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The start of Wallace's Malay Archipelago expedition

Full transcription

2nd letter                  Singapore  April 30th. 1854

My dear Mother

We arrived here safe on the 20th of this month having had very fine weather all the voyage. On shore I was obliged to go to a Hotel which was very expensive so I tried to get out into the country as soon as I could, which however I did not manage in less than a week, when I at last got permission to stay with a French Roman Catholic Missionary who lives about 8 miles out of the Town & close to the jungle.

The greater part of the Inhabitants of Singapore are Chinese many of whom are very rich, & all the villages about are almost entirely of Chinese who cultivate pepper & Gambir. Some of the English merchants here have splendid Country houses. I dined with one to whom I brought an introduction - His house was most elegant & full of magnificent Chinese &Japan furniture.

[written vertically at the left hand side of the page]
address "A.R.Wallace Esqr to the care of Mess[e]rs. Hamilton Gray & Co- Singapore (via Southampton)

We are now at the mission of Bukit Tima. The missionary speaks English Malay & Chinese as well as French and is a very pleasant man. He has built a pretty church here & has about three hundred Chinese converts. Having only been here four days I cannot tell much about my collections yet. Insects however are plentiful. Some sorts more so than at Pará, others less. I have not yet decided what I shall do but I think to stay here a month& then go to Malacca till my boxes arrive by the "Eliza Thornton". The mail from England will be in tomorrow or next day when I shall expect some letters & papers. I wrote last to George Silk from Aden & told him to show you the letter. Letters addressed to me, care of Mess[e]rs. Hamilton Gray & Co. will reach me till further orders.

Tell Mr. Stevens I will write to him next mail & tell him a little about the Insects &c. I have not seen any tigers yet & do not expect to, for there are not many in this neighbourhood & there has not been a man killed at this place for two years - Charles gets on pretty well. He is quite well in health & catches a few insects, but he is very untidy which you may imagine by his clothes being all torn to pieces by the time we arrived here. He will no doubt improve & will soon be useful.

Singapore is a very curious & interesting place. The Chinese do all this work, they are a most industrious people, & the place could hardly exist without them. The harbour is full of Chinese junks & small native vessels. There are now also 3 English men of war as some Russian vessels were expected here.  Malay is the universal language in which all business is carried on. It is easy& I am beginning to pick up a little, but when we go to Malacca shall learn it most, as there they speak nothing else. I am very unfortunate with my watch. I dropped it on board & broke the balance spring & have now sent it home to Mr Matthews to repair as I cannot trust any one here to do it.  The bill will be sent to Mr. Stevens who please tell to pay it. There was also a book I left unpaid for 10s/6d I think at Williams & Norgate. - Tell Mr S-[tevens] to pay this also. Every thing for living in this Town of Singapore is very dear except clothing &c. I have had a lot of jackets & trousers made by a Chinese very well at 2s. each for making -
Love to Fanny & Thomas.
I remain your affectionate Son
[signed]                         Alfred R Wallace

[written vertically at the left hand side of the page]

P.S. The climate here is almost that of Para & is very delightful. The forest too looks very much the same. Palms are very abundant - AW.

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