In response to Darwin’s claim that the British aristocracy has been made more beautiful “from pick of women”, Alfred Russel Wallace replied (in a letter to Darwin written on 29 May 1864):
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, & besides we unavoidably combine in our idea of beauty, intellectual expression & refinement of manners, which often make the less appear the more beautiful. Mere physical beauty,that is, a healthy & regular development of the body & features approaching to the mean or type of European man,I believe is quite as frequent in one class of society as the other & much more frequent in rural districts than in cities.
In addition to being an admirably Republican sentiment, Wallace’s letter is an early statement of the idea that the average physical form is perceived as the most beautiful.