(133/1. The following letter was published in the "Life" of Mr. Fawcett (1885); we are indebted to Mrs. Fawcett and Messrs. Smith & Elder for permission to reprint it. See Letter 129.)
I wondered who had so kindly sent me the newspaper (133/2. The newspaper sent was the "Manchester Examiner" for September 9th, 1861, containing a report of Mr. Fawcett's address given before Section D of the British Association, "On the method of Mr. Darwin in his treatise on the origin of species," in which the speaker showed that the "method of investigation pursued by Mr. Darwin in his treatise on the origin of species is in strict accordance with the principles of logic." The "A" of the letter (as published in Fawcett's Life) is the late Professor Williamson, who is reported to have said that "while he would not say that Mr. Darwin's book had caused him a loss of reputation, he was sure that it had not caused a gain." The reference to "B" is explained by the report of the late Dr. Lankester's speech in which he said, "The facts brought forward in support of the hypothesis had a very different value indeed from that of the hypothesis...A great naturalist, who was still a friend of Mr. Darwin, once said to him (Dr. Lankester), 'The mistake is, that Darwin has dealt with origin. Why did he not put his facts before us, and let them rest?'" Another speaker, the Rt. Hon. J.R. Napier, remarked: "I am going to speak closely to the question. If the hypothesis is put forward to contradict facts, and the averments are contrary to the Word of God, I say that it is not a logical argument." At this point the chairman, Professor Babington, wisely interfered, on the ground that the meeting was a scientific one.), which I was very glad to see; and now I have to thank you sincerely for allowing me to see your MS. It seems to me very good and sound; though I am certainly not an impartial judge. You will have done good service in calling the attention of scientific men to means and laws of philosophising. As far as I could judge by the papers, your opponents were unworthy of you. How miserably A. talked of my reputation, as if that had anything to do with it!...How profoundly ignorant B must be of the very soul of observation! About thirty years ago there was much talk that geologists ought only to observe and not theorise; and I well remember some one saying that at this rate a man might as well go into a gravel-pit and count the pebbles and describe the colours. How odd it is that anyone should not see that all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service!
I have returned only lately from a two months' visit to Torquay, which did my health at the time good; but I am one of those miserable creatures who are never comfortable for twenty-four hours; and it is clear to me that I ought to be exterminated. I have been rather idle of late, or, speaking more strictly, working at some miscellaneous papers, which, however, have some direct bearing on the subject of species; yet I feel guilty at having neglected my larger book. But, to me, observing is much better sport than writing. I fear that I shall have wearied you with this long note.
Pray believe that I feel sincerely grateful that you have taken up the cudgels in defence of the line of argument in the "Origin;" you will have benefited the subject.
Many are so fearful of speaking out. A German naturalist came here the other day; and he tells me that there are many in Germany on our side, but that all seem fearful of speaking out, and waiting for some one to speak, and then many will follow. The naturalists seem as timid as young ladies should be, about their scientific reputation. There is much discussion on the subject on the Continent, even in quiet Holland; and I had a pamphlet from Moscow the other day by a man who sticks up famously for the imperfection of the "Geological Record," but complains that I have sadly understated the variability of the old fossilised animals! But I must not run on.
LETTER 134. TO H.W. BATES. Down, September 25th .
Now for a few words on science. Many thanks for facts on neuters. You cannot tell how I rejoice that you do not think what I have said on the subject absurd. Only two persons have even noticed it to me--viz., the bitter sneer of Owen in the "Edinburgh Review" (134/1. "Edinburgh Review," April, 1860, page 525.), and my good friend and supporter, Sir C. Lyell, who could only screw up courage to say, "Well, you have manfully faced the difficulty."
What a wonderful case of Volucella of which I had never heard. (134/2. Volucella is a fly--one of the Syrphidae--supposed to supply a case of mimicry; this was doubtless the point of interest with Bates. Dr. Sharp says ["Insects," Part II. (in the Camb. Nat. Hist. series), 1899, page 500]: "It was formerly assumed that the Volucella larvae lived on the larvae of the bees, and that the parent flies were providentially endowed with a bee-like appearance that they might obtain entrance into the bees' nests without being detected." Dr. Sharp goes on to say that what little is known on the subject supports the belief that the "presence of the Volucella in the nests is advantageous to both fly and bee.") I had no idea such a case occurred in nature; I must get and see specimens in British Museum. I hope and suppose you will give a good deal of Natural History in your Travels; every one cares about ants--more notice has been taken about slave-ants in the "Origin" than of any other passage.