The three degrees positive comparative superlative in negation of the proofs or Hume Kant Darwin — The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin chapter viii. of the first volume — Darwin one of the best of men — Design — Uniformity and law — Darwin's own words — He himself always gentle — But resolute to win — — Concessiveness — Religious sentiment — Disbelief — Jokes — Natural selection being materialism is true and ideas are only derivative — The theory — A species what — Sterility — What suggested natural selection to Darwin — Bakewell's achievements as a breeder — Darwin will substitute nature for Bakewell to the production not of new breeds but absolutely of new species — His lever to this change by natural accident and chance: such necessarily proving either advantageous disadvantageous or indifferent — Advantage securing in the struggle for life survival of the fittest disadvantage entailing death and destruction indifference being out of count — The woodpecker the misletoe — But more variation the very fulcrum — Variation must be and consequences to the organism must be: hence the whole — But never design only a mechanical pullulation of differences by chance that simply prove advantageous or disadvantageous etc. — Conditions — Mr. Huxley — Effect of the announcements of Sir Joseph Hooker and Sir Charles Lyell — Mr. Darwin insists on his originality — His difficulties in winning his way — Even those who agree with him as Lyell Hooker and others he demurs to their expressions: they fail to understand — Mr. Darwin's own qualms — “What makes a tuft of feathers come on a cock's head or moss on a moss-rose?” — That the question — Still spontaneous variation both universal and constant.
Gifford Lecture the Seventeenth.
IN regard to the negative on the question of the proofs for the being of a God having now passed through what we name the positive and comparative degrees of it as found respectively in the writings of David Hume and Immanuel Kant we have reached at length the similarly conditioned superlative degree in so far as it is represented on the whole that is by the views of the celebrated Charles Darwin In chapter viii. of the first volume of The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin a chapter which bears to inform us in regard to the religious views of Mr. Darwin and which is actually entitled “Religion” I think we shall easily find abundant evidence to prove that this distinguished naturalist especially in the latter part of his life came greatly to doubt of the existence of a God at all. I should not find it difficult in this reference then to paint a picture which should exhibit the original of it in a form and colouring still very odious to the great majority of the English-speaking populations anywhere. His absolute want of sympathy at last with all in nature and in art which we are in the habit of regarding as appealing to what is highest or to what is deepest and divinest in the soul of man—that might be taken advantage of and according to ability worked up into a representation or misrepresentation which should actually revolt. But I for my part have not the slightest inclination for the daubing—it would be only that—of any such caricature. I know that if a man has long accustomed his thoughts exclusively to run in a single special and peculiar groove—I know I say that then all other grooves become distasteful to him. In many such grooves—for many such grooves he may have been enthusiastic once. He does not value them the less now; but in the intensity of his devotion to the one he has ceased to be susceptible of the interest which it surprises disappoints disturbs him to find he no longer possesses for the others. This is a state of mind which in regard of intellectual working we may expect to meet after a time even in the best of men. And Charles Darwin was one of the best of men. As son brother husband father friend as servant or master as simple citizen that man was as is well possible here perfect. It is to be understood then that if I have to refer at any time to Mr. Darwin's religious opinions I do so only in the regard that my subject compels. That subject at present is specially the negative of the proofs for the being of a God and in Mr. Darwin's reference that negative is secluded and confined to the argument from design. To this argument his peculiar theory is fatal; and Mr. Darwin himself is not only aware of this but in express terms acknowledges it. And that for me is enough that for me is all. I have to do with Mr. Darwin in this respect alone. I know that in regard to the theory in question—Natural Selection—there are in existence all manner of views—I know that there are those to whom this theory has extended the satisfaction and consolation of universal uniformity and enlightened law; but with these views or representations of views I have in any way whatever no call to intromit. In fact I may say at once in regard to uniformity that it is not its presence but its absence that I find in the theory of Mr. Darwin. He who does not see—who does not know and proclaim that this world is dependent on ideas is hung on ideas is instinct with ideas—he to me has no true word to say for uniformity. I refuse to acknowledge uniformity in mere matter that is figured in mere mechanical play from beyond the Magellan clouds to within the indivisible unit of every living soul. My uniformity is the uniformity not of matter but of mind; and that is the uniformity which I precisely fail to find in the theory of Mr. Darwin. He himself as I say acknowledges this. He doubts the existence of God; he denies design. What I have first to do here then is to lead evidence in proof of the allegations made. So far as these allegations