Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP4869

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Charles Lyell
3 May 1871

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Holly House, Tanner Street, Barking, E. to Charles Lyell [none given] on 3 May 1871.

Record created:
15 November 2012 by Catchpole, Caroline


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Record contains:

  • letter (1)

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LETTER (WCP4869.5270)

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

Held by:
American Philosophical Society
Finding number:
The Darwin-Lyell Collection
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Physical description

Transcription information



[[1]] 4251

Holly House, Barking. E.

April May 3rd. 1871

Dear Sir Charles

I have just been reading a book which struck me amazingly, but which has been somewhat pooh-pooh’d by the critics which therefore you may not have thought worth looking at. It is W. Matthieu William’s, Fuel of the Sun2,3. Whether the theory is true or false this book is the work of a man of original genius. It’s originality is so startling that I found it to require reading twice to take it in thoroughly, & it is so different from all modern theories of the Sun that I can [[2]] quite see why such a work by an outsider should not have received due attention.

If sound it completely solves the problem of the perpetuity of the sun’s heat and gives geologists and darwinians[sic] any amount of time they require. It seems to be reasonable, it is beautifully worked out, it is quite intelligible, & till shown to be a fallacy, I hold by its main doctrine. [[3]]

I hope you will read it, & if you see no fallacy in it get Sir John Herschell4 [sic] to read it, & tell us if there is a positive fallacy which destroys its whole value or no.

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

Sir Charles Lyell Bart. F.R.S.


1. The number "425" has been inscribed at the top, left-hand, corner of the page. It is not Wallace’s hand-writing.

2. William Mattieu Williams (1820 - 1892). London-born educationalist and science writer.

3. The Fuel of the Sun. Published 1870, London.

4. Sir John Herschel (1792 -1871). English mathematician, astronomer, chemist, botanist and experimental photographer/inventor. He died on 11 May 1871, only a handful of days after ARW wrote this letter.

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