To Francis Darwin [after 21 January 1871]1
[letter written in response to the attack on him in St. George Mivart’s Genesis of Species: Darwin confesses himself annoyed that he is accused of being dogmatic through the use of a quotation from Variation under Domestication (Vol. II, p. 414), which Mivart does not give in its entirety:2 … I complain of his incessantly speaking as if I trusted exclusively to natural selection (see for instance Genesis p. 67):3 now I maintain that no one has taken such pains as I have to show what use and disuse have actually done …4
he then discusses in some detail supposed problems raised by Mivart, which he believes either do not exist, or are answered already in The Origin of Species and Variation under Domestication, or are answered in his “new book” (The Descent of Man), for example the development of whale-bone5 … In an isolated group with the gradations unknown it wd be madness to pretend to indicate how any strange structure has been gained. But such cases as swim-bladders & our lungs … & scores of others ought to show anyone that he must be very cautious in saying what transformations are at least possible— Mivart cannot see how the lamina of whale-bone could have been started, but a ducks-beak wd show how this is possible— The young fishes believed to be nurtured in the abdominal sack of the marsupial Fishes by excreted mucus, shows how possibly mammary glands might have been developed.—6 I indirectly & by chance try to answer some points in my new book …
he also expresses his astonishment that Mivart should raise the issue of the giraffe’s long neck7 (“ … It is extraordinary that Mivart in speaking of neck of Giraffe shd not have seen that when one of the already largest animals, in a country bearing nutritious leaf-bearing trees, had its neck elongated, it would be absolutely useless & impossible for any other animal to acquire an elongated neck, for it could not reach so high as the already large animal with moderately elongated neck …”) and urges his son to discuss with Pryor the larynx of the kangaroo.8 … At p. 60 Mivart says “I change my whole front.” which is hardly fair: he does not give my whole sentence from Origin 5th Edit p. 1059—nor does he allude to my having always insisted on monstrosities not being preserved, & on importance of unconscious selection which implies selection of slight changes in many individuals … Mivart speaks in many places as if I entirely ignored the direct action of external conditions; & in other places all the cases are taken from Dom. Animals under variation!10 …
At the end Darwin writes: “But I shall weary Pryor & yourself & I have wearied myself … You must read this to Pryor if you can—he will never be able”.11]
Responds to Mivart’s Genesis of species. "I complain of his incessently speaking as if I trusted exclusively to natural selection … Mivart speaks in many places as if I entirely ignored the direct action of external conditions". Answers some of Mivart’s particular criticisms. Suggests FD read the letter to Marlborough Robert Pryor, as Pryor will never be able to read it himself.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7425,” accessed on 8 December 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-7425