concern design that is the direct interest; in other respects they concern only an indirect implication in consequence of necessary quotation. I desire Mr. Darwin to be regarded only with respect—or in truth and sincerity only with love. It was in this spirit that in the first place here I contemplated a psychological inquiry not only into the life and character of Mr. Darwin himself but into those of his father and specially of his grandfather the celebrated Dr. Erasmus Darwin of Zoonomia and the Botanic Garden. In these references I collected largely. I ransacked the two lives of Dr. Erasmus that of Miss Seward and that of Ernst Krause as also that remarkable book of Miss Meteyard's A Group of Englishmen in which we are introduced to the enormous balk of Mr. Darwin's father “the largest man whom” the son “ever saw” “about six feet two inches in height with broad shoulders and very corpulent” “twenty-four stone in weight when last weighed but afterwards much heavier” a man represented by Miss Meteyard as “eating a goose for his dinner as easily as other men do a partridge.” Charles denies this: we must be cautious in receiving such reports; others he says “describe his father as eating remarkably little.” Evidently that goose is not to the stomach of the family. I read and made large extracts also from the various works of Dr. Erasmus from the Zoonomia and the Botanic Garden. And it is possible that were I to apply all the material collected I might be able to realize some not altogether uninteresting psychological characterization which might even have its bearing on the peculiar theories of the son and grandson; but this would lead me much too far at present and I am reluctantly compelled to turn to what my space alone allows me the theory itself of Charles Darwin and in so far as it concerns design.
On that last head design we have it in our power to adduce in evidence a great variety of expressions of Mr. Darwin's own. Such expressions are principally to be found in the letters to Mr. Asa Gray and in the chapter entitled “Religion” which occur in the work already referred to. From the latter the eighth chapter namely of the first volume I quote for example this: “The old argument from design in Nature … fails now that the law of natural selection has been discovered. … There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings … than in the course which the wind blows.” Now these are only a few words; but they are unmistakable. They are crucial as to this That to Mr. Darwin there is no more design in organic variation than in the course of the wind That consequently the argument from design fails and That this failure of said argument is to be attributed to the law of natural selection. By implication we see that Mr. Darwin's general doctrine is this The varied organizations in nature are due not to design but to natural selection; or as we may put it reverse-wise natural selection accounts for all organic variation in nature and any reference to a so-called principle of design is unwarranted groundless and gratuitous. Of course it cannot be said that Mr. Darwin exactly triumphs in this supposed destruction of the argument from design. Mr. Darwin is a most amiable man. He was ever courteous in expression—whether by letter or by word of mouth—almost to a fault; “he naturally shrank” as his son says “from wounding the sensibilities of others in religious matters.” So it is that in his letters to Asa Gray—an earnest-minded man—all that he has to say on design is mitigated ever by gentle words in regard to theology. With respect “to the theological view of the question. This” he says “is always painful to me. I am bewildered. I had no intention to write atheistically. But I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do and as I should wish to do evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. … I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws1 with the details whether good or bad left to the working out of what we may call chance.” It is ever thus in meek conciliant vein he writes concessively to all his intimate friends—even to Hooker and to Lyell who were his most intimate. An element in this was of course the desire that was ever present to him of winning his way for his theory into the conviction of his correspondents and of softening the opposition which he constantly encountered from them. It is rather amusing to watch his shrewd manœuvres in this reference both with Hooker and Lyell especially the latter whom he is always reminding of his own eminence and of his own teaching in his geology! At times he even gets humorously cross with his own self when consciousness of this his concessive attitude has come upon him as in reference to his having “put in the possibility of the Galapagos having been continuously joined to America” though “in fact convinced more than in any other case of other islands that the Galapagos had never been so joined.” At such instance of concessiveness as this I say he gets humorously cross with himself and exclaims “It was mere base subservience and terror of Hooker & Co.” With all softness of expression however Mr. Darwin's candour is never for a moment in doubt. He says himself that he “does not think that the religious sentiment was ever strongly developed in him;” and he writes with perfectly conscious unreserve of his unbelief in a revelation whether of or by God—writes quite jokingly at times indeed with reference to articles of faith and the priests that teach them. But it is only in what regards design that there is any interest in Mr. Darwin for us at present; and we are happily spared here consequently all citation and any further reference to the subject of religion so far as Mr. Darwin is concerned.
