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Letter 3715

Claparède, J. L. R. A. E. to Darwin, C. R.

6 Sept 1862

    Summary Add

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    Acknowledges CD's approval of his review of Origin in Revue Germanique [16 (1861): 523–59; 17 (1861): 232–63]. Praises natural selection;

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    criticises C.-A. Royer's [French] translation.

Transcription

Cologny près Genève

6 Sept. 62.

Monsieur!

J'ai vraiment honte de prendre si tardivement la plume pour vous remercier de l'aimable lettre dont vous avez bien voulu m'honorer. J'ai été malade pendant sept à huit mois à la suite d'une fièvre typhoïde et j'ai dû laisser en conséquence une foule de choses en arrière. Une de mes premières lectures a cependant été votre ouvrage sur la fécondation des Orchidées dont les admirables contrivances ont excité à un haut degré mon intérêt.— Je suis heureux que l'analyse de votre théorie de l'élection naturelle, insérée par moi dans la Revue Germanique, ait reçu votre approbation. Je l'ai rédigée avec tout l'amour que peut faire naître une conception, qui est à mes yeux le plus grand pas en avant dont les Sciences Naturelles puissent se vanter à notre époque et pourtant je pense avoir examiné vos idées sans passion, laissant à la porte tout enthousiasme.

Vous me remerciez aussi, Monsieur, du concours que j'ai prêté à Mlle. Royer. J'aurais préféré que ce détail vous fût resté inconnu, car, je dois le dire, j'ai regretté de voir votre ouvrage traduit par cette personne pour laquelle je professe d'ailleurs beaucoup d'estime. Sa traduction est lourde, indigeste, parfois incorrecte et les notes qui l'accompagnent ne seront certainement point de votre goût. J'ai usé de toute mon influence auprès de Mlle. Royer pour la décider à se borner au simple rôle de traducteur, mais mes efforts n'ont pas été couronnés de succès. Je dois dire cependant à l'éloge de Mlle. Royer qu'elle a supprimé sans exception toutes les notes que j'ai qualifiées d'absurdes et de contre sens scientifiques. En revanche elle en a imprimé un très grand nombre (la majeure partie de celles qui illustrent son traduction) qui ne m'avaient point été soumises.

Mlle. Royer est une personne singulière, dont les allures ne sont point celles de son sexe. Toutefois l'éducation semi-masculine qu'elle s'est donnée à force de travail a été puisée avant tout à une école philosophique exclusivement déductive et sa manière de penser s'en ressent. Elle avait imaginé, en traduisant votre ouvrage, d'y introduire des corrections de son propre chef, corrections qui vous auraient étrangement et désagréablement surpris. J'ai cependant réussi à la détourner de cette manière de faire en lui montrant que <    > manquer de délicatesse à votre égard.— <La> nature de ces corrections était vraiment interessante en montrant combien les méthodes d'un esprit comme celui de Mlle. Royer sont opposées à la marche des Sciences naturelles. Je vous en citerai deux exemples.

Dans le chapitre sur l'instinct des abeilles, Mlle. Royer avait remplacé partout dans sa traduction les termes de pyramide trièdre (pour la base des alvéoles) par celui de pyramide hexaèdre, parceque affirmait-elle les abeilles ne pouvaient pas terminer un prisme hexagone autrement que par un point hexagonal. L'idée ne lui était point venue, avant d'introduire une modification aussi capitale, de jeter elle-même un coup d'oeil sur un rayon de miel.

Le second exemple est de même force. Mlle. Royer n'avait imaginé rien de mieux que de faire descendre dans la traduction tous les poissons électriques d'un ancêtre commun ayant un organe électrique. Comme elle n'a pas de notions de Zoologie non plus que d'anatomie comparée, j'ai eu beaucoup de peine à lui faire comprendre que vous aviez eu vos raisons pour ne pas émettre une idée aussi simple. J'ai cependant réussi à la convaincre tant bien que mal par une description des organes électriques de la torpille, du gymnote, du malaptérure, du mormyre et des nerfs que s'y rendent que ces organes bien qu'identiques au point de vue du tissu ne sont cependant point morphologiquement homologues.

<Q>uelqu'imparfaite que soit donc la traduction d<e> Mlle. Royer, quelque déplacées que soient certaines parties de sa préface et de ses notes, je m'applaudis cependant d'avoir empêché qu'elle défigurât plus complètement votre œuvre. Mais si le grand ouvrage sur les espèces dont vous nous annoncez la publication pour un avenir un peu éloigné vient, comme je l'espère, à être publié, je lui souhaite un traducteur plus versé dans les sciences naturelles et moins désireux de faire remarquer sa propre personalité!

J'ai pris la liberté de vous adresser il y a quelques temps un Mémoire sur l'évolution des Araignées et un peu plus tard un autre sur les vers Oligochètes. Tous deux, le premier surtout traitent des questions d'homologies morphologiques qui je l'espère auront quelque intérêt pour vous

Votre bien sincèrement dévoué | Ed. Claparède

Translation

Cologny near Geneva

6 Sept. 62.

Sir,

I am truly ashamed to take up my pen so tardily in order to thank you for the pleasant letter with which you were kind enough to honour me. I have been ill for seven or eight months following an attack of typhoid fever and consequently I have fallen behind in a great number of things. One of the first things I read, however, was your work on the fertilisation of orchids, the wonderful contrivances of which greatly excited my interest.— I am pleased that the analysis of your theory of natural selection that I inserted in the Revue Germanique has met with your approval. I published it with all the love generated by a conception that is in my eyes the greatest step forward of which the natural sciences can boast in our era and yet I believe I have examined your ideas dispassionately, casting aside all partiality.

