Wallace Letters Online

Share this:

Record number: WCP435

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Annie Wallace (née Mitten)
29 January 1887

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, The Hamilton Hotel, Washington D.C., USA to Annie Wallace (née Mitten) Nutwood Cottage, Frith Hill, Godalming on 29 January 1887.

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


Re. her letter about snow in England and damage to garden; Hampden (John Hampden of the Flat Earth Society) not a threat as few American papers would print anything by him; flattery becoming "quite painful", quotes remarks by dinner host, Mr Nordhoff, Washington representative of "New York Herald", describes dinner in detail including settings (guests names in gold on rose leaves), dining etiquette; J A Allen, father of Grant Allen staying nearby with his family; magnificence of Washington, street layout and houses; details of city's tram system; approval of American methods of warming houses and trains; superiority of American railway system; details of hotel room including heater and gas lamp; amazing experiences of spiritualist General Lippitt, materialisations and slate-writing; séances attended; visit to millionaire spiritualist Senator Stanford and his wife, Stanford to spend 20 million dollars to found a university in memory of his son; sending press cuttings on weather and on Garibaldi; no lectures recently but two arranged in Canada in March; has sent an article to Harris and written reviews for some American papers.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)
  • envelope (1)

View item:

LETTER (WCP435.435)

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

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/5/16(1)
Copyright owner:
©A. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Physical description

Transcription information




The Hamilton, Washington. D.C. U.S.A.

January 29th. 1887.

My dear Annie1

Your last letter with an account of the New Year’s snow storm was very interesting. I see by the papers that there was a second edition of it a week later, but I hope no more harm was done in the garden. The small Eucalyptus being broken off will be no harm if it grows up again as it will become more bushy, but I dare say some things will be killed by the sudden frost. You need not trouble about Hampden being able to hunt me here. He is quite powerless as no one but the most insignificant papers would ever insert any thing of his. The compliments I get are becoming quite painful & make me ashamed of myself, but that is because this city if full of scientific and literary men who have read my books all their lives. I have sent an article to Harris, & have written some reviews for American papers.2 Yesterday I was at a dinner party of literary people at the house of Mr. Nordhoff3 who is the Washington Representative of the New York Herald which is in America what the "Times" is in England. He told [[2]] people that when he heard I was in Washington he could not believe it-- it must be some other Wallace-- that he had been hoping all his life to see me-- & that he considered it a great honour to have me at his table-- which of course made me feel rather foolish. However we had a very pleasant evening as the American ladies are very talkative & ask questions about everything. Every dinner line[?] begins with a large plateful of raw oysters to each person & ends with an immense rice-pudding. By the side of each person’s plate was a beautiful rose on one of the loose outer petals of which the person’s name was printed in gold letters! I could not make out where the names were at first as of course I looked for a card, but the lady I took in was up to the dodge. Another nice improvement was that every gentlemen had a tiny envelope (gilt-bordered) given him containing a card with the name of the lady he was to take in [[3]] to dinner. Then, as soon as dinner was over & the ladies rose, the gentlemen escorted them back to the drawing room, & all remained there,-- but this custom I expect is only introduced in literary society. Among the visitors here for the winter is Mr. J.A. Allen & family (wife & 2 daughters) he is the father of Grant Allen and a very clever and highly educated old gentleman. He lives nearly opposite the Hotel so I often see them. They live in Canada but one of the daughters is delicate so they come here for the milder climate. This is a magnificent city-- very wide straight streets all bordered with trees, and many avenues cutting across them diagonally, and at all the intersections there are circular or square gardens with fine trees or statues. All the house not in the business parts have small gardens or plots of grass in front which the owners have the use of, but they are really parts of the street and can never be built on. They all say [[4]] that in the spring it is most lovely and I can see that it must be. The country round is also said to be beautiful owing to the quantity of wild shrubs such as Rhododendrons & Azaleas large dogwood, Judas trees, &c &c.. It is not in its perfection till May so I shall not be here to see it, as I shall probably leave for California in April. There are numbers of tramways along all the principal streets, & you can change from one line to another at all the junctions so that you can go almost anywhere for the uniform fare of 5c=2 ½d. This is very convenient as they run every 2-3 minutes & thus you can get all over the town very quickly & cheaply. Here I have a small bedroom very light and airy with two windows looking E. & S. and with a small stove in it which is lighted whenever I like without extra charge. We had 2 weeks of very cold weather when I first came & the stove was going day and night keeping me delightfully warm, so that I could keep the window a little open [[5]] all night to keep down the heat & for ventilation. The stove burns very slowly so that it keeps on for 24 hours without any fresh coal, & is attended to by a negro "fireman" who does nothing else. I am quite in love with the American fashion of keeping houses warm, and I believe that it is very healthy for I have never caught a

