...I think it was a great pity that Huxley wasted so much time in the lecture on the preliminary remarks;...but his lecture seemed to me very fine and very bold. I have remonstrated (and he agrees) against the impression that he would leave, that sterility was a universal and infallible criterion of species.
You will, I am sure, make a grand discussion on man. I am so glad to hear that you and Lady Lyell will come here. Pray fix your own time; and if it did not suit us we would say so. We could then discuss man well...
How much I owe to you and Hooker! I do not suppose I should hardly ever have published had it not been for you.
[The lecture referred to in the last letter was given at the Royal Institution, February 10, 1860. The following letter was written in reply to Mr. Huxley's request for information about breeding, hybridisation, etc. It is of interest as giving a vivid retrospect of the writer's experience on the subject.]
CHARLES DARWIN TO T.H. HUXLEY. Ilkley, Yorks, November 27 .
My dear Huxley,
Gartner grand, Kolreuter grand, but papers scattered through many volumes and very lengthy. I had to make an abstract of the whole. Herbert's volume on Amaryllidaceae very good, and two excellent papers in the 'Horticultural Journal.' For animals, no resume to be trusted at all; facts are to be collected from all original sources. (This caution is exemplified in the following extract from an earlier letter to Professor Huxley:--"The inaccuracy of the blessed gang (of which I am one) of compilers passes all bounds. MONSTERS have frequently been described as hybrids without a tittle of evidence. I must give one other case to show how we jolly fellows work. A Belgian Baron (I forget his name at this moment) crossed two distinct geese and got SEVEN hybrids, which he proved subsequently to be quite sterile; well, compiler the first, Chevreul, says that the hybrids were propagated for SEVEN generations inter se. Compiler second (Morton) mistakes the French name, and gives Latin names for two more distinct geese, and says CHEVREUL himself propagated them inter se for seven generations; and the latter statement is copied from book to book.") I fear my MS. for the bigger book (twice or thrice as long as in present book), with all references, would be illegible, but it would save you infinite labour; of course I would gladly lend it, but I have no copy, so care would have to be taken of it. But my accursed handwriting would be fatal, I fear.
About breeding, I know of no one book. I did not think well of Lowe, but I can name none better. Youatt I look at as a far better and MORE PRACTICAL authority; but then his views and facts are scattered through three or four thick volumes. I have picked up most by reading really numberless special treatises and ALL agricultural and horticultural journals; but it is a work of long years. THE DIFFICULTY IS TO KNOW WHAT TO TRUST. No one or two statements are worth a farthing; the facts are so complicated. I hope and think I have been really cautious in what I state on this subject, although all that I have given, as yet, is FAR too briefly. I have found it very important associating with fanciers and breeders. For instance, I sat one evening in a gin palace in the Borough amongst a set of pigeon fanciers, when it was hinted that Mr. Bull had crossed his Pouters with Runts to gain size; and if you had seen the solemn, the mysterious, and awful shakes of the head which all the fanciers gave at this scandalous proceeding, you would have recognised how little crossing has had to do with improving breeds, and how dangerous for endless generations the process was. All this was brought home far more vividly than by pages of mere statements, etc. But I am scribbling foolishly. I really do not know how to advise about getting up facts on breeding and improving breeds. Go to Shows is one way. Read ALL treatises on any ONE domestic animal, and believe nothing without largely confirmed. For you