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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Armand de Quatrefages1   12 January 1872

Paris

12 Janvier 72

Cher Monsieur

La lutte pour votre existence, en qualité de Correspondant de notre Académie, va recommencer sous peu. Mais elle aura lieu dans des conditions un peu différentes. Notre collegue Longet, mort depuis les premières batailles, a été remplacé par Mr Lacaze du Thiers, qui sans hésiter s’est prononcé pour vous.2 La majorité de la section est donc très décidée en votre faveur. Elle a bien voulu me charger du Rapport. Je viens de le terminer et n’ai pas besoin de vous dire quelles en sont les conclusions. J’ai toujours rendu justice en vous au naturaliste éminent, au penseur ingénieux et profond. Tout en combattant votre doctrine, j’ai toujours dit qu’elle rendrait un grand service en rappelant l’attention sur la Variabilité morphologique de l’espèce, non moins réelle que la fixité physiologique. C’est donc avec un double plaisir que je défendrai devant l’Académie les Mérites de mon adversaire.3

J’ai reçu avec reconnaissance votre dernier oevrage.4 Il est bien à peu près ce que je pensais qu’il pouvait etre, et vos conclusions ne m’ont pas surpris. Pourtant il me semble que—même a votre point de vue—vous rapprochez un peu trop l’homme dans le temps de l’evolution. C’est un Marcheur; les singes du nouveau comme de l’ancien continent sont de Grimpeurs. Une fois ce dernier type même ébauché, il ne peut donner naissance à un etre construit sur un plan différent. S’il en etait autrement votre doctrine perdrait un de ses cotés les plus séduisants car alors elle ne rendrait pas compte des affinités, et ne permettrait plus de suivre les généalogies même les plus rapprochées.

Je vous soumets cette objection sans prétendre dailleurs juger en dernier ressort. Cette prétention me conviendrait moins qu’à tout autre, puisque j’ai le regret de ne pouvoir etre un de vos disciples. Veuillez donc m’excuser de m’être mêlé de ce qui au fond ne me regarde pas, et croyez moi en dépit de mes dissentiments scientifiques votre bien dévoué confrere | De Quatrefages

Footnotes

For a translation of this letter, see Correspondence vol. 20, Appendix I.
In 1872, CD was nominated for election to the anatomy and zoology sections of the Académie des sciences in Paris; he had also been nominated in 1870 (see Correspondence vol. 18). He was not elected to the académie until 1878, and then it was to the botanical section. See Stebbins 1988, pp. 147–9. Quatrefages refers to François-Achille Longet and Félix Joseph Henri de Lacaze-Duthiers.
On Quatrefages’s agreements and disagreements with CD, see Stebbins 1988, p. 132.
Quatrefages’s name appears on CD’s presentation list for Descent (see Correspondence vol. 19, Appendix IV).

Bibliography

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Stebbins, Robert E. 1988. France. In The comparative reception of Darwinism, edited by Thomas F. Glick. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Translation

From Armand de Quatrefages1   12 January 1872

Paris

12 January 72

Dear Sir

The struggle for your existence, as Correspondent to our Academy, is to begin again soon. But it will take place under slightly different conditions. Our colleague Longet, who has died since the first battles, has been replaced by Mr Lacaze du Thiers, who without hesitating has pronounced for you. The majority of the section is thus very much decided in your favour.2 It has charged me with making the Report. I have just finished it and don’t need to tell you its conclusions. I have always done you justice as an eminent naturalist and an ingenious and profound thinker. While combating your doctrine, I have always said that it would perform a great service by turning attention back towards the morphological Variability of the species, which is no less real than its physiological fixity. So it is with a double pleasure that I shall defend the Merits of my adversary before the Academy.3

I am grateful to have received your latest work.4 It is pretty much as I thought it might be, and your conclusions have not surprised me. However, it seems to me that—even from your point of view—you are lumping man a little too much together within evolutionary time. He is a Walker; the monkeys of the new, as of the old continent are Climbers. Once this latter type had been but roughly developed, it could not give rise to a being built on a different plan. Were it otherwise your doctrine would lose one of its most seductive aspects, for then it would not give an account of affinities, and would no longer allow one to pursue even the most closely-related genealogies.

Anyway, I submit this objection to you without claiming to make a final judgement. That claim would be less appropriate for me than for anyone else, since I have the regret of not being one of your disciples. So please excuse me for having involved myself in something which at bottom does not concern me, and believe me, in spite of my scientific dissensions, your devoted colleague | De Quatrefages

Footnotes

For a transcription of this letter in its original French, see pp. 20–1.
In 1872, CD was nominated for election to the anatomy and zoology sections of the Académie des sciences in Paris; he had also been nominated in 1870 (see Correspondence vol. 18). He was not elected to the académie until 1878, and then it was to the botanical section. See Stebbins 1988, pp. 147–9. Quatrefages refers to François-Achille Longet and Félix Joseph Henri de Lacaze-Duthiers.
On Quatrefages’s agreements and disagreements with CD, see Stebbins 1988, p. 132.
Quatrefages’s name appears on CD’s presentation list for Descent (see Correspondence vol. 19, Appendix IV).

Bibliography

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Stebbins, Robert E. 1988. France. In The comparative reception of Darwinism, edited by Thomas F. Glick. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Summary

Battle for CD’s nomination to the French Academy continues.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-8157
From
Jean Louis Armand (Armand de Quatrefages) Quatrefages de Bréau
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Paris
Source of text
DAR 175: 9
Physical description
4pp (French)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8157,” accessed on 20 October 2019, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-8157.xml

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20

letter