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- More Letters of Charles Darwin Volume II - 6/133 -


page 338). My own views are fully explained in Chapter XXIII. of my "Island Life," published in 1880. I quite accept all that Darwin, Hooker, and Asa Gray have written about the effect of the Glacial epoch in bringing about the present distribution of alpine and arctic plants in the NORTHERN HEMISPHERE."--Note by Mr. Wallace.) I do not know what you think, but it appears to me that he exaggerates enormously the influence of debacles or slips and new surface of soil being exposed for the reception of wind-blown seeds. What kinds of seeds have the plants which are common to the distant mountain-summits in Africa? Wallace lately wrote to me about the mountain plants of Madagascar being the same with those on mountains in Africa, and seemed to think it proved dispersal by the wind, without apparently having inquired what sorts of seeds the plants bore. (397/3. The affinity with the flora of the Eastern African islands was long ago pointed out by Sir J.D. Hooker, "Linn. Soc. Journal," VI., 1861, page 3. Speaking of the plants of Clarence Peak in Fernando Po, he says, "The next affinity is with Mauritius, Bourbon, and Madagascar: of the whole 76 species, 16 inhabit these places and 8 more are closely allied to plants from there. Three temperate species are peculiar to Clarence Peak and the East African islands..." The facts to which Mr. Wallace called Darwin's attention are given by Mr. J.G. Baker in "Nature," December 9th, 1880, page 125. He mentions the Madagascar Viola, which occurs elsewhere only at 7,000 feet in the Cameroons, at 10,000 feet in Fernando Po and in the Abyssinian mountains; and the same thing is true of the Madagascar Geranium. In Mr. Wallace's letter to Darwin, dated January 1st, 1881, he evidently uses the expression "passing through the air" in contradistinction to the migration of a species by gradual extension of its area on land. "Through the air" would moreover include occasional modes of transport other than simple carriage by wind: e.g., the seeds might be carried by birds, either attached to the feathers or to the mud on their feet, or in their crops or intestines.)

I suppose it would be travelling too far (though for the geographical section the discussion ought to be far-reaching), but I should like to see the European or northern element in the Cape of Good Hope flora discussed. I cannot swallow Wallace's view that European plants travelled down the Andes, tenanted the hypothetical Antarctic continent (in which I quite believe), and thence spread to South Australia and the Cape of Good Hope.

Moseley told me not long ago that he proposed to search at Kerguelen Land the coal beds most carefully, and was absolutely forbidden to do so by Sir W. Thomson, who said that he would undertake the work, and he never once visited them. This puts me in a passion. I hope that you will keep to your intention and make an address on distribution. Though I differ so much from Wallace, his "Island Life" seems to me a wonderful book.

Farewell. I do hope that you may have a most prosperous journey. Give my kindest remembrances to Asa Gray.

LETTER 398. TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, August 12th, 1881.

...I think that I must have expressed myself badly about Humboldt. I should have said that he was more remarkable for his astounding knowledge than for originality. I have always looked at him as, in fact, the founder of the geographical distribution of organisms. I thought that I had read that extinct fossil plants belonging to Australian forms had lately been found in Australia, and all such cases seem to me very interesting, as bearing on development.

I have been so astonished at the apparently sudden coming in of the higher phanerogams, that I have sometimes fancied that development might have slowly gone on for an immense period in some isolated continent or large island, perhaps near the South Pole. I poured out my idle thoughts in writing, as if I had been talking with you.

No fact has so interested me for a heap of years as your case of the plants on the equatorial mountains of Africa; and Wallace tells me that some one (Baker?) has described analogous cases on the mountains of Madagascar (398/1. See Letter 397, note.)...I think that you ought to allude to these cases.

I most fully agree that no problem is more interesting than that of the temperate forms in the southern hemisphere, common to the north. I remember writing about this after Wallace's book appeared, and hoping that you would take it up. The frequency with which the drainage from the land passes through mountain-chains seems to indicate some general law--viz., the successive formation of cracks and lines of elevation between the nearest ocean and the already upraised land; but that is too big a subject for a note.

I doubt whether any insects can be shown with any probability to have been flower feeders before the middle of the Secondary period. Several of the asserted cases have broken down.

Your long letter has stirred many pleasant memories of long past days, when we had many a discussion and many a good fight.

LETTER 399. TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, August 21st, 1881.

