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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Armand de Quatrefages1   [after 11 July 1862]2

Mon cher confrè〈re〉

Il est trop tard cett〈e〉 〈année〉 pour revoir les nouvelle〈s〉 informations relativement 〈aux〉 diverses races de vers à 〈soie〉 Mais l’an prochain v〈ers〉 le mois d’Avril les ecl〈ores〉 recommenceront et alor〈s〉 je tacherai de répondre 〈a〉 vos desirs—3 Seulemen〈t〉 〈    〉 avoir la bonté de 〈me〉 rappeler ma prome〈sse.〉 〈Je〉 me méfie de ma 〈mémoire〉 et serais désolé que 〈vous〉 prissiez pour négligenc〈e〉 〈ou〉 mauvais vouloir ce 〈qu’est〉 le résultat d’un défaut d’organisation. Voilà même pourquoi je vous écris sur le champ. Mes distractions pouvant me faire oublier de vous faire une recommendation que je sais malheureusement etre nécessaire.*4

Vous dites vrai; nous diffèrons beaucoup. Mais peut etre moins que vous en pensez. Je crois que depuis la periode géologique actuelle les espèces sont restées a qu’elles sont. Je trouve que nous manquons de données suffisantes pour juger de ce qui existait avant. Je m’abstiens donc plus que je ne combats. Mais avant tout—je puis le dire—je cherche la verité et la science. Tout ce qui tend a etendre ce double domaine a mes sympathies profondes. Dut-il y avoir un peu de poesie dans les efforts tentés je ne m’en allarme pas. En somme tout 〈en〉 préferant Cuvier je mets Geoffroy tres haut et Buffon est à mes yeux un fort grand homme.5 J’applique à mes contemporains la même nature de jugement— Voila tout.

Je vous adresserai prochainement un petit volume sur les Metamorphoses.6 La conclusion exprime à peu près les idées que j’indiquais tout à l heure. Elle sera donc en désaccord avec les votres. Mais soyez bien certain qu’un désaccord de doctrines ne suivra jamais chez moi a l estime méritée par tout effort fait pour agrandir le domaine de l’esprit humain. Quant à mon indépendance personelle je crois que l’introduction de mon Unité de l’espèce humaine en témoigne. On m’a même dit que c’etait la ce qui avait empêché la traduction en Anglais.7

Adieu mon cher confrere. Si je puis vous etre utile disposez de moi

De Quatrefages

Footnotes

For a translation of this letter, see Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix I.
Dated by the relationship to the letter to Armand de Quatrefages, 11 July [1862], and by the references to Quatrefages 1861 and 1862 (see nn. 6 and 7, below). See also Correspondence vol. 11, letter from Armand de Quatrefages, 29 March 1863.
The original letter included a symbol like an asterisk at this point. It was apparently intended to refer CD to a marginal reference; the broad left margin of this page of the letter has been excised.
Quatrefages refers to the prolonged controversy earlier in the century between Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire and Georges Cuvier, both professors at the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, that culminated in 1830 with a famous debate at the Académie des Sciences. Part of the substance of the controversy related to the question of species change, Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire arguing for environmentally driven transmutation, while Cuvier argued for the permanence of species. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire drew heavily on the philosophical approach of Georges Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon, who, in his later writings, classified mammals and birds into natural families, each of which he believed had descended by ‘degeneration’ from a single parent stock, modifications being the result of adaptations to changes in the environment (Appel 1987).
Quatrefages 1862. There is an annotated copy of this publication in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 691).
Quatrefages 1861, pp. 1–10. The introduction to the volume details the religious and political basis of arguments for and against the doctrine that all human races belong to one species. Quatrefages proposed that the question was settled by the scientific evidence of complete interfertility between the different races. There is an annotated copy of this work in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 693–4).

Translation

From Armand de Quatrefages1   [after 11 July 1862]2

%%S My dear Colleague

It is too late this 〈year〉 to reexamine the new information concerning the various races of 〈silk〉 worms but next year towards the month of April the hatchings will start again and then I will attempt to respond 〈to〉 your wishes—3 Only 〈    〉 be kind enough to remind me of my promise. 〈I〉 mistrust my 〈memory〉 and would be very unhappy if you were to take for negligence 〈or〉 ill-will that 〈which is〉 the result of a mental failure. This is why I am writing to you without delay, my distractions causing me recently to forget to send you a reference that unfortunately I know is necessary.**4

You are right to say that we greatly differ. But perhaps less than you think. I believe that during the present geological period species have remained unchanged. I feel that we lack sufficient data to make judgments about what existed before that. Therefore I abstain rather than do battle. But above all—I can say—I seek truth and science. Everything that serves to extend this double domain has my deep interest. Were there to be a hint of poetry in the endeavours attempted, this would not alarm me. In short, while preferring Cuvier I regard Geoffroy highly and Buffon is in my view a very great man.5 I apply the same criteria of judgment to my contemporaries— That is all.

I shall send you soon a small book on metamorphoses.6 Its conclusion expresses more or less closely the ideas to which I was just alluding. It will therefore disagree with your views. But you can be absolutely sure that a doctrinal dispute, as far as I am concerned, will have no influence on the esteem that you deserve for all efforts made to enlarge the domain of the human spirit. As to my personal independence, I believe it is proved by the introduction to my Unité de l’espèce humaine. I am told it is that which prevented its translation into English.7

Farewell my dear colleague. If I can be useful to you, please rely on me— | De Quatrefages

Footnotes

For the transcription of this letter in its original French, see pp. 316–17.
Dated by the relationship to the letter to Armand de Quatrefages, 11 July [1862], and by the references to Quatrefages 1861 and 1862 (see nn. 6 and 7, below). See also Correspondence vol. 11, letter from Armand de Quatrefages, 29 March 1863.
The original letter included a symbol like an asterisk at this point. It was apparently intended to refer CD to a marginal reference; the broad left margin of this page of the letter has been excised.
Quatrefages refers to the prolonged controversy earlier in the century between Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire and Georges Cuvier, both professors at the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, that culminated in 1830 with a famous debate at the Académie des Sciences. Part of the substance of the controversy related to the question of species change, Geofroy Saint-Hilaire arguing for environmentally driven transmutation, while Cuvier argued for the permanence of species. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire drew heavily on the philosophical approach of Georges Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon, who, in his later writings, classified mammals and birds into natural families, each of which he believed had descended by ‘degeneration’ from a single parent stock, modifications being the result of adaptations to changes in the environment (Appel 1987).
Quatrefages 1862. There is an annotated copy of this publication in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 691).
Quatrefages 1861, pp. 1–10. The introduction to the volume details the religious and political basis of arguments for and against the doctrine that all human races belong to one species. Quatrefages proposed that the question was settled by the scientific evidence of the complete interfertility between the different races. There is an annotated copy of this work in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 693–4).

Summary

Their views on transformism differ a great deal, as CD says, but perhaps not as much as CD thinks. Sending his [Physiologie comparée: métamorphoses de l’homme et des animaux (1862)].

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-3524
From
Jean Louis Armand (Armand de Quatrefages) Quatrefages de Bréau
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
unstated
Source of text
DAR 175: 8
Physical description
4pp (French) inc & damaged

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3524,” accessed on 27 June 2019, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-3524

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10

letter