Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Mountains of Java to Fanny & Thomas Sims, [7 Conduit Street, Regent Street, London] on 10 October 1861.
Re. ascent of a volcano, vegetation at the peak similar to English weeds, tropical on the lower slopes; comparative beauty of English and tropical plants; Dutch collectors for Leyden Museum; letter (not present) to be taken to Stevens with instructions re. Alfred Russel Wallace's specimens.
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: 20/03/2012 - Hill, Jenny; 15/01/2013 - Catchpole, Caroline;
Signed off: no
In the Mountains of Java.
Oct.[ober] 10th. 1861
My dear Fanny1
I have just received your 2nd. letter in praise of your new house. As I have said my say about it in my last I shall now send you a few lines on other subjects.
I have been staying here a fortnight 4000 feet above the sea in a fine cool climate but it is unfortunately dreadfully wet & cloudy.
I have just returned from a three days excursion to one of the great Java volcanoes 10,000 feet high. I slept two nights in a house 7500 ft. above the sea. It was bitterly cold at night as the hut was merely of plaited bamboo, like a sieve, so that the wind came in on all sides. I had flannel jackets & blankets & still was cold, & my four men with nothing but their usual thin cotton clothes passed miserable nights laying on a mat on the ground round the fire which could only warm one side at a time. [] The highest peak is an extinct volcano with the crater nearly filled up forming merely a saucer on the top, in which is a good house built by the government for the old Dutch naturalists who surveyed & explored the mountain. I2 also visited a semi-active volcano close by continually sending out steam with a noise like a blast furnace -- quite enough to give me a conception of all other descriptions of volcanoes. There are a lot of strawberries planted there, wh.[ich] do very well but there were not many ripe. The common weeds & plants of the top were very like English ones such as buttercups, cow-thistle, plantain, wormwood, chickweed, charlock, St. John’s wort, violets & many others, all closely allied to our common plants of those names but of distinct species. There was also a honeysuckle & a tall & very pretty kind of cowslip. None of these are found in the low tropical lands & most of them only upon the tops of these high mountains. Mr. Darwin supposed them to have come there during a glacial or very cold period when they could have spread over the tropics & as the heat increased, gradually rose up the mountains. They were as you may [] imagine most interesting to me, & I am very glad that I have ascended one lofty mountain in the tropics, though I had miserable wet weather & had no view, owing to constant clouds & mist.
The lower parts of the mountains of Java from 3000 to 6000 ft.[feet] have the most beautiful tropical vegetation I have ever seen. Abundance of splendid tree ferns, some 50 feet high, & some hundreds of varieties of other ferns, -- beautiful leaved plants as Begonias Melastomas & many others & more flowers than are generally seen in the tropics. In fact this region exhibits all the beauty the tropics can produce, but still I consider & will always maintain that our own meadows & woods & mountains are more beautiful. Even our own weeds & wayside flowers are far prettier & more varied than those of the tropics. It is only the great leaves & the curious looking plants & the deep gloom of the forests, & the mass of tangled vegetation, that astonishes & delights Europeans, & it is certainly grand & interesting & in a certain sense beautiful;-- but not the calm sweet warm beauty of our own flowers, -- a field of buttercups, a hill of gorse, or of heath, a bank of foxgloves & a hedge of wild roses & purple vetches surpass [] in beauty any thing I have ever seen in the tropics. This is a favourite subject with me but I can not go into it now.
Send the accompanying note to Mr Stevens immediately. You will see what I say to him about my collections here. Java is the richest of all the islands in Birds but they are as well known as those of Europe & it is almost impossible to get a new one. However I am adding fine specimens to my collection which will be altogether the finest known of the birds of the Archipelago, except perhaps that of the Leyden Museum who have had naturalists collecting for them in all the chief islands for many years with unlimited means.
Give my kind love to mother to whom I will write next time.
Your affectionate Brother | Alfred R Wallace [signature]
1. Frances (Fanny) Sims neé Wallace, 1812-1893, ARW’s sister.
2. The text from "I" to "volcanoes" is written vertically along the left margin of page 2.
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