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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   13 April [1857]1

Down Bromley Kent

Ap. 13th

My dear Lyell

I have been particularly glad to see Wollaston’s letter.2 The news did not require any breaking to me; for though as a general rule I am much opposed to the Forbesian continental extensions, I have no objection whatever to its being proved in some cases. Not that I can admit that W. has by any means proved it; nor, I think, can anyone else, till we know something of the means of distribution of insects.—3 But the close similarity or identity of the two Faunas is certainly very interesting.— I am extremely glad to hear that your Madeira paper is making progress; & I shall be most curious to see. I shd. be infinitely obliged for a separate copy, whenever printed.—4

My health has been very poor of late, & I am going in a week’s time for a fortnight of hydropathy & rest.—5 My everlasting species-Book quite overwhelms me with work— It is beyond my powers, but I hope to live to finish it.—

Farewell | My dear Lyell | Ever yours | C. Darwin

Footnotes

Dated by the reference to CD’s intention to visit a hydropathic establishment ‘in a week’s time’ (see n. 5, below).
The letter from Thomas Vernon Wollaston to Lyell has not been found, but its subject matter may be inferred from a passage in the introduction to Wollaston 1857. Having stated that the Coleoptera of Porto Santo and the Dezertas had more species in common than they did with Madeira as a whole, Wollaston wrote (Wollaston 1857, p. xv): And, without attempting to solve a geological problem, upon which Sir Charles Lyell will probably be able in a short time to throw considerable light, or to add any real evidence either in favour or against the existence of an ancient connective land; it does certainly appear to me, judging simply from Coleopterous data, as if the insect-population had possessed wonderful facilities, at some remote period, of migrating to and fro (as though along a slightly elevated mountain-ridge) between Porto Santo and the Dezertas, and in like manner … between the latter rocks and the eastern extremity of Madeira.
Both Lyell and Wollaston supported the idea of specific centres of creation and the land-bridge doctrine as an explanation for geographical distribution. See letters to Charles Lyell, 16 [June 1856] and 25 June [1856], and letters from Charles Lyell, 17 June 1856, and from T. V. Wollaston, [27 June 1856].
CD left for Edward Wickstead Lane’s hydropathic establishment at Moor Park, Surrey, on 22 April and returned to Down on 6 May 1857 (‘Journal’; Appendix II).

Bibliography

Wollaston, Thomas Vernon. 1857. Catalogue of the coleopterous insects of Madeira in the collection of the British Museum. London: By order of the Trustees.

Summary

CD returns a letter from Wollaston.

Although opposed to the Forbesian doctrine [of continental extension] as a general rule, CD would have no objection to its being proved in some cases. Does not think Wollaston has proved it; nor can anyone until more is known about the means of distribution of insects – but the identity of the two faunas is certainly interesting.

His health is very poor and his "everlasting species-Book" quite overwhelms him with work. It is beyond his powers, but he hopes to live to finish it.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-2077
From
Charles Robert Darwin
To
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Down
Source of text
Edinburgh University Library, Centre for Research Collections (Gen.109/702)
Physical description
2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2077,” accessed on 11 December 2019, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-2077.xml

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6

letter