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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. R. Wallace   22 September [1865]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Sep 22

Dear Wallace

I am much obliged for your extract;2 I never heard of such a case, though such a variation is perhaps the most likely of any to occur in a state of nature & be inherited, inasmuch as all domesticated birds present races with a tuft or with reversed feathers on their heads. I have sometimes thought that the progenitor of the whole class must have been a crested animal.

Do you make any progress with your journal of travels?3 I am the more anxious that you shd do so as I have lately read with much interest some papers by you on the Ouran Outang &c—in the Annals of which I have lately been reading the latter volumes.4 I have always thought that Journals of this nature do considerable good by advancing the taste for Natural history; I know in my own case that nothing ever stimulated my zeal so much as reading Humboldt’s Personal Narrative.5

I have not yet recd the last part of Linn. Tran. but your paper at present will be rather beyond my strength,6 for tho’ somewhat better I can as yet do hardly anything but lie on the sofa & be read aloud to. By the way have you read Tyler & Lecky.7 Both these books have interested me much. I suppose you have read Lubbock.8 In the last Chap. there is a note about you in which I most cordially concur.9 I see you were at the Brit. Assoc. but I have heard nothing of it except what I have picked up in the Reader.10 I have heard a rumour that the Reader is sold to the Anthrop. Soc.11 If you do not begrudge the trouble of another note (for my sole channel of news thro’ Hooker is closed by his illness)12 I shd much like to hear whether the Reader is thus sold. I shd be very sorry for it as the paper wd thus become sectional in its tendency. If you write tell me what you are doing yourself.

The only news which I have about the Origin is that Fritz Müller published a few months ago a remarkable book in its favour13 & 2ndly that a 2nd French edition is just coming out14

Believe me dear Wallace | yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from A. R. Wallace, 18 September 1865.
In his letter to CD of 2 January 1864, Wallace mentioned that he had started work on a ‘small book’ of his travels, and that he hoped to finish it by Christmas 1864 (see Correspondence vol. 12, letter from A. R. Wallace, 2 January 1864 and n. 10). Wallace later recalled that he spent much of 1867 and 1868 writing The Malay Archipelago (A. R. Wallace 1869); he spent the preceding three years in preparatory work related to his collections (A. R. Wallace 1905, 1: 405–6).
Three articles by Wallace on orang-utans appeared in the Annals and Magazine of Natural History in 1856 (A. R. Wallace 1856a, 1856b, and 1856c; see also letter to J. D. Hooker, 27 [or 28 September 1865], n. 12).
CD’s seven volumes of Humboldt 1814–29, in various editions, all annotated, are in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 415–20). On 17 December 1840, CD recorded having read Humboldt 1814–29 (see Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, 119: 10a). On the inspiration CD derived from reading Alexander von Humboldt, see Correspondence vols. 1–3, and Autobiography, pp. 67–8.
The reference is to ‘On the phenomena of variation and geographical distribution as illustrated by the Papilionidae of the Malayan region’ (A. R. Wallace 1864d). A summarised version of the paper appeared in the Reader, 16 April 1864, pp. 491–3 (see Correspondence vol. 12, letter to Asa Gray, 28 May [1864], and letter to A. R. Wallace, 28 [May 1864] and n. 4, for CD’s enthusiastic response to the summary of Wallace 1864d).
CD refers to Tylor 1865 and Lecky 1865, both of which had been recommended by Joseph Dalton Hooker (see letters from J. D. Hooker, [26 May 1865] and 13 July 1865). CD had also recommended these books to Asa Gray (see letter to Asa Gray 15 August [1865]).
Lubbock 1865.
CD probably refers to John Lubbock’s remark about Wallace’s independent discovery of natural selection. In a passage scored in CD’s own copy in the Darwin Library–CUL (Lubbock 1865, p. 479; see Marginalia 1: 512–13), Lubbock writes: [Wallace] shows that the true solution of this difficulty lies in the theory of Natural Selection, which with characteristic unselfishness he ascribes unreservedly to Mr. Darwin, although, as is well known, he struck out the idea independently and published it, though not with the same elaboration, at the same time.
The Reader gave extensive coverage of the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held in Birmingham from 6 to 13 September 1865. The issue for 9 September 1865, pp. 291–6, covered the opening of the meeting and printed the presidential address of John Phillips (Phillips 1865), while that of 16 September 1865, pp. 321–5, reported on the sections. Numerous reports on papers given in the sections followed in subsequent issues. For a complete listing of articles related to the meeting see the index in the Reader 6 (1865): vii. Wallace was a member of the committee for Section D, zoology and botany (Reader, 16 September 1865, p. 325).
Joseph Dalton Hooker had suffered an attack of rheumatic fever shortly before his father’s death on 12 August 1865 and had not personally corresponded with CD since then (see letter from F. H. Hooker, [17 August 1865]).
Müller 1864. CD began corresponding with Fritz Müller after reading Müller’s book, a detailed study using evidence gathered from Crustacea to support CD’s theory of transmutation (see letter to Fritz Müller, 10 August [1865]).
The second French edition of Origin, translated by Clémence Auguste Royer, with notes by CD, was published by V. Masson et Fils, Guillaumin, in 1866 (Freeman 1977). See also letter from C. A. Royer, [April–June 1865] and n. 4. CD’s copy of Royer trans. 1866 is in the Darwin Library–Down House.


Autobiography: The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882. With original omissions restored. Edited with appendix and notes by Nora Barlow. London: Collins. 1958.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Humboldt, Alexander von. 1814–29. Personal narrative of travels to the equinoctial regions of the New Continent, during the years 1799–1804. By Alexander de Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland. Translated into English by Helen Maria Williams. 7 vols. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, & Brown; J. Murray; H. Colburn.

Lecky, William Edward Hartpole. 1865. History of the rise and influence of the spirit of rationalism in Europe. 2 vols. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, & Green.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

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.

Phillips, John. 1865. Address of the president. Report of the thirty-fifth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held at Birmingham, pp. li–lxvii.

Tylor, Edward Burnett. 1865. Researches into the early history of mankind and the development of civilization. London: John Murray.

Wallace, Alfred Russel. 1905. My life: a record of events and opinions. 2 vols. London: Chapman & Hall.


Crests as inherited variations; domesticated birds.

Belief in value of travel journals.

Current reading.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent from
Source of text
The British Library (Add. MS 46434 f. 56)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4896,” accessed on 7 December 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13