RECORD: Gray, Asa. 1882. [Obituary of Darwin]. Mr Darwin's principal works. Literary world 13 (6 May): 145. CUL-DAR216.18. Edited by John van Wyhe (Darwin Online, http://darwin-online.org.uk/)

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe 1.2023. RN1

NOTE: See record in the Darwin Online manuscript catalogue, enter its Identifier here. Reproduced with permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library.


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Mr Darwin's Principal Works.

1839. Journal of Researches into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries visited, during the Voyage of H.M.S. "Beagle" round the World. Has been pronounced "the most entertaining book of genuine travels ever written."

1842. The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs.

1840-43. Zoology of the Voyage of the "Beagle." [Edited.] Contributing the introduction and many of the notes.

1844. Geological Observations on Volcanic Islands.

1846. Geological Observations on South America.

1851-53. Monograph of the Family Cirripedia. 2 vols.

1855. The Fossil Lepodidæ of Great Britain. 2 vols.

1859. The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. Satirized by Lord Neaves [b. 1800, d. 1876] in a poetical form, "The Origin of Language," etc. Has passed through many editions in English, and been translated into French, German, Dutch, Italian, and Russian.

1862. The Various Contrivances by which Orchids are Fertilized by Insects. A development of three papers first published in 1862-68.

1867[68]. Domesticated Animals and Cultivated Plants; or the Principles of Variation, Inheritance, Reversion, Crossing, Inter-Breeding, and Selection, under Domestication.

1871. The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. Illustrated.

1872. On the Expression of the Emotions in Man and the Lower Animals.

1875. Insectivorous Plants.

1875. The Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants. A second and revised edition of

a paper first published in 1865.

1876. The Effects of Cross and Self-Fertilization in the Vegetable Kingdom.

1877. The Different Forms of Flowers on Plants of the Same Species.

1880. The Power of Movement in Plants.

1881. The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Earth-Worms. With Observations on their Habits.

I.

On the 20th of April died one of the most notable men of the age─ among scientific men doubtless the most notable; and today the mortal remains of Charles Robert Darwin are laid in Westminster Abbey, near those of Newton. Whatever judgment posterity may pronounce upon his genius and his work, we may say that no other naturalist ever made an impression at once so deep, so wide, and so immediate.

The name of Linnæus most invites comparison; but the readers and pupils of Linnæus over a century ago were to those of Darwin as tens are to thousands, and the interest of the subjects discussed were somewhat in the same ratio.

Humboldt, who, like Darwin, began with research in travel, and to whom the longest of lives, vigorous health, and the best of opportunities were allotted, essayed similar themes in a more ambitious spirit, enjoyed equal popularity, but left no great impression upon the thought of his own day and ours. As a measure of contemporary celebrity, one may note that no other author that we know of ever gave rise in his own active life-time to a special department of bibliography. Dante- literature and Shakespeare literature are the growth of centuries; but Darwinismus had filled shelves and alcoves and teeming catalogues, while the quiet but unremitting investigator was still supplying new and even novel subjects for comment. Note, also, that the term which he chose as the catch-word of his theory and more than one of the phrases by which he illustrated it, less than twenty- five years ago, have already in their special meanings been engrafted into his mother-tongue, and even into other European languages, and are turned to use in common converse with hardly any sense of strangeness.

And now, when the end has suddenly come, it will naturally be asked, How did this man come exceptionally to have, and what has he done to deserve, this breadth of influence and wealth of fame for which the most successful usually have to wait? And, mindful of some traditions of Linnæus and of Buffon in this regard, one might like to know how he bore himself under praise and under censure, both of which were heaped upon him without stint. We cannot now under take to answer these questions; but the few words here offered may throw some light upon them.

An English poet once wrote that he awoke one morning and found himself famous. When this happened to Darwin it was a genuine surprise. Although he addressed himself simply to scientific men, and had not the least thought of bringing his case before a popular tribunal, yet The Origin of Species was too readable a book upon too popular a topic to escape general perusal, and this indeed must in some sort have been anticipated. But the avidity with which it was taken up and the eagerness of popular discussion which followed were viewed by the author-as his letters at the time testify─with a sense of amused wonder at an unexpected and probably transient notoriety. The theory he developed was presented by a working naturalist to his fellow-workers, with confidence that it would sooner or later win acceptance from the younger and most observant of these.

