Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Batchian, Moluccas to George Silk 79 Pall Mall, London, W.C. on 30 November 1858.
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.
A typical letter handwritten by author in English and signed by author.
An original MS
Pages with text: 4
Transcriber: Tew, Alison
Transcription date: July 8, 2006
Scrutiny: 17/08/2011 - Beccaloni, George; 15/01/2013 - Catchpole, Caroline;
Signed off: no
Nov.[ember] 30th. /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 [] 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 [] 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, & "Lawrence’s 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 [] 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 Queen’s 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.
Please note that work on this transcript is not yet complete. Users are advised to study electronic image(s) of this document, if available.