Asks GHD to look in William Thomson's book [W. Thomson and P. G. Tait, Treatise on natural philosophy, vol. 1 (1867)] to see how many million years ago Thomson says earth's crust solidified. CD is troubled by "brevity of the world", because pre-Silurian creatures must have lived during endless ages "else my views wd be wrong, which is impossible – Q.E.D.".
My dear George
Many thanks for your note. I am heartily glad that dear
old Backy is going on so well. It gives me an awesome
shudder whenever I think of it, & that is a deal too often.
Tell him with my love to be sure to obey strictly the
surgeon's directions; for I remember Engleheart said when
I suppose you will not bring home Thompson's big Book;
so will you look & see exactly what he says (if he says
anything) how many millions of years ago the crust of the
Earth first became solidified so that it c
See if Thompson refers
to any other papers by himself on subject.— I wish I knew
what Haughton had said.— It is partly for this that I
want Lyell's Principles, & you had better bring Lyell's
other book.— Croll has most kindly sent me excellent M.S. abstract
of his views & a volume with all his own papers, which I
must return, but have kept for you to read; however, I fear
you will not have time on account of Wales. The brevity of
the world troubles me, on account of the pre-silurian
creatures which must have lived in numbers during endless
ages, else my views w
I have got Owen's book, but had not noticed the pile of
abuse against me & which I must soon read. I sh
Your most affect
It is all for new Edit. of Origin.—
- f1 6496.f1The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from G. H. Darwin, 8 December 1868. In 1868, the first Wednesday following 8 December was 9 December.
- f2 6496.f2`Backy' was a childhood nickname for Francis Darwin (Darwin pedigree, p. 61). See letter from G. H. Darwin, 8 December 1868.
- f3 6496.f3A note in pencil in George's hand above the words `whenever I think of it' reads `bad cut in thigh'. CD refers to Stephen Paul Engelheart and possibly to Margaret Evans.
- f4 6496.f4Charles Eliot Norton and Susan Ridley Norton stayed for four months at Keston Rectory near Down (see letter to J. D. Hooker, [8--10 September 1868]). According to Emma Darwin's diary (DAR 242), the Darwins saw the Nortons several times from September 1868 onwards, but no mention is made of a visit in December 1868. A note in pencil following the proverb reads `(mine really GHD)'.
- f5 6496.f5CD refers to the Treatise on natural philosophy (W. Thomson and Tait 1867). In an appendix on secular cooling of the earth (W. Thomson and Tait 1867, pp. 711--27), William Thomson summarised and developed his earlier work on the topic; he estimated that the climate could not have been affected by the internal heat of the earth any later than 10,000 years after the formation of the earth's crust (see p. 720). The appendix had appeared earlier as a paper published in Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (W. Thomson 1862). For more on the implications of Thomson's theory for CD's work, see Burchfield 1990, pp. 70--80.
- f6 6496.f6CD refers to James Croll and to `On geological time, and the probable date of the glacial and the upper Miocene period' (Croll 1868). Croll does not quote Thomson directly but refers in some detail to Thomson's argument concerning the limit to the age of the sun's heat (Philosophical Magazine 4th ser. 35: 368--71). Croll had sent CD a copy of the paper (see letters to James Croll, 19 September 1868 and 24 November 1868).
- f7 6496.f7Samuel Haughton discussed the age of the earth and Thomson's argument about the sun's heat in his Manual of geology (Haughton 1865, pp. 79--95).
- f8 6496.f8The reference is to Charles Lyell and Lyell 1867--8. See letter from G. H. Darwin, 8 December 1868 and n. 3. Lyell does not refer to Haughton's views on the age of the earth or Thomson's theory.
- f9 6496.f9See letter from James Croll, 2 December 1868 and n. 2. For the abstract, see the letter from James Croll, [2 December 1868]. According to Emma Darwin's diary (DAR 242), George went to Wales on 16 December 1868.
- f10 6496.f10CD had claimed in Origin, p. 307, that life existed before the Silurian period.
- f11 6496.f11CD refers to Richard Owen and the `derivative theory' (see letter from G. H. Darwin, 8 December 1868 and n. 6).
- f12 6496.f12CD refers to the fifth edition of Origin (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 26 November .