RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1878. [Letters]. In Thayer, J. B., Letters of Chauncey Wright, with some account of his life. Cambridge [Mass.]: Press of John Wilson and Son.
REVISION HISTORY: Scanned by John van Wyhe, OCRed and corrected by AEL Data 11.2006. RN4
he how foolish his ideas were, but only how obstinate and schismatic he was.
… It was pleasant to see Mr. Myers back again, so fresh and full of the most agreeable recollections of his journeys and visits. I have met him several times, and a few evenings ago had a very bright and pleasant call from him.
Of the article on "The Genesis of Species," Chauncey sent proof-sheets to Mr. Darwin; and in a letter to him, dated June 21, 1871, he wrote:—
"I send, in the same mail with this, revised proofs of an article which will be published in the July number of the 'North American Review,' sending it in the hope that it will interest or even be of greater value to you. Mr. Mivart's book, of which this article is substantially a review, seems to me a very good background from which to present the considerations which I have endeavored to set forth in the article, in defence and illustration of the theory of Natural Selection. My special purpose has been to contribute to the theory by Placing it in its proper relations to philosophical inquiries in general."
This was the beginning of a correspondence with Mr. Darwin which continued up to the last year of Chauncey's life, and gave him much pleasure. Mr. Darwin replied to this letter, on July 14, with great cordiality, and asked leave to reprint the article in the form of a pamphlet. "I have hardly ever in my life," he writes, "received an article which has given me so much satisfaction as review which you have been so kind as to send me. I agree to almost every thing which you say. Your memory must be wonderfully accurate, for you know my works as well as I do myself, and your power of grasping other men's thoughts is something quite surprising; and this, as far as my experience goes, is a very rare quality. As I read on, I perceived how you have acquired
this power; namely, by thoroughly analyzing each word… Now I am going to beg a favor. Will you provisionally give me permission to reprint your article as a pamphlet? I ask it only provisionally, as I have not yet had time to reflect on the subject."
On July 17, Mr. Darwin again wrote: "I have been looking over your review again; and it seems to me and others so excellent that, if I receive your permission, with a title, I will republish it, notwithstanding that I am afraid pamphlets on literary or scientific subjects never will sell in England."
To Mr Darwin.
CAMBRIDGE Aug., 1, 1871.
… My own ambition, my private interest in the fate of my article, is quite fully met and satisfied by your good opinion and kind expressions respecting it. I did not hope to have many readers, even here, who would have any genuine interest in the subject of the article, and not so many in England, where our "Review" has a very small circulation. If I had known beforehand what the article would come to on being written out, I should have determined to send it for publication to some English review, through which it would doubtless have met with a larger number of interested readers. But I undertook the work on rather short notice at the request of the editor of our "Review," and meant it at the start only as a book-notice. Somehow, it grew into the proportions and dignity of a body-article, and was accepted as such. I am only too well pleased that it should be regarded by you as worthy of republication and a larger circulation, and doubtless the editors and publishers of the "Review" will also be. I give permission, of course; but, as to the title, I am a little at fault. I do not well enough know the public scent. Titles of English books are generally more "sensational" than ours;
and, from what you say as to the cold scent the English public have for pamphlets, I suppose that nothing short of a some-what sensational title will satisfy an English publisher. So I propose something like this: "Darwinism, being an Examination of St. George Mivart's Work 'On the Genesis of Species.'"…
I hope soon to publish a paper on the utility of the phyllotaxis, as you suggest.1 I have already printed too papers on this subject,—one in 1856, in Gould's "Astronomical Journal," No. 99; and the second, in 1859, in the "Mathematical Monthly." A copy of the last was sent you by Professor Gray. In my new paper, I shall avoid as much as possible all abstruse mathematics, which I see has so obscured my thesis that it is only known to mathematicians.
The specialty of the phyllotactic fractions is not that they represent complete systems, so that, after a time, some leaf will come over the first one and be connected with the same vessels in the stem; this property would belong to any exact fractional interval; an exact proper fraction, after the number of steps represented by its denominator, and the number of revolutions represented by its numerator, would make a complete system, or bring the next succeeding leaf over the first. The peculiarity of the phyllotactic fractions is that the distribution is most rapid and complete within each set or system; that is, it is much more perfect than for other exact fractions. The incommensurate interval of the ratio of the extreme and mean proportion gives the best distribution of all; but here the system is infinite,—that is, no leaf ever comes exactly over an older one.
1 Mr. Darwin, in his first letter, had expressed much interest in Wright's remarks on phyllotaxis in the article sent him. He stated also certain difficulties in the subject that had embarrassed him from his want of familiarity with mathematics and expressed the hope that Wright would publish something more on the subject.
I have found among old papers a proof of my first article on this subject; and, for the sake of the diagram of this arrangement, I send enclosed a page of the article. The exact fractional intervals of the phyllotaxis have the distributive character of this most perfect arrangement to this extent; namely, that they determine, as no other intervals do, that every leaf shall fall in the middle third (or not beyond it) of the space between two older ones in which it falls. In all other exact intervals, there is crowding. Take, for instance, 4/9, which does not occur in nature. Why should it not ? The second leaf in this system would be placed very nearly opposite the first, or very near the middle of the space, and the arrangement is so far well enough; but the third falls at eight-ninths, 8/9 that is, within 1/9 of the first leaf, crowding up against it yet not near enough to get any advantage from connection with the vessels or sources of supplies which the first leaf has grown from. The fraction 3/9, or the one-third system, would be better; for though the first and second leaves divide the circumference into one and two parts (the extremest ratio in the phyllotaxis), yet the third falls exactly into the middle of the larger interval, and the fourth is directly connected with the vessels from which the first leaf has grown.
Take the interval 3/7 for another instance, which does not occur in nature. The second leaf falls, it is true, near the middle; but the third, at the interval 6/7, is within 1/7 of the first, crowding it unnecessarily, and has three times as wide a space on one side as on the other. In the phyllotactic intervals, the space on one side of a leaf is never more than twice as great as on the other. In all other cases, greater disproportions would occur in the distributions.
On September 12, Mr. Darwin wrote that the pamphlet was nearly ready, and that he would soon be able to send copies to Wright. "I have sent your article," he adds, "to
some friends, and all have been much struck with it; but they say, and I agree, that several passages are rather obscure. Even if only a few scientific men will read it, I shall think myself well repaid for printing it; and I thank you very sincerely for your permission… . I am glad to hear that you are coming to England;1 and I shall be delighted to see you at Down."
To the Same.
CAMBRIDGE, Oct. 11, 1871.
I have for some time past been so absorbed in the preparation of a memoir on the uses and origin of the arrangements of leaves in plants, that almost every other interest has been put aside; and I have delayed longer than I should, to acknowledge the receipt of the pamphlets you were so kind as to send me. The title-page is much more eye-catching than I anticipated; and altogether the pamphlet appears in a very taking dress. The printer's art may make up in part for defects in the style of the essay, which certainly is not of a pamphleteering sort.
… I presented to our Academy last evening my memoir on Phyllotaxy and other points in the structure of plants,2—which has become a much more elaborate essay than I expected. It is quite as long as the pamphlet, though the length is partly due to details and considerable repetitions, by which I have tried to give it a popular character. It was well received, and will soon be printed, when I will send you copies. The structure of plants has for a long time seemed to me as likely to afford one of the easiest, though by no means an absolutely easy, example of the use of the theory of Natural
1 Wright had referred to this in his last letter as a possibility.
2 The Uses and Origin of the Arrangements of Leaves in Plants: Philosophical Discussions. p. 296.
Selection as a working hypothesis; but I was not well qualified for working it out. I have not, for example, seen the Essay on Plants by Ngeli, to which you refer, and may not be aware of many of the difficulties of the problem; but I have not ignored any that I knew, and on points in physiology I have consulted Professor Gray. I have arrived at very different conclusions from those of that essay (if I can judge from your reference to it), in respect to the range of adaptive characters in plants.
