Colias Edusa.) (I forget what this is, and have no books here, unless it is Colias) not opening their wings. In one of my notes to Mr. Stainton I asked him (but he could or did not answer) whether butterflies such as the Fritillaries, with wings bright beneath and above, opened and shut their wings more than Vanessae, most of which, I think, are obscure on the under surface. That is a most curious observation about the red underwing moth and the robin (435/3. "Descent of Man," Edition I., Volume I., page 395. Mr. Weir describes the pursuit of a red-underwing, Triphoena pronuba, by a robin which was attracted by the bright colour of the moth, and constantly missed the insect by breaking pieces off the wing instead of seizing the body. Mr. Wallace's facts are given on the same page.), and strongly supports a suggestion (which I thought hardly credible) of A.R. Wallace, viz. that the immense wings of some exotic lepidoptera served as a protection from difficulty of birds seizing them. I will probably quote your case.
No doubt Dr. Hooker collected the Kerguelen moth, for I remember he told me of the case when I suggested in the "Origin," the explanation of the coleoptera of Madeira being apterous; but he did not know what had become of the specimens.
I am quite delighted to hear that you are observing coloured birds (435/4. "Descent of Man," Edition I., Volume II., page 110.), though the probability, I suppose, will be that no sure result will be gained. I am accustomed with my numerous experiments with plants to be well satisfied if I get any good result in one case out of five.
You will not be able to read all my book--too much detail. Some of the chapters in the second volume are curious, I think. If any man wants to gain a good opinion of his fellow-men, he ought to do what I am doing, pester them with letters.
LETTER 436. TO J. JENNER WEIR. 4, Chester Place, Regent's Park, N.W., March 13th .
You make a very great mistake when you speak of "the risk of your notes boring me." They are of the utmost value to me, and I am sure I shall never be tired of receiving them; but I must not be unreasonable. I shall give almost all the facts which you have mentioned in your two last notes, as well as in the previous ones; and my only difficulty will be not to give too much and weary my readers. Your last note is especially valuable about birds displaying the beautiful parts of their plumage. Audubon (436/1. In his "Ornithological Biography," 5 volumes, Edinburgh, 1831-49.) gives a good many facts about the antics of birds during courtship, but nothing nearly so much to the purpose as yours. I shall never be able to resist giving the whole substance of your last note. It is quite a new light to me, except with the peacock and Bird of Paradise. I must now look to turkey's wings; but I do not think that their wings are beautiful when opened during courtship. Its tail is finely banded. How about the drake and Gallus bankiva? I forget how their wings look when expanded. Your facts are all the more valuable as I now clearly see that for butterflies I must trust to analogy altogether in regard to sexual selection. But I think I shall make out a strong case (as far as the rather deceitful guide of analogy will serve) in the sexes of butterflies being alike or differing greatly--in moths which do not display the lower surface of their wings not having them gaudily coloured, etc., etc.--nocturnal moths, etc.--and in some male insects fighting for the females, and attracting them by music.
My discussion on sexual selection will be a curious one--a mere dovetailing of information derived from you, Bates, Wallace, etc., etc., etc.
We remain at above address all this month, and then return home. In the summer, could I persuade you to pay us a visit of a day or two, and I would try and get Bates and some others to come down? But my health is so precarious, I can ask no one who will not allow me the privilege of a poor old invalid; for talking, I find by long and dear-bought experience, tries my head more than anything, and I am utterly incapable of talking more than half an hour, except on rare occasions.