Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP1900

Sent by:
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent to:
Alfred Russel Wallace
30 April [1868]

Sent by Charles Robert Darwin, Down, Bromley, Kent to Alfred Russel Wallace, [Hurstpierpoint, Sussex] on 30 April [1868].

Record created:
30 November 2011 by Mayer, Anna
Verified by:
12/12/2012 - Szentgyorgyi, Katherine (All except summary checked);


No summary available at this time.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)
  • publication (1)

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LETTER (WCP1900.1790)

A typical letter handwritten by author in English and signed by author.

Held by:
British Library, The
Finding number:
BL Add. 46434 ff. 136-139
Copyright owner:
©William H. Darwin
Record scrutiny:
12/12/2012 - Szentgyorgyi, Katherine;

Physical description

Transcription information






Kent. S.E.

April 30th1

My dear Wallace,

Your letter, like so many previous ones, has interested me much.-- Dr. Allbutts view occurred to me some time ago & I have written a short discussion on it. It is, I think, a remarkable law, to which I have found no exception. The foundation lies in the fact, that in many cases the eggs or seeds require nourishment & protection by the mother-form for some time after impregnation. Hence the spermatozoa & antherozoids travel in the lower aquatic animals & plants [one word illegible crossed out] to the female, & pollen is borne to [[2]] the female organ. As organisms rise in the scale it seems natural that the male sh[oul]d carry the spermatozoa to the female in his own body. As the male is the searcher he has received & gained more eager passions than the female; &, very differently from you, I look at this as one great difficulty in believing. that the males select the more attractive females; as far as I can discover they are always ready to seize on any female & sometimes on many females.--

Nothing would please me more than to find evidence of [[3]] males selecting the more attractive females: I have for months being trying to persuade myself of this. There is the case of man in favour of this belief, & I know in hybrid unions of males preferring particular females, but alas not guided by colour.-- Perhaps I may get more evidence, as I wade through my 20 years mass of notes.

I am not convinced shaken about the female protected butterflies; I will grant (only for argument) that the life of the male is of very little value,-- I will grant that the males do not vary, yet why has [[4]] not the protective beauty of the female been transferred by inheritance from female to the male? The beauty would be a gain to the male, as far as we can see, as a protection; & I cannot believe that it w[oul]d be repulsive to the beautiful female as she became beautiful.-- But we shall never convince each other.

I sometimes marvel how truth progresses, so difficult is it for one man to convince another, unless his mind is vacant. Nevertheless [[5]] I myself to a certain extent contradict my own remark; for I believe far more in the importance of protection, than I did before reading your articles.--

I do not think you lay nearly stress enough in your articles on what you admit in your letter, viz "there seems to be some production of vividness of colour in the male independent of protection". This I am making a chief point; & [[6]] have come nearly to your conclusion so far that I believe that intense colouring in [one word illegible crossed out] the female sex is often checked by being dangerous.--

That is an excellent remark of yours about no known case of male alone assuming protective colours; but in the cases in which protection has been gained by dull colours, I presume that sexual [[7]] selection would interfere with the male losing his beauty. If the male alone had acquired beauty as a protection, it would be most readily overlooked, as males are so often more beautiful than their females. Moreover I grant that the life of the male is somewhat less precious & thus there w[oul]d. be less rigorous selection with the male, so he w[oul]d. be [[8]] less likely to be made beautiful though through natural selection for protection.* But it seems to me a good argument, & very good if it could be thoroughily[sic] established.

Yours most sincerely | C. Darwin [signature]

*This does not apply to sexual selection, for the greater the excess of males & the less precious their lives, so much the better for sexual selection.

I do not know whether you will care to read this scrawl

PS I heard yesterday that my Photograph has been sent to your London address--Westbourne Grove


1. The year "1868" has been written in another hand in the top right hand corner of the page.


This transcript is based on that produced by The Darwin Correspondence Project (http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/): see http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-6146

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