To J. D. Hooker 3 February 1
Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.
My dear Hooker
Thanks for your splendid long letter which amused & interested me, or rather all of us, greatly.2 How apt one is to take a one-sided view: it never for a moment occurred to me that it was more blameable in poor Wollaston running away from his creditors & co-debtors, than for a hare to run away from the hounds. But I fear Lubbock’s view is too true.3 Thanks for letters, returned & for the Book, which I will keep for a week or fortnight.4 I have read the first page or two, & it is as full of parentheses, as his style always is, & by which I instantly recognised, much to his surprise, his review of the Origin in the Annals of Nat. Hist.—5 Poor fellow I am very sincerely sorry for him.
About Royal Soc. I was aware that my judgment was worth nothing. In so fluctuating a body it is no wonder that the gravest oversights may be made.— I suppose Mohl’s claims are very high.— His book on the vegetable cell struck me as very good.6
I am very much pleased at what you say about my Introduction: after it was in type I was as near as possible cancelling the whole. I have been for some time in despair about my book, & if I try to read a few pages feel fairly nauseated; but do not let this make you praise it; for I have made up my mind that it is not worth a fifth part of the enormous labour it has cost me. I assure you that all that is worth your doing (if you have time for so much) is glancing at ch. XI. & reading parts of later chapters.7
The facts on self-impotent plants seem to me curious, & I have worked out to my own satisfaction the good from crossing & evil from inter breeding.—8 I did read pangenesis the other evening, but even this, my beloved child as I had fancied, quite disgusted me.9 The devil take the whole book; & yet now I am at work again, as hard as I am able. It is really a great evil, that from habit I have no pleasure in hardly anything except natural history, for nothing else makes me forget my ever recurrent uncomfortable sensations. But I must not howl anymore, & the critics may say what they like: I did my best & man can do no more. What a splendid pursuit Natural History would be if it was all observing & no writing.
I am now reading Miquel on Flora of Japan & like it: it is rather a relief to me (though of course not new to you) to find so very much in common with Asia:10 I wonder if A. Murray’s notion can be correct, that a profound arm of the sea penetrated the west coast of N. America, & prevented the Asiatico-Japan element colonising that side of the continent so much as the eastern side.11 Or will climate suffice? I shall to the day of my death keep up my full interest in Geograp. Distrib.; but I doubt whether I shall ever have strength to come in any fuller detail, than in the Origin, to this grand subject.12 In fact I do not suppose any man could master so comprehensive a subject, as it now has become, if all Kingdoms of nature are included. I have read Murray’s book & am disappointed, though as you said, here & there clever thoughts occur.—13 How strange it is, that his view not affording the least explanation of the innumerable adaptations, everywhere to be seen, apparently does not in the least trouble his mind. One of the most curious cases, which he adduces, seems to me to be the two allied Fresh-water, highly peculiar Porpoises in the Ganges & Indus; & the more distantly allied form of the Amazons.— Do you remember his explanation of an arm of the sea, becoming cut off like the Caspian, converted into Fresh-water, & then divided into two lakes (by upheaval) giving rise to two great rivers. But no light is thus thrown on the affinity of the Amazon form.14 I now find from Flower’s paper, that these F. water Porpoises form two sub-families, making an extremely isolated & intermediate, very small Family.15 Hence to us they are clearly remnants of a larger group; & I cannot doubt we here have a good instance, precisely like that of Ganoid Fishes, of a large ancient marine group, preserved exclusively in Fresh Water, where there has been less competition & consequently little modification.—16
What a grand fact that is which Miquel gives of the Beech not extending beyond the Caucasus, & then reappearing in Japan; like your Himalayan Pinus & the Cedar of Lebanon.17
I know of nothing that gives one such an idea of the recent mutations in the surface of the land, as these living “outlyers” in the geological sense; we must, I suppose, admit that every yard of land has been successively covered with a beech forest between the Caucasus & Japan!
I have not yet seen (for I have not sent to station) Falconers works.—18 When you say that you sigh to think how poor your reprinted memoirs wd. appear, on my soul I shd. like to shake you till your bones rattled for talking such nonsense.— Do you sigh over the “Insular Flora”, the introduction to New Zealand Flora, to Australia, your Arctic Flora & dear Galapagos, &c &c &c.19 In imagination I was grinding my teeth & shaking you till I put sense into you.—
Farewell, I have amused myself by writing an audaciously long letter.— By the way we heard yesterday that George has won the 2d Smith Prize, which I am excessively glad of, as the second wrangler by no means always succeeds:20 the examination consists exclusively of most difficult subjects, which such men as Stokes, Cayley & Adams21 can set.
Farewell my dear old fellow | C. Darwin
Do you chance to possess Cobbolds Book on Parasitic worms or some such title, published about a year ago— it is not likely, but if you have it, will you lend it me.—22
Comments on Wollaston’s troubles
and his book [Coleoptera Hesperidum (1867)].
Mohl’s claim to foreign membership in Royal Society very strong.
Has been in despair about Variation – not worth a fifth part of the labour it cost him.
Is reading F. A. W. Miquel’s Flora du Japon [Prolusio florae Japonicae (1866–7)]; wonders whether A. Murray could be correct in his view that an area of the sea prevented Asiatico-Japan flora colonising western N. America.
Comments on A. Murray’s book [Geographical distribution of mammals (1866)].