WCP1840

Letter (WCP1840.1730)

[1]

Down Bromley Kent

Dec. 22/[18]57

My dear Sir

I thank you for your letter of Sept. 27th.—1 I am extremely glad to hear that you are attending to distribution in accordance with theoretical ideas. I am a firm believer, that without speculation there is no good & original observation. Few travellers have <at>tended to such points as you are now at work on; & indeed the whole subject of distribution of animals is dreadfully behind that of Plants.—2 You say that you have been somewhat surprised at no notice having been taken of your paper in the Annals:3 I cannot say that I am; [2] for so very few naturalists care for anything beyond the mere description of species. But you must not suppose that your paper has not been attended to: two very good men, Sir C[harles]. Lyell4 & Mr E[dward]. Blyth5 at Calcutta specially called my attention to it. Though agreeing with you on your conclusion[s] in that paper, I believe I go much further than you; but it is too long a subject to enter on my speculative notions.— I have not yet seen your paper on distribution of animals in the Arru Isl[an]ds.6 I shall read it [3] with the utmost interest; for I think that the most interesting quarter of the whole globe in respect to distribution; & I have long been very imperfectly trying to collect data for the Malay archipelago.— I shall be quite prepared to subscribe to your doctrine of subsidence: indeed from the quite independent evidence of the Coral Reefs I coloured my original map in my Coral volume of the Arru Isl[an]d. as one of subsidence, but got frightened & left it uncoloured.7— But I can see that you are inclined to go much further than I am in regard to the former connections of oceanic islands with continent: [4] Ever since poor E[dward]. Forbes8 propounded this doctrine, it has been eagerly followed; & Hooker9 elaborately discusses the former connections of all the Antarctic isl[an]d & New Zealand & S. America.— About a year ago I discussed this subject much with Lyell & Hooker (for I shall have to treat of it) & wrote out my arguments in opposition; but you will be glad to hear that neither Lyell or Hook<er> thought much of my arguments: nevertheless for once in my life I dare withstand the almost preternatural sagacity of Lyell.— You ask about Land-shells on islands far distant from [5] continents: Madeira has a few identical with those of Europe, & here the evidence is really good as they some of them are sub-fossil. In the Pacific isl[an]ds. there are cases, of identity, which I cannot at present persuade myself to account for by introduction through [one illeg. word crossed out] man’s agency; although Dr. Aug[ustus]. Gould10 has conclusively shown that many land-shells have there been distributed over the Pacific by man’s agency. These cases of introduction are most plaguing. Have you not found it so, in the Malay archipelago? it [sic] has seemed to me in the lists of mammals of Timor & other islands, that several in all probability have been naturalised.

[6] Since writing before, I have experimentised a little on some land-mollusca & have found sea-water not quite so deadly as I anticipated. You ask whether I shall discuss "man"; — I think I shall avoid whole subject, as so surrounded with prejudices, though I fully admit that it is the highest & most interesting problem for the naturalist.— My work, on which I have now been at work more or less for 20 years, will not fix or settle anything; but I hope it will aid by giving a large collection of facts with one definite end: I [7] get on very slowly, partly from ill-health, partly from being a very slow worker.— I have got about half written; but I do not suppose I shall publish under a couple of years. I have now been three whole months on one chapter on Hybridism!

I am astonished to see that you expect to remain out 3 or 4 years more: what a wonderful deal you will have seen; & what interesting areas, the grand Malay Archipelago & the richest parts of S. America! I infinitely admire & honour your zeal & courage in the good cause of Natural [8] Science; & you have my very sincere & cordial good wishes for success of all kinds; & may all your theories succeed, except that on oceanic islands, on which subject I will do battle to the death[.]

