To Horace Benge Dobell 16 February 1
Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.
Absence from home & consequent idleness are the causes that I have not sooner thanked you for your very kind present of your Lectures.2 Your reasoning seems quite satisfactory (though the subject is rather beyond my limit of thought & knowledge) on the V.M.F. not being “a given quantity.”3 And I can see that the conditions of Life must play a most important part in allowing this quantity to increase as in the budding of a tree &c.— How far these conditions act on “the forms of organic life” (p. 46) I do not see clearly.—4 In fact no part of my subject has so completely puzzled me as to determine what effect to attribute to (what I vaguely call) the direct action of the conditions of life. I shall before long come to this subject & must endeavour to come to some conclusion, when I have got the mass of collected facts in some sort of order in my mind.5 My present impression is that I have underrated this action, in the “Origin”.—6 I have no doubt when I go through your Volume, I shall find other points of interest & value to me.—
I have already stumbled on one case, (about which I want to consult Mr Paget) namely on the Regrowth of supernumerary digits.7 You refer to “White on Regeneration &c. 1785.”8 I have been to Libraries of Royal & Linn. Soc, & to British Museum; where the Librarian got out your volume & made a special hunt, & can discover no trace of such a book.— Will you grant me the favour of giving me any clue, where I could see this Book? Have you it; if so & the case is given briefly, would you have great kindness to copy it.— I much want to know all particulars.9 One case has been given me, but with hardly minute enough details, of a supernumerary little finger which has already been twice cut off, & now the operation will soon have to be done for the third time.10
I am extremely much obliged for the genealogical table;11 the fact of the two cousins not, as far as yet appears, transmitting the peculiarity is extraordinary & must be given by me.—12
With very sincere thanks for your kindness.— | Pray believe me | Dear Sir | Yours truly obliged | Ch. Darwin
Thanks HBD for his lectures On the germs and vestiges of disease .
Thinks his reasoning that the V. M. F. ("force exhibited in the operations of life") is not a "given quantity" is satisfactory.
How far the conditions of life affect the forms of organic life puzzles CD more than any other part of his subject. Thinks he may have underrated its importance in Origin.
Asks for source of the quotation on regeneration in HBD’s work.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3990,” accessed on 23 January 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-3990