Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP609

Sent by:
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent to:
Alfred Russel Wallace
23 February [1867]

Sent by Charles Robert Darwin, Down, Bromley, Kent to Alfred Russel Wallace, [9 St Mark's Crescent, Regent's Park, London, N.W.] on 23 February [1867].

Record created:
01 June 2002 by Lucas, Paula J.
Verified by:
12/12/2012 - Szentgyorgyi, Katherine (All except summary checked);


Asking ARW's opinion, at H. W. Bates' suggestion, on the reason for the bright colouration of some caterpillars; says his health has been bad.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)
  • publication (2)

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LETTER (WCP609.609)

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

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/9/58
Copyright owner:
©William H. Darwin
Record scrutiny:
12/12/2012 - Szentgyorgyi, Katherine;

Item notes

Physical description

Transcription information






Kent. S.E.

Feb. 231

Dear Wallace

I much regretted that I was unable to call on you, but after Monday I was unable even to leave the house. On Monday evening I called on Bates & put a difficulty before him, which he could not answer, & as on some former similar occasion, his first suggestion was, "you had better ask [[2]] Wallace". My difficulty is, why are caterpillars sometimes so beautifully & artistically coloured? Seeing that many are coloured to escape danger I can hardly attribute their bright colour in other cases to mere physical conditions. Bates says the most gaudy caterpillar he ever saw in Amazonia (of a Sphinx) was conspicuous at the distance of yards [[3]] from its black & red colouring whilst feeding on large green leaves. If anyone objected to male butterflies having been made beautiful by sexual selection, & asked why sh[oul]d. they not have been made beautiful as well as their caterpillars; what would you answer? I could not answer, but sh[oul]d. maintain my ground. Will you think over this, & some time, either by letter or when we meet, [[4]] tell me what you think. Also, I want to know whether your female mimetic butterfly is more beautiful & brighter than the male?

When next in London I must get you to show me your Kingfishers.--

My health is a dreadful evil, I failed in half my engagements during this last visit to London.--

Believe me | yours very sincerely | C. Darwin [signature]


1. The year "1867" has been written in red pencil after the day in an unidentified hand.

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