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Darwin Correspondence Project

To B. D. Walsh   9 August [1867]

Down, Bromley, Kent

Aug. 9th.

My dear Sir

I am very much obliged for your note & for the Practical Entomologist.1 I received your last paper & read it carefully & have just looked at it & find many passages marked, amongst others the concluding paragraph; but I am not sure that I think so much of this argument as of some others which you have advanced.2 I must say I am very glad to hear that you are going to give up your Journal for it must have been a very heavy burden, especially of late with your wife in such a suffering state.3 You will also now have more time for science.

With respect to the duplicate of the “Origin” I should rather like it to be sent to Dr. Leidy, the Paleontologist;4 but if there is any one else to whom you would like to send it, pray do so. I have been working very hard at my new book & I have no brains left, so you must excuse the stupidity of this letter, & the circumstance that I cannot say positively whether I received your letter of Feb 25, but if I did receive it it is safe for future reference in one of my portfolios.5 I do not remember ever receiving an unpaid letter from you. I am sorry to say I do not know the name of the oak gall which has spread throughout England.6 I was much interested by the passages which you marked in the Prac: Entomol: & have one question which I should be much obliged if you would sometime answer; it is, are you sure that the Lucanidæ use their great jaws to hold the females in copulation; I always thought that they used them in fighting with other males, & I am nearly sure that this is the case.—7

My dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


Walsh’s letter has not been found. Walsh evidently enclosed copies of Practical Entomologist for May and July 1867 (see n. 7, below). The copies have not been found in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
The reference is to the second half of a paper on gall insects (Walsh 1866). CD probably received the paper early in 1867 (see Correspondence vol. 14, letter to B. D. Walsh, 24 December [1866]). CD’s heavily annotated copy is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL; most of the final paragraph was scored. In it Walsh wrote: ‘Surely, therefore, upon general principles, a hypothesis, which accounts clearly and satisfactorily for a great mass of phenomena, is more likely to be a correct one, than a hypothesis which accounts for nothing, and, while it mercifully spares our Reasoning powers, draws most largely and exorbitantly upon our Faith’ (Walsh 1866, p. 288).
The Practical Entomologist, which was edited by Walsh, ceased publication with the double issue for August and September 1867 (vol. 2, nos. 11 and 12). Walsh’s wife was Rebecca Walsh.
Walsh evidently received two copies of the fourth edition of Origin (see Correspondence vol. 14, letter to B. D. Walsh, 24 December [1866]). Joseph Leidy had written to CD expressing support for the theory of natural selection (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to Joseph Leidy, 4 March [1861]). It is not known whether Leidy received Walsh’s spare copy of the book.
CD was working on the proof-sheets of Variation. CD kept a number of portfolios, amassed over a long period of time and since dispersed. The likely contents of some portfolios were reconstructed when some of CD’s papers were catalogued in 1932 (see DAR 220: 113). Only a fragment of the original letter from Walsh of [25 February 1867] has been found, suggesting that CD may have put an excised portion of the letter into a portfolio.
CD had mentioned a new gall, remarkable because it attached ‘not to the leaf but to twigs’ in his letter to B. D. Walsh of 20 August [1866] (Correspondence vol. 14).
The reference is to Walsh’s statement that male horn-bugs (family Lucanidae) used their enlarged jaws to grasp females during mating; Walsh made this statement in a two-part paper that appeared in the issues of Practical Entomologist for May and July 1867 (Practical Entomologist 2 (1867): 88, 107). CD’s copies have not been found. CD cited these pages of Practical Entomologist in Descent 1: 342, but added that the jaws were probably also used for fighting.


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

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

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


Is not sure he thinks so much of BDW’s argument in his last paper as of some others he advanced. Is BDW sure Lucanidae use jaws for holding female in copulation rather than for fighting other males?

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Benjamin Dann Walsh
Sent from
AU10 67
Source of text
Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago (Walsh 15)
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5603,” accessed on 27 October 2021,

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