Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP379

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
John Wallace
2 January 1863

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, 5 Westbourne Grove Terrace, London, W. to John Wallace [none given] on 2 January 1863.

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


Re. Darwin's "Origin of Species"; Alfred Russel Wallace's discovery of the principle of natural selection; work on collections from Malay Archipelago, collector still employed there; possibility of engaging a collector in Sandwich Islands; 1862 London International Exhibition; marriage; nephews; American civil war; sending photos of himself.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)

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LETTER (WCP379.379)

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

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/3/54
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate
Record scrutiny:
21/08/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline;

Item notes

Physical description

Transcription information




5, Westbourne Grove Terrace, London, W.

January 2nd. 1863.

Dear John1

As a new year has just commenced I will try and turn over a new leaf in the way of writing to you, though by the way what I am writing on is in a very old leaf indeed, being a remnant of my stock of letter paper which I took out with me to the East nine years ago. This winter I am spending my time very comfortably among my collections which I have got all together in a room on the second floor, fitted up with shelves all round & crammed from floor to ceiling with Birds & Insects. I have plenty to do, & shall have for many years to come in getting these well arranged, in naming & describing the new ones & in theorising on their distribution & origin. I do not know if you have seen the wonderful book of Mr Darwins "The Origin of Species" published about four years ago, which has revolutionized Natural History & caused more discussion & excitement than any other book [1 illegible word deleted] on a scientific subject during the present century. I have some little share in the work myself having discovered the main principle on which the work depends, called by Mr. D.[arwin] Natural Selection, & communicated it to him before the work was published. The book is very interesting & if you have not seen it & cannot [[2]] get it at Colombia I will if you like send you a copy. I do not know if you read much now or have any good circulating libraries in your place. There have been many fine works published since I was abroad which I am now reading up.

I have still an assistant collecting for me in the East whose collections are occasionally coming in. I believe there is much communication between S. Francisco & the Sandwich Islands. Should you by chance meet with any naturalist or person having a taste for Natural History going there; enquire if they would send me a collection of the birds of the islands receiving in return Birds or insects from the Malay Islands.

You enquire about the Exhibition. To tell you any thing about it is impossible. It was of course very grand but there was such an innumerable quantity of things of every kind to be seen that the mention of any number will give little idea of the whole. Most interesting to myself were first the sculpture, -- then the paintings, but these were overwhelming by their numbers; The glass manufacturers, the French vases, the French silks & the Indian muslins were all superb, -- the machinery court was wonderful & overwhelming, & the general effect of the building with the fountains &[1 illegible word deleted] shrubs[?] under the domes, the painted roof & the rows of sculpture candelabras, gigantic telescopes, & house decorations on [[3]] each side of the central nave, was exceedingly rich & grand. I did not however go nearly as often as I had intended, for I found it wearying & confusing & I believe I did not go more than a dozen times altogether.

I have not yet decided about living in the country, for I have so much to do in London at the British Museum the Zool.[ogical] Society & at Mr Stevens that I cannot go far away, & to be close to Town is quite tantalising as nothing is to be had but little narrow strips of garden & small houses, at high rents. I shall therefore stay where I am another year & then decide as to where I shall fix, -- which will partly depend upon whether I follow your example & plunge in to matrimony. Owing I suppose to having been so much alone I have little taste for society & if I go for an evening anywhere am generally horribly bored & glad it is over.

About 3 months ago we sent you a box, by ship, containing sundry articles, & a few more. Hope they have arrived safe, & that the contents pleased the big ones & the little ones, including the baby. The photographs on leather you sent us are very good, & show me a couple of nephews that I am quite proud of, -- & hope some day to make their acquaintance. One of them Willy or Herbert or Johnny (I forget which there are such a lot of them) enquired about some silk worms eggs; -- When any are to be had I will try & get a few & send them to try their luck in a letter, -- only if the younguns sh[oul]d. come out on the way, you may be [[4]] indicted perhaps by the P.O. for sending (or inciting others to send) by Post, -- "dangerous & savage reptiles of the serpent kind, to the personal risk & danger of Uncle Sams Postal Service"-

By the bye,-- how goes war principles in California? We here to a man think the Northerners fools & madmen to think of restoring the Union by such a war. The northerners have no more chance against the Southerners than the English had against the Union -- The party fighting for freedom, & in defence of their own hearths & homes, must & will gain the day in the long run.

I send only a half sheet because I enclose two photos of myself. In the one sent in the box, I looked a spoon[?] & a muff, -- in the present I am a trifle more wide awake. I therefore hereby solemnly beg & beseech you, & if necessary do further strictly command you, on receipt of these, to burn & utterly destroy that other vile caricature intended to represent me. These were taken the day after Xmas day, when the beef & pudding & a little champagne had somewhat restored that ancient jollity which, I fear alas! old age & infirmities have now somewhat dampened.

Give my best love to Mary & all the juveniles & give them all a kiss for me. We are all pretty well & all send you happy new years, & hope some day to see you again in this damp old island.

So good bye from your affectionate Brother │ Alfred R Wallace [signature]


1. John Wallace (1818-1895), ARWs brother.

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