In the very lowest tribes there is rarely much polygamy, and women are more or less a matter of purchase. There is also little difference of social condition, and I think it rarely happens that any healthy and undeformed man remains without wife and children. I very much doubt the often-repeated assertion that our aristocracy are more beautiful than the middle classes. I allow that they present specimens of the highest kind of beauty, but I doubt the average. I have noticed in country places a greater average amount of good looks among the middle classes, and besides we unavoidably combine in our idea of beauty, intellectual expression, and refinement of manner, which often makes the less appear the more beautiful. Mere physical beauty--i.e. a healthy and regular development of the body and features approaching to the mean and type of European man, I believe is quite as frequent in one class of society as the other, and much more frequent in rural districts than in cities.
With regard to the rank of man in zoological classification, I fear I have not made myself intelligible. I never meant to adopt Owen's or any other such views, but only to point out that from one point of view he was right. I hold that a distinct family for Man, as Huxley allows, is all that can possibly be given him zoologically. But at the same time, if my theory is true, that while the animals which surrounded him have been undergoing modification in all parts of their bodies to a generic or even family degree of difference, he has been changing almost wholly in the brain and head--then in geological antiquity the SPECIES man may be as old as many mammalian families, and the origin of the FAMILY man may date back to a period when some of the ORDERS first originated.
As to the theory of Natural Selection itself, I shall always maintain it to be actually yours and yours only. You had worked it out in details I had never thought of, years before I had a ray of light on the subject, and my paper would never have convinced anybody or been noticed as more than an ingenious speculation, whereas your book has revolutionised the study of Natural History, and carried away captive the best men of the present age. All the merit I claim is the having been the means of inducing you to write and publish at once. I may possibly some day go a little more into this subject (of Man), and if I do will accept the kind offer of your notes.
I am now, however, beginning to write the "Narrative of my Travels," which will occupy me a long time, as I hate writing narrative, and after Bates' brilliant success rather fear to fail.
I shall introduce a few chapters on Geographical Distribution and other such topics. Sir C. Lyell, while agreeing with my main argument on Man, thinks I am wrong in wanting to put him back into Miocene times, and thinks I do not appreciate the immense interval even to the later Pliocene. But I still maintain my view, which in fact is a logical result of my theory; for if man originated in later Pliocene, when almost all mammalia were of closely allied species to those now living, and many even identical, then man has not been stationary in bodily structure while animals have been varying, and my theory will be proved to be all wrong.
In Murchison's address to the Geographical Society, just delivered, he points out Africa as being the oldest existing land. He says there is no evidence of its having been ever submerged during the Tertiary epoch. Here then is evidently the place to find early man. I hope something good may be found in Borneo, and that the means may be found to explore the still more promising regions of tropical Africa, for we can expect nothing of man very early in Europe.
It has given me great pleasure to find that there are symptoms of improvement in your health. I hope you will not exert yourself too soon or write more than is quite agreeable to you. I think I made out every word of your letter, though it was not always easy.
(406*/4. For Wallace's later views see Letter 408, note.)