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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. R. Wallace   17 November 1873

[2 Bryanston Street, London.]

Nov. 17th. 73

The Dell | Grays Essex (Keep)

Dear Wallace

Bates has forwarded to me your note, & I shall be very glad if you will undertake the work; but I had better explain in detail what I want, as this may make all the difference in your being willing to undertake it.1 The job is not so much stiff as dull & tedious. I do not want criticisms, for I grieve to know how much we differ on many points; & in my opinion each man must publish the conclusions at which he has arrived & in which he still believes whether or not they are sound. I am in the middle of other work & a long interruption wd be a serious evil;2 so that when I called on Bates I was enquiring everywhere for a literary man who could do what I want, & I believe I have discovered one,3 but it would be incomparably better for me if you want it, This is the first time I ever thought of soliciting such aid.

I shall have to modify, & erase portions & to add others. Now I wish to write these out without the least of care of style, attending only to the sense, & to how the words & arrangement of the sentences corrected; for without much care I always write very badly.— I would have all the larger corrections well copied out. The whole book, would however, have to be gone through on account of trifling corrections, here & there inserted which would all require some consideration in regard to style & in regard to what comes before & after. I shd of course be glad to have any old faulty sentences amended. The numerical references to the foot-notes & woodcuts wd require correcting as new notes [prob] will be added; & if the pages get changed, the Headings of the pages.—

I would just glance over any corrections to the additions, & then send the whole to press, & I shd. wish not to see the proof sheets, but have them corrected for me. I apprehend there would only rarely be occasion for second proofs.— Until I have worked through my notes & references I have no idea how bulky my corrections will be; but I hope & think not very bulky

With respect to remuneration. I cd send you Vol. I when the corrections are copied in, & you could perhaps judge for what sum it would be worth your while to undertake the above specified work including the corrections of the proofs; & then you could afterwards judge whether the 2d vol had cost you more or less time.— Or there is another plan, if you prefer it. I understand from Bates that you lately undertook a very tough job in looking over examination papers,4 & you will probably remember how long a time & how much labour it has cost you; & you could keep a record of the time spent over my work & charge me according to the same scale.

I think that putting into shape, of my additions, if they prove very badly written, could take up most time.

I could order the proof-sheets, if you like it, to be sent you by the half-dozen or dozen, so as not to fritter away little bits of your time.— Mss Clowe print,5 as I have always found, very correctly.— We return home tomorrow6 & I shall set to work immediately & I suppose the work will take me some weeks, as I must go on with [improvement] of the [MS] .—

Will you kindly let me hear what you think of all that I have said, & I remain | My dear Wallace, | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

P.S. | Please keep this letter as a memorandum of what is wanted.


See letter from H. W. Bates, 15 November 1873. CD had asked Henry Walter Bates to ask Wallace whether he would help with the second edition of Descent.
CD was working on insectivorous plants.
The other person CD thought of employing has not been identified (see also letter to ?, 28 November [1873]).
From 1871, Wallace was examiner in physical geography at the Science and Art Department at South Kensington, and in physical geography and geology for the Indian Civil Engineering College and for the Royal Geographical Society (Fichman 2004, p. 62).
William Clowes & Sons were the printers used by CD’s publisher, John Murray.
CD stayed with his eldest daughter, Henrietta Emma Litchfield, at 2 Bryanston Street, London, from 8 to 18 November 1873 (see ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).


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

Fichman, Martin. 2004. An elusive Victorian: the evolution of Alfred Russel Wallace. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Would be happy if ARW would undertake to help with correcting the proof-sheets of his revised edition of Descent. Outlines the job that would be required.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent from
London, Bryanston St, 2
Source of text
DAR 96: 161–2
Physical description
AdraftS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9149,” accessed on 27 February 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21