Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP426

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
William Mitten
21 November 1886

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Boston, Massachusetts, USA to William Mitten [none given] on 21 November 1886.

Record created:
01 June 2002 by Lucas, Paula J.


Letter from Alfred Russel Wallace to William Mitten, from Boston, 21 Nov 1886 with a postscript 22 Nov 1886; re. lack of mail from England; success of his lectures at the Lowell Institute (Boston); returned today from visit to Williamstown, stayed with resident of College, gave two lectures, visited waterfall with Professor of Natural History, sending roots of a Lonchitis (fern) to Annie and seeds of a gentian (some for Miss Jekyll) to Mitten; any news of letting of house at Godalming; plans to be in Baltimore November 30 to December 10, contact at Peabody Institute; PS letter from his wife Annie posted 13 days ago just arrived.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)

View item:

LETTER (WCP426.426)

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

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/5/5
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Physical description

Transcription information





Nov.[embe]r 21st. 1886

(B.W. Williams, 258, Washington Street)

Dear Mitten1,

It was six weeks yesterday since I sailed, and I have not yet received one line from Annie2 or Violet3, and as no one else has written to tell me what is the matter. I give it up as a mystery I cannot understand. I telegraphed to you the moment I arrived in New York and wrote the next day to Annie, and a fortnight later from Boston to Violet, also to Willie4.

Six of my lectures at the Lowell Institute have gone off very well -- full and very attentive audiences. I have returned to day[sic] from Williamstown 150 mile off in the N.W. corner of Massachusetts. It is a country very like the more few parts of Wales, surrounded with mountains 2000 to 2500 feet high, not very rugged, [[2]] or picturesque but in thin combinations, making rather fine scenery. They are mostly covered with a second (or third) growth of oaks birches &c. with a sprawling of pines, firs, and cypresses, but have generally a rugged aspect from the trees being continually cut as soon as they get big enough for pole fences or fine wood. There is a good college there & I staid with the President a very pleasant and jolly man. I lectured on Friday and Saturday being a very fine day I went with the Prof. of Nat. History to see a pretty waterfall in the mountains driving about 4 miles over rough & muddy roads with occasional snow drifts and then walking over boggy fields to the ravine where there was a very nice stream & waterfall like some of the best Welsh falls. The rocks & branches were draped with a small form of our Common Polypody, which they say never grows above 8 in[ches] or a foot long here, and the fine Polystichum [[3]] Acrostichoides a very handsome fern like a large lax and very little toothed lonchitis5. I do not think we have it so I have go some roots and am sending them to Annie. I saw in the Professors room a coloured drawing of a handsome fringed Gentian about a foot high, each & branches with numerous bright blue flowers. I feel sure it is not in cultivation in England, so the Prof. said he would give[?] some plants which were in flower a month ago. We found them in an open field on a wet loamy & boggy soil, and I send you the seed some of which please send to Miss Jekyll if as I suppose it is not in our nurserymens lists of herbaceous plants. I omitted to get the name, but will find it tomorrow before I post this [[4]] letter. From Nov. 30. to Dec. 10. I shall be at Baltimore, Maryland. If anything important has happened a telegram to Peabody Institute, Baltimore U. States, will reach me and they only cost now 6d. a word. If the house at Godalming is let I sh[oul]d. like to know at once. One of the most conspicuous trees is the American white birch which has the whole main stem quite up to the top as white as if newly whitewashed which all the side shoots and smaller branches are dark brown or reddish. I wonder it is not more grown in England as it is very distinct & striking. With kindest regards to all at home

Believe me | Yours very sincerely | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

[[5]] P.S. Nov. 22nd. This morning have [I] received Annie's letter from Hurst. I sent the telegram to you making sure she would be at Hurst & that if not you would send it to her directly. Her letter has been 13 days coming by the Post marks. I suppose my letter to her & Violet had to be forwarded to Hurst .

A.R.W. [signature]


1. William Mitten (1819-1906), botanist and Wallace’s father-in-law.

2. Annie Mitten Wallace (1846-1914), Wallace's wife

3. Violet Wallace (1869-1945), Wallace's daughter

4. William Greenell Wallace (1871-1951), Wallace's son

5. Lonchitis is a type of fern.

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