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Author: William A. Stein
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Etext of The Autobiography of Charles Darwin
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by Charles Darwin
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The Autobiography of Charles Darwin
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From The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin
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Edited by his Son
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Francis Darwin
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[My father's autobiographical recollections, given in the present
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chapter, were written for his children,--and written without any
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thought that they would ever be published. To many this may seem
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an impossibility; but those who knew my father will understand
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how it was not only possible, but natural. The autobiography
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bears the heading, 'Recollections of the Development of my Mind
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and Character,' and end with the following note:--"Aug. 3, 1876.
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This sketch of my life was begun about May 28th at Hopedene (Mr.
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Hensleigh Wedgwood's house in Surrey.), and since then I have
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written for nearly an hour on most afternoons." It will easily
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be understood that, in a narrative of a personal and intimate
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kind written for his wife and children, passages should occur
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which must here be omitted; and I have not thought it necessary
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to indicate where such omissions are made. It has been found
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necessary to make a few corrections of obvious verbal slips, but
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the number of such alterations has been kept down to the
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minimum.--F.D.]
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A German Editor having written to me for an account of the
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development of my mind and character with some sketch of my
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autobiography, I have thought that the attempt would amuse me,
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and might possibly interest my children or their children. I
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know that it would have interested me greatly to have read even
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so short and dull a sketch of the mind of my grandfather, written
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by himself, and what he thought and did, and how he worked. I
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have attempted to write the following account of myself, as if I
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were a dead man in another world looking back at my own life.
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Nor have I found this difficult, for life is nearly over with me.
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I have taken no pains about my style of writing.
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I was born at Shrewsbury on February 12th, 1809, and my earliest
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recollection goes back only to when I was a few months over four
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years old, when we went to near Abergele for sea-bathing, and I
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recollect some events and places there with some little
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distinctness.
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My mother died in July 1817, when I was a little over eight years
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old, and it is odd that I can remember hardly anything about her
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except her death-bed, her black velvet gown, and her curiously
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constructed work-table. In the spring of this same year I was
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sent to a day-school in Shrewsbury, where I stayed a year. I
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have been told that I was much slower in learning than my younger
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sister Catherine, and I believe that I was in many ways a naughty
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boy.
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By the time I went to this day-school (Kept by Rev. G. Case,
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minister of the Unitarian Chapel in the High Street. Mrs. Darwin
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was a Unitarian and attended Mr. Case's chapel, and my father as
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a little boy went there with his elder sisters. But both he and
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his brother were christened and intended to belong to the Church
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of England; and after his early boyhood he seems usually to have
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gone to church and not to Mr. Case's. It appears ("St. James'
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Gazette", Dec. 15, 1883) that a mural tablet has been erected to
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his memory in the chapel, which is now known as the 'Free
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Christian Church.') my taste for natural history, and more
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especially for collecting, was well developed. I tried to make
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out the names of plants (Rev. W.A. Leighton, who was a
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schoolfellow of my father's at Mr. Case's school, remembers his
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bringing a flower to school and saying that his mother had taught
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him how by looking at the inside of the blossom the name of the
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plant could be discovered. Mr. Leighton goes on, "This greatly
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roused my attention and curiosity, and I enquired of him
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repeatedly how this could be done?"--but his lesson was naturally
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enough not transmissible.--F.D.), and collected all sorts of
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things, shells, seals, franks, coins, and minerals. The passion
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for collecting which leads a man to be a systematic naturalist, a
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virtuoso, or a miser, was very strong in me, and was clearly
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innate, as none of my sisters or brother ever had this taste.
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One little event during this year has fixed itself very firmly in
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my mind, and I hope that it has done so from my conscience having
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been afterwards sorely troubled by it; it is curious as showing
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that apparently I was interested at this early age in the
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variability of plants! I told another little boy (I believe it
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was Leighton, who afterwards became a well-known lichenologist
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and botanist), that I could produce variously coloured
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polyanthuses and primroses by watering them with certain coloured
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fluids, which was of course a monstrous fable, and had never been
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tried by me. I may here also confess that as a little boy I was
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much given to inventing deliberate falsehoods, and this was
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always done for the sake of causing excitement. For instance, I
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once gathered much valuable fruit from my father's trees and hid
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it in the shrubbery, and then ran in breathless haste to spread
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the news that I had discovered a hoard of stolen fruit.
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I must have been a very simple little fellow when I first went to
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the school. A boy of the name of Garnett took me into a cake
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shop one day, and bought some cakes for which he did not pay, as
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the shopman trusted him. When we came out I asked him why he did
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not pay for them, and he instantly answered, "Why, do you not
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know that my uncle left a great sum of money to the town on
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condition that every tradesman should give whatever was wanted
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without payment to any one who wore his old hat and moved [it] in
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a particular manner?" and he then showed me how it was moved. He
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then went into another shop where he was trusted, and asked for
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some small article, moving his hat in the proper manner, and of
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course obtained it without payment. When we came out he said,
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"Now if you like to go by yourself into that cake-shop (how well
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I remember its exact position) I will lend you my hat, and you
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can get whatever you like if you move the hat on your head
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properly." I gladly accepted the generous offer, and went in and
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asked for some cakes, moved the old hat and was walking out of
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the shop, when the shopman made a rush at me, so I dropped the
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cakes and ran for dear life, and was astonished by being greeted
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with shouts of laughter by my false friend Garnett.
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I can say in my own favour that I was as a boy humane, but I owed
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this entirely to the instruction and example of my sisters. I
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doubt indeed whether humanity is a natural or innate quality. I
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was very fond of collecting eggs, but I never took more than a
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single egg out of a bird's nest, except on one single occasion,
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when I took all, not for their value, but from a sort of bravado.
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I had a strong taste for angling, and would sit for any number of
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hours on the bank of a river or pond watching the float; when at
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Maer (The house of his uncle, Josiah Wedgwood.) I was told that I
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could kill the worms with salt and water, and from that day I
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never spitted a living worm, though at the expense probably of
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some loss of success.
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Once as a very little boy whilst at the day school, or before
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that time, I acted cruelly, for I beat a puppy, I believe, simply
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from enjoying the sense of power; but the beating could not have
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been severe, for the puppy did not howl, of which I feel sure, as
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the spot was near the house. This act lay heavily on my
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conscience, as is shown by my remembering the exact spot where
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the crime was committed. It probably lay all the heavier from my
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love of dogs being then, and for a long time afterwards, a
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passion. Dogs seemed to know this, for I was an adept in robbing
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their love from their masters.
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I remember clearly only one other incident during this year
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whilst at Mr. Case's daily school,--namely, the burial of a
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dragoon soldier; and it is surprising how clearly I can still see
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the horse with the man's empty boots and carbine suspended to the
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saddle, and the firing over the grave. This scene deeply stirred
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whatever poetic fancy there was in me.
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In the summer of 1818 I went to Dr. Butler's great school in
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Shrewsbury, and remained there for seven years still Midsummer
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1825, when I was sixteen years old. I boarded at this school, so
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that I had the great advantage of living the life of a true
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schoolboy; but as the distance was hardly more than a mile to my
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home, I very often ran there in the longer intervals between the
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callings over and before locking up at night. This, I think, was
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in many ways advantageous to me by keeping up home affections and
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interests. I remember in the early part of my school life that I
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often had to run very quickly to be in time, and from being a
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fleet runner was generally successful; but when in doubt I prayed
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earnestly to God to help me, and I well remember that I
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attributed my success to the prayers and not to my quick running,
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and marvelled how generally I was aided.
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I have heard my father and elder sister say that I had, as a very
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young boy, a strong taste for long solitary walks; but what I
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thought about I know not. I often became quite absorbed, and
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once, whilst returning to school on the summit of the old
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fortifications round Shrewsbury, which had been converted into a
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public foot-path with no parapet on one side, I walked off and
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fell to the ground, but the height was only seven or eight feet.
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Nevertheless the number of thoughts which passed through my mind
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during this very short, but sudden and wholly unexpected fall,
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was astonishing, and seem hardly compatible with what
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physiologists have, I believe, proved about each thought
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requiring quite an appreciable amount of time.
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Nothing could have been worse for the development of my mind than
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Dr. Butler's school, as it was strictly classical, nothing else
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being taught, except a little ancient geography and history. The
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school as a means of education to me was simply a blank. During
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my whole life I have been singularly incapable of mastering any
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language. Especial attention was paid to verse-making, and this
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I could never do well. I had many friends, and got together a
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good collection of old verses, which by patching together,
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sometimes aided by other boys, I could work into any subject.
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Much attention was paid to learning by heart the lessons of the
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previous day; this I could effect with great facility, learning
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forty or fifty lines of Virgil or Homer, whilst I was in morning
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chapel; but this exercise was utterly useless, for every verse
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was forgotten in forty-eight hours. I was not idle, and with the
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exception of versification, generally worked conscientiously at
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my classics, not using cribs. The sole pleasure I ever received
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from such studies, was from some of the odes of Horace, which I
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admired greatly.
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When I left the school I was for my age neither high nor low in
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it; and I believe that I was considered by all my masters and by
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my father as a very ordinary boy, rather below the common
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standard in intellect. To my deep mortification my father once
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said to me, "You care for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat-
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catching, and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your
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family." But my father, who was the kindest man I ever knew and
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whose memory I love with all my heart, must have been angry and
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somewhat unjust when he used such words.
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Looking back as well as I can at my character during my school
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life, the only qualities which at this period promised well for
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the future, were, that I had strong and diversified tastes, much
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zeal for whatever interested me, and a keen pleasure in
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understanding any complex subject or thing. I was taught Euclid
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by a private tutor, and I distinctly remember the intense
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satisfaction which the clear geometrical proofs gave me. I
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remember, with equal distinctness, the delight which my uncle
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gave me (the father of Francis Galton) by explaining the
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principle of the vernier of a barometer. with respect to
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diversified tastes, independently of science, I was fond of
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reading various books, and I used to sit for hours reading the
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historical plays of Shakespeare, generally in an old window in
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the thick walls of the school. I read also other poetry, such as
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Thomson's 'Seasons,' and the recently published poems of Byron
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and Scott. I mention this because later in life I wholly lost,
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to my great regret, all pleasure from poetry of any kind,
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including Shakespeare. In connection with pleasure from poetry,
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I may add that in 1822 a vivid delight in scenery was first
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awakened in my mind, during a riding tour on the borders of
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Wales, and this has lasted longer than any other aesthetic
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pleasure.
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Early in my school days a boy had a copy of the 'Wonders of the
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World,' which I often read, and disputed with other boys about
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the veracity of some of the statements; and I believe that this
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book first gave me a wish to travel in remote countries, which
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was ultimately fulfilled by the voyage of the "Beagle". In the
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latter part of my school life I became passionately fond of
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shooting; I do not believe that any one could have shown more
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zeal for the most holy cause than I did for shooting birds. How
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well I remember killing my first snipe, and my excitement was so
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great that I had much difficulty in reloading my gun from the
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trembling of my hands. This taste long continued, and I became a
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very good shot. When at Cambridge I used to practise throwing up
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my gun to my shoulder before a looking-glass to see that I threw
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it up straight. Another and better plan was to get a friend to
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wave about a lighted candle, and then to fire at it with a cap on
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the nipple, and if the aim was accurate the little puff of air
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would blow out the candle. The explosion of the cap caused a
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sharp crack, and I was told that the tutor of the college
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remarked, "What an extraordinary thing it is, Mr. Darwin seems to
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spend hours in cracking a horse-whip in his room, for I often
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hear the crack when I pass under his windows."
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I had many friends amongst the schoolboys, whom I loved dearly,
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and I think that my disposition was then very affectionate.
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With respect to science, I continued collecting minerals with
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much zeal, but quite unscientifically--all that I cared about was
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a new-NAMED mineral, and I hardly attempted to classify them. I
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must have observed insects with some little care, for when ten
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years old (1819) I went for three weeks to Plas Edwards on the
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sea-coast in Wales, I was very much interested and surprised at
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seeing a large black and scarlet Hemipterous insect, many moths
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(Zygaena), and a Cicindela which are not found in Shropshire. I
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almost made up my mind to begin collecting all the insects which
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I could find dead, for on consulting my sister I concluded that
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it was not right to kill insects for the sake of making a
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collection. From reading White's 'Selborne,' I took much
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pleasure in watching the habits of birds, and even made notes on
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the subject. In my simplicity I remember wondering why every
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gentleman did not become an ornithologist.
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Towards the close of my school life, my brother worked hard at
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chemistry, and made a fair laboratory with proper apparatus in
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the tool-house in the garden, and I was allowed to aid him as a
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servant in most of his experiments. He made all the gases and
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many compounds, and I read with great care several books on
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chemistry, such as Henry and Parkes' 'Chemical Catechism.' The
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subject interested me greatly, and we often used to go on working
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till rather late at night. This was the best part of my
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education at school, for it showed me practically the meaning of
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experimental science. The fact that we worked at chemistry
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somehow got known at school, and as it was an unprecedented fact,
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I was nicknamed "Gas." I was also once publicly rebuked by the
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head-master, Dr. Butler, for thus wasting my time on such useless
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subjects; and he called me very unjustly a "poco curante," and as
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I did not understand what he meant, it seemed to me a fearful
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reproach.
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As I was doing no good at school, my father wisely took me away
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at a rather earlier age than usual, and sent me (Oct. 1825) to
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Edinburgh University with my brother, where I stayed for two
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years or sessions. My brother was completing his medical
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studies, though I do not believe he ever really intended to
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practise, and I was sent there to commence them. But soon after
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this period I became convinced from various small circumstances
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that my father would leave me property enough to subsist on with
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some comfort, though I never imagined that I should be so rich a
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man as I am; but my belief was sufficient to check any strenuous
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efforts to learn medicine.
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The instruction at Edinburgh was altogether by lectures, and
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these were intolerably dull, with the exception of those on
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chemistry by Hope; but to my mind there are no advantages and
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many disadvantages in lectures compared with reading. Dr.