The result before which we stand now then is this: If natural selection is true design is false. That at least is the conclusion of Mr. Darwin; and Mr. Darwin it was who in regard to natural selection first made current the phrase and held valid the doctrine. Evidently then Mr. Darwin being right our whole enterprise is brought to a very short issue. There is an end to the whole interest of Natural Theology—an end to all our relative declamation—an end to all our arguments for the existence of God in so far namely as to the general belief of the modern world all these arguments concentrate themselves in design. Design namely is the product of ideas; but there can be no ideas to begin with on the footing of natural selection. Natural selection being true ideas are not producers but produced. What alone results in that case is that materialism is all and that ideas only issue from the order and arrangement which things themselves simply fall into. The immediate question that presses on us consequently is What is natural selection? And for an answer to this question I confine myself to the same work already spoken of—The Life and Letters. I am not unacquainted with the other relative writings of Mr. Darwin; but I find no answers to all my questions in these references so simple and direct as those suggested in the three volumes of the book I have named
Now to say it all in a word the theory is this: Every organism has varieties; of which varieties certain examples being selected settle into longevity as it were or into quasi-permanence as species. Species so far are but long-lived varieties; and the question is To constitute a species is that enough—is longevity enough? What in fact is it that does constitute a species or what is the ensemble of qualities that is proper to and distinctive of a species; what is the definition of a species? Now here according to Mr. Darwin (ii. 88) “it is really laughable to see what different ideas are prominent in various naturalists' minds when they speak of species; in some resemblance is everything and descent of little weight; in some resemblance seems to go for nothing and creation the reigning idea; in some descent is the key; in some sterility an unfailing test; with others it is not worth a farthing. It all comes I believe from trying to define the undefinable.” A species then would appear from this to be undefinable to Mr. Darwin; so much so that he can afford to laugh at his coadjutors and fellow-workers. When we turn in upon him however actually engaged in the work of determining for himself a species we find Mr. Darwin not by any means in a laughing humour. He tells his friend Hooker (ii. 40) that “after describing a set of forms as distinct species tearing up my MS. and making them one species; tearing that up and making them separate; and then making them one again (which has happened to me) I have gnashed my teeth cursed species and asked what sin I had committed to be so punished!” Plainly if we have first of all to make out for ourselves what the thing that is to originate is we have our own difficulties before us. Nevertheless from the various definers laughed at by Mr. Darwin we may gather a list of what qualities are on the whole considered as more or less specific; and they are these—Resemblance Descent Creation and Sterility. Creation we may dismiss as almost constituting precisely the single point that happens to be in question; Mr. Darwin that is holds species not to be created but to develop the one from the other. Of the other characters named we may assume Mr. Darwin to allow resemblance and to accentuate descent but to deny sterility. Of this last—sterility—Mr. Darwin holds that neither sterility nor fertility affords any certain distinction between species and varieties (Origin 237). I fancy however on this head that we shall very probably hit the truth should we say that sterility is after all the rule and that Mr. Darwin's conclusion being in his own favour otherwise is only plausibly supported on mere exceptions and consequent superficial discrepancies (somewhat exaggerated) between authorities. What I mean by the accentuated descent is Mr. Darwin's peculiarity—the peculiarity of opinion namely that there is descent from species not only of separate individuals and separate varieties but also of other and separate species. That is what is meant by the “Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection.” How Mr. Darwin was led to his peculiarity in this respect he tells us again and again himself. “All my notions” he says (ii. 79) “about how species change are derived from long-continued study of the works of (and converse with) agriculturists and horticulturists; and I believe I see my way pretty clearly on the means used by Nature to change her species and adapt them to the wondrous and exquisitely beautiful contingencies to which every living being is exposed.” Of what is meant by the “change” referred to here as concerns first its artificial side (the action of the breeders) he speaks elsewhere (ii. 122) thus: “Man by this power of accumulating variations adapts living beings to his wants; he may be said to make the wool of one sheep good for carpets and another for cloth” etc. It is the celebrated Robert Bakewell of Dishley and the means by which he arrived at his wonderfully improved breeds of domestic