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Darwin Correspondence Project

DCP-LETT-7273

To J. D. Hooker   12 July [1870]1

Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

July 12th

My dear Hooker

Two of the kinds of seeds will be very useful to me; but why the others were sent by Col. Playfair, I know not, except from the abundance of his kindness.—2

I am sure I never heard of Curtis’ observations on Dioneæa; nor have I met with anything more than general statements about this plant or about Nepenthes catching insects &c—3

I have always thought the D. of Argyll wonderfully clever; but as for calling him “a little beggar” my inherited, instinctive feelings wd. declare it was a sin thus to speak of a real old Duke.—4

Your conclusion that all speculation about preordination is idle waste of time is the only wise one: but how difficult it is not to speculate. My theology is a simple muddle: I cannot look at the Universe as the result of blind chance, yet I can see no evidence of beneficent design, or indeed of design of any kind in the details.— As for each variation that has ever occurred having been preordained for a special end, I can no believe in it, than that the spot on which each drop of rain falls has been specially ordained.—

Spontaneous generations seems almost as great a puzzle as preordination; I cannot persuade myself that such a multiplicity of organisms can have been produced, like crystals, in Bastian’s solutions of the same kind.—5 I am astonished that as yet I have met with no allusion to Wyman’s positive statement that if the solutions are boiled for 5 hours, no organisms appear; yet, if my memory serves me, the solutions when opened to air, immediately became stocked.6 Against all evidence I cannot avoid suspecting that organic particles (my gemmules from the separate cells of the lower creatures!) will keep alive & afterwards multiply under proper conditions.7 What an interesting problem it is.—

Your affect | C. Darwin

Footnotes

1
The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, 10 July 1870.
2
The reference is to Robert Lambert Playfair. See letter from J. D. Hooker, 10 July 1870 and n. 1.
3
See letter from J. D. Hooker, 10 July 1870 and nn. 2 and 3. Moses Ashley Curtis, not William Curtis, had made observations on Dionaea.
4
CD refers to George Douglas Campbell. See letter from J. D. Hooker, 10 July 1870.
5
CD refers to experiments conducted by Henry Charlton Bastian (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 July [1870] and n. 9).
6
CD refers to experiments performed by Jeffries Wyman (see Wyman 1867).
7
According to CD’s hypothesis of heredity, pangenesis, gemmules were minute particles thrown off by individual cells, and capable of generating new cells when needed (see Variation 2: 357–404).

Summary

Has not heard of Curtis on Dionaea.

Duke of Argyll is clever, but it is a sin to speak of a real old Duke as a "little beggar".

"My theology is a simple muddle: I cannot look at the Universe as the result of blind chance, yet I can see no evidence of beneficent Design."

On spontaneous generation and Bastian.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-7273
From
Darwin, C. R.
To
Hooker, J. D.
Sent from
Down
Source of text
DAR 94: 179–180
Physical description
4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7273,” accessed on 25 September 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-7273

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