With the resources of hypothesis afforded by the mathematical, mechanical, and physiological principles known to me, I have attempted the explanation of the special features of Phyllotaxy as present adaptations; also explanations of two genetic characters in plants, the general spiral and the whorl arrangements, as past adaptations; and have proposed to reduce the distinction of adaptive and genetic characters in coal to a merely relative one. Regarding the latter as inherited features of past and outgrown adaptations, and conjecturing what some of these could have been, I have built an hypothesis across the chasm between the higher plants and sea-weeds. This sounds venturesome and paradoxical enough, much more so, I hope, than it will appear in the essay, where I feel the way along with at least some appearance of caution… .
On October 23, Mr. Darwin wrote: "It pleases me that you are satisfied with the appearance of your pamphlet. I am sure that it will do our cause good service; and this same opinion Huxley has expressed to me… . Your letter arrived just one day after the return of my two sons from America. They enjoyed their tour exceedingly, and, I think, Cambridge more than all the rest. I am sure I feel grateful for the extraordinary kindness with which they were treated."
And again, on Aped 6, 1872, he acknowledges the receipt
of the paper on Phyllotaxis: "I have read your paper with great interest, both the philosophical and special parts. I have not been able to understand all the mathematical reasoning; for irrational angles produce a corresponding effect on my mind. Nevertheless, I have been able to follow the general arguments; and I am delighted to have a cloud of darkness largely removed. It is a great thing to be able to assign reasons why certain angles do not occur, or occur rarely. I have felt the difficulty of the case for some dozen years. Your memoir must have been a laborious undertaking; and I congratulate you on its completion. The illustration taken from leaves of genetic and adaptive characters seems to me excellent, as indeed are many points in your paper… . I sent you some time ago a copy of my new edition of the 'Origin;' which I hope you have received."
To Miss Grace Norton.
MAY 24, 1872.
It was only a short time after my last letter that my father met with the serious accident from a fall, which, on account of his greatly enfeebled health, soon ended fatally. On returning to Cambridge, I was informed of the sad loss which had befallen you all.1 … The impulse I felt to respond to the short note I received from Miss Jane seemed to me intrusive, rude, unfeeling. This instinct. to regard language as a sort of lying device (dating back, perhaps, of its very invention — driving us back, as it were, to the dumb, inarticulate stage of our existence, when nothing but gestures and cries could utter our emotions) is, after all, a false instinct in a rational being, — to be yielded to only so long as it can master the more refined and genuine feelings which reflection
1 The death of Mrs. Charles Eliot Norton in Europe, in February, 1872.
and speech really serve to express, — which they were not invented to conceal.
Much of the sting of mere animal and inarticulate grief is removed by the form the sorrow takes under the influence of reflection and the calmer, more cheerful emotions which grow up with it. Pure love and true respect, which make their objects as enduring and deathless as they themselves are, take much of the pain away from grief. Their objects are always invisible, whether in the living or the dead, and they suffer no shock except from deceit, or the discovered unreality of these objects, or from spiritual death. The painful shock which we must, nevertheless, feel when a dearly loved friend is cut off in the course of a useful, responsible, or honorable career, — which we do not experience when the work of a life is finished before the life itself ends, — this comes, I am convinced, from en association of the instinctive aversion we have for death, with the sympathies we feel for the purposes, the ambitions, the aspirations of a true and devoted life. It is difficult to imagine that such a breach in nature can be reconciled with faith in benevolent providence. We cannot, at such a time, believe that any thing can replace at all adequately the lost mother's love and care. But time and reflection dissolve this false association; not by that animal oblivion which still fears and shrinks from death, but by the survival and immortality of the real objects of pure affection, — in their past influences, in their essential worth, and in a reverent memory.
I have been a long time detained in Cambridge, but propose to go to Northampton to-morrow for a short visit to my brother. It was quite absorbed a few weeks ago in writing a rejoinder, so to speak, to Mr. Mivart's reply to my criticisms of his book. It is now in print, and will be published in the July number of the "North American Review."1 I have sent a proof of it to
1 Evolution by Natural Selection: Philosophical Discussions, p. 168.
Mr. Darwin. It is not properly a rejoinder, but a new article, repeating and expounding some of the points of my pamphlet, and answering some of Mr. Mivart's replies incidentally. I made haste, after concluding to write the article, to finish it and get it off my hands, so that I might be unimpeded in my preparations for the trip to England, — which is now fixed for the 2nd of July.
THE last letter ends with the announcement that Chauncey had taken his passage for Europe. He was little of a traveller, and this was the only time he ever went abroad: at home, he had never gone further west or south than a single rapid journey to Washington had carried him. An occasional visit to New York or Philadelphia, and his vacation rambles in New England, made up the sum of his journeying.
Of his visit to Europe there is no record of his own, except a letter giving an account of a night at Mr. Darwin's in England, and the mention of one or two details in a letter to Mr. Darwin himself; but Mr. Norton, who met him while abroad, has given me a few facts.
"In the autunm of 1872," he says, "Wright joined us in Paris. He had come abroad a month or two before, had made a rapid but pleasant tour through parts of Ireland and Scotland, and had spent a short time in London. Paris amused and entertained him, but to him it mattered little where he was, — Paris was as good as Cambridge. He carried on his own life of thought, his real life, in the same way in one place as in another. He sought no new acquaintances, partly because he found many old ones in Paris, — ourselves, Mr. and Mrs. Lowell, Mr. Rowse (with whom he was staying at the Grand Hotel), Mr. Henry James, Jr., and others. Before long he followed us to London, and here he was more interested in the great city. One beautiful October day he and I went together to Blackheath to see Mr. Mill, with whom he had had some correspondence; but Mr. Mill was at Avignon. I do not think he tried to sec any one else. He met some interesting
Englishmen, especially Mr. John Simon, between whom and himself a strong mutual regard was established. But, before long, he got tired of Europe, and returned home.
"We came home the next spring, and from that time for the nest two years and a half he was more than ever an intimate of our house, — always the same thorough, consistent, considerate friend."
To Mr. Darwin.
TAVISTOCK HOTEL, COVENT GARDEN, LONDON, Aug, 29, 1872.
I hope to have the pleasure of calling on you within a few days, and before leaving London for the continent. I have, after a long but rapid journey with a party of American friends through Ireland and the North, been resting here for several weeks, or rather trying the anti-tourist plan of making acquaintance with London and its neighborhood; that is, taking time, instead of doing it by rapid journeys. This seemed like idling at first, but now I am satisfied with the plan; since it takes time to see any thing well, and especially so great a thing as London.
I was much struck by the suggestive views you give in your last letter1 of the limits or definition of the effects that can
1 On June 3, Mr. Darwin had written, thanking Wright for a copy of his article on "Evolution by Natural Selection," which "he had read with great interest." "Nothing," he says, "can be clearer than the way in which you discuss the permanence or fixity of species… . As your mind is so clear and as you consider so carefully the meaning of words, I wish you would take some incidental occasion to consider when a thing may properly be said to be effected by the will of man. I have been led to the wish by reading an article by your Professor Whitney versus Schleicher. He argues that, because each step of a change in language is made by the will of man, the whole language so changes; but I do not think that this is so: a man has no intention or wish to change the language. It is a parallel case with what I have called 'unconscious selection,' which depends on men consciously preserving the best individuals, and thus unconsciously altering the breed."
properly be ascribed to "man's agency" (or to the agency of free or intelligent wills, as the metaphysical moralists would name it); namely, that intended consequences only are properly attributable to this cause. This seems to me to simplify matters very much, and to be the common-sense view of the subject; and to be decisive with reference to the question of the origin of a language in any way essentially different from the origin of other customs or powers or structures in men or in other living beings.
A practical way of testing the matter would be to ask who are responsible or feel themselves to be responsible for the existence of any language; or who are to be personally credited with the invention, or for any changes or improvements, of a language, — excepting, of course, the inventions and improvements of scientific nomenclatures and those schemes of philosophical language which have been proposed; but even in these, credit is due for the proposition rather than the adoption or the actual existence and use among men of a form of speech. The test of responsibility is all the more pertinent, since it is agreed on all hands that responsibility or the feeling of it, is the evidence, or at least the mark, of so-called free, personal agency.
