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Darwin Correspondence Project

From A. R. Wallace   6 July 1870

Holly House, Barking, E.

July 6th. 1870

Dear Darwin

Many thanks for the drawing. I must say however the resemblance to a snake is not very striking unless to a Cobra not found in America.1 It is also evident that it is not Mr Bates Catterpillar as that threw the head backward so as to show the feet above forming imitations of keeled scales.2

Claparede has sent me his critique on my book. You will probably have it too. His arguments in reply to my heresy seem to me of the weakest.3 I hear you have gone to press, & I look forward with fear & trembling to being crushed under a mountain of facts!4

I hear you were in town the other day.5 When you are again I shd. be glad to come at any convenient hour & give you a call.

Hoping your health is improving & with kind remembrances to Mrs Darwin & all your family

Believe me | Yours very faithfully | Alfred R. Wallace

Charles Darwin Esq.


CD had sent the drawing with an accompanying note with his letter to Wallace of 5 [July 1870]. Neither has been found, but the drawing was evidently one of a late instar of Papilio cresphontes (the giant swallowtail butterfly, native to many parts of North America) or a similar species. The caterpillar’s thorax resembles the head of a cobra, seen from above, but is also similar to the head shape of American hog-nose snakes (Heterodon). Like other species of swallowtail, it also possesses a defensive gland called an osmeterium, which, when everted from its head, resembles the forked tongue of a snake.
Wallace refers to Henry Walter Bates. The caterpillar has not been identified.
The reference is to Edouard Claparède and his essay review of Wallace 1870a (Claparède 1870). CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Claparède’s review focused primarily on Wallace’s views on natural selection and development of humans.
Wallace refers to Descent. CD and Wallace had disagreed strongly on topics such as sexual selection and protective coloration (see Correspondence vols. 15 and 16). Wallace had also recently disputed the applicability of natural selection to aspects of human evolution (see Wallace 1870a, pp. 332–71).
CD visited London from 24 June to 1 July 1870 (see ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).


Claparède, Edouard. 1870. Remarques à propos de l’ouvrage de M. Alfred Russel Wallace sur la théorie de la sélection naturelle. Archives des Sciences Physiques et Naturelles n.s. 38: 160–89.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.


Thanks for the drawing.

E. Claparède’s review [of Theory of natural selection, Rev. Cours Sci. 7 (1870): 564–71] is weak.

Looks forward [to Descent] with fear of being "crushed under a mountain of facts!"

Letter details

Letter no.
Alfred Russel Wallace
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 106: B92–3
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7269,” accessed on 15 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18