To Chauncey Wright 3 June 1
Down, | Beckenham, Kent.
My dear Sir
Many thanks for your article in the N. American Review, which I have read with great interest.—2 Nothing can be clearer than the way in which you discuss the permanence or fixity of species.— It never occurred to me to suppose that anyone looked at the cases as it seems Mr. Mivart does. Had I read his answer to you,3 perhaps I shd. have perceived this; but I have resolved to waste no more time in reading reviews of my works or on evolution, excepting when I hear that they are good & contain new matter, or are written by men whom I respect. It is pretty clear that Mr Mivart has come to the end of his tether on this subject.—
As your mind is so clear, & as you consider so carefully the meaning of words, I wish you wd. take some incidental occasion to consider when a thing may properly be said to be effected by the will of man.— I have been led to the wish by reading an article by your Prof. Whitney versus Schleicher.4 He argues because each step of change in language is made by the will of man, the whole language so changes; but I do not think that this is so, as man has no intention or wish to change the language. It is a parallel case with what I have called “unconscious selection” which depends on man consciously preserving the best individuals & thus unconsciously altering the breed.—5
My dear Sir | yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin
CW’s article responding to Mivart [see 8351] on the fixity of species is very clear.
On evolution of language, CD doubts W. D. Whitney’s claim that changes are effected by the will of man. Asks CW when a thing may properly be said to be so effected.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8367,” accessed on 24 February 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-8367