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Duncan's lectures on Materia Medica at 8 o'clock on a winter's
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morning are something fearful to remember. Dr.-- made his
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lectures on human anatomy as dull as he was himself, and the
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subject disgusted me. It has proved one of the greatest evils in
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my life that I was not urged to practise dissection, for I should
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soon have got over my disgust; and the practice would have been
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invaluable for all my future work. This has been an irremediable
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evil, as well as my incapacity to draw. I also attended
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regularly the clinical wards in the hospital. Some of the cases
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distressed me a good deal, and I still have vivid pictures before
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me of some of them; but I was not so foolish as to allow this to
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lessen my attendance. I cannot understand why this part of my
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medical course did not interest me in a greater degree; for
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during the summer before coming to Edinburgh I began attending
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some of the poor people, chiefly children and women in
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Shrewsbury: I wrote down as full an account as I could of the
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case with all the symptoms, and read them aloud to my father, who
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suggested further inquiries and advised me what medicines to
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give, which I made up myself. At one time I had at least a dozen
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patients, and I felt a keen interest in the work. My father, who
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was by far the best judge of character whom I ever knew, declared
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that I should make a successful physician,--meaning by this one
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who would get many patients. He maintained that the chief
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element of success was exciting confidence; but what he saw in me
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which convinced him that I should create confidence I know not.
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I also attended on two occasions the operating theatre in the
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hospital at Edinburgh, and saw two very bad operations, one on a
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child, but I rushed away before they were completed. Nor did I
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ever attend again, for hardly any inducement would have been
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strong enough to make me do so; this being long before the
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blessed days of chloroform. The two cases fairly haunted me for
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many a long year.
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My brother stayed only one year at the University, so that during
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the second year I was left to my own resources; and this was an
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advantage, for I became well acquainted with several young men
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fond of natural science. One of these was Ainsworth, who
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afterwards published his travels in Assyria; he was a Wernerian
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geologist, and knew a little about many subjects. Dr. Coldstream
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was a very different young man, prim, formal, highly religious,
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and most kind-hearted; he afterwards published some good
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zoological articles. A third young man was Hardie, who would, I
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think, have made a good botanist, but died early in India.
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Lastly, Dr. Grant, my senior by several years, but how I became
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acquainted with him I cannot remember; he published some first-
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rate zoological papers, but after coming to London as Professor
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in University College, he did nothing more in science, a fact
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which has always been inexplicable to me. I knew him well; he
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was dry and formal in manner, with much enthusiasm beneath this
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outer crust. He one day, when we were walking together, burst
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forth in high admiration of Lamarck and his views on evolution.
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I listened in silent astonishment, and as far as I can judge
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without any effect on my mind. I had previously read the
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'Zoonomia' of my grandfather, in which similar views are
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maintained, but without producing any effect on me. Nevertheless
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it is probable that the hearing rather early in life such views
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maintained and praised may have favoured my upholding them under
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a different form in my 'Origin of Species.' At this time I
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admired greatly the 'Zoonomia;' but on reading it a second time
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after an interval of ten or fifteen years, I was much
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disappointed; the proportion of speculation being so large to the
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facts given.
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Drs. Grant and Coldstream attended much to marine Zoology, and I
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often accompanied the former to collect animals in the tidal
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pools, which I dissected as well as I could. I also became
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friends with some of the Newhaven fishermen, and sometimes
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accompanied them when they trawled for oysters, and thus got many
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specimens. But from not having had any regular practice in
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dissection, and from possessing only a wretched microscope, my
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attempts were very poor. Nevertheless I made one interesting
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little discovery, and read, about the beginning of the year 1826,
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a short paper on the subject before the Plinian Society. This
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was that the so-called ova of Flustra had the power of
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independent movement by means of cilia, and were in fact larvae.
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In another short paper I showed that the little globular bodies
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which had been supposed to be the young state of Fucus loreus
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were the egg-cases of the wormlike Pontobdella muricata.
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The Plinian Society was encouraged and, I believe, founded by
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Professor Jameson: it consisted of students and met in an
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underground room in the University for the sake of reading papers
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on natural science and discussing them. I used regularly to
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attend, and the meetings had a good effect on me in stimulating
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my zeal and giving me new congenial acquaintances. One evening a
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poor young man got up, and after stammering for a prodigious
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length of time, blushing crimson, he at last slowly got out the
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words, "Mr. President, I have forgotten what I was going to say."
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The poor fellow looked quite overwhelmed, and all the members
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were so surprised that no one could think of a word to say to
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cover his confusion. The papers which were read to our little
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society were not printed, so that I had not the satisfaction of
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seeing my paper in print; but I believe Dr. Grant noticed my
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small discovery in his excellent memoir on Flustra.
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I was also a member of the Royal Medical Society, and attended
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pretty regularly; but as the subjects were exclusively medical, I
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did not much care about them. Much rubbish was talked there, but
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there were some good speakers, of whom the best was the present
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Sir J. Kay-Shuttleworth. Dr. Grant took me occasionally to the
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meetings of the Wernerian Society, where various papers on
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natural history were read, discussed, and afterwards published in
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the 'Transactions.' I heard Audubon deliver there some
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interesting discourses on the habits of N. American birds,
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sneering somewhat unjustly at Waterton. By the way, a negro
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lived in Edinburgh, who had travelled with Waterton, and gained
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his livelihood by stuffing birds, which he did excellently: he
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gave me lessons for payment, and I used often to sit with him,
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for he was a very pleasant and intelligent man.
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Mr. Leonard Horner also took me once to a meeting of the Royal
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Society of Edinburgh, where I saw Sir Walter Scott in the chair
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as President, and he apologised to the meeting as not feeling
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fitted for such a position. I looked at him and at the whole
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scene with some awe and reverence, and I think it was owing to
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this visit during my youth, and to my having attended the Royal
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Medical Society, that I felt the honour of being elected a few
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years ago an honorary member of both these Societies, more than
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any other similar honour. If I had been told at that time that I
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should one day have been thus honoured, I declare that I should
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have thought it as ridiculous and improbable, as if I had been
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told that I should be elected King of England.
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During my second year at Edinburgh I attended --'s lectures on
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Geology and Zoology, but they were incredibly dull. The sole
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effect they produced on me was the determination never as long as
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I lived to read a book on Geology, or in any way to study the
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science. Yet I feel sure that I was prepared for a philosophical
436
treatment of the subject; for an old Mr. Cotton in Shropshire,
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who knew a good deal about rocks, had pointed out to me two or
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three years previously a well-known large erratic boulder in the
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town of Shrewsbury, called the "bell-stone"; he told me that
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there was no rock of the same kind nearer than Cumberland or
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Scotland, and he solemnly assured me that the world would come to
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an end before any one would be able to explain how this stone
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came where it now lay. This produced a deep impression on me,
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and I meditated over this wonderful stone. So that I felt the
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keenest delight when I first read of the action of icebergs in
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transporting boulders, and I gloried in the progress of Geology.
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Equally striking is the fact that I, though now only sixty-seven
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years old, heard the Professor, in a field lecture at Salisbury
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Craigs, discoursing on a trapdyke, with amygdaloidal margins and
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the strata indurated on each side, with volcanic rocks all around
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us, say that it was a fissure filled with sediment from above,
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adding with a sneer that there were men who maintained that it
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had been injected from beneath in a molten condition. When I
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think of this lecture, I do not wonder that I determined never to
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attend to Geology.
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>From attending --'s lectures, I became acquainted with the
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curator of the museum, Mr. Macgillivray, who afterwards published
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a large and excellent book on the birds of Scotland. I had much
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interesting natural-history talk with him, and he was very kind
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to me. He gave me some rare shells, for I at that time collected
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marine mollusca, but with no great zeal.
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My summer vacations during these two years were wholly given up
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to amusements, though I always had some book in hand, which I
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read with interest. During the summer of 1826 I took a long
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walking tour with two friends with knapsacks on our backs through
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North wales. We walked thirty miles most days, including one day
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the ascent of Snowdon. I also went with my sister a riding tour
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in North Wales, a servant with saddle-bags carrying our clothes.
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The autumns were devoted to shooting chiefly at Mr. Owen's, at
472
Woodhouse, and at my Uncle Jos's (Josiah Wedgwood, the son of the
473
founder of the Etruria Works.) at Maer. My zeal was so great
474
that I used to place my shooting-boots open by my bed-side when I
475
went to bed, so as not to lose half a minute in putting them on
476
in the morning; and on one occasion I reached a distant part of
477
the Maer estate, on the 20th of August for black-game shooting,
478
before I could see: I then toiled on with the game-keeper the
479
whole day through thick heath and young Scotch firs.
480
481
I kept an exact record of every bird which I shot throughout the
482
whole season. One day when shooting at Woodhouse with Captain
483
Owen, the eldest son, and Major Hill, his cousin, afterwards Lord
484
Berwick, both of whom I liked very much, I thought myself
485
shamefully used, for every time after I had fired and thought
486
that I had killed a bird, one of the two acted as if loading his
487
gun, and cried out, "You must not count that bird, for I fired at
488
the same time," and the gamekeeper, perceiving the joke, backed
489
them up. After some hours they told me the joke, but it was no
490
joke to me, for I had shot a large number of birds, but did not
491
know how many, and could not add them to my list, which I used to
492
do by making a knot in a piece of string tied to a button-hole.
493
This my wicked friends had perceived.
494
495
How I did enjoy shooting! But I think that I must have been
496
half-consciously ashamed of my zeal, for I tried to persuade
497
myself that shooting was almost an intellectual employment; it
498
required so much skill to judge where to find most game and to
499
hunt the dogs well.
500
501
One of my autumnal visits to Maer in 1827 was memorable from
502
meeting there Sir J. Mackintosh, who was the best converser I
503
ever listened to. I heard afterwards with a glow of pride that
504
he had said, "There is something in that young man that interests
505
me." This must have been chiefly due to his perceiving that I
506
listened with much interest to everything which he said, for I
507
was as ignorant as a pig about his subjects of history, politics,
508
and moral philosophy. To hear of praise from an eminent person,
509
though no doubt apt or certain to excite vanity, is, I think,
510
good for a young man, as it helps to keep him in the right
511
course.
512
513
My visits to Maer during these two or three succeeding years were
514
quite delightful, independently of the autumnal shooting. Life
515
there was perfectly free; the country was very pleasant for
516
walking or riding; and in the evening there was much very
517
agreeable conversation, not so personal as it generally is in
518
large family parties, together with music. In the summer the
519
whole family used often to sit on the steps of the old portico,
520
with the flower-garden in front, and with the steep wooded bank
521
opposite the house reflected in the lake, with here and there a
522
fish rising or a water-bird paddling about. Nothing has left a
523
more vivid picture on my mind than these evenings at Maer. I was
524
also attached to and greatly revered my Uncle Jos; he was silent
525
and reserved, so as to be a rather awful man; but he sometimes
526
talked openly with me. He was the very type of an upright man,
527
with the clearest judgment. I do not believe that any power on
528
earth could have made him swerve an inch from what he considered
529
the right course. I used to apply to him in my mind the well-
530
known ode of Horace, now forgotten by me, in which the words "nec
531
vultus tyranni, etc.," come in.
532
(Justum et tenacem propositi virum
533
Non civium ardor prava jubentium
534
Non vultus instantis tyranni
535
Mente quatit solida.)
536
537
CAMBRIDGE 1828-1831.
538
539
After having spent two sessions in Edinburgh, my father
540
perceived, or he heard from my sisters, that I did not like the
541
thought of being a physician, so he proposed that I should become
542
a clergyman. He was very properly vehement against my turning
543
into an idle sporting man, which then seemed my probable
544
destination. I asked for some time to consider, as from what
545
little I had heard or thought on the subject I had scruples about
546
declaring my belief in all the dogmas of the Church of England;
547
though otherwise I liked the thought of being a country
548
clergyman. Accordingly I read with care 'Pearson on the Creed,'
549
and a few other books on divinity; and as I did not then in the
550
least doubt the strict and literal truth of every word in the
551
Bible, I soon persuaded myself that our Creed must be fully
552
accepted.
553
554
Considering how fiercely I have been attacked by the orthodox, it
555
seems ludicrous that I once intended to be a clergyman. Nor was
556
this intention and my father's wish ever formerly given up, but
557
died a natural death when, on leaving Cambridge, I joined the
558
"Beagle" as naturalist. If the phrenologists are to be trusted,
559
I was well fitted in one respect to be a clergyman. A few years
560
ago the secretaries of a German psychological society asked me
561
earnestly by letter for a photograph of myself; and some time
562
afterwards I received the proceedings of one of the meetings, in
563
which it seemed that the shape of my head had been the subject of
564
a public discussion, and one of the speakers declared that I had
565
the bump of reverence developed enough for ten priests.
566
567
As it was decided that I should be a clergyman, it was necessary
568
that I should go to one of the English universities and take a
569
degree; but as I had never opened a classical book since leaving
570
school, I found to my dismay, that in the two intervening years I
571
had actually forgotten, incredible as it may appear, almost
572
everything which I had learnt, even to some few of the Greek
573
letters. I did not therefore proceed to Cambridge at the usual
574
time in October, but worked with a private tutor in Shrewsbury,
575
and went to Cambridge after the Christmas vacation, early in
576
1828. I soon recovered my school standard of knowledge, and
577
could translate easy Greek books, such as Homer and the Greek
578
Testament, with moderate facility.
579
580
During the three years which I spent at Cambridge my time was
581
wasted, as far as the academical studies were concerned, as
582
completely as at Edinburgh and at school. I attempted
583
mathematics, and even went during the summer of 1828 with a
584
private tutor (a very dull man) to Barmouth, but I got on very
585
slowly. The work was repugnant to me, chiefly from my not being
586
able to see any meaning in the early steps in algebra. This
587
impatience was very foolish, and in after years I have deeply
588
regretted that I did not proceed far enough at least to
589
understand something of the great leading principles of
590
mathematics, for men thus endowed seem to have an extra sense.
591
But I do not believe that I should ever have succeeded beyond a
592
very low grade. With respect to Classics I did nothing except
593
attend a few compulsory college lectures, and the attendance was
594
almost nominal. In my second year I had to work for a month or
595
two to pass the Little-Go, which I did easily. Again, in my last
596
year I worked with some earnestness for my final degree of B.A.,
597
and brushed up my Classics, together with a little Algebra and
598
Euclid, which latter gave me much pleasure, as it did at school.
