Dublin U Mag (1860)


Editorial footnote to article on Palaeontology. Dublin University Magazine Vol 55 (1860, Jan-Jun), pp.712-22

(Article printed in June issue)
This footnote is an editorial reply to a letter that Matthew had written to the Dublin University Magazine in response to a prior editorial piece. The prior piece had included a reference to “his [Darwin’s] theory”, and had mentioned Wallace but not Matthew in relation to “researches made independently”. Matthew’s claim, that he was the true “originator”, was rebuffed in a footnote to a piece on “Palaeontology”. Sutton (2014) points out that the author of the “Palaeontology” article (signed “D. T. A.”) is very likely to be David Thomas Ansted, geologist, Fellow of the Royal Society and Darwin correspondent. What is less clear is whether the footnote is written by Ansted, or whether the editors have taken advantage of Ansted’s similar statement regarding Darwin to insert their own reply to Matthew’s letter. Evidence in favour of the latter is that the footnote refers to “our journal” (and Ansted is not listed as an editor of the Dublin University Magazine) and that the footnote contains many errors, including most tellingly a misspelling of Lamarck as “Lamarque”. We know that the original piece that Matthew objects to was not written by Ansted, because it contains the admission “I know nothing about geology”, and we also know that Ansted knows how to spell Lamarck correctly because he does so in this 1839 article.

Note that the footnote wrongly gives the date of Matthew’s letter in the Gardeners’ Chronicle as 7th February 1860. The real date is 7th April. The footnote also gives the wrong title for Matthew’s book, and misspells his address.

In the Gardener’s Chronicle for 7th February [sic], 1860, is a long communication from Mr. Patrick Matthew, of Gourlie [sic], N.B., the author of a treatise “On Naval Timber and Architecture” [sic], in 1831, in which a claim is made by the author to have been the originator of Mr. Darwin’s theory of natural selection. In a letter to the editor of this journal, Mr. Matthew has repeated the claim, and considers himself wronged by the remarks in our journal of February (vide p. 235). We cannot, however, perceive, either in the extracts from his work, or in his remarks, any thing more than a repetition of a fact long familiarly known, namely, that many species pass into each other by insensible gradations — a fact acknowledged by all naturalists, and to account for which, Lamarque’s [sic] theory of the modification of specific characters was not the first invented. A statement that individuals and varieties were often involved in a struggle for existence, in which the strongest and the best adapted to the circumstances of the moment would prevail — a knowledge of the existence of sporting varieties in many well-known species, and the possibility of certain modifications introduced into species in consequence, do not interfere with Mr. Darwin’s claim to be regarded as the first who has put forward the principle of natural selection as the method adopted by nature to insure a succession of varieties resulting in species, adapted to continue, throughout all time and in absolute perfection, the chain of created beings.

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