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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. R. Wallace   1 August [1871]1

Haredene | Albury Guildford2

Aug 1st

My dear Wallace

Your kind & sympathetic letter pleased me greatly & did me good, but as you are so busy, I did not answer it.3 I write now because I have just received a very remarkable letter from Fritz Müller (with butterflies’ wings gummed on paper as illustrations) on mimicry &c.4 I think it is well worth your reading, but I will not send it, unless I receive a 12d card to this effect.5 He puts the difficulty of first start in imitation excellently, & gives wonderful proof of closeness of the imitation.6 He hints a curious addition to the theory, in relation to sexual selection which you will think madly hypothetical: it occurred to me in a very different class of cases, but I was afraid to publish it.—7 It wd. aid the theory of imitative protection, when the colours are bright.— He seems much pleased with your caterpillar theory.8 I wish the letter cd be published, but without coloured illustrations wd, I fear, be unintelligible.

I have not yet made up my mind about Wright’s Review: I shall stop till I hear from him: your suggestion wd. make the Origin, already too large, still more bulky.—9 By the way did Mr Youmans of the U. States apply to you to write a popular sketch of Natural Selection? I told him you wd. do it immeasureably better than anyone in the world.—10 My head keeps very rocky & wretched, but I am better.

Ever yours | Most truly | C. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Fritz Müller, 14 June 1871 (see n. 4, below).
The Darwins rented this house from 28 July to 25 August 1871 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
See letter from A. R. Wallace, 16 July 1871 and n. 4; Wallace was having a house built.
Prepaid halfpenny postcards had been in use since October 1870 (Hill 2007, pp. 4–5).
CD had wondered whether the generally dull coloration he had noticed in animals in the Galápagos Islands and in Patagonia was a product of sexual selection, the appreciation of bright colours being affected by the dull scenery; he added a note to this effect in Descent 2d ed., p. 422 n. 34. See also letter to Fritz Müller, 2 August [1871].
Wallace had suggested that Chauncey Wright’s review of St George Jackson Mivart’s Genesis of species (Wright 1871a) might be reprinted as an appendix to the sixth edition of Origin (see letter from A. R. Wallace, 16 July 1871 and n. 2.)
CD refers to Edward Livingston Youmans; see letter from G. H. Darwin, [17 July 1871].


Descent 2d ed.: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. London: John Murray. 1874.

Hill, Cuthbert William. 2007. Picture postcards. 2d edition. Princes Risborough, Bucks.: Shire Publications.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


On a "remarkable" letter from Fritz Müller [see 7820] about mimicry, protection, and sexual selection.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent from
Haredene, Albury Surrey
Source of text
British Library (Add 46434)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7889,” accessed on 12 December 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19