599
In order to pass the B.A. examination, it was also necessary to
600
get up Paley's 'Evidences of Christianity,' and his 'Moral
601
Philosophy.' This was done in a thorough manner, and I am
602
convinced that I could have written out the whole of the
603
'Evidences' with perfect correctness, but not of course in the
604
clear language of Paley. The logic of this book and, as I may
605
add, of his 'Natural Theology,' gave me as much delight as did
606
Euclid. The careful study of these works, without attempting to
607
learn any part by rote, was the only part of the academical
608
course which, as I then felt and as I still believe, was of the
609
least use to me in the education of my mind. I did not at that
610
time trouble myself about Paley's premises; and taking these on
611
trust, I was charmed and convinced by the long line of
612
argumentation. By answering well the examination questions in
613
Paley, by doing Euclid well, and by not failing miserably in
614
Classics, I gained a good place among the oi polloi or crowd of
615
men who do not go in for honours. Oddly enough, I cannot
616
remember how high I stood, and my memory fluctuates between the
617
fifth, tenth, or twelfth, name on the list. (Tenth in the list
618
of January 1831.)
619
620
Public lectures on several branches were given in the University,
621
attendance being quite voluntary; but I was so sickened with
622
lectures at Edinburgh that I did not even attend Sedgwick's
623
eloquent and interesting lectures. Had I done so I should
624
probably have become a geologist earlier than I did. I attended,
625
however, Henslow's lectures on Botany, and liked them much for
626
their extreme clearness, and the admirable illustrations; but I
627
did not study botany. Henslow used to take his pupils, including
628
several of the older members of the University, field excursions,
629
on foot or in coaches, to distant places, or in a barge down the
630
river, and lectured on the rarer plants and animals which were
631
observed. These excursions were delightful.
632
633
Although, as we shall presently see, there were some redeeming
634
features in my life at Cambridge, my time was sadly wasted there,
635
and worse than wasted. From my passion for shooting and for
636
hunting, and, when this failed, for riding across country, I got
637
into a sporting set, including some dissipated low-minded young
638
men. We used often to dine together in the evening, though these
639
dinners often included men of a higher stamp, and we sometimes
640
drank too much, with jolly singing and playing at cards
641
afterwards. I know that I ought to feel ashamed of days and
642
evenings thus spent, but as some of my friends were very
643
pleasant, and we were all in the highest spirits, I cannot help
644
looking back to these times with much pleasure.
645
646
But I am glad to think that I had many other friends of a widely
647
different nature. I was very intimate with Whitley (Rev. C.
648
Whitley, Hon. Canon of Durham, formerly Reader in Natural
649
Philosophy in Durham University.), who was afterwards Senior
650
Wrangler, and we used continually to take long walks together.
651
He inoculated me with a taste for pictures and good engravings,
652
of which I bought some. I frequently went to the Fitzwilliam
653
Gallery, and my taste must have been fairly good, for I certainly
654
admired the best pictures, which I discussed with the old
655
curator. I read also with much interest Sir Joshua Reynolds'
656
book. This taste, though not natural to me, lasted for several
657
years, and many of the pictures in the National Gallery in London
658
gave me much pleasure; that of Sebastian del Piombo exciting in
659
me a sense of sublimity.
660
661
I also got into a musical set, I believe by means of my warm-
662
hearted friend, Herbert (The late John Maurice Herbert, County
663
Court Judge of Cardiff and the Monmouth Circuit.), who took a
664
high wrangler's degree. From associating with these men, and
665
hearing them play, I acquired a strong taste for music, and used
666
very often to time my walks so as to hear on week days the anthem
667
in King's College Chapel. This gave me intense pleasure, so that
668
my backbone would sometimes shiver. I am sure that there was no
669
affectation or mere imitation in this taste, for I used generally
670
to go by myself to King's College, and I sometimes hired the
671
chorister boys to sing in my rooms. Nevertheless I am so utterly
672
destitute of an ear, that I cannot perceive a discord, or keep
673
time and hum a tune correctly; and it is a mystery how I could
674
possibly have derived pleasure from music.
675
676
My musical friends soon perceived my state, and sometimes amused
677
themselves by making me pass an examination, which consisted in
678
ascertaining how many tunes I could recognise when they were
679
played rather more quickly or slowly than usual. 'God save the
680
King,' when thus played, was a sore puzzle. There was another
681
man with almost as bad an ear as I had, and strange to say he
682
played a little on the flute. Once I had the triumph of beating
683
him in one of our musical examinations.
684
685
But no pursuit at Cambridge was followed with nearly so much
686
eagerness or gave me so much pleasure as collecting beetles. It
687
was the mere passion for collecting, for I did not dissect them,
688
and rarely compared their external characters with published
689
descriptions, but got them named anyhow. I will give a proof of
690
my zeal: one day, on tearing off some old bark, I saw two rare
691
beetles, and seized one in each hand; then I saw a third and new
692
kind, which I could not bear to lose, so that I popped the one
693
which I held in my right hand into my mouth. Alas! it ejected
694
some intensely acrid fluid, which burnt my tongue so that I was
695
forced to spit the beetle out, which was lost, as was the third
696
one.
697
698
I was very successful in collecting, and invented two new
699
methods; I employed a labourer to scrape during the winter, moss
700
off old trees and place it in a large bag, and likewise to
701
collect the rubbish at the bottom of the barges in which reeds
702
are brought from the fens, and thus I got some very rare species.
703
No poet ever felt more delighted at seeing his first poem
704
published than I did at seeing, in Stephens' 'Illustrations of
705
British Insects,' the magic words, "captured by C. Darwin, Esq."
706
I was introduced to entomology by my second cousin W. Darwin Fox,
707
a clever and most pleasant man, who was then at Christ's College,
708
and with whom I became extremely intimate. Afterwards I became
709
well acquainted, and went out collecting, with Albert Way of
710
Trinity, who in after years became a well-known archaeologist;
711
also with H. Thompson of the same College, afterwards a leading
712
agriculturist, chairman of a great railway, and Member of
713
Parliament. It seems therefore that a taste for collecting
714
beetles is some indication of future success in life!
715
716
I am surprised what an indelible impression many of the beetles
717
which I caught at Cambridge have left on my mind. I can remember
718
the exact appearance of certain posts, old trees and banks where
719
I made a good capture. The pretty Panagaeus crux-major was a
720
treasure in those days, and here at Down I saw a beetle running
721
across a walk, and on picking it up instantly perceived that it
722
differed slightly from P. crux-major, and it turned out to be P.
723
quadripunctatus, which is only a variety or closely allied
724
species, differing from it very slightly in outline. I had never
725
seen in those old days Licinus alive, which to an uneducated eye
726
hardly differs from many of the black Carabidous beetles; but my
727
sons found here a specimen, and I instantly recognised that it
728
was new to me; yet I had not looked at a British beetle for the
729
last twenty years.
730
731
I have not as yet mentioned a circumstance which influenced my
732
whole career more than any other. This was my friendship with
733
Professor Henslow. Before coming up to Cambridge, I had heard of
734
him from my brother as a man who knew every branch of science,
735
and I was accordingly prepared to reverence him. He kept open
736
house once every week when all undergraduates, and some older
737
members of the University, who were attached to science, used to
738
meet in the evening. I soon got, through Fox, an invitation, and
739
went there regularly. Before long I became well acquainted with
740
Henslow, and during the latter half of my time at Cambridge took
741
long walks with him on most days; so that I was called by some of
742
the dons "the man who walks with Henslow;" and in the evening I
743
was very often asked to join his family dinner. His knowledge
744
was great in botany, entomology, chemistry, mineralogy, and
745
geology. His strongest taste was to draw conclusions from long-
746
continued minute observations. His judgment was excellent, and
747
his whole mind well balanced; but I do not suppose that any one
748
would say that he possessed much original genius. He was deeply
749
religious, and so orthodox that he told me one day he should be
750
grieved if a single word of the Thirty-nine Articles were
751
altered. His moral qualities were in every way admirable. He
752
was free from every tinge of vanity or other petty feeling; and I
753
never saw a man who thought so little about himself or his own
754
concerns. His temper was imperturbably good, with the most
755
winning and courteous manners; yet, as I have seen, he could be
756
roused by any bad action to the warmest indignation and prompt
757
action.
758
759
I once saw in his company in the streets of Cambridge almost as
760
horrid a scene as could have been witnessed during the French
761
Revolution. Two body-snatchers had been arrested, and whilst
762
being taken to prison had been torn from the constable by a crowd
763
of the roughest men, who dragged them by their legs along the
764
muddy and stony road. They were covered from head to foot with
765
mud, and their faces were bleeding either from having been kicked
766
or from the stones; they looked like corpses, but the crowd was
767
so dense that I got only a few momentary glimpses of the wretched
768
creatures. Never in my life have I seen such wrath painted on a
769
man's face as was shown by Henslow at this horrid scene. He
770
tried repeatedly to penetrate the mob; but it was simply
771
impossible. He then rushed away to the mayor, telling me not to
772
follow him, but to get more policemen. I forget the issue,
773
except that the two men were got into the prison without being
774
killed.
775
776
Henslow's benevolence was unbounded, as he proved by his many
777
excellent schemes for his poor parishioners, when in after years
778
he held the living of Hitcham. My intimacy with such a man ought
779
to have been, and I hope was, an inestimable benefit. I cannot
780
resist mentioning a trifling incident, which showed his kind
781
consideration. Whilst examining some pollen-grains on a damp
782
surface, I saw the tubes exserted, and instantly rushed off to
783
communicate my surprising discovery to him. Now I do not suppose
784
any other professor of botany could have helped laughing at my
785
coming in such a hurry to make such a communication. But he
786
agreed how interesting the phenomenon was, and explained its
787
meaning, but made me clearly understand how well it was known; so
788
I left him not in the least mortified, but well pleased at having
789
discovered for myself so remarkable a fact, but determined not to
790
be in such a hurry again to communicate my discoveries.
791
792
Dr. Whewell was one of the older and distinguished men who
793
sometimes visited Henslow, and on several occasions I walked home
794
with him at night. Next to Sir J. Mackintosh he was the best
795
converser on grave subjects to whom I ever listened. Leonard
796
Jenyns (The well-known Soame Jenyns was cousin to Mr. Jenyns'
797
father.), who afterwards published some good essays in Natural
798
History (Mr. Jenyns (now Blomefield) described the fish for the
799
Zoology of the "Beagle"; and is author of a long series of
800
papers, chiefly Zoological.), often stayed with Henslow, who was
801
his brother-in-law. I visited him at his parsonage on the
802
borders of the Fens [Swaffham Bulbeck], and had many a good walk
803
and talk with him about Natural History. I became also
804
acquainted with several other men older than me, who did not care
805
much about science, but were friends of Henslow. One was a
806
Scotchman, brother of Sir Alexander Ramsay, and tutor of Jesus
807
College: he was a delightful man, but did not live for many
808
years. Another was Mr. Dawes, afterwards Dean of Hereford, and
809
famous for his success in the education of the poor. These men
810
and others of the same standing, together with Henslow, used
811
sometimes to take distant excursions into the country, which I
812
was allowed to join, and they were most agreeable.
813
814
Looking back, I infer that there must have been something in me a
815
little superior to the common run of youths, otherwise the above-
816
mentioned men, so much older than me and higher in academical
817
position, would never have allowed me to associate with them.
818
Certainly I was not aware of any such superiority, and I remember
819
one of my sporting friends, Turner, who saw me at work with my
820
beetles, saying that I should some day be a Fellow of the Royal
821
Society, and the notion seemed to me preposterous.
822
823
During my last year at Cambridge, I read with care and profound
824
interest Humboldt's 'Personal Narrative.' This work, and Sir J.
825
Herschel's 'Introduction to the Study of Natural Philosophy,'
826
stirred up in me a burning zeal to add even the most humble
827
contribution to the noble structure of Natural Science. No one
828
or a dozen other books influenced me nearly so much as these two.
829
I copied out from Humboldt long passages about Teneriffe, and
830
read them aloud on one of the above-mentioned excursions, to (I
831
think) Henslow, Ramsay, and Dawes, for on a previous occasion I
832
had talked about the glories of Teneriffe, and some of the party
833
declared they would endeavour to go there; but I think that they
834
were only half in earnest. I was, however, quite in earnest, and
835
got an introduction to a merchant in London to enquire about
836
ships; but the scheme was, of course, knocked on the head by the
837
voyage of the "Beagle".
838
839
My summer vacations were given up to collecting beetles, to some
840
reading, and short tours. In the autumn my whole time was
841
devoted to shooting, chiefly at Woodhouse and Maer, and sometimes
842
with young Eyton of Eyton. Upon the whole the three years which
843
I spent at Cambridge were the most joyful in my happy life; for I
844
was then in excellent health, and almost always in high spirits.
845
846
As I had at first come up to Cambridge at Christmas, I was forced
847
to keep two terms after passing my final examination, at the
848
commencement of 1831; and Henslow then persuaded me to begin the
849
study of geology. Therefore on my return to Shropshire I
850
examined sections, and coloured a map of parts round Shrewsbury.
851
Professor Sedgwick intended to visit North Wales in the beginning
852
of August to pursue his famous geological investigations amongst
853
the older rocks, and Henslow asked him to allow me to accompany
854
him. (In connection with this tour my father used to tell a
855
story about Sedgwick: they had started from their inn one
856
morning, and had walked a mile or two, when Sedgwick suddenly
857
stopped, and vowed that he would return, being certain "that
858
damned scoundrel" (the waiter) had not given the chambermaid the
859
sixpence intrusted to him for the purpose. He was ultimately
860
persuaded to give up the project, seeing that there was no reason
861
for suspecting the waiter of especial perfidy.--F.D.)
862
Accordingly he came and slept at my father's house.
863
864
A short conversation with him during this evening produced a
865
strong impression on my mind. Whilst examining an old gravel-pit
866
near Shrewsbury, a labourer told me that he had found in it a
867
large worn tropical Volute shell, such as may be seen on the
868
chimney-pieces of cottages; and as he would not sell the shell, I
869
was convinced that he had really found it in the pit. I told
870
Sedgwick of the fact, and he at once said (no doubt truly) that
871
it must have been thrown away by some one into the pit; but then
872
added, if really embedded there it would be the greatest
873
misfortune to geology, as it would overthrow all that we know
874
about the superficial deposits of the Midland Counties. These
875
gravel-beds belong in fact to the glacial period, and in after
876
years I found in them broken arctic shells. But I was then
877
utterly astonished at Sedgwick not being delighted at so
878
wonderful a fact as a tropical shell being found near the surface
879
in the middle of England. Nothing before had ever made me
880
thoroughly realise, though I had read various scientific books,
881
that science consists in grouping facts so that general laws or
882
conclusions may be drawn from them.
