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Darwin Correspondence Project

From B. D. Walsh   17 July 1866

Rock Island, Ill. U.S. July 17, 1866

Chas. Darwin Esq.

My dear Sir,

I sent you by mail last week a short paper of mine exposing some misquotations of Prof. Dana’s, which I hope you have received.1

I received in due course your welcome letter of April 20, & was rejoiced to find that you were preparing a new Edition of the Origin.2 As you are kind enough to promise me a copy, please forward it to me through Baillière 219 Regent St. to Baillière Bros. of New York, with whom I deal, to be sent thence to me by Express.3 The Smithsonian Institution is so awfully slow in their operations, that they quite put me out of patience.4 Curiously enough, the same mail that brought me your last letter brought me also one from Wilson Armistead, saying that he had only just received my box of galls, though I had sent it to the Smithsonian the preceding autumn.5 He was delighted with what I sent, & like Oliver Twist calls out for more.6 I am gathering together another lot for him. I had sent him two bottles of galls packed in common salt brine, by way of experiment, & he says it is a complete success & far superior to alcohol—the chief disadvantage being that it is so vulgarly cheap.

I had a copy sent me the other day of an “Analysis of Darwin Huxley & Lyell, by Henry A. Dubois of New York” being a reprint in pamphlet form from the “American Quarterly Church Review”, which by the way I never heard of before.7 The writer is a beautiful compound of fool & knave & makes some most ludicrous blunders in Natural History; besides accusing you of setting up a new God—yes, a real, personal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God—called “Natural Selection”.8 Hence, one would infer that you must be a Deist. But when he comes to attack Huxley, he talks of “the atheistical views embraced in Darwin’s hypothesis”; so that you must be Deist & Atheist both at the same time.9 “Throw plenty of mud, & some of it is sure to stick”. My correspondent (Wm. Edwards of N.Y.)10 wanted me to review the review; but I thought it answered itself sufficiently, & that anyhow “the game would not pay for the candle”.11

I believe I have done some little good, at all events among N.A. entomologists, in the way of converting them to the true philosophical faith on the origin of species.12 For I find a great many of them now who take much the same ground as Rev. Herbert,13 but cannot as yet “go the whole hog”, as we say out West.

Have you read Clark’s book on “Mind in Nature”? He strikes me as having almost as illogical a mind as Prof. Agassiz. From one end to the other of the Book I don’t see a single new fact or new argument to carry out his thesis, namely that “Mind” exists in Nature. But, so far as I am a judge, his original investigations seem very valuable.14 I never knew before the history of Agassiz’s treatment of him. It always puzzled me why there was no titlepage to the two first parts of the “Contributions”, but now I fully understand the why & the wherefore.15

You mentioned some time ago the case of a foreign gall-fly having suddenly spread over England.16 Was it not a species that made its gall on the leaf, so that leaf & gall together might be blown great distances by the wind? I have often remarked that our “Oak-apples” are carried by the wind hundreds of yards with the living insect in them; but the species that make their galls in the twig, so that they are part & parcel of the twig itself, infest the same tree year after year, without spreading, except very slowly indeed sometimes, to adjoining trees.

I find that my Paper on Dimorphism in Cynips was reviewed by Dr. Reinhard in the Berlin Entom. Periodical;17 & that he proposes two hypotheses to account for my facts, 1st. that spongifica & aciculata are distinct species, making undistinguishable galls on the same oak, 2nd. that spongifica is an inquiline.18 But my this year’s experiments confirm the fact that aciculata generates spongifica & aciculata indiscriminately; & by next fall I shall in all human probability have facts to show that aciculata (A) generates aciculata (B), & that in the following season aciculata (B) generates aciculata (C), all of them being ♀ ♀ & agamous. I have little doubt now that this process goes on for a considerable number of years in certain species—commonly called agamous—say for 10 or 15 years, until at last a brood of ♂ ♂ appears. This would be altogether analagous to the case of Aphis ♀ producing 8 or 9 broods of ♀ ♀ through the summer by parthenogenesis & finally in the autumn ♂ ♂.19 I am aware that the Germans maintain that the agamous Aphis has no true ovary or “egg-stock” but only a “bud-stock”; but this seems to me a mere verbal distinction. Is it not essential to gemmative reproduction that it should be on the surface of the plant or animal & not in its interior?20

I have the concluding part of my Willow Gall Paper now ready for the press. There are some facts in it respecting Galls that I think will please you, showing that Gall-making insects must have originated according to your theory.21 In the autumn I shall probably throw together the facts respecting Dimorphism in Cynips, which I have been accumulating now for two years.

