Bentham being nominated in his place. The usual election of council and officers had taken place at the anniversary meeting only a month before; and, oddly enough, for the first time among the new members of that body was Charles Darwin. Other papers were also read at the special meeting on July 1, but it will not have escaped your notice that the whole correspondence relating to the two papers on the evolution of species was subsequent to June 17; indeed, the joint letter from Sir Charles Lyell and myself communicating them to the society was only written on June 30.
Thus the death of Robert Brown was the direct cause of the theory of the origin of species being given to the world at least four months earlier than would otherwise have been the case.
The communications were read, as was the custom in those days, by the secretary of ths society. Mr. Darwin himself, owing to his own illness and distress, could not be present. Sir Charles Lyell and myself said a few words to emphasize the importance of the subject; but, as recorded in the "Life and Letters," although intense interest was excited, no discussion took place: "the subject was too novel and too ominous for the old school to enter the lists before armoring."
It can not fail to be noticed that all these inter-communications between Mr. Darwin, Sir Charles Lyell and myself were conducted by correspondence, no two of us having met in the interval between June 18 and July 1, when I met Lyell at the evening meeting of the Linnean Society; and no fourth individual had any cognizance of our proceedings.
It must also be noted that for the detailed history given above there is no documentary evidence beyond what Francis Darwin has produced in the "Life and Letters." There are no letters from Lyell relating to it not even answers to Mr. Darwin's of June 18, 25 and 26; and Sir Leonard Lyell has at my request very kindly but vainly searched his uncle's correspondence for any relating to this subject beyond the two above mentioned. There are none of my letters to either Lyell or Darwin, nor other evidence of their having existed beyond the latter's acknowledgment of the receipt of some of them; and, most surprising of all, Mr. Wallace's letter and its enclosure have disappeared. Such is my recollection of the day of the fiftieth anniversary of which we are now celebrating, and of the fortnight that immediately preceded it.
It remains for me to ask your forgiveness for intruding upon your time and attention with the half-century old, real or fancied memories of a nonogenarian as contributions to the history of the most notable event in the annals of biology that had followed the appearance in 1735 of the "Systema Naturæ" of Linnæus.
- Vol. II., p. 126.