Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP1251

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
William Greenell [ARW's son] Wallace
31 October 1897

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Corfe View, Parkstone, Dorset to William Greenell [ARW's son] Wallace [none given] on 31 October 1897.

Record created:
23 May 2011 by NHM


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LETTER (WCP1251.1030)

A typical letter handwritten by author in English and signed by author.

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/1/205
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Physical description

Transcription information




Parkstone, Dorset

Oct[obe]r. 31st. 1897

My dear Will

We were very glad to get your letter from Buffalo and to hear that you had seen Niagara & the Electric Power works which no doubt greatly interested you. You do not seem to have got a letter I sent to Summerhook which I thought would reach you before you left. I will send this to Denver as you direct but if you get work at Chicago you will not I suppose get it; though perhaps you might by writing to the P[ost]. O[ffice]. there. We have had a most glorious October fine mild and sunny all the time. I hardly ever remember one like it. I have just had the roof of the small greenhouse joining the bath room raised and the front pushed out, which makes it so much lighter.1

The roof was taken down entire, Then the front, propped up in new place, with ventilating shutters & a dwarf wall beneath it. The Carpenter who built my orchid’s house and his man did it all in two days, with a painter & glazier one day, and it is like a new house & has room for twice [[2]] as many orchids.

Some weeks back the President of the British Phrenological Association asked me to have my head examined for a delineation of character for their "Annual" next year. Yesterday a Mr. Webb called to do the business. He is head-master of the large Board School at Leyton -- 1500 children. He has been a phrenologist all his life & is 56 years old. He seems a very thorough phrenologist. He told me for instance that I was rather fond of good things especially liquids. I said I did not drink much & never had, but he said, "Are you not fond of gravy, and soup, and milk, & things of that sort rather than solids? That "touched the spot" didn’t it? He says the organ of love of food is now divided into two, for liquid & solid food. He is very liberal & has been much in Ireland & is a Home Ruler, & has written on the Irish question, but knows nothing of L.[and] Nat[ionalisatio]n or Socialism, and as he was saying that he often delineated characters from Photographs it suddenly occurred to me to take down R. Blatchford’s2 photo and ask him to tell us what he could of him. He had no notion who it was and had never heard the name. I took [[3]] down what he said almost verbatim. He studied it closely, and appeared to read it, bit by bit. Remember the difficulties of a photo. only [sic] part of the head visible, and no means of judging very accurately of details of contour. Yet this is what he said.

"This man has veneration for all that is good.

He is practical -- a good worker.

He has constructiveness, but has not cultivated it.

He would have made a god sculptor.

He is a critic more than a doer.

His is not politio -- not secretive enough -- and is apt to offend people he does not respect.

His moral sentiments are strong; -- He is essentially religious.

His intellect is good -- He would be a good mathematician but it has not been developed.

He is by nature a poet, and if he does not write poetry, his prose is as good as poetry. He describes nature poetically.

He has some inherited sensuality but it has been overcome.

Whatever he thinks ought to be done he does.

The good and the beautiful by nature are, to him, God.

He might be a missionary. He is a missionary to the ignorant. He works for his fellow creatures with thoroughness and enthusiasm.


Afterwards when looking at other photos. he would say -- This man has intellect and is good [[4]] but nothing like that Blatchford. I asked him if he had read a book called "Merrie England"3. He said he had heard of it. "It is about Socialism isn’t it"? So I gave him a copy to read.

I then showed him Mr. Swinton’s photo. After looking at it a bit, he said -- I should describe that man’s character in two words –

"Unselfish ambition". You know perhaps that I always say that Swinton is the most unselfish and liberal man I have ever known. After looking a bit more he said -- "He is very hopeful -- he is truly religious -- he has general intellectual ability – friends think he is a little cranky – His language is weak, but he may speak well.


This is a wonderfully true description of Mr. Swinton. We then showed him your Photo. and Mac’s. He did not say very much of either, but I think he hit some points. I will give that in my next letter.

He says (and I believe him) let him examine a man’s head and he knows him better than his most intimate friends know him -- better, often, than he knows himself. His reading of Nunquam4 from his photo. without a particle of knowledge about him, is to me very wonderful. What does Mac say?

Your affectionate Pa | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]


1. There follows on the left hand side of the page a sketch of the greenhouse showing the old and new roofs.

2. Robert Peel Glanville Blatchford (1851-1943), British socialist campaigner, journalist and author.

3. Blatchford published some of his articles on socialism as the book Merrie England in 1893.

4. Wallace is referring to Robert Blatchford.

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