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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. R. Wallace   [12–17] March [1867]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.


My dear Wallace

I thank you much for your two notes.2 The case of Julia Pastrana is a splendid addition to my other cases of correlated teeth & hair, & I will add it in correcting the proofs of my present volume.—3 Pray let me hear in course of summer if you get any evidence about the gaudy caterpillars. I shd. much like to give (or quote if published) this idea of yours, if in any way supported, as suggested by you.4 It will, however, be a long time hence, for I can see that sexual selection is growing into quite a large subject, which I shall introduce into my essay on man, supposing that I ever publish it. I had intended giving a chapter on man, in as much as many call him (not quite truly) an eminently domesticated animal; but I found the subject too large for a chapter. Nor shall I be capable of treating the subject well, & my sole reason for taking it up is that I am pretty well convinced that sexual selection has played an important part in the formation of races, & sexual selection has always been a subject which has interested me much.5

I have been very glad to see your impression from memory on the expression of Malays.6 I fully agree with you that the subject is in no way an important one: it is simply a “hobby-horse” with me about 27 years old; & after thinking that I would write an essay on man, it flashed on me that I could work in some “supplemental remarks on expression,”— After the horrid tedious dull work of my present huge & I fear unreadable book, I thought I would amuse myself with my hobby-horse.7 The subject is, I think, more curious & more amenable to scientific treatment, than you seem willing to allow. I want anyhow to upset Sir C. Bell’s view, given in his most interesting work “the anatomy of Expression” that certain muscles have been given to man solely that he may reveal to other men his feelings. I want to try & show how expressions have arisen.—8

That is a good suggestion about newspapers;9 but my experience tells me that private applications are generally most fruitful.— I will, however, see if I can get the queries inserted in some Indian paper.— I do not know name or address of any other papers.—

I have just ordered, but not yet received Murray’s book: Lindley used to call him a blunder-headed man.—10 It is very doubtful whether I shall ever have strength to publish the latter part of my materials.11

My two female amanuenses are busy with friends, & I fear this scrawl will give you much trouble to read.—12

With many thanks | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The beginning of the date range is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from A. R. Wallace, 11 March [1867]. The end of the date range is established by CD’s evident receipt of A. Murray 1866 by 17 March (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 17 March [1867], and n. 10, below).
See letter from A. R. Wallace, 11 March [1867]. The other letter from Wallace has not been found.
Wallace’s letter about Julia Pastrana, the woman deformed by excessive hairiness and an enlarged jaw, has not been found. In a section on ‘Correlated variation of homologous parts’ (Variation 2: 322), CD commented on Pastrana, mistakenly writing that she was Spanish. He also wrote that her upper and lower jaws contained a double set of teeth, giving her face a ‘gorilla-like appearance’ (ibid., p. 328). It was later found that her features resulted from an enlargement of the gums, rather than extra teeth. See Browne and Messenger 2003.
See letter from A. R. Wallace, 11 March [1867]; Wallace had asked whether CD’s work on humans would be a supplement to Variation. CD had discussed the role of sexual selection in the formation of the human races in his letter to A. R. Wallace, 28 [May 1864] (Correspondence vol. 12).
See letter from A. R. Wallace, 11 March [1867]. CD made notes on human expression as early as 1838 (see, for example, Notebooks, Notebook M; see also Barrett 1980). CD also refers to Variation, which he had been working on since 1860 (see ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
CD read Charles Bell’s Essays on the anatomy of expression in painting (Bell 1806) in 1840 (see CD’s reading notebooks, Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV). CD acquired the third, enlarged edition of Bell 1806, The anatomy and philosophy of expression as connected with the fine arts (Bell 1844), in November 1866 from his brother, Erasmus Alvey Darwin (inscription to CD’s annotated copy of Bell 1844 in the Darwin Library–CUL; Marginalia 1: 47–9). CD later wrote that he had not agreed with Bell that some muscles had been ‘specially created for the sake of expression’ (Autobiography, p. 132). He included a critique of Bell’s ideas in Expression. There is an earlier note by CD on Bell 1806 and expression in Notebooks, Notebook C, C243 (Barrett 1980, p. 194). For more on CD’s and Bell’s views, see Browne 1985, Ekman 1998, pp. 7–9, 144, and Hartley 2001.
In his letter of 11 March [1867], Wallace suggested that CD send his list of queries on human expression to foreign newspapers.
See letter from A. R. Wallace, 11 March [1867] and n. 6. CD refers to Andrew Murray, A. Murray 1866, and John Lindley. CD’s Account books–cash account (Down House MS) records payment for books from Quaritch, a London bookseller, on 13 March 1867; these may have included A. Murray 1866 (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 17 March [1867], and n. 15).
CD often dictated letters to his wife, Emma, or daughter Henrietta. Emma recorded in her diary (DAR 242) that Sarah Elizabeth Wedgwood and Georgina Tollet were visiting from 11 to 21 March 1867.


Autobiography: The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882. With original omissions restored. Edited with appendix and notes by Nora Barlow. London: Collins. 1958.

Barrett, Paul H. 1980. Metaphysics, materialism, and the evolution of mind. Early writings of Charles Darwin. With a commentary by Howard E. Gruber. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Bell, Charles. 1806. Essays on the anatomy of expression in painting. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme.

Bell, Charles. 1844. The anatomy and philosophy of expression as connected with the fine arts. Preface by George Bell, and an appendix on the nervous system by Alexander Shaw. 3d edition, enlarged. London: John Murray.

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

Ekman, Paul. 1998. Introduction, afterword, and commentary to the third edition of The expression of the emotions in man and animals, by Charles Darwin. London: HarperCollins Publishers.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Murray, Andrew. 1866. The geographical distribution of mammals. London: Day and Son.

Notebooks: Charles Darwin’s notebooks, 1836–1844. Geology, transmutation of species, metaphysical enquiries. Transcribed and edited by Paul H. Barrett et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press for the British Museum (Natural History). 1987.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Asks to be kept informed on gaudy caterpillars.

Problems of his work on man; scope and role of sexual selection.

Indulgence of interest in expression is simply a "hobby-horse". Will see whether he can get queries inserted in an Indian newspaper.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent from
Source of text
The British Library (Add 46434 ff. 80–83v)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5440,” accessed on 5 December 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15