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Letter 2077

Darwin, C. R. to Lyell, Charles

13 Apr [1857]

    Summary Add

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    CD returns a letter from Wollaston.

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    Although opposed to the Forbesian doctrine [of continental extension] as a general rule, CD would have no objection to its being proved in some cases. Does not think Wollaston has proved it; nor can anyone until more is known about the means of distribution of insects – but the identity of the two faunas is certainly interesting.

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    His health is very poor and his "everlasting species-Book" quite overwhelms him with work. It is beyond his powers, but he hopes to live to finish it.


Down Bromley Kent

Ap. 13th

My dear Lyell

I have been particularly glad to see Wollaston's letter. The news did not require any breaking to me; for though as a general rule I am much opposed to the Forbesian continental extensions, I have no objection whatever to its being proved in some cases. Not that I can admit that W. has by any means proved it; nor, I think, can anyone else, till we know something of the means of distribution of insects.— But the close similarity or identity of the two Faunas is certainly very interesting.— I am extremely glad to hear that your Madeira paper is making progress; & I shall be most curious to see. I shd be infinitely obliged for a separate copy, whenever printed.—

My health has been very poor of late, & I am going in a week's time for a fortnight of hydropathy & rest.— My everlasting species-Book quite overwhelms me with work— It is beyond my powers, but I hope to live to finish it.—

Farewell | My dear Lyell | Ever yours | C. Darwin

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 2077.f1
    Dated by the reference to CD's intention to visit a hydropathic establishment ‘in a week's time’ (see n. 5, below).
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    f2 2077.f2
    The letter from Thomas Vernon Wollaston to Lyell has not been found, but its subject matter may be inferred from a passage in the introduction to Wollaston 1857. Having stated that the Coleoptera of Porto Santo and the Dezertas had more species in common than they did with Madeira as a whole, Wollaston wrote (Wollaston 1857, p. xv): And, without attempting to solve a geological problem, upon which Sir Charles Lyell will probably be able in a short time to throw considerable light, or to add any real evidence either in favour or against the existence of an ancient connective land; it does certainly appear to me, judging simply from Coleopterous data, as if the insect-population had possessed wonderful facilities, at some remote period, of migrating to and fro (as though along a slightly elevated mountain-ridge) between Porto Santo and the Dezertas, and in like manner … between the latter rocks and the eastern extremity of Madeira.
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    f3 2077.f3
    Both Lyell and Wollaston supported the idea of specific centres of creation and the land-bridge doctrine as an explanation for geographical distribution. See letters to Charles Lyell, 16 [June 1856] and 25 June [1856], and letters from Charles Lyell, 17 June 1856, and from T. V. Wollaston, [27 June 1856].
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    f4 2077.f4
    See letter to Charles Lyell, 10 November [1856], n. 4.
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    f5 2077.f5
    CD left for Edward Wickstead Lane's hydropathic establishment at Moor Park, Surrey, on 22 April and returned to Down on 6 May 1857 (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
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