Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP4898

Sent by:
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent to:
Henry Walter Bates
3 December [1861]

Sent by Charles Robert Darwin, Down House, Beckenham, Kent, S.E. to Henry Walter Bates [none given] on 3 December [1861].

Record created:
29 November 2012 by Catchpole, Caroline


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LETTER (WCP4898.5297)

A typical letter handwritten by author in English and signed by author.

Held by:
Dittrick Medical History Center of Case Western Reserve University
Copyright owner:
©William H. Darwin

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Down Bromley Kent

Dec 3rd

My dear Sir

I thank you for your extremely interesting letter, & valuable references, though God knows when I shall come again to this part of my subject. One cannot of course judge of style when one merely hears a paper, but yours seemed to me very clear & good. Believe me that I estimate its value most highly. Under a general point of view, I am quite convinced (Hooker & Huxley took same view some months ago) that a philosophic view of nature can solely be driven into naturalists by treating special subjects as you have here done. Under [[2]] a special point of view I think you have solved one of the most perplexing problems which could be given to solve. I am glad to hear from Hooker that Linn. Soc. will give Plates, if you can get drawings; but I suppose they might be drawn on to stone or copper. Pray excuse me for again saying if ever you want £10 or £20, I shall be pleased to send it, for any aid in Natural History. Do not complain of want of advice during your Travels; I daresay part

of your great originality of views may be due to the necessity of self exertion of thought. I can [[3]] understand that your reception at B. Museum would damp you; they are a very good set of men, but not the sort to appreciate your work. In fact I have long thought that too much systematic work of description somehow blunts the faculties. The general public appreciates a good dose of reasoning, or generalisation with new & curious remarks on habits, final causes &c &c, far more than do the regular naturalists. I am extremely glad to hear that you have begun your Travels. (I thought your Glacial Letter admirably written); I am very busy, but I shall be truly glad to render any aid which [[4]] I can by reading your 1st Chapter or two. I do not think I shall be able to correct style, for this reason, that after repeated trials I find I cannot correct my own style till I see the M.S. in type. Some are born with a power of good writing, like Wallace; others like myself & Lyell have to labour very hard & slowly at every sentence. I find it very good plan, when I cannot get a difficult discussion to please me, to fancy that some one comes into the room, & asks me what I am doing; & then try at once & explain to the [[5]] imaginary person what it is all about. I have done this for one paragraph to myself several times; & sometimes to Mrs. Darwin, till I see how the subject ought to go. It is, I think, good to read one's M.S. aloud. But style to me is a great difficulty; yet some good judges think I have succeeded, & I say this to encourage you. What I think I can do will be to tell you whether parts had better be shortened. It is good I think to dash "in mediasres", & work in later any descriptions of country or any historical details [[6]] which may be necessary. Murray likes lots of woodcuts- give some by all means of Ants. The public appreciate Monkeys -- our poor cousins. What sexual differences are there in monkeys? Have you kept them tame? if so about their expression. I fear that you will hardly read my vile handwriting, but I cannot without killing trouble, write better.

You shall have my candid opinion [[7]] on your M.S., but remember it is hard to judge from M.S.-- one reads slowly & heavy parts seem much heavier. A first rate judge thought my Journal very poor; now that it is in print, I happen to know, he likes it. I am sure you will understand why I am so egotistical. I was a little disappointed in Wallace's Book on the Amazon; hardly facts enough. On other hand in Gosse's books there is not reasoning enough to my taste. Heaven knows whether you will care to read [[8]] all this scribbling.

M.S. can be sent by Book Post, if marked to be printed. Had you not better register it?

Many thanks for Wallace's letter; he rates me much too highly & himself much too lowly. That was an admirable paper of his in Linn. Journal. But what strikes me most about Mr Wallace is the absence of jealousy towards me: he must have a really good honest & noble disposition. A far higher merit than mere intellect.

With cordial good wishes & thanks, | Yours sincerely, | C. Darwin [signature]

I am glad you had pleasant day with Hooker: he is an admirably good man in every sense.

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