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Record number: WCP375

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Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Mary Ann Wallace (née Greenell)
20 July 1861

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Sourabaya [Surabaya], Java to Mary Ann Wallace (née Greenell) [none given] on 20 July 1861.

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


Re. plans to collect specimens in Java en route to Singapore and return from there to England; stores and baggage carried on previous expeditions; plans for work and accommodation on return to England.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)
  • publication (1)

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LETTER (WCP375.375)

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

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/3/50
Copyright owner:
©A. R. Wallace Literary Estate
Record scrutiny:
21/08/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline;

Item notes

Physical description

Transcription information




Sourabaya, Java

July 20th. 1861

My dear Mother

I am as you will see now commencing my retreat westwards I have left the wild and savage Moluccas & New Guinea for Java the garden of the East & probably without any exception the finest island in the world. My plans are to visit the interior and collect till November & then work my way to Singapore so as to return home & arrive in the spring. Travelling here will be a much pleasanter business than in any other country I have visited, as there are good roads regular posting stages & regular inns & lodging houses all over the interior, & I shall no more be obliged to carry about with me that miscellaneous lot of household furniture, -- bed, blankets, pots kettles and frying pan, -- plates, dishes & wash basin, coffee pots & coffee, tea sugar & butter, -- salt, pickles, rice, bread and wine -- pepper & curry powder, & half a hundred more odds & ends the constant looking after [of] which, packing and repacking, calculating & contriving, -- have been the standing [the former word replaces a deleted and illeg. word] plague of my life for the last 7 years. You will better understand this when I tell you that I have made in that time about 80 movements averaging1 one a month, at every one of which all of these articles have had to be rearranged & repacked by myself [[2]] according to the length of the trip, besides a constant personal supervision to prevent waste or destruction of stores in places where it is impossible to2 supply them.

Fanny3 wrote me last month to know about how I should like to live on my return. Of course my dear Mother I sh[oul]d. not think of living any where but with you, after such a long absence, -- if you feel yourself equal to housekeeping for us both; -- & I have always understood that your cottage would be large enough. The accommodation I should require is besides a small bedroom, one large room or a small one if this is besides a kind of lumber room where I could keep my cases & do rough & dirty work.

I expect soon from Thomas a sketch plan of your cottage by which I can at once tell if it will do,-- If not I must leave you and Fanny to arrange as you like about a new residence. I should prefer being a little way out of town in a quiet neighbourhood and with a garden but near an omnibus route, & if necessary I could lodge at any time for a week in London. This I think will be better & much cheaper than being close to Town, & rents any where in the West end are sure now to rise owing to the approaching great Exhibition. I must of course study economy as the little money I have made will not be all got [[3]] in for a year or two after my return.

As I came here the steamer from the Moluccas passed us & my letters & I believe the box from Mr Stevens with my clothes &c passed went on to Ternate & I shall have to wait a month for them. I have not had a letter from you for six months, but am glad to hear from Fanny that you are quite well as when I heard of the dreadfully severe winter I was rather alarmed.

You must remember to write to me by the middle of November mail as that is probably the last letter I can receive from you.

I send this letter to Fanny who will most likely call on you & talk over matters. I am a little confused arriving in a new place with a great deal to do & living in a noisy hotel so different to my usual solitary life,-- so that I can not well collect my ideas to write any more but must remain My dear Mother

Your ever affectionate Son | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

Mrs. Wallace

[[4]] Sourabaya, Java

July, 18614


Mrs. Wallace5,6


1. The words "? Introduce some of this in Preface" are written in the left margin vertically up the page.

2. The text "where it is impossible to" has been faintly underlined in a different ink.

3. ARWs sister Frances (Fanny, Mrs. Thomas Sims died 1893).

4. The place and date appear at the top and in the centre of a fourth page.

5. Four "a"s appear just below and right of centre written in pencil and in an unknown childlike handwriting.

6. Appears in the lower right quarter of the fourth page in an ink that differs from that used for the address and date at the top of the page.

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