animals—sheep oxen horses—that are here specially in allusion. Having observed that the young of animals are almost quite like their parents in qualities he was led to infer that if care were taken only suitably to pair the result would be a breed uniting in itself whatever qualities should be the most desirable. Accordingly it was in this way that he came to effect all those modifications in the families of the domestic animals which are now so well known. Mr. Darwin then intimates further here on the natural side that he himself by example of Bakewell was led to place instead of Bakewell nature as a breeder2 with the result that he names natural selection. For the genesis of the idea in the mind of Mr. Darwin that is the important point; and this genesis will be full and complete if we only add two other less important and subordinate points. These are—1. the Galapagos Archipelago and 2. the book of Malthus on population. In those altogether lonely singular and peculiar Galapagos Islands namely he thought he had caught nature in the very act of originating species; and by Malthus there was suggested to him the Struggle for Existence. This phrase we may add afterwards led of itself to the further phrase Survival of the Fittest. So far then we see that Mr. Darwin was minded to discover in nature such operations upon animals as were exemplified by man in his artificial breeds; and that he had accordingly come to see that the means to these operations was the struggle for Life that eventuated in the Survival of the Fittest. How the struggle acted was his ultimate consideration; and the agent in result was variously named by him divergence difference modification variation etc. It was on this difference or through this difference that Nature operated her selection. Rather in fact it was the difference operated the selection on nature and not nature on the difference. When advantageous that is the difference did itself enable the organism to take a new departure in nature to rise a step to seize itself of a new and higher level in existence a new and better habitat a new and better food a new and better attack a new and better defence etc. All this is precisely what is meant by Mr. Darwin when he says (i. 84): “The modified offspring of all dominant and increasing forms tend to become adapted to many and highly-diversified places in the economy of nature.” To the same effect Mr. Darwin says more fully elsewhere (ii. 124): “I cannot doubt that during millions of generations individuals of a species will be born with some slight variation profitable to some part of its economy. Such will have a better chance of surviving propagating this variation which again will be slowly increased by the accumulative action of natural selection; and the variety thus formed will either coexist with or more commonly will extirpate its parent form. An organic being like the woodpecker or the mistletoe may thus come to be adapted to a score of contingencies natural selection accumulating those slight variations in all parts of its structure which are in any way useful to it during any part of its life.” These are Mr. Darwin's own words; and his scheme is really at full and entire in them. Still it may be brought considerably more clearly home to us if we will but pay a little separate attention to its constitutive parts. The one great point in the whole however is the variation. That is the single hinge on which the entire fabric turns. That is the cue for natural selection to interfere; that and that alone is the source of the material that enables natural selection to succeed. Now that is a very simple affair; there is neither complication nor mystery in it. All organisms are variable; and all organisms do vary. The interest is therefore that into which at any time the variation is made. That may be a mere slight increase of something already there; some mere slight change of shape; some mere slight change of direction even. Or it may be some initial new streak some initial new caruncle nodule tubercle alto relievo or basso relievo some mere dimple or some mere lip some mere initial crease fold pucker—some mere stain even. But whatever it be there are necessarily the rudiments of advantage or disadvantage in it; and whatever it be there is a tendency for it to be propagated. It is inherited by the progeny of whatever organism we may suppose to have been suscipient (sufferer or beneficiary) of the change; nay not only inherited but inherited with increase and with tendency of increase. Should it be a dimple a basso relievo for example it may grow into a hollow that should hold water and as joint on the stem of a plant prevent the ascent of the insect that would plunder its nectary. Or should it be a tubercle a nodule an alto relievo it may become in the end a new fibril a new tentacle a new tendril an actual new organ to increase of the security to increase of the nourishment and support of the plant. I say in the end; and that end may be reached only by a long gradation only by an accumulation of slowly successive almost insensible steps—really insensible if only looked at from day to day. What is alone concerned is this that there shall be a change and that that change shall tell upon the life of the organism. If it tell at all then through propagation it can only tell with increase. But with such