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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. R. Wallace   9 July [1871]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

July 9th

My dear Wallace

I send by this post a Review by Chauncey Wright, as I much want your opinion of it, as soon as you can send it.2 I consider you an incomparably better critic than I am. The article, though not very clearly written & poor in parts from want of knowledge, seems to me admirable.

Mivart’s book is producing a great effect against Natural Selection, & more especially against me. Therefore if you think the article even somewhat good, I will write & get permission to publish it as a shilling pamphlet, together with the M.S. additions (enclosed) for which there was not room at the end of the the Review.—3 I do not suppose I shd lose more than £20 or £30.—

I am now at work at a new & cheap Edit. of Origin & shall answer several points in Mivart’s book & introduce a new Chapter for this purpose;4 but I treat the subject so much more concretely, & I daresay less philosophically, than Wright, that we shall not interfere with each other.— You will think me a bigot, when I say after studying Mivart, I was never before in my life so convinced of general (i.e. not in detail) truth of views in the Origin. I grieve to see the omission of the words by Mivart, detected by Wright.—5 I complained to M. that in two cases he quotes only the commencement of sentences by me & thus modifies my meaning; but I never supposed he wd. have omitted words.6 There are other cases of what I consider unfair treatment. I conclude with sorrow that though he means to be honourable, he is so bigoted that he cannot act fairly. I was glad to see your letter in Nature, though I think you were a little hard on the silly & presumptuous man.—7

I hope that your house & grounds are progressing well, & that you are in all ways flourishing.—8

I have been rather seedy, but a few days in London did me much good; & my dear good wife is going to take me somewhere, nolens, volens, at the end of this month.9

Ever yours | C. Darwin


The year is established by the reference to Chauncey Wright’s review of St George Jackson Mivart’s On the genesis of species (Wright 1871a; Mivart 1871b).
See letter from Chauncey Wright, 21 June 1871. Wright had sent CD proof-sheets, with manuscript additions, of a review of Mivart 1871b that was published in the North American Review in July 1871 (Wright 1871a).
The review by Wright was eventually re-published, with a three-page appendix discussing the meaning of the words ‘use’, ‘contrivance’, ‘purpose’, and ‘intention’, by John Murray at CD’s expense (Wright 1871b; see letter to T. H. Huxley, 21 September [1871]).
CD added a section dealing with Mivart’s criticisms at length in Origin 6th ed., pp. 176–204.
CD refers to Wright 1871a, pp. 83–4, where Wright discussed a passage in Mivart 1871b, p. 134. Mivart had written, ‘Thus he speaks of a whole organization seeming to have become plastic, and tending to depart from the parental type.’ Wright pointed out that CD had actually written, ‘The whole organisation seems to have become plastic, and tends to depart in a slight degree from that of the parental type’ (Origin 5th ed., p. 13).
CD refers to Wallace’s letter in Nature, 6 July 1871, p. 181, concerning Henry Hoyle Howorth’s letter on Darwinism; it followed his own letter on the same subject (see letter to Nature, 1 July [1871] and n. 2). Wallace accused Howorth of misrepresenting Darwinism and using a fallacious argument.
Wallace was having a house built in the village of Grays, Essex (Raby 2001, pp. 209–11).
CD was in London from 24 to 30 June 1871; from 28 July to 25 August 1871 he was at Haredene in Albury, Surrey (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).


Origin 5th ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 5th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1869.

Origin 6th ed.: The origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 6th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

Raby, Peter. 2001. Alfred Russel Wallace: a life. London: Chatto & Windus.


Requests advice about Chauncey Wright’s article on Mivart’s Genesis of species [North Am. Rev. 113 (1871): 64–103]. CD thinks of publishing it as a pamphlet to counter impact of Mivart’s criticism of natural selection.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent from
Source of text
The British Library (Add MS 46434)
Physical description
ALS 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7855,” accessed on 15 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19