I have just sent in my name for 20 pounds to the Linnaean Society, but I must confess I have done it with heavy groans, whereas I daresay you gave your 20 pounds like a light-hearted gentleman...

P.S. Wollaston speaks strongly about the intermediate grade between two varieties in insects and mollusca being often rarer than the two varieties themselves. This is obviously very important for me, and not easy to explain. I believe I have had cases from you. But, if you believe in this, I wish you would give me a sentence to quote from you on this head. There must, I think, be a good deal of truth in it; otherwise there could hardly be nearly distinct varieties under any species, for we should have instead a blending series, as in brambles and willows.

LETTER 49. TO J.D. HOOKER. July 13th, 1856.

What a book a devil's chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering, low, and horribly cruel works of nature! With respect to crossing, from one sentence in your letter I think you misunderstand me. I am very far from believing in hybrids: only in crossing of the same species or of close varieties. These two or three last days I have been observing wheat, and have convinced myself that L. Deslongchamps is in error about impregnation taking place in closed flowers; i.e., of course, I can judge only from external appearances. By the way, R. Brown once told me that the use of the brush on stigma of grasses was unknown. Do you know its use?...

You say most truly about multiple creations and my notions. If any one case could be proved, I should be smashed; but as I am writing my book, I try to take as much pains as possible to give the strongest cases opposed to me, and often such conjectures as occur to me. I have been working your books as the richest (and vilest) mine against me; and what hard work I have had to get up your New Zealand Flora! As I have to quote you so often, I should like to refer to Muller's case of the Australian Alps. Where is it published? Is it a book? A correct reference would be enough for me, though it is wrong even to quote without looking oneself. I should like to see very much Forbes's sheets, which you refer to; but I must confess (I hardly know why) I have got rather to mistrust poor dear Forbes.

There is wonderful ill logic in his famous and admirable memoir on distribution, as it appears to me, now that I have got it up so as to give the heads in a page. Depend on it, my saying is a true one--viz. that a compiler is a great man, and an original man a commonplace man. Any fool can generalise and speculate; but oh, my heavens, to get up at second hand a New Zealand Flora, that is work...

And now I am going to beg almost as great a favour as a man can beg of another: and I ask some five or six weeks before I want the favour done, that it may appear less horrid. It is to read, but well copied out, my pages (about forty!!) on Alpine floras and faunas, Arctic and Antarctic floras and faunas, and the supposed cold mundane period. It would be really an enormous advantage to me, as I am sure otherwise to make botanical blunders. I would specify the few points on which I most want your advice. But it is quite likely that you may object on the ground that you might be publishing before me (I hope to publish in a year at furthest), so that it would hamper and bother you; and secondly you may object to the loss of time, for I daresay it would take an hour and a half to read. It certainly would be of immense advantage to me; but of course you must not think of doing it if it would interfere with your own work.

I do not consider this request in futuro as breaking my promise to give no more trouble for some time.

From Lyell's letters, he is coming round at a railway pace on the mutability of species, and authorises me to put some sentences on this head in my preface.

I shall meet Lyell on Wednesday at Lord Stanhope's, and will ask him to forward my letter to you; though, as my arguments have not struck him, they cannot have force, and my head must be crotchety on the subject; but the crotchets keep firmly there.

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book