Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP5227

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
William James
1 June 1886

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, The Quincy hotel, Boston, USA to William James [none given] on 1 June 1886.

Record created:
08 April 2013 by Catchpole, Caroline


No summary available at this time.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)
  • publication (1)

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LETTER (WCP5227.5755)

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

Held by:
Houghton Library, Harvard University
Finding number:
MS Am 1092 (1149-1151)
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Physical description

Transcription information





July 1.2

Thursday, 1 Jun[e]. 1886

Dear Mr James3

I have just returned from seeing Mrs. Ross4 and have arranged with her for a private seánce [sic] at her house on Monday afternoon at 3. (or 3.30 if much more convenient to you). Her terms are $.15, the party not to exceed 10 or 12.

She tells me she used to go out to private houses a good deal & does still occasionally but she has now quite as much as she can do at home. She is engaged Monday evening.

If you do not accept this arrangement please drop a line to her at once as she may have other applications. I presume however you will accept it, & I make a few suggestions to ensure [[2]] (or deserve!) success. Do not have violent sceptics if [sic] the party or any who would behave otherwise than at a friend's house. Have half ladies if possible, and as many who have some medium power or know something of the subject as you can. If you can get Mr. Brackett5 to join us it would be an advantage. Pray do not suggest a personal search of Mrs. Ross. It is both valueless & utterly unnecessary. Ladies will not make the search thorough, & I am sure the men present could not believe it was thorough. If anything good happens (a solid figure that can be felt & heard) it is useless, & if only vague shadows appear it is not worth the risk of spoiling the whole sèance [sic] by the irritation that it must cause the medium to be personally searched.

The rooms we may examine thoroughly, & if 5 or 6 10 or 12 men & women cannot satisfy themselves whether there are or are not openings in a papered wall & carpeted floor they had better retire to lunatic asylums. But even this examination is not necessary, if you consider that mediums rent houses, & no tenant can alter doors & break down walls without the landlord's knowledge & permission. Mrs. Ross tells [[3]] me she has only been in this house 4 months, & at the "Banner" office they told me that the only medium who owns the house she lives in is Mrs. Fay, & she has bought hers quite recently. Enquiry of Mrs Ross's landlord would determine whether he thinks trap-doors &c. could be made. But the thoug[h]t is absurd as a general explanation, because workmen must be employed , it could not be concealed & yet has never been found out! even after mediums have changed their abode.

In my opinion the arrangements at the Ross' are the simplest conceivable, just such as I have seen adopted in private houses as the best & simplest.

[[4]] Your article on "Great Men &c." is very clever and very pleasant reading, but does not seem to me an answer to Spencer & Grant Allen. If is a subject on which clever men may write in opposite senses for ever [sic]. I see numerous fallacies in your arguments most of which I could answer myself though I have paid no special attention to the subject. You seem to me to mix the two three questions of (a)6 the existence of superior men, geniuses in fact, with (b) the special character of their genius, & (c)7 the special effect they produce on their fellows. As to the first I have no objection to your argument as to the (b to of c.) I think Spencer right. As usual there is some truth on both sides but I think (of course) most on that of "the great modern philosopher"!

Yours very faithfully | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

Let me know exactly when your party will be at Mrs Ross', 9b W. Concord St[reet] corner of Shawmut Av[enue] & I will meet you.


1. The letter is written on headed paper from The Quincy. The header comprises a drawing of the hotel's exterior and the text 'The Quincy. American and European Plans, 500 Rooms. J.W. Johnson & Co. Boston'.

2. 'July 1' is written in pencil in different handwriting to the main text.

3. William James (1842-1910), American philosopher and psychologist.

4. Mrs Hannah V. Ross (fl. 1880s), American medium.

5. Edward A. Brackett

6. (a) is written in the left side margin of the page.

7. (c) is written in the left side margin of the page.

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