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Letter 7453

Darwin, C. R. to Mivart, St G. J.

[23 Jan 1871]


Comments on StGJM’s book [Genesis of species (1871)]. Has no personal objection to a word of it, but regrets their views differ so much.


I have read your B quicker than I expect & with greater interestthough of course not with pleasure.f2 As far as Iam personally concerned there is not a word I objected to. You have indeed,considering how eager an opponent you are, treated me withextraordinary courtesy. Your book seemsan admirable summary ofall the objections which have been urged against natural S. & I daresaywill have a powerful influence on many men.— I thinksomething cd be said on my side on many points & I do not seethe force of many of your objections, which no doubt you will alludeto properly; if I had ever thought that I or anyone cdexplain [how] hundreds of structures occur by naturalselection— your facts, & many others in my own portfolios, wd form a[crushing defeat] but Ihave always never thought that cd be done & then only with somedegree of probability in a few rare cases (some given in the origin) inwhich a fair number of gradational steps still exist;—but these seem to mesufficient to redirect the path. I think as you give mywords (at top p. 60) you ought to have given to the end of the sentence,p. 105 which brings my view in harmony with all that I have written aboutso-called unconscious selection.f3 Nor do I think it can be said that I changemy position, considering that I had previously argued against single markedvariationshaving been preserved— When you quote (p.35) no inverted commas mywords about analogous variation, you change by accidentmock into mimic:f4 Mock was a rather badly-chosen word:—for I oughtto have remembered the sense in which mimickry is [now] used, butmimick in that sense was far from my mind [on the contrary] almost shewI was not thinking: (a) But all this signifies very little.— Judgment will ultimately beformed by the interested public on a wide basis— As yet Iby no means [give up the unseen] power of Nat. selection; nor canI see [any probability in a] [5 words illeg] principle of[advancement in regeneration].

I will not trouble you with any remarks on specificparts as I have long observed that when 2 men differ sofundamentally as we do on a multitude of points, arguments only make adivision wider; & that I for one shd be sorry for.— Shortly afterpublication of Origin I remember writing to a Cambridge & as I have often[said] [that] whether natur selection was more or less admitted,signifies little in comparison with the admission of the generalprinciple of evolution & this I am delighted to see you fully hold.—

Wishing you all the highest success which you are worthy in every branchof natural sciences, [excepting] in [attacking] natural seln | I remain | my dear Sir |Yours sincerely | C.D.

Before a new Edit. of your book I wd advise you to consider the Rods of Cortif5

Lastly I do not You ought so repeatedly to ignore when youspeak of Darwin all that I have said on inherited effects ofhabit or use.f6 Nor do I deny the direct & [definite] action ofcondition oflife life yet you repeatedly say that I [admit] only [illeg] NaturalSelection But no controversist ever I suppose did appear fair to hisantagonist   So I will say no more— Nor will I   No I must not say this,for some of my opponents have & I daresay [most] intended to do so.

I do not believe any other person has taken such pain to showthat the effects of use & disuse are inherited, as I have done.— So againwhen [thus] speaking you ignore my remarks on what I call direct &definite action; [though] you allude further [more] to all thesepoints. I suppose, however, no controverter ever does appear [quite] fairto the man attacked. No

DAR 96: 95–6



The date is established by the reference to this letter in theletter from St G. J. Mivart, 24 January 1871.
CD refers to Mivart’s On the genesis of species (Mivart 1871a; seeletter from St G. J. Mivart, 19 January 1871).
See also letter to Francis Darwin, [after 21 January 1871] and n. 9.
Mivart 1871a, p. 35, misquotes CD’s statement ‘varieties of one species frequently mock distinctspecies—a fact in perfect harmony with the foregoing cases, andexplicable only on the theory of descent’ (Variation 2: 351).
CD refers to the fibres of Corti, structures in the ear that werethought to helpin distinguishing tone and to be vital to the appreciation of music(see Mivart 1871a, pp. 53–4 and 279–80).
See, for example, Origin, pp. 134–9, Variation 2: 295–303.
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