyell has put forward this very clearly and well. The Apennines (which I was somewhere lately reading about) seems a very curious case.
I think Forbes ought to allude a little to Lyell's (22/2. See Letter 19.) work on nearly the same subject as his speculations; not that I mean that Forbes wishes to take the smallest credit from him or any man alive; no man, as far as I see, likes so much to give credit to others, or more soars above the petty craving for self-celebrity.
If you come to any more conclusions about polymorphism, I should be very glad to hear the result: it is delightful to have many points fermenting in one's brain, and your letters and conclusions always give one plenty of this same fermentation. I wish I could even make any return for all your facts, views, and suggestions.
LETTER 23. TO J.D. HOOKER.
(23/1. The following extract gives the germ of what developed into an interesting discussion in the "Origin" (Edition I., page 147). Darwin wrote, "I suspect also that some cases of compensation which have been advanced and likewise some other facts, may be merged under a more general principle: namely, that natural selection is continually trying to economise in every part of the organism." He speaks of the general belief of botanists in compensation, but does not quote any instances.)
Have you ever thought of G. St. Hilaire's "loi de balancement" (23/2. According to Darwin ("Variation of Animals and Plants," 2nd edition, II., page 335) the law of balancement was propounded by Goethe and Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1772-1844) nearly at the same time, but he gives no reference to the works of these authors. It appears, however, from his son Isidore's "Vie, Travaux etc., d'Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire," Paris 1847, page 214, that the law was given in his "Philosophie Anatomique," of which the first part was published in 1818. Darwin (ibid.) gives some instances of the law holding good in plants.), as applied to plants? I am well aware that some zoologists quite reject it, but it certainly appears to me that it often holds good with animals.