Wallace Letters Online

Share this:

Record number: WCP374

Add to My list
Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Henry Walter Bates
On:
24 December 1860

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Ternate to Henry Walter Bates [none given] on 24 December 1860.

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

Summary

Re. Alfred Russel Wallace's admiration of Darwin's "Origin of species"; birds and mammals better indicators of zoological geography than insects; exchange of specimens with Bates; plans to return to England in about 18 months; imminent voyage to Timor.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)
  • publication (2)

View item:

LETTER (WCP374.374)

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

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/3/49
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate
Record scrutiny:
21/08/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline;

Item notes

Physical description

Transcription information

View:

Transcript

[[1]]

Ternate

Dec[embe]r. 24th. 1860

Dear Bates1

Many thanks for your long & interesting letter. I have myself suffered much in the same way as you describe & I think more severely. The kind of "tedium vitae" you mention I also occasionally experience here. I impute it to a too monotonous existence.

I know not how or to whom to express fully my admiration of Darwins book. To him it would seem flattery to others self praise;-- but I do honestly believe that with however much patience I had worked up & experimented on the subject I could never have approached the completeness of his book,-- its vast accumulation of evidence,-- its overwhelming argument, & its admirable tone & spirit. I really feel thankful that it has not been [[2]] left to me to give the theory to the public.

Mr. Darwin has created a new science & a new Philosophy, & I believe that never has such a complete illustration of a new branch of human knowledge, been due to the labours & researches of a single man. Never have such vast masses of widely scattered & hitherto utterly disconnected facts been combined in to a system, & brought to bear upon the establishment of such a grand & new & simple philosophy!

I am surprised at your joining the N.[orth] & S.[outh] banks of lower Amazon into one region. Did you not find a sufficiency of distinct sp.[ecies] at Obydos & Barra to separate them from [2 words illeg.] & Santarem?

I am now convinced that insects on the whole do not give such true indications in Zoological Geog.[raphy] as Birds & Mammals [[3]] because they have,-- 1st. such immensely greater chances of distribution, & 2nd. because they are so much more affected by local circumstances. 2 also 3rd. because the sp.[ecies] seem to change quicker & therefore disguise a comparatively recent identity. Thus the insects of two originally distinct regions vary rapidly become amalgamated,-- a portion of the same region may come to be inhabited by very distinct insect faunas owing to differences of soil climate &c. &c.. This is strikingly shown here, where the insect fauna from Malacca to N.[ew] Guinea has a very large amount of characteristic uniformity; while Australia from its distinct climate & vegetation shows a wide difference -- I am inclined to think therefore, that a preliminary study of first the Mammals & then the Birds are indispensable to a correct understanding of the Geographical & physical changes on which the present insect distribution depends. [[4]] With regard to exchange, I think it must be left till my return, which according to my present plans will not be delayed beyond a year & a half from this date. The groups I intend to collect generally are, -- Papilios & Pieridiae only among Lepidoptera; -- & Cicindelidae Carabides Lac. Buprestidae Cleridae Longicornes & Brenthidae among Coleoptera -- Also illustrations of genera of Coleoptera generally & the more common of the remarkable or handsome species. If you will put by for me at your leisure the most complete set you can spare of these groups, I shall (I have no doubt) be able to let you have an equal number of such specimens as you may desire.

In a day or two I leave for Timor where if I am lucky in finding a good locality I expect some fine & interesting insects.

In haste | Yours faithfully | Alfred R Wallace [signature]

H.W. Bates Esq.

ENDNOTES

1. Henry Walter Bates, 1825-1892, English naturalist and explorer and friend of Wallace.

2. The block of text from "also" to "identity" is written vertically up the left margin of page 2.

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