To Henry Fawcett 18 September 1
Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.
My dear Mr Fawcett
I wondered who had so kindly sent me the newspapers which I was very glad to see;2 & now I have to thank you sincerely for allowing me to see your M.S.3 It seems to me very good & sound; though I am certainly not an impartial judge. You will have done good service in calling the attention of scientific men to the means & laws of philosophising.— As far as I could judge by the papers your opponents were unworthy of you. How miserably Prof Williamson talked of my reputation, as if that had anything to do with it.4 As for Dr. Lankester he is a mean prater who never observed a new fact, I believe, in his life.— It made me laugh to read of his advice or rather regret that I had not published facts alone. How profoundly ignorant he must be of the very soul of observation.5 About 30 years ago there was much talk that Geologists ought only to observe & not theorise;6 & I well remember some one saying, that at this rate a man might as well go into a gravel-pit & count the pebbles & describe their colours. How odd it is that every one should not see that all observation must be for or against some view, if it is to be of any service.—
I have returned only lately from a two months’ visit to Torquay, which did my health at the time good; but I am one of those miserable creatures who are never comfortable for 24 hours; & it is clear to me that I ought to be exterminated. I have been rather idle of late; or speaking more strictly working at some miscellaneous papers, which however have some direct bearing on the subject of species; yet I feel guilty at having neglected my larger Book.7 But to me, observing is much better sport than writing.— I fear that I shall have wearied you with this long note.
Pray believe that I feel sincerely grateful that you have taken up the cudgels in defence of the line of argument in the Origin: you will have benefitted the subject.—
Many are so fearful of speaking out.— A German naturalist came here the other day & he tells me that there are many in Germany on our side; but that all seem fearful of speaking out & waiting for some one to speak & then many will follow.8 The naturalists seem as timid, as young ladies should be, about their scientific reputation.— There is much discussion on the subject on the continent even in quiet Holland;9 & I had a pamphlet from Moscow the other day by a man who sticks up famously on the imperfection of the Geological Record; but complains that I have sadly underrated the variability of the old fossilised animals!10
But I must not run on; with sincere thanks & respect | Pray believe me | Yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin
Mr Davidson, who knows some groups of fossils better than any man in Europe, I can see, is coming round by inches, & declares he will well consider & discuss & publish on the relations of the Brachiopods from the earliest dawn of life to the present day on genealogical principles.11 This is the sort of work which will finally settle the fate of the Origin one way or the other.
Comments on MS of HF’s address ["On the method of Mr Darwin in his treatise on the origin of species", Rep. BAAS (1861) pt 2: 141–3]. "How odd it is that anyone should not see that all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service."
Describes his health.
The response to his views in Germany, Holland, and Russia.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3257,” accessed on 28 April 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-3257
Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24 (Supplement) and 9