On the subject of "sexual selection" and "protection," you do not yet convince me that I am wrong; but I expect your heaviest artillery will be brought up in your second volume, and I may have to capitulate. You seem, however, to have somewhat misunderstood my exact meaning, and I do not think the difference between us is quite so great as you seem to think it. There are a number of passages in which you argue against the view that the female has in any large number of cases been "specially modified" for protection, or that colour has generally been obtained by either sex for purposes of protection. But my view is, as I thought I had made it clear, that the female has (in most cases) been simply prevented from acquiring the gay tints of the male (even when there was a tendency for her to inherit it), because it was hurtful; and that, when protection is not needed, gay colours are so generally acquired by both sexes as to show that inheritance by both sexes of colour variations is the most usual, when not prevented from acting by Natural Selection. The colour itself may be acquired either by sexual selection or by other unknown causes.
There are, however, difficulties in the very wide application you give to sexual selection which at present stagger me, though no one was or is more ready than myself to admit the perfect truth of the principle or the immense importance and great variety of its applications.
Your chapters on "Man" are of intense interest--but as touching my special heresy, not as yet altogether convincing, though, of course, I fully agree with every word and every argument which goes to prove the "evolution" or "development" of man out of a lower form. My ONLY difficulties are, as to whether you have accounted for EVERY STEP of the development by ascertained laws.
I feel sure that the book will keep up and increase your high reputation, and be immensely successful, as it deserves to be...
LETTER 458. TO G.B. MURDOCH. Down, March 13th, 1871.
(458/1. We are indebted to Mr. Murdoch for a draft of his letter dated March 10th, 1871. It is too long to be quoted at length; the following citations give some idea of its contents: "In your 'Descent of Man,' in treating of the external differences between males and females of the same variety, have you attached sufficient importance to the different amount and kind of energy expended by them in reproduction?" Mr. Murdoch sums up: "Is it wrong, then, to suppose that extra growth, complicated structure, and activity in one sex exist as escape-valves for surplus vigour, rather than to please or fight with, though they may serve these purposes and be modified by them?")
I am much obliged for your valuable letter. I am strongly inclined to think that I have made a great and complete oversight with respect to the subject which you discuss. I am the more surprised at this, as I remember reflecting on some points which ought to have led me to your conclusion. By an odd chance I received the day before yesterday a letter from Mr. Lowne (author of an excellent book on the anatomy of the Blow-fly) (458/2. "The Anatomy and Physiology of the Blow-fly (Musca vomitaria L.)," by B.T. Lowne. London, 1870.) with a discussion very nearly to the same effect as yours. His conclusions were drawn from studying male insects with great horns, mandibles, etc. He informs me that his paper on this subject will soon be published in the "Transact. Entomolog. Society." (458/3. "Observations on Immature Sexuality and Alternate Generation in Insects." By B.T. Lowne. "Trans. Entomolog. Soc." 1871 [Read March 6th, 1871]. "I believe that certain cutaneous appendages, as the gigantic mandibles and thoracic horns of many males, are complemental to the sexual organs; that, in point of fact, they are produced by the excess of nutriment in the male, which in the female would go to form the generative organs and ova" (loc. cit., page 197).) I am inclined to look at your and Mr. Lowne's view as specially valuable from probably throwing light on the greater variability of male than female animals, which manifestly has much bearing on sexual selection.