883
884
Next morning we started for Llangollen, Conway, Bangor, and Capel
885
Curig. This tour was of decided use in teaching me a little how
886
to make out the geology of a country. Sedgwick often sent me on
887
a line parallel to his, telling me to bring back specimens of the
888
rocks and to mark the stratification on a map. I have little
889
doubt that he did this for my good, as I was too ignorant to have
890
aided him. On this tour I had a striking instance of how easy it
891
is to overlook phenomena, however conspicuous, before they have
892
been observed by any one. We spent many hours in Cwm Idwal,
893
examining all the rocks with extreme care, as Sedgwick was
894
anxious to find fossils in them; but neither of us saw a trace of
895
the wonderful glacial phenomena all around us; we did not notice
896
the plainly scored rocks, the perched boulders, the lateral and
897
terminal moraines. Yet these phenomena are so conspicuous that,
898
as I declared in a paper published many years afterwards in the
899
'Philosophical Magazine' ('Philosophical Magazine,' 1842.), a
900
house burnt down by fire did not tell its story more plainly than
901
did this valley. If it had still been filled by a glacier, the
902
phenomena would have been less distinct than they now are.
903
904
At Capel Curig I left Sedgwick and went in a straight line by
905
compass and map across the mountains to Barmouth, never following
906
any track unless it coincided with my course. I thus came on
907
some strange wild places, and enjoyed much this manner of
908
travelling. I visited Barmouth to see some Cambridge friends who
909
were reading there, and thence returned to Shrewsbury and to Maer
910
for shooting; for at that time I should have thought myself mad
911
to give up the first days of partridge-shooting for geology or
912
any other science.
913
914
"VOYAGE OF THE 'BEAGLE' FROM DECEMBER 27, 1831, TO OCTOBER 2,
915
1836."
916
917
On returning home from my short geological tour in North Wales, I
918
found a letter from Henslow, informing me that Captain Fitz-Roy
919
was willing to give up part of his own cabin to any young man who
920
would volunteer to go with him without pay as naturalist to the
921
Voyage of the "Beagle". I have given, as I believe, in my MS.
922
Journal an account of all the circumstances which then occurred;
923
I will here only say that I was instantly eager to accept the
924
offer, but my father strongly objected, adding the words,
925
fortunate for me, "If you can find any man of common sense who
926
advises you to go I will give my consent." So I wrote that
927
evening and refused the offer. On the next morning I went to
928
Maer to be ready for September 1st, and, whilst out shooting, my
929
uncle (Josiah Wedgwood.) sent for me, offering to drive me over
930
to Shrewsbury and talk with my father, as my uncle thought it
931
would be wise in me to accept the offer. My father always
932
maintained that he was one of the most sensible men in the world,
933
and he at once consented in the kindest manner. I had been
934
rather extravagant at Cambridge, and to console my father, said,
935
"that I should be deuced clever to spend more than my allowance
936
whilst on board the 'Beagle';" but he answered with a smile, "But
937
they tell me you are very clever."
938
939
Next day I started for Cambridge to see Henslow, and thence to
940
London to see Fitz-Roy, and all was soon arranged. Afterwards,
941
on becoming very intimate with Fitz-Roy, I heard that I had run a
942
very narrow risk of being rejected, on account of the shape of my
943
nose! He was an ardent disciple of Lavater, and was convinced
944
that he could judge of a man's character by the outline of his
945
features; and he doubted whether any one with my nose could
946
possess sufficient energy and determination for the voyage. But
947
I think he was afterwards well satisfied that my nose had spoken
948
falsely.
949
950
Fitz-Roy's character was a singular one, with very many noble
951
features: he was devoted to his duty, generous to a fault, bold,
952
determined, and indomitably energetic, and an ardent friend to
953
all under his sway. He would undertake any sort of trouble to
954
assist those whom he thought deserved assistance. He was a
955
handsome man, strikingly like a gentleman, with highly courteous
956
manners, which resembled those of his maternal uncle, the famous
957
Lord Castlereagh, as I was told by the Minister at Rio.
958
Nevertheless he must have inherited much in his appearance from
959
Charles II., for Dr. Wallich gave me a collection of photographs
960
which he had made, and I was struck with the resemblance of one
961
to Fitz-Roy; and on looking at the name, I found it Ch. E.
962
Sobieski Stuart, Count d'Albanie, a descendant of the same
963
monarch.
964
965
Fitz-Roy's temper was a most unfortunate one. It was usually
966
worst in the early morning, and with his eagle eye he could
967
generally detect something amiss about the ship, and was then
968
unsparing in his blame. He was very kind to me, but was a man
969
very difficult to live with on the intimate terms which
970
necessarily followed from our messing by ourselves in the same
971
cabin. We had several quarrels; for instance, early in the
972
voyage at Bahia, in Brazil, he defended and praised slavery,
973
which I abominated, and told me that he had just visited a great
974
slave-owner, who had called up many of his slaves and asked them
975
whether they were happy, and whether they wished to be free, and
976
all answered "No." I then asked him, perhaps with a sneer,
977
whether he thought that the answer of slaves in the presence of
978
their master was worth anything? This made him excessively
979
angry, and he said that as I doubted his word we could not live
980
any longer together. I thought that I should have been compelled
981
to leave the ship; but as soon as the news spread, which it did
982
quickly, as the captain sent for the first lieutenant to assuage
983
his anger by abusing me, I was deeply gratified by receiving an
984
invitation from all the gun-room officers to mess with them. But
985
after a few hours Fitz-Roy showed his usual magnanimity by
986
sending an officer to me with an apology and a request that I
987
would continue to live with him.
988
989
His character was in several respects one of the most noble which
990
I have ever known.
991
992
The voyage of the "Beagle" has been by far the most important
993
event in my life, and has determined my whole career; yet it
994
depended on so small a circumstance as my uncle offering to drive
995
me thirty miles to Shrewsbury, which few uncles would have done,
996
and on such a trifle as the shape of my nose. I have always felt
997
that I owe to the voyage the first real training or education of
998
my mind; I was led to attend closely to several branches of
999
natural history, and thus my powers of observation were improved,
1000
though they were always fairly developed.
1001
1002
The investigation of the geology of all the places visited was
1003
far more important, as reasoning here comes into play. On first
1004
examining a new district nothing can appear more hopeless than
1005
the chaos of rocks; but by recording the stratification and
1006
nature of the rocks and fossils at many points, always reasoning
1007
and predicting what will be found elsewhere, light soon begins to
1008
dawn on the district, and the structure of the whole becomes more
1009
or less intelligible. I had brought with me the first volume of
1010
Lyell's 'Principles of Geology,' which I studied attentively; and
1011
the book was of the highest service to me in many ways. The very
1012
first place which I examined, namely St. Jago in the Cape de
1013
Verde islands, showed me clearly the wonderful superiority of
1014
Lyell's manner of treating geology, compared with that of any
1015
other author, whose works I had with me or ever afterwards read.
1016
1017
Another of my occupations was collecting animals of all classes,
1018
briefly describing and roughly dissecting many of the marine
1019
ones; but from not being able to draw, and from not having
1020
sufficient anatomical knowledge, a great pile of MS. which I made
1021
during the voyage has proved almost useless. I thus lost much
1022
time, with the exception of that spent in acquiring some
1023
knowledge of the Crustaceans, as this was of service when in
1024
after years I undertook a monograph of the Cirripedia.
1025
1026
During some part of the day I wrote my Journal, and took much
1027
pains in describing carefully and vividly all that I had seen;
1028
and this was good practice. My Journal served also, in part, as
1029
letters to my home, and portions were sent to England whenever
1030
there was an opportunity.
1031
1032
The above various special studies were, however, of no importance
1033
compared with the habit of energetic industry and of concentrated
1034
attention to whatever I was engaged in, which I then acquired.
1035
Everything about which I thought or read was made to bear
1036
directly on what I had seen or was likely to see; and this habit
1037
of mind was continued during the five years of the voyage. I
1038
feel sure that it was this training which has enabled me to do
1039
whatever I have done in science.
1040
1041
Looking backwards, I can now perceive how my love for science
1042
gradually preponderated over every other taste. During the first
1043
two years my old passion for shooting survived in nearly full
1044
force, and I shot myself all the birds and animals for my
1045
collection; but gradually I gave up my gun more and more, and
1046
finally altogether, to my servant, as shooting interfered with my
1047
work, more especially with making out the geological structure of
1048
a country. I discovered, though unconsciously and insensibly,
1049
that the pleasure of observing and reasoning was a much higher
1050
one than that of skill and sport. That my mind became developed
1051
through my pursuits during the voyage is rendered probable by a
1052
remark made by my father, who was the most acute observer whom I
1053
ever saw, of a sceptical disposition, and far from being a
1054
believer in phrenology; for on first seeing me after the voyage,
1055
he turned round to my sisters, and exclaimed, "Why, the shape of
1056
his head is quite altered."
1057
1058
To return to the voyage. On September 11th (1831), I paid a
1059
flying visit with Fitz-Roy to the "Beagle" at Plymouth. Thence
1060
to Shrewsbury to wish my father and sisters a long farewell. On
1061
October 24th I took up my residence at Plymouth, and remained
1062
there until December 27th, when the "Beagle" finally left the
1063
shores of England for her circumnavigation of the world. We made
1064
two earlier attempts to sail, but were driven back each time by
1065
heavy gales. These two months at Plymouth were the most
1066
miserable which I ever spent, though I exerted myself in various
1067
ways. I was out of spirits at the thought of leaving all my
1068
family and friends for so long a time, and the weather seemed to
1069
me inexpressibly gloomy. I was also troubled with palpitation
1070
and pain about the heart, and like many a young ignorant man,
1071
especially one with a smattering of medical knowledge, was
1072
convinced that I had heart disease. I did not consult any
1073
doctor, as I fully expected to hear the verdict that I was not
1074
fit for the voyage, and I was resolved to go at all hazards.
1075
1076
I need not here refer to the events of the voyage--where we went
1077
and what we did--as I have given a sufficiently full account in
1078
my published Journal. The glories of the vegetation of the
1079
Tropics rise before my mind at the present time more vividly than
1080
anything else; though the sense of sublimity, which the great
1081
deserts of Patagonia and the forest-clad mountains of Tierra del
1082
Fuego excited in me, has left an indelible impression on my mind.
1083
The sight of a naked savage in his native land is an event which
1084
can never be forgotten. Many of my excursions on horseback
1085
through wild countries, or in the boats, some of which lasted
1086
several weeks, were deeply interesting: their discomfort and
1087
some degree of danger were at that time hardly a drawback, and
1088
none at all afterwards. I also reflect with high satisfaction on
1089
some of my scientific work, such as solving the problem of coral
1090
islands, and making out the geological structure of certain
1091
islands, for instance, St. Helena. Nor must I pass over the
1092
discovery of the singular relations of the animals and plants
1093
inhabiting the several islands of the Galapagos archipelago, and
1094
of all of them to the inhabitants of South America.
1095
1096
As far as I can judge of myself, I worked to the utmost during
1097
the voyage from the mere pleasure of investigation, and from my
1098
strong desire to add a few facts to the great mass of facts in
1099
Natural Science. But I was also ambitious to take a fair place
1100
among scientific men,--whether more ambitious or less so than
1101
most of my fellow-workers, I can form no opinion.
1102
1103
The geology of St. Jago is very striking, yet simple: a stream
1104
of lava formerly flowed over the bed of the sea, formed of
1105
triturated recent shells and corals, which it has baked into a
1106
hard white rock. Since then the whole island has been upheaved.
1107
But the line of white rock revealed to me a new and important
1108
fact, namely, that there had been afterwards subsidence round the
1109
craters, which had since been in action, and had poured forth
1110
lava. It then first dawned on me that I might perhaps write a
1111
book on the geology of the various countries visited, and this
1112
made me thrill with delight. That was a memorable hour to me,
1113
and how distinctly I can call to mind the low cliff of lava
1114
beneath which I rested, with the sun glaring hot, a few strange
1115
desert plants growing near, and with living corals in the tidal
1116
pools at my feet. Later in the voyage, Fitz-Roy asked me to read
1117
some of my Journal, and declared it would be worth publishing; so
1118
here was a second book in prospect!
1119
1120
Towards the close of our voyage I received a letter whilst at
1121
Ascension, in which my sisters told me that Sedgwick had called
1122
on my father, and said that I should take a place among the
1123
leading scientific men. I could not at the time understand how
1124
he could have learnt anything of my proceedings, but I heard (I
1125
believe afterwards) that Henslow had read some of the letters
1126
which I wrote to him before the Philosophical Society of
1127
Cambridge (Read at the meeting held November 16, 1835, and
1128
printed in a pamphlet of 31 pages for distribution among the
1129
members of the Society.), and had printed them for private
1130
distribution. My collection of fossil bones, which had been sent
1131
to Henslow, also excited considerable attention amongst
1132
palaeontologists. After reading this letter, I clambered over
1133
the mountains of Ascension with a bounding step, and made the
1134
volcanic rocks resound under my geological hammer. All this
1135
shows how ambitious I was; but I think that I can say with truth
1136
that in after years, though I cared in the highest degree for the
1137
approbation of such men as Lyell and Hooker, who were my friends,
1138
I did not care much about the general public. I do not mean to
1139
say that a favourable review or a large sale of my books did not
1140
please me greatly, but the pleasure was a fleeting one, and I am
1141
sure that I have never turned one inch out of my course to gain
1142
fame.
1143
1144
FROM MY RETURN TO ENGLAND (OCTOBER 2, 1836) TO MY MARRIAGE
1145
(JANUARY 29, 1839.)
1146
1147
These two years and three months were the most active ones which
1148
I ever spent, though I was occasionally unwell, and so lost some
1149
time. After going backwards and forwards several times between
1150
Shrewsbury, Maer, Cambridge, and London, I settled in lodgings at
1151
Cambridge (In Fitzwilliam Street.) on December 13th, where all my
1152
collections were under the care of Henslow. I stayed here three
1153
months, and got my minerals and rocks examined by the aid of
1154
Professor Miller.
