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271 logical Society,* on the boulders and“ till ” of South America, as well as a few other minor papers on geological subjects. He also worked busily at the ornithological part of the Zoology of the Beagle, i.e. the notice of the habits and ranges of the birds which were described by Gould.]
C. Darwin to C. Lyell,
Wednesday morning (February 1840). MY DEAR LYELL,
Many thanks for your kind note. I will send for the Scotsman. Dr. Holland thinks he has found out what is the matter with me, and now hopes he shall be able to set me going again. Is it not mortifying, it is now nine weeks since I have done a whole day's work, and not more than four half days. But I won't grumble any more, though it is hard work to prevent doing so. Since receiving your note I have read over my chapter on Coral, and find I am prepared to stand by almost everything; it is much more cautiously and accurately written than I thought. I had set my heart upon having my volume completed before your new edition, but not, you may believe me, for you to notice anything new in it (for there is very little besides details), but you are the one man in Europe whose opinion of the general truth of a toughish argument I should be always most anxious to hear. My MS. is in such confusion, otherwise I am sure you should most willingly, if it had been worth your while, have looked at any part you choose.
[In a letter to Fox (January 1841) he shows that his “Species work” was still occupying his mind :
"If you attend at all to Natural History I send you this P.S. as a memento, that I continue to collect all kinds of facts about 'Varieties and Species,' for my some-day work to be so entitled ; the smallest contributions thankfully accepted; descriptions of offspring of all crosses between all domestic birds
· and animals, dogs, cats, &c., &c., very valuable. Don't for
get, if your half-bred African cat should die that I should be very much obliged for its carcase sent up in a little hamper for the skeleton ; it, or any cross-bred pigeons, fowl, duck, &c., &c., will be more acceptable than the finest haunch of venison, or the finest turtle.”
Later in the year (September) he writes to Fox about his health, and also with reference to his plan of moving into the country :-
"I have steadily been gaining ground, and really believe now I shall some day be quite strong. I write daily for a couple of hours on my Coral volume, and take a little walk or ride every day. I grow very tired in the evenings, and am not able to go out at that time, or hardly to receive my nearest relations; but my life ceases to be burdensome now that I can do something. We are taking steps to leave London, and live about twenty miles from it on some railway."]
1842. [The record of work includes his volume on 'Coral Reefs,'* the manuscript of which was at last sent to the printers in January of this year, and the last proof corrected in May. He thus writes of the work in his diary :
“I commenced this work three years and seven months ago. Out of this period about twenty months (besides work during Beagle's voyage) has been spent on it, and besides it, I have only compiled the Bird part of Zoology ; Appendix to Journal, paper on Boulders, and corrected papers on Glen Roy and earthquakes, reading on species, and rest all lost by illness."
In May and June he was at Shrewsbury and Maer, whence he went on to make the little tour in Wales, of which he spoke in his 'Recollections,' and of which the results were published as “Notes on the effects produced by the ancient glaciers of
* A notice of the Coral Reef work appeared in the Geograph. Soc. Journal, xii., p. 115.
Caernarvonshire, and on the Boulders transpo:ted by floating Ice." *
Mr. Archibald Geikie speaks of this paper as standing “almost at the top of the long list of English contributions to the history of the Ice Age." †
The latter part of this year belongs to the period including the settlement at Down, and is therefore dealt with in another chapter.]
* • Philosophical Magazine,' 1842, p. 352.
[The history of this part of my father's life may justly include some mention of his religious views. For although, as he points out, he did not give continuous systematic thought to religious questions, yet we know from his own words that about this time (1836–39) the subject was much before his mind.
In his published works he was reticent on the matter of religion, and what he has left on the subject was not written with a view to publication.*
I believe that his reticence arose from several causes. He felt strongly that a man's religion is an essentially private matter, and one concerning himself alone. This is indicated by the following extract from a letter of 1879:-+
“What my own views may be is a question of no consequence to any one but myself. But, as you ask, I may state that my judgment often fluctuates ... In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an Atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God. I think that generally (and more and more as I grow older), but not always, that an Agnostic would be the more correct description of my state of mind."
* As an exception may be mentioned, a few words of concurrence with Dr. Abbott's “Truths for the Times,' which my father allowed to be published in the Index.
+ Addressed to Mr. J. Fordyce, and published by him in his 'Aspects of Scepticism,' 1883.
He naturally shrank from wounding the sensibilities of others in religious matters, and he was also influenced by the consciousness that a man ought not to publish on a subject to which he has not given special and continuous thought. That he felt this caution to apply to himself in the matter of religion is shown in a letter to Dr. F. E. Abbott, of Cambridge, U. S. (Sept. 6, 1871). After explaining that the weakness arising from his bad health prevented him from feeling “equal to deep reflection, on the deepest subject which can fill a man's mind,” he goes on to say : “With respect to my former notes to you, I quite forget their contents. I have to write many letters, and can reflect but little on what I write; but I fully believe and hope that I have never written a word, which at the time I did not think ; but I think you will agree with me, that anything which is to be given to the public ought to be maturely weighed and cautiously put. It never occurred to me that you would wish to print any extract from my notes: if it bad, I would have kept a copy. I put 'private ' from habit, only as yet partially acquired, from some hasty notes of mine having been printed, which were not in the least degree worth printing, though otherwise unobjectionable. It is simply ridiculous to suppose that my former note to you would be worth sending to me, with any part marked which you desire to print ; but if you like to do so, I will at once say whether I should have any objection. I feel in some degree unwilling to express myself publicly on religious subjects, as I do not feel that I have thought deeply enough to justify any publicity.”
I may also quote from another letter to Dr. Abbott (Nov. 16, 1871), in which my father gives more fully his reasons for not feeling competent to write on religious and moral subjects :
"I can say with entire truth that I feel honoured by your request that I should become a contributor to the Index, and am much obliged for the draft. I fully, also, subscribe to the proposition that it is the duty of every one to spread what he believes to be the truth; and I honour you for doing