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Letter 7273

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

12 July [1870]

Summary

Has not heard of Curtis on Dionaea.

Duke of Argyll is clever, but it is a sin to speak of a real old Duke as a “little beggar”.

“My theology is a simple muddle: I cannot look at the Universe as the result of blind chance, yet I can see no evidence of beneficent Design.”

On spontaneous generation and Bastian.

Transcription

Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

July 12th

My dear Hooker

Two of the kinds of seeds will be very useful to me; but whythe others were sent by Col. Playfair, I know not, except from theabundance of his kindness.—f2

I am sure I never heard of Curtis’ observations on Dioneæa;nor have I met with anything more than general statements about thisplant or about Nepenthes catching insects &c—f3

I have always thought the D. of Argyll wonderfully clever; butas for calling him “a little beggar” my inherited, instinctive feelingswd. declare it was a sin thus to speak of a real old Duke.—f4

Your conclusion that all speculation about preordination is idle waste oftime is the only wise one: but how difficult it is not to speculate.My theology is a simple muddle: I cannot look at the Universe as theresult of blind chance, yet I can see no evidence of beneficent design,or indeed of design of any kind in the details.— As for each variation that has ever occurred having been preordainedfor a special end, I can no believe in it, than that the spot on whicheach drop of rain falls has been specially ordained.—

Spontaneous generations seems almost as great a puzzle as preordination;I cannot persuade myself that such a multiplicity of organisms canhave been produced, like crystals, in Bastian’s solutions of thesame kind.—f5 I am astonished that as yet I have met with noallusion to Wyman’s positive statement that if the solutions areboiled for 5 hours, no organisms appear; yet, if my memory serves me,the solutions when opened to air, immediately became stocked.f6 Againstall evidence I cannot avoid suspecting that organic particles (mygemmules from the separate cells of the lower creatures!) willkeep alive & afterwards multiply under proper conditions.f7 Whatan interesting problem it is.—

Your affect | C. Darwin

DAR 94: 179–180

true

Footnotes

f1
The year is established by the relationship between this letter andthe letter from J. D. Hooker, 10 July 1870.
f2
The reference is to Robert Lambert Playfair. See letter fromJ. D. Hooker, 10 July 1870 and n. 1.
f3
See letter from J. D. Hooker, 10 July 1870 and nn. 2 and 3. MosesAshley Curtis, not William Curtis, had made observations on Dionaea.
f4
CD refers to George Douglas Campbell. See letter fromJ. D. Hooker, 10 July 1870.
f5
CD refers to experiments conducted by Henry Charlton Bastian (seeletter to J. D. Hooker, 8 July [1870] and n. 9).
f6
CD refers to experiments performed by Jeffries Wyman (see Wyman 1867).
f7
According to CD’s hypothesis of heredity, pangenesis, gemmules wereminute particles thrown off by individual cells, and capable ofgenerating new cells when needed (see Variation 2: 357–404).
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