1155
1156
I began preparing my 'Journal of Travels,' which was not hard
1157
work, as my MS. Journal had been written with care, and my chief
1158
labour was making an abstract of my more interesting scientific
1159
results. I sent also, at the request of Lyell, a short account
1160
of my observations on the elevation of the coast of Chile to the
1161
Geological Society. ('Geolog. Soc. Proc. ii. 1838, pages 446-
1162
449.)
1163
1164
On March 7th, 1837, I took lodgings in Great Marlborough Street
1165
in London, and remained there for nearly two years, until I was
1166
married. During these two years I finished my Journal, read
1167
several papers before the Geological Society, began preparing the
1168
MS. for my 'Geological Observations,' and arranged for the
1169
publication of the 'Zoology of the Voyage of the "Beagle".' In
1170
July I opened my first note-book for facts in relation to the
1171
Origin of Species, about which I had long reflected, and never
1172
ceased working for the next twenty years.
1173
1174
During these two years I also went a little into society, and
1175
acted as one of the honorary secretaries of the Geological
1176
Society. I saw a great deal of Lyell. One of his chief
1177
characteristics was his sympathy with the work of others, and I
1178
was as much astonished as delighted at the interest which he
1179
showed when, on my return to England, I explained to him my views
1180
on coral reefs. This encouraged me greatly, and his advice and
1181
example had much influence on me. During this time I saw also a
1182
good deal of Robert Brown; I used often to call and sit with him
1183
during his breakfast on Sunday mornings, and he poured forth a
1184
rich treasure of curious observations and acute remarks, but they
1185
almost always related to minute points, and he never with me
1186
discussed large or general questions in science.
1187
1188
During these two years I took several short excursions as a
1189
relaxation, and one longer one to the Parallel Roads of Glen Roy,
1190
an account of which was published in the 'Philosophical
1191
Transactions.' (1839, pages 39-82.) This paper was a great
1192
failure, and I am ashamed of it. Having been deeply impressed
1193
with what I had seen of the elevation of the land of South
1194
America, I attributed the parallel lines to the action of the
1195
sea; but I had to give up this view when Agassiz propounded his
1196
glacier-lake theory. Because no other explanation was possible
1197
under our then state of knowledge, I argued in favour of sea-
1198
action; and my error has been a good lesson to me never to trust
1199
in science to the principle of exclusion.
1200
1201
As I was not able to work all day at science, I read a good deal
1202
during these two years on various subjects, including some
1203
metaphysical books; but I was not well fitted for such studies.
1204
About this time I took much delight in Wordsworth's and
1205
Coleridge's poetry; and can boast that I read the 'Excursion'
1206
twice through. Formerly Milton's 'Paradise Lost' had been my
1207
chief favourite, and in my excursions during the voyage of the
1208
"Beagle", when I could take only a single volume, I always chose
1209
Milton.
1210
1211
FROM MY MARRIAGE, JANUARY 29, 1839, AND RESIDENCE IN UPPER GOWER
1212
STREET, TO OUR LEAVING LONDON AND SETTLING AT DOWN, SEPTEMBER 14,
1213
1842.
1214
1215
(After speaking of his happy married life, and of his children,
1216
he continues:--)
1217
1218
During the three years and eight months whilst we resided in
1219
London, I did less scientific work, though I worked as hard as I
1220
possibly could, than during any other equal length of time in my
1221
life. This was owing to frequently recurring unwellness, and to
1222
one long and serious illness. The greater part of my time, when
1223
I could do anything, was devoted to my work on 'Coral Reefs,'
1224
which I had begun before my marriage, and of which the last
1225
proof-sheet was corrected on May 6th, 1842. This book, though a
1226
small one, cost me twenty months of hard work, as I had to read
1227
every work on the islands of the Pacific and to consult many
1228
charts. It was thought highly of by scientific men, and the
1229
theory therein given is, I think, now well established.
1230
1231
No other work of mine was begun in so deductive a spirit as this,
1232
for the whole theory was thought out on the west coast of South
1233
America, before I had seen a true coral reef. I had therefore
1234
only to verify and extend my views by a careful examination of
1235
living reefs. But it should be observed that I had during the
1236
two previous years been incessantly attending to the effects on
1237
the shores of South America of the intermittent elevation of the
1238
land, together with denudation and the deposition of sediment.
1239
This necessarily led me to reflect much on the effects of
1240
subsidence, and it was easy to replace in imagination the
1241
continued deposition of sediment by the upward growth of corals.
1242
To do this was to form my theory of the formation of barrier-
1243
reefs and atolls.
1244
1245
Besides my work on coral-reefs, during my residence in London, I
1246
read before the Geological Society papers on the Erratic Boulders
1247
of South America ('Geolog. Soc. Proc.' iii. 1842.), on
1248
Earthquakes ('Geolog. Trans. v. 1840.), and on the Formation by
1249
the Agency of Earth-worms of Mould. ('Geolog. Soc. Proc. ii.
1250
1838.) I also continued to superintend the publication of the
1251
'Zoology of the Voyage of the "Beagle".' Nor did I ever intermit
1252
collecting facts bearing on the origin of species; and I could
1253
sometimes do this when I could do nothing else from illness.
1254
1255
In the summer of 1842 I was stronger than I had been for some
1256
time, and took a little tour by myself in North Wales, for the
1257
sake of observing the effects of the old glaciers which formerly
1258
filled all the larger valleys. I published a short account of
1259
what I saw in the 'Philosophical Magazine.' ('Philosophical
1260
Magazine,' 1842.) This excursion interested me greatly, and it
1261
was the last time I was ever strong enough to climb mountains or
1262
to take long walks such as are necessary for geological work.
1263
1264
During the early part of our life in London, I was strong enough
1265
to go into general society, and saw a good deal of several
1266
scientific men, and other more or less distinguished men. I will
1267
give my impressions with respect to some of them, though I have
1268
little to say worth saying.
1269
1270
I saw more of Lyell than of any other man, both before and after
1271
my marriage. His mind was characterised, as it appeared to me,
1272
by clearness, caution, sound judgment, and a good deal of
1273
originality. When I made any remark to him on Geology, he never
1274
rested until he saw the whole case clearly, and often made me see
1275
it more clearly than I had done before. He would advance all
1276
possible objections to my suggestion, and even after these were
1277
exhausted would long remain dubious. A second characteristic was
1278
his hearty sympathy with the work of other scientific men. (The
1279
slight repetition here observable is accounted for by the notes
1280
on Lyell, etc., having been added in April, 1881, a few years
1281
after the rest of the 'Recollections' were written.)
1282
1283
On my return from the voyage of the "Beagle", I explained to him
1284
my views on coral-reefs, which differed from his, and I was
1285
greatly surprised and encouraged by the vivid interest which he
1286
showed. His delight in science was ardent, and he felt the
1287
keenest interest in the future progress of mankind. He was very
1288
kind-hearted, and thoroughly liberal in his religious beliefs, or
1289
rather disbeliefs; but he was a strong theist. His candour was
1290
highly remarkable. He exhibited this by becoming a convert to
1291
the Descent theory, though he had gained much fame by opposing
1292
Lamarck's views, and this after he had grown old. He reminded me
1293
that I had many years before said to him, when discussing the
1294
opposition of the old school of geologists to his new views,
1295
"What a good thing it would be if every scientific man was to die
1296
when sixty years old, as afterwards he would be sure to oppose
1297
all new doctrines." But he hoped that now he might be allowed to
1298
live.
1299
1300
The science of Geology is enormously indebted to Lyell--more so,
1301
as I believe, than to any other man who ever lived. When [I was]
1302
starting on the voyage of the "Beagle", the sagacious Henslow,
1303
who, like all other geologists, believed at that time in
1304
successive cataclysms, advised me to get and study the first
1305
volume of the 'Principles,' which had then just been published,
1306
but on no account to accept the views therein advocated. How
1307
differently would anyone now speak of the 'Principles'! I am
1308
proud to remember that the first place, namely, St. Jago, in the
1309
Cape de Verde archipelago, in which I geologised, convinced me of
1310
the infinite superiority of Lyell's views over those advocated in
1311
any other work known to me.
1312
1313
The powerful effects of Lyell's works could formerly be plainly
1314
seen in the different progress of the science in France and
1315
England. The present total oblivion of Elie de Beaumont's wild
1316
hypotheses, such as his 'Craters of Elevation' and 'Lines of
1317
Elevation' (which latter hypothesis I heard Sedgwick at the
1318
Geological Society lauding to the skies), may be largely
1319
attributed to Lyell.
1320
1321
I saw a good deal of Robert Brown, "facile Princeps Botanicorum,"
1322
as he was called by Humboldt. He seemed to me to be chiefly
1323
remarkable for the minuteness of his observations, and their
1324
perfect accuracy. His knowledge was extraordinarily great, and
1325
much died with him, owing to his excessive fear of ever making a
1326
mistake. He poured out his knowledge to me in the most
1327
unreserved manner, yet was strangely jealous on some points. I
1328
called on him two or three times before the voyage of the
1329
"Beagle", and on one occasion he asked me to look through a
1330
microscope and describe what I saw. This I did, and believe now
1331
that it was the marvellous currents of protoplasm in some
1332
vegetable cell. I then asked him what I had seen; but he
1333
answered me, "That is my little secret."
1334
1335
He was capable of the most generous actions. When old, much out
1336
of health, and quite unfit for any exertion, he daily visited (as
1337
Hooker told me) an old man-servant, who lived at a distance (and
1338
whom he supported), and read aloud to him. This is enough to
1339
make up for any degree of scientific penuriousness or jealousy.
1340
1341
I may here mention a few other eminent men, whom I have
1342
occasionally seen, but I have little to say about them worth
1343
saying. I felt a high reverence for Sir J. Herschel, and was
1344
delighted to dine with him at his charming house at the Cape of
1345
Good Hope, and afterwards at his London house. I saw him, also,
1346
on a few other occasions. He never talked much, but every word
1347
which he uttered was worth listening to.
1348
1349
I once met at breakfast at Sir R. Murchison's house the
1350
illustrious Humboldt, who honoured me by expressing a wish to see
1351
me. I was a little disappointed with the great man, but my
1352
anticipations probably were too high. I can remember nothing
1353
distinctly about our interview, except that Humboldt was very
1354
cheerful and talked much.
1355
1356
-- reminds me of Buckle whom I once met at Hensleigh Wedgwood's.
1357
I was very glad to learn from him his system of collecting facts.
1358
He told me that he bought all the books which he read, and made a
1359
full index, to each, of the facts which he thought might prove
1360
serviceable to him, and that he could always remember in what
1361
book he had read anything, for his memory was wonderful. I asked
1362
him how at first he could judge what facts would be serviceable,
1363
and he answered that he did not know, but that a sort of instinct
1364
guided him. From this habit of making indices, he was enabled to
1365
give the astonishing number of references on all sorts of
1366
subjects, which may be found in his 'History of Civilisation.'
1367
This book I thought most interesting, and read it twice, but I
1368
doubt whether his generalisations are worth anything. Buckle was
1369
a great talker, and I listened to him saying hardly a word, nor
1370
indeed could I have done so for he left no gaps. When Mrs.
1371
Farrer began to sing, I jumped up and said that I must listen to
1372
her; after I had moved away he turned around to a friend and said
1373
(as was overheard by my brother), "Well, Mr. Darwin's books are
1374
much better than his conversation."
1375
1376
Of other great literary men, I once met Sydney Smith at Dean
1377
Milman's house. There was something inexplicably amusing in
1378
every word which he uttered. Perhaps this was partly due to the
1379
expectation of being amused. He was talking about Lady Cork, who
1380
was then extremely old. This was the lady who, as he said, was
1381
once so much affected by one of his charity sermons, that she
1382
BORROWED a guinea from a friend to put in the plate. He now said
1383
"It is generally believed that my dear old friend Lady Cork has
1384
been overlooked," and he said this in such a manner that no one
1385
could for a moment doubt that he meant that his dear old friend
1386
had been overlooked by the devil. How he managed to express this
1387
I know not.
1388
1389
I likewise once met Macaulay at Lord Stanhope's (the historian's)
1390
house, and as there was only one other man at dinner, I had a
1391
grand opportunity of hearing him converse, and he was very
1392
agreeable. He did not talk at all too much; nor indeed could
1393
such a man talk too much, as long as he allowed others to turn
1394
the stream of his conversation, and this he did allow.
1395
1396
Lord Stanhope once gave me a curious little proof of the accuracy
1397
and fulness of Macaulay's memory: many historians used often to
1398
meet at Lord Stanhope's house, and in discussing various subjects
1399
they would sometimes differ from Macaulay, and formerly they
1400
often referred to some book to see who was right; but latterly,
1401
as Lord Stanhope noticed, no historian ever took this trouble,
1402
and whatever Macaulay said was final.
1403
1404
On another occasion I met at Lord Stanhope's house, one of his
1405
parties of historians and other literary men, and amongst them
1406
were Motley and Grote. After luncheon I walked about Chevening
1407
Park for nearly an hour with Grote, and was much interested by
1408
his conversation and pleased by the simplicity and absence of all
1409
pretension in his manners.
1410
1411
Long ago I dined occasionally with the old Earl, the father of
1412
the historian; he was a strange man, but what little I knew of
1413
him I liked much. He was frank, genial, and pleasant. He had
1414
strongly marked features, with a brown complexion, and his
1415
clothes, when I saw him, were all brown. He seemed to believe in
1416
everything which was to others utterly incredible. He said one
1417
day to me, "Why don't you give up your fiddle-faddle of geology
1418
and zoology, and turn to the occult sciences!" The historian,
1419
then Lord Mahon, seemed shocked at such a speech to me, and his
1420
charming wife much amused.
1421
1422
The last man whom I will mention is Carlyle, seen by me several
1423
times at my brother's house, and two or three times at my own
1424
house. His talk was very racy and interesting, just like his
1425
writings, but he sometimes went on too long on the same subject.
1426
I remember a funny dinner at my brother's, where, amongst a few
1427
others, were Babbage and Lyell, both of whom liked to talk.
