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Record number: WCP3141

Sent by:
Edvard Alexander Westermarck
Sent to:
Alfred Russel Wallace
29 December 1891

Sent by Edvard Alexander Westermarck, Helsingfors, Finland to Alfred Russel Wallace [none given] on 29 December 1891.

Record created:
30 November 2011 by Mayer, Anna


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LETTER (WCP3141.3109)

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

Held by:
British Library, The
Finding number:
BL Add. 46441 ff. 116-117
Copyright owner:
Copyright of the Edvard Alexander Westermarck Literary Estate.

Physical description

Transcription information






29 December 1891.

Dear Mr Wallace,

Allow me to write to you a few lines to wish you a happy new year. I hoped to be to send to you some Finnish views when I thought perhaps might interest you, but owing to the difficulties of getting good photographs I have to put off the sending till another day.

I have been thinking of you repeatedly during this last autumn, and certainly with a feeling of the very greatest gratitude. Mr Macmillan [[2]] is sending me all the more important notices of my book which appear in the English and foreign press -- they amount now to a very considerable number; and it appears from them that the attention the book has attracted depends to a large extent upon your kind prefatory note. Only two of the critiques -- those in "Nature" and the "Speaker" -- have been slating, but the rest for the most part extremely favourable, much more so than I even had expected. Prof. Robertson Smith argues in "Nature" that the obvious and fatal objection to my theory of the prohibiting laws against consanguineous marriage is that it postulates [[3]] the existence of groups which through many generations avoided moving within the group; and Dr. Tylor makes a similar objection in the "Academy." I think this is a curious mixing up individual variations with variations referring to whole groups of people. Evolution of course presupposes the existence of individual variations, not that there should, originally, have existed groups of individuals varying in the same way. If you have read Prof. Robertson Smith's critique (Nature, July 23) I dare say I should feel very happy to hear what you think about his objections.

As to the results of close breeding in-and-in I had an opportunity of making [[4]] interesting observations in Shetland last summer. I spent some weeks in Foula, the most isolated island in the group, where a population of 250 individuals have been intermarrying solely between themselves. No one doubts that the result has been ingenious. The families are remarkably small, the people comparatively short and wanting stamina, there are a considerable number of idiots, and in a family where the parents had been first-cousins those of the children were, or had been , deaf-mutes. I hope still to be able to collect full materials from all the islands of this group.

I remain, | dear Mr. Wallace | Yours faithfully | Edward Westermarck [signature]

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