Wallace Letters Online

Share this:

Record number: WCP4653

Add to My list
Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Paul Lemperly
28 March 1904

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Old Orchard, Broadstone, Wimborne, Dorset to Paul Lemperly Cleveland, Ohio, USA on 28 March 1904.

Record created:
14 August 2012 by Catchpole, Caroline


No summary available at this time.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)
  • envelope (1)

View item:

LETTER (WCP4653.4969)

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

Held by:
Dittrick Medical History Center of Case Western Reserve University
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Item notes

Physical description

Transcription information




Broadstone, Dorset

March 28th. 1904

Paul Lemperly Esq.

Dear Sir

I must apologise for delaying so long in replying to yours of Feb. 22nd., but I have been so much engaged with various work -- especially with the "Leonainie" affair – that I have hardly found time do/so1[.]

Youre[sic] letter & enclosures arrived most opportunely, as you will see by my long letter in the April issue of the "Fortnightly Review", which I think shows that there is still some mystery about the affair which Mr. Riley has not cleared up. And as this communication of mine will probably bring me still further correspondence, raising perhaps new issues, I venture to keep the long "Interview" with Riley in the "Indianapolis News", a little longer, in case [[2]] I have to refer again to what is given as Riley’s own words, & which were presumably passed by him as such.

The difficulty to me is, that, two versions of this poem being in existence in America, the one issued by the alleged composer is not only inferior to the other, but contains such incongruities and verbal errors, as to seem to show that he did not realise the meaning of the poem, or appreciate its musical rhythm, as a whole. Unless Riley wrote the poem under the spiritual influence of Poe -- in an access of inspiration which, has never recurred -- (which I think quite possible) and then in his normal state altered [[3]] & spoilt it, I cannot conceive his being the author of it, and treating it afterwards so lightly as he has done.

I trust that my communication may lead to the discovery of where my brother copied his version from, & how there came to be such a better version in existence (unknown to Riley!)

Mr Charles F. Richardson, to whom I wrote for information as one of Poe’s Editors, says, that my version of it is "unquestionably preferable", but he thinks all the differences "might readily be made by a copyist"! I do not. He also thinks it is "not even one of the better parodies of [[4]] Poe" -- and here again I differ from him. It is stated here (in the Spectator) that the "Chicago Tribune" has recently said, that W.C Byant2 was one who believed it to be by Poe.

Have you got cuttings from the papers at the time of the hoax? Or a list of known writers & critics who believed it to be Poe’s, independently of the/his3 actual writing? The criticisms for & against, at the time, would be now most interesting.

You will see I have tried to do full justice to Riley as a poet, but I do not think he could have written "Leonainie". As you, no doubt have all his published works, can you send me a copy of any one short poem that has the same exquisite musical rhythm as "Leonainie"?

Believe me | yours very truly | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

The very imaginative exaggerations of Leonainie are against it being a mere imitation and also its originality.4


1. The letter at this point appears to read "do/so". The presence of the forward slash may be to make it clear that this should read "do so" not "doso".

2. He means W.C. Bryant.

3. It appears here that Wallace has written one word and then overwritten it. The two words appear to be "the" and "his". It is unclear which he meant.

4. The words from "The very imaginative" to "its originality" are written vertically up the left hand margin of page 4.

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