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Record number: WCP1494

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Sent by:
Ernest William Beckett
Sent to:
Alfred Russel Wallace
14 September 1898

Sent by Ernest William Beckett, Batch Wood, St. Albans to Alfred Russel Wallace, [Corfe View, Parkstone, Dorset] on 14 September 1898.

Record created:
23 May 2011 by NHM


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  • letter (1)
  • publication (1)

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LETTER (WCP1494.1273)

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

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/8/294
Copyright owner:
Copyright of the Ernest William Beckett Literary Estate.

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Transcription information




14 Sep[tember] [18]98


I daresay you will excuse my troubling you with this letter on a subject on which I do not profess to be an expert, but on which it may again be my duty to form a legislative judgment. Last session I was not able to go up and sit through two probably late debates to vote; & indeed I had not then made up my mind as I have now, though I had written a short letter to the Times on the vacillation of the Government about the Vaccination Bill.

Since then I have been reading the chapter about it in your recent book, "The Wonderful Century", & the subsequent letters in the Times; & those of yesterday, especially Dr. Bond’s, move me to tell you that, absurd as his statement about your "only three converts" is, [4 words illegible crossed out] he & his associates may added me to the number.-- I do not profess to have wandered through the thickets of the Commissioners’ contradictory Reports. But I have long learnt in [many] controversies involving facts to take more account of the style of the controversialists, & their apparent or transparent regard for truth, than of their assertions & [one word illegible crossed out] references to other people & the final balance of voting. Specially I had to do so in the controversy in the Times which lasted several months in 1887 & [188]8, in which, from the accident of being put in the chair of a hospital meeting called to turn out some doctors who had committed homeopathic heresy, I had gradually to take a leading part, being helped by information from the experts of both sides as the dispute went on. Finally the Times pronounced that I had completely proved the charges of medical conspiracy & tyranny which the "orthodox" party had been called upon in [one word illegible crossed out] at the meeting to answer, & declined to attempt these except by their own dicta.

Such letters as that one of Dr. Bond, even without the answers to it, always go a long way to persuade one that the author has no solid case; & I regard them as mere controversial fireworks, throwing no real light on this subject of discussion. In most controversies involving facts it soon becomes apparent to competent judges too, on which side is the balance of truth & honesty, as it very clearly is in that one in which [[2]] of a very different kind which has been already going on in the Times for two months on what is called clerical & episcopal lawlessness, in which the writers on one side think themselves at liberty to assert anything that is "necessary for their position" (as their great founder avowed 50 years ago) & take their chance of being refuted.

In your dispute, as in that, the really decisive facts are becoming more & more extant from the intolerable mass of assertions & references to other people’s writings which are worth very little in the face of current genuine evidence, such as you & other writers on your side have produced in a manageable form, & which the other side has now had plenty of time to refute if they can, but certainly have not. In such a case neither past nor present majorities go for much. Indeed a heavy discount may generally be taken off as due to the laziness & the desire of most people to take the apparently strongest side. I can only say that the more the vaccinationists go on writing and talking as they have done for a long time the more they are likely to be wrong, & be conscious that they are so.

Lest I should be thought to include your "appendix", of a socialistic nostrum or "Remedy for Want", in my general approval of your book, I think it prudent to add that I [regard] consider it more demonstrably wrong, & [one word illegible crossed out] ruinous to any country that should adopt it, than any disease that has ever been propagated; but I am not going to discuss that. I only add that you may either publish this if you like, or announce me as a "fourth convert" to antivaccination under your treatment-- & such as Dr. Bond’s.

Yours obediently | Grimthorpe [signature]

A.R. Wallace Esq.


If you should print this I should like to have an opportunity of revising it. I conclude the address in your book is enough.

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