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Darwin Correspondence Project

From T. V. Wollaston   [November–December 1857]1

the “ultra-indigenous” ones, but) those which have apparently found their way thither by natural processes, & before the period of colonisation,—regarding those which have arrived through human agencies (whether recently or not) as, in a general sense, “introduced”.—

Therefore in all generalisations (except to prove certain special propositions) I would, as the safer plan, consider the Fauna (as stated in my foot-note) in its 2-fold light,—i.e., as composed of asterisked & unasterisked species (or “imported” & “indigenous”, in a general sense). 2

I was not aware that varieties occurred more in large genera than in small ones,—except from the á priori certainty, that where there are more species to vary, there must naturally be more varieties.—3 I do not know what book to recommend you, about varieties. Stephens is utterly worthless (mere waste paper).4 Perhaps old Gyllenhal’s Ins. Suecica would be your best, for he is a most careful & good describer, & notes his varieties well.5 Some of his “varieties” have perhaps, since his day, been established as species; nevertheless upon the whole he is careful & sound, & usually notices varieties, where they are at all well-marked: & I sd. think therefore as the book is extensive (4 vols.), any deductions from so large a superficies would stand a chance of being correct. 6

1.perhaps T. lineatus, Sch.7370.— B. —?
31.— O. fuscatus, Dej.386.— C. —?
36.— O. aterrimus, Hbst.387.— H. —?
67.— B. rufescens, Guèr.392.— L. —?
69.— — tibiale, Meg.394.—L. —?
71.— — callosum, Küst.395.— L. —?
81.— O. punctatus, Steph.399.— P. —?
178.— C. fuscula, Humm.400.— P. —?
179.— — elongata, Schüpp. 404.— C. minutus, F. 
186.— M. picipes, Payk.437.perhaps H. —?
197.— S. setigera, Ill.449.— Blaps clypeata, Germ.
207.— T. grandicollis, Germ.468.— M. murinus, Brandt.
223.— T. elateroides, Heer499.— H. clientula, Er.
225.— E. hœmorrhoum, Germ.508.— O. exoleta, Er.
226.— M. brevicollis, Payk.509.— —. cuniculina, Er.
231.— D. —?526.— T. pilicornis, Gyll.
250.— A. villosam, Bon.545.— P. procerulus, Grav.
258.— O. glabriculus, Gyll.546.— A. depressum, Grav.
261.— T. —?560.— S. cicindeloides, Grav.
319.— L. Juncii, Dahl

But I must really conclude this perfectly horrid & disreputable scrawl, for I am starting early tom. morning, & have nearly all my packing &c to do. A line here will always find me; but if you have anything to say immediately, “at the Revd. J.  F. Dawson’s, Woodlands, Bedford”8 will be my address till Friday. Whilst in Ireland I shall not have much opportunity for writing.

Your’s very sincerely | T V Wollaston.

CD annotations

crossed brown crayon
double scored brown crayon
Top of list: “Close Geographical Representatives of European species” ink


The letter follows the publication of Wollaston 1857, with which it deals. The book was published on 10 October 1857 (Entomology Library, British Museum (Natural History)). Though CD could have requested the information given in this letter at any time from October 1857 to April 1858, when he completed his statistical survey of varieties (‘Journal’; see Correspondence vol. 6, Appendix II), it seems likely that the letter was written during the close of 1857. Wollaston visited the Canary Islands from January to June 1858 (Wollaston 1861, pp. 368, 371, and 402).
In the introductory remarks of Wollaston 1857, Wollaston described how he distinguished between those species that had undoubtedly been imported (which he denoted by a double asterisk), the ones that had arrived on the island through various ‘accidental circumstances’ since the group was first colonised (marked by a single asterisk), and those that were created in the region (‘ultra-indigenous’) or had migrated there by natural means before colonisation (Wollaston 1857, pp. viii–ix and ix n.).
CD apparently wrote to Wollaston in connection with his calculations comparing the numbers of variable species in large and small genera. CD had previously written to Wollaston when he was studying aberrant genera (see Correspondence vol. 5, letter from T. V. Wollaston, 2 March [1855]).
Gyllenhal 1808–27.
For CD’s calculations using Wollaston 1857 and Gyllenhal 1808–27, see Natural selection, pp. 151 and 171. His manuscripts relating to the calculations are in DAR 16.1: 138–9 and DAR 16.2: 216–17, 272–4.
In the list, the numbers on the left refer to species descriptions in Wollaston 1857 of Coleoptera found only in Madeira. The rest of the list gives the names of non-Madeiran species that Wollaston considered were closely related to the numbered ones. At the top of the list CD has written: ‘Close geographical Representatives of European species’ (see CD’s annotations). In his copy of Wollaston 1857, the numbered species are marked with a cross so that Ebenezer Norman, CD’s copyist, could calculate the ratio of species to genera as instructed by CD (see DAR 16.2: 217a).
John Frederick Dawson, who resided at Woodlands, Bedford, was the vicar of All Saints’ Church in Toynton, Lincolnshire.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

Stephens, James Francis. 1829a. A systematic catalogue of British insects: being an attempt to arrange all the hitherto discovered indigenous insects in accordance with their natural affinities. London: Baldwin and Cradock.

Wollaston, Thomas Vernon. 1857. Catalogue of the coleopterous insects of Madeira in the collection of the British Museum. London: By order of the Trustees.

Wollaston, Thomas Vernon. 1861. On the Atlantic Cossonides. Transactions of the Entomological Society of London n.s. 5 (1858-61): 362–407.


He was unaware that varieties occurred proportionately more in large genera.

Recommends a work [Leonard Gyllenhaal, Insecta Suecica, 4 vols. (1808–27)] for tabulating varieties.

Lists "close geographical representatives of Europaean species" based on the species numbers [in T. V. Wollaston, Catalogue of the coleopterous insects of Madeira (1857)].

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Vernon Wollaston
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 16: 223
Physical description
2pp inc †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2133,” accessed on 16 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6