Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP1672

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Frederick R. ("Fred") Birch
30 December 1908

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Old Orchard, Broadstone, Wimborne, Dorset to Frederick R. ("Fred") Birch [address not recorded] on 30 December 1908.

Record created:
02 September 2011 by Beccaloni, George


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Record contains:

  • letter (1)
  • publication (1)

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LETTER (WCP1672.1546)

A transcription typewritten  in English.

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP2/6/3/8(140)
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Physical description

Transcription information





ARW to Fred. Birch.) Old Orchard, [B]roadstone, Dorset. Dec[ember]. 30th. 1908

...As you will perhaps hear soon from home, or in some of English papers. may see -- this last six months have been, & will be considered, the most eventful as regards public recognition in my life. I will just state the facts. On the 1st. of July last was the 50th anniversary of the reading of darwin's[sic] and my Papers on Natural [S]election --the fiest[sic] announcement of the Theory. The Society (the "Linnean" --) held a Jubilee meeting -- and invited me to give an address. They also, (very strangely) issued a "Darwin-Wallace" medal -- Darwin's bust on one side and mine on the other. They gave me one in Gold -- and six other Naturalists. 3 English and 3 Foreign in Silver. So I was bound to go, & wrote & delivered my "address" -- in which I glorified beetle and butterfly catching & bird collecting in the tropics, as what really led Darwin & myself to the same theory. I went up to London, ...Meeting at 3. Gave my address, got my medal, heard a few more addresses...& back home at 7.30. But that was a mere trifle to what was to come.

About the middle of October while feeling very bad, (on Oct[ober]. 23rd.) I received a letter from Sir William Crookes1, Hon[ourable]. Sec[retary]. of the "Royal Institution" (where Sir Humphrey Davey[sic]2, Faraday3, and Tyndall4 were Professors) asking me to give a lecture on [D]arwinism at the opening of the Session on Jan[uary]. 22nd. (Friday evening at 9 pm.). I felt so bad that I was almost at the point of sending back a positive NO! But I waited a few days, got a little better, & while on my couch by the fire, suddenly got an idea for the lecture, that I felt sure would do. So I accepted provisionally. Within a week afterwards, I received notice from the Royal Society (which had already given me two medals, the "Royal" and the "Darwin") that the Council had awarded me the highest honour in their gift, the "Copley Medal". This was rather overwhelming, because I am altogether an outsider of Science, never sent a single paper to the Roy[al]. Soc[iety]. and am considered a mere theorizer! Then a few days later, I received a letter from Lord Knollys5 -- the King's private Secretary, informing me that his Majesty proposed to offer me "The Order of Merit", among the Birthday honours! This is an "Order" establlished by the present King about 6 years ago, solely for "Merit" -- whether Civil or Military -- It is a pity it was not "Civil" only as the [[2]]6 Military have so many distinctions already. So I had to compose a very polite letter of acceptance and thanks -- and then later I had to try to be excused (on the ground of age and delicate health) from attending the "Investiture" at Buckingham Palace (on Dec[ember]. 14th.) when Court Dress -- a kind of very costly livery -- is obligatory! -- and I was kept for xx[?] weeks waiting. But at last one of the King's Equerries -- Col[onel]. Legge7 came down here about 2 weeks ago bringing the "Order" which is a very handsome Cross in red and blue Enamel and Gold -- rich colours -- with crown above, & a rich ribbed silk blue & crimson ribband to hang it round the neck: Col[onel]. Legge was very pleasant, stayed half an hour, had some tea and showed us how to wear it. So I shall be in duty bound to wear it on the only public occasion I shall be seen again (in all probability) when I give (or attempt to give) my Lecture.

Then I has a letter from Windsor telling me that chalk portraits of all the members of the "Order" were to be taken for the collections in the Library, and a Mr. Strang8 came and stayed the night, & in C hours, completed a very good life-size head, in coloured chalk; and so far so good! Spruce's9 Book was out Dec[ember]. 1st in 2 handsome volumes with about 70 illustrations & 7 maps -- and good reviews are appearing.


1. Crookes, Sir William (1832-1919). British chemist and physicist.

2. Davy, Sir Humphrey (1778-1829). Cornish chemist and inventor.

3. Faraday, Michael (1791-1867). English scientist.

4. Tyndall, John (1820-1893). Irish scientist.

5. Knollys, Francis (1st Viscount Knollys) (1837-1924). British courtier.

6. Typed in the top left of the page is "ARW to F. Birch. Dec. 30/08.)".

7. Legge, Colonel William Vincent (1841-1918). Australian solider and an ornithologist.

8. Strang, William (1859-1921). Scottish painter and engraver.

9. Spruce, Richard (1817-1893). English botanist.

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