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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Camille Dareste1   8 February 1863

Lille;

ce 8 février 1863

Monsieur

Quoique je n’aie pas l’honneur d’être connu de vous, je tiens cependant ‘a vous témoigner la satisfaction que j’ai éprouvée en lisant votre admirable livre sur l’origine des Espèces. Je m’occupe depuis vingt ans, de l’étude des sciences naturelles; et j’étais depuis bien longtemps arrivé par mes observations et par mes réflexions personelles, ‘a considérer l’idée de la fixité de l’espèce, si généralement admise par les naturalistes, comme tout ‘a fait en contradiction avec les faits. Mais si je ne pouvais me contenter des théories existantes, je ne voyais pas cependant comment on pouvait les remplacer; et je me voyais hésitant entre des doctrines qui ne sont plus admissibles, et la plus grande incertitude relativement aux doctrines qu’il fallait leur substituer. Votre livre a fait briller pour moi la lumière au sein des ténèbres; en me montrant où il fallait aller chercher le guide qui jusqu’alors m’avait fait défaut dans mes réflexions sur la nature des espèces.

Je prends, ‘a ce sujet, la liberté de vous adresser un petit travail que je viens de publier.2 C’est un mémoire que l’Académie des Sciences de Paris a couronné, il y a un mois.3 Si vous voulez bien prendre la peine de consulter ces opuscules, vous verrez que j’ai cherché ‘a résoudre, par la voie expérimentale, des questions tout ‘a fait comparables ‘a celles que vous traitez dans votre livre.4 Je suis arrivé en effet, après de bien longues expériences, ‘a produire, comme Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire l’avait fait il y a trente ans,5 un grand nombre de monstruosités artificielles; et j’espère, en poursuivant ces études, pouvoir quelque jour, expliquer la formation d’un grand nombre d’anomalies   Ces travaux, si je puis les poursuivre, me donneront quelque jour, je l’espère, la possibilité d’appliquer la méthode expérimentale ‘a l’examen d’une partie de la science où vous vous êtes fait une si belle place.

Je regrette, Monsieur, d’être obligé de vous écrire en français: mais si je sais assez d’anglais pour avoir pu lire votre livre avant qu’il n’ait été traduit,6 je ne connais pas assez votre langue pour la parler, et encore moins pour l’écrire

Je suis, avec un profond respect | Votre très humble et très obéissant serviteur | Camille Dareste.

Professeur ‘a la faculté des sciences de Lille.

M. Charles Darwin Esqre.

Footnotes

For a translation of this letter, see Correspondence vol.11, Appendix I.
Dareste 1863. There is a lightly annotated copy of this work, in which Dareste provides an account of monstrosities artificially induced in chicken embryos, in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Dareste refers to the Alhumbert Prize (Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l’Académie des Sciences 55: 979–82).
Dareste’s experiments on hen’s eggs were published in two complementary pamphlets as Dareste 1862 and 1863. The wording of this letter, and the letter to Camille Dareste, 16 February [1863], suggests that Dareste only sent the second pamphlet; however, Dareste appears to assume that CD also had access to the earlier pamphlet. There are annotated copies of Dareste 1862 and 1863 in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. CD discussed the implications of embryology for the theory of natural selection in Origin, raising the question of the relationship of embryos to external conditions (Origin, pp. 439–50). CD cited Dareste’s experiments in Variation to illustrate the point that external conditions could be the direct cause of modifications in the structure of organisms (see Variation 2: 289).
Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire and his son, Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, pioneered the scientific study of monsters (see E. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire 1825a, 1825b, 1825c, 1826, 1827a, and 1827b, and I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire 1832–7). By artificially generating monstrosities in embryos, they hoped to throw light on the laws governing the production of monsters and new species (see E. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire 1825a and I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire 1832–7, 3: 500–6).
A French translation of Origin (Royer trans. 1862) was published on 31 May 1862 by Guillaumin et Cie (Journal Générale de l’Imprimerie et de la Librarie 2d ser. 6 (pt 3): 341).

