Given that he never began them until 1837, and the appearance of the concept of natural selection does not even vaguely appear in them until 1842, Darwin’s private essays and notebooks do not – contrary to Bowler’s (2003, p. 158) assertion - “…confirm that he drew no inspiration from Matthew or any of the other alleged precursors”. All they actually can ‘confirm’ in that regard is that Darwin "claimed", by the dates written on them alone, that he started writing these notebooks six years after Matthew’s (1831) book was published, and then only after several influential naturalists, who he actually knew, cited it and the original ideas in it. What survives on the pages that not have been torn out of Darwin’s notebooks – and many pages in them have been so destroyed or removed, is that Matthew’s name is not found in any of them. What they further do confirm is that Darwin did read five publications that cited Matthew’s (1831) book (Sutton 2014a). In his 1844 private essay, Darwin replicated Matthew’s original natural versus artificial selection analogy of differences (Sutton 2014a) and demonstrated it by further replicating Matthew’s original trees grown in forests versus those grown in nurseries example (Eiseley (1979). Consequently, the newly discovered facts, and a rational interpretation of their significance, overturns mere biased beliefs to confirm that what we might term ‘Matthewian knowledge contamination’ can no longer be ruled out in the history of discovery of natural selection.
This issue is discussed in far greater depth-with reference to the facts and with full references to sources to arrive at a rather astounding conclusion in my peer reviewed article: (Sutton 2106) On Knowledge Contamination: New Data Challenges Claims of Darwin’s and Wallace’s Independent Conceptions of Matthew’s Prior-Published Hypothesis
From "On Knowledge Contamination" (Sutton 2106):
As an argument that reliable evidence exists to disconfirm evidence that
Matthew influenced Darwin, Bowler argues: “Darwin’s notebooks confirm that
he drew no inspiration from Matthew or any of the other alleged precursors”.
Bowler’s seemingly compellingly plausible argument is worthy of further
examination in light of the independently verifiable facts. And, in light of the
New Data about who we newly know did read the ideas in Matthew’s book, and
most importantly when they read them, these actual facts confirm that Bowler’s
argument is rendered redundant.
To begin with, there is little on natural selection, beyond a mere hint at it, in
Darwin’s (1837) private “Zoonomia” notebook. Not until his private essays
(1842, 1844), do we see Darwin’s acknowledgement of evidence for the general
process of natural selection. By 1842, Loudon had cited Matthew’s book many
times following his 1832 review. And 1842 was the same year in which Selby
cited Matthew. But it was not until Darwin’s jointly presented paper with Wallace
that the full hypothesis, which Matthew had prior-published, was written
Chronicle, of 7th April, Darwin wrote on 10th April to his friend Lyell that he
had ordered a copy of Matthew’s book. This might be taken as strong confirmatory
evidence that Darwin had never read Matthew’s book or been influenced by
its original contents. Rationally, it is nothing of the sort. Darwin’s letter to Lyell
merely proves, and only then if the proven liar Darwin was then telling the truth,
that he did not have a copy of Matthew’s book in his possession in 1860. Darwin
could easily have prior-borrowed a copy from an associate and made extensive
notes. Or been supplied by others with such extensive notes. He could
just have easily borrowed a copy many years earlier from the London Library,
which was founded in 1841, the same year Darwin joined, and the year before
he penned his private 1842 essay on natural selection. Or Darwin might have
borrowed a copy of Matthew’s book years earlier from Mudie’s Library — founded
in 1842 — because he was a noted keen member of both lending libraries.
There is no mention of Matthew’s (1831) book in any of Darwin’s (1838)
handwritten Books to Read and Books Read private notebooks until Matthew’s
(1860) claim to priority letter was published in The Gardeners’ Chronicle.
However, the old adage that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,
is particularly pertinent in this particular case in light of the new hard
evidence unearthed from the publication record of Darwin’s bad faith regarding
his account of the readership of Matthew’s book. Rationally, therefore, we should,
as objective scholars, no longer simply assume that Darwin did everything
in good faith. The fact of the matter is, and it is facts we must now focus on, that
there is no proof, other than the dates he wrote on them in the privacy of his own
home, that those dates on Darwin’s notebooks and private essays were honestly
written and are therefore accurate. Furthermore, it is a fact that Darwin’s notebooks
are devoid of many pages — due to them having been torn out — and
that much of the remaining text in them has been scribbled out so as to deliberately
render it completely illegible.
So what do the facts enable us to know for sure about the latest possible date
when Darwin’s private notebooks and essays were written? The following bullet-point
timeline of evidence provides the detailed answers:
•On 25th June 1858, Darwin wrote to Lyell that Wallace’s Ternate paper
had nothing in it that was not in his 1844 private essay, which he
claims Hooker read a dozen years earlier. Only if Darwin was telling
the truth in this particular case, that would mean Hooker could only
have read it as early as 1846.
• 29 June 1858 Darwin writes to Joseph Hooker: “But you are too generous
to sacrifice so much time & kindness. — It is most generous,
most kind. I send sketch of 1844 solely that you may see by your own
handwriting that you did read it”. This letter, however, is not proof of
the date Hooker read it and no proof of the date it was given to him, because
— as explained below — all we have is a letter of 1845, which is
a year after the publication of Chambers’s (1844) Vestiges, in which
Darwin is claiming he had earlier written some kind of private essay,
which he merely claims Hooker had earlier read. The Darwin Correspondence
Project tells us what Darwin had written on that essay, known
as the “sketch of 1844”: “CD refers to the extensive table of contents
prefixed to the fair copy of his essay of 1844 (DAR 113). On the third
(unnumbered) page, he wrote in ink: «This was sketched in 1839 & copied
out in full, as here written & read by you in 1844». CD probably
refers to an occasion in 1845 when he invited Hooker to read his manuscript
(Correspondence vol. 3, letter to J.D. Hooker, [5 or 12 November
1845]). See also n. 4, above”. Significantly, what the Darwin Correspondence
site does not emphasise is that Hooker could not have read
something written by Darwin in 1844 when he only first told Hooker
about its existence in 1845! He did so in a letter to Hooker of 5 or 12
November 1845: “I wish I could get you sometime hence to look over
a rough sketch (well copied) on this subject, but it is too impudent a request”.
•There is no evidence Hooker replied to confirm any of this. There is no
evidence at all that Darwin subsequently sent Hooker the sketch in the
1840’s. To reiterate: There is no direct evidence at all (other than Darwin’s
1858 letter telling Hooker he did read it a year before Darwin
even mentioned it to him!). There is no supporting letter of reply from
Hooker. So no evidence exists that Hooker saw the essay earlier than
1858! The earliest solid dated evidence we have that Darwin actually
had written any kind of essay is that he sent a mere abstract of one to
Gray in 1857!
• On 5th September 1857, Darwin wrote to Gray: “You will, perhaps,
think it paltry in me, when I ask you not to mention my doctrine; the
reason is, if anyone, like the Author of the Vestiges, were to hear of
them, he might easily work them in, & then I shd have to quote from
a work perhaps despised by naturalists & this would greatly injure any
chance of my views being received by those alone whose opinion I value”.
Outside of what was scribbled on paper in his private study, the earliest solid and independently verifiable, dated, hard evidence we have that Darwin actually had written any kind of private notes or essay on natural selection, at any particular ascertainable point in time, is that he sent a mere abstract of one to Gray in 1857!
Click here to read the above facts set in the context of my 2016 peer reviewed article on knowledge contamination.