skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From A. R. Wallace   20 October 1869

9, St. Mark’s Crescent, N.W.

Octr. 20th. 1869.

Dear Darwin

I do not know your son’s (Mr G. Darwin’s) address at Cambridge. Will you be so good as to forward him the enclosed note begging for a little information.1

I was delighted to see the notice in the “Academy” that you are really going to bring out your book on Man.2 I anticipate for it an enormous sale, and shall read it with intense interest, although I expect to find in it more to differ from than in any of your other books.

Your reasonable & reasoning opponents are now taking the field. I have been writing a little notice of Murphy’s book “Habit & Intelligence”,—which with much that is strange & unintelligible contains some very acute criticisms and the statement of a few real difficulties.3

Another article just sent me from “the Month”—contains some good criticism    How incipient organs can be useful is a real difficulty, so is the independent origin of similar complex organs;—but most of his other points though well put are not very formidable.4

I am trying to begin a little book on the “Distribution of Animals”, but I fear I shall not make much of it from my idleness in collecting facts.5 I shall make it a popular sketch first, and if it succeeds gather materials for enlarging it at a future time.

If any suggestion occurs to you as to the kind of maps that would be best, or on any other essential point, I shd. be glad of a hint.

I hope your residence in Wales did you good. I had no idea you were so near Dolgelly till I met your son there one evening when I was going to leave the next morning.6 It is a glorious country but the time I like is May and June—the foliage is so glorious.

Sincerely hoping you are pretty well & with kind regards to Mrs. Darwin & the rest of your family | Believe me | Yours very faithfully | Alfred R. Wallace—

C. Darwin Esq.

CD annotations

3.1 I have … difficulties. 3.4] scored red crayon


Wallace refers to George Howard Darwin. The enclosure has not been found, but evidently was a request by Wallace for George’s opinion of a book by James Challis, Notes on the principles of pure and applied calculation: and applications of mathematical principles to theories of the physical forces (Challis 1869). George’s response to Wallace, dated 23 October 1869, is in the British Library (Add.46434, f. 191).
The reference is to Descent (see Academy 1 (1869–70): 15–16). The notice appeared in the 9 October 1869 issue under the heading ‘Scientific notes’ and described the book as consisting of three parts, descent of man, sexual selection, and expression of the emotions.
Wallace refers to Joseph John Murphy and Murphy 1869. Wallace reviewed Murphy 1869 in the 25 November 1869 issue of Nature (Wallace 1869d).
The unsigned article, ‘Difficulties of the theory of natural selection’ (Anon. 1869c) appeared in three parts from July to September in the Month, a periodical owned by the Jesuits (ODNB s.v. Coleridge, Henry James). For the author’s argument concerning incipient organs, see Anon. 1869c, pp. 42–8.
Wallace refers to The geographical distribution of animals (Wallace 1876).
CD had visited Caerdeon, Barmouth, Wales, in June and July 1869 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 17, Appendix II)). Although all of CD’s sons spent some time in Wales during CD’s visit, it is likely that Wallace refers to George, who arrived on 16 June (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).


Challis, James. 1869. Notes on the principles of pure and applied calculation: and applications of mathematical principles to theories of the physical forces. Cambridge: Deighton, Bell and Co.

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.

Murphy, Joseph John. 1869. Habit and intelligence in their connexion with the laws of matter and force: a series of scientific essays. 2 vols. London: Macmillan and Co.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


Looks forward to Descent, though he expects to find more to differ with than in any other of CD’s books.

Problems of usefulness of incipient organs and of the independent origin of similar complex organs are real difficulties.

Plans a little book on "Distribution of animals".

Letter details

Letter no.
Alfred Russel Wallace
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, St Mark’s Crescent, 9
Source of text
DAR 106: B86–7
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6949,” accessed on 8 March 2021,

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