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Darwin Correspondence Project

From A. R. Wallace   30 January 1869

9, St Mark’s Crescent | N.W.

Jany. 30th. 1869

Dear Darwin

Will you tell me where are Fleming Jenkyn’s arguments on importance of single variations.1 Because I at present hold most strongly the contrary opinion, that it is the individual differences or general variability of species that enables them to become modified and adapted to new conditions.

Variations or “sports” may be important in modifying an animal in one direction, as in colour for instance, but how it can possibly work in changes requiring co-ordination of many parts, as in Orchids for example, I cannot conceive. And as all the more important structural modifications of animals & plants imply much coordination, it appears to me that the chances are millions to one against individual variations ever coinciding so as to render the required modification possible.

However let me read first what has convinced you.

You may tell Mrs. Darwin that I have now a daughter.2

Give my kind regards to her & all your family.

Very truly yours | Alfred R. Wallace—


See letter to A. R. Wallace, 22 January [1869] and n. 7. Wallace refers to Henry Charles Fleeming Jenkin.
Wallace refers to Emma Darwin and to Violet Wallace, who was born on 27 January 1869 (Raby 2001, p. 199).


Raby, Peter. 2001. Alfred Russel Wallace: a life. London: Chatto & Windus.


Argues that [general variability] of species, not single variations or sports, is basis for modification and adaptation to new conditions.

Letter details

Letter no.
Alfred Russel Wallace
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, St Mark’s Crescent, 9
Source of text
DAR 106: B75–6
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6583,” accessed on 24 July 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17