Wallace Letters Online

Share this:

Record number: WCP357

Add to My list
Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Mary Ann Wallace (née Greenell)
30 September 1854

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Singapore to Mary Ann Wallace (née Greenell) [none given] on 30 September 1854.

Record created:
01 June 2002 by Lucas, Paula J.
Verified by:
21/08/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline (All except summary checked);


Re. attack of fever in Malacca, quinine treatment; insects and birds collected in Malacca; ascent of Mount Ophir; arrival of post including and letters from Adelaide, Australia; arrival of newspapers, instruments, repaired watch and food from England; basket of food spoiled by insects, better to use soldered tin box; visit to Sir James Brooke; plans to visit Sarawak; friends and family; continued carelessness of assistant Charles.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)
  • publication (2)

View item:

LETTER (WCP357.357)

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

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/3/32
Copyright owner:
©A. R. Wallace Literary Estate
Record scrutiny:
21/08/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline;

Item notes

Physical description

Transcription information




Sept[embe]r. 30th. 1854.


My dear Mother

I last wrote to you from Malacca in July. I have now just returned to Singapore after two months hard work.

At Malacca I had a pretty strong touch of fever with the old Rio Negro symptoms, but the Government doctor made me take a great quantity of quinine every day for a week together & so killed it, & in less than a fortnight I was quite well & off to the jungle again. I see now how to treat the fever, & shall commence at once when the symptoms again appear. I never took half enough quinine in America to cure me.

Malacca is a pretty place & I worked very hard. Insects are not very abundant there, still by perseverance I got a good number & many rare ones. Of birds too I made a good collection. I went to the celebrated Mount Ophir and ascended to the top. The walk was terrible 30 miles through jungle, a succession of mud holes. My boots did good service. [[2]] We lived there a week at the foot of the mountain in a little hut built by our men, & I got some fine new butterflies there and hundreds of other new & rare insects. We had only rice & a little fish & tea but came home quite well. The height of the mountain is about 4000 feet -- Near the top are beautiful ferns & several kinds of fir tree of which I made a small collection. Elephants & Rhinoceroses as well as Tigers are abundant there but we had our usual bad luck in not seeing any of them.

On returning to Malacca I found the accumulations of two or three posts a dozen letters & fifty newspapers -- my watch & pins &c from Mr Stevens. I had letters from Algernon & my Uncle. The latter wants me to visit Adelaide, the former wants to visit me but is afraid he cannot manage it. Your letters contained much news. Mr Sims come to London is a miracle. You do not say whether any of you have been to the Crystal [[3]] Palace yet. Even G.[eorge] S.[ilk] who admires nothing says it is indescribable.

I am glad to be safe in Singapore with my collections as from here they can be insured. I have now a fortnights work to arrange, examine, & pack them & then in four months hence there will be some work for Mr Stevens.

Sir James Brooke is here. I have called him. He received me most cordially, & offered me every assistance at Sarawak. I shall go there next, as the Missionary does not go to Cambodia for some months. Besides I shall have some pleasant society at Sarawak, & shall get on in Malay which is very easy, but I have had no practice -- though still I can ask for most common things.

My books & instruments arrived in beautiful condition. They looked as if they had been packed up but a day. Not so the unfortunate eatables. We were all [[4]] very stupid to pack them up in a basket at all. Nothing but tin cases will preserve such things. The pudding and twelfth cake were masses of mould & insects, quite useless. The covers of the jams were all eaten through by ants and small insects. The currant jam was mostly spoilt, sour -- The gooseberry remained very good. Anything of the sort put into tin cases & soldered up, which would not cost more than 6d -- 10 would no doubt arrive perfectly good. I shall probably have a box sent in a few months then you can try the experiment. I am sorry you did not send my glazed shoes in Mr Stevens parcel -- The shirts do not send on any account, I have too many here at present.

The butterfly I sent in a letter I knew was not rare. I merely sent it as a specimen of a kind which there is nothing resembling in America.

With Love to all I remain │ Your affectionate Son │ Alfred R Wallace [signature]

Mrs. Wallace.

If it were not for the expense I would send Charles home; I think I could not have chanced upon a more untidy or careless boy. After 5 months I have still to tell him to put things away after he has been using them as the first week. He is very strong & able to do any thing, but can be trusted to do nothing out of my sight.1

Please put a stamp on the enclosed letter & post it.2


1. Written vertically at the left hand side of page 4.

2. Written vertically at the left hand side of page 1.

Please note that work on this transcript is not yet complete. Users are advised to study electronic image(s) of this document, if available.