Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP4892

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Charles Lyell
14 February 1864

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, 5 Westbourne Grove Terrace, London, W. to Charles Lyell [none given] on 14 February 1864.

Record created:
16 November 2012 by Catchpole, Caroline


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Record contains:

  • letter (1)

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LETTER (WCP4892.5292)

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




Page One awaited (to be re-scanned)

[[2]] out of the Australian Region except in the Philippine Is[lands]. (one sp[ecies].[?]) but these islands have had relations some time or other with Celebes & thus have obtained a few peculiar forms -- the three honeysuckers (Meliphagidæ) are confined to the Australian region, -- I do not remember saying any thing [sic] about their being found in Africa, where the Sunbirds (Nectariniidæ) a totally distinct group abound.

As regards Insects changing rapidly, I see nothing improbable in it. Though in a totally different way, they are as highly specialized as birds & mammals, & through the transformations they undergo have still more complicated relations with the organic & inorganic world. For instance they are subject to different kinds of [[3]] danger in their larva[,] pupa & imago state, -- they have different enemies & special means of protection in each of these states, & changes of climate may probably affect them in each state differently; we may therefore expect very slight changes in the proportion of other animals & in physical geography & climate to produce an immediate change in their number & their organization. The fact that they do not change rapidly is I think shown by the large number of peculiar forms of insects in Madeira compared with the birds & plants, -- the same in Corsica where there are many peculiar species of insects, -- also the very limited range of many insects as found by Bates1 & myself. Again your rule of the slow change of Mollusca applies to aquatic species [[4]] Page Four awaited (to be re-scanned)

[[5]]2 bones & teeth of animals -- This person is a Mr. Coulson a mining Engineer who has been many years in Borneo. He gave a set of Borneo Coal fossils to your Geolog[ical]. Soc[iety]. Museum. He left London yesterday for Singapore, where he will be some time; & he told me that he would be happy to undertake the exploration of the caves.

You would thus save the expense of sending a person out on purpose, & could not have a better man, & if you gave him full instructions he would follow [[6]] them out carefully & conscientiously. He has a thorough knowledge of the natives & manages them well & could get the work done more cheaply & effectively than any person new to the country that you could send out.

Sir James Brooke3 knows him well & has a good opinion of him.

The caves where he saw [word illeg. crossed-out] bones are not in Sir J. Brookes [sic] territory but further N[orth]. but there are numbers of caves in [[7]] all parts of Borneo.

His salary as Mining Engineer was I believe $300 a month (ab[ou]t £965) this with expenses would not be more than £500 for a 5 or 6 months exploration, & according to the results obtained it might be continued or not.

Hoping this information may be useful to you.

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


1. Henry Walter Bates (1825 - 1892). English naturalist and explorer. Henry Bates accompanied Wallace during his expedition to Amazonia.

2. The numbers "2" (which is encircled on the original letter) and "409" appear at the top of the page.

3. Sir James Brooke (1803 - 1868). British adventurer who became the first White Rajah of Sarawak.

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