There is, however, one apparently serious objection to this test as a substitute for your view. We are held by moralists (not the metaphysical ones only) to be responsible for more than we intend. Therefore, personal agency extends beyond the intended consequences. We are responsible for consequences with which the non-existence of intentions can be charged, as well as for these which are intended. This happens when the existence of intentions which ought to have been ours would have altered the result. This objection, together with the mystical doctrine of theologians regarding the nature of the moral sense, gives rise, I am convinced, to that view of free or intelligent human agency which represents
it as a line of cause and effect arising in an absolute beginning, thus introducing a condition or an element of causation peculiar and non-natural into whatever effects may be depended on it; and thus making these effects distinct from those that are strictly natural or due to unbroken lines of physical causation. I believe that this view is purely fanciful, or at least poetical; but that it is implicitly contained in, or lies at the bottom of, such objections as Professor Whitney's to inquiries and positions which are really dealing only with strictly scientific or physical problems, and are not concerned with the truth or falsity of the mystic view of causation, either in human or non-human agency.
But, to make this perfectly dear, it is necessary to consider what is strictly true in the statements that our responsibility extends beyond our intentions, that unintended consequences are therefore ours, and hence that our free agency concerns, beginnings rather than the ends of our actions. These statements, which are taken by the metaphysical moralist as absolute premises, simpliciter, are properly in need of qualification or explanation, secundum, qaid. They are concerned with the philosophy of moral or personal discipline, the question for what men as moral agents are rationally condemned or approved, punished or rewarded. Obviously, it is for many consequences of their actions which they may not have contemplated or intended, provided discipline tends effectively to bring such consequences, whenever important, under the purview of foreseeing and intelligent agency; that is. whenever intention ought, to have been present and efficacious, or can be made so by the requisite discipline. But here the responsibility is a different thing from that sense of accountability that is appealed to as evidence of an absolute personal freedom, since responsibility is not really felt with reference to unforeseen consequences, or is not felt directly and specifically, but only through the obli-
gation we feel to be better informed, more careful, or to submit ourselves to the guidance and hence to the correction of the better instructed, and to the ultimate authority on what is right or wrong.
Hence the sphere of human freedom and responsibility, though extending beyond what is actually foreseen as the consequences of our actions, is still within the limit of what might and ought to be known as the consequences of our actions; that is, either specifically foreseen, or implicitly contained in a moral principle, instinct, precept, or commandment. In other words, this sphere is limited to the objects and means of moral discipline. Its extension beyond the range of actually foreseen consequences has, therefore, nothing to do with strictly scientific or theoretical inquiries concerning that in which neither the foreseeing nor the obedient mind is an agent or factor, but of which the intellect is rather the recorder or mere accountant.
If the question concerning the origin of languages were how men might or should be made better inventors, or after followers of the best inventions, instead of being how these inventions have actually arisen and been adopted, there might be some pertinency in insisting on the peculiar character of the choice to which changes in language are due. Moreover, an invention becomes or amounts to a change of language only when adopted by several speakers, or when it is more or less generally agreed to. It is this adoption with which selection is concerned. The inventions, which are, or may be, acts of individual or personal agents only, correspond to the variations in structures and habits from which selection is made in nature generally; and they survive and become customs of speech because they are liked by many speakers. They are thus, as you say, analogous to the variations in domestic animals and plants that are unintentionally converted by savages or semi civilised peoples into permanent
race-differences. Their adoption by the many speakers who fancy them, or choose them for any definite reasons, such as the authority of an influential speaker or writer, ease in pronouncing them, distinctness from other words already appropriated to other meanings, their analogies in sound and sense with other words, amt similar reasons, — this adoption seems to me to correspond very closely to what you call "unconscious selection."
It appears to me probable that Professor Whitney had in mind, in denying that this is a case of "natural selection," the narrower meaning of the word "natural," as distinguished not only from systematic, intended, or artificial selection, but also from personal agency altogether; or was speaking from that view of natural phenomena, which, "binding nature fast in fate, leaves free the human will." This was the idea of his objection, which I expressed rather obscurely in a foot-note in my review of Mr. Wallace's book nearly two years ago. I imagine that he was also actuated in giving emphasis to the contrast of "nature" and "man" by his opposition to theories of an original natural language, and especially to Professor Max Müller's theory of roots, "the ding-dong theory," or the idea that invention in speech is governed by certain linguistic instincts, different for different races or groups of races, which affix general meanings a priori to certain sounds; and that his object was to insist on the arbitrary character of all the elements of speech, the roots of etymology as well as their developments. But perhaps I do him injustice by this supposition. Certainly, if he had more carefully considered the theory of natural selection, he would have seen that the theory, as it stands, more nearly accords with the linguistic views which he favors than with those of Professor Müller.
But the theory as it stands is not, it seems to me, inconsistent even with Müller's views, since it ascribes nothing and
denies nothing to variations as a direct cause of changes in species or structures or habits or customs. It only attributes to them opportunities or the conditions for choice, and does tot deny to them other forms of agency. Whether linguistic instincts, responsive to certain root vocables, govern the inventions, or rather the adoption of inventions, in any definite or general way, and independently of accidental associations, — or do not, it is certain that these inventions have such a range as to afford the conditions for a kind of choice that accounts for the diversities and continuous changes in languages derived from a common origin; and for this kind of choice it is obvious that men are neither individually nor jointly responsible in any proper meaning of the term. Whether in such choice they are bound fast in faith, or not, is a metaphysical question. But unless we distinguish man's proper agency from other causes in the way which you propose, we must fall into the greatest confusion with respect to other matters besides the origin of languages. Thus, man is a geological agent. He affects and alters unintentionally the physical forces and conditions of the globe. He changes climate even, and its consequences, by actions designed for other effects. Could there be any sense or true philosophy in attempting to establish in physical geology a clear line of distinction between such agency, and that of other forms of living creatures, like the coral animals, — or even that of lifeless physical causes, — in distinguishing between quarrying, for example, and the agency of frosts and storms, or between the transfer of materials in ships and carts, under the direction of seamen and carters, and the transporting agency of other animals and of winds and water currents? These distinctions would be of the smallest importance in geology, though they might be essential from a moral or legislative point of view.
But I have written what reads more like an essay than the letter I intended, though I suppose I ought to be held respon-
sible for its unintended length. It will appear shorter, however, if we regard it as a brief of the case you have given me to work up, — and a more reasonable letter in view of the advantage writing has over talk, in continuous or consecutive discussion.
On August 31, Mr. Darwin writes his thanks for this "long and interesting letter," and adds: "I write now to say how very glad I shall be to see you here… . I trust that you will come and dine and sleep here. We shall thus see each other much more pleasantly than by a mere call, as you propose."
To Miss Sara Sedgwick, at Cambridge.
LONDON, Sept. 5, 1872.
I am not unmindful, as you will see, of my promise, — made a long time ago, as it now seems, and in the expectation of a very long letter in return — to write you after seeing Mr. Darwin. It was some time after getting to these islands before I came to London. I turned tourist soon after landing in Ireland, and travelled with a party of Boston friends (who had a carefully matured scheme of travel), with whom I fell in on the very pleasant voyage we had in the "Olympus." We went through Ireland, leaving my first companion, Professor Langdell, to rusticate there, and across to Chester and Liverpool, and thence by the English lakes and the west coast of Scotland and the Scottish lakes, and through many interesting towns and cities, and by lots of monuments, ruins, and other antiquities, — all in the rapid way of the tourist, which for once I wished to try; and, as I am not doomed to do all Europe in that way, I am very well satisfied with this trial. The panorama is only vaguely impressed on my memory; but future recollections will doubtless serve to develop it
into a more vivid picture than I now have or could sketch for you.
