Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP4771

Sent by:
Samuel Butler
Sent to:
Alfred Russel Wallace
27 May 1879

Sent by Samuel Butler, 15 Cliffords Inn, E.C. to Alfred Russel Wallace, [Waldron Edge, Duppas Hill, Croydon] on 27 May 1879.

Record created:
16 October 2012 by Catchpole, Caroline


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  • letter (1)

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LETTER (WCP4771.5147)

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

Held by:
American Philosophical Society
Finding number:
Alfred Russel Wallace Collection Mss.B.W15a
Copyright owner:
Copyright of the Samuel Butler Literary Estate.

Physical description

Transcription information




15. Clifford Inn


May 27. 1879.

Dear Sir--

Pray forgive me, I am sure I must have said rather more than I ought.1 A friend was with me when your letter came; I send it to him and he said "If you grant Mr Wallace his facts-- and you do not deny them-- he is perfectly right and your answer does not meet him at all. He tells you that you are engaged on certain investigations in which your opinions must be [surely] altered if you accept his [[2]] facts-- you admit this yourself-- you do not deny his facts-- and say that you do not care-- this is childish."

The only place in which he said you were not so right was about Handel, for he said "Handel’s music is a more universally accepted fact in respect to music in general than Spiritualism in respect of the other facts which you are dealing with."

I admitted the truth of what he said; and I feel therefore that an apology is due to you, which pray understand me as making without [[3]] reserve.

I have read the further part of the book you so kindly for[warde]d me,2 and shall read every word of it-- I admire the force and clearness with which it is written, every word of it impressing one that it is written by one who understands his own meaning and wishes other to understand it-- but I cannot pretend that it has kindled in me that inward motion to see and hear more without which you & I both know no good can come if any investigation. If this is that spiritual world independent of matter, which you believe in, a day may come when something will happen to me which will kindle in a [[4]] [1 word illegible] the right spirit of saying: no one will follow it up more promptly or persistently when it is assured-- If that time never comes, it must be taken as a sign that I am not one of those for whom that cause would grow[?].

Hoping you will forgive me for any [1 word illegible] that I fear I have been guilty of--

Believe me | Y[ou]rs. very truly, | S[amuel]. Butler3 [signature]


1. This is regarding a previous letter: Samuel Butler to Alfred Russel Wallace, 24 May 1879, WCP4770_L5146.

2. Alfred Russel Wallace, On Miracles and Modem Spiritualism: Three Essays (London: James Burns, 1875).

3. Samuel Butler (1835-1902). English writer and artist. After originally considering ordination he decided against it and emigrated to New Zealand in 1859. In 1864 he returned to England and settled in rooms in 15 Clifford’s Inn, Fleet Street in London where he spent the rest of his life. He is most famous for his posthumously published novel The Way of All Flesh (1903) and his anonymously published Utopian Erewhon; or, Over the Range (1872) which in fact made his name. He was also interested in evolution and Darwinism. In 1878 he published Life and Habit (it was republished in 1890 and again by Cambridge University Press in 2009). This was Butler’s first book on evolution. He would later publish Evolution, Old and New (1879), Unconscious Memory (1880) and Luck or Cunning (1887).

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