cold but once in America & that was when I had to get up at 5am. to drive 3 miles to the station from Vassar College. I always put a silk handkerchief round my neck before I go out if it is at all cold & my respiration if[sic] very cold, and with these & a thick coat I believe it is better to be well warmed in the house, & that you are better able to stand the cold outside. Again, the railway travelling is simply perfect. All the arrangements for tickets & luggage so greatly superior to ours while the fine lofty airy carriages are as warm and comfortable as the houses, being warmed by steam pipes along the sides & under every seat. What I shall try for more than any [[6]] thing else when I come back will be a proper heating apparatus to heat the whole house with steampipes & hot air, in the best American style, which combines warming & ventilation in a way that is absolutely perfect.

I have not wanted any lamp much for lecturing as they generally have one, but I find it very useful in my room. I have got a good india-rubber tube which fixed on one of the gas-burners and allows me to have my lamp on the table, so that in the evening I can write comfortably.

There are many spiritualists here besides Prof. Coues4. One is a General Lippitt who has had I think more wonderful experiences than any one I have ever met. He had had the most absolute tests, through several different mediums, his first wife, dead 25 years having come to him, and written him by letters in closed slates which the medium never touched at all, which letters are in her own handwriting, and refer [[7]] to private matters. He has also received wonderful proofs of identity of a young lady spirit who is a spirit friend of his daughter; & whose name address & full particulars of her life & death were given him,-- her father’s profession, name &c. He had never heard of such persons, but upon enquiry found it all true. The spirit of this young lady gave him a lock of her hair; beautiful golden auburn hair. He found out her mother-in-law living in Philadelphia & showed her the hair when she said at once "This is Nellie’s hair". He has shown me this hair & the letters from the mother-in-law and other people confirming exactly what he had learnt from the spirits before he knew there was any such person in existence! I have been 3 times to a medium here. Last twice I got a paper with-- "William Wallace is here"-- written on it. Certainly nobody here or perhaps in America knows of the [[8]] existence of "William Wallace". I also got a message signed--"A.W."-- I presume Algernon Wilson, but I said nothing & hope to get betters tests. I have made the acquaintance of a millionaire-- Senator Stanford5 from California & his wife. They are spiritualists, having received test messages from their only son a boy recently dead. He is one of the richest men in America and in memory of his son is going to spend 20 million dollars in founding a University in California.6 He was at the dinner last night & I went one evening to his home to laugh talk about Spiritualism. They are rather vulgar & she is very religious & goody talking about her "blessed boy" & the "dear Jesus" rather too much. Weather very changeable here-- hard frost & bright sun, then gloomy mild & cold wet alternately every few days-- but the bright days are lovely. I enclose some cuttings to show what weather I have escaped. The extract about Garibaldi please [gum] together & send to Willie7 when you write next. With love to Violet8 & Willie

Believe me. | Your affectionate Husband | Alfred R. Wallace. [signature]

No lectures yet but two arranged for in Canada in March. There are so many free lectures now by the various university & college professors that they have no room for more!9


1. Annie Wallace, neé Mitten (1846-1914). ARWs wife.

2. This sentence is written vertically in the left hand margin of page 1.

3. Charles Nordhoff (1830-1901). Journalist. Born in Germany (Prussia) in 1830. He moved to the USA in 1835. He was Washington correspondent for the New York herald from 1873 to his retirement in 1890.

4. Elliott Coues (1842-1899). Spiritualist. A member of the American Society for Psychical Research.

5. Leland Stanford (1824-1893). American industrialist and Governor. Stanford became Governor of California in 1862 to 1863. From 1885 to 1893 he served as the Senator of California.

6. This is Stanford University, founded in 1885. It’s full name is the Leland Stanford Junior University in memory of his son, Leland Stanford Junior.

7. William Greenell Wallace (1871-1951) ARWs son.

8. Violet Isabel Wallace (1869-1945) ARWs daughter.

9. This sentence is written vertically in the left hand margin of page 8.

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