The reasons why these moderate expectations were so soon more than fulfilled are not far to seek, although they were not then obvious to the world in general, for mere hypothetical speculations were mostly discountenanced by naturalists of that day. But in fact, their work and their thoughts were tending in the direction of evolution, consciously or unconsciously: even those who manfully rowed against the current were insensibly carried some way along with the stream, and some of them unwittingly contributed to its force. Quite apart from mere philosophizing, in their practical studies they had legitimately worked up to or were fast approaching the question of the relations of the past inhabitants of the present, and of the present to one another, in such wise as inevitably to suggest the idea that somehow or other, descent with modification was eventually to be the explanation. This, indeed, was the natural outcome of the line of thought of which Lyell— Darwin's real precursor—was not so much the originator as the most cautious and fair-minded expositor, and with which he reconstructed theoretical geology. Now here Darwin — just in time— in his contribution of the doctrine of Natural Selection, supplied what was wanted for the condensation of vague and pointless speculations, and the collocation of accumulated facts, into a consistent and workable scientific theory, under a principle which unquestionably could directly explain very much, and might indirectly explain much more. It is not merely that Darwin originated and applied a new principle. Not to speak here of Wallace who had independently worked out the idea while it was still unpublished, though known to a few of Darwin's friends -his countryman and in some sort ours, Dr. Wells, had long ago anticipated it in a measure, though no one knew of it in our days, at least not Darwin, and had applied it to explain the natural evolution of human races from a common stock; but apparently he had no conception of the further use to be made of it. Now that we have it, it seems no great fiat to have originated the idea -such things seem simple enough when once we know them, just as all riddles do after they are guessed. But Darwin did more than to originate Natural Selection. With the instinct of genius he divined, and with the ability of a master he worked out, its pregnant applications in all their bearings. He not only saw its strong points and made them tell, but he saw─better than some of his followers ─its limitations, indicated most of the objections in advance of his opponents, and where he could not obviate them, seemed never disposed to minimize their force.

In a cursory notice like this there is no room and indeed there is no need—to sketch even the outlines of Darwin's work on the direct lines of his theory, as contained in the series of volumes on The Origin of Species, Variation under Domestication, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. And still more space would be required to specify the topics, and their treatment, which fill a subsidiary series of volumes, such as The Fertilization of Orchids by Insects, The Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants, Insectivorous Plants, The Effects of Cross and Self Fertilization, The Different Forms of Flowers (viewed in reference to their relation to insects). The Power of Movement in Plants, and lastly The Formation of Mould Through the Action of Worms, published only a few months ago. In any adequate portrayal of Darwin's scientific productions all these should have particular mention, for they are very characteristic of his genius and of his methods. since all the works we have mentioned have been brought out within twenty-five years, it might seem that their author had given most of this time to book-writing. Yet this would be wide of the mark. Darwin was preeminently an investigator─really hardly less so in the production of the earlier than of the later works. But those of our second list are simply models of acute and pain-staking investigation, inspired and fertilized by ideas. The amount of prolonged observation, watchful care, and tedious experiment they have demanded is as wonderful as the skill in devising simple but effectual methods of research is admirable.

For the production of these results, one would say that genius and industry must have been seconded by abundant leisure and robust health. Fortunately Darwin could command his time; but from the day in which he set sail for South America in the "Beagle" to the day of his death he was a suffering invalid, living as it were under chronic sea-sickness. We are told that the day in which he could accomplish two hours of work was counted as a good one; and there were very many in which nothing could be attempted. The judicial fairness and openness of Darwin's mind, his extraordinary penetration and sagacity, his power of educing the meaning of things which had escaped questioning by their very commonness, and of discerning the full significance of causes and interactions which had been disregarded on account of their supposed insignificance, his method of reasoning close to the facts, and in contact with the solid ground of Nature instead of philosophizing in the thinner air above — and the whole rare combination of

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qualities and gifts, through which he became facile princeps in biological investigation - all this the attentive reader may gather from his writings. Those privileged to know him will certify that he was one of the most kindly and charming, unaffected and simple-hearted, and lovable of men. He never engaged in a controversy, and, if he came into correspondence or contact with an opponent, never failed to make a friend of him. It is well that the change of base in philosophical natural history which had to be made in this generation should have been dominated — though it has not wholly been controlled — by a spirit so truthful and single, and a judgment so calm and well-balanced. ASA GRAY.

Cambridge, April 26.


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