I discovered this morning that a pale green fleshy gall on the leaf of the Grape-vine, which had been described by Dr. Fitch as Aphidian & referred to the genus Pemphigus, though he was unacquainted with the winged insect, is in reality the work of a Coccus!!! I believe this is the first recorded instance of any species of that family producing galls; at least my books mention none such.22 The gall is about like this


& globular, & occurs very abundantly, some leaves being almost covered with them. Inside there is a true wingless Coccus with a parcel of eggs—say 100—many of which are already hatched out—& no powdery or cottony matter among the young lice, as is always the case with the young plant-lice in galls. Besides, eggs are never found in Aphidian galls, the mother-louse generating viviparously. I wonder if you have any such galls in England.

Yours very truly | Benj. D. Walsh

CD annotations

3.1 Analysis of … York 3.2] double scored blue crayon
5.1 Have … Nature”?] double scored blue crayon
6.2 Was … wind? 6.3] double scored blue crayon
7.4 But … indiscriminately; 7.5] double scored blue crayon


Walsh refers to his article on James Dwight Dana (Walsh 1866c) and to Dana’s article (Dana 1866). Walsh had previously criticised Dana’s theory of classification in Walsh 1864a, pp. 238–49.
In his letter to Walsh of [19] April [1866], CD remarked that he was preparing a fourth edition of Origin. Walsh’s name is on the presentation list for the book (see Correspondence vol. 14, Appendix IV).
The French bookselling and publishing firm of Hippolyte Baillière had offices at 219 Regent Street, London, and 290 Broadway, New York (Baillière 1853, Post Office London directory 1866).
Walsh refers to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.
See letter from B. D. Walsh, 13 March 1866 and n. 8, and letter to B. D. Walsh, [19] April [1866] and n. 5.
The eponymous hero of Charles Dickens’s novel Oliver Twist (Dickens 1838), asked for more gruel after three months in the workhouse.
Walsh refers to ‘The origin and antiquity of man: Darwin, Huxley and Lyell’ by Henry Augustus Dubois. The three-part article was published anonymously in the 1865 volume of American Quarterly Church Review and Ecclesiastical Register ([Dubois] 1865), and evidently issued as an offprint under the author’s name.
Dubois claimed that in Origin, CD had defined natural selection as a ‘blind and materialistic’ force, but that ‘with singular inconsistency’ he had invested ‘physical agents with the attributes of a provident Deity’ ([Dubois] 1865, pp. 174, 190). For a discussion of similar criticisms of Origin, see the letter from A. R. Wallace, 2 July 1866 and nn. 2 and 3.
Dubois claimed that in Man’s place in nature (T. H. Huxley 1863a), Thomas Henry Huxley sought ‘to disseminate the atheistical views embraced in Darwin’s hypothesis’ ([Dubois] 1865, p. 337).
Walsh refers to William Henry Edwards.
A variation of the expression ‘The game is not worth the candle’.
On Walsh’s enthusiastic support of CD’s theory, see Walsh 1864d, Correspondence vol. 12, letter from B. D. Walsh, 7 November 1864, and Sorensen 1995.
CD discussed William Herbert’s work on plant hybridisation in Origin, pp. 246–51, and added a summary of his view on species in the historical sketch in Origin 3d ed., p. xiv: ‘the Dean believes that single species of each genus were created in an originally highly plastic condition, and that these have produced, chiefly by intercrossing, but likewise by variation, all our existing species’. For other remarks by CD on Herbert, see the letter to George Henslow, 15 [June 1866] and nn. 6–8.
Walsh refers to Mind in nature: or, the origin of life, and the mode of development of animals by Henry James Clark, a former student and assistant of Louis Agassiz at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard. Clark defended spontaneous generation on the grounds that it allowed for the continuous operation of ‘the Creator’s controlling hand’ (H. J. Clark 1865, pp. 28–9), and concluded, ‘Thus it appears that there is a plainly visible, intelligent, controlling power, which is manifested, with unvarying regularity of character, in each of the five groups of animals’ (ibid., p. 314). CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–Down (see Marginalia 1: 166–7). He cited H. J. Clark 1865 on the close relationship between reproduction by self-division and budding in his chapter on pangenesis in Variation 2: 358–9.
Clark had been employed by Agassiz in 1855 to assist him in the preparation of Contributions to the natural history of the United States of America. The four-volume work appeared with Agassiz as the sole author (J. L. R. Agassiz 1857–62), although Clark had performed much of the microscopical and embryological research and had written substantial portions of the sections on jellyfish. A dispute arose between the men, partly over Clark’s efforts to gain acknowledgment as an independent author. Clark circulated a statement of his case against Agassiz to zoologists and scientific societies in America and Europe, and reiterated his claim in H. J. Clark 1865, pp. 37–8 n. For an account of the dispute, see Winsor 1991, pp. 47–65.
CD had reported that a new gall had recently appeared in England and spread rapidly (see Correspondence vol. 13, letter to B. D. Walsh, 19 December [1865] and n. 3).
Walsh’s paper, ‘On dimorphism in the hymenopterous genus Cynips’ (Walsh 1864c), was reviewed by Hermann Reinhard in Berliner Entomologische Zeitschrift (Reinhard 1865). CD’s annotated copy of Walsh’s paper is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Walsh had argued that the gall insect Cynips quercus aciculata was a dimorphic female form of C. q. spongifica (Walsh 1864c, pp. 447–8). See also Correspondence vol. 12. Reinhard has not been further identified.
See Reinhard 1865, p. 9.
Walsh gave a similar account of his research on Cynips, noting the analogy with reproduction in Aphis, in his letter to CD of 12 November 1865 (Correspondence vol. 13).
Walsh and CD had previously discussed reproduction by gemmation in Aphis and other species (see Correspondence vol. 13, letter to B. D. Walsh, 19 December [1865] and nn. 7 and 8).
The reference is to Walsh 1866b. There is a heavily annotated copy in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Walsh had sent CD the first part of the paper the previous year (Walsh 1864b; see Correspondence vol. 13, letter from B. D. Walsh, 1 March 1865 and n. 14). Walsh remarked that the study of gall-making insects had important implications for the origin of species (Walsh 1866b, p. 274). In his concluding remarks, he stated that the distribution of gall insects among different genera was inexplicable according to ‘the Creative Theory’; he added: ‘if our modern species were genetically derived from pre-existing species, several new species being generated from one old one, and whole groups from time to time becoming extinct, the actual state of facts … is precisely that which we should … expect to meet with’ (Walsh 1866b, pp. 287–8). The paper is cited in Variation 2: 282.
Walsh described the gall insect in Walsh 1866b, pp. 283–4, noting that it had been wrongly classified by Asa Fitch within the genus of gall-forming aphids, Pemphigus, and claiming that it ‘must become the type of a new and very aberrant genus’ of the family Coccidae (ibid., p. 284 n.).


