It has been impossible to sketch the origin and influence of Darwin's geological work without, at almost every step, referring to the part played by Lyell and the "Principles of Geology". Haeckel, in the chapters on Lyell and Darwin in his "History of Creation", and Huxley in his striking essay "On the Reception of the Origin of Species" ("L.L." II. pages 179- 204.) have both strongly insisted on the fact that the "Origin" of Darwin was a necessary corollary to the "Principles" of Lyell.
It is true that, in an earlier essay, Huxley had spoken of the doctrine of Uniformitarianism as being, in a certain sense, opposed to that of Evolution (Huxley's Address to the Geological Society, 1869. "Collected Essays", Vol. VIII. page 305, London, 1896.); but in his later years he took up a very different and more logical position, and maintained that "Consistent uniformitarianism postulates evolution as much in the organic as in the inorganic world. The origin of a new species by other than ordinary agencies would be a vastly greater 'catastrophe' than any of those which Lyell success fully eliminated from sober geological speculation." ("L.L." II. page 190.)
Huxley's admiration for the "Principles of Geology", and his conviction of the greatness of the revolution of thought brought about by Lyell, was almost as marked as in the case of Darwin himself. (See his Essay on "Science and Pseudo Science". "Collected Essays", Vol. V. page 90, London, 1902.) He felt, however, as many others have done, that in one respect the very success of Lyell's masterpiece has been the reason why its originality and influence have not been so fully recognised as they deserved to be. Written as the book was before its author had arrived at the age of thirty, no less than eleven editions of the "Principles" were called for in his lifetime. With the most scrupulous care, Lyell, devoting all his time and energies to the task of collecting and sifting all evidence bearing on the subjects of his work, revised and re-revised it; and as in each edition, eliminations, modifications, corrections, and additions were made, the book, while it increased in value as a storehouse of facts, lost much of its freshness, vigour and charm as a piece of connected reasoning.
Darwin undoubtedly realised this when he wrote concerning the "Principles", "the first edition, my old true love, which I never deserted for the later editions." ("M.L." II. page 222.) Huxley once told me that when, in later life, he read the first edition, he was both surprised and delighted, feeling as if it were a new book to him. (I have before me a letter which illustrates this feeling on Huxley's part. He had lamented to me that he did not possess a copy of the first edition of the "Principles", when, shortly afterwards, I picked up a dilapidated copy on a bookstall; this I had bound and sent to my old teacher and colleague. His reply is characteristic:
You could not have made me a more agreeable present than the copy of the first edition of Lyell, which I find on my table. I have never been able to meet with the book, and your copy is, as the old woman said of her Bible, "the best of books in the best of bindings."
I cannot refrain from relating an incident which very strikingly exemplifies the affection for one another felt by Lyell and Huxley. In his last illness, when confined to his bed, Lyell heard that Huxley was to lecture at the Royal Institution on the "Results of the 'Challenger' expedition": he begged me to attend the lecture and bring him an account of it. Happening to mention this to Huxley, he at once undertook to go to Lyell in my place, and he did so on the morning following his lecture. I shall never forget the look of gratitude on the face of the invalid when he told me, shortly afterwards, how Huxley had sat by his bedside and "repeated the whole lecture to him.")
Darwin's generous nature seems often to have made him experience a fear lest he should do less than justice to his "dear old master," and to the influence that the "Principles of Geology" had in moulding his mind. In 1845 he wrote to Lyell, "I have long wished, not so much for your sake, as for my own feelings of honesty, to acknowledge more plainly than by mere reference, how much I geologically owe you. Those authors, however, who like you, educate people's minds as well as teach them special facts, can never, I should think, have full justice done them except by posterity, for the mind thus insensibly improved can hardly perceive its own upward ascent." ("L.L." I. pages 337-8.) In another letter, to Leonard Horner, he says: "I always feel as if my books came half out of Lyell's brain, and that I never acknowledge this sufficiently." ("M.L." II. page 117.) Darwin's own most favourite book, the "Narrative of the Voyage", was dedicated to Lyell in glowing terms; and in the "Origin of Species" he wrote of "Lyell's grand work on the "Principles of Geology", which the future historian will recognise as having produced a revolution in Natural Science." "What glorious good that work has done" he fervently exclaims on another occasion. ("L.L." I. page 342.)
To the very end of his life, as all who were in the habit of talking with Darwin can testify, this sense of his indebtedness to Lyell remained with him. In his "Autobiography", written in 1876, the year after Lyell's death, he spoke in the warmest terms of the value to him of the "Principles" while on the voyage and of the aid afforded to him by Lyell on his return to England. ("L.L." I. page 62.) But the year before his own death, Darwin felt constrained to return to the subject and to place on record a final appreciation--one as honourable to the writer as it is to his lost friend:
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- 1all the inhabitants came down to the beach to see us pitch
- 2carrying the grip in his hand. I was not far behind him.
- 3stood beside me. I placed my arm about her shoulders, drawing
- 4was Nayland Smith scrambling around the foot of the bed
- 5Max realized that he must lower his head if he would follow.
- 6Although disheveled and very pale, Tarzan recognized her
- 7his brow was wet with perspiration, but his eyes had the
- 8been built. In many respects it was a singular room, but
- 9church bell by guess. The arrival of our boats was a rare
- 10upon either side of the table, and the celebrated American
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- his fingers, right and left, and presently found slimy
- said the accuser, I shall gladly apologize; but before
- table sat Platts’ assistant with the Marconi attachment
- What I did or how I came to do it, I can never recall.
- the great caravan routes entering the Sahara from the south.
- as they fell, Tarzan saw a faint wave of crimson creep
- It may, or may not be singular that I had neglected all
- “He’s waiting to see you, Doctor,” replied the inspector.
- tables, and lifting Helen Cumberly, carried her half-way
- silence, whilst, below, the bell sent up its ceaseless