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Record number: WCP5031

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Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Edvard Alexander Westermarck
20 March 1891

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Corfe View, Parkstone, Dorset to Edvard Alexander Westermarck [none given] on 20 March 1891.

Record created:
06 February 2013 by Catchpole, Caroline


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Wikman, Karl Robert Villehad. (1940). Letters From Edward B. Tylor and Alfred Russel Wallace to Edward Westermarck; Ed. With Introductory Remarks Concerning the Publication of The History of Human Marriage. Abo. 1-22. [p. 17-18]

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[[1]]1 [p. 17]

March 20th. 1891.

Edw. Westermarck, Esq.

Dear Sir

Your interesting letter does not yet convince me of the correctness of your view, as to rudimentary dress (concealing the pudenda) being wholly due to desire to excite the sexual passions. I see no facts supporting it, and it seems to me improbable. However, as you have fully considered the matter, you have a right to your opinion,-- but I think it would be well to give the substance of your letter to me in your book, either as text or a note. It will show you have considered the other views and have rejected them. Your short chapter on Sexual Selection is very interesting to me because as an independent reasoner I find that your views very nearly approach mine. I have made several observations in pencil on the margin, where your facts are not quite accurate.

You carry the importance of recognition even farther than I have done, and I am very glad of your support in this. But I feel sure that there is a normal production of colour in animate as in inanimate nature, [[2]] [p. 18] which is modified or directed for utility but not produced by it. Else why colour in internal organs blood, bile, etc. in sightless organisms as bivalve Molluscs and in the mineral kingdom? The hair of man, --black, red or flaxen, --is certainly produced by physiological causes in correlation with other physical characters, --and is not due to utility in itself. Again the brilliancy and diversity of the warning colours of the inedible catterpillars is a strong case. As a warning of inedibility one colour for all--red or yellow or blue --, contrasting with the green or brown of edible catterpillars would have been b e t t e r as being more easily learnt and recognised by insectivorous birds etc. etc. No solution or utility is conceivable here for the diversity of brilliant colour.

With all the rest of your argument I am in full accord, and I hope you will retain the Chapter.

Yours very faithfully

Alfred R. Wallace.


1. Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: Seventh of fourteen letters from Wallace to Edward Westermarck, concerning the writing of the latter's The History of Human Marriage. These were included in the article "Letters From Edward B. Tylor and Alfred Russel Wallace to Edward Westermarck; Ed. With Introductory Remarks Concerning the Publication of The History of Human Marriage" by K. Rob. V. Wikman that appeared in 1940 as Acta Academiae Aboensis Humaniora XIII.7. The Wallace letters make up the second half of the work. Note that there are several apparent minor editing errors in the source material that I have not bothered to correct.


This transcript originates from Charles H. Smith’s The Alfred Russel Wallace Page website (http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/index1.htm): See http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S712.htm

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