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unphilosophical to give a resumé, without exact references, of an unpublished work. But Lyell seemed to think I might do this, at the suggestion of friends, and on the ground, which I might state, that I had been at work for eighteen * years, and yet could not publish for several years, and especially as I could point out difficulties which seemed to me to require especial investigation, Now what think you? I should be really grateful for advice. I thought of giving up a couple of months and writing such a sketch, and trying to keep my judgement open whether or no to publish it when completed. It will be simply impossible for me to give exact references; anything important I should state on the authority of the author generally; and instead of giving all the facts on which I ground my opinion, I could give by memory only one or two. In the Preface I would state that the work could not be considered strictly scientific, but a mere sketch or outline of a future work in which full references, &c., should be given. Eheu, eheu, I believe I should sneer at any one else doing this, and my only comfort is, that I truly never dreamed of it, till Lyell suggested it, and seems deliberately to think it advisable.
I am in a peck of troubles and do pray forgive me for troubling you.
C. Darwin to 1. D. Hooker.
May 11th (1856). Now for a more important! subject, viz., my own self : I am extremely glad you think well of a separate “ Preliminary Essay” (i. e., if anything whatever is published; for Lyell seemed rather to doubt on this head) t; but I cannot
* The interval of eighteen years, from 1837 when he began to collect facts, would bring the date of this letter to 1855, not 1856, nevertheless the latter seems the more probable date.
+ The meaning of the sentence in parentheses is obscure.
THE UNFINISHED BOOK,
bear the idea of begging some Editor and Council to publish, and then perhaps to have to apologise humbly for having led them into a scrape.
In this one respect I am in the state which, according to a very wise saying of my father's, is the only fit state for asking advice, viz., with my mind firmly made up, and then, as my father used to say, good advice was very comfortable, and it was easy to reject bad advice. But Heaven knows I am not in this state with respect to publishing at all any preliminary essay. It yet strikes me as quite unphilosophical to publish results without the full details which have led to such results.
It is a melancholy, and I hope not quite true view of yours that facts will prove anything, and are therefore superfluous ! But I have rather exaggerated, I see, your doctrine. I do not fear being tied down to error, i. e., I feel pretty sure I should give up anything false published in the preliminary essay, in my larger work; but I may thus, it is very true, do mischief by spreading error, which as I have often heard you say is much easier spread than corrected. I confess I lean more and more to at least making the attempt and drawing up a sketch and trying to keep my judgement, whether to publish, open. But I always return to my fixed idea that it is dreadfully unphilosophical to publish without full details. I certainly think my future work in full would profit by hearing what my friends or critics (if reviewed) thought of the outline.
To any one but you I should apologise for such long discussion on so personal an affair ; but I believe, and indeed you have proved it by the trouble you have taken, that this would be superfluous.
Yours truly obliged,
P.S. What you say (for I have just re-read your letter) that the Essay might supersede and take away all novelty and value from any future larger Book, is very true; and that would grieve me beyond everything. On the other hand (again from Lyell's urgent advice), I published a preliminary sketch of the Coral Theory, and this did neither good nor harm. I begin most heartily to wish that Lyell had never put this idea of an Essay into my head.
From a letter to Sir C. Lyell (July, 1856).
“I am delighted that I may say (with absolute truth) that my essay is published at your suggestion, but I hope it will not need so much apology as I at first thought; for I have resolved to make it nearly as complete as my present materials allow. I cannot put in all which you suggest, for it would appear too conceited."
From a letter to W. D. Fox.
Down, June 14th (1856) "... What you say about my Essay, I dare say is very true ; and it gave me another fit of the wibber-gibbers: I hope that I shall succeed in making it modest. One great motive is to get information on the many points on which I want it. But I tremble about it, which I should not do, if I allowed some three or four more years to elapse before publishing anything. ..."
[The following extracts from letters to Mr. Fox are worth giving, as showing how great was the accumulation of material which now had to be dealt with,
June 14th (1856)
. “Very many thanks for the capital information on cats; I see I had blundered greatly, but I know I had somewhere your orignal notes; but my notes are so numerous during nineteen years' collection, that it would take me at least a year to go over and classify them."
Nov. 1856. "Sometimes I fear I shall break down, for my subject gets bigger and bigger with each month's work."]
C. Darwin to C. Lyell.
Down, 16th (June, 1856). MY DEAR LYELI., --I am going to do the most impudent thing in the world. But my blood gets hot with passion and turns cold alternately at the geological strides, which many of your disciples are taking.
Here, poor Forbes made a continent to [i.e., extending to] North America and another (or the same) to the Gulf weed; Hooker makes one from New Zealand to South America and round the World to Kerguelen Land. Here is Wollaston speaking of Madeira and P. Santo as the sure and certain witnesses of a former continent.” Here is Woodward writes to me, if you grant a continent over 200 or 300 miles of ocean depths (as if that was nothing), why not extend a continent
island in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans? And all this within the existence of recent species! If you do not stop this, if there be a lower region for the punishment of geologists, I believe, my great master, you will go there. Why, your disciples in a slow and creeping manner beat all the old Catastrophists who ever lived. You will live to be the great chief of the Catastrophists.
There, I have done myself a great deal of good, and have exploded my passion. So my master, forgive me, and believe me, ever yours,
P.S. Don't answer this, I did it to ease myself,
C. Darwin to J. D. Hooker.
Down [June] 17th, 1856. I have been very deeply interested by Wollaston's book,* though I differ greatly from many of his doctrines. Did you ever read anything so rich, considering how very far he goes, as his denunciations against those who go further : “ most mischievous," "absurd," “ unsound.” Theology is at the bottom of some of this. I told him he was like Calvin burning a heretic. It is a very valuable and clever book in my opinion. He has evidently read very little out of his own line. I urged him to read the New Zealand essay. His Geology also is rather eocene, as I told him. In fact I wrote most frankly; I fear too frankly; he says he is sure that ultrahonesty is my characteristic: I do not know whether he meant it as a sneer; I hope not. Talking of cocene geology, I got so wrath about the Atlantic continent, more especially from a note from Woodward (who has published a capital book on shells), who does not seem to doubt that every island in the Pacific and Atlantic are the remains of continents, submerged within period of existing species, that I fairly exploded, and wrote to Lyell to protest, and summed up all the continents created of late years by Forbes (the head sinner!) yourself, Wollaston, and Woodward, and a pretty nice little extension of land they make altogether! I am fairly rabid on the question and therefore, if not wrong already, am pretty sure to become so .. I have enjoyed your note much. Adios,
**The Variation of Species,' 1855.
P.S. (June] 18th. Lyell has written me a capital letter on your side, which ought to upset me entirely, but I cannot say it does quite.
Though I must try and cease being rabid and try to feel humble, and allow you all to make continents, as easily as a cook does pancakes.
C. Darwin to C. Lyell.
Down, June 25th (1856). MY DEAR LYELL, — I will have the following tremendous letter copied to make the reading easier, and as I want to keep a copy.
As you say you would like to hear my reasons for being