From A. R. Wallace 2 March 1
9 St. Mark’s Crescent | N.W.
I am very glad you like my notion about the catterpillars It is a kind of “forlorn hope”, but fortunately it can be easily tested.2
I dare say you are right about sexual selection in butterflies, but I still think that protective adaptation has kept down the colours of the females, because the Heliconidæ and Danaidæ are almost the only groups in which the females are generally equally brilliant with the males.3
I can tell you several persons in the East who would I think observe “expression” for you. The best is Mr. Charles Johnson Brooke acting Rajah of Sarawak author of “Ten Years in Sarawak”. Address him as
C— J— B— Esq,
He has grand opportunities, as he sees Malays, Dyaks, & Chineese under all kinds of excitements, in war in hunting, in law suits and under every occasion of daily life.5 He would also I have no doubt send copies of your questions to some of the Missionaries and deputy governors in the interior.
Another person who would I am sure do the same for you is Mr. F. F. Geach, a young Cornish mining engineer, engaged in Tin & Copper mining in the interior of Malacca;—address, care of Messrs. Paterson Simons and Co. Singapore.6
If you would send me a copy of your questions I shd. like to see how far I could answer them from memory.
I certainly cannot yet see my way to any action of sexual selection in forming the races of man.7 Stealing wives from other tribes for instance is a very common practice, & it would I imagine tend to check any selective action. Youth is almost the only thing a savage cares about, and the handsomest & finest women very often become prostitutes & leave few or no offspring. The women certainly don’t choose the men, & the men want chiefly in a wife, a servant. Beauty is I believe a very small consideration with most savages, as it is very rare to find a woman so plain as not to leave as many or more offspring than the most beautiful.8 This of course is a delicate subject to go into.
My present impression is, that the distinctive characters of human races are almost wholly due to correlation with constitutional adaptations to climate soil food & other external conditions. You must have facts of which I am quite ignorant,—& at all events your essay will be most welcome & is sure to be valuable.9
Believe me Dear Darwin | Yours very faithfully | Alfred R. Wallace—
Pleased that CD approves his idea about caterpillars.
Thinks CD is right about selection in butterflies, but still believes protective adaptation has kept down colours of females.
Cannot yet see action of natural selection in forming the races of man.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5968,” accessed on 27 August 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-5968