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Let it be granted that Darwin's theory has been foreshadowed by numerous previous writers. Grant the "Savoyard" his Giordano Bruno, and give full weight to the barrel-organ in a neighbouring settlement, I would still ask, has the theory of natural development of species ever been placed in anything approaching its present clear and connected form before the appearance of Mr. Darwin's book? Has it ever received the full attention of the scientific world as a duly organised theory, one presented in a tangible shape and demanding investigation, as the conclusion arrived at by a man of known scientific attainments after years of patient toil? The upshot of the barrel-organs article was to answer this question in the affirmative and to pooh-pooh all further discussion.
It would be mere presumption on my part either to attack or defend Darwin, but my indignation was roused at seeing him misrepresented and treated disdainfully. I would wish, too, that the "Savoyard" would have condescended to notice that little matter of the bear. I have searched my copy of Darwin again and again to find anything relating to the subject except what I have quoted in my previous letter.
I am, Sir, your obedient servant, A. M.
DARWIN ON SPECIES: [From the Press, April 11th, 1863.]
Sir--Your correspondent "A. M." is pertinacious on the subject of the bear being changed into a whale, which I said Darwin contemplated as not impossible. I did not take the trouble in any former letter to answer him on that point, as his language was so intemperate. He has modified his tone in his last letter, and really seems open to the conviction that he may be the "careless" writer after all; and so on reflection I have determined to give him the opportunity of doing me justice.
In his letter of February 21 he says: "I cannot sit by and see Darwin misrepresented in such a scandalously slovenly manner. What Darwin does say is 'that SOMETIMES diversified and changed habits may be observed in individuals of the same species; that is, that there are certain eccentric animals as there are certain eccentric men. He adduces a few instances, and winds up by saying that in North America the black bear was seen by Hearne swimming for hours with widely open mouth, thus catching, ALMOST LIKE A WHALE, insects in the water.' THIS, AND NOTHING MORE, pp. 201, 202."
Then follows a passage about my carelessness, which (he says) is hardly to be reprehended in sufficiently strong terms, and he ends with saying: "This is disgraceful."
Now you may well suppose that I was a little puzzled at the seeming audacity of a writer who should adopt this style, when the words which follow his quotation from Darwin are (in the edition from which I quoted) as follows: "Even in so extreme a case as this, if the supply of insects were constant, and if better adapted competitors did not already exist in the country, I can see no difficulty in a race of bears being rendered by natural selection more and more aquatic in their structure and habits, with larger and larger mouths, till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale."
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