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Record number: WCP3783

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Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Lester Frank Ward
21 November 1893

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Corfe View, Parkstone, Dorset to Lester Frank Ward [none given] on 21 November 1893.

Record created:
02 February 2012 by Catchpole, Caroline


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Record contains:

  • letter (1)
  • publication (1)

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LETTER (WCP3783.3697)

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

Held by:
John Hay Library, Brown University
Finding number:
Ms. 90.23, Series I, Subseries E
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Physical description

Transcription information




Parkstone, Dorset.1

Nov.[ember] 21st. 1893

My dear Prof. Ward2

Many thanks for sending me your new book -- "The Psychic Factors of Civilization"3. I have read the third part through, carefully, & think your exposition of the scientific character of socialism as opposed to Herbert Spencer[']s4 Individualism exceedingly forcible, and calculated to do much good. I have also looked through & read a good deal of the first & second parts, which however being so purely psychological does not interest me so much. Chapter XVII. on Social Friction is however an exception, & seems rather out of place, & would come better in the 3rd part. If these were embodied together, with a good deal more of concrete illustration, it would form an excellent work [[2]] on the Scientific Basis of Socialism which would have great value as a weapon against the individualist school, and would enlighten many who are now blinded by the prestige of Spencer and the Political Economists. The greater part of your book is so purely philosophical and it is so difficult to see the bearing of the several chapters on Social reform, that I fear it will not reach beyond students of philosophy & psychology, & thus have less influence than it deserves to have in shaping public opinion as to the true method of political [[3]] and social advance.

No doubt we are advancing on the very lives you point out as the true ones, but only empirically, and to such in the very teeth of the popular political Economy that politicians only give way to it as a concession to the demand of the populace. I think I shall try and make known your doctrine in the form of a popular review article, though it will be a difficult job.

How dreadfully Herbert Spencer has fallen off in his "Justice". Parts of it are so weak & illogical [[4]] as to be absolutely childish. You have no doubt seen H. George[']s5 severe criticism of it.

With best wishes | Believe me | Yours very truly | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

Prof. Lester F. Ward


1. There is a checkmark written in pencil in the upper right corner.

2. Lester Frank Ward (18 June 1841 – 18 April 1913), American botanist and sociologist.

3. The Psychic Factors of Civilization, written by Lester Frank Ward (18 June 1841 – 18 April 1913) and published in 1892.

4. Herbert Spencer (27 April 1820 – 8 December 1903), English biologist, sociologist, and philosopher, a strong proponent of individualism and natural selection.

5. Henry George (2 September 1839 – 29 October 1897), American writer and economist. The "criticism" Wallace mentions may have been referring to George's A Perplexed Philosopher: Being an Examination of Mr. Herbert Spencer's Various Utterances on the Land Question, with Some Incidental Reference to His Synthetic Philosophy, published in 1892.

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