To J. D. Dana 20 February 1
Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.
My dear Mr Dana
I received a few days ago your Book & this morning your pamphlet on Man & your kind letter.2 I am heartily sorry that your head is not yet strong, & whatever you do, do not again overwork yourself.3 Your book is a monument of labour, though I have as yet only just turned over the pages.—4 It evidently contains a mass of valuable matter.—
With respect to the change of species I fully admit your objections are perfectly valid.5 I have noticed them6, excepting one of separation of countries, on which perhaps we differ a little.7 I admit, that if we really now know the beginning of life on this planet, it is absolutely fatal to my views; I admit the same, if the geological record is not excessively imperfect; & I further admit that the a priori probability is that no being lived below our Cambrian era. Nevertheless I grow yearly more convinced of the general (with much incidental error) truth of my views: I believe in this from finding that my views embrace so many phenomena & explain them to a large extent. I am continually pleased by hearing of naturalists (within the last month I have heard of four) who have come round to a large extent to the belief of the modification—of Species.—8 As my book has been lately somewhat attended to, perhaps it would have been better, if when you condemn all such views, you had stated that you had not been able yet to read it.9 But pray do not suppose that I think for one instant that with your strong & slowly-acquired convictions, & immense knowledge, you would have been converted. The utmost that I could have hoped would have been that you might possibly have been here or there staggered. Indeed I should not much value any sudden conversion; for I remember well how many long years I fought against my present belief.—
With respect to Dr. Falconer, I fear I ought not to have said anything, as he lately told me that he shd. not interfere till Prof. Owen had published; so please do not repeat what I said.10 I daresay Owen will work out everything carefully before he publishes in detail; but there is little doubt he was at first very careless. He overlooked a jaw with teeth which however may possibly not have belonged to this marvellous Bird, with its long tail & fingers to its wings.11 As Birds are so isolated this case, as you may suppose, has pleased me.— You will see in Lyell’s book that Owen has made a fearful mistake (not discovered by himself) about the British Eocene monkey.—12 He has made such mistakes about the Elephants & Rhinoceroses, that I declare I am getting fearful of trusting him.13 He has done the work of a giant; but I fear he has been too ambitious & not given time enough to most of his work.— I have not yet read Huxley’s book;14 but I hear it is very striking; but you will highly disapprove of it.—
With every good wish | pray believe me | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin
I do not believe Dr Falconer has changed his views about the Mesozoic mammals; but he has done more; for the specimens were presented to British Museum & are kept by Owen in his private room; & why he does not publish I cannot conceive.— In the last, or last but one, nor of the Geolog. Journal there is paper by Falconer on Plagiaulax, maintaining strenuously his former views.—15
Received JDD’s book [Manual of geology (1862)]
and pamphlet on man ["On the higher subdivisions in the classification of mammals", Am. J. Sci. 2d ser. 35 (1863): 65–71].
Fully admits JDD’s objections are valid. But is convinced of the general truth of his own views (with much incidental error), because they embrace so many phenomena and explain them.
Discusses some mistakes Owen has made;
Falconer’s disagreement with Owen ["On the mammalian genus Plagiaulax", Q. J. Geol. Soc. Lond. 18 (1862): 348–69].
- Letter no.
- Charles Robert Darwin
- James Dwight Dana
- Sent from
- Source of text
- Yale University Library: Manuscripts and Archives (Dana Family Papers (MS 164) Series 1, Box 2, folder 44)
- Physical description