From Charles Lyell 15 March 1863
53 Harley Street:
March 15, 1863.
My dear Darwin,—
Your letter will be very useful. I wish to get such passages so far in the Darwinian direction as not to be inconsistent with my general tone, and what Hooker calls some of my original arguments in favour of natural selection.1 At the same time I am struck by the number of compliments, both in reviews and in conversation with the half-converted, which I receive, because I have left them to draw their own inferences, and have not told them dogmatically that they must turn round with me.2 Hooker admits that in science people do not like to be told too plainly that they must believe, though in religion they wish to have it laid down for them. Yet he may be wrong, for if the ‘Times’ were to write for the next fortnight against the Southern States, and against the Poles,3 nine-tenths of good society would whirl round, and the middle class which would stand firm would be able to do so partly because they read cheaper papers which are not interested in following the lead of the ‘Times.’ ....
I wish I deserved what you say about taking criticism kindly.4 I often think I should be as touchy as anyone if the success of my works did not give me a constant opportunity of profiting immediately by every suggestion as to style and moral tone, and above all as to facts and logic.5 Besides the increased responsibility which I incur by the trusting public, who before they had read a word induced the trade to bid for 3,850 copies, I have the prospect, if I improve my knowledge and my teaching, of future success in new editions with comparatively little labour.6
As to Lamarck I find that Grove, who has been reading him, is wonderfully struck with his book.7 I remember that it was the conclusion he came to about man that fortified me thirty years ago against the great impression which his arguments at first made on my mind,8 all the greater because Constant Prévost, a pupil of Cuvier’s forty year ago, told me his conviction ‘that Cuvier thought species not real, but that science could not advance without assuming that they were so.’9 When I came to the conclusion that after all Lamarck was going to be shown to be right, that we must ‘go the whole orang,’ I re-read his book, and remembering when it was written, I felt I had done him injustice.10
Even as to man’s gradual acquisition of more and more ideas, and then of speech slowly as the ideas multiplied, and then his persecution of the beings most nearly allied and competing with him—all this is very Darwinian.11
The substitution of the variety-making power for ‘volition,’ ‘muscular action,’ &c. (and in plants even volition was not called in) is in some respects only a change of names.12 Call a new variety a new creation, one may say of the former as of the latter, what you say when you observe that the creationist explains nothing, and only affirms ‘it is so because it is so.’
Lamarck’s belief in the slow changes in the organic and inorganic world in the year 1800, was surely above the standard of his times, and he was right about progression in the main, though you have vastly advanced that doctrine.13 As to Owen in his Aye Aye paper, he seems to me a disciple of Pouchet, who converted him at Rouen to ‘spontaneous generation.’14
Have I not at p. 412 put the vast distinction between you and Lamarck as to ‘necessary progression’ strongly enough?15
Huxley’s second thousand is going off well.16 If he had leisure like you and me;—and the vigour and logic of the lectures, and his address to the Geological Society,17 and half a dozen other recent works (letters to the ‘Times’ on Darwin, &c.),18 been all in one book, what a position he would occupy! I entreated him not to undertake the ‘Natural History Review’ before it began. The responsibility all falls on the man of chief energy and talent; it is a quarterly mischief, and will end in knocking him up.19
I am sorry you have to go to Malvern.20 The good of the water-cure is abstinence from work; a tour abroad would do it, I am persuaded, as effectually and more profitably.
I hope my long letter will not task you too much; when I sit down to write to you, I can never stop. Hooker, not having heard from you, is growing anxious, and hopes it is because you are corresponding with me and not because of serious ill-health.21
Ever affectionately yours, | Charles Lyell.
Lyell has received compliments for letting readers draw own inferences [on species question]. Now feels he earlier did Lamarck injustice. [CD’s] substitution of variety-making power for volition [as in Lamarck] in some respects only a change of names.
Thinks Huxley taking on too many responsibilities.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4041,” accessed on 27 August 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-4041