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I met that usher in the Park somewhere near the Row, and

time:2023-11-29 14:21:41 source:History Network author:love read:183次

P.S. 2.--I worked all yesterday evening in thinking, and have written the paper sent by this post this morning. Not one sentence would do, but it is the sort of rough sketch which I should have drawn out if I had had to do it. God knows whether it will at all aid you. It is miserably written, with horridly bad metaphors, probably horrid bad grammar. It is my deliberate impression, such as I should have written to any friend who had asked me what I thought of Lyell's merits. I will do anything else which you may wish, or that I can.

I met that usher in the Park somewhere near the Row, and

LETTER 70. TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, December 30th [1858].

I met that usher in the Park somewhere near the Row, and

I have had this copied to save you trouble, as it was vilely written, and is now vilely expressed.

I met that usher in the Park somewhere near the Row, and

Your letter has interested me greatly; but how inextricable are the subjects which we are discussing! I do not think I said that I thought the productions of Asia were HIGHER (70/1. On the use of the terms "higher" and "lower" see Letters 35 and 36.) than those of Australia. I intend carefully to avoid this expression (70/2. In a paper of pencilled notes pinned into Darwin's copy of the "Vestiges" occur the words: "Never use the word (sic) higher and lower."), for I do not think that any one has a definite idea what is meant by higher, except in classes which can loosely be compared with man. On our theory of Natural Selection, if the organisms of any area belonging to the Eocene or Secondary periods were put into competition with those now existing in the same area (or probably in any part of the world) they (i.e. the old ones) would be beaten hollow and be exterminated; if the theory be true, this must be so. In the same manner, I believe, a greater number of the productions of Asia, the largest territory in the world, would beat those of Australia, than conversely. So it seems to be between Europe and North America, for I can hardly believe in the difference of the stream of commerce causing so great a difference in the proportions of immigrants. But this sort of highness (I wish I could invent some expression, and must try to do so) is different from highness in the common acceptation of the word. It might be connected with degradation of organisation: thus the blind degraded worm-like snake (Typhlops) might supplant the true earthworm. Here then would be degradation in the class, but certainly increase in the scale of organisation in the general inhabitants of the country. On the other hand, it would be quite as easy to believe that true earthworms might beat out the Typhlops. I do not see how this "competitive highness" can be tested in any way by us. And this is a comfort to me when mentally comparing the Silurian and Recent organisms. Not that I doubt a long course of "competitive highness" will ultimately make the organisation higher in every sense of the word; but it seems most difficult to test it. Look at the Erigeron canadensis on the one hand and Anacharis (70/3. Anacharis (Elodea canadensis) and Erigeron canadensis are both successful immigrants from America.) on the other; these plants must have some advantage over European productions, to spread as they have. Yet who could discover it? Monkeys can co-exist with sloths and opossums, orders at the bottom of the scale; and the opossums might well be beaten by placental insectivores, coming from a country where there were no monkeys, etc. I should be sorry to give up the view that an old and very large continuous territory would generally produce organisms higher in the competitive sense than a smaller territory. I may, of course, be quite wrong about the plants of Australia (and your facts are, of course, quite new to me on their highness), but when I read the accounts of the immense spreading of European plants in Australia, and think of the wool and corn brought thence to Europe, and not one plant naturalised, I can hardly avoid the suspicion that Europe beats Australia in its productions. If many (i.e. more than one or two) Australian plants are TRULY naturalised in India (N.B. Naturalisation on Indian mountains hardly quite fair, as mountains are small islands in the land) I must strike my colours. I should be glad to hear whether what I have written very obscurely on this point produces ANY effect on you; for I want to clear my mind, as perhaps I should put a sentence or two in my abstract on this subject. (70/4. Abstract was Darwin's name for the "Origin" during parts of 1858 and 1859.)

I have always been willing to strike my colours on former immense tracts of land in oceans, if any case required it in an eminent degree. Perhaps yours may be a case, but at present I greatly prefer land in the Antarctic regions, where now there is only ice and snow, but which before the Glacial period might well have been clothed by vegetation. You have thus to invent far less land, and that more central; and aid is got by floating ice for transporting seed.

I hope I shall not weary you by scribbling my notions at this length. After writing last to you I began to think that the Malay Land might have existed through part of the Glacial epoch. Why I at first doubted was from the difference of existing mammals in different islands; but many are very close, and some identical in the islands, and I am constantly deceiving myself from thinking of the little change which the shells and plants, whilst all co-existing in their own northern hemisphere, have undergone since the Glacial epoch; but I am convinced that this is most false reasoning, for the relations of organism to new organisms, when thrown together, are by far the most important.

When you speak of plants having undergone more change since old geological periods than animals, are you not rather comparing plants with higher animals? Think how little some, indeed many, mollusca have changed. Remember Silurian Nautilus, Lingula and other Brachiopods, and Nucula, and amongst Echinoderms, the Silurian Asterias, etc.

What you say about lowness of brackish-water plants interests me. I remember that they are apt to be social (i.e. many individuals in comparison to specific forms), and I should be tempted to look at this as a case of a very small area, and consequently of very few individuals in comparison with those on the land or in pure fresh-water; and hence less development (odious word!) than on land or fresh-water. But here comes in your two-edged sword! I should like much to see any paper on plants of brackish water or on the edge of the sea; but I suppose such has never been published.


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