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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Raphael Meldola   27 September [1877]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.

Sept. 27

My dear Sir

It is impossible for F. M. to object to any thing which you have said in your very interesting little essay.—2 I just allude to Butterflies preferring certain colours at p. 317 of 2d. Edit of the Descent & to the case of 1 sp. of Castnia p. 315 which has ornamented hinder wings & displays them, whilst 2 other sp. have plain hind wings & do not display them.3 My son,4 who has charge of my library, returns home to night & then we will search for Weismann. He gives splendid case of caterpillar with coloured ocelli like true eyes, & which frightened away birds.—5

Yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to Raphael Meldola, 22 September [1877].
See letter from Raphael Meldola, 21 September 1877 and n. 1. Meldola published extracts from Fritz Müller’s letter to CD of 14 June 1871 (see Correspondence vol. 19) in a paper on evidence for the operation of natural selection in butterflies (Meldola 1878).
Meldola included both these references to Descent 2d ed. in Meldola 1878, p. 156 nn. CD cited Fritz Müller for information on three species of Castnia, considered at the time to be a butterfly genus, but now reclassified as a moth genus. See also Correspondence vol. 20, letter from Fritz Müller, 16 January 1872 and n. 6.
See letter to Raphael Meldola, 22 September [1877]. CD had offered to lend Meldola a paper by August Weismann on seasonal dimorphism in butterflies (Weismann 1875), published as part I of Studien zur Descendenz-Theorie (studies on evolution). CD evidently also lent part II (Weismann 1876), Über die letzten Ursachen der Transmutationen (On recent causes of transmutation), in which Weismann concluded that in some cases eye-like markings helped caterpillars mimic snakes (ibid., p. 107). See also letter to August Weismann, 12 January 1877.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Descent 2d ed.: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. London: John Murray. 1874.

Meldola, Raphael. 1878. Entomological notes bearing on evolution. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 5th ser. 1: 155–61.

Weismann, August. 1876. Studien zur Descendenz-Theorie. II. Über die letzten Ursachen der Transmutationen. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann.


Does not think Fritz Müller can object to anything RM has said in his essay.

Has alluded to colour preference among butterflies in Descent [1: 400–1].

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11154,” accessed on 27 May 2024,