There were many reasons why people opposed The Origin. Some feared they could no longer rely on their faith and others feared its effects on social order as radical magazines had seized upon it to further their causes. The link between man and apes fascinated the ordinary man and those who couldn’t afford to buy the book packed out lectures on the subject. Huxley grew in his determination to publicise the theory, a view that was strengthened by the death of his four-year-old son and the Church’s words regarding such a loss. He went on a tour of the country giving lectures to working men.
Darwin, meanwhile, was increasingly fragile. He could not allow his mind to stagnate so sought out orchids around Down House after becoming interested in them on holiday. In May 1862 he published a book on them and their relationship with insects, showing how they had evolved together. In January 1863 the fossil Archaeopteryx was found, with traces of feathers, teeth and a bony tail. This showed that birds and reptiles had a shared origin and gave further weight to Darwin’s theory. Late 1863 was miserable for him as he succumbed to poor health yet again, but the following year Gray sent him some cucumber seeds which led to an interest and so a monograph on climbing plants. He was awarded the Royal Society’s Copley Medal, much to the chagrin of the older members of the society.
The next year saw several tragedies. In April 1865 FitzRoy committed suicide, depressed by his failures and stress; then in 1866 Darwin’s sisters Catherine and Susan died within a few months of each other; his brother Erasmus dealt with selling off the household. Darwin continued to work on new ideas and by the end of 1866 had written a large tome on the domestication of animals. He realised that he had still to explain how heredity worked, so he developed ‘pangenesis’, a theory of heredity whereby each organism had ‘gemmules’ given off by each cell containing the information that led to the formation of its offspring. This was published in his book The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication. The next major argument to make concerned human origins.