In November, 1861, Blake wrote a paper in the "Geologist" in which the new elephant no longer bears his own name as authority, but is described as "Elephas texianus, Owen, E. Columbi, Falconer." Finally, in another paper the name of Owen is dropped and the elephant is once more his own. As Falconer remarks, "the usage of science does not countenance such accommodating arrangements, when the result is to prejudice a prior right."
It may be said, no doubt, that the question who first described a given species is a petty one; but this view has a double edge, and applies most strongly to those who neglect the just claims of their predecessors.
I finished your Elephant paper last night, and you must let me express my admiration at it. (155/2. "On the American Fossil Elephant of the Regions bordering the Gulf of Mexico (E. Columbi, Falc.), etc." "Nat. Hist. Rev." 1863, page 81. (Cf. Letter to Lyell. "Life and Letters," II., page 389; also "Origin," Edition VI., page 306.) See Letter 143.) All the points strike me as admirably worked out, and very many most interesting. I was particularly struck with your remarks on the character of the ancient Mammalian Fauna of N. America (155/3. Falconer, page 62. This passage is marked in Darwin's copy.); it agrees with all I fancied was the case, namely a temporary irruption of S. American forms into N. America, and conversely, I chuckled a little over the specimen of M. Andium "hesitating" between the two groups. (155/4. In speaking of the characters of Mastodon Andium, Falconer refers to a former paper by himself ("Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc." Volume XIII. 1857, page 313), in which he called attention "to the exceptional character of certain specimens of M. Andium, as if hesitating between [the groups] Tetralophodon and Trilophodon" (ibid., page 100).) I have been assured by Mr. Wallace that abundant Mastodon remains have been found at Timor, and that is rather close to Australia. I rejoice that you have smashed that case. (155/5. In the paper in the "Nat. Hist. Review" (loc. cit.) Falconer writes: "It seems more probable that some unintentional error has got mixed up with the history of this remarkable fossil; and until further confirmatory evidence is adduced, of an unimpeachable character, faith cannot be reposed in the reality of the asserted Australian Mastodon" (page 101).) It is indeed a grand paper. I will say nothing more about your allusions to me, except that they have pleased me quite as much in print as in MS. You must have worked very hard; the labour must have been extreme, but I do hope that you will have health and strength to go on. You would laugh if you could see how indignant all Owen's mean conduct about E. Columbi made me. (155/6. See Letter 157.) I did not get to sleep till past 3 o'clock. How well you lash him, firmly and severely, with unruffled temper, as if you were performing a simple duty. The case is come to such a pass, that I think every man of science is bound to show his feelings by some overt act, and I shall watch for a fitting opportunity.
P.S.--I have kept back for a day the enclosed owing to the arrival of your most interesting letter. I knew it was a mere chance whether you could inform me on the points required; but no one other person has so often responded to my miscellaneous queries. I believe I have now in my greenhouse L. trigynum (155/7. Linum trigynum.), which came up from seed purchased as L. flavum, from which it is wholly different in foliage. I have just sent in a paper on Dimorphism of Linum to the Linnean Society (155/8. "On the Existence of the Forms, and on their reciprocal Sexual Relation, in several species of the genus Linum.--"Journ. Linn. Soc." Volume VII., page 69, 1864.), and so I do not doubt your memory is right about L. trigynum: the functional difference in the two forms of Linum is really wonderful. I assure you I quite long to see you and a few others in London; it is not so much the eczema which has taken the epidermis a dozen times clean off; but I have been knocked up of late with extraordinary facility, and when I shall be able to come up I know not. I particularly wish to hear about the wondrous bird: the case has delighted me, because no group is so isolated as Birds. I much wish to hear when we meet which digits are developed; when examining birds two or three years ago, I distinctly remember writing to Lyell that some day a fossil bird would be found with the end of wing cloven, i.e. the bastard-wing and other part, both well developed. Thanks for Von Martius, returned by this post, which I was glad to see. Poor old Wagner (Probably Johann Andreas Wagner, author of "Zur Feststellung des Artbegriffes, mit besonderer Bezugnahme auf die Ansichten von Nathusius, Darwin, Is. Geoffroy and Agassiz," "Munchen Sitzungsb." (1861), page 301, and of numerous papers on zoological and palaeozoological subjects.) always attacked me in a proper spirit, and sent me two or three little brochures, and I thanked him cordially. The Germans seem much stirred up on the subject. I received by the same post almost a little volume on the "Origin."
I cannot work above a couple of hours daily, and this plays the deuce with me.
P.S. 2nd.--I have worked like a slave and been baffled like a slave in trying to make out the meaning of two very different sets of stamens in some Melastomaceae. (155/9. Several letters on the Melastomaceae occur in our Botanical section.) I must tell you one fact. I counted 9,000 seeds, one by one, from my artificially fertilised pods. There is something very odd, but I am as yet beaten. Plants from two pollens grow at different rates! Now, what I want to know is, whether in individuals of the same species, growing together, you have ever noticed any difference in the position of the pistil or in the size and colour of the stamens?
LETTER 156. TO T.H. HUXLEY. Down, December 18th .
I have read Nos. IV, and V. (156/1. "On our Knowledge of the Causes of the Phenomena of Organic Nature," being six Lectures to Working Men delivered at the Museum of Practical Geology by Prof. Huxley, 1863. These lectures, which were given once a week from November 10th, 1862, onwards, were printed from the notes of Mr. J.A. Mays, a shorthand writer, who asked permission to publish them on his own account; Mr. Huxley stating in a prefatory "Notice" that he had no leisure to revise the lectures.) They are simply perfect. They ought to be largely advertised; but it is very good in me to say so, for I threw down No. IV. with this reflection, "What is the good of writing a thundering big book, when everything is in this green little book, so despicable for its size?" In the name of all that is good and bad, I may as well shut up shop altogether. You put capitally and most simply and clearly the relation of animals and plants to each other at page 122.