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Darwin Correspondence Project

From A. R. Wallace   18 September 1865

9, St. Mark’s Crescent, | Regent’s Park, N.W.

Septr. 18th. 1865

Dear Darwin

I should have written before to thank you for the copy of your paper on climbing plants, which I read with great interest;1 I can imagine how much pleasure the working out must have given you. I was afraid you were too ill to make it advisable that you should be bothered with letters.

I write now in hopes you are better, to communicate a curious case of variation becoming at once hereditary, which was brought forward at the Brit. Assn.2

I send a note of it on the other side, but if you would like more exact particulars, with names & dates and a drawing of the bird, I am sure Mr. O’Callaghan3 would send them you.

I hope to hear that you are better & that your new book is really to come out next winter.4

Believe me | Yours very faithfully | Alfred R. Wallace

C. Darwin Esq.


Last spring Mr. O’Callaghan was told by a country boy that he had seen a blackbird with a topknot; on which Mr. O’C. very judiciously told him to watch it & communicate further with him. After a time the boy told him he had found a blackbird’s nest & had seen this crested bird near it & believed he belonged to it— He continued watching the nest till the young were hatched. After a time he told Mr O’C. that two of the young birds seemed as if they would have topknots. He was told to get one of them as soon as it was fledged. However he was too late and they left the nest, but luckily he found them near & knocked one down with a stone, which Mr. O’C. had stuffed & exhibited. It has a fine crest, something like that of a Polish fowl but larger in proportion to the bird, & very regular & well formed. The male must have been almost like the Umbrella bird in miniature, the crest is so large & expanded.


CD annotations5

Top of letter: ‘Your Journal | Paper [‘in Linn Soc.’ del] Annals | I saw your paper in Linn Trans’ pencil
End of letter: ‘British Assoc Birmingham 1865’ pencil


The reference is to ‘Climbing plants’. It is likely that CD sent Wallace an author’s offprint (see Freeman 1977, pp. 116–17, for the publication history of the first edition of ‘Climbing plants’); however, no presentation list for ‘Climbing plants’ has been found.
Wallace refers to an exhibit, and a report entitled ‘Remarks on a curious preserved specimen of the blackbird’, a notice of which appeared in Report of the thirty-fifth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science; held at Birmingham in September 1865, Transactions of the sections, p. 92.
Patrick O’Callaghan was the author of the report to the British Association (see n. 2, above).
Variation was not published until 1868. Wallace and CD occasionally corresponded on topics relating to CD’s work on Variation (see, for example, letter from A. R. Wallace, 31 January 1865 and n. 5). On CD’s delay in finishing Variation, see the letter to John Murray, 2 June [1865] and n. 1.
CD’s annotations are notes for his reply to this letter. See letter to A. R. Wallace, 22 September [1865].


‘Climbing plants’: On the movements and habits of climbing plants. By Charles Darwin. [Read 2 February 1865.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 9 (1867): 1–118.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Thanks CD for paper ["Climbing plants"].

Reports case of variation becoming at once hereditary – a crested blackbird with crested young.

Letter details

Letter no.
Alfred Russel Wallace
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, St Mark’s Crescent, 9
Source of text
DAR 106: B25–6
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4894,” accessed on 25 January 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13