To Charles Lyell [16 June 1848]
Down Farnborough Kent
My dear Lyell
I did not hear till after I saw you on Wednesday at the Council,1 of the wonderful escape Miss. S. Horner has had.2 Emma wanted to write to Mrs Lyell to say how astonished & shocked she had been at my account of what very little I knew; but she is poorly enough & so I write to say how heartily we congratulate you all on her safety, but congratulation is not the proper word, for one feels that the risk has been too great & dreadful.
Mr Horner, I know, always had a horror of the sea & now it is indeed justified.—
I was at the evening meeting but did not get within hail of you. What a fool (though I must say a very amusing one) Buckland did make of himself.3 Your speech4 was refreshing after it & was well characterised by Fox (my cousin)5 in three words “What a contrast”! That struck me as a capital speculation about the Wealden Continent6 going down. I did not hear what you settled at the Council; I was quite wearied out & bewildered.
I find Smith of Jordan Hill has a much worse opinion of R. Chambers’ book than even I have.7 Chambers has piqued me a little; he says I “propound” & “profess my belief” that Glen Roy is marine & that the idea was accepted because the “mobility of the land was the ascendant idea of the day”8 He adds some very faint upper lines in Glen Spean, (seen, by the way, by Agassiz), & has shown that Milne & Kemp9 are right in there being horizontal aqueous markings (not at coincident levels with those of Glen Roy)10 in other parts of Scotland, at great heights, & he adds several other cases. This is the whole of his addition to the data. He not only takes my line of argument from the buttresses & terraces below the lower shelf & some other arguments, (without acknowledgment), but he sneers at all his predecessors not having perceived the importance of the short-portions of lines intermediate between the chief ones in Glen Roy, whereas I commence the description of them with saying, that “perceiving their importance I examined them with scrupulous care” &c & expatiate at considerable length on them.
I have indirectly told him I do not think he has quite claims to consider that he alone (which he pretty directly asserts) has solved the problem of Glen Roy.
With respect to the terraces at lower levels coincident in height all round Scotland & England, I am inclined to believe he shows some little probability of there being some leading ones coincident, but much more exact evidence is required.— Would you believe it credible; he advances as a probable solution to account for the rise of Great Britain; that in some great ocean th of the bottom of the whole aqueous surface of the globe has sunk in (he does not say where he puts it) for a thickness of a mile, & this he has calculated would make an apparent rise of 130 feet.11 If he be, as I believe, the Author of the Vestiges this book for poverty of intellect is a literary curiosity.—12 I have written all this, as I believe it may save you reading the Book: it is to the best of my Belief, an honest account.
My dear Lyell | Yours most truly | C. Darwin
I shall be in London I trust, before you go, & you must let me pay you a tea or breakfast call.
Comments on Ann Susan Horner’s escape in a dangerous incident at sea.
Compares addresses by William Buckland and CL, delivered at recent meeting of the Geological Society.
Discusses the views on Glen Roy in Chambers’ Ancient sea-margins .
Speculates that Chambers wrote Vestiges [of creation (1844)].
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1186,” accessed on 24 October 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-1186