More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 1

Author: Charles Darwin

Letter 281. To G.J. Romanes.

(281/1. Published in the "Life and Letters" of Romanes, page 66.)

Down, Saturday Night [1877].

I have just finished your lecture (281/2. "The Scientific Evidence of Organic Evolution: a Discourse" (delivered before the Philosophical Society of Ross-shire), Inverness, 1877. It was reprinted in the "Fortnightly Review," and was afterwards worked up into a book under the above title.); it is an admirable scientific argument, and most powerful. I wish that it could be sown broadcast throughout the land. Your courage is marvellous, and I wonder that you were not stoned on the spot—and in Scotland! Do please tell me how it was received in the Lecture Hall. About man being made like a monkey (page 37 (281/3. "And if you reject the natural explanation of hereditary descent, you can only suppose that the Deity, in creating man, took the most scrupulous pains to make him in the image of the ape" ("Discourse," page 37).)) is quite new to me, and the argument in an earlier place (page 8 (281/4. At page 8 of the "Discourse" the speaker referred to the law "which Sir William Hamilton called the Law of Parsimony—or the law which forbids us to assume the operation of higher causes when lower ones are found sufficient to explain the desired effects," as constituting the "only logical barrier between Science and Superstition.")) on the law of parsimony admirably put. Yes, page 21 (281/5. "Discourse," page 21. If we accept the doctrines of individual creations and ideal types, we must believe that the Deity acted "with no other apparent motive than to suggest to us, by every one of the observable facts, that the ideal types are nothing other than the bonds of a lineal descent.") is new to me. All strike me as very clear, and, considering small space, you have chosen your lines of reasoning excellently.

The few last pages are awfully powerful, in my opinion.

Sunday Morning.—The above was written last night in the enthusiasm of the moment, and now—this dark, dismal Sunday morning—I fully agree with what I said.

I am very sorry to hear about the failures in the graft experiments, and not from your own fault or ill-luck. Trollope in one of his novels gives as a maxim of constant use by a brickmaker—"It is dogged as does it" (281/6. "Tell ’ee what, Master Crawley;—and yer reverence mustn’t think as I means to be preaching; there ain’t nowt a man can’t bear if he’ll only be dogged. You go whome, Master Crawley, and think o’ that, and may be it’ll do ye a good yet. It’s dogged as does it. It ain’t thinking about it." (Giles Hoggett, the old Brickmaker, in "The Last Chronicle of Barset," Volume II., 1867, page 188.))—and I have often and often thought that this is the motto for every scientific worker. I am sure it is yours—if you do not give up pangenesis with wicked imprecations.

By the way, G. Jager has brought out in "Kosmos" a chemical sort of pangenesis bearing chiefly on inheritance. (281/7. Several papers by Jager on "Inheritance" were published in the first volume of "Kosmos," 1877.)

I cannot conceive why I have not offered my garden for your experiments. I would attend to the plants, as far as mere care goes, with pleasure; but Down is an awkward place to reach.

Would it be worth while to try if the "Fortnightly" would republish it [i.e. the lecture]?


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Chicago: Charles Darwin, "Letter 281. To G.J. Romanes.," More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 1, ed. Darwin, Francis, Sir, 1848-1925 and Seward, A. C. (Albert Charles), 1863-1941 and trans. Babington, B. G. (Benjamin Guy), 1794-1866 in More Letters of Charles Darwin Original Sources, accessed December 1, 2023,

MLA: Darwin, Charles. "Letter 281. To G.J. Romanes." More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 1, edited by Darwin, Francis, Sir, 1848-1925 and Seward, A. C. (Albert Charles), 1863-1941, and translated by Babington, B. G. (Benjamin Guy), 1794-1866, in More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 1, Original Sources. 1 Dec. 2023.

Harvard: Darwin, C, 'Letter 281. To G.J. Romanes.' in More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 1, ed. and trans. . cited in , More Letters of Charles Darwin. Original Sources, retrieved 1 December 2023, from