Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP4795

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Edmund Major Wilson
24 August 1863

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, 5 Westbourne Grove Terrace, London, W. to Edmund Major Wilson [none given] on 24 August 1863.

Record created:
24 October 2012 by Catchpole, Caroline


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LETTER (WCP4795.5188)

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

Held by:
John Greenell Wilson
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

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Transcription information




5, Westbourne Grove Terrace, London. W.

Aug.[ust] 24th. 1863.

My dear Cousin

I shall have great pleasure in proposing you as corresponding member of the Ent.[omological] Soc.[iety] of London, & any notes you may send on the habits or economy[sic] of insects will be received with pleasure & attention. What is the much wanted is the thorough study of some species of remarkable structure or habits from the egg[?] [word missing due to torn page] the imago & from "the cradle to the grave."

In such your [illegible word crossed out] opportunities will be great when you return to your agricultural or rather horticultural life, -- & I would recommend you as a model some of the curious researches of Mr Darwin on the complicated relations of one animal to another & to plants.

Notes observations on birds & mammalia are equally valuable & I shall [[2]] be happy to communicate such to the Zoological Society. Your anecdote about the Dacelo gigantea1 though perhaps new is not very new, -- because Gould2 mentions them eating mammalia & reptiles, & it is therefore not very remarkable that they should sometimes also eat birds. Gould says he shot one carrying a rare rat in its bill, & has seen them often catch & kill & eat snakes.

[illegible words due to torn page] in Australia I should certainly be attracted to the Buprestidae3 myself, from their beauty & variety. Have you Lacordaires4 Work on the genera of Coleoptera<?> It is first rate, & gives a list of all described species up to date of publication. It costs about 7s. a vol. Five vols. are out, the 4th. contains the Elateridae5 & Buprestidae & Malacaodermae Cleridae6 &c. There is no recent monograph. An old one with coloured plates by "Castelnau7 & Gory8" is expensive, but useful as figuring [[3]] all the then known species I believe.

My collection of Buprestidae from the Malay islands is very fine, but of a totally different character from yours, -- being almost all glossy species of green and gold metallic colours, & very few indeed spotted or banded with yellow. The small species are very interesting & I believe I have in all about 150 species. I have however innumerable varieties of some species which it [is] almost impossible to classify.

By last mail I sent [word illegible due to torn paper] for £300, & full letters of [unknown word] for you and Theodore, but of course must leave a great deal to your judgement.

You must work hard at the minute & obscure things, of all orders and classes, as by doing so alone will the expedition pay expenses. The plan I adopted for work was as follows. At daylight, -- hunters started to shoot, -- I after a cup of coffee got out previous days coleoptera &c to set out, pack away dry insects from drying boxes, & put[?] up & pack away dry birds. get out all specimens to dry for the day – 9 o’clock breakfast. Ab[ou]t 10 start insect hunting. [[4]] My hunters return at[?] about noon, eat breakfast & then set to work skinning. I returned about 2 or 3 – bathed, -- got a cup of tea, -- sat down to set out my butterflies, -- put up birds the men had skinned, make notes &c. till 6. then pack all things away carefully for the night, -- & dine, -- if in good situation near forest, look out for insects in evening with lamp, -- try sugaring for moths &c. read or write tea & to bed early. --

When you are both together, -- one can go out for two hours shooting before breakfast alternately, the other setting out insects &c. After breakfast both go out insect hunting – 10 to 2 are the best hours of the day for all insects in the equatorial regions.

Please take every opportunity of writing to me. And arrange for your first collections to reach England as soon as possible.

Forward the enclosed letter to your brother Algernon. With best wishes

I remain | my dear Cousin | yours very affectionately | Alfred R Wallace [signature]


1. Dacelo gigantea is also known as the Great Brown Kingfisher.

2. Presumably John Gould (1804-1881), ornithologist.

3. Buprestidae is a family of beetles, known as jewel beetles or metallic wood-boring beetles.

4. Théodore Lacordaire (1801-1870), entomologist.

5. Elateridae is the family of beetles commonly called click beetles.

6. Cleridae is a family of beetles commonly known as checkered beetles.

7. Francois de Laporte de Castelnau (1810-1880), French naturalist.

8. Hippolyte L. Gory (1800-1852), entomologist.

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