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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Edward Blyth   17 April 1869

21 Chalcot Crescent, | Regent’s Pk, N.W.,

April 17/69

Dear Mr. Darwin,

Observe the above address, for I have moved into more comfortable & roomy quarters. I regret exceedingly to learn 〈of〉 your accident, but must nevertheless congratulate you on its being no worse.1 As for the mandrills, I saw the other day at Antwerp adult male, female, and their offspring about 3 weeks old (& remarkably large), but the grown ones were so deep in clean straw that I could not have observed their extent of bareness, even had I tried to do so. This, by the way, was an excellent device to conceal the too demonstrative and gorgeous coloured nudities of the mandrills. There is a young one 〈    〉 in the Regent’s Park collection, & also a juvenile drill. I will endeavour to ascertain what you desire as soon as I can manage it, but the next private day at the B.M. is Tuesday, before which I cannot get to examine any of the contents of the cases in the public rooms.2

Have you seen the just-published portion of the Procs. Z. S.? It contains a paper by Gray on the Canidæ, in which are some remarks on natural selection which will amuse you somewhat.3

I have just received this weeks Land & Water, & in the Paris correspondent’s letter (he is the Hon. H. Bingham) you will see some notice of an article on hybrids in the Revue des Deux Mondes, which letter must be worth your looking over.4 I doubt if you will recognise me under the occasional signature of “Caviller”, writing about the Sequoia;5 but I did send a review for publication this week on a manufactured book of travels, entitled “the Ruined Cities of Zulu Land”, which I have been demolishing unmercifully so much so that I fancy the general editor (Glass) hardly likes to offend the publisher, Chapman & Hall, by putting it in!6 However, I will shew it to Chapman myself, for I suspect that he has been taken in by those fictitious travels, as the reviewer in last week’s Athenæum was decidedly, & there is a letter from the author in this week’s Athenæum which bears out my view of the matter.7 I believe that it will appear yet. You will have seen the first part of my review of Wallace’s new book, which I was obliged to write somewhat hastily, & I have yet to follow it up as I of course mean to do.8

Yours very truly, | E. Blyth


No letter has been found in which CD told Blyth of his accident, which occurred on 8 or 9 April (see letter to A. R. Wallace, 14 April 1869 and n. 12).
No letter to Blyth has been found in which CD enquired about mandrills. CD discussed the colouring of adult male mandrills in Descent 2: 292, 296, 310, but did not cite Blyth. Blyth had visited Antwerp in 1868 (see Correspondence vol. 16, letter from Edward Blyth, 20 November 1868). Blyth also refers to the gardens of the Zoological Society in Regent’s Park, London, and to the British Museum. CD suspected that the hairlessness of the faces and buttocks of some monkeys was due to sexual selection (see Descent 2: 376–7). The mandrill is Mandrillus sphinx, the drill Mandrillus leucophaeus.
In his article in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London (J. E. Gray 1868), John Edward Gray commented (ibid., p. 510): How any one can think that the differences between varieties of domestic animals are such as zoologists would use to distinguish genera and species, is a mystery that I cannot understand; and the theory that the variation produced by breeding and weeding, or selection as it is called, is to be regarded as the origin of the difference between natural species, is more astonishing, and can only have arisen for want of careful study of the subject. There are some minds so constituted, even among the well educated, who believe in animal magnetism, metallic tactors, table-turning, phrenology, spiritualism, mesmerism, the great pyramid, natural selection, and mimicry of animals—and some even two or more of these theories in succession, or at the same time.
The article in Land and Water, 17 April 1869, p. 255, referred to Armand de Quatrefage’s articles on CD’s theory (Quatrefages de Bréau 1868–9). H. Bingham has not been further identified.
In Land and Water, 17 April 1869, p. 255, Blyth argued that the genus Sequoia was identical with the genus Wellingtonia.
Blyth refers to Walmsley 1869, published by Chapman & Hall. Glass has not been further identified.
Blyth refers to John Chapman. Walmsley 1869 was reviewed in the Athenæum, 10 April 1869, pp. 499–500; the reviewer, John Doran, remarked, ‘The … book partakes of romance so much that it is difficult to pluck reality out of it.’ In a response in the Athenæum, 17 April 1869, pp. 537–8, the author wrote that his only object in writing the book had been to promote research.
Blyth refers to Alfred Russel Wallace and to Wallace’s Malay Archipelago (Wallace 1869a). Blyth’s review has not been found.


Athenæum. 1844. A few words by way of comment on Miss Martineau’s statement. No. 896 (28 December): 1198–9.

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

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Walmsley, Hugh Mulleneux. 1869. The ruined cities of Zulu land. 2 vols. London: Chapman & Hall.


Will attempt to provide CD with the information requested as soon as he can.

Gives references to some recent papers and articles which might interest CD.

Is currently reviewing Wallace’s new book [Malay Archipelago].

Letter details

Letter no.
Edward Blyth
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Chalcot Crescent, 21
Source of text
DAR 160: 224
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6699,” accessed on 21 September 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17