RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1896. [Letter to D. T. Ansted, 1860]. In Raphael Meldola, The president's address. The utility of specific characters and physiological correlation. Transactions of the Entomological Society of London. lxii-xcii, pp. lxv-lxvi.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed and edited by John van Wyhe 5.2022. RN1

NOTE: 2966 To D. T. Ansted, 27 Oct [1860], Eastbourne


[page] lxv

It is surprising to find that Signor Todaro, in a recent address to the Reale Accademia dei Lincei, of which an abstract appears in "Nature" (Dec. 10th, 1896, p. 138), should have said that "Natural selection, which tried to explain everything, has had its day, and now is only invoked to account for certain secondary characteristics, or those attributed to the adaptations of individual forms." The context, if correctly representing the speaker's views, shows not only that he has completely failed to grasp the principles of the theory, but also that he is unaware of the state of current biological thought in this country.  

It is notorious that this same complaint of being misunderstood was frequently made by Darwin after the publication of the "Origin of Species." In this connection the following unpublished letter, unfortunately undated, addressed to the late Prof. D. T. Ansted, F.R S., and now in the possession of my father-in-law, Dr. Maurice Davis, will be of interest: —  

15, Marine Parade, Eastbourne,  

Oct. 27.  

My dear Ansted,  

As I am away from home on account of my daughter's health, I do not know your address, and fly this at random, and it is of very little consequence if it never reaches you.  

I have just been reading the greater part of your 'Geological Gossip,'  and have found part very interesting; but I want to express my admiration at the clear and correct manner in which you have given a sketch of natural

[page]] lxvi  

selection. You will think this very slight praise; but I declare that the majority of readers seem utterly incapable of comprehending my long argument. Some of the reviewers, who have servilely stuck to my illustrations and almost to my words, have been correct, but extraordinarily few others have succeeded. I can see plainly, by your new illustrations and manner and order of putting the case, that you thoroughly comprehend the subject. I assure you this is most gratifying to me, and it is the sole way in which the public can be indoctrinated. I am often in despair in making the generality of naturalists even comprehend me. Intelligent men who are not naturalists and have not a bigoted idea of the term species, show more clearness of mind. I think that you have done the subject a real service, and I sincerely thank you. No doubt there will be much error found in my book, but I have great confidence that the main view will be, in time, found correct; for I find, without exception, that those naturalists who went at first one inch with me now go a foot or yard with me.  

This note obviously requires no answer.  

Pray believe me,  

Yours sincerely,  

C. Darwin

 My friend, Mr. Francis Darwin who has sanctioned the publication of this letter, informs me that it must have been written in 1860.  


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