Agassiz, Louis. 1857–62. Contributions to the natural history of the United States of America. 4 vols. Boston, Mass.: Little, Brown & Company. London: Trübner.

Baillière, Hippolyte. 1853. Catalogue of scientific books. London: Schulze & Co.

Clark, Henry James. 1865. Mind in nature; or the origin of life, and the mode of development of animals. New York: D. Appleton and Company.

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

Dana, James Dwight. 1866. On cephalization; no. IV: explanations drawn out by the statements of an objector. American Journal of Science and Arts 2d ser. 41: 163–74.

Dickens, Charles. 1838. Oliver Twist; or the parish boy’s progress. 3 vols. London: Richard Bentley.

[Dubois, Henry A.] 1865. The orgin and antiquity of man: Darwin, Huxley and Lyell. American Quarterly Church Review and Ecclesiastical Register 17: 169–98, 337–66, 505–34.

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 3d ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 3d edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1861.

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.

Post Office London directory: Post-Office annual directory. … A list of the principal merchants, traders of eminence, &c. in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent … general and special information relating to the Post Office. Post Office London directory. London: His Majesty’s Postmaster-General [and others]. 1802–1967.

Reinhard, Hermann. 1865. Die Hypothesen über die Fortpflanzungsweise bei den eingeschlechtigen Gallwespen. Berliner Entomologische Zeitschrift 9: 1–13.

Sorensen, W. Conner. 1995. Brethren of the net. American entomology, 1840–1880. Tuscaloosa and London: University of Alabama Press.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.

Winsor, Mary Pickard. 1991. Reading the shape of nature. Comparative zoology at the Agassiz museum. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.


On H. A. Dubois’ attack on "Darwin, Huxley and Lyell"

and H. J. Clark’s Mind in nature [1865].

BDW’s work [on Cynipidae].

Letter details

Letter no.
Benjamin Dann Walsh
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Rock Island, Ill.
Source of text
Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago
Physical description
6pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5159,” accessed on 23 October 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14