[In February 1867, when the manuscript of 'Animals and Plants' had been sent to Messrs. Clowes to be printed, and before the proofs began to come in, he had an interval of spare time, and began a "chapter on Man," but he soon found it growing under his hands, and determined to publish it separately as a "very small volume."
The work was interrupted by the necessity of correcting the proofs of 'Animals and Plants,' and by some botanical work, but was resumed in the following year, 1868, the moment he could give himself up to it.
He recognized with regret the gradual change in his mind that rendered continuous work more and more necessary to him as he grew older. This is expressed in a letter to Sir J.D. Hooker, June 17, 1868, which repeats to some extent what is expressed in the Autobiography:--
"I am glad you were at the 'Messiah,' it is the one thing that I should like to hear again, but I dare say I should find my soul too dried up to appreciate it as in old days; and then I should feel very flat, for it is a horrid bore to feel as I constantly do, that I am a withered leaf for every subject except Science. It sometimes makes me hate Science, though God knows I ought to be thankful for such a perennial interest, which makes me forget for some hours every day my accursed stomach."
The work on Man was interrupted by illness in the early summer of 1868, and he left home on July 16th for Freshwater, in the Isle of Wight, where he remained with his family until August 21st. Here he made the acquaintance of Mrs. Cameron. She received the whole family with open-hearted kindness and hospitality, and my father always retained a warm feeling of friendship for her. She made an excellent photograph of him, which was published with the inscription written by him: "I like this photograph very much better than any other which has been taken of me." Further interruption occurred in the autumn so that continuous work on the 'Descent of Man' did not begin until 1869. The following letters give some idea of the earlier work in 1867:]
CHARLES DARWIN TO A.R. WALLACE. Down, February 22, [1867?].
My dear Wallace,
I am hard at work on sexual selection, and am driven half mad by the number of collateral points which require investigation, such as the relative number of the two sexes, and especially on polygamy. Can you aid me with respect to birds which have strongly marked secondary sexual characters, such as birds of paradise, humming-birds, the Rupicola, or any other such cases? Many gallinaceous birds certainly are polygamous. I suppose that birds may be known not to be polygamous if they are seen during the whole breeding season to associate in pairs, or if the male incubates or aids in feeding the young. Will you have the kindness to turn this in your mind? But it is a shame to trouble you now that, as I am HEARTILY glad to hear, you are at work on your Malayan travels. I am fearfully puzzled how far to extend your protective views with respect to the females in various classes. The more I work the more important sexual selection apparently comes out.
Can butterflies be polygamous! i.e. will one male impregnate more than one female? Forgive me troubling you, and I dare say I shall have to ask forgiveness again...
CHARLES DARWIN TO A.R. WALLACE. Down, February 23 .
I much regretted that I was unable to call on you, but after Monday I was unable even to leave the house. On Monday evening I called on Bates, and put a difficulty before him, which he could not answer, and, as on some former similar occasion, his first suggestion was, "You had better ask Wallace." My difficulty is, why are caterpillars sometimes so beautifully and artistically coloured? Seeing that many are coloured to escape danger, I can hardly attribute their bright colour in other cases to mere physical conditions. Bates says the most gaudy caterpillar he ever saw in Amazonia (of a sphinx) was conspicuous at the distance of yards, from its black and red colours, whilst feeding on large green leaves.