In this little volume I have endeavoured to present the life and work of Charles Darwin viewed as a moment in a great revolution, in due relation both to those who went before and to those who come after him. Recognising, as has been well said, that the wave makes the crest, not the crest the wave, I have tried to let my hero fall naturally into his proper place in a vast onward movement of the human intellect, of which he was himself at once a splendid product and a moving cause of the first importance. I have attempted to show him both as receiving the torch from Lamarck and Malthus, and as passing it on with renewed brilliancy to the wide school of evolutionary thinkers whom his work was instrumental in arousing to fresh and vigorous activity along a thousand separate and varied lines of thought and action.
ertain whether novel and heterodox opinions would bring down upon their author fame and reputation or the Sorbonne and the Bastille, Buffon was careful to put his conjectural conclusions in a studiously guarded and often even ironical form. But time after time, in his great discursive work, the 'Histoire Naturelle' (published in successive volumes between 1749 and 1788), he recurs anew to the pregnant suggestion that plants and animals may not be bound by fixed and immovable limits of species, but may freely vary in every direction from a common centre, so that one kind may gradually and slowly be evolved by natural causes from the type of another. He points out that, underlying all external diversities of character and shape, fundamental likenesses of type occur in many animals, which irresistibly suggest the novel notion of common descent from a single ancestor. Thus regarded, he says, not only the ass and the horse (to take a particular passage) but even man himself, the monkeys, the quadrupeds, and all ve