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Record number: WCP4873

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Charles Lyell
6 July 1867

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, 9 St Mark's Crescent, Regent's Park, London, N.W. to Charles Lyell [none given] on 6 July 1867.

Record created:
16 November 2012 by Catchpole, Caroline


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Record contains:

  • letter (1)

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LETTER (WCP4873.5274)

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




9, St. Mark’s Cresent N.W.

July 6th. 18672

My dear Sir Charles

I think the fact that the only placental land mammals in Australia ([word illeg.] indigenous) are the smallest of all mammals, is a very suggestive fact as to how they got there. Mice would not only be carried by canoes but they would also be carried transported occasionally by floating trees carried down by floods. I think myself however, that it is most likely they were carried by the earliest canoes of prehistoric man, and that they are an example of rapid change of specific form, owing to the ancestral species having been [[2]] subjected to a great change of conditions both as regards climate and food, and having had an immense area of new country to roam over and multiply in, the very first of which it would be subjected to different conditions.

These considerations I think fully meet the facts, and there ought to be no large rodents found in the caves of Australia and no other rodents of any distinct type from those now living. When any such are found it will be time enough [[3]] to consider how to account for them. It is as you say a most important fact, that in three such distinct localities as New Zealand, Australia and the Mauritius, no bones of extinct carnivora or other mammalia should be found only with the wingless birds and marsupials; while abundance of remains of these groups are found. We may I think fairly claim this as a proof that such placental animals did not exist in these countries, -- and the fact that the only exceptions in the existing Australian fauna are [[4]] mice indicates very clearly that they are a recent introduction.

When all the known facts are in our favour, I do not think we need trouble ourselves to answer objections and overcome difficulties that have not yet arisen and probably never will.

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

Sir Charles Lyell3


1. The number 413 is written in the top right-hand corner of the page. It is not in Wallace’s hand-writing.

2. The year (1867) has been added to the date. It is not in Wallace’s hand-writing.

3. Wallace has written the addressee’s name at the bottom of the page.

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