You also thank me, Sir, for my assistance to Mlle. Royer. I would have preferred you not to know about this, for I have to say that I am sorry to see your work translated by this person for whom I otherwise profess considerable admiration. Her translation is heavy, indigestible, sometimes incorrect and the notes that accompany it will certainly not be to your taste. I have used all my influence on Mlle. Royer to persuade her to confine herself purely to the role of translator, but my efforts have not been rewarded with success. I must however say in Mlle. Royer's favour that she has removed without exception all the notes that I judged absurd and scientifically meaningless. On the other hand she has printed a very large number (most of those that elucidate her translation) that had not been submitted to me at all.

Mlle. Royer is a singular individual, whose attractions are not those of her sex. However, the semi-masculine education that she has given herself by means of hard work has primarily derived from an exclusively deductive school of philosophy and her mode of thinking reflects this. In translating your work, she had the idea of introducing corrections devised by herself, corrections that would have strangely and disagreeably surprised you. However I have succeeded in dissuading her from doing this by showing her that <    > was disrespectful to you.— <The> nature of these corrections was truly interesting in showing how the methods of a mind like that of Mlle. Royer are opposed to the progress of the natural sciences. Let me cite two examples.

In the chapter on the instincts of bees, Mlle. Royer throughout her translation had replaced the term three-sided pyramid (for the base of the honeycomb cells) with that of six-sided pyramid, because she believed bees could not complete a hexagonal prism other than from a hexagonal base. It had simply not occurred to her, before she introduced such a significant amendment, to glance at a honeycomb.

The second example is of the same nature. Mlle. Royer had conceived nothing better in her translation than to trace the descent of all electric fish from a common ancestor with an electric organ. Given that she has no more knowledge of zoology than she has of comparative anatomy, I have had much difficulty in getting her to understand that you had your reasons for not expressing an idea as simple as that. I did however succeed in convincing her more or less with a description of the electric organs of the torpedo, the gymnotus, the malapterurus, the mormyrus, and the nerves that make their way there that these organs, although histologically identical, are, however, certainly not morphologically homologous.

So, however imperfect Mlle. Royer's translation may be, and however out of place certain portions of her preface and notes, I congratulate myself nevertheless for having prevented her from disfiguring your work more completely. But if the great work on species whose publication you envisage in the not-distant future comes, as I hope, to be published, I would wish it to have a translator better versed in the natural sciences and less desirous of bringing their own personality to the fore.

Some time ago I took the liberty of sending you a memoir on the evolution of spiders and a little later another on oligochetes. Both, especially the former consider problems of morphological homologies that I hope will be of interest to you.

Your obedient servant | Ed. Claparède

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 3715.f1
    For a translation of this letter, see Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix I.
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    f2 3715.f2
    See letter to Edouard Claparède, [c. 16 April 1862]. However, either the extant draft of that letter is incomplete, or CD must have sent a subsequent letter to Claparède in which he thanked him for assisting Royer (see n. 5, below).
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    f3 3715.f3
    Claparède's name appears on CD's presentation list for Orchids (see Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix IV).
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    f4 3715.f4
    CD praised Claparède 1861 in his letter to Edouard Claparède, [c. 16 April 1862]. There is an annotated copy of this review in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection--CUL.
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    f5 3715.f5
    Clémence Auguste Royer translated and edited the first French edition of Origin, which was published on 31 May 1862 (Royer trans. 1862 and Bibliothèque Générale de l'Imprimerie et de la Librairie 2d ser. 6 (pt 3): 341).
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    f6 3715.f6
    As a young woman, Royer had obtained certificates to teach music and languages, and, after reading works by radical Enlightenment authors, devoted herself to acquiring a knowledge of science and philosophy; having educated herself through a rigorous programme of reading, she instituted in 1858 a course in philosophy for women, extending it in 1859 to include science (Harvey 1987, pp. 150--2).
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    f7 3715.f7
    CD discussed the cell-making instinct of hive-bees in chapter seven of the third edition of Origin, entitled `Instinct' (pp. 245--56); he referred to `the three-sided pyramidal bases of the cell of the hive-bee' on page 246. In Royer trans. 1862, the passage is translated accurately (p. 323).
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    f8 3715.f8
    CD discussed the origin of electrical organs in fish in a chapter of Origin entitled `Difficulties on theory', pointing out that they occurred `in only about a dozen fishes', several of which were `widely remote in their affinities' (Origin 3d ed., p. 212). Consequently, CD argued, the occurrence of electrical organs in these fish could not be explained as a product of inheritance from a common ancestor, but might be explained as the result of independent adaptations (Origin 3d ed., p. 213). Royer added a lengthy footnote to CD's discussion of this question in Royer trans. 1862, pp. 277 n.--279 n. She began by suggesting that all the ancient ancestral forms from which the existing species of electric fish were descended, themselves possessed electrical organs, but that the organs had only been preserved in certain lines. However, Royer also noted that a number of serious objections could be raised against this hypothesis, including the considerable differences between the various electrical organs and the very distant affinities of the existing species of electric fish. In consequence, she proposed an explanation for the independent origin of electrical organs, based on the localised concentration of the capability of all muscle tissue to produce weak electric currents.
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    f9 3715.f9
    In the introduction to Origin, CD described the book as an abstract of a larger work on natural selection, which he anticipated would take him `two or three more years to complete' (p. 1). He intended to publish the work in three parts (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to John Murray, 22 December [1859]); however, the only part ever completed was Variation, published in 1868. The remainder of the first draft of CD's `big book' on species was published posthumously as Natural selection.
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    f10 3715.f10
    Claparède 1862a and 1862b. There are lightly annotated copies of these works in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection--CUL.
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