It is strange that Agassiz, who is for the "sanctity of species", should favour Pallas's view of hybrid origin of domestic dog.
CL has not meant to advocate successive creation of types but to question assumption that all mammals descended from single stock. Why should a Triassic reptile or bird not move towards mammalian form because an ancestral marsupial has appeared? Believes recent appearance of rodents and bats in Australia explains their lack of development.
Can CD supply a reference on plant extinction on St Helena?
Believes marsupials better adapted for surviving drought in Australia than higher mammals.
Will not press argument about lack of development of mammalian forms on islands, but CD should note objection.
Does CD's belief in multiple origin of dogs affect faith in single primates in different regions?
Does time lapse between putative independently descended mammalian forms mean first form will "keep down" later incipient one? Thus Homo sapiens has prevented improvement of other anthropomorphs; bats and rodents on islands would prevent improvement of lower forms into mammalian.
Sept 18 1860
I found yr letter here & thank you for intending to send me Asa Gray's last article which I will return without delay as also the M.S. on dogs. Agassiz in some one of his Essays leans to Pallas' views, which always struck me as being rash in him who is for the sanctity of species, whereas if any thing could show Nature's entire indifference in regard to the violation of such supposed sanctity it would be that those now existing should be of multiple origin.
You need not be afraid of my starting any theory of successive creation of types. I
have never had any leaning towards a compromise and thought Carpenter very inconsistent
in going so very far with you, & then concluding that there was probably in the
case of Man, an exception, whereas there would be no end of all the
But what I asked or intended to ask in my last letter was different—perhaps
you meant to reply that you had no fixed opinion on the subject—but I wish to
be sure.— Can we assume as at all probable that all mammalia came from one
original Stock instead of several distinct mammalian-types each developed by small
& successive modifications out of lower ornithic reptilian or perhaps
monotrematous prototypes. It would greatly simplify matters if single &
exclusive areas could be assigned or even speculated upon, on some even slight data, or
if single periods could be proposed as those of the first coming in of mammalia. But as
I understand your views this is not very probable. If for example we found before the
triassic microlestes, some monotremes in Permian or
I have always expected to find mammals intermediate between Stonesfield & Eocene, but I also looked for them before Stonesfield. When therefore they turned up both in Trias & in Purbeck, it agreed with my anticipations. The Triassic surprised some people more than the Purbeck, for they held the doctrine, propounded by you in p. 316, once begun the group is continued till it dies out.
I wish you could give the slightest reason why it should not begin more than once in more than one place. I incline to think it has not, but why? according to the principle of selection why when once in any one quarter of the globe at any one period the step in advance has been taken are the inferior types elsewhere to be checked, & not to presume to work up into any genus of corresponding grade & class? A frog has a vast deal of one type in him even the double occipital condyle, to say nothing of his limbs & digits & the absence of a tail, tho` he is low in the reptilian scale, (but it is true, he does not as yet go far back in time) but take some triassic reptile or bird I cannot see why they are never to be modified into something higher because a microlestes has entered on the stage. Two independent chains of development would not be discordant with your machinery of selection?
I am not aware of any fossil bats or rodents in Australian caves, so the small antiquity of rodentia may be a reason for their not having given origin as yet to Gyrencephala & does there not seem some connection between the low grade of Lyssencephala as the only occupants of that vast Australian continent?
Can you not refer me to some book or paper where I can find how many plants may have been extirpated in St Helena & may I not presume that as many or more endemic insects have been annihilated there besides some land-shells?
As to Australia, I cannot help thinking that the Marsupials must in the long run (if
Man were away) be best fitted for that continent & that after European or
Asiatic Gyrencephala had been introduced & then left to themselves, they
I am not going to press the objection about the non-variation, adaptation &
advance of bats & rodents, so as to destroy the weight of
I think I asked you once before whether the admission of the multiple origin of dogs
To shorten correspondence I will imagine the best answer I can for you & beg you to try & strengthen it.
It is so many millions to one against the right variation offering itself in the right
place & time that many geol
- f1 2920c.f1The text of the letter has been taken from a copy in Lyell's scientific journal. It is also printed in Wilson ed. 1970, pp. 474--7. The entry is headed: `Copy of letter to C. Darwin Bonn Sept 18 1860'.
- f2 2920c.f2See the letter to Charles Lyell, 11 August , in which CD offered to send Lyell his manuscript on the origin of domestic dogs. A further letter, in which he mentioned sending the second part of [Gray] 1860b, has not been found. It is not discussed in the letter to Charles Lyell, 12 September .
- f3 2920c.f3Louis Agassiz discussed the possible origin of dogs in the first volume of the Contributions to the natural history of the United States of America, where he stated (Agassiz 1857--62, 1: 164):
where is the unprejudiced naturalist who in our days would dare to maintain: 1st, that it is proved that all the domesticated varieties of sheep, of goats, of bulls, of llamas, of horses, of dogs, of fowls, etc., are respectively derived from one common stock; 2d, that the supposition that these varieties have originated from the complete amalgamation of several primitively distinct species is out of the question.Moreover, Agassiz asserted that such proof, were it ever obtained, was not relevant to the problem of defining species. Pyotr Simon Pallas believed that domestic animals such as dogs were derived from several different species (Pallas 1780, pp. 84, 100). See Correspondence vol. 7, letters to Charles Lyell, 25 October  and 31 [October 1859], and letters from Charles Lyell, 28 October 1859 and 25 [November 1859].
- f4 2920c.f4[Carpenter] 1860b, pp. 403--4. In his review of Origin, William Benjamin Carpenter stated that he was `strongly convinced' of the truth of natural selection, but that it seemed to him probable that `each of the great types' owed their origin to creative forces. `So, too, there seems to us so much in the psychical capacity of Man, however degraded, to separate him from the nearest of the Mammalian class, that we can far more easily believe him to have originated by a distinct creation, than suppose him to have had a common ancestry with the Chimpanzee, and to have been separated from it by a series of progressive modifications.' ([Carpenter] 1860b, p. 404). CD's annotated copy of the review is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection--CUL.
- f5 2920c.f5Lyell described the mammalian remains from the Upper Trias and Purbeck shale beds in a Supplement to his Manual of elementary geology (C. Lyell 1857, pp. 17--24). These new fossils were even older than those of the Stonesfield slate formations.
- f6 2920c.f6Microlestes remains in Triassic deposits in Germany were the earliest mammalian fossils to have been found. The discovery of Microlestes remains in England had also recently been reported (see C. Moore 1858 and 1860).
- f7 2920c.f7In Richard Owen's classification of the Mammalia, the Gyrencephala included all the higher mammals except for man; the Lissencephala comprised the lower placental mammals, including rodents, bats, edentates, and insectivores. Lyell apparently refers to Owen's lowest division, the Lyencephala, which included the monotremes and marsupials predominantly found in Australia. See R. Owen 1859a, pp. 24--6, 33.
- f8 2920c.f8R. Owen 1846a, p. 197.
- f9 2920c.f9Lyell refers to G¨oppert 1842. See the letter to Charles Lyell, 23 [September 1860], in which CD asks Lyell for further information on this point, and Lyell's response in the letter from Charles Lyell, 25 September 1860.
- f10 2920c.f10Lyell probably refers to a remark made by Agassiz in a letter prefixed to Nott and Gliddon eds. 1857, p. xiv: `I have already alluded, on another occasion, to the identity of color of the Malays and orangs: may we not now remember, also, a similar resemblance between some of the species of Hylobates with the Negrillos and Telingans?' In the same letter, Agassiz referred to his earlier essay on `The natural provinces of the animal world and their relation to the different types of man' (in Nott and Gliddon 1854), but that work does not contain the allusion mentioned.