When I got to London, and parted with my tourists, a reaction, — or, I should say rather, an inaction, — came on, which, together with the inexhaustible interests of this town and its neighborhood, has kept me here all long time. But there has been so much of Boston here, so many of the best of our neighbors, that I have been very little alone, or at least have had but little feeling of loneliness, in my hearty enjoyment of the many interests which London has had for me. Many an odd or unexpected meeting with American friends has made the imagination familiar or not improbable, that I have only to walk a little way, or to call at some principal hotel, to be surer of meeting some Bostonian I know than I should in Boston itself. Thus, I met Mr. John Holmes one day on the Strand, and afterwards saw a little of him before he went to the continent. This was like meeting Cambridge itself. The last week, I spent several hours every day with Mr. Rowse, whom I luckily met in like manner when neighbours were beginning to be rare. We had many agreeable hours together. Such adventures and interests, together with my laziness, have kept me from seeking out friends belonging here; and so it was only yesterday that I made the little visit to the Darwins, from which I have just returned. A resolution to go to Paris near the end of this week, made with the help of Mr. Rowse, who went last Sunday, prevented my putting off the visit a little longer, so as to meet Mr. George Darwin, who is gone this week on a journey; and who was also absent in travels on the continent when I called at his rooms in London about a month ago. But the pleasure of meeting him again, though it would have added much to the satisfaction of my visit, seems little compared to the all but perfect good time I have had in the last few hours.
If you can imagine me enthusiastic, — absolutely and unqualifiedly so, without a but or criticism, — then think of my last evening's and this morning's talks with Mr. Darwin as realizing that beatific condition. Mr. Horace Darwin (whom I like very much, and mean to visit at his college in Cambridge before I sail for home) was at home; and I had several hours of pleasant discussion on various subjects with him, while his father was taking the rests he always needs after talking awhile. Who would not need rest after exercising such powers of wise, suggestive, and apt observation and criticism, with judgments so painstaking and conscientiously accurate, — unless, indeed, he should be sustained by an Olympian diet? I was never so waked up in my life, and did not sleep many hours under the hospitable roof. This morning, as the day was very bright, I walked through charming fields and groves to the railway station, most of the way with my younger host.
It would be quite impossible to give by way of report any idea of these talks before and at and after dinner, at breakfast, and at leave-taking; and yet I dislike the egotism of "testifying," like other religious enthusiasts, without any verification, or hint of similar experience; though what I have said must be to you a confirmation of what you already know. One point I may mention, however, of our final talk. I am some time to write an essay on matters covering the ground of certain common interests and studies, and in review of his "Descent of Man," and other related books, for which the learned title is adopted of Psychozo00F6;logy,— as a substitute for "Animal Psychology," "Instinct," and the like titles, — in order to give the requisite subordination (from our point of view) of consciousness in men and animals, to their development and general relations to nature. So, if you ever see that learned word in print, you win know better than other readers when and where it was born! But you will not, I
imagine, care so much about the matter of the conversation, which might be repeated, as about its incommunicable manner and spirit, which you will readily supply from your own imagination.
I also found Mrs. Darwin and her daughter very agreeable; and I repent now, as I have regretted all along, that indolence has kept me so many weeks from making acquaintance with so charming a household… . I had some idea of seeking out Professor Huxley, as well as Mr. Galton, Sir John Lubbock, and other fellow-disciples; but, not being in season to find them in London, or at home, I have yielded to the suggestions of indolence, and given up the project, at least for the present… .
This is the first letter that I have written home, having agreed with those friends who had any reason to expect such an effort from me that I would not do it, unless something more interesting or urgent than could be found in guidebooks should warrant it… .
To Miss Jane Norton.
CAMBRIDGE, June 19, 1873.
During the winter and spring, I had been unusually well, and part of the time deeply absorbed in one of my essays. I think, however, that I never had a bluer day than that of my landing last November in New York.1 I became then and there an undoubting convert to the climate theory of the difference between America and Europe, or at least America and England. As our ship steamed up New York harbor in the bleak, early morning, — depressed by the raw, icy air, I
1 The accounts given by friends who saw him after landing in New York, and for some days afterwards, fully confirm the impression which this letter gives of the depression which attended the first hours of his return home.
punishments has to do with the use of them, and involves essentially the short-comings of the agent, or the feebleness of motives to actions, as well as the absolute value of the actions themselves. Hence, hymns of praise seem to the practical utilitarian a sort of fetish worship, or else hyperbolical, — misleading either way, as matters of reverent belief. — The chief end of morals, however, seems to be to afford topics for my letters!
To Mr. Darwin.
CAMBIDGE, Sept. 3, 1874.
In a late talk with Dr. Gray, he expressed so much interest in certain points of observation and inquiry which I have lately made on the gestures of the head, that I am encouraged to think they will be of sufficient interest to you to warrant my claiming your attention for them. I was led to this subject by my great interest in your principles of expression and a desire to trace them out in new directions, but principally through coming unexpectedly upon the matter from what at first sight seems a remote line of investigation.
For clearness, I ought first to explain this briefly. Many years ago, the problem of the physiological cause of the intensification of the sunset colors, produced by looking at them with the head inverted or much inclined on one side, interested me, and I found that the effect was not due to the position of the eyes, but to that of the images in them, since the same effect is observed in paintings of sunset by inverting the pictures instead of the head; and, later, I observed that reflections of the colors in a horizontal mirror, or in the surface of smooth water, gave the same result. I then roughly generalized the hypothesis that any distortion of a view, by withdrawing attention from the interpretation of forms, sizes, and distances, or from mensural perception, gave prominence,
at least, if not greater intensity, to the consciousness of colors as mere sensations. This was in accordance with the recognized principle in psychology that perception and sensation are in inverse relations to consciousness, — "inversely proportioned," as Sir W. Hamilton expresses it; or as I prefer to state the fact, the consciousness of a sensation as a sign is accompanied by a diminished consciousness of it in its special quality and quantity as a sensation. The application of this principle to the explanation of the phenomena considered was apparently confirmed by a fact which I learned from an artist; namely, that certain defects of form, where colors are not employed, as in crayon portraits, are discovered by artists by inverting their pictures! For a long time I vaguely associated this fact with the above theory; but I have lately come to think that the true explanation of the heightening of colors and that of bringing out small defects in form by a change or distortion of aspect are different though analogous explanations; and this difference seems to promise a useful point in the difficult psycho-physical problem of mensural or space perception.
But I must not stop to explain this here. To pass directly to the matter in hand, the next fact that came to my notice in this connection was an observation by a gentleman, which I got from him in talk a few months ago. When a boy, he noticed and called his father's attention to the fact that the servant girl, in arranging the furniture of a room or the table, inspected her work critically, not by looking straight at it from various points of view, but askant, and in walking by it. "Was this," he asked, "because the side vision is keener than that of direct looking?" "Not at all," the old gentleman answered, "for, if I wish to see exactly what time it is, I look straight at the clock; so;" — with his eyes directed straight at the clock, but with his head decidedly though unconsciously inclined to one side. On telling this story to a friend, and
mentioning in connection with it the habit of artists of observing their work sidewise for the effects of finishing-touches (one artist, celebrated for his crayon portraits, whom I know, has mirror at his right into which to glance for the effects of touches; and lately I read in an English novel how the heroine, being busied with the final touches of a drawing, glanced sidewise at them), my friend remarked that a woman, in examining the fitting and other points of another woman's dress, will turn her head first to one side and then to the other, stepping backwards, and around the object of her inspection.
These facts led me to think that there is a serviceableness or advantage in the side-glance and a meaning in it, besides the sheep's-eye of shyness, or the movement away from direct vision from the desire to conceal the look. A dog, such as the one whose picture you give in Chapter I., under the topic of "Associated Habitual Movements in the Lower Animals," watches for things he is on the alert for, or when in uncertainty about what is going to happen, as when waiting for a gesture of command from his master, — with his head turned so as to raise one eye above the other. But the intentness of watching in simple expectation is effected by direct and level vision, as in the pointer. It occurred to me that, in the case of a woman, as a dressmaker, inspecting another's dress, the movement of the head is possibly in part a true gesture, or expression of critical interest, as well as a really serviceable movement; and that, as a gesture, it is derived from the serviceable habit, in accordance with your first principle of expression.
I was then led to look for the exhibition of this gesture as a true unmixed one, or as depending merely on association, and as the gesture of critical interest or consideration. Not only are the eyes often half-shut in abstraction or meditation, but the head is often inclined on one side; and an instance of the lateral movement of the head is incidentally mentioned by you
where you illustrate the movement of the eyebrow in recollection, — the case of the "young lady earnestly trying to recollect a painter's name, and she looked to one corner of the ceiling, and then to the opposite corner, arching the one eyebrow on that side." Two of my friends show is a very marked manner — so marked that their acquaintances, to whom I have mentioned it, recognize the gesture at once as a characteristic one — the gesture of slow lateral movements of the head from side to side with pauses between, in giving serious attention or consideration to what is said. One of these gentlemen is a professor of law in Harvard University. The other is a grandson of a distinguished professor of theology in the College, of half a century ago, who had the same characteristic movement; and many now living who remember the grandfather are vividly reminded of him by this characteristic in the grandson. Other instances have occurred to my memory of this habit, which does not seem to me so rare, except in the degree of its manifestation in these two cases, as to be properly called a trick-gesture.
