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Darwin Correspondence Project

From A. R. Wallace   11 March 1871

Holly House, Barking. E.

March 11th. 1871

Dear Darwin

I need not say that I read your second volume with, if possible a greater interest than the first, as so many topics of special interest to me are treated of.1 You will not be surprised to find that you have not convinced me on the “female protection” question, but you will be surprised to hear that I do not despair of convincing you.2

I have been writing as you are aware a review for the “Academy”, which I tried to refuse doing, but the Editor used as an argument the statement that you wished me to do so.3 It is not an easy job fairly to summarize such a book, but I hope I have succeeded tolerably. When I got to discussion, I felt more at home, but I most sincerely trust that I may not have let pass any word that may seem to you in the least too strong.

You have not written a word about me that I could wish altered, but as I know you wish me to be candid with you I will mention that you have quoted one passage in a note p. 376. vol 2 which seems to me a caricature of anything I have written.4

Now let me ask you to rejoice with me, for I have got my Chalkpit & am hard at work engineering a road up its precipitous slopes.5 I hope you may be able to come & see me there some day, as it is an easy ride from London, and I shall be anxious to know if it is equal to the pit in the wilds of Kent, Mrs. Darwin mentioned when I lunched with you.6 Should your gardener in the Autumn have any thinnings out of almost any kind of hardy plants they would be welcome, as I have near four acres of ground in which I want to substitute ornamental plants for weeds

With best wishes, & hoping you may have health & strength to go on with your great work

Believe me Dear Darwin | Yours very faithfully | Alfred R. Wallace

My Review will appear next Wednesday

Charles Darwin F.R.S.

CD annotations

3.1 I know … have written. 3.3] scored blue crayon
4.5 Should your … welcome, 4.6] scored blue crayon


Wallace refers to Descent. CD and Wallace had discussed sexual selection and the role of protective coloration while CD was working on the book (see Correspondence vols. 15–17). See also letter to John Murray, 19 February [1871].
In Descent 2: 166–80, CD discussed sexual differences in the plumage of birds. He commented on Wallace’s view that the differences related to the types of nest built, but argued that there were many exceptions to the principle of protective coloration that Wallace had suggested.
Wallace refers to his review of Descent (Wallace 1871c) and to Charles Edward Cutts Birchall Appleton.
In Descent 2: 376, CD quoted Wallace as believing ‘that some intelligent power has guided or determined the development of man’; the passage quoted, however, read, ‘I do not lay much stress on this, but, if it be proved that some intelligent power has guided or determined the development of man, then we may see indications of that power, in facts which, by themselves, would not serve to prove its existence’ (see Wallace 1870, p. 350).
Wallace refers to the four-acre site in the village of Grays that he had recently acquired to build a house on. It included a disused chalkpit (see Raby 2001, p. 209).
Wallace may have met CD and Emma Darwin during CD’s visit to London from 23 February to 2 March. The chalk pit in Kent has not been identified, but CD’s own house was built on chalk (see Correspondence vol. 2, letter to WDFox, [25 March 1843]).


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.

Raby, Peter. 2001. Alfred Russel Wallace: a life. London: Chatto & Windus.


Admiration for vol. 2 of Descent, and plans for his review of it for the Academy [2 (1871): 177–82].

News of his new residence.

Letter details

Letter no.
Alfred Russel Wallace
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 106: B98–9
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7569,” accessed on 4 August 2021,

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