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Record number: WCP366

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Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Henry Walter Bates
4 January 1858

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Amboyna to Henry Walter Bates [none given] on 4 January 1858.

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


Re. receipt of mail from home including letters from Bates and Darwin; cleaning and packing of collections from Aru; detailed account of numbers, types and locations of insects collected, including first serious collection of very small beetle species (Staphylinidae etc) at Macassar; comparison of data sent by Bates with ?s own; reaction to Alfred Russel Wallace's paper "On the Succession of Species", approving letter from Darwin; benefit of Darwin's proposed publication on species and varieties; boundary between two distinct faunas in Malay Archipelago; proposed expeditions to Gilolo island [Halmahera] and New Guinea; advantages of Amboyna as a base; battles of Balaclava and Inkerman; Britain - India meeting [British rule in India]; insects in the Andes.

Record notes

Record contains:

  • enclosure (1)
  • letter (2)
  • publication (1)

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LETTER (WCP366.366)

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

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/3/41
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate
Record scrutiny:
21/08/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline;

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Physical description

Transcription information





Jan[uary] 4th 18583

My dear Bates.4

My delay of 6 months in answering your very interesting & most acceptable letter dated "Tunantins5 19 Nov[embe]r / 56" has not, I assure you, arisen either from laziness or indifference, but really from pressure of business & an unsettled state of mind. I received your letter at Macassar6 [sic] on my return in July last. from a 7 month voyage & residence in the Arru7[sic] Islands close to New Guinea. I found letters from Australia from California, from you from Spruce8, from Darwin, from home, & a lot of interesting Stevensian dispatches. I had 6 months collection, (mostly in bad condition owing to dampness & sea air) to examine & pack; about 7 thousand insects having to be gone over individually & many of these thoroughly cleaned; besides an extensive collection of birds. I was thus occupied incessantly for a month, & then immediately left for a new locality in the interior where I staid[sic] 3 months during which time I had most of my correspondence to answer & was besides making some collections so curious & interesting that I did not feel inclined to answer your letter till I could tell you something about them. At the end of October I returned to Macassar packed up my collections & left by steamer for Ternate9 viâ this place where I have staid a month, had some good collecting & it is now on the day of my departure having all my boxes packed & nothing to do, that I commence a letter to you. Your letter has been a source of much pleasure & interest to me. I have read it and re-read it at least 20 times. In particular your list of species is most interesting to me, only I wish you had made up a complete list, supplying the Para10 species &c by conjecture. In your Coleoptera the only thing that really astonishes me & for which I was not at all prepared is your vast number of Carabidae. It is the group in which you most decidedly surpass me (not reckoning the Erotyli[dae]11 which are almost peculiar to America). In Cicindelae we are about equal, that is comparing my 3½ years coll[ectin]g with the 5 years of which you have given me your statistics. In Cleri[dae]12 you also decidedly surpass me as I do not think I have much above 50 species. Of Longicorns I have now about 550 species & they will average I think a little larger then yours. Your Prionidae & Cerambycidae will be I think more varied & beautiful than mine; but my Lamiae13[sic] are much the most numerous & contain some superb species. My Lamiae in fact form near 4/5 of all my Longicorns & are nearly 3 times my number of Cerambycidae whist with you the 2 groups are not very unequal.