I cannot aid you much, or at all. I should think that no one could have thought on the modification of species without thinking of representative species. But I feel sure that no discussion of any importance had been published on this subject before the "Origin," for if I had known of it I should assuredly have alluded to it in the "Origin," as I wished to gain support from all quarters. I did not then know of Von Buch's view (alluded to in my Historical Introduction in all the later editions). Von Buch published his "Isles Canaries" in 1836, and he here briefly argues that plants spread over a continent and vary, and the varieties in time come to be species. He also argues that closely allied species have been thus formed in the SEPARATE valleys of the Canary Islands, but not on the upper and open parts. I could lend you Von Buch's book, if you like. I have just consulted the passage.

I have not Baer's papers; but, as far as I remember, the subject is not fully discussed by him.

I quite agree about Wallace's position on the ocean and continent question.

To return to geographical distribution: As far as I know, no one ever discussed the meaning of the relation between representative species before I did, and, as I suppose, Wallace did in his paper before the Linnean Society. Von Buch's is the nearest approach to such discussion known to me.

LETTER 400. TO W.D. CRICK.

(400/1. The following letters are interesting not only for their own sake, but because they tell the history of the last of Mr. Darwin's publications--his letter to "Nature" on the "Dispersal of Freshwater Bivalves," April 6th, 1882.)

Down, February 21st, 1882.

Your fact is an interesting one, and I am very much obliged to you for communicating it to me. You speak a little doubtfully about the name of the shell, and it would be indispensable to have this ascertained with certainty. Do you know any good conchologist in Northampton who could name it? If so I should be obliged if you would inform me of the result.

Also the length and breadth of the shell, and how much of leg (which leg?) of the Dytiscus [a large water-beetle] has been caught. If you cannot get the shell named I could take it to the British Museum when I next go to London; but this probably will not occur for about six weeks, and you may object to lend the specimen for so long a time.

I am inclined to think that the case would be worth communicating to "Nature."

P.S.--I suppose that the animal in the shell must have been alive when the Dytiscus was captured, otherwise the adductor muscle of the shell would have relaxed and the shell dropped off.

LETTER 401. TO W.D. CRICK. Down, February 25th, 1882.

I am much obliged for your clear and distinct answers to my questions. I am sorry to trouble you, but there is one point which I do not fully understand. Did the shell remain attached to the beetle's leg from the 18th to the 23rd, and was the beetle kept during this time in the air?

Do I understand rightly that after the shell had dropped off, both being in water, that the beetle's antenna was again temporarily caught by the shell?

I presume that I may keep the specimen till I go to London, which will be about the middle of next month.

I have placed the shell in fresh-water, to see if the valve will open, and whether it is still alive, for this seems to me a very interesting point. As the wretched beetle was still feebly alive, I have put it in a bottle with chopped laurel leaves, that it may die an easy and quicker death. I hope that I shall meet with your approval in doing so.

One of my sons tells me that on the coast of N. Wales the bare fishing hooks often bring up young mussels which have seized hold of the points; but I must make further enquiries on this head.

LETTER 402. TO W.D. CRICK. Down, March 23rd, 1882.

I have had a most unfortunate and extraordinary accident with your shell. I sent it by post in a strong box to Mr. Gwyn Jeffreys to be named, and heard two days afterwards that he had started for Italy. I then wrote to the servant in charge of his house to open the parcel (within which was a cover stamped and directed to myself) and return it to me. This servant, I suppose, opened the box and dropped the glass tube on a stone floor, and perhaps put his foot on it, for the tube and shell were broken into quite small fragments. These were returned to me with no explanation, the box being quite uninjured. I suppose you would not care for the fragments to be returned or the Dytiscus; but if you wish for them they shall be returned. I am very sorry, but it has not been my fault.

It seems to me almost useless to send the fragments of the shell to the British Museum to be named, more especially as the umbo has been lost. It is many years since I have looked at a fresh-water shell, but I should have said that the shell was Cyclas cornea. (402/1. It was Cyclas cornea.) Is Sphaenium corneum a synonym of Cyclas? Perhaps you could tell by looking to Mr. G. Jeffreys' book. If so, may we venture to call it so, or shall I put an (?) to the name?

As soon as I hear from you I will send my letter to "Nature." Do you take in "Nature," or shall I send you a copy?


More Letters of Charles Darwin Volume II - 6/133

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