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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. R. Wallace   27 March [1869]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

March 27th

My dear Wallace

I must send a line to thank you, but this note will require no answer.— The very morning after writing I found that Elk was used for moose in Sweden, but I had been reading lately about Elk & moose in N. America.—2

As you put the case in your letter, which I think differs somewhat from your book, I am inclined to agree, & had thought that a feather cd. hardly be increased in length until it had first grown to full length, & therefore it wd be increased late in life & transmitted to corresponding age.— But the Crossoptilon pheasant & even common pheasant shows that the tail feathers can be developed very early.3

Thanks for other facts, which I will reflect on, when I go again over my M.S.

I read all that you said about the Dutch Government with much interest, but I do not feel I know enough to form any opinion against yours.4

I shall be intensely Curious to read the Quarterly: I hope you have not murdered too completely your own & my child.5 I have lately i.e. in new Edit, of Origin been moderating my zeal, & attributing much more to mere useless variability.— I did think I wd send you the sheet, but I daresay you wd not care to see it, in which I discuss Nägelis essay on Nat. selection, not affecting characters of no functional importance, & which yet are of high classificatory importance. Hooker is pretty well satisfied with what I have said on this head.6 It will be curious if we have hit on similar conclusions.— You are about the last man in England, who would deviate a hair’s breadth from his conviction to please any Editor in the world.—

Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

P.S. After all I have thought of one question, but if I receive no answer I shall understand that (as is probable) you have nothing to say:—I have seen it remarked that the men & women of certain tribes differ a little in shade or tint: but have you ever seen or heard of any difference in tint between the 2 sexes, which did not appear to follow from a difference in habits of life?—


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from A. R. Wallace, 24 March 1869.
Crossoptilon is the genus of eared pheasants. In Descent 2: 166, CD noted that the tails of both sexes were equal in length.
CD refers to Wallace’s discussion of Dutch colonial practices in The Malay Archipelago (see Wallace 1869a, 1: 398–403).
CD refers to Wallace’s article in the Quarterly Review (see letter from A. R. Wallace, 24 March 1869 and n. 10).
CD had discussed with Joseph Dalton Hooker revisions for the fifth edition of Origin to answer criticisms made by Carl Wilhelm von Nägeli (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 January 1869 and n. 1, and letters from J. D. Hooker, 15 January 1869, 18 January 1869, and [25 January 1869]).


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

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.


Hopes ARW has not "murdered too completely your own and my child" [natural selection] in his Quarterly Review article ["Sir Charles Lyell on geological climates and the Origin", 126 (1869): 359–94] on Lyell’s Principles [10th ed.].

CD is attributing more significance to useless variability in new [5th] edition of Origin.

Letter details

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

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6684,” accessed on 4 December 2021,

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