telling gradation of change fairly conceived we can be at no loss to conceive also the process carried out on this side and on that into organisms eventually so changed that compared with their antecedents or originals they cannot be denied to be new species. Assume the change to be one of advantage then the accumulation of necessarily increasing differences can only end in the production of a new creature. Mr. Darwin is resolute in his adherence to this that there shall be no design from elsewhere—that the whole appearance of contrivance and construction shall be due to nothing else whatever than so to speak to this mechanical pullulation of differences that can only end in such mechanical accumulation as can be only tantamount to a new species. Of course it is plant life animal life that so pullulates or develops; and it is not denied that life may be more than mechanism. But still as in life the process here can only be called mechanical. We only assume it to be certain that organisms do vary and quite as certain that any variation they present is in the first instance no more than an accident—a simple appearance of chance. Even the influence of conditions is not to be taken into account: the same organism may exist under any conditions whatever from the north to the south or from the east to the west. Conditions or no conditions it is the appearance of difference alone that is crucial—difference into advantage and accumulation of difference into advantage until by mere process of natural eventuation of steps the old has become new—out of one species another has been evolved. This whatever may be said is the genuine Darwin. Mr. Darwin has been much impressed by the progress of physical science—by the enormous revolution in it which the discovery of one law—the attraction of gravity—has accomplished and it would rejoice his heart to introduce a like natural simplification into the process of organic change. As primal condition of the realization of this process Mr. Darwin expressly excludes (ii. 176 s.) any necessity to presuppose an aboriginal “power of adaptation” or “principle of improvement;” it is enough that there be granted “only diversified variability.” And “so” he says “under nature any slight modification which chances to arise and is useful to any creature is selected or preserved in the struggle for life.” To Mr. Darwin the slight modification only “chances” to arise—chances in italics! This one passage is decisive; but there are many such. He says once to Lyell for instance: “No change will ever be effected till a variation in the habits or structure or of both chance to occur in the right direction so as to give the organism in question an advantage over other already established occupants of land or water; and this may be in any particular case indefinitely long.” And the word chance is again underlined. To Hooker too he speaks in the same conviction. “The formation of a strong variety or species” he says (ii. 87) “I look at as almost wholly due to the selection of what may be incorrectly called chance variations or variability;” and again he italicizes chance. The adverb “incorrectly” namely is only added under the influence of common parlance.3 The physical natural changes that are the groundwork of the theory are to him—as physical natural—results of mere mechanical play that may be named chance or as he says elsewhere accident. His one desire indeed is to keep this chance this accident pure. Under it alone he would see a difference arise for a consequent series of differences by propagation heredity to accumulate. So it is that he manifests most unmistakably and almost everywhere a rooted disinclination to consider any diversity in organisms as the result of an alteration in external conditions. Courtesy was the very nature of Mr. Darwin; and under its leading he goes always so far as ever he can in agreement with his various correspondents. In a letter to Herr Moritz Wagner for example who seems to have accentuated conditions “I wish. I could believe” he says with all gentleness—“I wish I could believe in this doctrine (the agency of changed conditions) as it removes many difficulties.” Even here however his wish for is followed by his objections to. No doubt Herr Wagner is not the only correspondent to whom there may be some polite expression of favour more or less for conditions; but even within a year of his death in writing to Professor Semper with reference to Professor Hoffmann's experiments in discredit of conditions he ventures to tell the former—“I thought you attributed too much weight to the direct action of the environment;—changed conditions act in most cases in a very indirect manner.” Elsewhere in these letters when he judges his correspondent to be with him there is to be found quite a superfluity of expressions unexceptively averse to the belief in conditions. To Hooker for example he says once “The conclusion I have come to … is that external conditions (to which naturalists so often appeal) do by themselves very little;” and this very little is an italicized very little. On another occasion he finds “the common notion absurd that climate food etc. should make a pediculus formed to climb hair or woodpecker to climb trees.” “I quite agree with what you say about the little direct influence of climate” he seems quite glad to tell Hooker at