Discuss CL's suggestions for revisions to the chapter on the geological record [Origin, ch. 9].
Henry Holland's reaction to the book.
Comments on CL's work on flint tools of early men.
Describes at length a conversation with Owen concerning Origin. Notes "that at bottom he goes immense way with us", but emphasises Owen's unfriendly manner. Remarks that Owen accepted a relationship between bears and whales. "By Jove I believe he thinks a sort of Bear was the grandpapa of Whales!"
Has heard Herschel considered his book "the law of higgledy-piggledy".
Down Bromley Kent
My dear Lyell
Thank you much for your hints this morning received & all worked in. The Chapt. on Imperfection of G.R. was the first which I had to draw up merely from my copied notes: it was simply impossible for me to refer to works— About Missippi, I gave the 100,000 years from extract from De Verneuil or d'Archiac (I forget which) paper in the Bulletin, in which your estimate is not referred to.— I had fancied that your estimate was much less, & that was sole reason, why I put it in so doubtfully: I have now put it rather bolder.— My only wonder is that far more blunders of all kinds have not as yet been detected in all the latter chapters.— About richness of Purbeck beds, I have added for thickness of beds which was the idea in my mind, & I fancy true.
On Friday I had interview with Sir H. Holland, & found him going immense way with us (ie all Birds from one)—good, as showing how wind blows.—
I was excessively interested with your celts; would it not be worth while to enquire how those Esquimaux who have not iron cut holes in ice for catching fish & Seals, & dig snow-houses &c.— Could this explain your bigger tools? bearing in mind that these savages lived with glacial Elephant & Rhinoceros.—
I have very long interview with Owen, which perhaps you would like to hear about,
but please repeat nothing. Under garb of great civility, he was inclined to be
most bitter & sneering against me. Yet I infer from several expressions, that
at bottom he goes immense way with us.—
He was quite savage & crimson at my having put his name with defenders of
immutability. When I said that was my impression & that of others, for several
had remarked to me, that he would be dead against me: he then spoke of his own position
in science & that of all the naturalists in London, “with your
Huxleys”, with a degree of arrogance I never saw approached. He said to effect that my explanation was best ever published of
manner of formation of species. I said I was very glad to hear it. He took me up short,
“you must not at all suppose that I agree with in all
respects”.— I said I thought it no more likely that I
I asked him which he thought the weakest parts,—he said he had no particular
objection to any part.— He added in most sneering tone if I must criticise I
I am to send him the reference, & by Jove I believe he thinks a sort of Bear was the grandpapa of Whales! I do not know whether I have wearied you with these details which do not repeat to any one.— We parted with high terms of consideration; which on reflexion I am almost sorry for.— He is the most astounding creature I ever encountered.
Farewell my dear Lyell | Yours most gratefully | C. Darwin
I have heard by round about channel that Herschel says my Book “is the law of higgledy-pigglety”.— What this exactly means I do not know, but it is evidently very contemptuous.— If true this is great blow & discouragement.
- f1 2575.f1The date is the first Saturday following CD's visit to Lyell in London on 8 December 1859 en route to Down from Ilkley (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
- f2 2575.f2CD had not yet written the chapter on the imperfections of the geological record when he began to abstract the manuscript of Natural selection for publication as Origin. Under pressure to finish, CD did not augment his material by consulting additional printed works, as he did with the other chapters.
- f3 2575.f3CD refers to the slow rate of deposition of sediment at the mouth of the Mississippi River. In Origin, p. 284, he gave a figure of 600 feet in 100,000 years.
- f4 2575.f4CD refers to the French geologists Philippe Édouard Poulletier de Verneuil and Étienne Jules Adolphe Desmier de Saint-Simon d'Archiac. Although the exact reference has not been traced, CD probably refers to Verneuil 1847, in which the Mississippi deposits are discussed. CD may have confused Verneuil's paper with Lyell's account of the Mississippi delta. In a note in DAR 205.9: 220, dated August 1846, CD wrote ‘Lyell says he can prove delta of Mississippi is 100,000 old since post-pliocene.—’ This estimate was also given in C. Lyell 1849, 2: 250; the passage is marked in CD's copy in the Darwin Library–CUL.
- f5 2575.f5Lyell's point was presumably that his estimate was fairly precise and, if CD was attributing the remark to him, he would like the hesitant wording in Origin to be changed. In Origin 2d ed., p. 284, CD changed ‘This estimate may be quite erroneous’ to ‘This estimate has no pretension to strict exactness’ (Peckham ed. 1959, p. 482). In the fourth and subsequent editions, the sentence was omitted.
- f6 2575.f6Origin, p. 303. The sentence in Origin 2d ed., p. 304, reads: ‘And now one of the richest known accumulations of fossil mammals, for its thickness, belongs to the middle of the secondary series’ (see Peckham ed. 1959, p. 508).
- f7 2575.f7See letter from Henry Holland, 10 December .
- f8 2575.f8CD refers to Lyell's recent study of the antiquity of man. During a visit in July 1859 to sites in Amiens and Liège, Lyell collected a large number of shaped flints, which he and other geologists considered to be implements made by early man. Lyell reported on these finds at the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Aberdeen in September. CD and Lyell had probably discussed this work when they met on 8 December 1859.
- f9 2575.f9CD had sent Richard Owen a copy of Origin (letter to Richard Owen, 11 November ). Owen's position on transmutation was left ambiguous in his response (letter from Richard Owen,12 November 1859).
- f10 2575.f10Owen's relationship with Thomas Henry Huxley had deteriorated sharply since 1856 (see Correspondence vol. 6). Since that time, Huxley had published a number of harsh and thinly veiled attacks on Owen's scientific methodology. See A. Desmond 1982.
- f11 2575.f11Horace in the Satires II. 7. 86–7 described the Stoic wise man as ‘totus teres atque rotundus’ (‘complete, polished, and round’).
- f12 2575.f12Origin, p. 184. Owen ridiculed the bear–whale passage in his Edinburgh Review critique: ‘We look … in vain for any instance of hypothetical transmutation in Lamarck so gross as the one above cited’ ([R. Owen] 1860, p. 518). Lyell had suggested that CD omit this hypothetical case in the second edition of Origin (letter to Charles Lyell, 25 [November 1859]).
- f13 2575.f13CD sent a copy of Origin to John Frederick William Herschel in November (letter to J. F. W. Herschel, 11 November ).