Catalogue number: WP1/5/36
Letter from Wallace to his wife Annie about having a boil 'mesmerised' by a spiritualist, lecturing on spiritualism and the beauty of Californian forests, dated July 1887.
Wallace goes into great detail about his 'very disagreeable and annoying illness' - a large boil on his lip. A doctor lanced it 'but nothing came out but some dark blood', he writes. It sounds terrible and Wallace admits to finding eating and drinking difficult.
He announces that 'a spiritual friend has mesmerised it'. To us it might seem a little ridiculous to mesmerise (hypnotise) a boil! Perhaps Wallace really believed that it helped as he was a committed spiritualist, or maybe he just kept an open mind.
Wallace sends his wife Annie a reprint of a lecture he presented on spiritualism in San Francisco. Wallace's trip to America was arranged to give scientific lectures on Darwinism. Since he was known for his spiritualist beliefs, he was offered 'very liberal terms' to lecture on spiritualism.
The first lecture, which he writes about here, was given to 'an audience of over 100' people. He was paid $140, a large sum of money in 1887, and, as Wallace writes, 'more than I have ever had for scientific lectures'. He received more requests for similar lectures and concluded 'spiritualism will pay more than natural history'. This was a positive outcome for a man who struggled financially throughout his life.
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View high resolution scans and transcripts of Alfred Russel Wallace's correspondence, including all surviving letters between him and Charles Darwin.