another time. To Thomas Davidson again he courteously and concessively admits “I oscillate much on this head;” still he takes heart to intimate that he “generally returns to his belief that the direct action of the conditions of life has not been great.” To Lyell he throws off every rag of reserve and actually swears. “I feel inclined to swear at climate” (ii. 174) he says; “no error is more mischievous than this” (ii. 169); and again “It has taken me so many years to disabuse my mind of the too great importance of climate that I am inclined to swear at the North Pole and as Sydney Smith said ‘even to speak disrespectfully of the Equator;’” and then he bids Lyell reflect how “readily acclimatization is effected under nature”—how “thousands of plants can perfectly well withstand a little more heat and cold a little more damp and dry” etc. As all inorganic phenomena are under the law of physical gravitation so Mr. Darwin would wish all organic phenomena to prove under the law of mere physical variation. So it is that he dislikes all reference to conditions. It is very natural that one for a time should fail to see this in Mr. Darwin; for the influence of conditions is so glaringly conspicuous so palpably indispensable indeed that it takes long to be prepared for their denial. Nevertheless it is obvious from these quotations—and they might be largely augmented—that he who insists on conditions as elements in the construction of an organism cannot be in agreement with but is in opposition to Mr. Darwin. And it is here that Mr. Huxley puts us to some difficulty—not for his opinions but only in his use of the phrase “external conditions.” As regards the 1844 Essay for example he points out to Mr. Darwin's son that in it “much more weight is attached to the influence of external conditions in producing variation and to the inheritance of acquired habits than in the Origin;” while to Mr. Darwin himself he had after reading his book in 1859 remarked—and the remark is the second of the only two objections that have occurred to him—“it is not clear to me why if continual physical conditions are of so little moment as you suppose variation should occur at all” (ii. 231). Mr. Huxley from these quotations had evidently observed that Mr. Darwin put little moment on physical conditions and that this tendency on his part was stronger on a later occasion than on an earlier. Evidently also Mr. Huxley was so far in disagreement with Mr. Darwin. It cannot be so far then that we mean Mr. Huxley to have put us to any relative difficulty. No; the reference in that case is to a passage in Mr. Huxley's writing just of the other day which (Life and Letters of Charles Darwin vol. ii. p. 195) runs thus: “The suggestion that new species may result from the selective action of external conditions upon the variations from their specific type which individuals present—and which we call ‘spontaneous’ because we are ignorant of their causation—that suggestion is the central idea of the Origin of Species and contains the quintessence of Darwinism.” Here “external conditions” as we see have become the very motor and agent and source and spring of Darwinism; and they do give difficulty if they are to be supposed the same as before. But they are not to be so supposed—they are not the same as before. No very far from that! The conditions then were supposed to precede the variation: the conditions now are supposed to follow it. Or while the former were the conditions that brought about the variation the latter again are those that only take advantage of it. The first set of conditions were those of climate—heat and cold damp and dry—food etc. What the second set refers to—quite otherwise—are the increased means of nourishment support shelter security which have been already described as the advantages on the part of nature pictured in the theory to be consequent upon the variation. As was said then: It is on the variation that Nature operates her selection; or as it may be otherwise conceived the selection is operated on nature by the variation. Now that is the whole meaning of Mr. Huxley in the apparently discrepant usage of the phrase “external conditions” in his respective passage that has just been quoted. Further as we may allow ourselves to note when in the same passage Mr. Huxley calls the variation “spontaneous” there can be no hesitation in acknowledging that he is absolutely correct in asserting the single suggestion he has in view to be the central idea and to constitute the quintessence of Darwinism: the suggestion namely that new species may result from such and such selective action on such and such individual variation. A variation occurs spontaneously in an organism; and it is followed up by a selective action on (or through) the conditions in its environment. These are the conditions Mr. Huxley means now; and that to him as it is to us is the whole idea of Darwinism—the quintessence of Darwinism—the centre and the soul and the very self of Darwinism. For the sake of clearness I may just point out here a third set of external conditions. The “attraction of gravity” namely “light” etc. which Mr. Darwin names in connection with the “power of movement” in plants are quite entitled to the same designation; but however relevant as referred to they are not to be regarded as elements in the Darwinian construction.
