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Letter 3439

Darwin, C. R. to Kingsley, Charles

6 Feb [1862]

    Summary Add

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    Comments on CK's letter [3426].

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    Identifies species of pigeon shot by party.

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    On CK's "grand and awful" notion of genealogy of man, CD recalls how revolting was the thought that his ancestors must have been like the Fuegians. His present belief that they were hairy beasts is less revolting. "It is a very curious subject, that of the old myths; but you naturally with your classical & old-world knowledge lay more stress on such beliefs … Very odd those accounts in India of the little hairy men! It is very true what you say about the high races of man, when high enough, replacing & clearing off lower races. In 500 years how the Anglo-Saxon race will have spread & exterminated whole nations; & in consequence how much the Human race, viewed as a unit, will have risen in rank. Man is clearly an old-world, not an American species; & if ever intermediate forms between him & unknown Quadramana [Quadrumana] are found, I should expect they would be found in tropical countries, probably islands. But what a chance if ever they are discovered; look at the French beds with the celts, & no fragment of a human bone.– It is indeed, as you say absurd to expect a history of the early stages of man in prehistoric times".

Transcription

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Feb. 6th

My dear Mr Kingsley

I thank you sincerely for your letter.— I have been glad to hear about the Duke of Argyle, for ever since the Glasgow Brit. Assoc. when he was President, I have been his ardent admirer. What a fine thing it is to be a Duke: nobody but a Duke, the first time he geologised would have found a new formation; & the first time he botanised a new lichen to Britain.—

With respect to the pigeons, your remarks show me clearly (without seeing specimens, though I thank you for the kind offer) that the birds shot were the Stock Dove or C. Oenas, long confounded with the Cushat & Rock-pigeon. It is in some respects intermediate in appearance & habits; as it breeds in holes in trees & in rabbit-warrens. It is so far intermediate that it quite justifies what you say on all the forms being descendants of one.—

That is a grand & almost awful question on the genealogy of man to which you allude. It is not so awful & difficult to me, as it seems to be most, partly from familiarity & partly, I think, from having seen a good many Barbarians. I declare the thought, when I first saw in T. del Fuego a naked painted, shivering hideous savage, that my ancestors must have been somewhat similar beings, was at that time as revolting to me, nay more revolting than my present belief that an incomparably more remote ancestor was a hairy beast. Monkeys have downright good hearts, at least sometimes, as I could show, if I had space. I have long attended to this subject, & have materials for a curious essay on Human expression, & a little on the relation in mind of man to the lower animals. How I shd. be abused if I were to publish such an essay! I hope & rather expect that Sir C. Lyell will enter in his new Book on the relations of men & other animals; but I do not know what his recent intentions are.

It is a very curious subject, that of the old myths; but you naturally with your classical & old-world knowledge lay more stress on such beliefs, than I do with all my profound ignorance. Very odd those accounts in India of the little hairy men! It is very true what you say about the higher races of men, when high enough, replacing & clearing off the lower races. In 500 years how the Anglo-saxon race will have spread & exterminated whole nations; & in consequence how much the Human race, viewed as a unit, will have risen in rank. Man is clearly an old-world, not an American, species; & if ever intermediate forms between him & unknown Quadrumana are found, I should expect they would be found in Tropical countries, probably islands. But what a chance if ever they are discovered: look at the French beds with the celts, & no fragment of a human bone.— It is indeed, as you say absurd to expect a history of the early stages of man in prehistoric times.—

I hope that I have not wearied you with my scribbling & with many thanks for your letter, I remain with much respect— | Yours sincerely | Charles Darwin

As you seem to care for all departments of n. History, I send a pamphlet with a rather curious physiological case.—

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 3439.f1
    The year is established by the relationship to the letter from Charles Kingsley, 31 January 1862.
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    f2 3439.f2
    Letter from Charles Kingsley, 31 January 1862.
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    f3 3439.f3
    CD was in Glasgow in September 1855 and heard George Douglas Campbell, eighth duke of Argyll deliver the presidential address at the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science; CD reported that he spoke `excellently' (Correspondence vol. 5, letter to W. D. Fox, 14 October [1855]). Argyll subsequently discussed Origin in an address delivered to the Royal Society of Edinburgh (G. D. Campbell 1860). CD told Thomas Henry Huxley that, though the address had been `highly complimentary', he did not think much of Argyll's argument (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to T. H. Huxley, 1 April [1861]).
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    f4 3439.f4
    CD refers to the discovery by one of the duke of Argyll's tenants on the Isle of Mull of Tertiary fossil leaf-beds intercalated among basalt lavas. Argyll communicated the discovery to the British Association meeting in 1850 (G. D. Campbell 1850), and he described the deposits in his first and, according to contemporaries, his most important scientific paper (G. D. Campbell 1851; see also I. E. Campbell ed. 1906, 1: 349--54). The reference to a `new lichen' has not been traced.
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    f5 3439.f5
    See letter from Charles Kingsley, 31 January 1862. CD had finished his chapters on doves and pigeons for Variation in June 1860 (see Correspondence vol. 8, Appendix II); he described Columba oenas in Variation 1: 183.
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    f6 3439.f6
    See letter from Charles Kingsley, 31 January 1862.
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    f7 3439.f7
    For CD's earliest descriptions of the Fuegians encountered on the Beagle voyage, see `Beagle' diary, pp. 121--43, and Correspondence vol. 1, letter to Caroline Darwin, 30 March -- 12 April 1833, and letter to J. S. Henslow, 11 April 1833. See also Journal of researches, pp. 227--30.
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    f8 3439.f8
    See also Autobiography, p. 130. CD recorded observations on the expression of the emotions in humans and on the relationship of the human mind to that of animals in his early notebooks (see Notebooks), and had also recorded the emotional reactions of his own children (see Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix III). He published his detailed observations on human and animal mental processes and emotional expression in Descent and Expression. CD's notes for these works are in DAR 80--6 and DAR 191, and in DAR 53, DAR 189, and DAR 195, respectively.
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    f9 3439.f9
    Charles Lyell was preparing a book on the antiquity of the human species (C. Lyell 1863a).
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    f10 3439.f10
    See letter from Charles Kingsley, 31 January 1862.
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    f11 3439.f11
    The reference is to the gravel beds in the vicinity of Abbeville, France, in which stone implements or celts had been found in association with the fossil bones of extinct animals. Their discoverer, Jacques Boucher de Perthes, had claimed that both the artefacts and the beds in which they were found were of great antiquity, and many eminent geologists, including Hugh Falconer, Joseph Prestwich, and Charles Lyell, had visited the site in recent years to investigate his claims (see Correspondence vol. 8 and Grayson 1985, pp. 185--90). CD cited these discoveries in Origin 3d ed., p. 18, as evidence for the great age of the human species.
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    f12 3439.f12
    CD probably refers to his paper `Dimorphic condition in Primula', although Kingsley's name does not appear on the presentation list (see Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix III).
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