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I will therefore come up to London for every (with rare exceptions) Club-day, and then my head, I think, will allow me on an average to go to every other meeting. But it is grievous how often any change knocks me up. I will further pledge myself, as I told Lyell, to resign after a year, if I did not attend pretty often, so that I should at worst encumber the Club temporarily. If you can get me elected, I certainly shall be very much pleased. Very many thanks for answers about Glaciers. I am very glad to hear of the second Edit.* so very soon; but am not surprised, for I have heard of several, in our small circle, reading it with very much pleasure. I shall be curious to hear what Humboldt will say: it will, I should think, delight him, and meet with more praise from him than any other book of Travels, for I cannot remember one, which has so many subjects in common with him. What a wonderful old fellow he is. . . . . By the way, I hope, when you go to Hitcham, towards the end of May, you will be forced to have some rest. I am grieved to hear that all the bad symptoms have not left Henslow; it is so strange and new to feel any uneasiness about his health.
I am particularly obliged to you for sending me Asa Gray's letter ; how very pleasantly he writes. To see his and your caution on the species-question ought to overwhelm me in confusion and shame; it does make me feel deuced uncomfortable. ... It is delightful to hear all that he says on Agassiz : how very singular it is that so eminently clever a man, with such immense knowledge on many branches of Natural History, should write as he does. Lyell told me that he was so delighted with one of his (Agassiz) lectures on progressive development, &c., &c., that he went to him afterwards and told him, "that it was so delightful, that he could not help all the time wishing it was true." I seldom see a Zoological paper from North America, without observing the impress of Agassiz's doctrines-another proof, by the way, of how great a man he is. I was pleased and surprised to see A. Gray's remarks on
* Of the Himalayan Journal.
crossing, obliterating varieties, on which, as you know, I have been collecting facts for these dozen years. How awfully flat I shall feel, if when I get my notes together on species, &c., &c., the whole thing explodes like an empty puff-ball
. Do not work yourself to death Ever yours most truly,
C. Darwin to J. D. Hooker.
Down, Nov 5th (1854). MY DEAR HOOKER,- was delighted to get your note yesterday. I congratulate you very heartily,* and whether you care much or little, I rejoice to see the highest scientific judgment-court in Great Britain recognise your claims. I do hope Mrs. Hooker is pleased, and E. desires me particularly to send her cordial congratulations, . . . I pity you from the very bottom of my heart about your after-dinner speech, which I fear I shall not bear. Without you have a very much greater soul than I have (and I believe that you have), you will find the medal a pleasant little stimulus, when work goes badly, and one ruminates that all is vanity, it is pleasant to have some tangible proof, that others have thought something of one's labours.
Good-bye my dear Hooker, I can assure (you) that we both most truly enjoyed your and Mrs. Hooker's visit here. Farewell. My dear Hooker, your sincere friend,
C. Darwin to J. D. Hooker.
March 7 (1855) I have just finished working well at Wollaston's 'Insecta Maderensia': it is an admirable work. There is a very curious point in the astounding proportion of Coleoptera
* On the award to him of the Royal Society's Medal.
+ Thomas Vernon Wollaston died in his fifty-seventh year, as I believe) on Jan. 4, 1878. His health forcing him in early manhood to winter in
that are apterous; and I think I have guessed the reason, viz., that powers of flight would be injurious to insects inhabiting a confined locality, and expose them to be blown to the sea: to test this, I find that the insects inhabiting the Dezerte Grande, a quite small islet, would be still more exposed to this danger, and here the proportion of apterous insects is even considerably greater than on Madeira Proper. Wollaston speaks of Madeira and the other Archipelagoes as being
sure and certain witnesses of Forbes' old continent," and of course the Entomological world implicitly follows this view. But to my eyes it would be difficult to imagine facts more opposed to such a view. It is really disgusting and humiliating to see directly opposite conclusions drawn from the same facts.