Pray believe me. | My dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin [signature]

See ARW to Charles Darwin [27 September 1857] (WCP4080.4027).
"acknoledge" [archaic form of acknowledge] is added as annotation written vertically in the lower left-hand margin of page 1.
Wallace, A.R. 1855. On the Law Which Has Regulated the Introduction of New Species. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 16 (2nd s.): 184-196 (Sept. 1855: no. 93, 2nd s.)
Lyell, Charles (1797-1875). British lawyer and geologist.
Blyth, Edward (1810-1873). British zoologist.
Wallace, A. R. 1857. On the Natural History of the Aru Islands. Annals & Magazine of Natural History. 20: 473-485.
Darwin, C. 1842. Coral Reefs: The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs. Being the First Part of the Geology of the Voyage of the Beagle, Under the Command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, During the Years 1832 to 1836. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1842.
Forbes Edward (1815-1854), British natural historian.
Hooker, Joseph Dalton (1817-1911). British botanist and explorer.
Gould, Augustus Addison (1805-1866). American physician and invertebrate zoologist specialising in molluscs.

Published letter (WCP1840.5923)

[1] [p. 131]

LETTER II

C. DARWIN TO A. R. WALLACE

Down, Bromley, Kent. December 22, 1857.

My dear Sir-, — I thank you for your letter of Sept. 27th. I am extremely glad to hear that you are attending to distribution in accordance with theoretical ideas. I am a firm believer that without speculation there is no good and original observation. Few travellers have attended to such points as you are now at work on; and indeed the whole subject of distribution of animals is dreadfully be- hind that of plants. You say that you have been somewhat [2] surprised at no notice having been taken of your paper in the Annals. I cannot say that I am; for so very few naturalists care for anything beyond the mere description of species. But you must not suppose that your paper has not been attended to: two very good men, Sir C. Lyell, and Mr E. Blyth at Calcutta, specially called my attention to it. Though agreeing with you on your conclusions in the paper, I believe I go much further than you; but it is too long a subject to enter on my speculative notions. I have not yet seen your paper on distribution of animals in the Aru Islands: I shall read it with the utmost interest; for I think that the most interesting quarter of the whole globe in respect to distribution; and I have long been very imperfectly trying to collect data from the Malay Archipelago. I shall be quite prepared to subscribe to your doctrine of subsidence: indeed from the quite independent evidence of the coral reefs I coloured my original map in my Coral volumes colours (sic) of the Aru Islands as one of subsidence, but got frightened and left it uncoloured. But I can see that you are inclined to go much further than I am in regard to the former connection of oceanic islands with continents. Ever since poor E. Forbes propounded this doctrine, it has been eagerly followed; and Hooker elaborately discusses the former connection of all the Antarctic islands and New Zealand and South America. About a year ago I discussed the subject much with Lyell and Hooker (for I shall have to treat of it) and wrote out my arguments in opposition; but you will be glad to hear that neither Lyell nor Hooker thought much of my arguments; nevertheless, for once in my life I dare withstand the almost preternatural sagacity of Lyell. You ask about land-shells on islands far distant from continents: Madeira has a few identical with those of Europe, and here the evidence is really good, as some of them are sub-fossil. In the Pacific [3] [p. 133] islands there are cases of identity, which I cannot at present persuade myself to account for by introduction through man's agency; although Dr Aug. Gould has conclusively shown that many land-shells have thus been distributed over the Pacific by man's agency. These cases of introduction are most plaguing. Have you not found it so in the Malay Archipelago? It has seemed to me, in the lists of mammals of Timor and other islands, that several in all probability have been naturalised. Since writing before, I have experimented a little on some land-molluscs, and have found sea-water not quite so deadly as I anticipated. You ask whether I shall discuss Man: I think I shall avoid the whole subject, as so surrounded with prejudices, though I fully admit that it is the highest and most interesting problem for the naturalist. My work, on which I have now been at work more or less for twenty years, will not fix or settle anything; but I hope it will aid by giving a large collection of facts with one definite end. I get on very slowly, partly from ill-health, partly from being a very slow worker. I have got about half written; but I do not suppose I shall publish under a couple of years. I have now been three whole months on one chapter on hybridism!

