Letter icon
Letter 2837A

Lyell, Charles to Darwin, C. R.

19 June 1860

    Summary Add

  • +

    Sees Huxley's deification of matter and force as a reaction to the way Paley likened the "Unknown Cause" to the mind of man so that new causes could be introduced. If you wish to retain free will which is inconsistent with constant law, Paley's position is better. Free will is a recently introduced cause on our planet. It cannot be fully attributed to secondary causes.

  • +

    What CD says about the variation in gestation of the hound is remarkable.

  • +

    The astonishing fertile rabbit–hare hybrids encourage belief in Pallas's theory of the multiple origin of dogs.

  • +

    Does the regularity of gestation in man indicate a common stock?

  • +

    Hooker's observation of absence of forms peculiar to extra-Arctic Greenland indicates that the time since the beginning of the glacial period is brief in geological terms.

Transcription

19. June 18601

Did I refer you to a passage which I told Huxley I objected to in his review, in the Westr p. 546. ``Matter & Force are the two names of the one artist who fashions the living as well as the lifeless.'' This I presume is a specimen of the reaction against what you call Paley & Co who in search of some higher power outside of the machinery called Nature by us & capable it is thought, of adding new causes to it from time to time, such as vital powers introduced into our inorganic planet & then instinct & then reason have instead of deifying Matter & Force or Natural Selection likened the Unknown Cause to the Mind & Soul of Man, this being the loftiest conception, they could form, they have striven to intensify man's intellectual & moral attributes & seem to me far more philosophical in so doing & to keep nearest to analogy. For the free will of Man which however inconsistent with belief in constant laws you must admit or give up your source of all knowledge & ignore the constitution of your own mind, must I think have some counterpart in the Deity or First Cause according to the highest conception I can make of him or it. Volition or Free Will in Man is a new cause which in the time of the Deinosaurians had no action, did not interfere with the course of vital action in the globe. The idea of such an anomaly being ever allowed to play such pranks as the breeder has played & to sport with God's creatures & the laws of reproduction so as to perpetuate pouter pigeons, & other monstrosities, would have been scouted by a philosopher of the Wealden Period, if you can suppose some human reasoner disembodied, or not yet in corporeal existence, to have studied the organic phenomena as displayed so long before the human era. If you say that in such matters we are beyond our depth this objection naturally arises when too much is attributed to any secondary cause whether it be such a ``unity in duality'' as Huxley's ``one artist,'' or your ``Selection''. But perhaps I misunderstood Huxley.

What you say of the gestation of the hound is very remarkable. How comes it that in the human race there is such regularity?

Why have we not had years ago many specimens of the fertile hybrids called leporines between the rabbit & hare in the Zool. gardens? Do speak to the Council. Lewes talks of a thousand having been sold from the Angoulˆeme stock. It is the greatest fact yet asserted. Can it be true? It would help one to believe Pallas' theory of the multiple origin of dogs from jackall, wolf &c. which I suppose I must reluctantly embrace. Perhaps variation in time of gestation is a consequence of such multiple origin whereas if Man belongs to a species which came from one original stock, (or one area) & is not a mixture of several species this might explain why the Negro & European have the same period of gestation. (Have they?)

Has Hooker written to you about the absence of peculiar forms in extra-arctic Greenland & his explanation? It confirms my notion that the glacial period tho` it may have required half a million of years was a brief episode in the last geological epoch, not above 1 or 2 per cent of difference in the shells—so that the species making power had not time to produce new plants.

    Footnotes Add

  • +
    f1 2837a.f1
    The text has been taken from a copy in Lyell's scientific journal with the heading `Letter to Darwin'. It is also printed in Wilson ed. 1970, pp. 449--50.
  • +
    f2 2837a.f2
    [T. H. Huxley] 1860b.
  • +
    f3 2837a.f3
    See letter to Charles Lyell, 17 June [1860].
  • +
    f4 2837a.f4
    See the letter to Charles Lyell, 17 June [1860], in which CD states that the gestation period of dogs varies widely.
  • +
    f5 2837a.f5
    CD was a fellow of the Zoological Society of London, which owned and managed the zoological gardens in Regent's Park.
  • +
    f6 2837a.f6
    See letter to Charles Lyell, 18 May [1860]. Lyell refers to Lewes 1860, p. 604.
  • +
    f7 2837a.f7
    Pallas 1780. For Lyell's concern about this question, see Correspondence vol. 7, especially the letters written in October and November 1859.
  • +
    f8 2837a.f8
    Joseph Dalton Hooker read a paper on the flora of Greenland and Arctic America at a meeting of the Linnean Society on 21 June 1860 (Hooker 1861). The paper did not, however, include his explanation for the absence of peculiar forms.
Maximized view Print letter