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Wallace on animal distribution and admiration of Darwin

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                           Ternate Decr. 24th. 1860
Dear Bates                      

Many thanks for your long & interesting letter. I have myself suffered much in the same way as you describe & I think more severely. The kind of "taedium vitae" you mention I also occasionally experience here. I impute it to a too monotonous existence. I know not how or to whom to express fully my admiration of Darwin's book. To him it would seem flattery to others self praise;- but I do honestly believe that with however much patience I had worked up  & experimented on the  subject I could never have approached the completeness of his book,- its overwhelming argument, & its admirable tone & spirit. I really feel thankful that it has not been left to me to give the theory to the public. Mr. Darwin has created a new science & a new Philosophy, & I believe that never has such a complete illustration of a new branch of human knowledge, been due to the labours & researches of a single man. Never have such vast masses of widely scattered & hitherto utterly disconnected facts been combined in to a system, & brought to bear upon the establishment of such a grand & new & simple philosophy!  I am surprised at your joining to the N. & S. banks of lower Amazon into one region. Did you not find a sufficiency of distinct sp. at Obydos & Barra to separate them from [?] & Santarem?  I am now convinced that insects on the whole do not give such true indications in Zoological Geog.[raphy] as birds & Mammals     because they have,- 1st. such immensely greater chances of distribution, & 2nd. because they are so much more affected by local circumstances.   [written vertically at the left hand side of the page] also 3rd. because the sp. seem to change quicker & therefore disguise a comparatively recent identity.  Thus the insect of two originally distinct regions vary rapidly become  amalgamated,- a portion of the same region may come to be inhabited by very distinct insect faunas owing to differences of soil climate &c. &c.. This is strikingly shown here, where the insect fauna from Malacca to N. Guinea has a very large amount of characteristic uniformity; while Australia from its distinct climate & vegetation shows a wide difference - I am inclined to think therefore, that a preliminary study of first the Mammals & then the Birds are indisputable to a correct understanding of the Geographical & physical changes on which the present insect distribution depends.    With regard to exchange, I think it must be left till my return, which according to my present plans will not be delayed beyond a year & a half from this date. The groups I intend to collect generally are, - Papilios & Pieridiae only among Lepidoptera; - & Cicindelidae Carabides Lac. Buprestidae Cleridae Longicornies & Brenthidae among Coleoptera - Also illustrations of genera of Coleoptera generally & the more common of the remarkable or handsome species. If you will put by for me at your leisure the most complete set you can spare of these groups, I shall (I have no doubt) be able to let you have an equal number of such specimens as you may desire. In a day or two I leave for Timor where if I am lucky in finding a good locality I expect some fine & interesting insects.                           
In haste  
Yours faithfully [signed]                           Alfred R Wallace
[to] H.W. Bates Esq.



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

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