Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

Vessels" (1845); and on the "Geology of the Falkland Islands" (1846). A second edition of the two latter parts of "The Geology of the Beagle" was published in one volume in 1876.

Meanwhile, after spending a few years of his early married life in London, during which he was often in illhealth, Darwin fixed his residence in 1842 at Down House, near Beckenham, Kent. The little village of Down, three or four miles from the Orpington railway station, was near enough to London for convenient access, yet greatly secluded and thoroughly rural. The traveller's roving days were over, and his infirmity of health prevented him from undertaking very fatiguing journeys. After the cessation of his active work for the Geological Society, Darwin's chief public appearance was when he spoke at the Oxford meeting of the British Association, in 1847, when, strange to say, Ruskin was secretary of the Geological Section.

At Down then, situated some 400 feet above the sea level on a plateau of chalk, interrupted by wavy hollows with beech woods on the slopes, about forty years of Darwin's life were passed. Down House, one of the square red brick mansions of the last century, to which have been since added a gable-fronted wing on one side and a more squarely-built wing and pillared portico on the other, is shut in and almost hidden from the roadway by a high wall and belt of trees. On the south side a walled garden opens into a quiet meadow, bounded by underwood, through which is seen a delightful view of the narrow valley beyond, towards Westerham.

One of the most admirable chapters of the well-known

"Manual of Scientific Enquiry," published in 1849, for the use of the navy and travellers generally, and edited by Sir John Herschel, was Darwin's, on Geology. The explorer is here taught to make the most of his opportunities upon the soundest principles. The habits which the author had himself formed are inculcated upon the observer-copious collecting, accurate recording, much thinking. Nothing is omitted. Number-labels which can be read upside down must have a stop to indicate the right way up; every specimen should be ticketed on the day of collection; diagrams of all kinds should be made, as nearly as possible, to scale. "Acquire the habit of always seeking an explanation of every geological point met with." "No one can expect to solve the many difficulties which will be encountered, and which for a long time will remain to perplex geologists; but a ray of light will occasionally be his reward, and the reward is ample." Truly an ample reward awaited the observer who could thus speak of the value of "a ray of light;" he certainly did, to use the concluding words of the essay, "enjoy the high satisfaction of contributing to the perfection of the history of this wonderful world.”

Meanwhile Darwin had been carrying on a great research on the very peculiar order of crustacea, termęd Cirripedia, better known as barnacles and acorn shells. He had originally only intended to describe a single abnormal member of the group, from South America, but was led, for the sake of comparison, to examine the internal parts of as many as possible. The British Museum collection was freely opened to him, and as the importance of studying the anatomy of many

specimens became evident, the splendid collections of Messrs. Stutchbury, Cuming, and others were placed at his disposal, and he was permitted to open and to dissect unique specimens of great value. In fact, almost every naturalist of note who had any knowledge of the subject freely aided him, and the result was a masterly series of finely illustrated volumes; two on the living Cirripedia, issued by the Ray Society in 1851 and 1854; and two on the fossil Cirripedia of Great Britain, by the Palæontographical Society, published in the same years. There is evidence in these volumes that careful observations on the growth of these creatures had been made as far back as the visit to the Galapagos Islands in 1835. In many respects these works are as masterly as any the author ever wrote. Considering the previous obscurity of the subject, the difficulties attending the research, the almost entire lack at that time of any general microscopical knowledge of tissues, and especially of those of embryos, Darwin's success is marvellous. The details are too technical for statement here, but any one with a zoological training, who studies the strange complication of the reproductive systems, and the remarkable transformations which the young undergo, as told in these volumes, will appreciate more than ever the breadth and the solidity of the basis of patiently acquired knowledge which Charles Darwin had accumulated while his "Origin of Species" was taking shape.

At the anniversary meeting of the Royal Society in November, 1853, a royal medal was presented to the author of "Coral Reefs" and the "Memoir on the Cirripedia," the president, the Earl of Rosse, eulogizing

the former as one of the most important contributions to modern geology, and the latter as containing new facts and conclusions of first-rate interest. Finally, this chapter of Darwin's life may be closed with the tardy award of the Wollaston medal to him by the Geological Society, in February, 1859, when Professor John Phillips spoke of him as combining the rarest acquirements as a naturalist, with the qualifications of a first-class geologist, and as having by his admirable monograph on the fossil Cirripedia added much to a reputation already raised to the highest rank.

Yet even such a reputation could not secure fair treatment and impartial judgment for the coming book, the subject of which might be supposed to require supreme gifts of the very kind Darwin possessed.

CHAPTER IV.

IF

F no other record of Darwin's twenty-two years (183759) of life and thought after his return to England remained than the papers and books he published during that period, we should find enough to place him on a level with the most gifted biologists and geologists of his age. But all that time he was occupied with thoughts, researches, and experiments, of which the world at large perceived no fruits. Few persons suspected that a tremendous revolution in scientific thought was in preparation at the quiet country home at Down. New species of animals and plants were being described by naturalists at an alarming rate. The bulk of knowledge of specific characters and the necessity of specialisation bade fair to make every species-monger a dry and narrow pedant; and the pedants quarrelled about the characters and limits of their species.

In the later years of this period some rays of improvement shone out. To end the reign of Owen's misleading types and imaginary archetypes, there arose a wielder of two potent words, "morphology" and "biology," the sciences of form and of life, who showed that differences of adult form grew out of likeness and simplicity in the

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »