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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. R. Wallace   17 June 1876

Down | Beckenham

June 17. 1876

My dear Wallace

I have now finished the whole of Vol I, with the same interest & admiration as before; and I am convinced that my judgement was right and that it is a memorable book, the basis of all future work on the subject.1 I have nothing particular to say, but perhaps you would like to hear my impressions on two or three points. Nothing has struck me more than the admirable & convincing manner in which you treat Java.2 To allude to a very trifling point, it is capital about the unadorned head of the Argus-pheasant3   How plain a thing is, when it is once pointed out! What a wonderful case is that of Celebes: I am glad that you have slightly modified your views with respect to Africa.4 And this leads me to say that I cannot swallow, the so-called continent of Lemuria, i.e. the direct connection of Africa & Ceylon. The facts do not seem to me many and strong enough to justify so immense a change of level. Moreover Mauritius and the other islands appear to me oceanic in character.5 But do not suppose that I place my judgement on this subject on a level with yours. A wonderfully good paper was published about a year ago on India in the Geolog: J,—I think by Blandford. Ramsay agreed with me that it was one of the best published for a long time. The author shows that India has been a continent with enormous fresh water lakes from the Permian period to the present day. If I remember right he believes in a former connection with S. Africa.6

I am sure that I read, some 20 to 30 years ago, in a French Journal an account of teeth of mastodon found in Timor; but the statement may have been an error.7

With respect to what you say about the colonising of N. Zealand, I somewhere have an account of a frog frozen in the ice of a Swiss glacier, and which revived when thawed.8 I may add that there is an Indian toad which can resist salt water & haunts the sea side.9 Nothing ever astonished me more than the case of the Galaxias; but it does not seem known whether it may not be a migratory fish like the salmon.10 It seems to me that you complicate rather too much the successive colonisations into N. Zealand. I should prefer believing that the Galaxias was a species, like the Emys of the Sevalik Hills, which has long retained the same form.11 Your remarks on the insects & flowers of N.Z: have greatly interested me; but aromatic leaves I have always looked at as a protection against their being eaten by insects or other animals; and as insects are there rare such protection would not be much needed.12 I have written more than I intended; & I must again say how profoundly your book has interested me.

Now let me turn to a very different subject. I have only just heard of & procured your two articles in the Academy. I thank you most cordially for your generous defence of me against Mr. Mivart.13 In the Origin I did not discuss the derivation of any one species; but that I might not be accused of concealing my opinion I went out of my way & inserted a sentence which seemed to me (& still so seems) to declare plainly my belief. This was quoted in my Descent of Man. Therefore it is very unjust, not to say dishonest, of Mr Mivart to accuse me of base fraudulent concealment.14 I care little about myself; but Mr Mivart in an article in the Q. Review (which I know was written by him) accused my son George of encouraging profligacy, & this without the least foundation   I can assert this positively as I laid George’s article & the Q. Review, before Hooker, Huxley & others, & all agreed that the accusation was a deliberate falsification.15 Huxley wrote to him on the subject & has almost or quite cut him in consequence; & so would Hooker, but he was advised not to do so as Pres. of the Royal Soc.—16 Well he has gained his object in giving me pain, & good God to think of the flattering almost fawning speeches which he has made to me. I wrote of course to him to say that I would never speak to him again.17 I ought, however, to be contented, as he is the one man who has ever, as far as I know, treated me basely. Forgive me for writing at such length & believe me | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

P.S. I am very sorry that you have given up Sexual Selection.— I am not at all shaken & stick to my colours like a true Briton.18 When I think about the unadorned head of the Argus pheasant, I might exclaim, “et tu Brute”!19


CD was reading Wallace’s Geographical distribution of animals (Wallace 1876a; see letter to A. R. Wallace, 5 June 1876).
See Wallace 1876a, 1: 349–60
In Wallace 1876a, 1: 340, Wallace pointed out that the male argus pheasant’s head, which was unadorned, was completely concealed from the view of a spectator at the front by his ornamented wings; he added that this was a remarkable confirmation of CD’s view that coloured plumes were developed in the male bird for the purpose of display during the breeding season.
See Wallace 1876a, 1: 426–38, especially pp. 437–8. Wallace suggested that there had formerly been a land link between Celebes and Asia; previously he had speculated on a former continent in the area of the Indian Ocean linking Celebes with Africa (Wallace 1859, p. 178). Celebes is now Sulawesi.
See Wallace 1876a, 1: 76–7. Lemuria was the name proposed by Philip Lutley Sclater for a hypothetical former continent stretching from Madagascar to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Sumatra (Sclater 1864). Wallace called it a ‘legitimate and highly probable supposition’. Oceanic islands: i.e. those formed without a foundation of continental rock, for instance as a result of volcanic action (EB s.v. Islands). Mauritius is part of the Mascarene islands group. For CD’s views on Mauritius, see Volcanic islands, pp. 28–31. See also Ramaswamy 2004.
Andrew Crombie Ramsay was present at the meeting of the Geological Society of London when Henry Francis Blanford’s paper was read, and agreed with his suggestion of a junction of Africa, India, and Australia in geological time (Blanford 1874, p. 540). However, no correspondence with CD on the subject has been found.
In Wallace 1876a, 1: 426, Wallace concluded that the Timorese islands had not acquired their animal life from an actual union with any other large island. Wallace had himself given CD information about Carl Friedrich Adolph Schneider, who claimed to have found teeth of Mastodon (a synonym of Mammut) in Timor (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter from A. R. Wallace, 30 November 1861, and Schneider 1863). See also Correspondence vol. 11, letter from A. R. Wallace, 14 January [1863] and n. 6. Schneider’s article was in a Dutch journal and was in Dutch.
See Wallace 1876a, 1: 459–62. The account of the frog has not been found. Some species of frog are able to survive freezing, including Rana arvalis, the moor frog, which is found in Switzerland.
Fejervarya cancrivora (the crab-eating frog;, accessed 7 October 2014).
See Wallace 1876a, 1: 400–2. In Origin 6th ed., p. 343, CD wrote that Galaxias attenuatus (a synonym of G. maculatus, the inanga) inhabited Tasmania, New Zealand, the Falkland Islands, and mainland South America, and suggested that this indicated dispersal from an Antarctic centre during a former warm period. He added that species of the genus had the power of crossing ‘by some unknown means’ considerable distances of open ocean. Wallace had suggested that fish eggs and amphibians might be transported on icebergs.
Wallace described Emys tectum as ‘the sole survivor of the strange Siwalik fauna of the Miocene epoch’. Emys tectum is a synonym of Pangshura tecta, the Indian roofed turtle. The Siwalik Hills are in the Punjab region of India, near Saharanpur.
See Wallace 1876a, 1: 462–4. Wallace noted that insects and plants with conspicuous flowers were comparatively scarce in New Zealand, which he took to confirm the theory that conspicuous flowers had developed because they attracted insects that aided in pollination. He added that scented flowers and leaves were also scarce, which suggested that they also served to attract insects.
Wallace had reviewed St George Jackson Mivart’s Lessons from nature (Mivart 1876) in the Academy on 10 and 17 June 1875 (Wallace 1876b). CD’s copy is in DAR 140.1: 6 and 7.
In Mivart 1876, p. 144, Mivart wrote that CD had ‘at first studiously disguised his views as to the bestiality of man’. In the conclusion to Origin, CD had written, ‘Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history’ (Origin, p. 488). In Descent 1: 1, he wrote: ‘During many years I collected notes on the origin or descent of man, without any intention of publishing on the subject, but rather with the determination not to publish, as I thought that I should thus only add to the prejudices against my views. It seemed to me sufficient to indicate, in the first edition of my “Origin of Species,” that by this work “light would be thrown on the origin of man and his history;” and this implies that man must be included with other organic beings in any general conclusion respecting his manner of appearance on this earth.’
For the controversy over Mivart’s remarks about George Howard Darwin, and the involvement of Joseph Dalton Hooker and Thomas Henry Huxley, see Correspondence vol. 22, Appendix V. Mivart’s anonymous article in the Quarterly Review was [Mivart] 1874; George’s article was ‘Beneficial restrictions to liberty of marriage’ in the Contemporary Review (G. H. Darwin 1873).
In the second part of his review (Wallace 1876b), Wallace noted that he did not believe that CD’s theory of sexual selection could account for the bright plumage of male birds. Wallace thought that intensity of colour was correlated with general vigour and sexual excitability, aided by sexual selection insofar as vigour and ardour were attractive to females. CD and Wallace had discussed the subject at length; see especially Correspondence vol. 16.
William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, 3.1.85


Blanford, Henry Francis. 1874. On the age and correlations of the plant-bearing series of India, and the former existence of an Indo-Oceanic continent. [Read 16 December 1874.] Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London 31 (1875): 519–42.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 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.

EB: The Encyclopædia Britannica. A dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information. 11th edition. 29 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1910–11.

[Mivart, St George Jackson.] 1874b. Primitive man: Tylor and Lubbock. [Essay review of the works of John Lubbock and Edward Burnett Tylor.] Quarterly Review 137 (1874): 40–77.

Mivart, St George Jackson. 1876. Lessons from nature, as manifested in mind and matter. London: John Murray.

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.

Ramaswamy, Sumathi. 2004. The lost land of Lemuria: fabulous geographies, catastrophic histories. Berkeley, Calif., and London: University of California Press.

Schneider, Carl Friedrich Adolph. 1863. Bijdrage tot de geologische kennis van Timor. Natuurkundig Tijdschrift voor Nederlandsch Indië 25: 87–107

Sclater, Philip Lutley. 1864. The mammals of Madagascar. Quarterly Journal of Science 1: 213–19.

Volcanic islands: Geological observations on the volcanic islands, visited during the voyage of HMS Beagle, together with some brief notices on the geology of Australia and the Cape of Good Hope. Being the second part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1844.

Wallace, Alfred Russel. 1859. On the zoological geography of the Malay Archipelago. [Read 3 November 1859.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Zoology) 4 (1860): 172–84.


Further detailed comments on Geographical distribution.

Base treatment [of George Darwin] by Mivart in Quarterly Review [137 (1874): 40–77].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent from
Source of text
British Library (Add MS 46434)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10538,” accessed on 28 May 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24