Comments on Richard Owen's review of the Origin [in Edinburgh Rev. 111 (1860): 487–532]. Considers Owen unfair to CD and most ungenerous toward Hooker.
Expects Sedgwick to be fierce against him. Sedgwick also misrepresented CD in his Spectator review [24 Mar and 7 Apr 1860].
Compares natural selection to the undulatory theory of light as a hypothesis explaining a large number of facts.
Down Bromley Kent
My dear Henslow
Very many thanks about the Elodea,—which case interests me much. I wrote to
Owen is indeed very spiteful. He misrepresents & alters what I say very unfairly. But I think his conduct towards Hooker most ungenerous, viz to allude to his Essay, & not to notice the magnificent results on geographical distribution.
The Londoners says he is mad with envy because my book has been talked about: what a strange man to be envious of a naturalist like myself, immeasurably his inferior! From one conversation with him I really suspect he goes at the bottom of his hidden soul as far as I do!—
I wonder whether Sedgwick noticed in the Edinburgh Review, about the ``Sacerdotal
revilers''—so the revilers are tearing each other
to pieces.— I suppose Sedgwick will be very fierce against me at
the Phil. Soc.— Judging from his notice in the
Spectator he will misrepresent me, but it will certainly be unintentionally
done.— In a letter to me & in the above
notice he talks much about my departing from the spirit of inductive
philosophy.— I wish, if you ever talk on subject
to him, you would ask him whether it was not allowable (& a great step) to
invent the undulatory theory of Light—ie hypothetical undulations in a
hypothetical substance the ether. And if this be so, why may I not invent hypothesis of
natural selection (which from analogy of domestic productions, & from what we
know of the struggle of existence & of the variability of organic beings, is in
some very slight degree in itself probable) & try whether this hypothesis of
natural selection does not explain (as I think it does) a large number of facts in
succession—classification—morphology, embryology &c.
&c.— I sh
Pray forgive me & my pen for running away with me & scribbling on at such length.—
My dear old Master | Yours affect
I can perfectly understand Sedgwick or any one saying that nat. selection does not explain large classes of facts; but that is very different from saying that I depart from right principles of scientific investigation.—
- f1 2791.f1Letter to William Marshall, 9 April .
- f2 2791.f2Richard Owen had reviewed Hooker 1859 as well as Origin in [R. Owen] 1860a.
- f3 2791.f3A reference to the statement in [R. Owen] 1860a, p. 511:
We have no sympathy whatever with Biblical objectors to creation by law, or with the sacerdotal revilers of those who would explain such law.
- f4 2791.f4Adam Sedgwick was preparing a public address on Origin to be delivered before the Cambridge Philosophical Society. See letter from J. S. Henslow, 5 May 1860, and letter from J. S. Henslow to J. D. Hooker, 10 May 1860.
- f5 2791.f5[Sedgwick] 1860.
- f6 2791.f6See Correspondence vol. 7, letter from Adam Sedgwick, 24 November 1859.