Without giving here the speculation I have pursued on the primary serviceableness of these movements, I will come at once to the matter to which all the above is preliminary. You state, on the authority of Dr. Lieber and Mr. Tylor, that the Turks express yes by a movement like that made by us when we shake our heads. This seemed to me, when I first read it, very strange, and it lay as a doubt in my mind until, on independent grounds, the shake of the head began to have to me the new significance which I have indicated; and the hypothesis then occurred to me that, in a derived or secondary meaning, it might signify a deliberative or cautious assent, or else an acquiescent deliberation, — besides having the meaning of pure categorical negation it has with us, and the meaning of disapprobation, anger, or threatening it has (as I have ascertained) throughout the East, with the Greeks, Turks, and
Arabs, or Semitics generally, and also had in the East in ancient times. I fortunately bethought me, at this point in my speculation, of an authority who turns out to be a much better one than I had imagined. Professor Sophocles — whose scholarly works, and especially his "Lexicon of Byzantine and Patristic Greek" and his "History of the Greek Alphabet," have given him a great reputation with European philologues — is a native of Greece. His boyhood was passed at his birthplace on one of the slopes of Mount Pelion; and his early youth, in Egypt, at the celebrated ancient monastery at Cairo, of which the superior was his uncle. His education was finished in this country, at Yale College, from which he came to Harvard as a teacher of Greek many years ago. He has been Professor of Greek, Ancient and Modern, here for fifteen years; and has twice returned since he has been here, for short visits to Greece and travels in the East. But, in spite of all this, I did not at first think that his memory was to be trusted as to the negative fact, on which he has insisted strongly, namely, that the Turks do not signify yes by a shake of the head. It was only by accident, in a second talk with him on this and related subjects, that I found he still retains several characteristic expressions of his native country, and unreflectively makes use of them, with an instinctive sense of their meaning. For instance, he informed me that he frequently finds himself making the Greek sign of simple objective negation (the equivalent of ); namely, nodding the head upwards. The cluck which accompanies this gesture among the Greeks and Turks is also used by him sometimes, as I learn from an officer of the Cóllege who sees him much oftener than I do. I have got a valuable hint from him as to the fundamental meaning or primary association of the cluck. I had previously noticed, unreflectively, the upward nod, — attaching no significance to it, though the accompanying half-closure and downward looking of the eyes indicated clearly enough the
dissent he was expressing. If I had reflected on the gesture, I should have regarded it as a trick, — a very familiar one to me, as I recognized on his making it and explaining to me its meaning and its origin in his early habits. Another seeming trick was also familiar to me, but is now explained as the common Eastern gesture of beckoning or invitation; namely, moving the hand towards the body with the palm turned inward, but downward, instead of upward, as with us. A gesture which I had never seen him use unreflectively, but which, as I have since learned, others have seen in him, he explained to me as the Eastern equivalent of snapping the fingers to express contempt, and more abstractly to express minuteness and secondarily nothing or negation, — namely, touching the upper front teeth with the thumb-nail, and then snapping it away, as if throwing away a bit of the nail.
Remembering that you had found no interpretation for the cluck, which is made by withdrawing the tongue suddenly from adhesive contact with the upper teeth and front palate, I cautiously asked Professor Sophocles, thinking that, as philologue, he would have ingenious theories on the subject, what, independently of any theory, his sense of the primary meaning of the cluck was, or whether he attached any other meaning to it than that of simple negation. He immediately answered that it meant smallness, being the smallest of vocal sounds; and he proceeded to compare it to the gesture with the thumb-nail, which he said also meant nothingness or mere negation. We afterwards thought of similar verbal combinations of expression, as in English, "Not a bit," "Not a jot;" or, in French, ne — pas or ne — point. He says that, among the common people of Greece, as with the shepherds he knew in the mountains, it is common to illustrate stupidity or clownishness in any one by saying of him that he answered a call from a distance, as, "Have you seen my sheep?" with, —and here
the upward nod and cluck are given. The clown should have answered, to make himself understood, by the verbal negation, which in ancient Greek was and to which the modern negative is similar. The upward nod and the cluck are the equivalent of the pure objective or matter-of-fact negative; namely, or its modern equivalent, but is never used with the particle which expresses the subjective negative; namely, doubt, disapprobation, warning, or threatening. With this negative, the shake of the head is the only head-gesture. Mr. Sophocles has often seen Turks shake their heads in anger, and to express threats or strong disapprobation; and this gesture, he says, is universal with the Eastern peoples he knows. This was the case also in ancient times. The passage (Matt. xxvii. 39), "And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads," is paralleled by the passages in Psalms, noted in Reference Bibles; namely, xxii. 7, "All they that see me laugh me to scorn; they shoot out [protrude?] the lip, they shake the head;" and Ps. cix. 25, "I became also a reproach unto them; when they looked upon me, they shaked their heads." The word in Matthew, translated "wagging," is from and "is in sign of disapprobation," according to the Lexicon.
A rapid shaking of the head is a common gesture towards children to express disapproval or warning; or by them to express dislike or refusal, and seems to be a very natural one; and, as the equivalent of the subjective negative is not only natural, but also much more extensive than appears when we do not thus limit its meaning. In this meaning, the origin you propose for it, as well as the origin of becomes the more probable. The repetition and rapidity of the shake appears to give emphasis to its meaning, as reduplications do in the etymologies of vocal signs; for example, to express perfect past actions. Mr. Sophocles explains the apparent non-comprehension of the shake of the head by the Arabs on
the Nile, as observed by Dr. and Mrs. Gray, by their interpreting the shake as a threat or wagging, or as an expression of disapprobation, and by their not seeing the applicability of the gesture with this meaning to the particular occasions.
The gesture of objective negation, the upward nod for appears to belong equally to the modern and to the ancient Greeks. Liddell and Scott say I nod up, is the equivalant in token of denial of our shaking the head. It is opposed to which expresses both the gesture and the meaning of simple affirmative. Both gestures belong to the modern Greeks as well as to the Turks. Mr. Sophocles has often seen Turks in their café, listening to narratives of travellers, as of merchants from the West. Etiquette forbids them to interrupt the speaker by words; but they express their interest and assent very conspicuously by close attention and by continually bowing their heads with great gravity. If any thing is said, however, to which they are unwilling to assent, they throw their heads straight back. He assures me that he has never seen them under such circumstances shake their heads. It would not follow that, under other circumstances, they might not use this gesture, and for other purposes than to express anger or disapprobation, though it seems probable that the gesture is not used for simple affirmation.
I have concluded, as to the value of Mr. Sophocles's testimony, that, though it is that of a memory of long-past scenes, and without conscious or designed observation, yet, as coming from his instincts or habitual impressions, it is better than the record of a naturalist would be, who might have misinterpreted the recorded gesture.
