Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP383

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
John Wallace
25 May 1869

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, 9 St Mark's Crescent, Regent's Park, London, N.W. to John Wallace [none given] on 25 May 1869.

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


Re. probate [of his mother's will] and payment of Wallace family legacies with details of amounts; sister Fanny's finances; Thomas Sims's business; loss of money through investments; details of annual domestic expenditure; comparative cost of living in London and the country; sales of "Malay Archipelago"; application for museum position; request for seeds of wild Californian plants; children, Alfred Russel Wallace's daughter, now 4 months old, named Violet Isabel.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)

View item:

LETTER (WCP383.383)

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

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/3/59
Copyright owner:
©A. R. Wallace Literary Estate
Record scrutiny:
21/08/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline;

Item notes

Physical description

Transcription information




9, St Marks Crescent, Regents Park. N.W.

May 25th. 1869

Dear John1

After immense delay owing to having first to prove Mrs Watts death (which Mr. Burden alone could do & he was ill) and then getting a power of attorney from Mr. Millard one of the trustees who is in New York, & then the complicated business of administering to Herberts effects & getting all the Probate & Legacy accounts settled,-- the whole business is finally concluded and the money paid. The great expenses are owing to William and Herbert each having died possessed of a share of the property,-- and our Mother coming in for a share of their share, which finally comes back to us; but at each process legacy duties have to be paid, so that some of this money has paid duty four times over. All this might have been avoided if the original deed had made the money divisible among surviving children only, at Mothers death, the children of a deceased child taking his share as if he lived. But few people are so stupid as lawyers, who draw out in set forms only. The amounts of your and my shares, is £740.8 each, made up of 1/6 th. of the whole net sum = £457.17.6 and 1/3 of Williams & Herberts shares = £282.10.6. Fanny has another sixth share, Elizas which she advanced money for to our Father as you2 [[2]] know. Fanny sends you also £100. She wanted to send you every penny she had received, but her husband insisted that she should be paid for her trouble time and expenses, and in fact for a long time forbade her to pay the money away at all, because the mortgagees have threatened to come upon her, so she thought it better to compound by sending you £100-- leaving £.27.13. for her trouble and expenses during 5 ½ years, which I know were very great. The fact is she is very badly off, having lost for years by that large house in Westbourne Grove, and after paying all her debts has not I fear more than £500 or £600 in the world (I have also lost £700 by their business.) They are now living cheaply in the country T.[homas] Sims has given up photography and taken to portrait painting, but I fear will not get a living at it. I have given Fanny an undertaking in your name to answer all claimants to the £100, such as Marys brother, or the mortgagees.2

I enclose you a full copy of the accounts by which you will I think understand it all,-- and also a Letter of Credit on the Bank of British North America in S.[an] Francisco for $.4075 94/100 (= £840..8) which I have got through my bank (The London & County) and which will give you a little more that you could get for the Gold in California, -- interest during the voyage I suppose.

I have been wishing to send you a copy of my book which has been out two months and is selling very well, but I fear to trust it by post. However I send you by this post the first vol. of a rough proof, put up to test the binding, & if it is lost or injured [[3]] it will not matter much. If you get it I will send you the 2nd. vol., and then if you like it I will send you an unbound copy & you can get it bound there, or if you prefer it I will send you a bound one. As to expenses of living, I am not in the habit of keeping very accurate accounts, but I know our annual expenses the first year of our marriage, with my mothers board & lodging included, that is three persons, came to about £350. and I find from my check book that the last half year of 1868, with child and 2 servants was about at the rate of £360 per. annum. Out of this; Rent and Taxes are about £80. Servants wages £20. Coals & gas £15. Clothes, self & wife about £30. I am sure I could live with equal comfort in the country for £50 or £100 a year less, -- and I am sure that with a garden and cow you could live for much less than it costs you in California.

I am trying to get a little way into the country, but am fixed here I suppose another year, till my Museum affair is settled. The matter is now in the hands of Government & they are so full of business with the Irish Church, Education & other questions that they have no time to attend to such small matters as a Museum in the E.[ast] of London. I suppose [[4]]3 however I shall have something in it, having the strong personal recommendation of Sir C.[harles] Lyell and others to Lord DeGrey who as Lord President of the Committee of Council on Education, has the appointment. I want it very bad, for the fact is I am living beyond my income, owing in part to having lost a good deal by bad investments. My book however will bring me in a few hundred pounds and enable me to go on till something is settled. I have some hopes of getting £300 or £400 a year from the appointment, and if so shall look out for a house and good garden 10 to 20 miles out of town on a convenient Railway and establish myself for a permanency. That puts me in mind to ask you when you are out in the Country or on the mountains this autumn, to collect me a few seeds of small flowering plants, and send me some in each of your letters, as I am very fond of curious plants and my father-in-law Mr. Mitten is also a devoted horticulturalist on a small scale and an excellent botanist. You once sent a sketch of some wonderful shoreplant[?] but never sent me seeds of it. Your wild flowers I know are very beautiful, and almost any will be interesting to us. I hope my nephews & nieces are all well and hearty as my little boy and girl are at present. I am obliged to write on thin paper this time not to overstep an ounce weight.

Believe me Your affectionate Brother │ Alfred R Wallace [signature]

Our little girl is named Violet Isabel, now 4 months old. Herbert Spencer 2 years all but a month and as strong as a little donkey. 4

Your letters will get much quicker now by Pacific Railway so we may write a little oftener. The Book however will perhaps go by Panama.5


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

2. This text from "I have given" to "mortgagees" is written vertically up the left margin of page 2

3. The text "All I can find. M.W." is written in a different hand horizontally at the top of page 4.

4. This text is written vertically up the left margin of page 4.

5. This text is written vertically up the left margin of page 1.

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