To J. D. Hooker 24[–5] February 
Down Bromley Kent
My dear Hooker
I am astounded at your note.1 I have not seen the Athenæum, but I have sent for it, & may get it tomorrow; & will then say what I think.2 I have read Lyell’s book.3 The whole certainly struck me as a compilation; but of the highest class, for where possible the facts have been verified on the spot, making it almost an original work.4 The Glacial chapters seem to me the best, & in parts magnificent.5 I could hardly judge about Man, as all the gloss of novelty was completely worn off.6 But certainly the aggregation of the evidence produced a very striking effect on my mind. The Chapter comparing language & changes of species seems most ingenious & interesting.7 He has showed great skill in picking out salient points in the argument for change of species; but I am deeply disappointed (I do not mean personally) to find that his timidity prevents him giving any judgment.—8
The whole discussion I look at as of no more value than a very good Review.— From all my communications with him, I must even think that he has really entirely lost faith in the immutability of species; & yet one of his strongest sentences is nearly as follows “if it should ever be rendered highly probable that species change by variation & natural selection” &c &c”.—9 I had hoped he would have guided the public as far as his own belief went. On the contrary, as the Parthenon says, he leaves the Public in a fog.10 One thing does please me on this subject, is that he seems to appreciate your Work.—11 No doubt the public, or a part, may be induced to think that as he gives to us a larger space than to Lamarck he must think there is something in our views.—12 When reading the Brain chapter, it struck me forcibly that if he had said openly that he believed in change of species & as a consequence that man was derived from some Quadrumanum animal, it would have been very proper to have discussed by compilation the differences in the most important organ, viz the Brain. As it is, the chapter seems to me to come in rather by the head & shoulders.—13 I do not think (but then I am as prejudiced as Falconer & Huxley or more so) that it is too severe; it struck me as given with judicial force.—14 It might perhaps be said with truth that he had no business to judge on a subject, on which he knows nothing; but compilers must do this to a certain extent. (You know I value & rank high Compilers being one myself!)
I have taken you at your word, & scribbled at great length.15 If I get Athenæum tomorrow, I will add my impression of Owen’s letter.—
Thanks for answer about Glass-Man & Acropera &c.—16 You cannot imagine what pleasure your plants give me (far more than your dead Wedgwood ware can give you):17 Henrietta18 & I go & gloat over them; but we privately confessed to each other, that if they were not our own, perhaps we shd. not see such transcendent beauty in each leaf.— Have you Edwardsia tetraptera from what Treviranus says I shd. much like to observe it.—19
If you ever observe any plant with glandular hairs which secrete by their tips much viscid matter, will you remember that I shd. like a specimen.—20
I wonder that you can endure to speak in friendly manner to Owen;21 but I daresay you are right; indeed, after more than twenty years experience, & permit me to add, admiration of the transparent honesty of your character, I have no doubt that you are right: I would rather trust to your instinctive conscience on such a point than to my own. I despise myself for hating him so much.—
The Lyells are coming here on Sunday Evening to stay till Wednesday.22 I dread it, but I must say how much disappointed I am that he has not spoken out on Species, still less on Man. And the best of the joke is that he thinks he has acted with the courage of a martyr of old.— I hope I may have taken an exaggerated view of his timidity, & shall particularly be glad of your opinion on this head.— When I got his book, I turned over pages & saw he had discussed subject of Species, & said that I thought he could do more to convert the Public than all of us;23 & now (which makes the case worse for me) I must in common honesty retract. I wish to Heaven he had said not a word on subject.—
Wednesday Morning. I have read the Athenæum. I do not think Lyell will be nearly so much annoyed as you expect. The concluding sentence is no doubt very stinging.24 No one, but a good anatomist, could unravel Owen’s long-winded & confused (as it seems to me) letter; at least it is quite beyond me. Nor do I trust a word he says without careful comparison with the papers he quotes. My impression, however, is clear that he has tacitly wholly changed his ground, & wishes every one falsely to believe that mere size of Brain was his object in the whole controversy.25 Certainly Owen has not shaken my conviction, after reading what all the many anatomists have written, that he has been grossly wrong; & that he knows it & speaks falsely. Lyell’s memory plays him false when he says all anatomists were astonished at Owen’s paper;26 it was often quoted with approbation. I well remember Lyell’s admiration at this new Classification!! (do not repeat this) I remember it, because though I knew nothing whatever about the Brain,, I felt a conviction that a classification thus founded on a single character would break down; & it seemed to me a great error not to separate more completely the Marsupialia.—27
Owen is certainly a very clever fellow & whether right or wrong will completely bewilder the public; as I hear he has already bewildered Sir J. Lubbock.—28 What an accursed evil it is that there shd. be all this quarrelling within what ought to be the peaceful realms of Science.—
I will go to my own present subject of Inheritance & forget it all for a time.29
Farewell | My dear old friend | C. Darwin
CD’s opinion of Lyell’s Antiquity of man and of Owen’s comment on it.
Disappointed Lyell has not spoken out on species and on man.
Pleasure of new hothouse and the plants JDH supplied for it.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4009,” accessed on 30 March 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-4009