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arily with Mr. Darwin himself. The first, and far the most important, edition of the Origin of Species came out as a kind of literary Melchisedec, without father and without mother, in the works of other people. Here is its opening paragraph:
“When on board H.M.S. Beagle as naturalist, I was much struck with certain facts in the distribution of the inhabitants of South America, and in the geological relations of the present to the past inhabitants of that continent. These facts seemed to me to throw some light on the origin of species, that mystery of mysteries, as it has been called by one of our greatest philosophers. On my return home, it occurred to me, in 1837, that something might be made out on this question by patiently accumulating and reflecting upon all sorts of facts which would possibly have any bearing on it. After five years' work I allowed myself to speculate on the subject, and drew up some short notes; these I enlarged in 1844 into a sketch of the conclusions which then seemed to me probable: from that period to the present day I have steadily pursued the same object. I hope that I may be excused for entering on these personal details, as I give them to show that I have not been hasty in coming to a decision.'
In the latest edition this passage remains unaltered, except in one unimportant respect. What could more completely throw us off the scent of the earlier writers? If they had written anything worthy of our attention, or indeed if there had been any earlier writers at all, Mr. Darwin would have been the first to tell us about them, and to award them their due meed of recognition. But no; the whole thing was an original growth in Mr. Darwin's mind, and he had never so much as heard of his grandfather, Dr. Erasmus Darwin.
Origin of Species, 1st ed., p. 1.
Dr. Krause, indeed, thought otherwise. In the number of Kosmos for February 1879 he represented Mr. Darwin as in his youth approaching the works of his grandfather with all the devotion which people usually feel for the writings of a renowned poet.' This should perhaps be a delicately ironical way of hinting that Mr. Darwin did not read his grandfather's books closely; but I hardly think that Dr. Krause looked at the matter in this light, for he goes on to say that“ almost every single work of the younger
Darwin may be paralleled by at least a chapter in the works of his ancestor: the mystery of heredity, adaptation, the protective arrangements of animals and plants, sexual selection, insectivorous plants, and the analysis of the emotions and sociological impulses; nay, even the studies on infants are to be found already discussed in the pages of the elder Darwin.” 2
Nevertheless, innocent as Mr. Darwin's opening sentence appeared, it contained enough to have put us upon our guard. When he informed us that, on his return from a long voyage, “it occurred to " him that the way to make anything out about his subject was to colle&t and reflect upon the facts that bore upon it, it should have occurred to us in our turn, that when people betray a return of consciousness upon such matters as this, they are on the confines of that state in which other and not less elementary matters will not
occur to them. The introduction of the word
patiently ” should have been conclusive. I will not analyse more of the sentence, but will repeat the next two lines: “ After five years' work I allowed myself to speculate upon the subject, and drew up some short notes." We read this, thousands of us, and were blind.
Kosmos, February 1879, p. 397.
If Dr. Erasmus Darwin's name was not mentioned in the first edition of the Origin of Species, we should not be surprised at there being no notice taken of Buffon, or at Lamarck's being referred to only twice-on the first occasion to be serenely waved aside, he and all his works; on the second, to be commended on a point of detail. The author of the Vestiges of Creation was more widely known to English readers, having written more recently and nearer home. He was dealt with summarily, on an early and prominent page, by a misrepresentation, which was silently expunged in later editions of the Origin of Species. In his later editions (I believe first in his third, when 6,000 copies had been already sold), Mr. Darwin did indeed introduce a few pages in which he gave what he designated as a “ brief but imperfect sketch” of the progress of opinion on the origin of species prior to the appearance of his own work; but the general impression which a book conveys to, and leaves upon, the public is conveyed by the first edition-the one which is alone, with rare exceptions, reviewed; and in the first edition of the Origin of Species Mr. Darwin's great precursors were all either ignored or misrepresented. Moreover, the “ brief but imperfect sketch," when it did come, was so very brief, but, in spite of this (for this is what I suppose Mr.
(I Darwin must mean), so very imperfect, that it might as well have been left unwritten for all the help it gave the reader to see the true question at issue between the original propounders of the theory of evolution and Mr. Charles Darwin himself.
That question is this: Whether variation is in the main attributable to a known general principle, or whether it is not?-whether the minute variations whose accumulation results in specific and generic differences
Origin of Species, 1st ed., p. 242. Ibid., p. 427.
are referable to something which will ensure their appearing in a certain definite direction, or in certain definite directions, for long periods together, and in many individuals, or whether they are not?- whether, in a word, these variations are in the main definite or indefinite?
It is observable that the leading men of science seem rarely to understand this even now. I am told that Professor Huxley, in his recent lecture on the coming of age of the Origin of Species, never so much as alluded to the existence of any such division of opinion as this. He did not even, I am assured, mention“ natural selection,” but appeared to believe, with Professor Tyndall,” that "evolution ” is “Mr. Darwin's theory.” In his article on evolution in the latest edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, I find only a veiled perception of the point wherein Mr. Darwin is at variance with his precursors. Professor Huxley evidently knows little of these writers beyond their names; if he had known more, it is impossible he should have written that “Buffon contributed nothing to the general doctrine of evolution,” ? and that Erasmus Darwin, “ though a zealous evolutionist, can hardly be said to have made any real advance on his predecessors.” The article is in a high degree unsatisfactory, and betrays at once an amount of ignorance and of perception which leaves an uncomfortable impression.
If this is the state of things that prevails even now, it is not surprising that in 1860 the general public should, with few exceptions, have known of only one evolution, namely, that propounded by Mr. Darwin. As a mem
Nineteenth Century, November 1878; Evolution, Old and New, pp. 360, 361 (Shrewsbury Edition, pp. 317, 318).
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th ed., art. “Evolution," p. 748.
ber of the general public, at that time residing eighteen miles from the nearest human habitation, and three days' journey on horseback from a bookseller's shop, I became one of Mr. Darwin's many enthusiastic admirers, and wrote a philosophical dialogue (the most offensive form, except poetry and books of travel into supposed unknown countries, that even literature can assume) upon the Origin of Species. This production appeared in the Press, Canterbury, New Zealand, in 1861 or 1862, but I have long lost the only copy I had.'
· Reprinted in A First Year in Canterbury Settlement, and other Early Essays. - A.T.B.