I have had some correspondence with Wollaston on this and other subjects, and I find that he coolly assumes, (1) that formerly insects possessed greater migratory powers than now, (2) that the old land was specially rich in centres of creation, (3) that the uniting land was destroyed before the special creations had time to diffuse, and (4) that the land was broken down before certain families and genera had time to reach from Europe or Africa the points of land in question. Are not these a jolly lot of assumptions? and yet I shall see for the next dozen or score of years Wollaston quoted as proving the former existence of poor Forbes' Atlantis.
the south, he devoted himself to a study of the Coleoptera of Madeira, the Cape de Verdes, and St. Helena, whence he deduced evidence in support of the belief in the submerged continent of . Atlantis.' In an obituary notice by Mr. Rye (' Nature,' 1878) he is described as working persistently upon a broad conception of the science to which he was devoted,” while being at the same time "accurate, elaborate, and precise ad punctum, and naturally of a minutely critical habit.” His first scientific paper was written when he was an undergraduate at Jesus College, Cambridge. While at the University, he was an Associate and afterwards a Member of the Ray Club : this is a small society which still meets once a week, and where the undergraduate members, or Associates, receive much kindly encouragement from their elders,
I hope I have not wearied you, but I thought you would like to hear about this book, which strikes me as excellent in its facts, and the author a most nice and modest man.
Most truly yours,
C. Darwin to W. D. Fox.
Down, March 19th (1855). MY DEAR Fox,-How long it is since we have had any communication, and I really want to hear how the world goes with you ; but my immediate object is to ask you to observe a point for me, and as I know now you are a very busy man with too much to do, I shall have a good chance of your doing what I want, as it would be hopeless to ask a quite idle man.
As you have a Noah's Ark, I do not doubt that you have pigeons. (How I wish by any chance they were fantails!) Now what I want to know is, at what age nestling pigeons have their tail feathers sufficiently developed to be counted. I do not think I ever saw a young pigeon. I am hard at work at my notes collecting and comparing them, in order in some two or three years to write a book with all the facts and arguments, which I can collect, for and versus the immutability of species. I want to get the young of our domestic breeds, to see how young, and to what degree the differences appear. I must either breed myself (which is no amusement but a horrid bore to me) the pigeons or buy their young; and before I go to a seller, whom I have heard of from Yarrell, I am really anxious to know something about their development, not to expose my excessive ignorance, and therefore be excessively liable to be cheated and gulled. With respect to the one point of the tail feathers, it is of course in relation to the wonderful development of tail feathers in the adult fantail. If you had any breed of poultry pure, I would beg a chicken with exact age stated, about a week or fortnight old! to be sent in a box by post, if you could have the heart to kill one ; and secondly, would let me pay post
age. . . Indeed, I should be very glad to have a nestling common pigeon sent, for I mean to make skeletons, and have already just begun comparing wild and tame ducks. And I think the results rather curious,* for on weighing the several bones very carefully, when perfectly cleaned the proportional weights of the two have greatly varied, the foot of the tame having largely increased. How I wish I could get a little wild duck of a week old, but that I know is almost impossible.
With respect to ourselves, I have not much to say; we have now a terribly noisy house with the whooping cough, but otherwise are all well. Far the greatest fact about myself is that I have at last quite done with the everlasting barnacles. At the end of the year we had two of our little boys very ill with fever and bronchitis, and all sorts of ailments. Partly for amusement, and partly for change of air, we went to London and took a house for a month, but it turned out a great failure, for that dreadful frost just set in when we went, and all our children got unwell, and E. and I had coughs and colds and rheumatism nearly all the time. We had put down first on our list of things to do, to go and see Mrs. Fox, but literally after waiting some time to see whether the weather would not improve, we had not a day when we both could
I do hope before very long you will be able to manage to pay us a visit. Time is slipping away, and we are getting oldish. Do tell us about yourself and all your large family. I know
you will help me if you can with information about the young pigeons; and anyhow do write before very long. My dear Fox, your sincere old friend,
*"I have just been testing practically what disuse does in reducing parts; I have made skeleton of wild and tame duck (oh, the smell of wellboiled, high duck ! !) and I find the tame-duck wing ought, according to scale of wild prototype, to have its two wings 360 grains in weight, but it has it only 317."-A letter to Sir J. Hooker, 1855.