In ancient Greek, and are in direct antithesis, and are the names of the gestures as well as of their meanings. ' was also used as an equivalent for the latter, though not, Mr. Sophocles says, as a name for the
gesture; but, according to the Lexicon, it expresses the nod of approval or command. had for a secondary meaning "to refuse by shaking the head." My Sophocles quoted to me from memory a curious passage in an early part of the Acharnians of Aristophanes to the following effect, — but I have not verified it: A Greek countryman is examining one who is really a Greek, but pretends to be a Persian ambassador. To a question concerning the intention of the Persian monarch, the sham ambassador answers by an upward nod. Stage direction, To the next question, he answers with the downward nod, indicated also by a stage direction, The countryman then says: "He nods like a Greek. I will question him further." This, as Mr. Sophocles remarked, may indicate that in these gestures the ancient Greeks and Persians differed.1
Now I was led to all this curious inquiry, as I have said, by a wish to discover the source of discrepancy between the authorities you quote on the affirmative meaning of the shake of the head with the Turks, and that of Mr. Sophocles; and I have conjectured that such a gesture may mean with the grave and reticent Turk either a deliberative assent, or an acquiescent consideration, or an emphatic expression of one or both of these states of mind. The original serviceableness of the movements from which such a gesture might be derived I take to be as follows: When any thing is seen in a natural aspect, or with direct and level vision, — anticipation, or expected and ideally determined looking, may interfere with true objective perception, and produce illusion in respect to slight features of form, or slight changes in form from movement. I call this an effect in perception of ideation. To avoid illusion from such an
1 The passage referred to begins at line 109 in Ribbeck's edition of the play.
effect on minutiæ and "to see bow it strikes the eye," the artist examines his work askant, or by inversion, or by reflection from mirror; or the watching animal will revolve its head so as to incline the medial plane of vision. The critical state of mind accompanying this serviceable movement will by the directest association tend to produce it, even when the service is very slight, or is of no account; so that the movement becomes a true expression of this state of mind from the very start, and will be a voluntary one whenever sympathy prompts to the expression of critical interest; as when politeness makes us attend to what is pointed out or submitted to our inspection. It will be made conspicuous, as in the preacher, whenever this state of mind urges to the expression of itself with emphasis, as in solemn asseveration.
I may remark here, by the way, that according to the observation of a very intelligent English lady, long resident with us, who has lately returned from a short visit to England, emphatic expressive movements of the features and head are much more common, especially among women, in America, than in the same classes of persons in England; apparently, because etiquette does not forbid it here so strictly. The greater animation both in action and in fixed expression of the average American countenance, as compared with the English, has been remarked by others, and I have myself noticed it. We may believe that one of the most direct effects of civilization, or more properly of cultivation, is to make the subjects of it, and especially the subjects of self-culture, seek to difference themselves as much as possible from the manners of the uncultivated, with whom emphatic bodily expression is a prominent characteristic, derived from the savage. The very spirit of refinement, and the end of fine art, appear to be the avoidance of vulgar emphasis; and to reach the desired effects of it indirectly, by the composition in expression of congruent accessories which are individually
weak and are the stronger in combination from the beauty of novelty and distinction.
The speculation from which I started on this line of research — namely, as to the cause of intensification in the colors of sunset, when seen by inverted or much distorted vision, and which I for a long time failed to separate by its distinctive marks from the speculation just mentioned, on an effect of ideation — has now assumed for me a new and very great interest. The explanation I have now reached is analogous to the above, but is physiological. Colors are, I believe, not merely reduced from special attention by abstraction when the vision is engaged in mensural perception, or on perspective signs and marks, but are actually not produced in consciousness with the same degree of intensity, I think, for the following reasons: I extend the word "innervation" from its present physiological use, to denote not merely the incitement of motor nerves from the nerve-centres; but also that of the nerves of tactual surfaces, the retina included, or the action of attention on such nerves in mensural or space perception. This action of innervation wakens up, I suppose, all the nerves of such a surface; so that single and separate nerves cannot, on account of this division of nerve force, be externally excited to such a degree as when most of the nerves are asleep or inactive. The intensity of a sensation does not depend on the number of nerves affected. The lesion of a single nerve may produce the most intense and all-absorbing pain. Tickling is such an intense sensation; in it, single isolated nerves or small groups of nerves are externally excited. "The precise point to be touched in tickling must not be known," as you remark. That is, the surface tickled must not be in use for space perception; which, as I suppose, involves the internal activity, innervation, or incitement of all the nerves of the surface. Such an attention to any surface as tickling one's
self implies, is a perceptive use of that surface; so that, as you also remark, "a child can hardly tickle itself, or in much less degree than when tickled by another person." This is, I think, because nerve force or nutrition cannot in such a case be concentrated so as to produce intense action in single nerves.
Now I apply this theory of tickling to the passive perception of colors. I suppose the mind to be withdrawn from attention to minute perspective marks by an inverted or distorted vision; and although the colored lights fall continuously on extended parts of the retina, yet, I suppose, single nerves are accidentally more excited than their neighbors, and draw nerve force or nutrition to themselves. In other words, I suppose nerve force or nutrition in passive sensation to be in unstable equilibrium, and to tend to points in which it is accidentally first excited; whereas, in the mensural perception of minute space differences and marks, the innervation is uniform and steady. And so I was led to suppose that the intensification of inverted sunset colors is a sort of tickling of the retina. I suppose "innervation" to prevent or check the intensity of impressions in this case, just as "ideation" prevents or checks minute objective perception in other cases of direct and level or ordinary vision.
I studied a few days ago, at the seashore, the effect on an ordinary perspective view of an inverted or much inclined vision, with reference to effects independent of color which were first brought to my notice as objections to this theory. I found that judgments of distance were not, in the gross, diminished, but were, if affected at all, rather increased on the whole; yet the parts of the vista were roughly grouped, as in a landscape painting compared to a natural scene. Thus, the foreground of grass and shrubs by the shore, the water between them and a distant island, the island itself, and the open sea beyond touching the sky, seemed, compared to the
continuous natural perspective, so many successive and separate flat plains of the picture. In this case, it was clear that the minute perspective judgments of ordinary vision were much enfeebled.
It had long before occurred to me that painters, who, until lately, in aiming at making their pictures most natural in aspect, have used, instinctively, less pronounced colors than those of natural scenes, have done so on account, I conceived, of the inherent imperfections of the perspective marks and signs of their art, and in order to keep the two kinds of vision in harmony with one another. If I am right in this, the more recent style of painting in vivid colors is in error, unless the beauties of color and atmospheric illuminations are the ends aimed at, as appears to be the case in some of Turner's paintings. But, in this case, the careful and minute rendering of forms, practised by the same school of realists in art, would be an inconsistent aim; though it might be justified on other grounds than those put forward, — on opposite grounds, indeed; namely, not of following nature, but imposing what is virtually a new convention, a self-imposed restriction, or condition, within which greater and greater perfection may be sought.
But the most important bearing of this theory, and to me the most interesting, is in consequences touching the empirical theory of space-perception, into which, however, it will not do for me to extend this later, already, I fear, too promiscuous and too long.
I have just received a curious confirmation of the above theory of affirmative head-shaking from Professor Lowell. He said that, during his is late visit to Italy, he frequently noticed (in Southern Italy, he believed) a shake of the head like our negative one which has an affirmative signification, but appears, as he remembers it, to express deliberative assent rather
than simple affirmation. This confirmation was the more valuable, since it was given by him before I had fully explained the points of the above theory, or more than put the problem before him. He suggests, since the population of Southern Italy is a mixed one, and as the Saracens lived there for a considerable time, that this gesture may have come from the East. He also mentioned — what I had before heard described — the habit in the common people of Italy of expressing anger by a rapid shaking of the head. But this gesture is, I suppose, more likely to come from the habits of childhood, or from innate dispositions, than by tradition from the East.
To this admirable letter Mr. Darwin wrote a prompt reply on September 21; but, owing to some error in the address of his letter, it did not reach its destination, and was returned to England from the dead-letter office. Mr. Darwin then forwarded it again on January 29, 1875, remarking, in a postscript, "It is by no means worth forwarding; but I cannot bear that you should think me so ungracious and ungrateful as not to have thanked you for your long letter."
Mr. Darwin had said: "I have read your letter with the greatest interest; and it was extremely kind of you to take such great trouble. Now that you call my attention to the fact, I well know the appearance of nervous moving the head form side to side when critically viewing any object; and I am almost sure that I have seen the same gesture in an affected person when speaking in exaggerated terms of some beautiful object not present. I should think your explanation of this gesture was the true one. But there seems to me rather wide difference between inclining or moving the head laterally and moving it in the sane plane, as we do in negation and, as you truly add, in disapprobation. It may, however, be that these movements of the head have been
confounded by travellers when speaking of the Turks. Perhaps Professor Lowell would remember whether the movement was identically the same. Your remarks on the effects of viewing a sunset &c., with the head inverted, are very curious. We have a looking-glass in the drawing-room opposite the flower-garden; and I have often been struck how extremely pretty and strange the flower-garden and surrounding bushes appear when thus viewed. Your letter will be very useful to me for a new edition of my Expression book; but this will not be for a long time… . I dare say you intend to publish your views in some essay; and I think you ought to do so, for you might make an interesting and instructive discussion."