1428
Carlyle, however, silenced every one by haranguing during the
1429
whole dinner on the advantages of silence. After dinner Babbage,
1430
in his grimmest manner, thanked Carlyle for his very interesting
1431
lecture on silence.
1432
1433
Carlyle sneered at almost every one: one day in my house he
1434
called Grote's 'History' "a fetid quagmire, with nothing
1435
spiritual about it." I always thought, until his 'Reminiscences'
1436
appeared, that his sneers were partly jokes, but this now seems
1437
rather doubtful. His expression was that of a depressed, almost
1438
despondent yet benevolent man; and it is notorious how heartily
1439
he laughed. I believe that his benevolence was real, though
1440
stained by not a little jealousy. No one can doubt about his
1441
extraordinary power of drawing pictures of things and men--far
1442
more vivid, as it appears to me, than any drawn by Macaulay.
1443
Whether his pictures of men were true ones is another question.
1444
1445
He has been all-powerful in impressing some grand moral truths on
1446
the minds of men. On the other hand, his views about slavery
1447
were revolting. In his eyes might was right. His mind seemed to
1448
me a very narrow one; even if all branches of science, which he
1449
despised, are excluded. It is astonishing to me that Kingsley
1450
should have spoken of him as a man well fitted to advance
1451
science. He laughed to scorn the idea that a mathematician, such
1452
as Whewell, could judge, as I maintained he could, of Goethe's
1453
views on light. He thought it a most ridiculous thing that any
1454
one should care whether a glacier moved a little quicker or a
1455
little slower, or moved at all. As far as I could judge, I never
1456
met a man with a mind so ill adapted for scientific research.
1457
1458
Whilst living in London, I attended as regularly as I could the
1459
meetings of several scientific societies, and acted as secretary
1460
to the Geological Society. But such attendance, and ordinary
1461
society, suited my health so badly that we resolved to live in
1462
the country, which we both preferred and have never repented of.
1463
1464
RESIDENCE AT DOWN FROM SEPTEMBER 14, 1842, TO THE PRESENT TIME,
1465
1876.
1466
1467
After several fruitless searches in Surrey and elsewhere, we
1468
found this house and purchased it. I was pleased with the
1469
diversified appearance of vegetation proper to a chalk district,
1470
and so unlike what I had been accustomed to in the Midland
1471
counties; and still more pleased with the extreme quietness and
1472
rusticity of the place. It is not, however, quite so retired a
1473
place as a writer in a German periodical makes it, who says that
1474
my house can be approached only by a mule-track! Our fixing
1475
ourselves here has answered admirably in one way, which we did
1476
not anticipate, namely, by being very convenient for frequent
1477
visits from our children.
1478
1479
Few persons can have lived a more retired life than we have done.
1480
Besides short visits to the houses of relations, and occasionally
1481
to the seaside or elsewhere, we have gone nowhere. During the
1482
first part of our residence we went a little into society, and
1483
received a few friends here; but my health almost always suffered
1484
from the excitement, violent shivering and vomiting attacks being
1485
thus brought on. I have therefore been compelled for many years
1486
to give up all dinner-parties; and this has been somewhat of a
1487
deprivation to me, as such parties always put me into high
1488
spirits. From the same cause I have been able to invite here
1489
very few scientific acquaintances.
1490
1491
My chief enjoyment and sole employment throughout life has been
1492
scientific work; and the excitement from such work makes me for
1493
the time forget, or drives quite away, my daily discomfort. I
1494
have therefore nothing to record during the rest of my life,
1495
except the publication of my several books. Perhaps a few
1496
details how they arose may be worth giving.
1497
1498
MY SEVERAL PUBLICATIONS.
1499
1500
In the early part of 1844, my observations on the volcanic
1501
islands visited during the voyage of the "Beagle" were published.
1502
In 1845, I took much pains in correcting a new edition of my
1503
'Journal of Researches,' which was originally published in 1839
1504
as part of Fitz-Roy's work. The success of this, my first
1505
literary child, always tickles my vanity more than that of any of
1506
my other books. Even to this day it sells steadily in England
1507
and the United States, and has been translated for the second
1508
time into German, and into French and other languages. This
1509
success of a book of travels, especially of a scientific one, so
1510
many years after its first publication, is surprising. Ten
1511
thousand copies have been sold in England of the second edition.
1512
In 1846 my 'Geological Observations on South America' were
1513
published. I record in a little diary, which I have always kept,
1514
that my three geological books ('Coral Reefs' included) consumed
1515
four and a half years' steady work; "and now it is ten years
1516
since my return to England. How much time have I lost by
1517
illness?" I have nothing to say about these three books except
1518
that to my surprise new editions have lately been called for.
1519
('Geological Observations,' 2nd Edit.1876. 'Coral Reefs,' 2nd
1520
Edit. 1874.)
1521
1522
In October, 1846, I began to work on 'Cirripedia.' When on the
1523
coast of Chile, I found a most curious form, which burrowed into
1524
the shells of Concholepas, and which differed so much from all
1525
other Cirripedes that I had to form a new sub-order for its sole
1526
reception. Lately an allied burrowing genus has been found on
1527
the shores of Portugal. To understand the structure of my new
1528
Cirripede I had to examine and dissect many of the common forms;
1529
and this gradually led me on to take up the whole group. I
1530
worked steadily on this subject for the next eight years, and
1531
ultimately published two thick volumes (Published by the Ray
1532
Society.), describing all the known living species, and two thin
1533
quartos on the extinct species. I do not doubt that Sir E.
1534
Lytton Bulwer had me in his mind when he introduced in one of his
1535
novels a Professor Long, who had written two huge volumes on
1536
limpets.
1537
1538
Although I was employed during eight years on this work, yet I
1539
record in my diary that about two years out of this time was lost
1540
by illness. On this account I went in 1848 for some months to
1541
Malvern for hydropathic treatment, which did me much good, so
1542
that on my return home I was able to resume work. So much was I
1543
out of health that when my dear father died on November 13th,
1544
1848, I was unable to attend his funeral or to act as one of his
1545
executors.
1546
1547
My work on the Cirripedia possesses, I think, considerable value,
1548
as besides describing several new and remarkable forms, I made
1549
out the homologies of the various parts--I discovered the
1550
cementing apparatus, though I blundered dreadfully about the
1551
cement glands--and lastly I proved the existence in certain
1552
genera of minute males complemental to and parasitic on the
1553
hermaphrodites. This latter discovery has at last been fully
1554
confirmed; though at one time a German writer was pleased to
1555
attribute the whole account to my fertile imagination. The
1556
Cirripedes form a highly varying and difficult group of species
1557
to class; and my work was of considerable use to me, when I had
1558
to discuss in the 'Origin of Species' the principles of a natural
1559
classification. Nevertheless, I doubt whether the work was worth
1560
the consumption of so much time.
1561
1562
>From September 1854 I devoted my whole time to arranging my huge
1563
pile of notes, to observing, and to experimenting in relation to
1564
the transmutation of species. During the voyage of the "Beagle"
1565
I had been deeply impressed by discovering in the Pampean
1566
formation great fossil animals covered with armour like that on
1567
the existing armadillos; secondly, by the manner in which closely
1568
allied animals replace one another in proceeding southwards over
1569
the Continent; and thirdly, by the South American character of
1570
most of the productions of the Galapagos archipelago, and more
1571
especially by the manner in which they differ slightly on each
1572
island of the group; none of the islands appearing to be very
1573
ancient in a geological sense.
1574
1575
It was evident that such facts as these, as well as many others,
1576
could only be explained on the supposition that species gradually
1577
become modified; and the subject haunted me. But it was equally
1578
evident that neither the action of the surrounding conditions,
1579
nor the will of the organisms (especially in the case of plants)
1580
could account for the innumerable cases in which organisms of
1581
every kind are beautifully adapted to their habits of life--for
1582
instance, a woodpecker or a tree-frog to climb trees, or a seed
1583
for dispersal by hooks or plumes. I had always been much struck
1584
by such adaptations, and until these could be explained it seemed
1585
to me almost useless to endeavour to prove by indirect evidence
1586
that species have been modified.
1587
1588
After my return to England it appeared to me that by following
1589
the example of Lyell in Geology, and by collecting all facts
1590
which bore in any way on the variation of animals and plants
1591
under domestication and nature, some light might perhaps be
1592
thrown on the whole subject. My first note-book was opened in
1593
July 1837. I worked on true Baconian principles, and without any
1594
theory collected facts on a wholesale scale, more especially with
1595
respect to domesticated productions, by printed enquiries, by
1596
conversation with skilful breeders and gardeners, and by
1597
extensive reading. When I see the list of books of all kinds
1598
which I read and abstracted, including whole series of Journals
1599
and Transactions, I am surprised at my industry. I soon
1600
perceived that selection was the keystone of man's success in
1601
making useful races of animals and plants. But how selection
1602
could be applied to organisms living in a state of nature
1603
remained for some time a mystery to me.
1604
1605
In October 1838, that is, fifteen months after I had begun my
1606
systematic enquiry, I happened to read for amusement 'Malthus on
1607
Population,' and being well prepared to appreciate the struggle
1608
for existence which everywhere goes on from long-continued
1609
observation of the habits of animals and plants, it at once
1610
struck me that under these circumstances favourable variations
1611
would tend to be preserved, and unfavourable ones to be
1612
destroyed. The result of this would be the formation of new
1613
species. Here then I had at last got a theory by which to work;
1614
but I was so anxious to avoid prejudice, that I determined not
1615
for some time to write even the briefest sketch of it. In June
1616
1842 I first allowed myself the satisfaction of writing a very
1617
brief abstract of my theory in pencil in 35 pages; and this was
1618
enlarged during the summer of 1844 into one of 230 pages, which I
1619
had fairly copied out and still possess.
1620
1621
But at that time I overlooked one problem of great importance;
1622
and it is astonishing to me, except on the principle of Columbus
1623
and his egg, how I could have overlooked it and its solution.
1624
This problem is the tendency in organic beings descended from the
1625
same stock to diverge in character as they become modified. That
1626
they have diverged greatly is obvious from the manner in which
1627
species of all kinds can be classed under genera, genera under
1628
families, families under sub-orders and so forth; and I can
1629
remember the very spot in the road, whilst in my carriage, when
1630
to my joy the solution occurred to me; and this was long after I
1631
had come to Down. The solution, as I believe, is that the
1632
modified offspring of all dominant and increasing forms tend to
1633
become adapted to many and highly diversified places in the
1634
economy of nature.
1635
1636
Early in 1856 Lyell advised me to write out my views pretty
1637
fully, and I began at once to do so on a scale three or four
1638
times as extensive as that which was afterwards followed in my
1639
'Origin of Species;' yet it was only an abstract of the materials
1640
which I had collected, and I got through about half the work on
1641
this scale. But my plans were overthrown, for early in the
1642
summer of 1858 Mr. Wallace, who was then in the Malay
1643
archipelago, sent me an essay "On the Tendency of Varieties to
1644
depart indefinitely from the Original Type;" and this essay
1645
contained exactly the same theory as mine. Mr. Wallace expressed
1646
the wish that if I thought well of his essay, I should sent it to
1647
Lyell for perusal.
1648
1649
The circumstances under which I consented at the request of Lyell
1650
and Hooker to allow of an abstract from my MS., together with a
1651
letter to Asa Gray, dated September 5, 1857, to be published at
1652
the same time with Wallace's Essay, are given in the 'Journal of
1653
the Proceedings of the Linnean Society,' 1858, page 45. I was at
1654
first very unwilling to consent, as I thought Mr. Wallace might
1655
consider my doing so unjustifiable, for I did not then know how
1656
generous and noble was his disposition. The extract from my MS.
1657
and the letter to Asa Gray had neither been intended for
1658
publication, and were badly written. Mr. Wallace's essay, on the
1659
other hand, was admirably expressed and quite clear.
1660
Nevertheless, our joint productions excited very little
1661
attention, and the only published notice of them which I can
1662
remember was by Professor Haughton of Dublin, whose verdict was
1663
that all that was new in them was false, and what was true was
1664
old. This shows how necessary it is that any new view should be
1665
explained at considerable length in order to arouse public
1666
attention.
1667
1668
In September 1858 I set to work by the strong advice of Lyell and
1669
Hooker to prepare a volume on the transmutation of species, but
1670
was often interrupted by ill-health, and short visits to Dr.
1671
Lane's delightful hydropathic establishment at Moor Park. I
1672
abstracted the MS. begun on a much larger scale in 1856, and
1673
completed the volume on the same reduced scale. It cost me
1674
thirteen months and ten days' hard labour. It was published
1675
under the title of the 'Origin of Species,' in November 1859.
1676
Though considerably added to and corrected in the later editions,
1677
it has remained substantially the same book.
1678
1679
It is no doubt the chief work of my life. It was from the first
1680
highly successful. The first small edition of 1250 copies was
1681
sold on the day of publication, and a second edition of 3000
1682
copies soon afterwards. Sixteen thousand copies have now (1876)
1683
been sold in England; and considering how stiff a book it is,
1684
this is a large sale. It has been translated into almost every
1685
European tongue, even into such languages as Spanish, Bohemian,
1686
Polish, and Russian. It has also, according to Miss Bird, been
1687
translated into Japanese (Miss Bird is mistaken, as I learn from
1688
Prof. Mitsukuri.--F.D.), and is there much studied. Even an
1689
essay in Hebrew has appeared on it, showing that the theory is
1690
contained in the Old Testament! The reviews were very numerous;
1691
for some time I collected all that appeared on the 'Origin' and
1692
on my related books, and these amount (excluding newspaper
1693
reviews) to 265; but after a time I gave up the attempt in
1694
despair. Many separate essays and books on the subject have
1695
appeared; and in Germany a catalogue or bibliography on
1696
"Darwinismus" has appeared every year or two.
1697
1698
The success of the 'Origin' may, I think, be attributed in large
1699
part to my having long before written two condensed sketches, and
1700
to my having finally abstracted a much larger manuscript, which
1701
was itself an abstract. By this means I was enabled to select
1702
the more striking facts and conclusions. I had, also, during
1703
many years followed a golden rule, namely, that whenever a
1704
published fact, a new observation or thought came across me,
1705
which was opposed to my general results, to make a memorandum of
1706
it without fail and at once; for I had found by experience that
1707
such facts and thoughts were far more apt to escape from the
1708
memory than favourable ones. Owing to this habit, very few
1709
objections were raised against my views which I had not at least
1710
noticed and attempted to answer.
