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 8 December 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-2696