Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP4451

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Edward Bagnall Poulton
13 March 1911

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Old Orchard, Broadstone, Wimborne, Dorset to Edward Bagnall Poulton Wykeham House, Banbury Road, Oxford on 13 March 1911.

Record created:
19 July 2012 by Catchpole, Caroline


Thanks Poulton for his new book. Wallace's new book -reviews and sales. More about his garden -his mania for alpine plants (especially the genus Primula). Birch's travels. Rothchild's butterfly collections at Tring. Wallace has been ill with bowel troubles, eczema and "other incidents in old age". Details of his diet, the fact that his son is now an invalid and the trouble that he is having with servants so his wife and daughter are doing most of the work.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)
  • envelope (1)

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LETTER (WCP4451.4752)

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

Held by:
Hope Entomological Library, Oxford University Museum of Natural History
Finding number:
ARW 104
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Physical description

Transcription information




Old Orchard,



March 13th. 1911

My dear Poulton

Many thanks for your new book, -- which I hope to read some day, but at present I am overwhelmed with business & relaxation[illeg]y work! My new book is, to say the least, as well reviewed as any of my previous books, and seems to be causing more astonishment and excitement than any. It is also selling, so far, as well if not better than any; while the amount of correspondence it brings me all requiring replies [[2]] is more than what I have ever had before. Even the worst severest critics say there is no falling off in my style, which is of course a pleasure to me.

But what I am mainly at work (or at play) upon now is my garden, and I have suddenly developed a sad mania for Alpine plants, more especially for my old favourites the genus Primula which has received such wonderful additions lately from the Himalayas, but more particularly from N[orth] China. My resuscitated hobby is due to my having now, -- the very first time in my life a bit of ground really suitable for them, combining shelter, good aspects; a moist (even boggy in parts) sub-soil a moister atmosphere and a good [[3]] and varied soil. The new Primulas introduced by Veitch, Bees, & several others are so grand or charming that I have raised some from seed and have applied for others (and for Alpines generally) to Kew, Edinburgh, Cambridge and Dublins Bot[anic] Gardens, and have already got such a fine lot of plants -- about 20 sp[ecies] of Primulas and 150 of Alpines generally -- with promises of more -- that I am laying out a regular alpines & bog garden, on a quite small scale, buying stone & stone chippings by the ton, or truck-load, collecting sand & road scrapings, protecting against rabbits, &c. which all give me very interesting occupation work so filling up my time and powers of work that I have little time or energy for reading any thing but newspapers, novels, & the regular supply or scientific or political periodicals.

[[4]]1 Birch is still (I believe) at that wretched place Theophilo Ottoni, where he has been kept by sheer inability to find any suitable good collecting ground within his means & where the necessaries of life can be had. One place in the forest near the coast had to be given up a year ago wh because bare food was not to be had. My last letter from him received about 3 months back, said he had found another place which seemed very promising, & suitable, but his wife was likely to have a child in a month or so, & could not bear the fatigue & risk of a removal then.

It must be near a year ago after after he had sent off his whole collection of Lepidoptera to Rothschild according to contract, that he told me he had collected a fresh lot from which he had reserved a good set for you, and I understood actually sent [[5]]2 them off. But the place was so poor in species, that I fear he had hardly any good examples of mimicry & these of course went to Rothschild. It was a sad thing his ever going to such a district, but it was only to secure [letters deleted] the Tring offer, as they agreed to take of whole him a minimum of 12 specimens of every butterfly and moth he captured at, I think, 9d each, for all but certain groups of large insects which were at special rates & some very high. He thought, (& I thought too) that almost any where he [[6]] could do well on this, but what with two thirds of his time being occupied with house work, gardening & going 5 to 10 miles to buy & carry home the necessaries of life, his collections were miserably small and the Tring lot brought him in so little that I wonder how they managed to live. So I really do not know where he is just now; but I should not wonder still at T[heophilo] O[ttoni]!

I am sure his wish was to get you & send you what you wanted, but his difficulties with a wife & family were enormous, & having got into a very poor collecting ground [[7]] at the express wish of the Tring people who had seen some grand things from Minas Geraes & seemed to think it was rich generally, he has been stranded as badly as he was at Trinidad!

If you write to him, therefore, you will remember all this.

I have also been very poorly with Eczema, bowel-troubles, & other incidents of old-age, and am engaged in a constant effort to find a diet that exactly suits me, and am slowly, I hope, approaching it. Added to this my son is an invalid at home, & we have had a series of troubles with our servants & have now been months with only occasional [[8]]3 help & often (as now) my wife & daughter doing the work of this rather large house!

Excuse these details.

Yours very truly Alfred R. Wallace [signature]


1. This is actually the verso of the first sheet of the letter.

2. This is actually the recto of the third sheet of the letter.

3. This is actually the verso of the third sheet of the letter.

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