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Illustration of Hertford Grammar School

Illustration of Hertford Grammar School

Catalogue number: WP6/8/7

Print from an engraving of Hertford Grammar School, which Wallace attended as a boy, undated, originally published 1830.

This print is of Hertford Grammar School, with the caption 'from an engraving by Storer in Turner's "History" 1830'. Built and founded in 1617, the school is where Wallace received his formal education.

The school was basically one large room with four windows, where four schoolmasters taught 80 boys all together. School was rather tedious and irrelevant to Wallace, apart from learning French. The illustration is reproduced in Wallace's autobiography, My Life (volume 1, facing page 49, 1905), in which he remarks that 'next to Latin the most painful subject I learnt was geography...'.

This is perhaps surprising since Wallace went on to pioneer the study of biogeography. He craved intellectual challenge and investigation rather than memorising Latin verbs and geographical place names. As Wallace was keen to know more about the nature around him, he took on a programme of self-education, which continued throughout his life.

In 1835 the Wallace family fell on hard times financially, which forced Wallace to leave school by the following year, aged just 14.

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Letter to Alfred Russel Wallace from the Royal Society, about his Darwin Medal award

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