skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. R. Wallace   6 July [1867]1

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

July 6

My dear Wallace

I am very much obliged for your article on mimicry, the whole of which I have read with the greatest interest.2 You certainly have the art of putting your ideas with remarkable force & clearness; now that I am slaving over proof sheets it makes me almost envious.3

I have been particularly glad to read about the bird’s nests, & I must procure the Intellectual Observer;4 but the point which I think struck me most was about it being of no use to the Heliconias to acquire in a slight degree a disagreeable taste.5

What a curious case is that about the coral snakes.6 The summary & indeed the whole is excellent & I have enjoyed it much.

With many thanks | yours very sincerely. | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the references to Wallace’s articles on mimicry and birds’ nests (see nn. 2 and 4, below).
CD refers to Wallace’s article ‘Mimicry, and other protective resemblances among animals’ ([A. R. Wallace] 1867a), published in the Westminster Review in July. There is an annotated offprint, inscribed by the author, in DAR 133: 13.
CD was working on the proof-sheets of Variation.
Wallace discussed birds’ nests in [A. R. Wallace] 1867a, pp. 38–9. See also letter from A. R. Wallace, 1 May 1867. Wallace’s article ‘The philosophy of birds’ nests’ was published in July in the Intellectual Observer (A. R. Wallace 1867b); there is an annotated copy in DAR 133: 12.
CD probably refers to a passage in [A. R. Wallace] 1867a, p. 20, where Wallace wrote: If any particular butterfly of an eatable group acquired the disagreeable taste of the Heliconias while it retained the characteristic form and colouring of its own group, this would be really of no use to it whatever; for the birds would go on catching it among its eatable allies (among whom, we suppose, it is comparatively rare), and it would probably be wounded and disabled, even if rejected, and would be as effectually killed as if it were devoured. CD double-scored this passage in his copy.
CD refers to a section in [A. R. Wallace] 1867a, pp. 31–2, where Wallace discussed the poisonous snake genus Elaps, including E. corallinus (now Micrurus corallinus, the Brazilian coral snake), and its non-poisonous mimics. CD scored this discussion in his copy, and cited it in Descent 2: 31–2.


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.


Acknowledgment of article on mimicry [Westminster Rev. 88 (1867): 1–43].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent from
Source of text
The British Library (Add 46434, f. 92)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5579,” accessed on 23 September 2021,

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