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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Raphael Meldola   13 August [1873]

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. [Bassett, Southampton.]

Aug. 13th

Dear Sir

I am much obliged for your present which no doubt I shall find at Down on my return home.—1 I am sorry to say that I cannot answer your question; nor do I believe that you could find it anywhere even approximately answered. It is very difficult or impossible to define what is meant by a large variation.2 Such graduate into monstrosities or generally injurious variations. I do not myself believe that these are often or ever taken advantage of under nature.

It is a common occurrence that abrupt & considerable variations are transmitted in an unaltered state, or not at all transmitted, to the offspring or to some of them. So it is with tailless or hornless animals, & with sudden & great changes of colour in flowers.— I wish I could have given you any answer.

Dear Sir | Yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin


See letter from Raphael Meldola, 11 August 1873 and n. 1. Meldola sent a copy of Meldola 1873, a paper on variable protective colouring in insects.
See letter from Raphael Meldola, 11 August 1873 and n. 2. Meldola had asked whether large variations were more frequently inherited by one sex than small ones.


Meldola, Raphael. 1873. On a certain class of cases of variable protective colouring in insects. [Read 4 February 1873.] Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London (1873): 153–62.


Thanks RM for his paper on mimicry.

Cannot answer RM’s query because he believes it impossible to define large variations.

Believes monstrosities are generally injurious and are not often, if ever, taken advantage of in nature.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Raphael Meldola
Sent from
Bassett Down letterhead
AU 13 73
Source of text
Oxford University Museum of Natural History (Hope Entomological Collections 1350: Hope/Westwood Archive, Darwin folder)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9006,” accessed on 18 January 2020,

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