Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP1600

Sent by:
Charles Morris Woodford
Sent to:
Alfred Russel Wallace
3 January 1893

Sent by Charles Morris Woodford, Rubiana, St Martin's Road, Epsom to Alfred Russel Wallace, [Corfe View, Parkstone, Dorset] on 3 January 1893.

Record created:
23 May 2011 by NHM


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LETTER (WCP1600.1379)

A typical letter handwritten  in English and signed by author.

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP6/12/9
Copyright owner:
Copyright of the Charles Morris Woodford Literary Estate.

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Transcription information







3 January 1893

Dear Mr. Wallace,

I am at present reading with very great interest your book "Darwinism"5. as I have at various times [read] most of your other works. It is upon a point upon which you ask for information in "Darwinism" that I am now addressing you but before doing so will you allow me to take this opportunity of U asking you for the very kind review that you gave to my poor book "A Naturalist among [[2]] the Headhunters"6 in "Nature". I am I fear more of a collector than a naturalist but still I have visited & lived in localities unvisited before by men of science, and I venture to hope that the result of my labours may have been not without interest to you and such as you.

On page 373 of Darwinism you ask for information as to the methods by which lizards may have been carried to Oceanic Islands. During one of my voyages I spent a day or two at nukufetau7 in the Ellice8 group. I saw one & perhaps two species of lizards. In the Gilbert [[3]] group9 which I visited upon the same trip I visited six or seven of the islands but saw no lizards. I made a collection of the flora, (this has never been published) but the lepidoptera10 were described by mr. Butler in the "Annuals eve." how is to the way in which lizards may be conveyed from island to island. I have frequently in Fiji & in the Solomon Islands found the Eggs of lizards concealed between the bark & trunks of fallen & dead timber and I can concieve[sic] it very easy for them to be conveyed in this way upon drift wood. In the Gilbert Islands (where however I saw no lizards) [[4]] the matines[?] depend to some extent upon drift wood for timber for the outriggers of their large canoes as trees of sufficient size are [1 illeg. crossed out word] rarely [1 illeg. word, looks like "not" or "just"] with growing upon the bare coral of which the islands are composed. I think there fore that lizards can be & are taken from island to island either as eggs or in a mature state upon floating timber.

In the Solomons I expect it is the rule rather than the exception when one of the large head-hunting or travelling canoes is put into the water, for a lizard to be one of the passengers. I have repeatedly when travelling in canoes with the natives

[[5]]11,12,13 seen lizards on board. The same I have noticed on board ship. This is easily accounted for, when it is remembered that ships when cruising among the islands constantly have to cut & take on board a supply of firewood. I remember during one voyage between the Solomons & Sydney a lizard lived for over a week in the maintop. Twice when bringing cases of orchids from the Solomons to Sydney I found a lizard (alive) in the case on arrival.

The occurrence of dragon flies on oceanic islands presents no difficulty. [[6]] They may well be conveyed by the wind. I remember during one of my voyages to Australia from England. I saw a dragon fly[sic] at sea in the Indian Ocean, the nearest land at the time being Socotra distant nearly five hundred miles. On another occasion in the Pacific I remember finding the larva of a Dragon fly[sic] in the water tank. In my book "A Naturalist &c". I mention the fact of dragon flies flying after dusk. Under such conditions they would perhaps be more liable to be blown out to sea & lost. I saw plenty of dragon flies in the [[7]] Gilbert group.

There were several other points in your book upon which I fancied I might without presumption be able to give you some slight assistance and upon hearing from you I will do so.

From dear Mr. Bates14 I always met with the greatest kindness, and his photograph faces me on my study mantelpiece as I write. Am I taking too great a liberty in asking you for a copy of your "Island Life"15 with your autograph. Should you feel disposed to grant my request I will endeavor to repay you [[8]] by giving you what information I can.

Believe me | Yours Sincerely | Charles. M. Woodford.16 [signature]

Alfred Russell[sic] Wallace Eq. F.R.S.


1. "From C. M. Woodford Author of "A Naturalist among the Head Hunters." Solomon Island" is handwritten in Wallaces hand in black pen at a slant in the top left corner of the page

2. Another added annotation "See over about Lizards Eggs." is written at the top of the page slightly off-center to the right, written in Wallaces hand

3. "[WP6/12/9, f 1of2]" is written in pencil in the top right corner of the page, written in a different hand than the previous two annotations

4. This address was printed on the original document in blue ink in the top right corner of the page

5. Refers to Wallaces book Darwinism, published in 1889

6. Woodfords book A Naturalist Among the Head-Hunters was published in 1890

7. A coral island that belongs to the nation of Tuvalu, which is located in the Pacific Ocean

8. The nation now known as Tuvalu was then known as the Ellice Islands

9. The Gilbert Islands consists of sixteen atolls, located in the Pacific Ocean

10. Refers to an order of insects including moths and butterflies

11. "[WP6/12/9.f 2of2]" is written in the top right corner of the page in pencil, in the same hand as endnote 3

12. The author has written "2". in the top right hand corner of the page

13. This address was printed on the original document in blue ink in the top right corner of the page

14. Henry Walter Bates, naturalist and explorer, lived 1825 -- 1892

15. Wallaces Island Life was published in 1880, and was a sequel to The Geographic Distribution

16. Charles Morris Woodford, naturalist and government minister in the Solomon Islands, lived 1852 -- 1927

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