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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. R. Wallace   [19 February 1872]1

9. Devonshire St. | Portland Place


My dear Wallace

We have taken this house for a month, & if ever you are in this quarter of the Town & want some luncheon at 1 o clock, for Heaven sake call here.—

I sent you off on Saturday my new Edit. of Origin, the last which I shall ever bother myself in trying to improve. There is nothing worth your looking at except perhaps the new Chapter VII.— But I have given list of the more important alterations.2

Many thanks for your Presidential address, which I have read with much interest. I think you hardly do justice to Kovalevsky’s conclusions, when you speak of them as founded on histological research alone.3

You give an admirable resume of H. Spencer’s doctrine & I wish I could see my way to accept it fully; but I do so essentially in as far as I am quite inclined to believe that each segment originally contained all organs, excepting mouth.4

Ever yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The date is established by the address. CD stayed at 9 Devonshire Street from 13 February until 21 March 1872. The first Monday following 13 February 1872 was 19 February.
In the substantially new chapter added to Origin 6th ed., ‘Miscellaneous objections to the theory of natural selection’ (pp. 168–204), CD responded to criticisms made by St. George Jackson Mivart in Genesis of species (Mivart 1871a) and others. The list of changes appeared on pages xi–xii.
In his presidential address to the Entomological Society of London, delivered on 22 January 1872, Wallace mentioned that Alexander Onufrievich Kovalevsky had based his views on the homologies between annulose and vertebrate types on the ‘supposed histological identity of certain internal organs and tissues, rather than on any accurately determined homologies in the great structural features of each sub-kingdom’ (Wallace 1872a, p. lxix).
In Wallace 1872a, pp. lxx–lxxi, Wallace outlined Herbert Spencer’s hypothesis that insects, like all Annulosa, were originally compound (colonial) animals in which the individuals had become specialised over time. Spencer had conjectured that if individuals were arranged in a linear series, conditions at either extremity would be sufficiently different to result in different adaptations. In Thomas Henry Huxley’s system of classification, the Annulosa was a subkingdom that included insects, crustaceans, and worms (T. H. Huxley 1869).


Sends 6th ed. of Origin;

draws attention to his criticism of ARW’s estimate of Kovalevsky;

mentions his disagreement with much of Spencer’s doctrine

and in a postscript points out an inaccuracy in an article in Once a Month.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent from
London, Devonshire St, 9
Source of text
Linnean Society of London (Quentin Keynes Collection)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8211,” accessed on 27 April 2018,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20