I am astonished to see that you expect to remain out three or four years more: what a wonderful deal you will have seen; and what an interesting area, the grand Malay Archipelago and the richest parts of South America! I infinitely admire and honour your zeal and courage in the good cause of natural science; and you have my very sincere and cordial good wishes for success of all kinds; and may all your theories succeed, except that on oceanic islands, on which subject I will do battle to the death. — Pray believe me, my dear Sir, yours very sincerely, | C. DARWIN

Published letter (WCP1840.6887)

[1] [p. 217]

DOWN, BROMLEY, KENT.

Dec. 22, 1857

MY DEAR SIR,

I thank you for your letter of Sept. 27. I am extremely glad to hear that you are attending to distribution in accordance with theoretical ideas. I am a firm believer that without speculation there is no good and original observation. Few travellers have attended to such points as you are now at work on; and indeed the whole subject of distribution of animals is dreadfully behind that of Plants. You say that you have been somewhat surprised at no notice having been taken of your paper in the Annals*: I cannot say that I am; for so very few naturalists care fur anything beyond the mere description of species. But you must not suppose that your paper has not been attended to: two very good men, Sir C. Lyell and Mr E. Blyth at Calcutta, specially called my attention to it. Though agreeing with you on your conclusions in that paper, I believe I go much further than you; but it is too long a subject to enter on [2] [p. 218] my speculative notions. I have not yet seen your paper on distribution of animals in the Anu Islands: I shall read it with the UTMOST interest; for I think that the most interesting quarter of the whole globe in respect to distribution; and I have long been very imperfectly trying to collect data from the Malay Archipelago. I shall he quite prepared to subscribe to your doctrine of subsidence: indeed from the quite independent evidence of the Coral Reefs I coloured my original map in my Coral volume of the Anu Island as one of subsidence, but got frightened and left it uncoloured. But I can see that you are inclined to go much further than I am in regard to the former connection of oceanic islands with continents Ever since poor E. Forbes propounded the doctrine, it has been eagerly followed; and Hooker elaborately discusses the former connection of all the Antarctic islands and New Zealand and S. America. About a year ago I discussed the subject much with Lyell and Hooker (for I shall have to treat of it) and wrote out my arguments in opposition; but you will be glad to hear that neither Lyell or Hooker thought much of my arguments: nevertheless for once in my life I dare withstand the almost preternatural sagacity of Lyell. You ask about Land-shells on islands far distant from continents: Madeira has a few identical with those of Europe, and here the evidence is really good as some of them are sub-fossil. In the Pacific islands there are cases of identity, which I cannot at present persuade myself to account for by introduction through man's agency; although Dr Aug. Gould has conclusively shown that many land-shells have thus been distributed over the Pacific by man's agency. These cases of introduction are most plaguing. Have you not found it so in the Malay Archipelago? It has seemed to me in the lists of Mammals of Timor and other Islands, that several in all [3] [p. 219] probability have been naturalised. Since writing before I have experimented a little on some land-mollusca and have found sea-water not quite so deadly as I anticipated. You ask whether I shall discuss 'man'; I think I shall avoid whole subject, as so surrounded with prejudices, though I fully admit that it is the highest and most interesting problem for the naturalist. My work, on which I have now been at work more or less for 20 years, will not fix or settle anything; but I hope it will aid by giving a large collection of facts with one definite end: I get on very slowly, partly from ill-health, partly from being a very slow worker. I have got about half written; but I do not suppose I shall publish under a couple of years. I have now been three whole months on one chapter on Hybridisrn!

I am astonished to see that you expect to remain out 3 or 4 years more: what a wonderful deal you will have seen; and what interesting areas, the grand Malay Archipelago and the richest parts of S. America! I infinitely admire and honour your zeal and courage in the good cause of Natural Science; and you have my very sincere and cordial good wishes for success of all kinds; and may all your theories succeed, except that on oceanic islands, on which subject I will do battle to the death.

Pray believe me, | My dear Sir, | Yours very sincerely, | C. DARWIN.

Please cite as “WCP1840,” in Beccaloni, G. W. (ed.), Ɛpsilon: The Alfred Russel Wallace Collection accessed on 3 July 2022, https://epsilon.ac.uk/view/wallace/letters/WCP1840