In Rhyncophora14 again I have now near a thousand species, swarms of minute & obscure things of course, but also a number of very beautiful Anthribidae15 & Brenthidae. Our Lamellicornes are nearly equal, but I surpass you in Cetonias & Lucanidae while you have the great superiority in your Copridae. The only handsome group in which I think I shall be decidedly the best off is the Buprestidae of which I have, perhaps 150 species of which 60 are above ½ in<ch> & many very brilliant. [[2]] In the Elateridae we are about equal; but in the Cyclica you considerably surpass me in your number of species. At Macassar this year I made an extraordinary collection of minute things -- Anthici I think about 18 species many Pselaphidae & hosts of minute & obscure Philhydridae & Necrophaga. For the first time too I really collected Staphylinidae getting many species under dung in sand but principally in rotten fruit. As near as I could make out I got 90 species mostly very minute, so that I think it is pretty evident there are plenty of them in the tropics but hitherto no one has had time or inclination to search for them but you, myself & J. C. Bowring who in Hongkong has taken also 92 species! The rotten fruit of a large, fleshy Artocarpus (Jack fruit) was wonderfully productive, for besides the staphylinidae I took fine Nitidula & Sphaeridii in it, about 12 species of onthophagus & two Carabidae!! These last however I took most abundantly after the commencement of the rains by beating dead leaves & under decaying leaves on the [illegible word crossed out] rocky margins of mountain streams. I got thus hosts of curious Brachinidae & Harpalidae, mostly very small, some indeed are I think the smallest Carabidae known as I have several species under a line. All this time however you must remember I was getting nothing that can be called fine in Coleoptera,-- no Longicorns, the minutest of Curculionidae, no Buprestidae or Lucani. In Lepidoptera however i enjoyed the luxury of capturing four species of Ornithoptera, the largest number yet known to exist in one locality. One which I too most abundantly was I believe unique in Europe (O[rnithoptera] haliphron Bois[duval]) I also took sparingly the grandest known swallow tail (Papilio androcles Bois[duval]16) near twice as big as protesilaus ! I was also making at the same time very fine collections of Hymenoptera & Diptera (270 & 202 species). Of the number of Dip[tera] you many form some idea by the fact that after having taken 140 species I took 30 new ones in one day ! I did of course little else as I had found a fine station for them near my house in the forest; -- soon after, I took to the minute Col[eopter]a & of course neglected the poor dip[tera]s, so you may imagine how numerous the species are here. I think I have now collected 600 species of Eastern diptera & hope to reach 1000 before my return which I expect is about as many as all the Exotic dip[tera] previously known. Here in Amboyna I have had 20 days collecting & have taken 290 species of coleoptera; 58 are Longicorns containing some fine things & one perhaps the handsomest species I possess, a Monohammus, about 1½ in[ches] long, blue black with broad bands of a dense, pubescent orange buff. I also procured a few of the grand Euchiries longinianus, & a series of most beautiful Buprestidae. [[3]] The true Priamus I did not see; but the gorgeous Ulysses, the prince of Papilios, is not uncommon, & I got several fine specimens. I enjoyed the Society of two Entomologists, the Government doctors, a German Dr Mohnike17 with whom I lived, a schoolfellow of Burmeister18 & Erichson19. He has been to Japan & made there a nice collection of perhaps 300-400 sp[ecies] of coleoptera. He gave me about 50 species of his duplicates. Dr Doleschall20 is a Hungarian who studied a year in the Vienna Museum (the Diptera & Arachnida) which he knows well. He also collects the Lepidop[tera] & Col[eopter]a of Amboyna, and literally gave me a fair suite for my private coll[ectio]n. He is a delightful young man, but [the] poor fellows dying of consumption. He can hardly I fear live a year, yet is enthusiastic in Entomology. He says Hungary is very rich in Coleoptera & contains about a hundred species of true Carabus! Talk of the tropics after that! We conversed always in French, of which I have had to make so much use that I am getting tolerably fluent though fearfully ungrammatical. But we were about equal in that respect & so blundered along gloriously.

To persons who have not thought much on the subject I fear my Paper "On the Succession of Species" will not appear so clear as it does to you. That paper is of course merely the announcement of the theory, not its development. I have prepared the plans & written portions of an extensive work embracing the subject in all it bearings & endeavouring to prove what in the paper I have only indicated. It was the promulgation of "Forbes theory" which led me to write & publish, for I was annoyed to see such an ideal absurdity put forth when such a simple hypothesis will explain all the facts. I have been much gratified by a letter from Darwin, in which he says that he agrees with "almost every word" of my paper. He is now preparing for publication his great work on Species and Varieties, for which he has been collecting information [for] 20 years. He may save me the trouble of writing the 2nd part of my hypothesis, by proving that there is no difference in nature between the origin of species & varieties, or he may give me trouble by arriving at another conclusion, but at all events his facts will be given for me to work upon. Your collections & my own will furnish much valuable material to illustrate & prove the universal applicability of the hypothesis. The connection between the succession of affinities & the [[4]] Geographical distribution of a group, worked out species by species has never yet been shown as we shall be able to show it. In this Archipelago there are two distinct Faunas rigidly circumscribed, which differ as much as those of S. Am[erica] & Africa & more than those of Europe & N. Am[erica] yet there is nothing on the map or on the face of the islands to mark their limits. The boundary line often passes between islands closer than others in [illegible word crossed out] the same group. I believe the W. part to be a separated portion of continental asia, the Eastern, the fragmentary prolongations of a former Pacific Continent. In Mammalia & birds the distinction is marked by Genera families & even orders confined to one region,-- in Insects by a number of genera & little groups of peculiar species, the families of insects having generally a universal distribution.

