Agassiz is strongly opposed to Origin, but CD thinks K. E. von Baer may come out in support.
Discusses the possibility of favourable monstrosities in the light of Theophilus Parsons' essay ["On the origin of species", Am. J. Sci. 2d ser. 30 (1860): 1–13].
Down Bromley Kent
My dear Gray
On my return home from Sussex about a week ago I found several articles sent by
you.— The 1
I am surprised that Agassiz did not succeed in writing something better. How absurd
that logical quibble;—``if species do not exist how can they vary?'' As if anyone doubted their temporary existence. How coolly he
assumes that there is some clearly defined distinction between individual differences
& varieties. It is no wonder that a man who calls identical forms when found in
two countries distinct species, cannot find variation in nature. Again how unreasonable to suppose that domestic varieties selected by man for
his own fancy (p. 147) sh
If you see Prof. Parsons, will you thank him for the extremely liberal & fair
spirit in which his Essay is written.— Please tell
him that I reflected much on chance of favourable monstrosities (ie great &
sudden variations) arising. I have, of course, no objection to
them; indeed it w
Since I wrote last I received your note of July 10
My poor daughter is decidedly better, though still very ill & weak. But I hope the organic mischief suspected by the Doctors, consequent on the fever, is slowly righting. There was fluid in the abdomen, but this seems to have absorbed; but there is still some hardness. We have had a miserable time of it.—
Farewell my kind friend | Yours most truly | C. Darwin
- f1 2896.f1Dated by the reference to reviews of Origin.
- f2 2896.f2[Gray] 1860b, pp. 109--16. There is an annotated copy in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection--CUL.
- f3 2896.f3Athenæum, 4 August 1860, p. 161. See letters to Asa Gray, 22 July , and to J. D. Hooker, 7 August .
- f4 2896.f4Agassiz 1860, p. 143. The sentence reads: `If species do not exist at all, as the supporters of the transmutation theory maintain, how can they vary? and if individuals alone exist, how can the differences which may be observed among them prove the variability of species?' In his copy of the review (Darwin Pamphlet Collection--CUL), CD marked the passage and added in pencil: `exist only temporarily'.
- f5 2896.f5See Winsor 1979.
- f6 2896.f6See letter from T. H. Huxley, 6 August 1860.
- f7 2896.f7Wagner 1860b. See letter to T. H. Huxley, 8 August  and n. 5.
- f8 2896.f8Theophilus Parsons, professor of law at Harvard University, reviewed Origin in the American Journal of Science and Arts (Parsons 1860). Gray apparently sent the review to CD: there is an annotated copy in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection--CUL.
- f9 2896.f9In his review, Parsons asked whether it was necessary for CD to limit himself to small, gradual changes in organisms (Parsons 1860, p. 2). CD marked the passage in his copy and added: `I c
d. find no facts— Monsters apt to be sterile Such fine gradation in many groups—look at shells in closely related formations—look at recent species.—'
- f10 2896.f10Origin, p. 392.
- f11 2896.f11Roderick Impey Murchison's expertise was primarily in structural geology. The passage in which Parsons quoted Murchison is marked in CD's copy with two exclamation marks (Parsons 1860, p. 5).
- f12 2896.f12Parsons cited a remark from Murchison in which he suggested that fossil flying fishes (Pterichthys) and `the curious genus Cephalaspis form the connecting links between crustaceans and fishes.' (Parsons 1860, p. 5).
- f13 2896.f13Gray had sent CD information from Jeffries Wyman on the black pigs of Florida (see letter to Asa Gray, 3 April ). The `story' was given in Origin 3d ed., p. 12.
- f14 2896.f14See letter from Jeffries Wyman, [c. 15] September 1860.
- f15 2896.f15See letter from Asa Gray, [10 July 1860].