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Record number: WCP436

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Violet Isabel Wallace
12 February 1887

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Washington D.C., USA to Violet Isabel Wallace Nutwood Cottage, Frith Hill, Godalming on 12 February 1887.

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


Enclosing press cuttings (not present) apparently reporting a social occasion hosted by spiritualist Mrs Hooker, sister of Henry Ward Beecher and Mrs Beecher Stowe, at which Alfred Russel Wallace was introduced to about 50 people; lectures to local Anthropological societies; lack of paying lectures, if none booked in California will not be able to afford to go there as fare is £50; only two forthcoming engagements in Canada; spending time visiting Museums and libraries and writing for American newspapers and for Harris; expense of hotel; changeable weather; detailed description of the "most beautiful" Capitol building and comparison with British House of Commons; instructions to send letters via agent Williams; hopes Violet is reading and studying well.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)
  • envelope (1)

View item:

LETTER (WCP436.436)

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

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/5/17(1)
Copyright owner:
İA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Item notes

Physical description

Transcription information




The Hamilton, Washington, D.C.

Feb.[ruar]y 12th. 1887.

My dear Violet1

I enclose you some newspaper cuttings which will show you how the people here are treating me. I had to be introduced and shake hands with about 50 or 60 people and talk with a lot of them. Mrs. Hooker2 who got up this affair is a sister to Henry Ward Beecher3 and Mrs. Beecher Stowe4 and is a great spiritualist and medium, and preacher, and lecturer and is a very clever nice old lady. There is a Women's Anthropological Society here and today I had to give them a little lecture on Anthropology in a private Drawing room, and on Tuesday I am to read a paper at the men's Anthropological Society on "Social Economy versus Political Economy." But all this time I have no lectures and am spending money instead of earning it. I have been now idle for 2 1/2 months, and have only got an engagement [[2]] for two lectures in Canada next month, though several others are talked about. I hope I shall get some in California, as otherwise I cannot afford to go there as the journey there and back will cost £.50. The weather here changes every few days from warm to cold. Yesterday it was like summer but today there is a wretched cold wind & freezing temperature. We shall probably have snow, then thaw and fog, & then warm again.

I spend my time going to Museums and libraries, making visits, writing letters and some articles for American papers and for the illustrious "Harris". It is however not very pleasant to live like this in a hotel where it costs me 10s/6d a day for any board and I think if I had known of this I should probably not have come to America at all, though of course I am glad I have [[3]] seen it.

The Capitol here, where are the two houses of parliament, is I think the most beautiful public building I have ever seen and is perhaps the most beautiful in the world. It is all white, mostly marble, with a dome just like the dome of St. Pauls but even more beautiful. It stands by itself on a small hill so that it can be seen on all sides, and from all sides is equally beautiful. Inside it is very fine also, with a great Central Hall under the dome, and the House of Representatives and Senate have broad galleries all round them so that there is room for perhaps a thousand people to hear the debate. The whole building is open to the public and you walk into the galleries just as you please and nobody says anything to you. It is very different from the small galleries in [[4]] our house of Commons where you can only get in by a ticket & then with great difficulty. There is also a public library in the same building where any body can read and take away any books they like by depositing the value. Lots of boys and girls go there to read or look at picture books! In the house of Representatives there is a desk for every member, and they write letters and read at their ease while the speeches are going on, and there are lots of messenger boys always running about to take letters and telegrams, and these boys are called by the members clapping their hands, so that the whole place looks much more lively than our House of Commons. Everybody says this city is a perfect paradise in Spring and altogether it must be a very nice place to live in. As I may be away from here soon you had better write through Mr. Williams my Agent.

With love to Ma and Willie I remain | Your affectionate Papa | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]


1. Violet Isabel Wallace (1869-1945), daughter of Alfred Russell Wallace.

2. Isabella Beecher Hooker (1822-1907), a leader of the American Suffragist movement and sister of abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe and abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher.

3. Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), American clergyman and abolitionist.

4. Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896), American abolitionist and author of Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852).

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