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Record number: WCP363

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Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Fanny & Thomas Sims
21 April 1856

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Singapore to Fanny & Thomas Sims, [7 Conduit Street, Regent Street, London] on 21 April 1856.

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


Re. delayed expedition to Macassar; Christian missionaries, particularly French Catholics in China and elsewhere, missionary social work, religious doctrine.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)
  • publication (1)

View item:

LETTER (WCP363.363)

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

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/3/38
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate
Record scrutiny:
21/08/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline;

Item notes

Physical description

Transcription information




Singapore April 21st. 1856.2


My dear Fanny3

I received yours and Thomas’4 letter of January5.

I believe I wrote to you last mail, & have now little to say except that I am still a prisoner in Singapore and unable to get away to my land of Promise Macassar6, with whose celebrated oil you are doubtless acquainted.

I7 have been spending 3 weeks with my old friend the French Missionary going daily into the jungle, & fasting on Fridays on omelet[sic] and vegetables, a most wholesome custom which I think [[2]] the Protestants were wrong to leave off. I have been reading Hucs8 travels in China in french, & talking with a french Missionary just arrived from Tonquin9. I have thus obtained a great deal of information about these countries & about the extent of the Catholic Missions in them which is astonishing. How is it that they do their work so much more thoroughly than the Protestant Missionaries? -- In Cochin China10, Tonquin, & China, where all Christian Missionaries are obliged to live in secret & are subject to prosecution, expulsion & often death, yet every province even those farthest in the interior of China have their regular establishment of missionaries constantly kept up by fresh supplies who are [[3]] taught the languages of the countries they are going to at Penang11 or Singapore. In China there are near a Million Catholics in Tonquin & Cochin china more than half a million ! One secret of their success is the cheapness of their establishments. A Missionary is allowed about £30 a year, on which he lives in whatever country he may be. This has two good effects. A larger number of missionaries can be deployed with limited funds, & the people of the countries in which they reside, seeing they live in poverty & with none of the luxuries of life, are convinced they are sincere. Most are frenchmen & those I have seen or heard of, are well educated men, who give up their lives to the good of the people they live among. No wonder they make converts, among the lower orders principally. For it must be a great comfort to these poor people to have a man among them to whom they can [[4]] go in any troubles or distress,-- whose sole object is to comfort & then advise them; who visits them in sickness, who relieves them in want, & whom they see living in daily danger of persecution & death only for their benefit.12 You will think they have converted me but in point of doctrine I think Catholics & Protestants are equally wrong. As Missionaries I think Catholics are best, & I would gladly see more others, rather than have as in New Zealand sects of native dissenters more rancorous against each other than in England. The unity of the Catholics is their strength, and an unmarried clergy can do as missionaries what married men can never undertake. I have written on this subject because I have nothing else to write about. Love to Thomas & Edward.

Believe me Dear Fanny | Your ever affectionate Brother | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

Mrs. Sims.13


1. "[WPI/3/38]" in pencil the top left corner in an unknown hand.

2. There is an annotation "This note from Alfred I thought would amuse. Algernon" added in ink in an unknown hand vertically in the right margin, overlapping the letter text.

3. ARWs sister Frances Wallace Sims (1812-1893).

4. ARWs brother-in-law, Thomas Sims.

5. This sentence written by ARW vertically in the left margin.

6. Now more commonly spelled Makassar, a city in Indonesia.

7. A short line in red pencil separates this paragraph from the preceding one. The red line continues down the left side of this page and of pages 2 and 3. On page 4 the red line runs down the right side and cuts across the page after the sentence ending "never undertake".

8. Évariste Régis Huc (1813-1860), a French missionary traveller.

9. Tonquin, also spelled Tonkin and Tongking, in the northernmost part of Vietnam.

10. Cochinchina, a French colony now part of Vietnam.

11. Penang state in Malaysia.

12. A line in blue pencil across the page separates this sentence from the next one.

13. ARWs sister Frances Sims [neé Wallace] (1812-1893).

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