Believes natural selection will become recognised as an established truth in science, though it will shock the ideas of many men.
My dear Sir
Once commenced to read the ‘Origin’ I could not rest till I had galloped through the whole. I shall now begin to re-read it more deliberately. Meantime I am tempted to write you the first impressions, not doubting that they will in the main be the permanent impressions.
A quarter century ago you & I must have been in something like the same state of mind, on the main question. But you were able to see & work out the quo modo of the succession, the all-important thing, while I failed to grasp it. I send by this post a little controversial pamplet of old date,—Combe & Scott. If you will take the trouble to glance at the passages scored on the margin, you will see that, a quarter century ago, I was also one of the few who then doubted the absolute distinctness of species & special creations of them. Yet I, like the rest, failed to detect the quo modo which was reserved for your penetration to discover, & by your discernment to apply.
You answered my query about the hiatus between Satyrus & Homo as was expected. The obvious explanation really never occurred to me till some months after I had read the papers in Linnean Proceedings; & I feel no doubt that its then occurrence was due to those papers. The first species of Fere-homo would soon make direct & exterminating war upon his Infra-homo cousins. The gap would thus be made, & then go on increasing into the present enormous & still-widening hiatus.— But how greatly this, with your chronology of animal life, will shock the ideas of many men!
very sincerely | Hewett C. Watson
C. Darwin | Esq
- f1 2540.f1Watson wrote a long letter to CD on these points in January 1860 (see Correspondence vol. 8, letter from H. C. Watson, [3? January 1860]).
- f2 2540.f2Charles Lyell discussed the nature and geographical distribution of species, including theories of the transmutation of species, in the first part of Book III of his Principles of geology (C. Lyell 1830–3). He incorporated new material in successive editions of the work, the most recent being the ninth edition published in 1853.
- f3 2540.f3Watson 1836. A copy of the pamphlet, annotated by Watson as mentioned in the letter, is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Watson was a prominent advocate of phrenology and a strong supporter of George Combe's writings. In this pamphlet, Watson criticised William Scott's attack on Combe (see Scott 1836).
- f4 2540.f4Darwin and Wallace 1858. Watson also believed in species transmutation. His comments in the letter indicate that CD's remarks in Origin about the absence of transitional forms explained, to Watson's satisfaction, the apparent gap between Simia satyrus, the orang-utan of Borneo, and humans.