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Darwin Correspondence Project

From A. R. Wallace   4 August 1872

The Dell, Grays, Sussex.

August 4th. 1872

Dear Darwin

I have sent your letter to “Nature”, as I think it will settle that question far better than anything I can say.1 Many thanks for it. I have not seen Dr. Bree’s letter yet as I get “Nature” here very irregularly,—but as I was very careful to mention none but real errors in Dr. Bree’s book, I do not imagine there will be any necessity for my taking any notice of it.2 It was really entertaining to have such a book to review, the errors & misconceptions were so inexplicable & the self sufficiency of the man so amazing. Yet there is some excellent writing in the book, and to a half informed person it has all the appearance of being a most valuable and authoritative work.

I am now reviewing a much more important book and one that, if I mistake not, will really compel you sooner or later to modify some of your views, though it will not at all affect the main doctrine of Natural Selection as applied to the higher animals. I allude of course to Bastian’s “Beginnings of Life”, which you have no doubt got.3 It is hard reading, but intensely interesting. I am a thorough convert to his main results, & it seems to me that nothing more important has appeared since your “Origin”. It is a pity he is so awfully voluminous & diffusive. When you have thoroughly digested it I shall be glad to know what you are disposed to think.

My first notice of it will I think appear in “Nature” next week,—but I have been hurried for it, & it is not so well written an article as I could wish.

I sincerely hope your health is improving.

Believe me | Yours very faithfully | Alfred R. Wallace—

P.S. I fear Lubbock’s motion is being pushed off to the end of the Session & Hookers case will not be fairly considered.4 I hope the matter will not be allowed to drop. | A.R.W.


Wallace refers to CD’s letter to Nature, 3 August [1872] (see letter to A. R. Wallace, 3 August [1872]).
Charles Robert Bree’s letter appeared in Nature, 1 August 1872, p. 260. Wallace’s review of Bree’s book (Bree 1872) was published in Nature, 25 July 1872, pp. 237–9.
Wallace’s review of Henry Charlton Bastian’s The beginnings of life (H. C. Bastian 1872) appeared in Nature, 8 and 15 August 1872, pp. 284–7 and 299–303. Bastian advanced various evidence in support of a theory of the spontaneous generation of life from inanimate matter.
John Lubbock had moved for the dispute between Joseph Dalton Hooker and Acton Smee Ayrton to be brought before the House of Commons (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 15 June 1872 and n. 2).


Bastian, Henry Charlton. 1872. The beginnings of life: being some account of the nature, modes of origin and transformations of lower organisms. 2 vols. London: Macmillan.

Bree, Charles Robert. 1872. An exposition of fallacies in the hypothesis of Mr. Darwin. London: Longmans, Green, and Co.


Has sent CD’s letter to Nature [see 8448].

Expresses admiration for H. C. Bastian’s The beginnings of life [1872] and comments on its bearing upon Origin.

Letter details

Letter no.
Alfred Russel Wallace
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 106: B111–12
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8450,” accessed on 13 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20