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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Alfred Russel Wallace   20 January 1869

9, St. Mark’s Crescent | NW.

Jany. 20th. 1869

Dear Darwin

It will give me very great pleasure if you will allow me to dedicate my little book of Malayan Travels to you, although it will be far too small and unpretending a work to be worthy of that honour.1 Still, I have done what I can to make it a vehicle for communicating a taste for the higher branches of Natural History, and I know that you will judge it only too favourably.

We are in the middle of the 2nd. Vol. and if the printers will get on, shall be out next month.2

Have you seen in the last Number of the “Quarterly Journal of Science”, the excellent remarks on Fraser’s article on Nat. Selection failing as to Man?3 In one page it gets to the heart of the question & I have written to the Editor to ask who the Author is.4

My friend Spruce’s paper on Palms is to be read tomorrow evening at the “Linnæan”.5 He tells me it contains a discovery which he calls “alternation of function.” He found a clump of Geonema all of which were females, and the next year the same clump were all males! He has found other facts analogous to this, & I have no doubt the subject is one that will interest you.6

Hoping you are pretty well, and are getting on steadily with your next volumes,—and with kind regards to Mrs. Darwin and all your circle,7

Believe me | Dear Darwin | Yours very faithfully | Alfred R. Wallace

P.S. Have you seen the admirable article in “The Guardian”! on Lyell’s Principles? It is most excellent & liberal. It is written by Revd. Geo. Buckle, of Tiverton Vicarage, Bath, who I met at Norwich and found a thoroughly scientific & liberal parson.8 Perhaps you have heard that I have undertaken to write an article for the Quarterly! on the same subject, to make up for that on “Modern Geology” last year not mentioning Sir C Lyell.9 Really what with the Tories passing radical reform bills & the Church periodicals advocating Darwinianism, the Millenium must be at hand.10

A R W.


Wallace refers to The Malay Archipelago (Wallace 1869a). Wallace had travelled throughout the Malay Archipelago from 1854 until 1862, and had started ‘a small book’ about his travels by January 1864 (Correspondence vol. 12, letter from A. R. Wallace, 2 January 1864 and n. 10). CD enquired about the book’s progress in his letters to Wallace of 22 September [1865] (Correspondence vol. 13) and 22 January 1866 (Correspondence vol. 14). The dedication reads, ‘To Charles Darwin, author of “The Origin of Species,” I dedicate this book, not only as a token of personal esteem and friendship but also to express my deep admiration for his genius and his works.’
Wallace 1869a was published in March 1869 (Publishers’ Circular, 15 March 1869, pp. 162, 171).
Wallace refers to an anonymous article, ‘The alleged failure of natural selection in the case of man’, that appeared in the January 1869 issue of Quarterly Review of Science (Anon. 1869a). The writer challenged the conclusions of an article that appeared in Fraser’s Magazine, ‘On the failure of “natural selection” in the case of man’ ([Greg] 1868). The article in Fraser’s was unsigned, but the author was later identified as William Rathbone Greg (see Descent 1: 167).
James Samuelson was the editor of Quarterly Review of Science. The author of the article (Anon. 1869a) has not been identified.
Richard Spruce’s paper, ‘Palmae Amazonicae, sive enumeratio palmarum in itinere suo per regiones Americae aequatoriales lectarum’ (Spruce 1869) was read on 21 January 1869.
Spruce discussed ‘alternation of function’ in two species of Geonoma in Spruce 1869, pp. 95–6, and hypothesised that the alternation of male and female flowers at different times on the same plant was an intermediate step towards complete ‘dioicity’ (that is, dioecism). CD had long been interested in transitional states between hermaphroditism and unisexuality in plants and animals (see Notebooks, Notebook C, 167; Notebook D, 157–9). For CD’s interest in the possible relationship between heterostyly and dioecism, see Correspondence vol. 14. CD later devoted a chapter to the subject in Forms of flowers (pp. 278–309).
Wallace refers to Descent and to Emma Darwin.
George Buckle was a regular contributor of articles to the Guardian (a weekly church newspaper published from 1846 until 1951; North 1997, 3: 2122–3), and an active member of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (The Times, 4 January 1900, p. 8). His unsigned review of the tenth edition of Charles Lyell’s Principles of geology (C. Lyell 1867–8) appeared in the Guardian, 30 December 1868, pp. 1463–4.
Wallace refers to a review of the fourth edition of Roderick Impey Murchison’s Siluria (Murchison 1867), ‘Sir Roderick Murchison and modern schools of geology’ ([Geikie] 1868). Archibald Geikie did not mention Lyell by name but wrote, ‘Uniformitarian writers have argued fallaciously against the hypothesis of violent action in the past’ (ibid., p. 203). Wallace’s review of C. Lyell 1867–8 appeared in the April 1869 issue of the Quarterly Review ([Wallace] 1869b).
The Conservative party under Benjamin Disraeli had passed the Reform Act in 1867 (Mitchell et al. 1988). See n. 8, above.


Anon. 1869b. The alleged failure of natural selection in the case of man. Quarterly Journal of Science 21: 152–3.

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.

Forms of flowers: The different forms of flowers on plants of the same species. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1877.

[Geikie, Archibald.] 1868a. Sir Roderick Murchison and modern schools of geology. [Review of Roderick Murchison’s Siluria: a history of the oldest rocks in the British Isles and other countries. 4th edition.] Quarterly Review 125: 188–217.

[Greg, William Rathbone.] 1868b. On the failure of ‘natural selection’ in the case of man. Fraser’s Magazine 78: 353–62.

Lyell, Charles. 1867–8. Principles of geology or the modern changes of the earth and its inhabitants considered as illustrative of geology. 10th edition. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

Mitchell, Sally, et al. eds. 1988. Victorian Britain: an encyclopedia. New York, London: Garland Publishing

Murchison, Roderick Impey. 1867. Siluria: a history of the oldest rocks in the British Isles and other countries; with sketches of the origin and distribution of native gold, the general succession of geological formations, and changes of the earth’s surface. 4th edition including ‘The Silurian system’. London: John Murray.

North, John S. 1997. The Waterloo directory of English newspapers and periodicals, 1800–1900. 10 vols. Waterloo, Ontario: North Waterloo Academic Press.

Notebooks: Charles Darwin’s notebooks, 1836–1844. Geology, transmutation of species, metaphysical enquiries. Transcribed and edited by Paul H. Barrett et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press for the British Museum (Natural History). 1987.

Spruce, Richard. 1869. Palmae Amazonicae, sive enumeratio palmarum in itinere suo per regiones Americae aequatoriales lectarum. [Read 21 January 1869.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 11 (1871): 65–183.

Wallace, Alfred Russel. 1869a. The Malay Archipelago: the land of the orang-utan, and the bird of paradise. A narrative of travel, with studies of man and nature. 2 vols. London: Macmillan and Co.


Dedication of Malay Archipelago to CD.

Comments on scientific papers.

Letter details

Letter no.
Alfred Russel Wallace
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, St Mark’s Crescent, 9
Source of text
DAR 106: B73–4
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6561,” accessed on 14 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17