In 1854 he notes, after an evening at Mr. Darwin's, how Sir Joseph Hooker astonished him with an account of that strange orchid, Catasetum, which bears three totally distinct kinds of flower. "It will figure," he says, "in C. Darwin's book on species, with many other 'ugly facts,' as Hooker, clinging like me to the orthodox faith, calls these and other abnormal vagaries."
Two years later, speaking of the wingless beetles of Madeira, he asks, "Was it not foreseen that wings would only cause them to be blown out to sea and be drowned?"
Soon after, meeting "Huxley, Hooker, and Wollaston at Darwin's," he is constrained to ask, "After all, did we not come from an orang?" At last the "Origin of Species" comes out, and bit by bit Lyell is compelled to give in. Even then he can reconcile himself but slowly to the new creed. "I plead guilty," he writes to Sir Joseph Hooker, "to going further in my reasoning toward transmutation than in my sentiments and imagination, and perhaps for that very reason I shall lead more people on to Darwin and you than one who, being born later, like Lubbock, has comparatively little to abandon of old and long-cherished ideas, which constituted the charm to me of the theoretical part of the science in my earlier days, when I believed with Pascal in the theory, as Hallam terms it, of 'the archangel ruined.'" To Mr. Darwin himself he writes that "the descent of man from the brutes takes away much of the charm from my speculations on the past relating to such matters." In the end he comes to the conclusion, as he idiomatically puts it, that "we must go the whole orang"; for that old mode of envisaging the facts clings to him to the last. Finally, he writes: "The question of the origin of species gave me much to think of, and you may well believe that it cost me a struggle to renounce my old creed. One of Darwin's reviewers put the alternative strongly by asking whether we are to believe that man is modified mud or modified monkey."
I have illustrated this matter thus fully because it is one which very clearly shows the weak side of Lyell's intellect. With all his breadth of mind and freedom from prejudice, he was not ever one of those who really get to the very deepest bottom of things. His tendencies were all in the right direction, and his instinct inclined him always to the true solution; but he did not build himself up a set of first principles to start with, firmly based upon a philosophical foundation, and make these the fixed criteria of his judgments throughout. His was too English a mind for that. He clung to all old beliefs as long as possible; he parleyed and temporized with the enemy; he was for effecting a compromise wherever he could, a patched-up modus