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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Charles Lyell   20 August 1862

Freshwater Gate, Isle of Wight:

August 20, 1862.

My dear Darwin,—

Mr. Jamieson of Ellon has been again to Lochaber, and confirms his former theory of the glacier lakes.1 The chief new point is a supposed rise at the rate of a foot per mile of the shelves as we proceed from the sea inland. It seems to me to require many more measurements, before we can rely on it. He found some splendid moraines opposite the mouth of Glen Trieg. He found some shells of Arctic character in the forty feet high raised beach of the Argyllshire coast, and has asked me to learn about one of them, of which he sends a drawing.

I fell in yesterday in my walk with Mr. A. G. More, whom you cite in your orchid book.2 He considers you the most profound of reasoners, to which I made no objection, only being amused at remembering that, such being the case, you had performed a singular feat, as the Bishop of Oxford assured me, of producing ‘the most illogical book ever written.’3

We shall be here for a week longer. I have been with my nephew Leonard4 to Alum and Compton Bays.

Ever most truly yours, | Charles Lyell.

P.S. I have just come upon a passage in Hooker’s Essay on Flora of Australia p. VII which makes me wish much to have a line from you. He says, “Species, genera & orders of most complex structure are the best limited, Dicot. better than Monocot. Dychlandia better than Ach   He adds in note p. VII. that the highest order of plants manifest their physical superiority, in their greater extent of variation, which is of a higher order than mere complexity or specialization of organs.” Now this agrees with my idea of persistent types, in lower classes of animals (mollusca e.g.) more rapid variation in mammalia—but you say 1st. Ed. Origin. p 168. “Organic beings low in the scale of Nature are more variable, than those which have their whole organization more specialized.” My old axiom 1832, was the longevity of species in the mollusca exceeding that in the class mammalia, which would chime in with Hooker, but I think you somewhere lay down principles in accordance with this law? | C. L.

Footnotes

Thomas Francis Jamieson visited the Scottish district of Lochaber in August 1861, to examine the so-called ‘parallel roads’ of Glen Roy (see Correspondence vol. 9). In 1839, CD had published a paper in which he argued that the ‘roads’, a series of terraces running parallel to each other along the sides of the glen, were the remains of beaches, formed by the sea as the landmass of Scotland gradually rose (‘Parallel roads of Glen Roy’). Following his own observations, however, Jamieson concluded that during a great ‘Ice-Age’, ice-flows had trapped a series of lakes in the glen, and that the ‘roads’ represented the shorelines of those former lakes. While CD at first appeared to have conceded defeat on the question, stating that his paper had been ‘one long gigantic blunder’ (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to Charles Lyell, 6 September [1861]), subsequent letters indicate that he was reluctant to abandon his own explanation (see Correspondence vol. 9, Appendix IX). Jamieson made a second visit to the site in July 1862 (see Jamieson 1863, p. 240); Lyell subsequently sent CD Jamieson’s letter describing his visit (see the enclosure to the letter to Charles Lyell, 14 October [1862]).
In addition to assisting CD with a number of experiments in 1861, Alexander Goodman More had supplied CD with orchid specimens from the Isle of Wight (see Correspondence vol. 9). His assistance is acknowledged several times in Orchids (see Orchids, pp. 67, 95 n., 99, and 101 n.).
In his letter to CD of [13–14 February 1860] (Correspondence vol. 8), Lyell reported that Samuel Wilberforce, the bishop of Oxford, had maintained that Origin ‘was the most unphilosophical [book] he had ever read.’
Leonard Lyell.

Summary

Jamieson has revisited Glen Roy and confirmed his theory of glacier lakes.

A. G. More considers CD the most profound of reasoners.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-3691
From
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Freshwater
Source of text
K. M. Lyell ed. 1881, 2: 358; Kinnordy MS (private collection)
Physical description
1p CC

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3691,” accessed on 19 February 2019, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-3691

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10

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