Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP431

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Annie Wallace (née Mitten)
19 December 1886

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Boston, Massachusetts, USA to Annie Wallace (née Mitten), [Nutwood Cottage, Frith Hill, Godalming] on 19 December 1886.

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


Re. disappointment at lack of lecture engagements on return (from Baltimore), agent Williams not managing well, but some interest from Ohio, advertisements now in some scientific journals and new circulars sent out, sending copy of circular and some local bills of fare to Violet, hopes to get enough lecturing to cover costs of travel to California in spring or summer but journey more expensive than to London, thinks people bored with natural history and want more exciting subjects; will spend winter in Washington and live more cheaply; has been visiting American museums and will write an article on them for Harris; problem of continual packing of clothing and sundries, will leave some in storage, lifebelt and picnic basket useless but overshoes a boon; freezing weather, ribald reaction of people in the street to his fur coat; assumes Annie will spend new year at Hurst, receipt of her letter of Dec 1.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)

View item:

LETTER (WCP431.431)

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

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/5/12
Copyright owner:
©A. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Physical description

Transcription information




Boston, Dec[embe]r. 19th.

My dear Annie

I got back here on Saturday week, Dec[ember]. 11th, and to my great disappointment found there were no engagements for me & I have been staying here idle since[.] Several people have told me they did not know I was going to lecture anywhere but at Lowell, so evidently Mr. Williams has not managed as well as he sh[oul]d. have done though he says he has done more for me thanfor any other lecturer he has ever had. There are a few applications from Ohio and he has just sent out a lot of new circulars of which I send one with one of our bills of fare here, to Violet. I have also got some advertisements put in some American scientific papers, and may thus hope to get enough lectures to pay my expenses to2 [[2]] California & back but it costs about twice as much from her to California as from here to London. It seems to me that people have been rather bored with Natural History, & prefer Art, or Travels, or Battles, or something more exciting. Although the weather has been very changeable and last Saturday down to 5º. (17 below freezing) I have got rid of my cold & feel quite well. I expect I shall leave here for Washington in a week & try and live a little cheaper there during the winter, & then go to California about March or April. I have been looking at Museums here & shall try and write an article about them for "Harris", when I get quietly settled at Washington. I find I brought twice as many things as I wanted & am going to pack up half my clothes & [[3]] sundries, & leave them here till I come home as the packing & unpacking so many things is a great[?] nuisance. On Friday night I had to go out to dinner about as far as to Mr. Davies’, so as it was a cold night I thought I would give my fur coat a trial, but I never mean to wear it again! I had to walk through a series of "Oh!’s" -- "look there!" "There’s a man!" -- the whole way under a blaze of electric lights! Worse than in London! So I shall pack it up and leave it here till I come back. The coat I had made in Guildford is absolutely unwearable with my thick flannels on, it is so tight, so I shall wear my frock coat constantly wh[ich]. I never wear at home & the Guildford coat will do for summer wear with their vents when I come back. I have also full twice as many shirts as I want & [[4]] the lifebelt, picnic basket, hanging hooks -- & many other things are quite useless & a great nuisance to me. The most useful thing I brought is [sic] those rubber or felt overshoes. Everybody wears them here owing to the quantity of mud & slush in the streets, & they keep my boots clean & dry so that they even want blacking. I shall adopt them for the garden when I come home.

I suppose this will reach you about, the new year, and as I suppose you will be persuaded to stay at Hurst I shall send this inclosed [sic] to your father who I hope has got the land he thinks of buying. The weather here is quite as changeable as in England. The snow storm of Thursday last was followed by a hard frost on Friday, a thaw on[?] Saturday with regular muggy London weather & today it is quite mild and bright, while another snowstorm is announced!

With best love | Your affectionate husband | A R Wallace [signature]

Yours of Dec[ember]. 1st. with account of your Dinner received.3



1. There is a catalogue/reference number written in the top left-hand corner of the page. Its reads [WP1/5/12].

2. A previous, since expired, catalogue number is recorded at the bottom of the page, below the text. It reads [old Ref WP1/17/12].

3. Wallace’s postscript is written vertically in the left-hand margin of the first page of the letter.

Please note that work on this transcript is not yet complete. Users are advised to study electronic image(s) of this document, if available.