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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. R. Wallace   14 April 1869

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

Ap. 14. 1869

My dear Wallace

I have been wonderfully interested by your article, & I shd think Lyell will be much gratified by it.1 I declare if I had been editor & had the power of directing you I shd have selected for discussion the very points which you have chosen. I have often said to younger geologists (for I began in the year 1830) that they did not know what a revolution Lyell had effected; nevertheless yr extracts from Cuvier have quite astonished me.2 Though not able really to judge, I am inclined to put more confidence in Croll than you seem to do; but I have been much struck by many of yr remarks on degradation.3

Thompson’s views of the recent age of the world have been for some time one of my sorest troubles, & so I have been glad to read what you say.4 Your exposition of Nat. selection seems to me inimitably good; there never lived a better expounder than you. I was also much pleased at yr discussing the difference between our views & Lamarck’s.5 One sometimes sees the odious expression “Justice to myself compels me to say &c”; but you are the only man I ever heard of who persistently does himself an injustice & never demands justice. Indeed you ought in the review to have alluded to yr paper in Linn. Journal, & I feel sure all our friends will agree in this.6 But you cannot “Burke” yourself, however much you may try, as may be seen in half the articles which appear. I was asked but the other day by a German Prof. for yr paper which I sent him.7 Altogether I look at yr article as appearing in the Q-ly as an immense triumph for our cause. I presume that yr remarks on Man are those to which you alluded in yr note.8

If you had not told me I shd have thought that they had been added by some one else. As you expected I differ grievously from you, & I am very sorry for it. I can see no necessity for calling in an additional & proximate cause in regard to Man.9 But the subject is too long for a letter. I have been particularly glad to read yr discussion because I am now writing & thinking much about man.

I hope that yr Malay book sells well: I was extremely pleased with the Art. in the Q. J. of science, inasmuch as it is thoroughly appreciative of yr work: Alas! you will probably agree with what the writer says about the uses of the bamboo.10

I hear that there is also a good article in the Sat. Rev., but have heard nothing more about it.11

Believe me my dear Wallace | yours ever sincerely | Ch. Darwin

P.S. I have had a baddish fall. My horse partly rolling over me, but I am getting rapidly well—12


Wallace had published a review of the latest editions of Charles Lyell’s Principles of geology and Elements of geology (C. Lyell 1865 and 1867–8) in the Quarterly Review ([Wallace] 1869b). See also letter from A. R. Wallace, 24 March 1869.
CD went on a geological tour of North Wales in 1831 (see Correspondence vol. 1, Lucas 2002, and Herbert 2005). Lyell was a proponent of the ‘uniformitarian’ school of geology, according to which geological phenomena had been created by the action of causes still in operation at the present day; Georges Cuvier had been a proponent of the opposing ‘catastrophist’ school, which maintained that geological phenomena had been formed by catastrophic events in the past, including, according to some, the biblical flood. In his article, Wallace quoted from Cuvier’s Essay on the theory of the earth (Cuvier 1827).
CD refers to James Croll and his calculations of the date of the glacial epoch; see [Wallace] 1869b, pp. 376–9. Wallace argued that the rate of subaerial denudation of some present-day rivers was not a conclusive means of determining the age of the earth.
William Thomson held that the crust of the earth had solidified only 100 million years ago, and had criticised CD’s estimate in the first edition of Origin of 300 million years for the denudation of the Weald (see W. Thomson 1862a, pp. 391–2). See also Correspondence vol. 16, letter to G. H. Darwin, [9 December 1868].
In [Wallace] 1869b, pp. 381–2, Wallace criticised Jean Baptiste Lamarck’s supposition of a ‘tendency to progressive development’.
Charles Lyell and Joseph Dalton Hooker had communicated CD and Wallace’s papers on the theory of natural selection to the Linnean Society in 1858 under the title ‘On the tendency of species to form varieties; and on the perpetuation of varieties and species by natural means of selection’ (Darwin and Wallace 1858; see Correspondence vol. 7).
CD refers to William Thierry Preyer. See letter from W. T. Preyer, 21 March 1869.
The Malay Archipelago (Wallace 1869a) was anonymously reviewed with another work in the Quarterly Journal of Science 6 (1869): 165–79. Of bamboo, the author wrote (ibid., p. 172): ‘if we wish for a mass of evidence in favour of design, before which Paley pales, we need only read the author’s account of the Bamboo and its uses.... He shows that it is indispensable to the natives. Looking at their mental condition, they could not have existed without it, or some similar boon of Providence.’ The reference is to William Paley.
See Saturday Review 27: 427–8, 456–7 (issues of 27 March and 3 April 1869).
On 8 or 9 April, CD was thrown by his horse, Tommy, and suffered serious bruising to his back. There is an account of the accident in the letter from H. E. Darwin to G. H. Darwin, 10 April [1869] (DAR 245: 291). Henrietta wrote that the accident happened on Thursday (8 April); Emma Darwin recorded in her diary (DAR 242) that it happened on Friday 9 April.


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

Cuvier, Georges. 1827. Essay on the theory of the earth. Translated by Robert Kerr. 5th edition. Edinburgh: William Blackwood. London: T. Cadell.

Herbert, Sandra. 2005. Charles Darwin, geologist. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.

Lyell, Charles. 1865. Elements of geology, or the ancient changes of the earth and its inhabitants as illustrated by geological monuments. 6th edition, revised. London: John Murray.

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.


ARW’s review of 10th ed. of Lyell’s Principles [see 6684] is admirable.

But he differs "grievously" with ARW on man. CD sees no necessity for an additional and proximate cause.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent from
Source of text
The British Library (Add MS 46434: 181–3)
Physical description
LS 5pp & ADraftS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6706,” accessed on 20 April 2024,

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