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Darwin Correspondence Project

From A. R. Wallace   11 March [1867]1

9, St. Mark’s Crescent | N.W

March 11th.

Dear Darwin

I return your queries but can not answer them with any certainty. For the Malays I should say Yes. to 1. 3. 8. 9. 10. & 17. and No. to 12. 13. and 16.2 but I cannot be certain in any one. But do you think these things are of much importance? I am inclined to think that if you could get good direct observations you would find some of them often differ from tribe to tribe, from island to island and sometimes from village to village. Some no doubt may be deep-seated, and would imply organic differences but can you tell beforehand which these are. I presume the Frenchman shrugs his shoulders whether he is of the Norman Breton or Gaulish stock. Would it not be a good thing to send your List of queries to some of the Bombay & Calcutta papers as there must be numbers of Indian judges & other officers who would be interested & would send you hosts of replies.

The Australian papers & N. Zealand might also publish them & then you would have a fine basis to go on.

Is your essay on Variation in Man to be a supplement to your volume on Domesticated Animals & cultivated Plants?3 I would rather see your second volume on “The Struggle for Existence &c.” for I doubt if we have a sufficiency of fair & accurate facts to do any thing with Man.4 Huxley I believe is at work upon it.5

I have been reading Murray’s volume on Geog. Dist. of Mammals. He has some good ideas here and there but is quite unable to understand Natural Selection, and makes a most absurd mess of his criticism of your views on Oceanic Islands.6

By the bye what an interesting volume the whole of your materials on that subject would I am sure make.

Yours very sincerely | Alfred R. Wallace—

P.S. I mentioned the Catterpillar question at the Ent. Soc. on Monday & think we shall have observations made this summer. Many members seemed to think that known facts favoured my view.7

Larvæ of Cucullia verbasci &c. often swarm for sp. of verbascum are very showy and conspicuous and never seem to be eaten by birds. The larvæ of Callimorpha jacobeæ, are a similar case.8


CD annotations

1.3 I am … village. 1.6] crossed blue crayon
1.6 Some … go on. 2.2] crossed pencil

CD note:

I may say when thinking of Beauty of Butterflies—beauty of Caterpillar occurred to me that anyone might say—I applied to Mr Wallace & [‘suggested’ del] gave me the following very curious suggestions, which he will investigate a peck from a bird wd be as injurious as to be eaten—have paramount importance, for caterpillar to be recognized.9—on your principle that classical writers recommended shepherds to keep white sheep-dog not to be killed for wolves.—10

The striping or banding wd follow from previously coloured marks or from differences in the tissues.

It is indisputable that very many imitate leaves &c &c— Bates in cases.— Species of acacia &c11


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to A. R. Wallace, 7 March [1867].
The list of queries about expression that CD sent Wallace has not been found; see letter to A. R. Wallace, 7 March [1867] and n. 2. For a version of the questions similar to those sent to Wallace, see Correspondence vol. 15, Appendix IV. Wallace had travelled in the Malay Archipelago from 1854 to 1862.
CD referred to his work on human expression as an appendix to his ‘Essay on Man’ in his letter to Wallace of 7 March [1867]. Variation was published in 1868; CD had originally planned to present his work on humans in a final chapter of Variation (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 February [1867] and n. 16). Expression was published in 1872, a year after Descent.
CD had intended to publish an expanded version of his theory following the publication of Origin in 1859 (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 7, letter to A. R. Wallace, 25 January [1859] and n. 11). ‘Struggle for existence’ is the title of chapter three in Origin. Variation was planned as the first of three related works; in Variation 1: 8, CD stated that, in a ‘second work’, he would discuss the variation of organisms in a state of nature, the struggle for existence, and the difficulties opposed to the theory of natural selection. The third work was to have dealt with the applicability of the theory of natural selection.
Thomas Henry Huxley wrote a series of papers between 1865 and 1871 examining variations in humans, and considering divisions between human groups (see Di Gregorio 1984, pp. 160–84).
Andrew Murray made critical comments on CD’s theory in The geographical distribution of animals (A. Murray 1866, pp. 4–14); he also discussed CD’s ideas on the dispersal of plant and animals to oceanic islands in ibid., pp. 15–22, and CD’s theory of the formation of coral islands in ibid., pp. 25–7.
Wallace refers to the mullein moth (Cucullia verbasci) and the cinnabar moth (Callimorpha jacobeae, now Tyria jacobaeae).
CD was evidently considering the discussion that he later published in Descent; see Descent 1: 416, and letter from A. R. Wallace, 24 February [1867] and n. 3.
No comment by Wallace on this topic has been found; however, in Variation 1: 24, CD mentioned the recommendation of Columella that white sheep dogs should be used since they would not be mistaken for wolves.
CD refers to Henry Walter Bates, with whom he had also discussed coloration in caterpillars (see letter to A. R. Wallace, 23 February 1867); in Bates 1861, pp. 508–9, Bates noted that many caterpillars resembled twigs and other objects, while some butterflies resembled leaves or bark. James Philip Mansel Weale had told CD of caterpillars that mimicked Acacia horrida thorns (see letter from J. P. M. Weale, 9 January 1867, and CD’s annotation to the letter from A. R. Wallace, 24 February [1867]).


Bates, Henry Walter. 1861. Contributions to an insect fauna of the Amazon valley. Lepidoptera: Heliconidæ. [Read 21 November 1861.] Transactions of the Linnean Society of London 23 (1860–2): 495–566.

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.

Di Gregorio, Mario A. 1984. T. H. Huxley’s place in natural science. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

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

Murray, Andrew. 1866. The geographical distribution of mammals. London: Day and Son.

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.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


ARW responds to CD’s list of queries about expression. Suggests acquiring informants through publishing the queries in newspapers. His doubts about their importance.

Has submitted caterpillar question to Entomological Society.

Letter details

Letter no.
Alfred Russel Wallace
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, St Mark’s Crescent, 9
Source of text
DAR 106: B24, B45; DAR 82: A22
Physical description
ALS 5pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5437,” accessed on 1 April 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15