The Life and Letters of Darwin, Volume 2 HTML version
The Publication Of The 'Variation Of Animals And Plants
JANUARY 1867, TO JUNE 1868.
[At the beginning of the year 1867 he was at work on the final chapter-- "Concluding
Remarks" of the 'Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication,' which was
begun after the rest of the MS. had been sent to the printers in the preceding December.
With regard to the publication of the book he wrote to Mr. Murray, on January 3:--
"I cannot tell you how sorry I am to hear of the enormous size of my book. (On January 9
he wrote to Sir J.D. Hooker: "I have been these last few days vexed and annoyed to a
foolish degree by hearing that my MS. on Dom. An. and Cult. Plants will make 2
volumes, both bigger than the 'Origin.' The volumes will have to be full-sized octavo, so I
have written to Murray to suggest details to be printed in small type. But I feel that the
size is quite ludicrous in relation to the subject. I am ready to swear at myself and at
every fool who writes a book.") I fear it can never pay. But I cannot shorten it now; nor,
indeed, if I had foreseen its length, do I see which parts ought to have been omitted.
"If you are afraid to publish it, say so at once, I beg you, and I will consider your note as
cancelled. If you think fit, get any one whose judgment you rely on, to look over some of
the more legible chapters, namely, the Introduction, and on dogs and plants, the latter
chapters being in my opinion, the dullest in the book...The list of chapters, and the
inspection of a few here and there, would give a good judge a fair idea of the whole book.
Pray do not publish blindly, as it would vex me all my life if I led you to heavy loss."
Mr. Murray referred the MS. to a literary friend, and, in spite of a somewhat adverse
opinion, willingly agreed to publish the book. My father wrote:--
"Your note has been a great relief to me. I am rather alarmed about the verdict of your
friend, as he is not a man of science. I think if you had sent the 'Origin' to an unscientific
man, he would have utterly condemned it. I am, however, VERY GLAD that you have
consulted any one on whom you can rely.
"I must add, that my 'Journal of Researches' was seen in MS. by an eminent semi-
scientific man, and was pronounced unfit for publication."
The proofs were begun in March, and the last revise was finished on November 15th, and
during this period the only intervals of rest were two visits of a week each at his brother
Erasmus's house in Queen Anne Street. He notes in his Diary:--
"I began this book [in the] beginning of 1860 (and then had some MS.), but owing to
interruptions from my illness, and illness of children; from various editions of the
'Origin,' and Papers, especially Orchis book and Tendrils, I have spent four years and two
months over it."