1711
1712
It has sometimes been said that the success of the 'Origin'
1713
proved "that the subject was in the air," or "that men's minds
1714
were prepared for it." I do not think that this is strictly
1715
true, for I occasionally sounded not a few naturalists, and never
1716
happened to come across a single one who seemed to doubt about
1717
the permanence of species. Even Lyell and Hooker, though they
1718
would listen with interest to me, never seemed to agree. I tried
1719
once or twice to explain to able men what I meant by Natural
1720
Selection, but signally failed. What I believe was strictly true
1721
is that innumerable well-observed facts were stored in the minds
1722
of naturalists ready to take their proper places as soon as any
1723
theory which would receive them was sufficiently explained.
1724
Another element in the success of the book was its moderate size;
1725
and this I owe to the appearance of Mr. Wallace's essay; had I
1726
published on the scale in which I began to write in 1856, the
1727
book would have been four or five times as large as the 'Origin,'
1728
and very few would have had the patience to read it.
1729
1730
I gained much by my delay in publishing from about 1839, when the
1731
theory was clearly conceived, to 1859; and I lost nothing by it,
1732
for I cared very little whether men attributed most originality
1733
to me or Wallace; and his essay no doubt aided in the reception
1734
of the theory. I was forestalled in only one important point,
1735
which my vanity has always made me regret, namely, the
1736
explanation by means of the Glacial period of the presence of the
1737
same species of plants and of some few animals on distant
1738
mountain summits and in the arctic regions. This view pleased me
1739
so much that I wrote it out in extenso, and I believe that it was
1740
read by Hooker some years before E. Forbes published his
1741
celebrated memoir ('Geolog. Survey Mem.,' 1846.) on the subject.
1742
In the very few points in which we differed, I still think that I
1743
was in the right. I have never, of course, alluded in print to
1744
my having independently worked out this view.
1745
1746
Hardly any point gave me so much satisfaction when I was at work
1747
on the 'Origin,' as the explanation of the wide difference in
1748
many classes between the embryo and the adult animal, and of the
1749
close resemblance of the embryos within the same class. No
1750
notice of this point was taken, as far as I remember, in the
1751
early reviews of the 'Origin,' and I recollect expressing my
1752
surprise on this head in a letter to Asa Gray. Within late years
1753
several reviewers have given the whole credit to Fritz Muller and
1754
Hackel, who undoubtedly have worked it out much more fully, and
1755
in some respects more correctly than I did. I had materials for
1756
a whole chapter on the subject, and I ought to have made the
1757
discussion longer; for it is clear that I failed to impress my
1758
readers; and he who succeeds in doing so deserves, in my opinion,
1759
all the credit.
1760
1761
This leads me to remark that I have almost always been treated
1762
honestly by my reviewers, passing over those without scientific
1763
knowledge as not worthy of notice. My views have often been
1764
grossly misrepresented, bitterly opposed and ridiculed, but this
1765
has been generally done, as I believe, in good faith. On the
1766
whole I do not doubt that my works have been over and over again
1767
greatly overpraised. I rejoice that I have avoided
1768
controversies, and this I owe to Lyell, who many years ago, in
1769
reference to my geological works, strongly advised me never to
1770
get entangled in a controversy, as it rarely did any good and
1771
caused a miserable loss of time and temper.
1772
1773
Whenever I have found out that I have blundered, or that my work
1774
has been imperfect, and when I have been contemptuously
1775
criticised, and even when I have been overpraised, so that I have
1776
felt mortified, it has been my greatest comfort to say hundreds
1777
of times to myself that "I have worked as hard and as well as I
1778
could, and no man can do more than this." I remember when in
1779
Good Success Bay, in Tierra del Fuego, thinking (and, I believe,
1780
that I wrote home to the effect) that I could not employ my life
1781
better than in adding a little to Natural Science. This I have
1782
done to the best of my abilities, and critics may say what they
1783
like, but they cannot destroy this conviction.
1784
1785
During the two last months of 1859 I was fully occupied in
1786
preparing a second edition of the 'Origin,' and by an enormous
1787
correspondence. On January 1st, 1860, I began arranging my notes
1788
for my work on the 'Variation of Animals and Plants under
1789
Domestication;' but it was not published until the beginning of
1790
1868; the delay having been caused partly by frequent illnesses,
1791
one of which lasted seven months, and partly by being tempted to
1792
publish on other subjects which at the time interested me more.
1793
1794
On May 15th, 1862, my little book on the 'Fertilisation of
1795
Orchids,' which cost me ten months' work, was published: most of
1796
the facts had been slowly accumulated during several previous
1797
years. During the summer of 1839, and, I believe, during the
1798
previous summer, I was led to attend to the cross-fertilisation
1799
of flowers by the aid of insects, from having come to the
1800
conclusion in my speculations on the origin of species, that
1801
crossing played an important part in keeping specific forms
1802
constant. I attended to the subject more or less during every
1803
subsequent summer; and my interest in it was greatly enhanced by
1804
having procured and read in November 1841, through the advice of
1805
Robert Brown, a copy of C.K. Sprengel's wonderful book, 'Das
1806
entdeckte Geheimniss der Natur.' For some years before 1862 I
1807
had specially attended to the fertilisation of our British
1808
orchids; and it seemed to me the best plan to prepare as complete
1809
a treatise on this group of plants as well as I could, rather
1810
than to utilise the great mass of matter which I had slowly
1811
collected with respect to other plants.
1812
1813
My resolve proved a wise one; for since the appearance of my
1814
book, a surprising number of papers and separate works on the
1815
fertilisation of all kinds of flowers have appeared: and these
1816
are far better done than I could possibly have effected. The
1817
merits of poor old Sprengel, so long overlooked, are now fully
1818
recognised many years after his death.
1819
1820
During the same year I published in the 'Journal of the Linnean
1821
Society' a paper "On the Two Forms, or Dimorphic Condition of
1822
Primula," and during the next five years, five other papers on
1823
dimorphic and trimorphic plants. I do not think anything in my
1824
scientific life has given me so much satisfaction as making out
1825
the meaning of the structure of these plants. I had noticed in
1826
1838 or 1839 the dimorphism of Linum flavum, and had at first
1827
thought that it was merely a case of unmeaning variability. But
1828
on examining the common species of Primula I found that the two
1829
forms were much too regular and constant to be thus viewed. I
1830
therefore became almost convinced that the common cowslip and
1831
primrose were on the high road to become dioecious;--that the
1832
short pistil in the one form, and the short stamens in the other
1833
form were tending towards abortion. The plants were therefore
1834
subjected under this point of view to trial; but as soon as the
1835
flowers with short pistils fertilised with pollen from the short
1836
stamens, were found to yield more seeds than any other of the
1837
four possible unions, the abortion-theory was knocked on the
1838
head. After some additional experiment, it became evident that
1839
the two forms, though both were perfect hermaphrodites, bore
1840
almost the same relation to one another as do the two sexes of an
1841
ordinary animal. With Lythrum we have the still more wonderful
1842
case of three forms standing in a similar relation to one
1843
another. I afterwards found that the offspring from the union of
1844
two plants belonging to the same forms presented a close and
1845
curious analogy with hybrids from the union of two distinct
1846
species.
1847
1848
In the autumn of 1864 I finished a long paper on 'Climbing
1849
Plants,' and sent it to the Linnean Society. The writing of this
1850
paper cost me four months; but I was so unwell when I received
1851
the proof-sheets that I was forced to leave them very badly and
1852
often obscurely expressed. The paper was little noticed, but
1853
when in 1875 it was corrected and published as a separate book it
1854
sold well. I was led to take up this subject by reading a short
1855
paper by Asa Gray, published in 1858. He sent me seeds, and on
1856
raising some plants I was so much fascinated and perplexed by the
1857
revolving movements of the tendrils and stems, which movements
1858
are really very simple, though appearing at first sight very
1859
complex, that I procured various other kinds of climbing plants,
1860
and studied the whole subject. I was all the more attracted to
1861
it, from not being at all satisfied with the explanation which
1862
Henslow gave us in his lectures, about twining plants, namely,
1863
that they had a natural tendency to grow up in a spire. This
1864
explanation proved quite erroneous. Some of the adaptations
1865
displayed by Climbing Plants are as beautiful as those of Orchids
1866
for ensuring cross-fertilisation.
1867
1868
My 'Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication' was
1869
begun, as already stated, in the beginning of 1860, but was not
1870
published until the beginning of 1868. It was a big book, and
1871
cost me four years and two months' hard labour. It gives all my
1872
observations and an immense number of facts collected from
1873
various sources, about our domestic productions. In the second
1874
volume the causes and laws of variation, inheritance, etc., are
1875
discussed as far as our present state of knowledge permits.
1876
Towards the end of the work I give my well-abused hypothesis of
1877
Pangenesis. An unverified hypothesis is of little or no value;
1878
but if anyone should hereafter be led to make observations by
1879
which some such hypothesis could be established, I shall have
1880
done good service, as an astonishing number of isolated facts can
1881
be thus connected together and rendered intelligible. In 1875 a
1882
second and largely corrected edition, which cost me a good deal
1883
of labour, was brought out.
1884
1885
My 'Descent of Man' was published in February, 1871. As soon as
1886
I had become, in the year 1837 or 1838, convinced that species
1887
were mutable productions, I could not avoid the belief that man
1888
must come under the same law. Accordingly I collected notes on
1889
the subject for my own satisfaction, and not for a long time with
1890
any intention of publishing. Although in the 'Origin of Species'
1891
the derivation of any particular species is never discussed, yet
1892
I thought it best, in order that no honourable man should accuse
1893
me of concealing my views, to add that by the work "light would
1894
be thrown on the origin of man and his history." It would have
1895
been useless and injurious to the success of the book to have
1896
paraded, without giving any evidence, my conviction with respect
1897
to his origin.
1898
1899
But when I found that many naturalists fully accepted the
1900
doctrine of the evolution of species, it seemed to me advisable
1901
to work up such notes as I possessed, and to publish a special
1902
treatise on the origin of man. I was the more glad to do so, as
1903
it gave me an opportunity of fully discussing sexual selection--a
1904
subject which had always greatly interested me. This subject,
1905
and that of the variation of our domestic productions, together
1906
with the causes and laws of variation, inheritance, and the
1907
intercrossing of plants, are the sole subjects which I have been
1908
able to write about in full, so as to use all the materials which
1909
I have collected. The 'Descent of Man' took me three years to
1910
write, but then as usual some of this time was lost by ill
1911
health, and some was consumed by preparing new editions and other
1912
minor works. A second and largely corrected edition of the
1913
'Descent' appeared in 1874.
1914
1915
My book on the 'Expression of the Emotions in Men and Animals'
1916
was published in the autumn of 1872. I had intended to give only
1917
a chapter on the subject in the 'Descent of Man,' but as soon as
1918
I began to put my notes together, I saw that it would require a
1919
separate treatise.
1920
1921
My first child was born on December 27th, 1839, and I at once
1922
commenced to make notes on the first dawn of the various
1923
expressions which he exhibited, for I felt convinced, even at
1924
this early period, that the most complex and fine shades of
1925
expression must all have had a gradual and natural origin.
1926
During the summer of the following year, 1840, I read Sir C.
1927
Bell's admirable work on expression, and this greatly increased
1928
the interest which I felt in the subject, though I could not at
1929
all agree with his belief that various muscles had been specially
1930
created for the sake of expression. From this time forward I
1931
occasionally attended to the subject, both with respect to man
1932
and our domesticated animals. My book sold largely; 5267 copies
1933
having been disposed of on the day of publication.
1934
1935
In the summer of 1860 I was idling and resting near Hartfield,
1936
where two species of Drosera abound; and I noticed that numerous
1937
insects had been entrapped by the leaves. I carried home some
1938
plants, and on giving them insects saw the movements of the
1939
tentacles, and this made me think it probable that the insects
1940
were caught for some special purpose. Fortunately a crucial test
1941
occurred to me, that of placing a large number of leaves in
1942
various nitrogenous and non-nitrogenous fluids of equal density;
1943
and as soon as I found that the former alone excited energetic
1944
movements, it was obvious that here was a fine new field for
1945
investigation.
1946
1947
During subsequent years, whenever I had leisure, I pursued my
1948
experiments, and my book on 'Insectivorous Plants' was published
1949
in July 1875--that is, sixteen years after my first observations.
1950
The delay in this case, as with all my other books, has been a
1951
great advantage to me; for a man after a long interval can
1952
criticise his own work, almost as well as if it were that of
1953
another person. The fact that a plant should secrete, when
1954
properly excited, a fluid containing an acid and ferment, closely
1955
analogous to the digestive fluid of an animal, was certainly a
1956
remarkable discovery.
1957
1958
During this autumn of 1876 I shall publish on the 'Effects of
1959
Cross and Self-Fertilisation in the Vegetable Kingdom.' This
1960
book will form a complement to that on the 'Fertilisation of
1961
Orchids,' in which I showed how perfect were the means for cross-
1962
fertilisation, and here I shall show how important are the
1963
results. I was led to make, during eleven years, the numerous
1964
experiments recorded in this volume, by a mere accidental
1965
observation; and indeed it required the accident to be repeated
1966
before my attention was thoroughly aroused to the remarkable fact
1967
that seedlings of self-fertilised parentage are inferior, even in
1968
the first generation, in height and vigour to seedlings of cross-
1969
fertilised parentage. I hope also to republish a revised edition
1970
of my book on Orchids, and hereafter my papers on dimorphic and
1971
trimorphic plants, together with some additional observations on
1972
allied points which I never have had time to arrange. My
1973
strength will then probably be exhausted, and I shall be ready to
1974
exclaim "Nunc dimittis."
1975
1976
WRITTEN MAY 1ST, 1881.
1977
1978
'The Effects of Cross and Self-Fertilisation' was published in
1979
the autumn of 1876; and the results there arrived at explain, as
1980
I believe, the endless and wonderful contrivances for the
1981
transportal of pollen from one plant to another of the same
1982
species. I now believe, however, chiefly from the observations
1983
of Hermann Muller, that I ought to have insisted more strongly
1984
than I did on the many adaptations for self-fertilisation; though
1985
I was well aware of many such adaptations. A much enlarged
1986
edition of my 'Fertilisation of Orchids' was published in 1877.
