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Darwin Correspondence Project

From A. R. Wallace   14 January 1873

The Dell, Grays, Essex.

Jan.y 14th. 1873.

Dear Darwin

I am not at all surprised at your dissent from my criticisms. They are probably most of them unsound as it cannot be expected that a person to whom a subject is almost new can see further into it than a man who has looked at it in every possible way for 20 years.1 You state the evidence about the cat much more strongly in your letter than you do in your book. You say nothing there about your having observed it in the same cat from youth to age.2 As to the expression of astonishment by lifting up the hands, I hold to my interpretation. When the astonishment arises from seeing or hearing anything I think you will find it perfectly applies. When it is astonishment at something related only,—the expression is of course purely conventional, but its form is the same as when the astonishment arose from a reality.3

However as I said to you some time ago a critic is bound to criticise, and not having a great deal of time to do it in we are obliged to take what strikes us as weak points though we may in many cases only shew our own weakness on the subject.4

Hoping you are in pretty good health | Believe me | Yours very faithfully | Alfred R. Wallace

PS. The last three months I have been living in a perpetual hurricane, for my house is fully exposed to the South west & the wind howls around it at night terrifically. We have received no damage however; & the wet has been just the thing for my dry soil. I work 4–5 hours every day in the garden & have been planting extensively5 | ARW

CD annotations

1.1 I … years. 1.4] crossed pencil
1.4 You] after opening square bracket pencil
1.4 You … age. 1.6] scored blue crayon
2.1 However … ARW 4.5] scored blue crayon


See letter to A. R. Wallace, 13 January [1873]. Wallace’s review of Expression (A. R. Wallace 1873) appeared in the Quarterly Journal of Science.
The Wallaces had moved into the Dell in March 1872 (Raby 2001, p. 210).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Expression: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

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


Is not surprised CD dissents from his criticisms [of Expression?]. Holds to his own interpretation of the expression of astonishment.

Letter details

Letter no.
Alfred Russel Wallace
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 181: 8
Physical description
3pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8736,” accessed on 22 February 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21