Is pleased GHKT goes a little way with him.
Has rectified in foreign editions of Origin his omission of an explanation of the failure of many forms to progress;
also has discussion of beauty in MS. Does GHKT really believe Diatomaceae, for instance, were created beautiful so that man, millions of generations later, should admire them through a microscope? CD attributes most of these structures to unknown laws of growth; useful structures are accounted for by natural selection.
Down Bromley Kent
My dear M
I thank you very sincerely for your letter & am much pleased that you go
a little way with me. You will think it presumptuous, but I am
well convinced from my own mental experience, that if you keep the subject at all before
your mind, you will ultimately go further. The present vol. is mere abstract
& there are great omissions— one main one, which I have rectified in
the foreign Editions is an explanation (which has satisfied Lyell, who made same
objection with you) why many forms do not progress or advance.
(& I quite agree about some retrograding)— I have also
M.S. discussion on beauty—but do you really suppose that for instance
Diatomaceæ were created beautiful that man after millions of generations
I rather doubt whether you see how far, as it seems to me, the argument from Homology & Embryology may be carried. I do not look at this as mere analogy. I would as soon believe that fossil shells were mere mockeries of real shells, as that the same bones in foot of dog & wing of bat—or the similar embryo of mammal & bird—had not a direct signification & that signification can be unity of descent or nothing. But I venture to repeat how much pleased I am that you go some little way with me. I find a number of naturalists do the same, & as their halting places are various & I must think arbitrary, I believe they will all go further. As for changing at once ones opinion; I would not value the opinion of a man who could do so: it must be a slow process.—
Thank you for telling me about the Lantana; & I
With hearty thanks for your letter | Believe me | Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin
- f1 2731.f1The year is given by the relationship to the letter from G. H. K. Thwaites, [14 February 1860].
- f2 2731.f2Letter from G. H. K. Thwaites, [14 February 1860].
- f3 2731.f3See letter to Charles Lyell, 18 [and 19 February 1860]. CD and Charles Lyell had discussed this topic during Lyell's recent visit to Down. Lyell recorded in his scientific journal (Wilson ed. 1970, p. 359):
Why so many simple beings still? Lamarck introd d. spontaneous generations, but Darwin's natural selection implies no innate tendency to perfection & development is necessary. Rhizopods, or infusoria, foraminifera, have remained for several geolog l. periods unchanged.
- f4 2731.f4Thwaites was an expert on the Diatomaceae. In Origin, p. 199, CD briefly discussed the question of beauty as it related to selection, stating that some naturalists `believe that very many structures have been created for beauty in the eyes of man, or for mere variety. This doctrine, if true, would be absolutely fatal to my theory.' Beautiful, though apparently useless, structures were discussed in detail in Descent.
- f5 2731.f5Thwaites had told CD that Lantana aculeata, a species of Verbenaceae introduced to Ceylon, was spreading rapidly there (see letter from G. H. K. Thwaites, [14 February 1860]. See also ML 1: 145 n. 2.
- f6 2731.f6The note is in DAR 48: 42. It is marked `Ch 8' in brown crayon, a reference to chapter 8 of CD's `big book' on species (Natural selection), `Difficulties on the theory'.