(Darwin), Charles. REVIEW of Review: The Descent of Man. London: Nature, 1871, volume 3, 20 April 1871. Original printed wrappers. Very good condition. $250.00
"But with regard to the material world, we can at least go so far as this—we can perceive that events are brought about not by insulated interpositions of Divine power, exerted in each particular case, but by the establishment of general laws." W. WHEWELL: Bridgewater Treatise.
"To conclude, therefore, let no man out of a weak conceit of sobriety, or an ill-applied moderation, think or maintain, that a man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God's word, or in the book of God's works; divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavour an endless progress or proficience in both.." BACON: Advancement of Learning.
The quotes above stand alone, the first things that the readers see, sitting on the half-title page of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species (first published in 1859 in an almost-immediately sold out run of 1250 copies.) It is an extraordinary, epochal book that was a lightning rod for reception both good and bad, heaven and hell, the Boschian hells of which were clearly not deserved, then or now. (It is easier to understand a poorly-reviewd Origin in 1859 or through the 1860's or even through the rest of the 19th century or even somehow through the early twentieth, but not afterwards.) Darwin helped Earthlings into modernity in the Origin, making the complicated into the complex, into a very deep understanding seldom witnessed in any branch of the history of science
Twelve years after the first edition of the Origin (and two years after the appearance of the Origin in its fifth edition) came his elegant and powerful The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. This work on evolutionary theory sprung from his 1866 The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, in which it was supposed to appear as a chapter, but the "chapter" grew so long and involved that it worked itself naturally into book form, appearing in 1871 as the Descent.
The Times of London gave such an awful review of the book that a review of this review was published in the April edition of Nature. [(Darwin), Charles. REVIEW of Review: The Descent of Man. London: Nature, 1871, volume 3, 20 April 1871]. The book was alsready quite popular by this time, almost a "best seller" for its day, with 4,500 copies in print by the end of the next month. It was curious, though, that The Times came down so very heavily against the book, as it really didn't contain the revolutionary impact of the Origin--though it did very widely address social, moral and philosophical issues raised by evolutionary theory. It was Thomas Stebbing ((A British zoologist, 1836-1926, describing himself as "a serf to natural history, principally employed about Crustacea", and who as a long and vocal proponent of Darwinism lost his job in pursuit of his cause) who wrote the response to The Times' incitful, hateful attack upon the Descent of Man. The Times saw Darwin's work as an attack upon society, accusing him of undermining authority and principles of morality, opening the way to "the most murderous revolutions". A "man incurs a grave responsibility when, with the authority of a well-earned reputation, he advances at such a time the disintegrating speculations of this book." Stebbing's review of the review is drippingly sarcastic, pointing out obvious errors in specific and the tone of the article in general in the defense of the book. Darwin's "facile method of observing superficial resemblances" (says The Times) incites Stebbing to issue the following: "they may fancy that truth is worth discovering , even when it seems to involve some contradictions to our pride and some loss of comfort to our finer feelings..." (What a great line!) The article runs about 1000 words, and is a two-column, 1-page bit.
"No one ought to feel surprise at much remaining as yet unexplained in regard to the origin of species and varieties, if he makes due allowance for our profound ignorance in regard to the mutual relations of all the beings which live around us." Darwin, leading the last paragraphs of the end of the introduction to the Origin, page 7.