WCP1900

Letter (WCP1900.1790)

[1]

Down.

Bromley.

Kent. S.E.

April 30th [1868]1

My dear Wallace,

Your letter, like so many previous ones, has interested me much. — Dr. Allbutt's2 view occurred to me some time ago & I have written a short discussion on it.3 It is, I think, a remarkable law, to which I have found no exception. Its foundation lies in the fact, that in many cases the eggs or seeds require nourishment & protection4 by the mother-form for some time after impregnation. Hence the spermatozoa & antherozoids travel in the lower aquatic animals & plants [one illegible word 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 own 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:5 I have for months being [sic] trying to persuade myself of this. There is the case of man in favour of this belief, & I know in lizard6unions 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,7 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.8 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".9 This I am making a chief point; & [6] have come nearly to your conclusion so far that I believe that intense colouring in [one illegible word 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 should 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 scrawl10

PS I heard yesterday that my Photograph has been sent to your London address — Westbourne Grove11

Year based on the date of the publication of Wallace, A. R. [1868]. A Theory of Birds' Nests: Shewing the Relation of Certain Sexual Differences of Colour in Birds to their Mode of Nidification. Journal of Travel and Natural History. 1. 73-89. See WCP1899.1789, Darwin to ARW from Down, 15 Apr. [1868]. The year "1868" has been written in another hand in the top right hand corner of the page.
Allbutt, Thomas Clifford ("Clifford") (1836-1925). British physician.
"on" is interlined in pencil; possibly in ARW's hand.
"protection" is interlined in pencil, possibly in ARW's hand, below Darwin's word.
"? In pigeons" is interlined in pencil in ARW's hand above Darwin's "females: I have". The annotation is noted in Marchant, James. 1916. Alfred Russel Wallace. Letters and Reminiscences. 2 vols. London, New York, Toronto and Melbourne: Cassell & Co. 1: 215. See WCP1900_P5987.
"lizards" is interlined in pencil in ARW's hand below this word, which has been transcribed as "hybrid" in other publications including Marchant, who nevertheless notes ARW's annotation. See note 6.
Below Darwin's "gain to the male" ARW has written in pencil: "not if he is not the thing imitated — when the habits of the two sexes are alike both are protected."
The left margin is annotated from bottom to top in pencil in ARW's hand: "Does he believe that characters acquired by ♂ are transmitted exclusively, not those acquired by ♀. ? Why".
See letter WCP4090.4037 from ARW to Charles Darwin, 28 Apr. [1868].
"I do not... scrawl" is outlined and written vertically in the left margin opposite the signature.
"PS... Westbourne Grove" is written in pencil at the top of p [[1]].

Published letter (WCP1900.5987)

[1] [p. 214]

Down, Bromley, Kent, S E. April 30, 1868.

My dear Wallace, — Your letter, like so many previous ones, has interested me much. Dr. Allbutt's view occurred to me some time ago, and 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 and protection by the mother-form for some time after impregnation. Hence the spermatozoa and antherozoids travel in the lower aquatic, animals and plants to the female, and pollen is borne to the female organ. As organisms rise in the scale it seems natural that the male should carry the spermatozoa to the females in his own body. As the male is the searcher he has received and gained more eager passions than the female; and, very differently from you, I look at this as one great difficulty [2] [p. 215] 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, and sometimes on many females. Nothing would please me more than to find evidence of males selecting the more attractive females (? in pigeons1): I have for months been trying to persuade myself of this. There is the case, of man in favour of this belief, and I know in hybrid (lizards') unions of males preferring particular females, but alas! not guided by colour. Perhaps I may get more evidence as I wade through my twenty years' mass of notes.

I am not 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 not the protective beauty of the female been transferred by inheritance to the male? The beauty would be a gain to the male, as far as we can see, as a protection; and I cannot believe that it would be repulsive to the 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, 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; and have come to your conclusion so far that I believe that intense colouring in the female sex is often checked by being dangerous.

That is an excellent remark of yours about no known [3] case of the male alone assuming protective colours; but in the cases in which protection has been gained by dull colours, I presume that sexual 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 loss of the male is somewhat less precious and thus there would be less rigorous selection with the male, so he would be less likely to be made beautiful through Natural Selection for protection. (This does not apply to sexual selection, for the greater the excess of males and the less precious their lives, so much the better for sexual selection.) But it seems to me a good argument, and very good if it could be thoroughly established. — Yours most sincerely,

C. DARWIN.

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

P.S. — I heard yesterday that my photograph had been sent to your London address — Westbourne Grove.

A joint footnote here reads: ""In pigeons" and "lizards" inserted by A R. W."

Please cite as “WCP1900,” in Beccaloni, G. W. (ed.), Ɛpsilon: The Alfred Russel Wallace Collection accessed on 9 December 2022, https://epsilon.ac.uk/view/wallace/letters/WCP1900