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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. R. Wallace   12 July [1871]

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

July 12th

My dear Wallace

Very many thanks. As soon as I read your letter I determined not to print the paper, notwithstanding my eldest daughter, who is a very good critic, thought it so interesting as to be worth reprinting.1 Then my wife came in, & said “I do not much care much about these things & shall therefore be a good judge whether it is very dull”. So I will leave my decision open for a day or two. Your letter has been, & will be, of use to me in other ways: thus I had quite forgotten that you had taken up case of Giraffe in your first memoir, & I must look to this.—2 I feel very doubtful how far I shall succeed in answering Mivart,— it is so difficult to answer objections to doubtful points & make the discussion readable— I shall make only a selection. The worst of it is, that I cannot possibly hunt through all my references for isolated points,— it would take me 3 weeks of intolerably hard work.— I wish I had your power of arguing clearly. At present I feel sick of everything, & if I could occupy my time & forget my daily discomforts or rather miseries, I wd. never publish another word.— But I shall cheer up I daresay soon, having only just got over a bad attack. Farewell God knows why I bother you about myself.—

I can say nothing more about missing links than what I have said. I shd. rely much on pre-Silurian times; but then comes Sir W. Thompson like an odious spectre.3

Farewell.— yours most sincerely | Ch. Darwin

I was grieved to see in Daily News that the madman about the flat earth, has been threatening your life.— What an odious trouble this must have been to you.—4

P.S. There is a most cutting Review of me in the Quarterly: I have only read a few pages. The skill & style make me think of Mivart.5 I shall soon be viewed as the most despicable of men.

This Q. Review tempts me to republish Ch. Wright, even if not read by anyone, just to show that some one will say a word against Mivart, & that his (ie Mivarts remarks) ought not to be swallowed without some reflection.—

P.S I have now finished the Review: there can be no doubt it is by Mivart & wonderfully clever.—

I quite agree with what you say that Mivart fully intends to be honourable; but he seems to me to have the mind of a most able lawyer retained to plead against us & especially against me.— God knows whether my strength & spirit will last out to write a chapter versus Mivart & others;6 I do so hate controversy & feel I shall do it so badly.—


See letter from A. R. Wallace, 12 July 1871. CD refers to Chauncey Wright’s review of St George Jackson Mivart’s Genesis of species (Wright 1871a, Mivart 1871b), and to Henrietta Emma Darwin. Henrietta had read the manuscript of Descent for CD (see Correspondence vol. 18, letter to H. E. Darwin, [8 February 1870] and n. 2).
See letter from A. R. Wallace, 12 July 1871 and n. 9. CD discussed the absence of transitional forms in the fossil record in Origin 5th ed., pp. 208–15, 346–8. He thought William Thomson’s estimate of the time elapsed since the consolidation of the earth’s crust was probably too short for species to evolve according to his theory (Origin 5th ed., p. 379).
In 1870, Wallace had accepted the challenge to scientific men of John Hampden, who believed in a flat earth, to prove the convexity of a stretch of inland water. Wallace’s proof was accepted by the umpire, but Hampden refused to accept the result and subjected Wallace to a twenty-year campaign of abuse. (See Raby 2001, pp. 206–7.) The Daily News, 13 July 1871, p. 2, reported that on 10 July Hampden had been charged with writing a letter to Wallace threatening his life, and that, unable to meet the necessary sureties to keep the peace, he was sent to prison. The letter was the one to Annie Wallace reproduced in Raby 2001, p. 207 (see the Field, 15 July 1871, p. 60). The Daily News took the story from the Pall Mall Gazette, which published it on 11 July 1871, p. 4. CD probably either misremembered where he read it, or wrote all or some of this letter on 13 or 14 July (see postmark).
Mivart’s anonymous review of Descent appeared in the Quarterly Review for July 1871 ([Mivart] 1871c); the attribution is confirmed by the Wellesley index.
CD added a substantially new seventh chapter to Origin 6th ed., ‘Miscellaneous objections to the theory of natural selection’, to deal with the criticisms of Mivart and others.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 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.

Origin 5th ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 5th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1869.

Origin 6th ed.: The origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 6th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

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

Wellesley index: The Wellesley index to Victorian periodicals 1824–1900. Edited by Walter E. Houghton et al. 5 vols. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1966–89.


CD is allowing his family to decide whether Chauncey Wright’s paper on Mivart is dull.

Health and despondency.

Doubts his ability to answer Mivart successfully [in 6th ed. of Origin].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent from
JY 14 71
Source of text
The British Library (Add MS 46434)
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7858,” accessed on 2 June 2023,

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