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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. R. Wallace   [c. 10 April 1864]1


I see you have been reading a paper to the Linn. Soc. also, so I am sure you have little cause to say you are not doing much.2

I am sure Spencers Social Statics, wh. you so strongly recommend, wd be too deep for me, & I confess with shame & grief that I cannot fully appreciate this authors merits—occasionally a page or two of his last part on Biology is read to me—3 I can se⁠⟨⁠e⁠⟩⁠ that it is very clever, tho⁠⟨⁠ugh⁠⟩⁠ very wordy, & somehow does not satisfy me, & I do not feel a bit the wiser.

The doctors still maintain that I shall get well, but it will be months before I am able to work.

With every good wish | pray believe me | yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from A. R. Wallace, 10 May 1864 (Correspondence vol. 12), in which Wallace mentioned CD’s ‘letter of a month back’.
Wallace read his paper ‘On the phenomena of variation and geographical distribution as illustrated by the Papilionidæ of the Malayan region’ (A. R. Wallace 1864a) before the Linnean Society on 17 March 1864. He had also read a paper on the origin of human races before the Anthropological Society of London on 1 March 1864 (A. R. Wallace 1864b). In his letter of 10 May 1864, Wallace mentioned that he was sending CD a copy of his anthropological paper, and told CD where he could find an abstract of his Papilionidae paper. In his letter of 2 January 1864 (Correspondence vol. 12), Wallace had said, ‘With regard to work, I am doing but little’.
Spencer 1851. Herbert Spencer’s Principles of biology (Spencer 1864–7) was issued in parts, beginning in 1863. See also Correspondence vol. 12, letter from A. R. Wallace, 2 January 1864, and letter from J. D. Hooker, 3 November [1864].


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

Spencer, Herbert. 1851. Social statics: or, the conditions essential to human happiness specified, and the first of them developed. London: John Chapman.

Spencer, Herbert. 1864–7. The principles of biology. 2 vols. London: Williams & Norgate.

Wallace, Alfred Russel. 1864b. On the phenomena of variation and geographical distribution as illustrated by the Papilionidæ of the Malayan region. [Read 17 March 1864.] Transactions of the Linnean Society of London 25 (1865–6): 1–71.

Wallace, Alfred Russel. 1864d. The origin of human races and the antiquity of man deduced from the theory of ‘natural selection’. [Read 1 March 1864.] Anthropological Review 2: clviii–clxx.


Has seen that ARW has read a paper to the Linnean Society.

Thinks that Herbert Spencer’s Social Statics (Spencer 1851) would be too deep for him.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alfred Russel Wallace
Source of text
The Argyll Papers, Inveraray Castle (NRAS 1209/856)
Physical description
LS 2pp inc

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4378F,” accessed on 20 May 2024,