To Ernst Haeckel 19 November 1868
Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.
Nov 19. 1868
My dear Haeckel
I must write to you again for two reasons. Firstly to thank you for your letter about your baby, which has quite charmed both me & my wife.1 I heartily congratulate you on its birth. I remember being surprized in my own case how soon the paternal instincts became developed, & in you they seem to be unusually strong. I know well the look of a baby’s “hind legs” but I shd think you were the first father who had ever triumphed in their retaining a resemblance to those of a monkey What does Mrs Haeckel say to such dreadful doctrines?2
I hope the large blue eyes & the principles of inheritance will make your child as good a naturalist as you are; but judging from my own experience, you will be astonished to find how the whole mental disposition of your children changes with advancing years. A young child & the same when nearly grown sometimes differ almost as much as do a caterpillar & butterfly.
The second point is to congratulate you on the projected translation of your great work—about which I heard from Huxley last Sunday.3 I am heartily glad of it; but how it has been brought about I know not, for a friend who supported the proposed translation at Norwich told me he thought there wd be no chance of it. Huxley tells me that you consent to omit & shorten some parts, & I am confident that this is very wise.4 As I know your object is to instruct the public, you will assuredly thus get many more readers in England. Indeed I believe that almost every book wd be improved by condensation.
I have been reading a good deal of yr last book, & the style is beautifully clear & easy to me;5 but why it shd differ so much in this respect from your great work I cannot imagine. I have not yet read the first part but began with the chapter on Lyell & myself, which you will easily believe pleased me very much. I think Lyell, who was apparently much pleased by your sending him a copy, is also much gratified by this chapter.6 Your chapters on the affinities & genealogy of the animal kingdom strike me as admirable & full of original thought. Your boldness however sometimes makes me tremble, but as Huxley remarks some one must be bold enough to make a beginning in drawing up tables of descent.7
Although you fully admit the imperfection of the Geological record, yet Huxley agreed with me in thinking that you are sometimes rather rash in venturing to say at what periods the several groups first appeared. I have this advantage over you that I remember how wonderfully different any statement on this subject made 20 years ago wd have been to what wd now be the case; and I expect the next 20 years will make quite as great a difference.
Reflect on the monocotyledonous plant just discovered in the primordial formation in Sweden.8
I repeat how glad I am at the prospect of the translation, for I fully believe that this work & all your works will have a great influence in the advancement of Science.
Believe me my dear Häckel | your sincere friend | Charles Darwin
Congratulates EH on birth of child.
Mentions projected translation of Generelle Morphologie.
Comments on EH’s last book [Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte]. Criticises EH’s statements on palaeontology.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6466,” accessed on 26 July 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-6466