To Miss Sara Sedgwick.
It will give me great pleasure to join in the delight the children will have in Mr. Trowbridge's honest and natural magic. The choice of time seems happy, and refers, I presume, to the religious instruction of the children; for the science of electricity is, you know, an explosion of the "theological theory of thunder." If time remains after the exhibition, why shouldn't we have the reading of a Greek tragedy by way of corrective and relief? "Edipus at Colonos," in which the hero is warned by Zeus, in peals of thunder, of his approaching exit to Hades, would be an appropriate choice. We might thus restore to poetry what is taken from dogma.
To the Same.
DEC. 18, 1874.
I am sorry to be unable to deceive your young friend this evening, but shall be consoled, if he will at some other time submit to my impostures.
It is difficult, without experience, to appreciate the satisfaction of the juggler, — a small divinity in his way. There is no love of power more natural or instinctive than that which we instinctively refer to the divus; namely, the desire to excite fear and wonder. And so I am sorry again that I have not discovered or invented, either in magic or science, any new miracles for Christmas, to serve for interlude or after-piece to the play; but I shall have the nobler satisfaction of sympathy with the children's performances, — in imitation of a later and finer, or more humane, attribute of the divus, or more truly of the diva, — whose I am very truly.
obeyed, since they cannot be violated; yet the theoretical fault of this confusion is in some sort compensated by the practical value and force it has had with many minds of the poetical type. To imagine an ideal to be embodied somewhere or actualized, and to have an independent existence which, instead of being determined by reason, — that is, experience, — is what determines it, and especially determines the innate, intuitional, or spontaneous reason, seems to be a very natural tendency of the human imagination. Reverence, or at least the poetical form of it, demands that power and goodness or moral harmony should exist in actu, in a being in real nature, as well as in posse or ideally. Historically, this tendency has been of the greatest service to moral advancement. The Nature appealed to as a standard has been, in fact, realized abstraction, an imagined embodiment of moral convictions, whether called the will and the laws of the gods or of universal nature or of common nature, or called a harmony which is objective or actually external to the idea of it. But, while theoretically wrong, its practical effect as against the superstitious reverence for idealized realities, dead forms, institutions, and sanctions, has been immense. Natural rights were pragmatically real, so long as divine rights remained so. The Nature still deserving our worship is the harmony of an elevated ideal standard, pragmatically opposed to the claims of traditional institutions and sanctions.
To the Same.
… I have meditated for a long time a machine for setting down thoughts, which should only involve the easiest play of the fingers, without subjecting to servitude the arm or the body, and would be as easy of manipulation as the deaf and dumb alphabet, but more expeditious. No doubt thoughts
— even the thoughts of the foolish — are of sufficient dignity to hold in subjection and rightfully claim the service of all the muscles. But true Christian democracy teaches that mercy is above commandment; and that the dignity shown chiefly by the latter is one not sufficiently shown otherwise.
To Mr. Darwin.
CAMBRIDGE, Feb. 24, 1875.
Your letter of last September, after its long wanderings, reached me at length through Dr. Gray in time to serve as a Valentine, and gave me much pleasure, of which not the least part was the release I had from the discipline of a doubt whether my long letter of last summer was properly mailed or ever reached you.
It seemed to me, and this was my chief motive in writing, that a letter to one interested especially in some of the many points of investigation which lay loose in my mind, would serve to give them a greater degree of coherency, while preserving for me more freedom than was compatible with the more vigorous requisites of an essay. I have found that writing in any other style is apt to crystallize one's meditations into opinions too fixed for clear, open thought. I was quite willing to submit them, however, as comparative crudities to so friendly a critic, and I am much gratified that you found so little to object to in the letter.
I had thought a little upon the point you make that the two motions of the head, that of denial and that of inspection, are widely different, and had conceived of their grading into each other in the expression of the mixed mental states. I have since made a sort of geometrical analysis of them as extremes of a series of movements. Thus, placing and holding fixedly the tip of the forefinger on the top of the head, the head can only move on an axis through this point and the turning-point
in the neck. This is one extreme, — the gesture of denial, refusal, warning, &c. By placing the finger successively on the forehead, the tip of the nose, and the chin, the axis of rotation is successfully brought forward by stages toward the horizontal direction it has in the most neutral of critical considerations. But already at the forehead there is a decided element of consideration introduced into the gesture, according to my instinct of interpretation. Professor Lowell is unable to recall distinctly the character of the movement, like our negative, which he saw in Southern Italy, and learned to understand as an affirmative one; but he is so far interested in the quéstion that he has offered to make inquiries of Signor Monti, an Italian gentleman, a native of Sicily, who formerly taught the Italian language in this College. If, as I hope, he gets the true gesture from him, I will preserve and transmit to you as accurate a description of it as can.
Very lately, while reading for the first time in my life the Memorabilia of Xenophon, in translation, I came to a passage near the beginning of Chapter iv., Book I, where Socrates gives an interesting statement of the argument from the appearance of design for the existence of the gods; and I was struck with this sentence: "Is it not," he asks, "like the work of forethought … to make the eyelashes grow as a screen, that the Winds may not injure it [the eye]? To make a coping on the parts above the eyes With the eyebrows, that the perspiration from the head may not annoy them?" It was with the latter query that I was most struck; for it was a new suggestion to me, and seemed truer than the first. I found that the idea of this use was in the minds of several of my friends; but whence they derived it, they could not tell, whether from literature or direct experience. One gentleman, formerly much devoted to athletic exercises, told me that, in rowing, the perspiration was often annoying from running into the outer corners of his eyes. His eyebrows are rather thin and short. Dr. W.
James, Instructor in Physiology in the College, who went with Professor Agassiz on his first expedition to South America, says that he spent several hours a day in a part of the expedition fishing in the Amazon, under a scorching sun; and that the sweat, running from his forehead and drying into a brine, irritated his eyes excessively, so that he was obliged to bathe them frequently in the river. Fishing under a broiling sun in a tropical stream seems not far removed from the conditions of existence of primeval man. I thought that if you had referred to this use of the eyebrows, I should have remembered it; but I made a cursory, though fruitless search for it.
I have lately read, by the way, the principal additions and corrections in your edition of the "Descent of Man;" and your less qualified adoption of Mr Wallace's views on the use of the lay of the hair on the gorilla's fore-arms gave me another hint toward the little speculation on uses, which I venture to propound at the risk of making another long letter. The survival of the panniculus carnosus in the human forehead and scalp (the latter partially rudimentary), the development of the corrugator muscles, the survival, or perhaps even the development of the eyebrows, and the length of the hair on the head, — all seem to me related to the denuding of the forehead, which doubtless was by sexual selection, or for ornament. The arrangement of the hair on the foreheads of most hairy animals, and in the eyebrows as well as in the eyelashes (which do not serve, as Socrates thought, for screens against the wind), seems to be adapted to keep the rain and perspiration out of their eyes, or to serve for shedding water. Now, the loss of this use in the hair on the forehead would have been a considerable expense for beauty, if the correlative adaptations made for it below and above, in the retention or increase, perhaps, of the hair on the brows, and the increase of length in the hair on the head (to serve as a parting thatch for shedding rain, in place of the old shingles), had not taken
its place, and laid the foundations for later developments of beauty. The prototypes of the long hairs, or vibrissæ, in the eyebrows of some families, perhaps served the same use; I have met with an instance of this occurring in three successive generations, at least. But the eyebrows are sometimes curly, and may serve (as a friend suggests, who has curly ones, and is one of the three who have bad vibrissæ) to catch the perspiration and rain, which strokes of the hand would remove from time to time. It occurred to me that, in the same way, a negro's woolly mat might serve to catch a tropical shower, and hold it till he has an opportunity to shake it out. Perhaps the panniculus of the scalp served for this latter purpose. The reversal of direction in the hair bordering the forehead in some monkeys may be for a similar service; the above suggested use of the panniculus could be experimentally determined in this case. The cowlicks on the foreheads of many children may be relics of, or reversions to, a similar normal arrangement in the straight-haired varieties or races of primeval men. The vibrissæ of the brows, especially in curly ones, would have served in former times as gargoyles; as in the nose they apparently serve for joining drops, and extending the conducting and evaporating surfaces of the nasal passages, thus promoting the circulation of the lachrymal ducts.