1987
1988
In this same year 'The Different Forms of Flowers, etc.,'
1989
appeared, and in 1880 a second edition. This book consists
1990
chiefly of the several papers on Heterostyled flowers originally
1991
published by the Linnean Society, corrected, with much new matter
1992
added, together with observations on some other cases in which
1993
the same plant bears two kinds of flowers. As before remarked,
1994
no little discovery of mine ever gave me so much pleasure as the
1995
making out the meaning of heterostyled flowers. The results of
1996
crossing such flowers in an illegitimate manner, I believe to be
1997
very important, as bearing on the sterility of hybrids; although
1998
these results have been noticed by only a few persons.
1999
2000
In 1879, I had a translation of Dr. Ernst Krause's 'Life of
2001
Erasmus Darwin' published, and I added a sketch of his character
2002
and habits from material in my possession. Many persons have
2003
been much interested by this little life, and I am surprised that
2004
only 800 or 900 copies were sold.
2005
2006
In 1880 I published, with [my son] Frank's assistance, our 'Power
2007
of Movement in Plants.' This was a tough piece of work. The
2008
book bears somewhat the same relation to my little book on
2009
'Climbing Plants,' which 'Cross-Fertilisation' did to the
2010
'Fertilisation of Orchids;' for in accordance with the principle
2011
of evolution it was impossible to account for climbing plants
2012
having been developed in so many widely different groups unless
2013
all kinds of plants possess some slight power of movement of an
2014
analogous kind. This I proved to be the case; and I was further
2015
led to a rather wide generalisation, viz. that the great and
2016
important classes of movements, excited by light, the attraction
2017
of gravity, etc., are all modified forms of the fundamental
2018
movement of circumnutation. It has always pleased me to exalt
2019
plants in the scale of organised beings; and I therefore felt an
2020
especial pleasure in showing how many and what admirably well
2021
adapted movements the tip of a root possesses.
2022
2023
I have now (May 1, 1881) sent to the printers the MS. of a little
2024
book on 'The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the Action of
2025
Worms.' This is a subject of but small importance; and I know
2026
not whether it will interest any readers (Between November 1881
2027
and February 1884, 8500 copies have been sold.), but it has
2028
interested me. It is the completion of a short paper read before
2029
the Geological Society more than forty years ago, and has revived
2030
old geological thoughts.
2031
2032
I have now mentioned all the books which I have published, and
2033
these have been the milestones in my life, so that little remains
2034
to be said. I am not conscious of any change in my mind during
2035
the last thirty years, excepting in one point presently to be
2036
mentioned; nor, indeed, could any change have been expected
2037
unless one of general deterioration. But my father lived to his
2038
eighty-third year with his mind as lively as ever it was, and all
2039
his faculties undimmed; and I hope that I may die before my mind
2040
fails to a sensible extent. I think that I have become a little
2041
more skilful in guessing right explanations and in devising
2042
experimental tests; but this may probably be the result of mere
2043
practice, and of a larger store of knowledge. I have as much
2044
difficulty as ever in expressing myself clearly and concisely;
2045
and this difficulty has caused me a very great loss of time; but
2046
it has had the compensating advantage of forcing me to think long
2047
and intently about every sentence, and thus I have been led to
2048
see errors in reasoning and in my own observations or those of
2049
others.
2050
2051
There seems to be a sort of fatality in my mind leading me to put
2052
at first my statement or proposition in a wrong or awkward form.
2053
Formerly I used to think about my sentences before writing them
2054
down; but for several years I have found that it saves time to
2055
scribble in a vile hand whole pages as quickly as I possibly can,
2056
contracting half the words; and then correct deliberately.
2057
Sentences thus scribbled down are often better ones than I could
2058
have written deliberately.
2059
2060
Having said thus much about my manner of writing, I will add that
2061
with my large books I spend a good deal of time over the general
2062
arrangement of the matter. I first make the rudest outline in
2063
two or three pages, and then a larger one in several pages, a few
2064
words or one word standing for a whole discussion or series of
2065
facts. Each one of these headings is again enlarged and often
2066
transferred before I begin to write in extenso. As in several of
2067
my books facts observed by others have been very extensively
2068
used, and as I have always had several quite distinct subjects in
2069
hand at the same time, I may mention that I keep from thirty to
2070
forty large portfolios, in cabinets with labelled shelves, into
2071
which I can at once put a detached reference or memorandum. I
2072
have bought many books, and at their ends I make an index of all
2073
the facts that concern my work; or, if the book is not my own,
2074
write out a separate abstract, and of such abstracts I have a
2075
large drawer full. Before beginning on any subject I look to all
2076
the short indexes and make a general and classified index, and by
2077
taking the one or more proper portfolios I have all the
2078
information collected during my life ready for use.
2079
2080
I have said that in one respect my mind has changed during the
2081
last twenty or thirty years. Up to the age of thirty, or beyond
2082
it, poetry of many kinds, such as the works of Milton, Gray,
2083
Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley, gave me great
2084
pleasure, and even as a schoolboy I took intense delight in
2085
Shakespeare, especially in the historical plays. I have also
2086
said that formerly pictures gave me considerable, and music very
2087
great delight. But now for many years I cannot endure to read a
2088
line of poetry: I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and
2089
found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me. I have also
2090
almost lost my taste for pictures or music. Music generally sets
2091
me thinking too energetically on what I have been at work on,
2092
instead of giving me pleasure. I retain some taste for fine
2093
scenery, but it does not cause me the exquisite delight which it
2094
formerly did. On the other hand, novels which are works of the
2095
imagination, though not of a very high order, have been for years
2096
a wonderful relief and pleasure to me, and I often bless all
2097
novelists. A surprising number have been read aloud to me, and I
2098
like all if moderately good, and if they do not end unhappily--
2099
against which a law ought to be passed. A novel, according to my
2100
taste, does not come into the first class unless it contains some
2101
person whom one can thoroughly love, and if a pretty woman all
2102
the better.
2103
2104
This curious and lamentable loss of the higher aesthetic tastes
2105
is all the odder, as books on history, biographies, and travels
2106
(independently of any scientific facts which they may contain),
2107
and essays on all sorts of subjects interest me as much as ever
2108
they did. My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for
2109
grinding general laws out of large collections of facts, but why
2110
this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain
2111
alone, on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive. A
2112
man with a mind more highly organised or better constituted than
2113
mine, would not, I suppose, have thus suffered; and if I had to
2114
live my life again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry
2115
and listen to some music at least once every week; for perhaps
2116
the parts of my brain now atrophied would thus have been kept
2117
active through use. The loss of these tastes is a loss of
2118
happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and
2119
more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional
2120
part of our nature.
2121
2122
My books have sold largely in England, have been translated into
2123
many languages, and passed through several editions in foreign
2124
countries. I have heard it said that the success of a work
2125
abroad is the best test of its enduring value. I doubt whether
2126
this is at all trustworthy; but judged by this standard my name
2127
ought to last for a few years. Therefore it may be worth while
2128
to try to analyse the mental qualities and the conditions on
2129
which my success has depended; though I am aware that no man can
2130
do this correctly.
2131
2132
I have no great quickness of apprehension or wit which is so
2133
remarkable in some clever men, for instance, Huxley. I am
2134
therefore a poor critic: a paper or book, when first read,
2135
generally excites my admiration, and it is only after
2136
considerable reflection that I perceive the weak points. My
2137
power to follow a long and purely abstract train of thought is
2138
very limited; and therefore I could never have succeeded with
2139
metaphysics or mathematics. My memory is extensive, yet hazy:
2140
it suffices to make me cautious by vaguely telling me that I have
2141
observed or read something opposed to the conclusion which I am
2142
drawing, or on the other hand in favour of it; and after a time I
2143
can generally recollect where to search for my authority. So
2144
poor in one sense is my memory, that I have never been able to
2145
remember for more than a few days a single date or a line of
2146
poetry.
2147
2148
Some of my critics have said, "Oh, he is a good observer, but he
2149
has no power of reasoning!" I do not think that this can be
2150
true, for the 'Origin of Species' is one long argument from the
2151
beginning to the end, and it has convinced not a few able men.
2152
No one could have written it without having some power of
2153
reasoning. I have a fair share of invention, and of common sense
2154
or judgment, such as every fairly successful lawyer or doctor
2155
must have, but not, I believe, in any higher degree.
2156
2157
On the favourable side of the balance, I think that I am superior
2158
to the common run of men in noticing things which easily escape
2159
attention, and in observing them carefully. My industry has been
2160
nearly as great as it could have been in the observation and
2161
collection of facts. What is far more important, my love of
2162
natural science has been steady and ardent.
2163
2164
This pure love has, however, been much aided by the ambition to
2165
be esteemed by my fellow naturalists. From my early youth I have
2166
had the strongest desire to understand or explain whatever I
2167
observed,--that is, to group all facts under some general laws.
2168
These causes combined have given me the patience to reflect or
2169
ponder for any number of years over any unexplained problem. As
2170
far as I can judge, I am not apt to follow blindly the lead of
2171
other men. I have steadily endeavoured to keep my mind free so
2172
as to give up any hypothesis, however much beloved (and I cannot
2173
resist forming one on every subject), as soon as facts are shown
2174
to be opposed to it. Indeed, I have had no choice but to act in
2175
this manner, for with the exception of the Coral Reefs, I cannot
2176
remember a single first-formed hypothesis which had not after a
2177
time to be given up or greatly modified. This has naturally led
2178
me to distrust greatly deductive reasoning in the mixed sciences.
2179
On the other hand, I am not very sceptical,--a frame of mind
2180
which I believe to be injurious to the progress of science. A
2181
good deal of scepticism in a scientific man is advisable to avoid
2182
much loss of time, but I have met with not a few men, who, I feel
2183
sure, have often thus been deterred from experiment or
2184
observations, which would have proved directly or indirectly
2185
serviceable.
2186
2187
In illustration, I will give the oddest case which I have known.
2188
A gentleman (who, as I afterwards heard, is a good local
2189
botanist) wrote to me from the Eastern counties that the seed or
2190
beans of the common field-bean had this year everywhere grown on
2191
the wrong side of the pod. I wrote back, asking for further
2192
information, as I did not understand what was meant; but I did
2193
not receive any answer for a very long time. I then saw in two
2194
newspapers, one published in Kent and the other in Yorkshire,
2195
paragraphs stating that it was a most remarkable fact that "the
2196
beans this year had all grown on the wrong side." So I thought
2197
there must be some foundation for so general a statement.
2198
Accordingly, I went to my gardener, an old Kentish man, and asked
2199
him whether he had heard anything about it, and he answered, "Oh,
2200
no, sir, it must be a mistake, for the beans grow on the wrong
2201
side only on leap-year, and this is not leap-year." I then asked
2202
him how they grew in common years and how on leap-years, but soon
2203
found that he knew absolutely nothing of how they grew at any
2204
time, but he stuck to his belief.
2205
2206
After a time I heard from my first informant, who, with many
2207
apologies, said that he should not have written to me had he not
2208
heard the statement from several intelligent farmers; but that he
2209
had since spoken again to every one of them, and not one knew in
2210
the least what he had himself meant. So that here a belief--if
2211
indeed a statement with no definite idea attached to it can be
2212
called a belief--had spread over almost the whole of England
2213
without any vestige of evidence.
2214
2215
I have known in the course of my life only three intentionally
2216
falsified statements, and one of these may have been a hoax (and
2217
there have been several scientific hoaxes) which, however, took
2218
in an American Agricultural Journal. It related to the formation
2219
in Holland of a new breed of oxen by the crossing of distinct
2220
species of Bos (some of which I happen to know are sterile
2221
together), and the author had the impudence to state that he had
2222
corresponded with me, and that I had been deeply impressed with
2223
the importance of his result. The article was sent to me by the
2224
editor of an English Agricultural Journal, asking for my opinion
2225
before republishing it.
2226
2227
A second case was an account of several varieties, raised by the
2228
author from several species of Primula, which had spontaneously
2229
yielded a full complement of seed, although the parent plants had
2230
been carefully protected from the access of insects. This
2231
account was published before I had discovered the meaning of
2232
heterostylism, and the whole statement must have been fraudulent,
2233
or there was neglect in excluding insects so gross as to be
2234
scarcely credible.
2235
2236
The third case was more curious: Mr. Huth published in his book
2237
on 'Consanguineous Marriage' some long extracts from a Belgian
2238
author, who stated that he had interbred rabbits in the closest
2239
manner for very many generations, without the least injurious
2240
effects. The account was published in a most respectable
2241
Journal, that of the Royal Society of Belgium; but I could not
2242
avoid feeling doubts--I hardly know why, except that there were
2243
no accidents of any kind, and my experience in breeding animals
2244
made me think this very improbable.
2245
2246
So with much hesitation I wrote to Professor Van Beneden, asking
2247
him whether the author was a trustworthy man. I soon heard in
2248
answer that the Society had been greatly shocked by discovering
2249
that the whole account was a fraud. (The falseness of the
2250
published statements on which Mr. Huth relied has been pointed
2251
out by himself in a slip inserted in all the copies of his book
2252
which then remained unsold.) The writer had been publicly
2253
challenged in the Journal to say where he had resided and kept
2254
his large stock of rabbits while carrying on his experiments,
2255
which must have consumed several years, and no answer could be
2256
extracted from him.
2257
2258
My habits are methodical, and this has been of not a little use
2259
for my particular line of work. Lastly, I have had ample leisure
2260
from not having to earn my own bread. Even ill-health, though it
2261
has annihilated several years of my life, has saved me from the
2262
distractions of society and amusement.
2263
2264
Therefore my success as a man of science, whatever this may have
2265
amounted to, has been determined, as far as I can judge, by
2266
complex and diversified mental qualities and conditions. Of
2267
these, the most important have been--the love of science--
2268
unbounded patience in long reflecting over any subject--industry
2269
in observing and collecting facts--and a fair share of invention
2270
as well as of common sense. With such moderate abilities as I
2271
possess, it is truly surprising that I should have influenced to
2272
a considerable extent the belief of scientific men on some
2273
important points.
2274
2275