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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. R. Wallace   20 October [1872]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. [Sevenoaks, Kent.]

Oct. 20th.

My dear Wallace

I have thought that you wd. perhaps like to see enclosed specimen & extract from letter (translated from German by my son) from Dr. W. Marshall, Zoological Assistant to Schlegel at Leyden.—2 Neither the specimens, nor extract. need be returned; & you need not acknowledge the receipt.— The resemblance is not so close, now that the fragments are gummed on card, as I at first thought.3 Your review of Houzeau was very good: I skimmed through the whole gigantic book, but you managed to pick at the places much better than I did for myself.— You are a born critic. What an admirable number that was of Nature.—4

I am writing this at Sevenoaks where we have taken a house for 3 weeks & have one more week to stay.5 We came here that I may get a little rest, of which I stood in much need.—

Ever yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

With respect to what you say about certain instincts of Ants having been acquired by experience or sense, have you kept in mind that the neuters, have no progeny.—6 I wish I knew whether the fertile females, or queen, do the same work, (viz placing the eggs in warm places &c) as the neuters do afterwards: If so the case wd. be comparatively simple; but I believe this is not the case, & I am driven to selection of varying preexisting instincts.—


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from William Marshall, 15 October 1872.
The enclosure has not been found, but CD evidently enclosed an English translation of part of the letter from William Marshall, 15 October 1872, along with some fragments of the shell of a coot and pieces of reed canary grass. It is not known which of CD’s sons made the translation, but according to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), George, Francis, and Leonard all arrived at Sevenoaks, where the Darwins were staying, on 19 October 1872. Marshall had been assistant to Hermann Schlegel, but by this time had evidently taken up a new post as secretary to the grand duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, Carl Alexander.
See letter from William Marshall, 15 October 1872. Marshall had suggested that coots only nested in places where reed grass speckled with a type of rust fungus grew because it was hard to spot their eggs in such habitat.
Wallace had written an essay review of Jean-Charles Houzeau’s comparative study on the mental faculties of animals and humans (Wallace 1872c; Houzeau 1872) in the 10 October 1872 issue of Nature. CD had commented on other articles from the same issue in his letter to T. H. Farrer, 13 October [1872].
CD stayed at Miss Ann Woodington’s, the Common, Sevenoaks from 5 to 26 October 1872 (see ‘Journal’ (Appendix II) and letter to J. D. Hooker, 10 October [1872]).
See Wallace 1872c, p. 470. CD had considered neuter insects to be one of the difficulties in his theory of natural selection of instincts (see Origin, pp. 236–42; see also R. J. Richards 1987, pp.142–52).


Houzeau, Jean-Charles. 1872. Études sur les facultés mentales des animaux comparées à celles de l’homme par un voyageur naturaliste. 2 vols. Brussels: Hector Manceaux. Paris: Hachette et Cie.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Richards, Robert J. 1987. Darwin and the emergence of evolutionary theories of mind and behavior. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.


Remarks about an enclosed specimen,

and extract of letter from W. A. L. Marshall [8560].

ARW’s good review of J. C. Houzeau de Lehaie [Études sur les facultés mentales des animaux, in Nature 6 (1872): 469–71].

Letter details

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

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8566,” accessed on 30 September 2023,

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