Other features serving the same important end in vision, of shedding water, I have hinted at above; namely, the muscles which produce the transverse and vertical furrows of the forehead. Their non-appearance or slight development in childhood indicates the lateness of their acquisition by the race. That these furrows have been serviceable as drains or water-courses, taking the place of arrangement in the hair formerly on the forehead, is not inconsistent with the uses of the grief-muscles which you seem to me to have fully made out. To compress the eyeball in the more energetic action of the corrugators, and to shade the eyes from excessive light by their
lesser action, seem to be unquestionable uses. That they should also serve this other use, and that their development has largely depended on this use, are, to me, none the less credible and even probable views.
The inquiry as to which of several real uses is the one through which natural selection has acted for the development of any faculty or organ, or stands and has stood in the first rank of essential importance to an animal's welfare in the struggle for life, has for several years seemed to me a some-what less important question than it seemed formerly and still appears to most thinkers on the subject. The reasons you give why sexual selection should have had much to do with several of the features, of which I have spoken, I still believe are perfectly valid. The uses of the rattling of the rattle-snake, as a protection, by warning its enemies, and as a sexual call, are not rival uses; neither are the high-reaching and the fore-seeing uses of the giraffe's neck rivals, but are in the most intimate conspiracy to the same effects. Furthermore, it seems to me presumable that in a long course of development, even in cases of highly specialized faculties, existing uses have risen in succession or alternately to the place of first importance, as in the various uses of the hand. This principle of a plurality of existing uses involves a very important influence in secondary uses, whether these are incidental or correlative acquisitions, or are the more or less surpassed and superseded ones. They seem to connect in some cases the action of natural selection with the inherited effects of habit and exercise. An animal may, for a comfort or convenience, which bears but little reference to its essential welfare, be indirectly furthering, through exercise, certain faculties which, though rarely called into exercise in functions of prime importance, may nevertheless have, or may come to have, such functions. Thus, the constant or frequent use of the corrugators for forming vertical furrows and draining the forehead into the lachry-
mal ducts, or down the nose, or drawing the brows together for shading the eyes, may have been a preparation of them for their rarer but more important surgical service of quickly correcting the circulation of the eyes, and thus keeping the vision keen in conditions of exposure to danger.
There is nothing in this principle which is really new or different from what you have set forth in your works, except the emphasis or prominence I am inclined to give it. The value of a plurality of co-existing uses in making the principles of natural selection and that of the inherited effect of habit co-operate in a larger number of cases and to a greater degree than could otherwise happen, ought to raise the principle from the rank of a scholium to that of a main theorem in the development doctrine. At least, my present interest in one of its possible illustrations makes the matter seem so to me. It is, no doubt, a very interesting inquiry how any given organ or faculty is specially related to essential conditions of an animal's existence; but it is not so important to the theory of natural selection as it would be if the efficacy of this process depended solely or generally on a single or permanent relation of this sort. The aid, too, which sexual selection gets (and gives) from such an association with habits and natural selection, or through a plurality of uses, is worthy of consideration. I do not conceive the question whether, in a given case, the coloring of an animal is protective or sexually attractive, is a question of alternatives, of which only one can be true. Sexual selection may in one case take up what natural selection has laid down, as in lengthening the hair beyond its value as a thatch for keeping the rain from the forehead and eyes. Or this agency having perhaps elaborated in another case the woolly mat of the negro, the hair may then have curled still closer than the task demanded, from its value in holding water; and then, later, sexual selection would return to the artificial cultivation of the African savage's coiffure.
Among the multitude of topics in my head last summer, one, for which I had no space from the length of my letter, related to a class of gestures used in reflection, meditation, and, I may add, continuous thought or speech under distracting circumstances. To some of these gestures you refer when you say, "Why the hand should be raised to the mouth or face in deep thought is far from clear." I came to this question from the speculations of which I wrote; and I hope — since it would make this letter too long to do so now — to discuss it with you some other time. But I may state here one general conclusion which I had reached. The service on which many gestures seem to be founded appears to, be to prevent the attention Horn wandering, by turning it to something upon which it can readily be kept, and from which it can as readily be recovered. This prevents its wandering too far into the swamp of vague, uncontrollable feelings, such as those of self-attention, visceral sensations and the reflexes from involuntary movements. The great sensibility of the face, especially about the mouth, seems to me to explain the gesture to which you especially refer; and even the pressure of the hand on the forehead appears to relate rather to vague sensations in it, thus controlled by the hand, than to any direct effects of the pressure on the action of the brain. But the full justification of these conclusions is a long argument, into which I will not here enter.
I send, in the same mail with this letter, a number of the "Nation," which contains a couple of "Notes" by me about books on evolution. They begin at the foot of page 113.
In this letter, Chauncey expresses the purpose of writing again to Mr. Darwin; but in the six months of life that remained to him he did not do it. Mr. Darwin's latest note to him was written in reply to this, on March 13. He says, "I write to-day, so that there shall be no delay this time in
thanking you for your interesting and long letter received this morning. I am sure that you will excuse brevity, when I tell you that I am half killing myself in trying to get a book ready for the press. I quite agree with what you say about advantages of various degrees of importance being co-selected and aided by the effects of use, &c. The subject seems to me well worth further development. I do not think I have any where noticed the use of the eyebrows, but have long known that they protected the eyes from sweat. During the voyage of the 'Beagle,' one of the men ascended a lofty hill during a very hot day: he had small eyebrows, and his eyes became fearfully inflamed from the sweat running into them. The Portuguese inhabitants were familiar with this evil, as I well remember from a ridiculous incident: they immediately brought a woman who was suckling a baby to squirt milk from her breast into his eyes but he ran away in dismay! I think you allude to the transverse furrows of the head as a protection against sweat; but remember that these incessantly appear on the forehead of baboons… . I have been greatly pleased by the notices in the 'Nation.'"1
To Miss Grace Norton.
July 12, 1875.
The charm of the first days of the vacation in Cambridge is a theme which I believe I have several times summoned the muse to set forth through me; but stilts were the only aids she
1 Wright's correspondence with Mr. Darwin may well draw attention to his powers as an observer. A friend who saw much of him speaks of "the personal observation and investigations of the fact of science which he was all the time carrying on with great interest during his later years, and of which there is but little direct expression in what he wrote for publication. Perhaps," it is added, "the notices of him have hardly emphasized the mention of his great abilities in this direction sufficiently to give an adequate impression of them."
ever lent me, as Miss Jane, whom I invoke to keep me from mistaking such aids for wings, will testify, if you will not take my word for it. And so, in plain prose, I say that the change is almost as complete from the busy days of Commencement and the Centennial1 as a journey and a complete change of scenes and associations could produce; so that the fortnight since you left us seems almost as long to me as it ought, of course, to seem to you. I met a Professor in the college grounds last evening luxuriating in the cool moonlight and the solitude, and truly grateful in his heart to the multitudes who have fled from the College, leaving it to silence and to such as him. They take all the trouble, he said, of journeys, and of providing uncomfortable accommodations for themselves; and leave behind them comfort and the fullest, richest accommodation to him, for which he feels much obliged.
A part of this feeling no doubt comes front the easy, serene, and full, but unforced occupation of the vacation; though the calm outward circumstances keep very perfect harmony with these, at least in the beginning. But though untrammelled, unstimulated spontaneity is the Buddhist's bliss, its progress, as his philosophy recognizes, is towards sleep. Not this sleep, but somnolescence, is the true philosophic end, as we agreed, I think, last summer.
One it sure to find, at this season, the crabbedest resident in a civil mood. It is under such circumstances that I go to see our old friend —, feeling sure to find him in his most social humor; though I have not yet called on him this season.
I have nothing to write about, — not a thought for which to beg audience or hospitality of you, and no disposition to
1 The celebration of the taking command of the American army by General Washington, at Cambridge, July 3, 1775.
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