Translation

From Camille Dareste1   8 February 1863

Lille

8 February 1863

Sir

Although I have not the honour of being known to you, I wish nevertheless to express the satisfaction I felt in reading your admirable book on the origin of species. I have been engaged in the study of the natural sciences for twenty years; and I had long ago through my own observations and reflections come to consider the idea of the fixity of species, so generally accepted by naturalists, as a view completely in contradiction with the facts. But though I was unable to content myself with the existing theories, I nevertheless did not see how they could be replaced; and I found myself vacillating between doctrines which were no longer acceptable and the greater uncertainty concerning the doctrines that ought to replace them. For me your book has caused a light to shine in the midst of darkness, by showing me where to look for the guiding principle that had hitherto been lacking in my reflections on the nature of species.

On this subject, I take the liberty of sending you a small work which I have just published.2 It is a memoir that received a prize a month ago from the Académie des Sciences of Paris.3 If you will take the trouble to peruse these pamphlets, you will see that I have endeavoured to solve by the experimental method some questions wholly comparable to those you deal with in your book.4 After some very lengthy experiments I have indeed succeeded in producing, as did Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire thirty years ago, a great number of artificial monstrosities;5 and I hope that in pursuing these studies I shall one day be able to explain the formation of a great number of anomalies   This work, if I am able to proceed with it, will I hope one day enable me to apply the experimental method to the investigation of a branch of science where you have won yourself such a prominent position.

I regret, Sir, being obliged to write to you in French: although I know enough English to have been able to read your book before it was translated,6 I am not sufficiently conversant with your tongue to speak it, and even less so to write it.

I remain, with profound respect | Your very humble and very obedient servant Camille Dareste | Professor at the Faculty of Sciences of Lille

Mr Charles Darwin Esq.

Footnotes

For a transcription of this letter in the original French, see Correspondence vol.11, pp. 121–2.
Dareste 1863. There is a lightly annotated copy of this work, in which Dareste provides an account of monstrosities artificially induced in chicken embryos, in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Dareste refers to the Alhumbert Prize (Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l’Académie des Sciences 55: 979–82).
Dareste’s experiments on hen’s eggs were published in two complementary pamphlets as Dareste 1862 and 1863. The wording of this letter, and the letter to Camille Dareste, 16 February [1863], suggests that Dareste only sent the second pamphlet; however, Dareste appears to assume that CD also had access to the earlier pamphlet. There are annotated copies of Dareste 1862 and 1863 in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. CD discussed the implications of embryology for the theory of natural selection in Origin, raising the question of the relationship of embryos to external conditions (Origin, pp. 439–50). CD cited Dareste’s experiments in Variation to illustrate the point that external conditions could be the direct cause of modifications in the structure of organisms (see Variation 2: 289).
Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire and his son, Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, pioneered the scientific study of monsters (see E. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire 1825a, 1825b, 1825c, 1826, 1827a, and 1827b, and I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire 1832–7). By artificially generating monstrosities in embryos, they hoped to throw light on the laws governing the production of monsters and new species (see E. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire 1825a and I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire 1832–7, 3: 500–6).
A French translation of Origin (Royer trans. 1862) was published on 31 May 1862 by Guillaumin et Cie (Journal Générale de l’Imprimerie et de la Librarie 2d ser. 6 (pt 3): 341).

Summary

Has read Origin with satisfaction. He had long ago come to consider the fixity of species as contrary to the facts, but could see no suitable alternative. The Origin has brought the light to guide him.

Sends CD a copy of his latest work ["Mémoire sur la production artificielle des monstruosités", Ann. Sci. Nat. (Zool.) 4th ser. 18 (1862): 243–76]. Hopes to explain a great number of anomalies by his experimental work on artificially produced monstrosities.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-3974
From
Gabriel-Madeleine-Camille (Camille) Dareste
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Lille
Source of text
DAR 162: 42
Physical description
4pp (French)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3974,” accessed on 19 June 2019, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-3974

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11

letter