In this letter (Jan 25, 1859) to Wallace, Darwin is relieved to find that Wallace was satisfied with how their respective papers were presented at the Linnean Society. As with most of Darwin’s letters, he can’t help trying to extract more material from his contact, this time bee combs – a particular fascination of his.
C. DARWIN TO A.R. WALLACE
Down, Bromley, Kent. January 25, 1859.
My dear Sir,—I was extremely much pleased at receiving three days ago your letter to me and that to Dr. Hooker. Permit me to say how heartily I admire the spirit in which they are written. Though I had absolutely nothing whatever to do in leading Lyell and Hooker to what they thought a fair course of action, yet I naturally could not but feel anxious to hear what your impression would be. I owe indirectly much to you and them; for I almost think that Lyell would have proved right and I should never have completed my larger work, for I have found my abstract hard enough with my poor health; but now, thank God, I am in my last chapter but one. My abstract will make a small volume of 400 or 500 pages. Whenever published, I will of course send you a copy, and then you will see what I mean about the part which I believe selection has played with domestic productions. It is a very different part, as you suppose, from that played by “natural selection.”
I sent off, by same address as this note, a copy of the Journal of the Linnean Society, and subsequently I have sent some half-dozen copies of the Paper. I have many other copies at your disposal; and I sent two to your friend Dr. Davies (?), author of works on men’s skulls.
I am glad to hear that you have been attending to birds’ nests; I have done so, though almost exclusively under one point of view, viz. to show that instincts vary, so that selection could work on and improve them.
Few other instincts, so to speak, can be preserved in a museum.
Many thanks for your offer to look after horses’ stripes; if there are any donkeys’, pray add them.
I am delighted to hear that you have collected bees’ combs; when next in London I will inquire of F. Smith and Mr. Saunders. This is an especial hobby of mine, and I think I can throw light on the subject. If you can collect duplicates at no very great expense, I should be glad of specimens for myself, with some bees of each kind. Young growing and irregular combs, and those which have not had pupæ, are most valuable for measurements and examination; their edges should be well protected against abrasion.
Everyone whom I have seen has thought your paper very well written and interesting. It puts my extracts (written in 1839, now just twenty years ago!), which I must say in apology were never for an instant intended for publication, in the shade.
You ask about Lyell’s frame of mind. I think he is somewhat staggered, but does not give in, and speaks with horror often to me of what a thing it would be and what a job it would be for the next edition of the Principles if he were “perverted.” But he is most candid and honest, and I think will end by being perverted. Dr. Hooker has become almost as heterodox as you or I—and I look at Hooker as by far the most capable judge in Europe.
Most cordially do I wish you health and entire success in all your pursuits; and God knows, if admirable zeal and energy deserve success, most amply do you deserve it. I look at my own career as nearly run out; if I can publish my abstract, and perhaps my greater work on the same subject, I shall look at my course as done.
Believe me, my dear Sir, yours very sincerely,