I send a very imperfect answer to [your] question, which I have written on foreign paper to save you copying, and you can send when you write to Thomson in Calcutta. Hereafter I shall be able to answer better your question about qualities induced in individuals being inherited; gout in man--loss of wool in sheep (which begins in the first generation and takes two or three to complete); probably obesity (for it is rare with poor); probably obesity and early maturity in short-horn cattle, etc., etc.
LETTER 160. TO A. DE CANDOLLE. Down, January 14th .
I thank you most sincerely for sending me your Memoir. (160/1. Etude sur l'Espece a l'occasion d'une revision de la Famille des Cupuliferes. "Biblioth. Univ. (Arch. des Sc. Phys. et Nat.)," Novembre 1862.) I have read it with the liveliest interest, as is natural for me; but you have the art of making subjects, which might be dry, run easily. I have been fairly astonished at the amount of individual variability in the oaks. I never saw before the subject in any department of nature worked out so carefully. What labour it must have cost you! You spoke in one letter of advancing years; but I am very sure that no one would have suspected that you felt this. I have been interested with every part; though I am so unfortunate as to differ from most of my contemporaries in thinking that the vast continental extensions (160/2. See Letters 47, 48.) of Forbes, Heer, and others are not only advanced without sufficient evidence, but are opposed to much weighty evidence. You refer to my work in the kindest and most generous spirit. I am fully satisfied at the length in belief to which you go, and not at all surprised at the prudent reservations which you make. I remember well how many years it cost me to go round from old beliefs. It is encouraging to me to observe that everyone who has gone an inch with me, after a period goes a few more inches or even feet. But the great point, as it seems to me, is to give up the immutability of specific forms; as long as they are thought immutable, there can be no real progress in "Epiontology." (160/3. See De Candolle, loc. cit., page 67: he defines "Epiontologie" as the study of the distribution and succession of organised beings from their origin up to the present time. At present Epiontology is divided into geography and palaeontology, "mais cette division trop inegale et a limites bien vagues disparaitra probablement.") It matters very little to any one except myself, whether I am a little more or less wrong on this or that point; in fact, I am sure to be proved wrong in many points. But the subject will have, I am convinced, a grand future. Considering that birds are the most isolated group in the animal kingdom, what a splendid case is this Solenhofen bird-creature with its long tail and fingers to its wings! I have lately been daily and hourly using and quoting your "Geographical Botany" in my book on "Variation under Domestication."
LETTER 161. TO HORACE DOBELL. Down, February 16th .
Absence from home and consequent idleness are the causes that I have not sooner thanked you for your very kind present of your Lectures. (161/1. "On the Germs and Vestiges of Disease," (London) 1861.) Your reasoning seems quite satisfactory (though the subject is rather beyond my limit of thought and knowledge) on the V.M.F. not being "a given quantity." (161/2. "It has been too common to consider the force exhibited in the operations of life (the V.M.F.) as a given quantity, to which no accessions can be made, but which is apportioned to each living being in quantity sufficient for its necessities, according to some hidden law" (op. cit., page 41.) And I can see that the conditions of life must play a most important part in allowing this quantity to increase, as in the budding of a tree, etc. How far these conditions act on "the forms of organic life" (page 46) I do not see clearly. In fact, no part of my subject has so completely puzzled me as to determine what effect to attribute to (what I vaguely call) the direct action of the conditions of life. I shall before long come to this subject, and must endeavour to come to some conclusion when I have got the mass of collected facts in some sort of order in my mind. My present impression is that I have underrated this action in the "Origin." I have no doubt when I go through your volume I shall find other points of interest and value to me. I have already stumbled on one case (about which I want to consult Mr. Paget)--namely, on the re-growth of supernumerary digits. (161/3. See Letters 178, 270.) You refer to "White on Regeneration, etc., 1785." I have been to the libraries of the Royal and the Linnean Societies, and to the British Museum, where the librarians got out your volume and made a special hunt, and could discover no trace of such a book. Will you grant me the favour of giving me any clue, where I could see the book? Have you it? if so, and the case is given briefly, would you have the great kindness to copy it? I much want to know all particulars. One case has been given me, but with hardly minute enough details, of a supernumerary little finger which has already been twice cut off, and now the operation will soon have to be done for the third time. I am extremely much obliged for the genealogical table; the fact of the two cousins not, as far as yet appears, transmitting the peculiarity is extraordinary, and must be given by me.
LETTER 162. TO C. LYELL. [February 17th, 1863.]
The same post that brought the enclosed brought Dana's pamphlet on the same subject. (162/1. The pamphlet referred to was published in "Silliman's Journal," Volume XXV., 1863, pages 65 and 71, also in the "Annals and Magazine of Natural History," Volume XI., pages 207-14, 1863: "On the Higher Subdivisions in the Classification of Mammals." In this paper Dana maintains the view that "Man's title to a position by himself, separate from the other mammals in classification, appears to be fixed on structural as well as physical grounds" (page 210). His description is as follows:--
I. ARCHONTIA (vel DIPODA) Man (alone).