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Record number: WCP1599

Sent by:
John Jenner Weir
Sent to:
Alfred Russel Wallace
30 December 1892

Sent by John Jenner Weir, Chirbury, Beckenham, Kent to Alfred Russel Wallace, [Corfe View, Parkstone, Dorset] on 30 December 1892.

Record created:
23 May 2011 by NHM


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LETTER (WCP1599.1378)

A typical letter handwritten  in English and signed by author.

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP6/12/8
Copyright owner:
Copyright of the John Jenner Weir Literary Estate.

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Transcription information







30 Dec[embe]r. 18923

My Dear Dr. Wallace

I have for several days past been again carefully reading your essay on Natural Selection and Tropical Nature4 much to my enjoyment, ededification, and refreshment of my memory.

I cannot believe Darwins view of sexual selection inducing bright colors will bear examination and in the main gente agree with your view of the question.5 I was however rather [[2]] impressed that you make no allusion to Stolzmanns6 views on this very interesting subject, because I understood at the time the paper by him, was read at the Zoological Society, and afterwards published in the Proceedings, is now been referred to you, and you were in town of its publication.--

Still I see you [1 illegible word crossed out] hold that the sexes are about equal in birds which is quite in opposition to his views P[roceedings]Z[oological]S[ociety] 1885 pp 420-429.

But the subject I have been troubling you with this letter is to gain your attention, though you may know the fact that in confinement [[3]] it is impossible in many species of birds to produce in the males the natural coloration especially if the color is red.--

The four linnet-like birds, the linnet7, twite8, redpole9[sic], and mealy redpole10[sic], have red produced in the males in the Spring, in the first[,] fourth and third on the pole and breast, and in the second on the rump, now none of the males of these four species can regain this red color after being molted in captivity, which supports your view of the vigorous males being the more richly colored, for you cannot in captivity [[4]] obtain that robust health which characterises the wild bird; in the chaffinch11, bullfinch12, and other birds although the red is reproduced in captivity it is more or less of an orange tint.--

Again I have in my garden few very healthy [1 word illegible], two I have had two years, but they never obtain the red legs of the wild bird which is so distinctive a chromatin, that the genus derives its name Hematitus from this coloration.--

[[5]]1314 It has always appeared to me to be a singular fact that birds which make the most show of their androchromal decorations, are so little salacious, it is rare to see a peacock15 tread[?] the hen and not very common in the case of the turkey16, compare this with the dull colored observed habits in this respect.

Your observations page [[6]] 120 that none of the Sylviadae17[sic] Turdidae18, Muscicapidae19, and Laniadae20[sic] you are aware of make a domed nest or place it in a hole of a tree. --

The Chiff Chaff21, Wood Warbler22, and Willow Warbler23 typical Sylviinde[sic] all make domed nests, the Pied Flycatcher24 always makes its nest in the hole of a tree or wall, the Dipper25 and the Wren26 are both Turdiforms27, but in the Timeliidae28[sic] a separate division, make domed nests, no doubt there are many [[7]] other exceptions but I write only of what I know of, you will I trust ponder my drawing attention to this. --

I got myself [1 word illegible] into trouble by using a rather too all-embracing expression but was glad to be put right.

In the present state of the nomenclature of Butterflies is in scarcely correct to use the word Helicinidae29 in the sense in which you do when writing of mimicry, than are [[8]] Helicinidae mimicked, but generally the Ithomiinae30[sic] are the mimicked family, indeed several Heliciniae[sic] mimic Ithomiinae.--

Wishing you and Mrs Wallace31 a happy new year

I am | My Dear Dr. Wallace | Yours very sincerely | J Jenner Weir32 [signature]

Dr A Russel Wallace


1. Added annotations written across the top of the page; "answered" is written in pencil in the top left corner, the next line starting with "vigour" is written in the top middle in blue colored pencil, and "hi 293-4" is written in pencil in the top right corner in a different hand

2. This is printed on the original document and is transcribed as it appears

3. This date is written on the original document in the hand of the sender in the same pen as the rest of the letter

4. Wallaces Natural Selection was first published in 1870 and his Tropical Nature was first published in 1878; they were published together for the first time in 1891

5. [WP6/12/8, f 1of2] is written in pencil to the bottom left corner of the first page in the space left for the indentation of the next paragraph

6. Jean Stolzmann

7. The Linnet (Carduelis cannabina) is a passerine bird in the Fringillidae family.

8. The Twite (Carduelis flavirostris) is a passerine bird in the Frigillidae family

9. The Redpolls are a group of passerine birds in the Fringillidae family

10. This refers to the Common Redpole or Mealy Redpoll (Carduelis flammea)

11. The Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) is a passerine bird in the Frigillidae family

12. The Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) is a passerine bird in the Fringillidae family

13. "[WP6/12/8, f 2of2]" is written in pencil in the top left corner of the page

14. This address was printed on the original document, centered at the top of the page, in dark ink

15. Peafowl refers to multiple species of birds in the Pavo genus and Phasianidae family; this could include the Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus), Green Peafowl (Pavo muticus) or Congo Peafowl (Afropavo congensis)

16. A turkey is a bird belonging to the Meleagris genus. Here, Weir was likely referring to the Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)

17. Refers to Sylviidae, a family of passerine birds including warblers in the Sylvia genus, the parrotbills of Asia, babblers previously belonging to the Timaliidae family, and the Wrentit of North America

18. The Turdidae is a family of passerine birds that is composed of Thrushes

19. The Muscicapidae is a family of passerine birds composed primarily of arboreal insectivores in Europe, Africa, and Asia

20. The Laniidae family contains passerine birds including Shrikes

21. The Common ChiffChaff (Phylloscopus collybita) is a passerine bird and leaf warbler

22. The Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix) is a migratory leaf warbler that breeds in parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe

23. The Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) is a passerine bird and migratory leaf warbler

24. The Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) is a migratory passerine bird in the Old World flycatcher family, and is found in western Africa, western Asia, and Europe

25. Dippers are passerine birds that are part of the Cinclus genus and Cinclidae family; notable for ability to dive underwater

26. Wrens are passerine birds in the New World family Troglodytidae; there are about 80 species of wrens dispersed over 20 genera

27. Refers to a bird of the Turdidae family

28. The Timaliidae or Old World babblers is a diverse family of passerine birds living in tropical areas of the world

29. Helicinidae is a family of snails notable for having an operculum

30. Ithomiini is a neotropical butterfly tribe in the Nymphalidae family

31. Refers to Alfred Russel Wallaces wife Anne Wallace (née Mitten), lived 1846 -- 1914

32. John Jenner Weir, entomologist and ornithologist, lived 1822 - 1894

Please note that work on this transcript is not yet complete. Users are advised to study electronic image(s) of this document, if available.