I am greatly relieved by your letter this morning about my Arctic essay, for I had been conjuring up some egregious blunder (like the granitic plains of Patagonia).. Certes, after what you have told me of Dawson, he will not like the letter I wrote to him days ago, in which I told him that it was impossible to entertain a strong opinion against the Darwinian hypothesis without its giving rise to a mental twist when viewing matters in which that hypothesis was or might be involved. I told him I felt that this was so with me when I opposed you, and that all minds are subject to such obliquities!--the Lord help me, and this to an LL.D. and Principal of a College! I proceeded to discuss his Geology with the effrontery of a novice; and, thank God, I urged the very argument of your letter about evidence of subsidence--viz., not all submerged at once, and glacial action being subaerial and not oceanic. Your letter hence was a relief, for I felt I was hardly strong enough to have launched out as I did to a professed geologist.
(144/1. [On the subject of the above letter, see one of earlier date by Sir J.D. Hooker (November 2nd, 1862) given in the present work (Letter 354) with Darwin's reply (Letter 355).])
LETTER 145. TO HUGH FALCONER. Down, November 14th .
I have read your paper (145/1. "On the disputed Affinity of the Mammalian Genus Plagiaulax, from the Purbeck beds."--"Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc." Volume XVIII., page 348, 1862.) with extreme interest, and I thank you for sending it, though I should certainly have carefully read it, or anything with your name, in the Journal. It seems to me a masterpiece of close reasoning: although, of course, not a judge of such subjects, I cannot feel any doubt that it is conclusive. Will Owen answer you? I expect that from his arrogant view of his own position he will not answer. Your paper is dreadfully severe on him, but perfectly courteous, and polished as the finest dagger. How kind you are towards me: your first sentence (145/2. "One of the most accurate observers and original thinkers of our time has discoursed with emphatic eloquence on the Imperfection of the Geological Record.") has pleased me more than perhaps it ought to do, if I had any modesty in my composition. By the way, after reading the first whole paragraph, I re-read it, not for matter, but for style; and then it suddenly occurred to me that a certain man once said to me, when I urged him to publish some of his miscellaneous wealth of knowledge, "Oh, he could not write,--he hated it," etc. You false man, never say that to me again. Your incidental remark on the remarkable specialisation of Plagiaulax (145/3. "If Plagiaulax be regarded through the medium of the view advocated with such power by Darwin, through what a number of intermediate forms must not the genus have passed before it attained the specialised condition in which the fossils come before us!") (which has stuck in my gizzard ever since I read your first paper) as bearing on the number of preceding forms, is quite new to me, and, of course, is in accordance to my notions a most impressive argument. I was also glad to be reminded of teeth of camel and tarsal bones. (145/4. Op. cit. page 353. A reference to Cuvier's instance "of the secret relation between the upper canine- shaped incisors of the camel and the bones of the tarsus.") Descent from an intermediate form, Ahem!
Well, all I can say is that I have not been for a long time more interested with a paper than with yours. It gives me a demoniacal chuckle to think of Owen's pleasant countenance when he reads it.
I have not been in London since the end of September; when I do come I will beat up your quarters if I possibly can; but I do not know what has come over me. I am worse than ever in bearing any excitement. Even talking of an evening for less than two hours has twice recently brought on such violent vomiting and trembling that I dread coming up to London. I hear that you came out strong at Cambridge (145/5. Prof. Owen, in a communication to the British Association at Cambridge (1862) "On a tooth of Mastodon from the Tertiary marls, near Shanghai," brought forward the case of the Australian Mastodon as a proof of the remarkable geographical distribution of the Proboscidia. In a subsequent discussion he frankly abandoned it, in consequence of the doubts then urged regarding its authenticity. (See footnote, page 101, in Falconer's paper "On the American Fossil Elephant," "Nat. Hist. Review," 1863.)), and am heartily glad you attacked the Australian Mastodon. I never did or could believe in him. I wish you would read my little Primula paper in the "Linnean Journal," Volume VI. Botany (No. 22), page 77 (I have no copy which I can spare), as I think there is a good chance that you may have observed similar cases. This is my real hobby-horse at present. I have re-tested this summer the functional difference of the two forms in Primula, and find all strictly accurate. If you should know of any cases analogous, pray inform me. Farewell, my good and kind friend.
(146/1. The following letter is interesting in connection with a letter addressed to Sir J.D. Hooker, March 26th, 1862, No. 136, where the value of Natural Selection is stated more strongly by Sir Joseph than by Darwin. It is unfortunate that Sir Joseph's letter, to which this is a reply, has not been found.)
Your last letter has interested me to an extraordinary degree, and your truly parsonic advice, "some other wise and discreet person," etc., etc., amused us not a little. I will put a concrete case to show what I think A. Gray believes about crossing and what I believe. If 1,000 pigeons were bred together in a cage for 10,000 years their number not being allowed to increase by chance killing, then from mutual intercrossing no varieties would arise; but, if each pigeon were a self-fertilising hermaphrodite, a multitude of varieties would arise. This, I believe, is the common effect of crossing, viz., the obliteration of incipient varieties. I do not deny that when two marked varieties have been produced, their crossing will produce a third or more intermediate varieties. Possibly, or probably, with domestic varieties, with a strong tendency to vary, the act of crossing tends to give rise to new characters; and thus a third or more races, not strictly intermediate, may be produced. But there is heavy evidence against new characters arising from crossing wild forms; only intermediate races are then produced. Now, do you agree thus far? if not, it is no use arguing; we must come to swearing, and I am convinced I can swear harder than you, therefore I am right. Q.E.D.