We may return now to this that in their first sense Mr. Huxley disagreed with Mr. Darwin as to the action of external conditions in respect of variations in individual organisms—disagreed so widely indeed that it was not clear to him (Huxley) “how without continual physical conditions variation should occur at all” Confusion in regard to the various sets of conditions is not to be thought of when these words were written. There must at that time have been points of serious disagreement on the part of Mr. Huxley with the views of Mr. Darwin. It is Mr. Darwin himself who writes to Mr. Huxley in 1860 (ii. 354): “This makes me feel a little disappointed that you are not inclined to think the general view in some slight degree more probable than you did at first. This I consider rather ominous. I entirely agree with you that the difficulties on my notions are terrific.” Nor if it was so with Mr. Huxley was it in any respect better—rather was it not worse?—with Sir Joseph Hooker and Sir Charles Lyell who as the confidants of Mr. Darwin had on various public occasions been the means of trumpeting the story of our long-tailed or four-footed ancestors to an astonished world which could but breathlessly rush to see and to know? Mr. Darwin will have it (i. 87) that it was not “as it has been sometimes said that the success of the Origin proved ‘that the subject was in the air’ or ‘that men's minds were prepared for it.’ I do not think that this is strictly true” he says “for I occasionally sounded not a few naturalists and never happened to come across a single one who seemed to doubt about the permanence of species. Even Lyell and Hooker though they would listen with interest to me never seemed to agree.” Of Lyell he had already written to Dr. Asa Gray in 1863 “You speak of Lyell as a judge; now what I complain of is that he declines to be a judge. I have sometimes almost wished that Lyell had pronounced against me.” To Lyell himself too he writes (ii. 300) “It is a great blow to me that you cannot admit the potency of natural selection;” and again “I grieve to see you hint at the creation of distinct successive types as well as of distinct aboriginal types.” To the same Gray he avows also “You never say a word or use an epithet which does not express fully my meaning. Now Lyell Hooker and others who perfectly understand my book yet sometimes use expressions to which I demur.” It is to be feared that even this Dr. Asa Gray who never said a discrepant word was pretty much for all that in the same state of mind as Hooker and Lyell. Mr. Darwin himself in the very next paragraph of the very same letter can only say of him “I yet hope and almost believe that the time will come when you will go farther in believing a very large amount of modification of species than you did at first or do now. Can you tell me whether you believe further or more firmly than you did at first?” It is quite touchingly suggestive of the situation and quite pathetic to hear Mr. Darwin so painfully simply in earnest follow up his question by “I should really like to know this!” Mr. Darwin indeed must have occasionally suffered dreadfully at this time from distrust and mistrust and want of confidence in the soundness and cogency of what he had so much his heart in. He tells Asa Gray of the thought of the eye making him “cold all over.” Nay he says “the sight of a feather in a peacock's tail whenever I gaze at it makes me sick!” It is in much the same mood of mind or with the same problem before him that he cries out once to Huxley “If as I must think external conditions produce little direct effect what the devil determines each particular variation? What makes a tuft of feathers come on a cook's head or moss on a moss-rose?”
For us from such expressions as these we are brought very close to the question as Mr. Darwin sees it. There is no formed difference that he would not like to account for; and he does not always see his way to this in a start from certain rudimentary or initial spontaneous differences which his theory obliges him to assume. “I believe” he says “most beings vary at all times enough for selection to act on”—that is he means as it were and as Mr. Huxley directly says “spontaneously” vary. Hence advantage and disadvantage in the struggle for life with the necessary survival of the fittest.
We have thus broken ground on the views of Mr. Darwin and will be already able to judge in some degree of the relation which according to Mr. Darwin himself these views bear to the argument from design; and that alone is the consideration which interests us here. We must continue the subject with I hope a closer approach in our next.
From the book: