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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. R. Wallace   22 November [1870]1

Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

Nov 22d

My dear Wallace

I must ease myself by writing a few words to say how much I & all others in this house admire your article in Nature.2 You are certainly an unparalleled master in lucidly stating a case & in arguing. Nothing ever was better done than your argument about term “origin of species” & the consequences about much being gained, even if we know nothing about precise cause of each variation.—3 By chance I have given a few words in my 1st. Vol. now some time printed off about mimetic butterflies & have touched on two of your points, viz on species already widely dissimilar not being made to resemble each other, & about the variations in Lepidoptera being often well-pronounced.4

How strange it is that Mr Bennett or anyone else shd. bring in the action of the mind as a leading cause of variation seeing the beautiful & complex adaptations & modifications of structure in plants, which I do not suppose they wd say had minds.—5

I have finished 1st Vol. & am half-way through first proofs of 2d Vol. of my confounded book, which half-kills me by fatigue & which I much fear will quite kill me in your good estimation.—6

If you have leisure I shd much like a little news of you & your doings & your family.—

Ever yours very sincerely | Ch Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from A. R. Wallace, 24 November 1870.
CD refers to Wallace’s response to an article by Alfred William Bennett on natural selection (Wallace 1870d; Bennett 1870); Wallace 1870d was published in the 17 November 1870 number of Nature. There is an annotated copy in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
In Wallace 1870d, Wallace had responded to Bennett’s calculation of the number of generations he thought was necessary before a favourable change in colour was acquired by a mimicking butterfly; as a result of his calculation, Bennett argued that mimicry in Lepidoptera could not occur through natural selection (see Bennett 1870, pp. 30–1, and Wallace 1870d, p. 49). For CD on variations in Lepidoptera, see Descent 1: 402, 412.
See Descent 1: 412. CD wrote about mimicry in Lepidoptera in ibid., pp. 411–15.
Bennett wrote (Bennett 1870, p. 32): ‘I cannot but believe in the existence of an unconscious Organising Intelligence, … And if this inherent innate power of change is admitted, it at once harmonises the tendency to variation which exists in all created beings’.
CD refers to Descent.


Bennett, Alfred William. 1870. The theory of natural selection from a mathematical point of view. Nature 3: 30–3.

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


Praise for ARW’s reply [Nature 3 (1870): 49–50] to a paper by A. W. Bennett ["Natural selection from a mathematical point of view", Nature 3 (1870): 30–3] holding that mind is a leading cause of variation.

Is reading proof of his "confounded book" [Descent].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent from
Source of text
The British Library (Add MS 46434: 207–8)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7380,” accessed on 6 February 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18