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Letter 2544

Huxley, T. H. to Darwin, C. R.

23 Nov 1859

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    Has just finished Origin. CD has demonstrated a true cause for the production of species.

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    CD has loaded himself with unnecessary difficulty in adopting natura non facit saltum.

Transcription

Jermyn S.

Nov. 23d | 1859

My dear Darwin

I finished your book yesterday a lucky examination having furnished me with a few hours of continuous leisure—

Since I read Von Bär's Essays nine years ago no work on Natural History Science I have met with has made so great an impression upon me & I do most heartily thank you for the great store of new views you have given me

Nothing I think can be better than the tone of the book—it impresses those who know nothing about the subject—

As for your doctrines I am prepared to go to the Stake if requisite in support of Chap. IX. & most part of Chaps. X, XI XII & Chap XIII contains much that is most admirable, but on one or two points I enter a caveat until, I can see further into all sides of this question

As to the first four chapters I agree thoroughly & fully with all the principles laid down in them— I think you have demonstrated a true cause for the production of species & have thrown the onus probandi that species did not arise in the way you suppose on your adversaries—

But I feel that I have not yet by any means fully realized the bearings of those most remarkable & original Chapt III IV & V and I will write no more about them just now—

The only objections that have occurred to me are 1st that you have loaded yourself with an unnecessary difficulty in adopting ‘Natura non facit saltum’ so unreservedly. I believe she does make small jumps—and 2nd it is not clear to me why if external physical conditions are of so little moment as you suppose variation should occur at all—

However, I must read the book two or three times more before I presume to begin picking holes—

I trust you will not allow yourself to be in any way disgusted or annoyed by the considerable abuse & misrepresentation which unless I greatly mistake is in store for you— Depend upon it you have earned the lasting gratitude of all thoughtful men— And as to the curs which will bark & yelp—you must recollect that some of your friends at any rate are endowed with an amount of combativeness which (though you have often & justly rebuked it) may stand you in good stead—

I am sharpening up my claws & beak in readiness

Looking back over my letter it really expresses so feebly all I think about you & your noble book that I am half ashamed of it—but you will understand that like the Parrot in the story ‘I think the more’

Ever yours faithfully | T H Huxley

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 2544.f1
    In 1853, Huxley published an English translation of selections from two of Karl Ernst von Baer's works, including Scholion V of his Ueber die Entwickelungsgeschichte der Thiere (1828) ([T. H. Huxley] trans. 1853). For Huxley's indebtedness to von Baer's embryological interpretation of the type concept, see L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 163 and di Gregorio 1984, pp. 26–34.
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    f2 2544.f2
    CD had criticised Huxley for his attacks on distinguished naturalists (Correspondence vol. 6, letters to J. D. Hooker 9 May [1856] and 21 [May 1856]). See also letter to T. H. Huxley, 25 November [1859].
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    f3 2544.f3
    The story has not been identified. Stevenson's book of quotations, classical and modern gives George Herbert, Jacula Prudentum (1640) as the source of ‘Say nothing but think the more.’
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