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Darwin Correspondence Project

To G. J. Romanes   [1 and 2 December 1877]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.

Saturday night

My dear Romanes

I have just finished your lecture— It is an admirable scientific argument & most powerful.— I wish that it could be sown broadcast througout the land. Your courage is marvellous & I wonder that you were not stoned on the spot.— And in Scotland!2 Do please tell me how it was received in the Lecture Hall?!!

About man being made like a monkey p. 37 is quite new to me; & the argument in an earlier place p. 8/ on the law of parsimony admirably put. Yes p. 21 is new to me.—3 All strikes me as very clear & considering small space you have chosen your lines of reasoning excellently.

But I am tired | so good night | C. Darwin

The few last pages are awfully powerful in my opinion.—

Sunday Morning— The above was written last night in the enthusiasm of the moment & now this dark dismal Sunday morning I fully agree with what I said.—

I am very sorry to hear about the failures in the graft-experiments & not from your own fault or ill luck.4 Trollope in one of his novels gives as a maxim of constant use by a brick maker “it is dogged as does it”; & I have often & often thought this is the motto for every scientific worker.5 I am sure it is yours if you do not give up Pangenesis with wicked imprecations. By the way G Jaeger has just brought out in Kosmos a chemical sort of Pangenesis, bearing chiefly on inheritance.—6

I cannot conceive why I have not offered my garden for your experiments. I wd attend to the plants, as far as mere care goes with pleasure. But Down is an awkward place to reach7

C.D

☞ (Would it be worth while to try if the Fortnightly would republish it?)8

Footnotes

The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from G. J. Romanes, 2 December 1877. In 1877, 2 December was a Sunday.
Romanes sent CD a copy of his lecture to the Philosophical Society of Ross-shire, ‘The scientific evidence of organic evolution: a discourse’ (G. J. Romanes 1877c). CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. For more on the reaction of Scottish Presbyterians to Darwinian theory, see D. N. Livingstone 2014.
Romanes had argued that if humans were specially created they were evidently modelled on apes (G. J. Romanes 1877c, p. 37; CD scored the passage in his copy). In ibid., p. 8, he noted that parsimony forbade the assumption of higher causes when lower ones were sufficient to explain something. In ibid., p. 21, he pointed out the difficulty of explaining deviations from typical structure under the theory of ideal types, and that the Darwinian view of adaptive modification was able to account for such deviations.
The letter from Romanes discussing his grafting experiments has not been found; the experiments were undertaken to test CD’s hypothesis of pangenesis (see letter from G. J. Romanes, 6 June 1877 and n. 6).
‘It’s dogged as does it’ is the title of a chapter in Anthony Trollope’s novel, The last chronicle of Barset (Trollope 1867, 2: 181–92); it is the advice given to Mr Crawley by Giles Hoggett, the brickmaker.
Gustav Jäger had published ‘physiological letters’ on inheritance in Kosmos (Jäger 1877); CD probably refers to the second of these, which appeared in the July issue, and in which Jäger discussed sexual chemical signals. For more on Jäger’s chemical transmutation theory as a modified pangenesis theory, see Weinreich 1993, pp. 128–37.
The closest railway station to CD’s home, Down House, was Orpington, on a branch line of the South Eastern Railway.
A slightly shorter version of Romanes’s lecture was published in the Fortnightly Review, December 1881 (G. J. Romanes 1881).

Bibliography

Jäger, Gustav. 1877. Physiologische Briefe. Ueber Vererbung. Kosmos 1: 17–25, 306–17.

Livingstone, David N. 2014. Dealing with Darwin: place, politics, and rhetoric in religious engagements with evolution. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Trollope, Anthony. 1867. The last chronicle of Barset. 2 vols. London: Smith, Elder and Co.

Weinreich, Heinrich. 1993. Duftstofftheorie: Gustav Jaeger (1832–1917): vom Biologen zum ‘Seelenriecher’. Stuttgart: Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft.

Summary

Comments on GJR’s lecture on evolution.

Regrets failure of graft experiments.

Hopes GJR will not give up on Pangenesis. Mentions article by Gustav Jäger on Pangenesis.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-11265
From
Charles Robert Darwin
To
George John Romanes
Sent from
Down
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.526)
Physical description
4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11265,” accessed on 27 October 2021, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/?docId=letters/DCP-LETT-11265.xml

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