Ternate Jan 25th. I have not done much here yet having been much occupied in getting a house repaired & put in order. This island is a volcano with a sloping spur on which the town is situated. About 10 miles to the E. is the coast of the large island of Gilolo21 perhaps the most perfect Entomological "terra incognita" now to be found. I am not aware that a single insect has ever been collected there & can not find it given as the locality of any insect in any catalogues or descriptions. In about a week I go for a month collecting there; & then return to prepare for a voyage to N. Guinea. I think I shall stay in this place 2 or 3 years, as it is the centre of a most interesting & almost unknown region. Every house here was destroyed in 1840 by an earthquake during an eruption of the volcano. The Dutch steamer comes here every month & brings letters from England in about 10 weeks which makes the place convenient & there are also plenty of small schooners & native prows by which the surrounding islands can be visited.

What great political events have passed since we left England together! And the most eventful for England & perhaps the most glorious, is the present mutiny in India which has proved British courage & pluck as much as did the famed battles of Balaclava & Inkermann22[sic]. I believe that both India & England will gain in the end by the fearful ordeal. When do you mean returning for good? If you go to the Andes I think you will be disappointed, at least in the number of species, especially of Coleoptera. My experience here is that the grounds are much the most productive, though the mountains generally produce a few striking & brilliant species. I must now conclude in wishing you a safe return to England[.]

Yours sincerely | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

W. H. Bates Esq.23

I24 have here just taken my first true Pachyrhyncus, a genus of remarkably restricted range. There are many other topics on which I have not space to touch. I trust the day may come when both returned25 home, we may visit each other, compare our collections, and discuss those questions we both find of so much26 interest. There are many hitherto untouched branches of enquiry in entomology which our collections & statistics27 will enable us to develope[sic]. I see occupation for a life of delightful study. May we both live to realise it! ARW.


1. "WPI/3/41/" in pencil in an unknown hand in the top left corner of the page.

2. Amboyna is now known as Ambon, a city in Indonesia.

3. "Jan 1858" in pencil in an unknown hand in the top right corner of the page.

4. Henry Walter Bates (1825-1892), entomologist.

5. Tunantins, a village in Brazil.

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

7. The Aru Islands in the Maluku province of Indonesia.

8. Richard Spruce (1817-1893), botanist.

9. Ternate is an island in eastern Indonesia.

10. Presumably Parà state in Brazil.

11. Erotylidae, the pleasing fungus beetles.

12. Cleridae, chequered beetles.

13. Possibly Lamiinae, a subfamily of longicorns.

14. Rhyncophora, snout beetles.

15. Anthribidae, fungus weevils.

16. Papilio androcles Boisduval is now known as Graphium androcles.

17. Dr Otto G. J. Mohnike, physician and collector.

18. Hermann Burmeister (1807-1892), naturalist.

19. Possibly Wilhelm Ferdinand Erichson (1809-1848), entomologist.

20. Dr Carl Ludwig Doleschall (1827-1859), entomologist.

21. Gilolo, also known as Jilolo or Halmahera is the largest island in Maluku.

22. The Battle of Inkermann was fought in 1854 during the Crimean War.

23. ARW has transposed Batess initials.

24. This paragraph by ARW begins written vertically in the right margin of page 4.

25. The text continues vertically in the left margin of page 2

26. The text continues vertically in the left margin of page 3.

27. The text continues vertically in the left margin of page 4.

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