RECORD: Anon. 1872. [Review of]. Darwin's Origin of species. The Garden 1 (4 May): 519. 

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe 11.2022. RN1


[page] 519

DARWIN'S "ORIGIN OF SPECIES." *

We have to record and to welcome the appearance of a new and cheap edition of this remarkable and most interesting book. It is needless to say anything in reference to its object now, as, since the appearance of the work originally, the chief ideas which it contains have been fully discussed.

Few will deny (except perhaps those who discuss what they call "Darwinism," without having read the book, and such people are far from uncommon) that, even if they cannot go as far as the author and his more pronounced co -workers and disciples, the work has opened up a new and delightful field of thought and observation. On Mr. Darwin's labours we cannot do better than cite the opinion of Mr. I. Anderson-Henry, a well-known and very successful hybridizer of plants, who by no means adopts Mr. Darwin's views. It occurs in a paper read before the Botanical Society of Edinburgh: The various papers and publications given to science and the world in recent years by Darwin and others have directed the attention of all botanical observers of phenomena in that department to the changes which have been and may be effected on the existing species of plants; and those who reflect on the diversity of the vegetable kingdom as displayed in the grandeur of the various forms which compose the primeval forests of the torrid zone, or in the no less diversified but homelier forms of our temperate climes, must be attracted with the statement that, throughout all past time, change—slow but incessant—has passed on everything that now has life;

insomuch, that we see no more the things which were in the things that do appear. So at least holds Darwin, whose observations for general accuracy, so far as they are open to scrutiny, stand well the test of investigation; though beyond that limit they diverge, as he himself admits, into speculations which, however logically deduced, all of us are free to adopt or reject, as we are or are not convinced by them. Much, I am free to acknowledge, I believe of the Darwinian theory—more now than I once did. Yet, as I have been asked by ahigh authority (in reference to a paper which I read in March last), whether I adopted the Lamarckian view , which forms the germ , if not the basis, of the Darwinian doctrines, I reply unhesitatingly, No — not in their beginning or their ending — though where the latter is, Mr. Darwin is perhaps as much at sea as any one But lop off that beginning and ending--above all, lop it off as regards his views of the animal creation — and there remains in that great work, "The Origin of Species," a body of botanical philosophy, so well sustained by the author's own accurate observations and wonderful discoveries, that it constitutes, in my opinion, the most valuable contribution ever yet made to botanical science, and marks an epoch in its annals more brilliant than any yet attained.

This is no inflated eulogy. For the last quarter of a century I have myself devoted every spare hour of my professional leisure, and for the last seven years (when free from professional yoke), my leisure almost entirely, to similar pursuits. And, as a humble labourer in the same field during all that time, I have some claim to be recognised as capable of forming an estimate of what has been discovered and achieved by Darwin, and given to the world in that great work, and in his scarcely less wonderful book "On the Fertilization of Orchids," and his papers read before the Linnæan Society. He has not only accomplished great things by himself; but he has aroused attention, and stirred up other admirably qualified observers to extend his researches, and, it may be, has thus led the way to no less startling discoveries.

Nature has many mysteries to unfold. She has fixed rules, some so plain, that he who runs may read; and she has exceptions to these rules. Look at the wonderful provision she has made for the fertilization of orchids, and look at the no less marvellous modes she has adopted for the same end in the dimorphic forms of the genus Primula, and also in some forms of the genus Linum—of all which Darwin as the grand discoverer. I was myself almost a sceptic in the results obtained by him till I tested the statement he enunciated in the former genus by actual experiment, and found it true . Before he wrote, I had been myself at work among the species of the genus Linum, and while I found some of them tractable and open to self-fertilization, I found disturbing element among others, for which I never could account, till I found it cleared up by Darwin in his dimorphic discovery. To a mind like his, ever alive to follow out by untiring research every perplexing cause which baffles the expected result, one discovery followed and perhaps suggested another, and it may be that the most brilliant of all yet awaits him. Let us follow in his wake; and though few are so constituted or so gifted as to attain to like successes, there is much for all to do. There is romance in the pursuit, and laurels to be gathered by every acute, industrious observer.

*Darwin's "Origin of Species." Sixth and cheap edition, London: John Murray, Albemarle Street.

 


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Citation: John van Wyhe, ed. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (http://darwin-online.org.uk/)

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