Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP3554

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Henry Norton Shaw
1 November 1854

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Sarawak, Borneo Island, [Malaysia] to Henry Norton Shaw, [Royal Geographical Society, 3 Waterloo Place] on 1 November 1854.

Record created:
07 December 2011 by Catchpole, Caroline
Verified by:
22/08/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline (All except summary checked);


No summary available at this time.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)

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LETTER (WCP3554.3451)

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

Held by:
Royal Geographical Society
Finding number:
JMS 8/17
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate
Record scrutiny:
22/08/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline;

Physical description

Transcription information





Nov[emb]er. 1st. 1854

My dear Sir

Having now reached my destination & being about to commence work, I take the opportunity of communicating the fact through you to the Geographical Society, & also to give a short account of the places I have already visited.

I spent the first two months after my arrival, in the island of Singapore and a small island, between it & the main land, and made an extensive collection of insects, a great proportion of which are new to science & of very great interest to the Entomologist -- I then went to Malacca, where I also spent two months visiting several localities in the interior & making an excursion to Mount Ophir, which I ascended, & by means of careful observations with Adies Sympiesometer ascertained to be 3920 feet above the sea -- It is an isolated mountain, & in fact there appears to be no connected chain in this part of the peninsula -- The summit is almost pure quartz, below more or less granitie[sic] & at the base I found highly inclined stratified rocks of a crystalline sandstone. [[2]] Between it & the sea coast the country is very flat low, but with the base of the mountain not being more than 200 feet above the sea. The Physical Geography of the province of Malacca is interesting & I will make a few observations on it--

Large tracts of land adjoining the coast are perfectly flat, & scarcely elevated above the sea -- They are swamps and are cultivated as paddy fields -- Low undulating hills of the curious volcanic conglomerate called laterite rise out of these flats; several of them occur near the Town of Malacca & give the appearance from the sea of an elevated country. On passing them inland however, we se<e> that they are but islands rising out of a swamp. These occur at intervals for some miles inland:, where del spurs or points of the more elevated country project into the level country, from leaving wide flat valleys between them -- A few miles further & these valleys have all contracted to a few hundred yards wide & wind wind about between low undulating banks, appearing exactly like the beds of large rivers -- These flat valleys penetrate quite up to the base of M[oun]t. Ophir & the other mountains in the [[3]] interior of the peninsula, where a tract of low flat country seems to b connect them with others flowing[?] falling[?] to having an outlet on the E.[ast] side of the peninsula, there appearing to be no dividing ridge between them.

Charts of the Straits of Malacca show them it to be a contin[u]ation below the sea of the same kind of country, the water being very shallow for a great distance from the shore & the islands which rise out of it, corresponding to the hills which rise from the paddy fields of the peninsula. The whole country is a dense jungle, - there appear to be no tracts of naturally open ground.

At Malacca I collected insects extensively, also land shells, birds &c. & obtained an acquaintance with the inhabitants, the scenery, & the animals & vegetable productions of this Ea portion of the East, which will be of great value in my exploration of the less known country I have now reached.

On returning to Singapore I found my books & instruments had arrived safe from England. Sir James Brooke was there, attending the Commission of inquiry now sitting, & as he most kindly offered me every assistance in exploring the territories under his rule, I determined to come here at once.

[[4]] I must not forget to mention that I forwarded the letter from the Dutch Government to Batavia & have received a reply stating that I should meet with no obstructions in visiting any of their Eastern possessions.

I am much pleased with the appearance of the country here (though I am only three days here) there being many more hills than I expected offering facilities for mapping, which I trust to make a good use of.1

I remain | Yours faithfully | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

D[octo]r Norton Shaw

Sec[retary]. Geog[raphical]. Soc[iety].2


1. Text reading "1855 │ Wallace A.R. │ Feb[ruar]y. 12 185[?]?" is written vertically up the margin at this point.

2. Text in an unknown hand at the bottom of the letter reads "At the suggestion of the Royal Geographical Society Mr Wallace aft<er> his return from South America, was kindly provided by the Earl of Clarendon with a free passage to Singapore and with letters of recommendation from the Government of Holland and Spain to the Governors of Java and the Phillipine[sic] Islands."

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