Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP451

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Violet Isabel Wallace
24 June 1887

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Stockton, California, USA to Violet Isabel Wallace, [Nutwood Cottage, Frith Hill, Godalming] on 24 June 1887.

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


This letter is from Wallace to his daughter Violet during his North American tour. He tells her of the weather and the seasons and that he has not seen a single place he should like to live in. He writes of "Big Trees" including Redwoods and tells of his plans to visit Santa Cruz and Lake Tahoe before coming home in late August. Wallace also mentions that he has been lecturing on Spiritualism in San Francisco.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)

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LETTER (WCP451.451)

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

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/5/35
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Physical description

Transcription information




Stockton, Cal.

June 24th. 1887.

My dear Violet,

You see I am still at Stockton, but I have been about to several places and seen a good deal of California, and I have not yet seen a single place I should like to live in. There is no place equal to Hindhead or Waggoners Wells or the vale of Crickhowell. Even the celebrated Yosemite Valley which is tremendously grand and has the finest waterfalls in the world is not quite the place to live in, as it is too much that in by precipices which are twice as high as the Sugar loaf mountain and like huge walls of rock in uncanny places, just like the pictures you have seen of them but of course far grander. Fresh in the spring the place is lovely for a little which as there are plenty of flowers, but in the summer it gets very much Growth of which in the winter the mountains all round are ten feet deep in snow and for 3-4 months there is no communication with the rest of the World. John went with us to the valley & we took May between us. The journey there was dreadful. Two days in a coach [[2]] awfully jolting, and terribly dusty, clouds of choking dust for hours together and a blazing sun. For half the way we passed through a country all burnt up, the hills all yellow like stubble fields in October and not a blade of green grass anywhere. Then we got into the forest and it was grand and beautiful. Almost all the fine ornamental pines and firs which May saw at Heatherside grow in these forests, from beautiful young trees, like specimens on lawns, up to 150, 200, and even 250 feet high and from 4 to 6 feet diameter. After coming back from Yosemite I went by myself another two days journey to the Grove of Big Trees where I staid[sic] four days and enjoyed myself very much. I walked about among the trees and measured them, and sketched them, & measured them again, till I was well acquainted with them, and I never saw anything so grand and beautiful even in the forests of New Guinea or the Amazon. They are scattered through a forest of other great pines and firs such as I have already described, standing in twos or threes or layer groups, or singly, so that you generally have 5 or 6 in view at once. They were different from all the other trees [[3]] not only by their great size but by the colour & appearance of their bark which is of a rich orange brown colour and often in the sunshine shines like heath. They usually rise up in straight columns 100 or 150 feet without a branch and from 8 to 12 feet diameter, spreading out at the ground to 20 or even 30 feet diameter. At a distance they look about the same size as other trees and you couldnt believe they are so big till you walk up to them, a compare them with the other trees which are only about half the size. There are some pretty flowers growing in this forest among quantities of our common <species of fern?>, but no other fern. I have sent a parcel containing some flowers & roots and a lot of beautiful little ferns I got in the mountains near Yosemite, to Miss Jekyll, last week, because the ferns will want very careful treatment I expect to recover them after such a long journey, and Miss Jekyll has written to me saying she has a very good new gardener now, & begs me to send her as many plants as possible. You and Ma had better walk over and ask her if this lot has come and see how they are getting in if alive. I left an envelope directed to Ma, at the hotel at the Big Trees, to have some seeds sent as soon as ripe, of a [[4]] beautiful flower called the California Forget me-not. It grows as a weed then about a foot and a half high with quantities of flowers very like our Forget me not but twice as large and even a brighter and deeper blue, with white centers. If they come Ma had better now half the seed at once in a sunny place, and give the rest to Grandpa & Miss Jekyll to try their luck. May desires me to say that she was very much pleased with your letter & will write to you soon. All the boys are now been to see me before I go. I dont see any likeliness in any of them to either father or mother a[sic] us, but other people do. They seem to me regular Americans, but nice intelligent young men. John and I are going today to the coast at Santa Cruz, and to the mountains near where another kind of Big Tree grows - the Redwood. I suspect to get some ferns there and will send them to Mr. Marshall in case you may be away, and if you are at home you can get them. I am going to write to Willie at school as he says he likes to have a letter direct. About next Tuesday I am going to leave, & to stay a week in the mountains and at Lake Tahoe where I hope to get lots of flowers & ferns. I have been lecturing on Spiritualism in San Francisco & send you Report of Lecture.

You affectionate Papa | Alfred R. Wallace. [signature]

I shall probably be home middle a latter end of August.1


1. This sentence has been written in the left hand margin of page 4.

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