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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Paolo Mantegazza   22 September 18711

Down. Beckenham. Kent.

22 Sett. 1871.

… Io son ben lieto di conoscere le vostre idee sull’elezione sessuale.2 Voi anche quando dissentite da me lo fate nel modo il più gentile e il più cortese. Sono però molto dolente di non poter pensare come voi. Se la femmina non fa una scelta e se non elegge i maschi più seducenti, nulla può più dirsi in appoggio della mia dottrina.3 Io però ho dato molte prove evidenti per dimostrare che nella domesticità la femmina dimostra spesso forti preferenze ed antipatie e noi possiamo indurne che anche in natura avvengono dei fatti che mi fanno credere nella realtà dell’elezione sessuale.4 Io non posso credere che il liquido spermatico, quando venga assorbito, possa modificare i tessuti dell’animale, da cui è secreto.5 Non trovate voi difficile lo spiegare come un giovane fagiano maschio incominci a presentare sul primo autunno ornamenti virili, lungo tempo prima che il seme sia secreto, e che alcune femmine o vecchie o malate presentino talvolta penne e appendici proprie dei maschi?6

Footnotes

For a translation of this letter, see Correspondence vol. 19, Appendix I. The original letter, which has not been found, was written in English, and was translated into Italian in an article by Mantegazza about sexual selection.
CD probably refers to Mantegazza’s article on sexual selection and neogenesis (Mantegazza 1871). CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Mantegazza thought that sexual selection could not be based on female choice, because male animals tended to be more physically powerful, and thus able to dominate the females (Mantegazza 1871, p. 317).
See, for example, Descent 2: 270–1.
Mantegazza believed that secondary sexual characteristics were due to the action of sperm that was absorbed by various tissues (Mantegazza 1871).
CD described the emergence of secondary sexual characteristics in Descent 1: 279–96. He did not discuss the development of secondary sexual characteristics before sexual maturity.

Bibliography

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

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Translation

To Paolo Mantegazza   22 September 18711

Down. Beckenham. Kent.

22 Sept. 1871.

I am very pleased to learn of your ideas on sexual selection.2 Also, when you disagree with me you do it in the most kind and courteous way. I am, however, very sad that I am not able to agree with you. If the female does not make a choice and if she does not choose the more attractive males, nothing more can be said in support of my theory.3 I have, however, given many clear proofs to show that in domestication the female often shows strong preferences and dislikes and we can infer that they also happen in nature, facts which make me believe in the reality of sexual selection.4 I cannot believe that the sperm liquid, when it may be absorbed, could modify the tissues of the animal from which it has been secreted.5 Do you not find it difficult to explain how a young male pheasant may begin to display his manly trappings at the beginning of autumn, a long time before the sperm may be secreted, and that a few females who are old or sick sometimes display feathers and appendages typical of the males?6

Footnotes

For a transcription of this letter in its original Italian, see p. QQQQ.
CD probably refers to Mantegazza’s article on sexual selection and neogenesis (Mantegazza 1871). CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Mantegazza thought that sexual selection could not be based on female choice, because male animals tended to be more physically powerful, and thus able to dominate the females (Mantegazza 1871, p. 317).
See, for example, Descent 2: 270–1.
Mantegazza believed that secondary sexual characteristics were due to the action of sperm that was absorbed by various tissues (Mantegazza 1871).
CD described the emergence of secondary sexual characteristics in Descent 1: 279–96. He did not discuss the development of secondary sexual characteristics before sexual maturity.

Bibliography

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

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Summary

Explains that he cannot agree with Mantegazza’s views on sexual selection.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-7963F
From
Charles Robert Darwin
To
Paolo Mantegazza
Sent from
Down
Source of text
Archivio della Società Italiana di Antropologia e di Etnologia 2 (1872): 112

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7963F,” accessed on 11 November 2019, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-7963F.xml

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

letter