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Darwin Correspondence Project

From A. R. Wallace   23 June [1869]1

9, St. Mark’s Crescent N.W.

June 23rd.

Dear Darwin

Thank you very much for the copy of your fifth Edition of the “Origin”. I have not yet read all the additions, but those I have looked at seem very interesting, though somewhat brief,—but I suppose you are afraid of too great & rapid growth.

A difficult sexual character seems to me the plumules or battledore scales on the wings of certain families & genera of butterflies—almost invariably changing in form with the species and genera in proportion to other changes,—and always constant in each species yet confined to the males, & so small & mixed up with the other scales, as to produce no effect on the colour or marking of the wings. How could sexual selection produce them?2

Your correspondent Mr. Geach3 is now in England, & if you would like to see him I am sure would be glad to meet you. He is staying with his brother,4 address, Guildford, but often comes to town.

Hoping that you have quite recovered from your accident5 & that the great work is progressing, | Believe me | Dear Darwin | Yours very faithfully | Alfred R. Wallace—

P.S. You will perhaps be pleased to hear that German French & Danish translations of my Malay Archipelago are in progress.6

A R W.


The year is established by the reference to the fifth edition of Origin, which was published in June 1869.
The ‘battledore’ scales were later found to be scent-producing scales (see letter from Fritz Müller, 19 October 1877 (Calendar no. 11191), which was published in Nature 17 (1877): 78).
Frederick F. Geach had sent CD responses to his Queries about expression in 1867 and 1868 (see Correspondence vols. 15 and 16).
Robert Edgar Geach.
Wallace refers to Wallace 1869a; the German, French, and Danish translations are Wallace 1869c, Wallace [1870?], and Wallace 1870–1, respectively.


Calendar: A calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882. With supplement. 2d edition. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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.

Wallace, Alfred Russel. 1870–1. Insulinde: het land van den orang-oetan en den paradijsvogel. Translated by P. J. Veth. 2 vols. Amsterdam: P. N. van Kampen.


Asks whether sexual selection could produce the changing plumules or "battledore" scales on the wings of certain butterflies.

Letter details

Letter no.
Alfred Russel Wallace
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, St Mark’s Crescent, 9
Source of text
DAR 106: B81–2
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6797,” accessed on 17 November 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17