Reports long preparation of work on how species and varieties differ. Agreement with Wallace's conclusions as reported in Annals and Magazine of Natural History and in his letter to CD of 10 0ct . On distinction between domestic varieties and those in "a state of nature".
On mating of jaguars and leopards, the breeding of poultry, pigeons, etc.
Requests help for his experimenting on means of distribution of organic beings on oceanic islands.
Down Bromley Kent
May 1.— 1857
My dear Sir
I am much obliged for your letter of Oct.
This summer will make the 20
I have never heard how long you intend staying in the Malay archipelago; I wish I might profit by the publication of your Travels there before my work appears, for no doubt you will reap a large harvest of facts.— I have acted already in accordance with your advice of keeping domestic varieties & those appearing in a state of nature, distinct; but I have sometimes doubted of the wisdom of this, & therefore I am glad to be backed by your opinion.— I must confess, however, I rather doubt the truth of the now very prevalent doctrine of all our domestic animals having descended from several wild stocks; though I do not doubt that it is so in some cases.— I think there is rather better evidence on the sterility of Hybrid animals that you seem to admit: & in regard to Plants the collection of carefully recorded facts by Kölreuter & Gærtner, (& Herbert) is enormous.—
I most entirely agree with you on the little effects of “climatal conditions”, which one sees referred to ad nauseam in all Books; I suppose some very little effect must be attributed to such influences, but I fully believe that they are very slight.— It is really impossible to explain my views in the compass of a letter on the causes & means of variation in a state of nature; but I have slowly adopted a distinct & tangible idea.— Whether true or false others must judge; for the firmest conviction of the truth of a doctrine by its author, seems, alas, not to be slightest guarantee of truth.—
I have been rather disappointed at my results in the Poultry line; but if you
Can you tell me positively that Black Jaguars or Leopards are believed generally or always to pair with Black? I do not think colour of offspring good evidence.— Is the case of parrots fed on fat of fish turning colour, mentioned in your Travels? I remember case of Parrot with, (I think,) poison from some Toad put into hollow whence primaries had been removed.
One of the subjects on which I have been experimentising & which cost me much trouble, is the means of distribution of all organic beings found on oceanic islands; & any facts on this subject would be most gratefully received: Land-Molluscs are a great perplexity to me.—
This is a very dull letter, but I am a good deal out of health; & am writing this, not from my home, as dated, but from a water-cure establishment.
With most sincere good wishes for your success in every way I remain | My dear Sir | Yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin
- f1 2086.f1Although CD put his home address on the letter, he actually wrote it at Moor Park, Farnham, Surrey, as he states in the letter.
- f2 2086.f2Wallace's letter of 10 October 1856 has not been found. None of their earlier correspondence has been preserved, but see letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 29 November  and n. 4.
- f3 2086.f3Wallace 1855. For CD's notes on the paper, see Correspondence vol. 5, letter from Edward Blyth, 8 December 1855, n. 1.
- f4 2086.f4In the original, the following lines are underlined, presumably by Wallace: ‘I agree … & I’; ‘the 20
thyear (!)’; ‘way do species & varieties differ from each other.—’.
- f5 2086.f5Wallace did not publish an account of his travels in the Malay Archipelago until 1869 (Wallace 1869).
- f6 2086.f6CD had carefully studied the works on hybridism of Joseph Gottlieb Kölreuter, Karl Friedrich von Gärtner, and William Herbert. See Correspondence vol. 5.
- f7 2086.f7For CD's views on the direct effect of the environment in causing variations, see Natural selection, pp. 281–9, and Origin, pp. 131–4 and 139–43.
- f8 2086.f8CD had first approached Wallace in 1855 or early 1856 to request specimens of domestic and wild fowl from Malaysia (see Correspondence vol. 5, CD memorandum, [December 1855]).
- f9 2086.f9James Brooke, raja of Saráwak, Borneo (see letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 18 February ).
- f10 2086.f10See letter from A. R. Wallace, [27 September 1857].
- f11 2086.f11In Wallace 1853, p. 321, Wallace had recounted how one of his two tame parrots ‘was a most omnivorous feeder, eating rice, farinha, every kind of fruit, fish, meat, and vegetable, and drinking coffee too’. He did not mention any subsequent change of colour in the parrot.