The Life and Letters of Darwin, Vol. 1 HTML version
The Unfinished Book
MAY 1856 TO JUNE 1858.
[In the Autobiographical chapter (page 69,) my father wrote:--"Early in 1856 Lyell
advised me to write out my views pretty fully, and I began at once to do so on a scale
three or four times as extensive as that which was afterwards followed in my 'Origin of
Species;' yet it was only an abstract of the materials which I had collected." The letters in
the present chapter are chiefly concerned with the preparation of this unfinished book.
The work was begun on May 14th, and steadily continued up to June 1858, when it was
interrupted by the arrival of Mr. Wallace's MS. During the two years which we are now
considering he wrote ten chapters (that is about one-half) of the projected book. He
remained for the most part at home, but paid several visits to Dr. Lane's Water-Cure
Establishment at Moor Park, during one of which he made a pilgrimage to the shrine of
Gilbert White at Selborne.]
CHARLES DARWIN TO C. LYELL
May 3 .
...With respect to your suggestion of a sketch of my views, I hardly know what to think,
but will reflect on it, but it goes against my prejudices. To give a fair sketch would be
absolutely impossible, for every proposition requires such an array of facts. If I were to
do anything, it could only refer to the main agency of change--selection--and perhaps
point out a very few of the leading features, which countenance such a view, and some
few of the main difficulties. But I do not know what to think; I rather hate the idea of
writing for priority, yet I certainly should be vexed if any one were to publish my
doctrines before me. Anyhow, I thank you heartily for your sympathy. I shall be in
London next week, and I will call on you on Thursday morning for one hour precisely, so
as not to lose much of your time and my own; but will you let me this time come as early
as 9 o'clock, for I have much which I must do in the morning in my strongest time?
Farewell, my dear old patron.
By the way, THREE plants have come up out of the earth, perfectly enclosed in the roots
of the trees. And twenty-nine plants in the table-spoonful of mud, out of the little pond;
Hooker was surprised at this, and struck with it, when I showed him how much mud I had
scraped off one duck's feet.
If I did publish a short sketch, where on earth should I publish it?