Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP370

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
George Silk
30 November 1858

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Batchian [Bacan] Island, Moluccas, [Indonesia] to George Silk 79 Pall Mall, London, W.C. on 30 November 1858.

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


ARW's love of solitude; suggests Silk reads his article [with Darwin about natural selection] in August Linnean Society Proceedings; proud of complimentary remarks by Lyell and Hooker therein; dislike of politics; interest in ethnology; asks about books read; has read Tristram Shandy and novels by Dumas; marriage; sending an article on "smoke" for the Athenaeum.

Record contains:

  • enclosure (1)
  • letter (1)

View item:

LETTER (WCP370.370)

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

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/3/45
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate
Record scrutiny:
21/08/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline;

Item notes

Physical description

Transcription information




Batchian, Moluccas.

Nov.[ember] 30th. [18]/58

My dear George

I do not think I have written to you very lately. I have just received yours of August 3. with reminiscences of Switzerland. To you it seems a short time since. To me an immeasurable series of ages. In fact Switzerland & the Amazon now seem to me quite unreal, -- a sort of former existence,-- a long-ago dream. Malays & Papuans,-- Beetles & Birds are what now occupy my thoughts mixed with financial speculations & hopes for a happy future in Old England, where I may live in solitude & seclusion except from a few close friends. You cannot perhaps imagine how I have come to love solitude. I seldom have a visitor but what I wish him away in an hour. I find it very favourable to reflection, & if you have any acquaintance who is a member of the Linnean Society borrow the Journal of Proceedings of August last & in the last article you will find some of my latest lucubrations with some complementary [[2]] remarks therein by Sir. C. Lyell & Dr. Hooker which (as I know neither of them) I must say I am a little proud of.

As to politics I hate & abominate them. The news from India I now never read, as it is all an inextricable confusion without good maps & regular papers, mine come in lumps[?] 2 or 3 months at a time with the alternate ones stolen or lost. I therefore try[?] you to write no more politics. Nothing public or newspaperish. Tell me about yourself, -- your own private doings,-- your health, your visits your new or[?] old acquaintances, (for I know you pick up ½ a dozen every month, à la Barragan.) But above all tell me of what you read. Have you read the Currency book I returned you? -- "Horne Tooke"? -- Bentham,? Family Herald Leading Articles?-- Give me your opinions on any or all of these. Follow the advice in Fam[ily]. Herald art[icle]. on "Happiness" -- "Ride a hobby", & you will assuredly find happiness in it as I do. Let Ethnology be your hobby, as you seem already to have put your foot in the stirrup, -- but ride [[3]] it hard. If I live to return I shall come out strong as[?] Malay & Papuan races, & astonish Latham, Davis, &c. &c -- By the byes I have just had a letter from Davis; he says he says he sent my last letter to you, & it is lost mysteriously. Instead therefore of sending me an answer to my poser, he repeats what he has said in every letter I have had from him "myriads of miracles are required to people the earth from one source." I am sick of him -- you must read "Pritchard" through, & "Lawrences Lectures on Man" carefully but I am convinced no man can be a good ethnologist who does not travel, & not travel merely but reside as I do months & years with each race, becoming well acquainted with their average physiognomy & moral character, so as to be able to detect cross-breeds, which totally mislead the hasty traveller who thinks they are transitions!! Latham I am sure is quite wrong on many points.

To New Guinea I took an old edition of "Tristram Shandy" which I read about three times. It is an annoying & you will perhaps say a very gross book, but there are passages in it that have never been surpassed while the character of [[4]] Uncle Toby has certainly never been equalled except perhaps by that of Don Quixote. I have lately read a good many of Dumas wonderful novels & they are wonderful but often very careless, & some quite unfinished. The "Memoirs of a Physician" is a most wonderful wild mixture of History, Science, & romance -- the 2nd. part "The Queens Necklace" is most wonderful & perhaps most true. You should read them (if you have not) when you are horribly "bored"[?].

As to your private communication in former letters, I am very sorry you have not been fortunate in your "affaires du coeur." All I can say is "try again". Marriage has a wonderful effect in brightening the intellect. For example John used not to be considered witty, yet in his last letter he begs me "to write to him "semi-occasionally or oftener if I have time" & I send you a not bad extract from his letter, with an idea of my own on "smoke", to send to the Athenaeum. By this mail I send more than a dozen letters for my correspondence is increasing. You must therefore excuse this random lot of odds & ends & send me a ditto in return, only more so.

I must now conclude | Remaining my dear G. | Yours ever Faithfully | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

G. E. Silk Esq.

P.S. A big spider fell close to my hand in the middle of my signature wh[ich]. accounts for the hitch1.

P.S. I have to send this at a moments notice. Can not write home so call on my mother AW. [signature] Dec. 202


1. Written up the left margin of page 4.

2. Written up the left margin of page 1.

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