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Letter 6841

Darwin, C. R. to Hooker, J. D.

24 July [1869]

    Summary Add

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    An article in North British Review by mathematician against Hooker and Huxley and for William Thomson [P. G. Tait, "Geological time", North Br. Rev. 50 (1869): 406–39]. Feels a conviction that world will be found older than reviewer makes it.

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    Article on "Design" [by J. B. Mozley] in Quarterly Review [127 (1869): 134–76].

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    Has JDH studied Drosophyllum?

Transcription

Caerdeon, Barmouth N. Wales

July 24th

My dear Hooker.

We shall be at home this day week, taking two days on the Journey & right glad I shall be. The whole has been a failure to me but much enjoyment to the young, except to poor George who has been a good deal unwell & has just got over a severe abscess in the throat, & is much pulled down. My wife has ailed a good deal nearly all the time; so that I loathe the place with all its beauty.—

I was glad to hear what you thought of F. Müller, & I agree wholly with you: your letter came at nick of time for I was writing on the very day to Müller, & I passed on your approbation of Chapt X & XI.— Some time I shd like to borrow the Transact. of N. Zealand Institute so as to read Colenso's article.— You must read Huxley v. Comte: he never wrote anything so clever before, & has smashed everybody right & left in grand style. I had a vague wish to read Comte & so had George, but he has entirely cured us of any such vain wish.

There is another article, just come out in last North British, by some great mathematician, which is admirably done: he has a severe fling at you, but the article is directed against Huxley & for Thomson. This review shows me, not that I required being shown, how devilish a clever fellow Huxley is, for the Reviewer cannot help admiring his abilities— There are some good specimens of mathematical arrogance in the Review, & incidentally he shows how often astronomers have arrived at conclusions, which are now seen to be mistaken; so that geologists might truly answer that we must be slow in admitting your conclusions. Nevertheless all Uniformitarians had better at once cry ``peccavi''; not but what I feel a conviction that the world will be proved rather older than Thomson makes it, & far older than the Reviewer makes it.— I am glad I have faced & admitted the difficulty in last Edit. of Origin, of which I suppose you received, according to orders, a copy.

You ask about my man-book; everything has been of late at a stand still with me, for I have not had strength to do hardly anything: the new Edit of Origin took 8 weeks, & notes for French Edit. of Orchids nearly 2 weeks; I shall publish these notes in English likewise.

In the last Quarterly there is a long article on ``Design'', & I shd like to hear who the author is, if you shd. ever hear.— I have read only a small part & do not think much of what I have as yet read.

Did you ever study Drosophyllum, as you proposed to do when at Down, & does it prove closely allied to Drosera?

It will be very comfortable to you, when you know that your Willie is settled with a good man with a quiet & healthy occupation.

My dear old friend— Yours affect. | C. Darwin

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 06841.f1
    The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, 17 July 1869.
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    f2 06841.f2
    CD arrived home from Wales on 31 July 1869 (see `Journal' (Appendix II)).
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    f3 06841.f3
    George Howard Darwin.
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    f4 06841.f4
    CD refers to Fritz Müller's Facts and arguments for Darwin (Dallas, trans. 1869). See letter from J. D. Hooker, 17 July 1869 and letter to Fritz Müller, 18 July [1869].
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    f5 06841.f5
    The reference is to William Colenso. See letter from J. D. Hooker, 17 July 1869 and n. 8.
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    f6 06841.f6
    Thomas Henry Huxley had written an article criticising the philosophy of Auguste Comte (see letter to T. H. Huxley, 9 July [1869] and n. 4).
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    f7 06841.f7
    CD refers to a review article, `Geologic time' ([Tait] 1869; see Wellesley index), written by Peter Guthrie Tait. Hooker 1868 was briefly considered in Tait's essay (see [Tait] 1869, pp. 413--14). Tait discussed several of William Thomson's works which challenged the school of uniformitarian geology on its estimate of the age of the earth, and responded to Thomas Henry Huxley's critique of Thomson's own calculations of the earth's age.
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    f8 06841.f8
    Peccavi: I have sinned (Latin).
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    f9 06841.f9
    On Thomson's and Tait's varying estimates of the age of the earth, see [Tait] 1869, p. 432.
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    f10 06841.f10
    In [Tait] 1869, p. 429, Tait had quoted CD's conjecture, based on his estimate of time needed for the denudation of the Weald, that far longer than 300 million years must have elapsed since the latter part of the secondary period (Origin, p. 287). In response to criticisms in the Saturday Review, 24 December 1859, however, CD halved his estimate in the second edition of Origin, and removed the discussion altogether from the third edition. In Origin 5th ed., pp. 349--54, CD discussed recent estimates by James Croll of the time elapsed since the the first Cambrian formation.
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    f11 06841.f11
    CD refers to Descent, Origin 5th ed., Rérolle trans. 1870, and `Fertilization of orchids'. See also `Journal' (Appendix II) for more on CD's work schedule and health.
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    f12 06841.f12
    The author of the unsigned article `The argument of design', which appeared in the July 1869 issue of Quarterly Review ([Mozley] 1869; see Wellesley index), was James Bowling Mozley.
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    f13 06841.f13
    CD had recently obtained specimens of Drosophyllum lusitanicum and had begun studying it with reference to his earlier research on species of Drosera (see letter to W. C. Tait, 12 and 16 March 1869).
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    f14 06841.f14
    CD refers to William Henslow Hooker. See letter from J. D. Hooker, 17 July 1869 and n. 6.
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