RECORD: Anon. 1875. [Review of Insectivorous plants]. Boston Evening Transcript (23 August): 6. 

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe 10.2022. RN1


[page] 6

NEW PUBLICATIONS.

"Insectivorous Plants," by Charles Darwin, has been published by D. Appleton & Co. Like the previous works of this careful and conscientious investigator, it records the results of a systematic study, in this instance, of certain plants which by their peculiar qualities seem to suggest a connection between the animal and vegetable kingdoms, namely the Drosera rotundifolia, the Dionæ Muscipula, the Aldrovanda vesiculosa, the Pringuicula, the Utricularia, and others possessing similar characteristics. The modesty of this eminent naturalist contrasts most favorably with the astonishing audacity of many of his followers, who claim for his theories a perfection and authority which their author has never attempted to assume for them. A thorough examination of the book under consideration will plainly show that the object had in view in the long series of delicate and difficult experiments which it relates in detail was not the confirmation of previously formed theories, but rather the discovery of the truth, whether it should furnish such confirmation, or point in an opposite direction. The concluding sentence of the general summary, which closes the consideration of the plant first above named, to which somewhat more than one-half of the volume is devoted, fully sustains this statement, as follows:

"I have now given a brief recapitulation of the chief points observed by me, with respect to the structure, movements, constitution, and habits of Drosera rotundifolia; and we see how little has been made out in comparison with what remains unexplained and unknown." [p. 277]

This is certainly not the language of arrogance or self-conceit, but rather that of a patient learner in the great school of nature, diligently seeking for the correct interpretation of the wonders on creation. How far the curious phenomena of insect devouring plants will assist in sustaining the propositions of the advocates of the doctrine of evolution, time and future experiments alone can determine. Meanwhile, to all who are interested in the subtle agencies by which life is supported in plant or animal, Mr. Darwin's book offers a most attractive field for study. Whether mechanically or by its own volition it is not necessary at present to determine, but the fact is indisputable that certain growths, vegetable to all outward appearances, ensnare, enclose and digest or absorb living insects, and also by a similar action of the juice or sap, which changes its chemical properties, seemingly for that purpose only, during assimilation, decompose and transfer to their own substance appreciable quantities of animal and vegetable matter brought properly in contact with them. There is little danger that this contribution to natural science will be neglected either by friends or opponents. The name of its author is a household word─a spell, we might almost say, to conjure by. Honest criticism and a searching examination, to the minutest details, he evidently expects, and as evidently will welcome. But not until such examination has been patiently made can honest criticism obtain reliable evidence on which to base a sound or convincing argument.

 


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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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