To J. D. Hooker 14 February 1
Down Bromley Kent
My dear Hooker
I succeeded in persuading myself for 24 hours that Huxley’s lecture was a success. Parts were eloquent & good & all very bold, & I heard strangers say “what a good lecture”. I told Huxley so; but I demurred much to time wasted in introductory remarks; especially to his making it appear that sterility was a clear & manifest distinction of species,2 & to his not having even alluded to the more important part of subject. He said that he had much more written out, but time failed.3 After conversation with others & more reflection I must confess that as an Exposition of the doctrine the Lecture seems to me an entire failure.— I thank God I did not think so, when I saw Huxley; for he spoke so kindly & magnificently of me, that I could hardly have endured to say what I now think.
He gave no just idea of natural selection. I have always looked at this doctrine of Nat. Selection as an hypothesis, which if it explained several large classes of facts would deserve to be ranked as a theory deserving acceptance; & this of course is my own opinion.— But, as Huxley has never alluded to my explanation of Classification, Morphology Embryology &c, I thought he was thoroughily dissatisfied with all this part of my Book. But to my joy I find it is not so & that he agrees with my manner of looking at subject; only that he rates higher than I do the necessity of Natural Selection being shown to be a vera causa always in action.— He tells me he is writing long Review in Westminster.—4
It was really provoking how he wasted time over the idea of a species as exemplified in Horse5 & over Sir J. Hall’s old experiment on marble.—6 Murchison was very civil to me over my Book after Lecture, in which he was disappointed.—7
I have quite made up my mind to savage onslaughts; but with Lyell, you, & Huxley I feel confident we are right & in long run shall prevail. I do not think Asa Gray has quite done you justice in beginning of Review of me.8 The Review seemed to me very good, but I read it only hastily.
I am very glad to hear that you are thinking of a general work—do not be in a hurry.9 Do give a resume on propagation of Crytogamic plants: it would interest general reader & pocket your pride & compile! It will be a precious difficult Book to write.—
When we meet I will pay 14s with thanks.— What a poor sneaking fellow L. Reeve must be.—10
Adios | I am tired. | Your affect | C. Darwin
Henslow comes here tonight for 2 or 3 days. He is going to Anniversary of Geolog. Soc.— By the way I fancy I shall be cut up by Phillips.11
Huxley’s Royal Institution lecture on Origin [10 Feb 1860, Not. Proc. R. Inst. G. B. 3 (1858–62): 195–200] an "entire failure" as an exposition of CD’s doctrine.
R. I. Murchison very civil.
CD counts Lyell among the converted.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2696,” accessed on 24 April 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-2696