Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

 
 
The British Quarterly Reviewer and Darwin
(S108: 1865)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A letter to the Editor printed on page 173 of the Reader issue of 11 February 1865. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S108.htm


    It is related that in a certain 'case' where the defendant had not a leg to stand upon, his counsel's brief contained instructions 'to abuse the plaintiff's attorney.' In like manner the 'British Quarterly Reviewer' finds it convenient to make remarks on my supposed 'youth' and 'warmth of temper' (referring to both twice in the course of his reply), while he does not attempt to disprove my main charge, viz. that his statements would give to any reader, previously unacquainted with the subject, a totally false idea of the nature of the Darwinian hypothesis and of the reception it has met with among men of science.

    That the extract from Dr. Hitchcock's work did not originally refer to Darwin was perfectly clear to every one; but the very point of my objection was, that the Reviewer himself applied it to Darwin--first, by putting it as a note to a statement that 'development' or 'origin of species by natural selection' (using the very title of Darwin's work) 'was unlicensed and unrecognized in the domain of science;' and then adding himself: 'We do not think anything in this extract unwarranted, even though Mr. Darwin has added his name,' &c. If this is not making Dr. Hitchcock's words refer to Darwin' s doctrines as well as to Lamarck's, there is no meaning in language.

    Again, the Reviewer's own extracts from Mill's Logic (the meaning of which I think I fairly gave from memory in a few words) answer my purpose completely, for the man who, in the opinion of one of the first thinkers of the age, has produced 'an unimpeachable example of a legitimate hypothesis,' and has performed 'a wonderful feat of scientific knowledge and ingenuity,' must certainly have reasoned logically and well, and cannot honestly be stigmatized as 'foolish,' 'unscientific,' and 'absurd,' words which the Reviewer has applied to Darwin or his work.

    The continued opposition of a few of our oldest geologists cannot be held to prove Darwin's 'entire abandonment of geology,' still less that 'nothing can be more foolish than the supposition that some strata are so lost that no trace of them can be found.' The Reviewer may find something that he will perhaps consider far 'more foolish' in the annual addresses for 1863 and 1864 of the late President of the Geological Society, Professor Ramsay, in which he adduces an immense mass of facts to prove that in the Palæozoic series alone there are ten distinct breaks in the succession of strata, each probably indicating a longer time than that occupied by a single formation; and then states his opinion that 'each of these breaks implies a lost epoch.' In the same address Professor Ramsay speaks of 'Mr. Darwin's more philosophical argument of descent with modification.'

    I have purposely avoided introducing new subjects of discussion, it being simply my object to show that, however hard the 'British Quarterly Reviewer' may have succeeded in hitting me, his own reply has confirmed rather than disproved the charges in my first letter.

A.R.W.


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