WCP1969

Letter (WCP1969.1859)

[1]

Down, Beckenham

June 25— 76

My dear Wallace

I have been able to read rather more quickly of late and have finished your book. I have not much to say. Your careful account of the temperate parts of S.[outh] America interested me much, and all the more from knowing something of the country. I like also much the general remarks towards the end of the Vol on the land mollusks[sic]. Now for a few criticisms.

P. 122: I am surprised at your [one letter illegible crossed put] saying that "during the whole Tertiary period N.[orth] America was Zoologically far more strongly contrasted with S.[outh] America than it is now." But we know hardly any[2]thing of the latter except during the Pliocene period; and then the Mastodon, Horse, several great Edentata, &c., &c. were common to the N[orth] & S[outh]. If you are right I erred greatly in my Journal where I insisted on the former close connection between the two.

P 252 & elsewhere: I agree thoroughly with the general principle that a great area with many competing forms is necessary for much and high development[sic]; but do you not extend this principle too far,— I should say much too far, considering how often several species of the same genus have been developed on very small Islands?

P. 265: You say that the Sittidae extend to Madagascar, but there is no number [3] in the tabular heading.

P 359: Rhinochaetus is entered in the tabular heading under No 3 of the Neotropical sub-regions

Reviewers think it necessary to find some fault; & if I were to review you, the sole point which I should blame is your not giving very numerous references. These would save whoever follows you, great labour. Occasionally I wished myself to know the authority for certain statements & whether you or somebody else had originated certain subordinate views. Take the case of a man who had collected largely on some Island, for instance St Helena, & who wished to work out the geographical relations of his collection; he would I think [4] feel very blank at not finding in your work, precise references to all that had been written on St Helena. I who hope you will not think me a confoundedly disagreeable fellow.

I may mention a capital a essay which I received a few months ago from Axel Blytt on the distribution of the plants of Scandinavia; showing the high probability of there having been altered secular periods of alternately wet & dry periods; & of the important part which they have played in distribution.

I wrote to Forel who is always at work on ants, and told him of your views about the dispersal of the blind coleoptera, and asked him to observe.

I spoke to Hooker about your book, and feel sure that he would like nothing better than [5] to consider the distribution of plants in relation to your views; but he seemed to doubt whether he should ever have time.

And now I have done my jottings, & once again congratulate you on having brought out so grand a work. I have been a little disappointed at the review in Nature

my dear Wallace | Yours sincerely | Charles Darwin [signature]

Published letter (WCP1969.6067)

[1] [p. 292]

Down, Beckenham. June 25, 1876.

My dear Wallace, — I have been able to read rather more quickly of late and have finished your book.1 I have not much to say. Your careful account of the temperate parts of South America interested me much, and all the more from knowing something of the country. I like also much the general remarks towards the end of the volume on the land molluscs. Now for a few criticisms.

P. 122:2 I am surprised at your saying that "during the whole Tertiary3 period North America was zoologically far more strongly contrasted with South America than it is now." But we know hardly anything of the latter except during the Pliocene4 period, and then the mastodon, horse, several great Dentata,5 etc. etc., were common to the North and South. If you are right I erred greatly in [2] [p. 293] my Journal, where I insisted on the former close connection between the two.

P. 252, and elsewhere: I agree thoroughly with the general principle that a great area with many competing forms is necessary for much and high development; but do you not extend this principle too far — I should say much too far, considering how often several species of the same genus have been developed on very small islands ?

P. 265: You say that the Sittidae6 extend to Madagascar, but there is no number in the tabular heading.7

P. 359 : Rhinochetus8 is entered in the tabular heading under No.3 of the Neotropical sub-regions.9

Reviewers think it necessary to find some fault, and if I were to review you, the sole point which I should blame is your not giving very numerous references. These would save whoever follows you great labour. Occasionally I wished myself to know the authority for certain statements, and whether you or somebody else had originated certain subordinate views. Take the case of a man who had collected largely on some island, for instance, St. Helena, and who wished to work out the geographical relations of his collection; he would, I think, feel very blank at not finding in your work precise references to all that had been written on St. Helena. I hope you will not think me a confoundedly disagreeable fellow.

I may mention a capital essay which I received a few months ago from Axel Blytt10,11 on the distribution of the plants of Scandinavia; showing the high probability of there having been secular periods alternately wet and dry; and of the important part which they have played in distribution. [3] [p. 294]

I wrote to Forel,12 who is always at work on ants, and told him of your views about the dispersal of the blind Coleoptera,13 and asked him to observe.

I spoke to Hooker14 about your book, and feel sure that he would like nothing better than to consider the distribution of plants in relation to your views; but he seemed to doubt whether he should ever have time.

And now I have done my jottings, and once again congratulate you on having brought out so grand a work. I have been a little disappointed at the review in Nature.15 — My dear Wallace, yours sincerely, | CHARLES DARWIN.

Wallace, A.R. (1876) 'The geographical distribution of animals: With a study of the relations of living and extinct faunas as elucidating the past changes of the earth's surface'. London: Macmillan & Co.
At this point a foot note is inserted: "The pages refer to Vol. II. of Wallace's "Geographical Distribution." "
Term used to cover the geological period from 66 million to 2.6 million years ago.
The Pliocene geological period lasted from 5.3 million to 2.6 million years ago.
A type of beetle?
The Nuthatch family of birds.
At this point a foot note is inserted: "The number (4) was erroneously omitted. — A.R.W."
Possibly the kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus), a bird found in the mountain forests of New Caledonia.
At this point a foot note is inserted: "— An error: should have been the Australian. — A.R.W."
Blytt, Axel Gudbrand (1843-1898). Norwegian botanist and geologist.
At this point a foot note is inserted: "Axel Blytt, "Essay on the Immigration of the Norwegian Flora." Christania, 1876."
Forel, Auguste (1848-1931). Swiss myrmecologist, neuroanatomist and psychiatrist.
A type of beetle.
Hooker, Joseph Dalton (1817-1911). British botanist and explorer.
British multidisciplinary science journal, first published in 1869.

Please cite as “WCP1969,” in Beccaloni, G. W. (ed.), Ɛpsilon: The Alfred Russel Wallace Collection accessed on 17 June 2024, https://epsilon.ac.uk/view/wallace/letters/WCP1969