The quantity of Darwin’s correspondence increased dramatically in 1868 due largely to his ever-widening research on human evolution and sexual selection.Darwin’s theory of sexual selection as applied to human descent led him to investigate aspects of the structure and behaviour of other animals more extensively, and to further this programme, he re-established links with specialists who had provided assistance. Considerable correspondence was generated by the long-awaited publication of Variation in animals and plants under domestication. Having been advertised by the publisher John Murray as early as 1865, the two-volume work appeared in January 1868.
In May 1856, Darwin began writing up his 'species sketch’ in earnest. During this period, his working life was completely dominated by the preparation of his 'Big Book', which was to be called Natural selection. Using letters are the main source for much of his research he amassed data, carried out breeding experiments, and struggled with statistical analysis. Several of his experiments: seeds would not germinate; beans failed to cross; newly-hatched molluscs refused to do what he hoped. Most significant in terms of Darwin’s future, however, was the beginning of his correspondence with Alfred Russel Wallace.
‘I am getting sick of insectivorous plants’ Darwin confessed in January1875. He had worked on the subject intermittently since 1859, and had been steadily engaged on a book manuscript for nine months. January also saw the conclusion of a bitter dispute with the zoologist St George Jackson Mivart. In April and early May, Darwin was occupied with a heated debate over vivisection, and at the end of the year, he campaigned vigorously on behalf of a young zoologist, whose blackballing by the Linnean Society infuriated him: ‘I have not felt so angry for years.’
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