skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Edwin Brown   14 February 1863

Burton on Trent

14 Feby 1863

Dear Sir

I send you by this same post a copy of my second paper on the Mutability of Race Forms1   Perhaps one or two of the points mentioned may be of interest to you— You will be amused to see what a wasps nest I have got into— the remarks however are so wild & puerile that I have announced my intention of leaving them to their own refutation   Mr Westwood will probably give me a rejoinder2

I believe it is the right way to go to work to carry the war into the enemies’ camp & after showing a prima facie case against immutability to defy the advocates to prove the affirmative of their case

The speakers mentioned several things as facts which I doubt very much   One man (Mr Gregson) I know to be most reckless of the truth of his assertions3

It is no wish of mine to advance anything as a New theory— I merely wish to establish the fact of mutability from whatsoever cause ⁠⟨⁠it⁠⟩⁠ may arise   You have shown most admirably how variation may arise in one way all of which I fully believe but I think that is only a portion of a wider law4

My friend H W Bates & myself had each curiously enough fixed upon the Carabidae & the Vanessae as groups particularly well suited for working out the laws of relationship— I have given up to him the Vanessae & he has I think left the Carabs to me5

I am Dr Sir | Yours very truly | Edw Brown

Chas Darwin Esq


The reference is to E. Brown 1862b; a lightly annotated copy is preserved in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Brown sent CD a copy of his first paper, ‘On the mutability of specific or race forms’, in October 1862 (E. Brown 1862a; see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to H. W. Bates, 15 October [1862]). In his second paper, Brown replied to his critics in the Northern Entomological Society, where his case for the mutability of species was pronounced ‘not proven’. The discussions on the issue are reproduced in the Proceedings of the Northern Entomological Society of 28 July 1862, p. 18, 4 October 1862, pp. 8–13, and 22 December 1862, pp. 14–23.
John Obadiah Westwood was the principal critic of Brown’s first paper, arguing in a letter published in the Proceedings of the Northern Entomological Society, 4 October 1862, pp. 9–13, that certain species had remained essentially unchanged through thousands of years of existence, and demanding evidence of the mutability of species. Brown attempted to answer these objections (E. Brown 1862b, pp. 7–12), but there is no evidence that Westwood responded.
The reference is to Charles Stuart Gregson. Gregson’s remarks appeared in the Proceedings of the Northern Entomological Society, 4 October 1862, p. 9, and 22 December 1862, pp. 16–19.
Brown took the view that in emphasising variation by natural selection, CD had neglected the influence of climate, food, and ‘the accumulative effects of those apparently causeless individual variations that take place at every generation’ (E. Brown 1862a, p. 9).
Henry Walter Bates described Brown as ‘my earliest Naturalist friend’ (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from H. W. Bates, 17 October 1862). Carabidae are a family of beetles and Vanessae are a family of butterflies, now known as Nymphalidae (Westwood 1838, p. 405; Grzimek ed. 1975, pp. 546, 553).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.


Sends copy of his second paper on mutability of race forms ["On the mutability of species", Proceedings of the Northern Entomological Society, 22 December 1862, pp.4–26].

On tactics of his opponents.

He and Bates have divided up Carabidae and Vanessa for studying relationship of forms.

Letter details

Letter no.
Edwin Brown
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 160: 325
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3983,” accessed on 22 May 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11