skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. R. Wallace   30 January [1871]1

Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

Jan. 30th

My dear Wallace

Your note has given me very great pleasure, chiefly because I was so anxious not to treat you with the least disrespect, & it is so difficult to speak fairly when differing from any one.2 If I had offended you, it wd. have grieved me more than you will readily believe.— Secondly I am greatly pleased to hear that vol. I interests you; I have got so sick of whole subject that I felt in utter doubt about value of any part.— I intended when speaking of female not having been specially modified for protection to include the prevention of characters acquired by the ♂ being transmitted to ♀; but I now see it wd have been better to have said “specially acted on” or some such term.3 Possibly my intention may be clearer in vol. 2.— Let me say that my conclusions are chiefly founded on consideration of all animals taken in body, bearing in mind how common the rules of sexual differences appear to be in all classes.—

The first copy of the Ch. on Lepidoptera agreed pretty closely with you— I then worked on, came back to Lepidoptera, & thought myself compelled to alter it—finished sexual selection & for last time went over Lepidoptera & again I felt forced to alter it.—4

I hope to God there will be nothing disagreeable to you in Vol. 2. & that I have spoken fairly of your views.—5 I feel the more fearful on this head, because I have just read (but not with sufficient care) Mivarts Book, & I feel absolutely certain that he meant to be fair (but he was stimulated by theological fervour); yet I do not think he has been quite fair: he gives in one place only half of one of my sentences—ignores in many places all that I have said on effects of use—speaks of my dogmatic assertion, “of false belief.”—whereas the end of paragraph seems to me to render sentence by no means dogmatic or arrogant—&c &c— I have since its publication received some quite charming letters from him.6

What an ardent (& most justly) admirer he is of you.—7 His work I do not doubt will have a most potent influence versus Nat. selection. The pendulum will now swing against us.— The part which, I think, will have most influence is when he gives whole series of cases, like that of whalebone, in which we cannot explain the gradational steps; but such cases have no weight on my mind—if few fish were extinct who on earth wd. have ventured even to conjecture that Lungs had originated in swim-bladder?— I cd give indications on most of these cases, as mammary glands.8 In such a case as Thylacinus I think he was bound to say that the resemblance of jaw to that of Dog is superficial; the number & correspondence & development of teeth being widely different.—9 I think again when speaking of the necessity of altering a number of characters together, he ought to have thought of man having power by selection to modify simultaneously or almost simultaneously many points, as in making a greyhound or race-horse,—as enlarged upon in my Domestic Animals.—10

Mivart is savage or contemptuous about my “Moral sense” & so probably will you be.—11 I am extremely pleased that he agrees with my position, as far as animal nature is concerned, of man in the series; or if anything thinks I have erred in making him too distinct.12

Forgive me for scribbling at such length.—

You have put me quite in good spirits,—I did so dread having been unintentionally unfair towards your views.— I hope earnestly 2d vol. will escape as well.— I care now very little what others say. As for our not quite agreeing, really in such complex subjects, it is almost impossible for 2 men, who arrive independently at their conclusions to agree—fully— it wd be unnatural for them to do so.—

Yours ever very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from A. R. Wallace, 27 January 1871.
See letter from A. R. Wallace, 27 January 1871 and n. 2, and Descent 1: 405. CD doubted that the dull colour of some female butterflies could be universally explained as a result of natural selection for protection, whether they were imagined to have been modified by natural selection, or whether natural selection was held to have prevented variation from their original dull state, as Wallace believed.
CD refers to chapter 11 of Descent (Descent 1: 386–423); he referred to his difference with Wallace over coloration in Descent 1: 403–10.
CD discussed Wallace’s views on bird coloration in Descent 2: 166–75, 196–8, 200–1, 206–7.
CD refers to St George Jackson Mivart and Mivart 1871a. See letter to Francis Darwin, [after 21 January 1871] and nn. 2 and 4, and letters from St G. J. Mivart, 22 January 1871, 24 January 1871, and 26 January 1871.
In Mivart 1871a, p. 10, Mivart referred to Wallace’s ‘noble self-abnegation’ in allowing the theory of natural selection to be associated exclusively with CD; he also cited appreciatively Wallace’s arguments that certain human physical features and capacities could not have been developed by natural selection in ibid., pp. 278–81.
See letter to Francis Darwin, [after 21 January 1871] and nn. 5 and 6. On the lungs as a modified swim-bladder, see Descent 1: 207.
CD refers to Variation.
Mivart discussed evolution and ethics in chapter 9 of Mivart 1871a; CD discussed the development of the moral faculties in chapter 5 of Descent.


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

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


Responds to ARW’s comments on CD’s argument about protection in Descent.

Comments on St G. Mivart’s criticism [Genesis of species (1871)]. "The pendulum will now swing against us."

Letter details

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

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7464,” accessed on 2 March 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19