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Record number: WCP4650

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Charles Grant Blairfindie ("Grant") Allen
17 February 1879

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Waldron Edge, Duppas Hill, Croydon to Charles Grant Blairfindie ("Grant") Allen [none given] on 17 February 1879.

Record created:
14 August 2012 by Catchpole, Caroline


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LETTER (WCP4650.4966)

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

Held by:
Dittrick Medical History Center of Case Western Reserve University
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

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Waldron Edge, Duppas Hill, Croydon

Feb[ruar]y 17th. 1879

Dear Sir

Very many thanks for your book on "The Colour Sense". Have just finished reading it through & I have seldom read a book with more pleasure. It is full of original and suggestive matter, and is admirable in its clearness and the thorough manner in which many aspects of the subject are discussed.

Of course I totally dissent from your adoption of "sexual selection" as a vera causa, though of course you are quite justified in following Darwin rather than me as an authority. I think you overstrain [[2]] many parts of your argument especially the connection of bright colours in animals with the colours of the[ir] [hole in paper] food. I also think you lay far to great stress on our knowledge of the first appearance of certain groups of plants & insects;-- but I shall probably deal with these questions in a notice I may write of your book.

I must say I do not see the least force in what you say as to the probable identity of colour sense in ourselves & insects. For it is clear that the [1 word deleted illeg.] optical organs of these two, have been developed separately, and if the sensations were alike it would be a coincidence which we have no reason to expect. The fact that insects [[3]] differentiate most of the contrasted colours, by no means proves, or even affords any probability, that their sensations are any think like ours,-- and I still maintain that the probability is they are unlike. With Birds & ourselves, on the contrary, we may be almost sure the sensations [are] [1 word blurred and illeg.] similar, because our eyes & nervous systems are derived probably from a common ancestor who had both well [1 deleted word illeg.] fairly developed.

A day or two ago I received from a gentleman residing in Germany a very clear article on the "Origin of the Colour Sense", in which he shows physiological grounds for the belief in the great inferiority of the colour sense in all mammals, & the inferiority even of ourselves to birds. I am trying to get it published in one of the Reviews.

I am very sorry you did not put a good index [[4]] to your book. It is most difficult to find any special point you want & causes endless trouble. I feel so strongly on this that I think the publication of indexless books should be felony without benefit of Clergy!

I need not wish your book success, for it is sure to be successful, as it well deserves to be.

Believe me | Yours very faithfully | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

[To] Grant Allen Esq.

P.S. In my original paper in Macmillans Mag[azine]. I spoke doubtfully about the prehistoric want of colour sense because the subject came upon me suddenly just as I had finished my paper. I still think however that colour-blindness is an indication of imperfection, & I hope evidence will soon be obtained as to its equal prevalence or absence in some semi-civilized race. I doubt its being a product of civilization, since civilized man makes more use of colour than savage man. It is an interesting and important question.


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