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Record number: WCP5290

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
William Fletcher Barrett
18 December 1876

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Rose Hill, Dorking to William Fletcher Barrett [none given] on 18 December 1876.

Record created:
07 May 2013 by Catchpole, Caroline


No summary available at this time.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)
  • publication (1)

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LETTER (WCP5290.5834)

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

Held by:
Cambridge University Library
Finding number:
SPR. MS 3/A4/137
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Physical description

Transcription information




Rosehill, Dorking.

Dec[embe]r. 18th. 1876

My dear Mr. Barrett,2

When I look at the date of your letter I am ashamed to find how long I have left it unanswered, but I have been more or less unwell ever since the Glasgow meeting, & so have put off writing from time to time. I must first thank you for your very kind invitation to Dublin. You will no doubt be surprised to hear that I have the greatest distaste for travelling, and I do not think it likely that anything will bring me to Ireland, till [[2]] the meeting of the Brit[ish]. Ass[ociation]. in Dublin, when as I have never seen the "Green Isle" I may make an effort to come.

In the meantime, I see you are to lecture at S[outh]. Kensington the end of this month (I think) and if you can spare time to come[?] down here, & stay a night or two we shall be much pleased to see you, & I should be greatly interested to have a talk on the subject of your paper, & hear what further evidence you have obtained. I want[?] particularly [[3]] to ask you to take advantage of any opportunity that you may have to test the power of sensitive’s to see the "flames" from magnets & crystals; & also to feel the influence from them. This is surely a matter easily tested & settled. I consider it has been tested & settled by Reichenbach,3 but he is ignored, & a fresh proof of this one fact, by indisputable tests is much needed; and a paper describing such tests & proofs would I imagine be admitted into the Proceedings of any notable scientific society. [[4]]4

You will have heard no doubt of the Treasury having takening up the prosecution of Slade5. Massey the Barrister, one of the most intelligent & able of the Spiritualists (whose accession to the cause is due I am glad to say to my article in the Fortnightly6) proposes a memorial & deputation to Government protesting against this prosecution by the Treasury on the grounds it implies that Slade is an habitual imposter & nothing else, & that in face of the body of evidence to the contrary, it is an uncalled for interference with the private right of investigation into these [[5]]7 subjects. On such general grounds as these I sincerely hope you will give your name to the memorial. New Para8 Did a Mr Tweedie at Glasgow send you his paper on Mesmerism and its realities"?9 He is a medical man, and it is the record of a most remarkable case, in which phenomena appeared in some respects differing from any I have found elsewhere recorded, and showing the wonderful variety of these phenomena, & how impossible it is to reason[?] from one to all, in the absurd way [[6]] Dr. Carpenter10 & his school are accustomed to do.

It appears to me that enquiry into this subject may literally go on for ever & not make much advance (1) if all enquiries and experiments are ignored as soon as a few years have passed, and we are asked to prove everything afresh, and (2) if those who come across such facts do not make them known & keep them well before the public. It is therefore that I so much value your conduct in coming forward with your experiments. If every [[7]]11 one who has any scientific a[nd] literary a[nd] medical standing did the same, it would be impossible for men like Carpenter to come again & again before the public with the most gross misstatements, and the most convenient forgetfulness of all recorded facts against them. I believe if they were searched for & brought together, a small volume might be filled with the evidence of medical men alone, given in purely medical publications, sufficient to demonstrate clairvoyance and [[8]] most of the higher phenomena of mesmerism, -- if not much of what pertains to spiritualism.

If you can come and see us drop a line to say when. There are convenient trains from Charing Cross, a[nd] from Victoria.

Believe me | Yours vey faithfully | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

Prof[essor]. W.F. Barrett12


1. There are a number of inscriptions and catalogue/reference numbers written on the first page of the letter. In the top right-hand corner "WALLACE" has been written in capitals. Below this, and on separate lines are the numbers "2" and "133". Between the date of the letter and text there is a file or catalogue reference: "SPR.MS 3/A4/137. Finally, midway down the page and in the left hand margin, there is the stamp of the Society for Psychical Research.

2. Sir William Fletcher Barrett (1844-1925). Physicist and psychical researcher, and founder of the Society for Psychical Research.

3. Baron Carl von Reichenbach (1788-1869). German chemist, geologist and philosopher. Reichenbach theorised about an an "Odic force", an unproved field of energy emanating from all living things.

4. The stamp of the Society for Psychical Research is in the right-hand margin, mid-way down the page.

5. (Dr) Henry Slade (1835-1905). American psychic. Following a celebrated case in London in 1876, Slade was prosecuted for fraud and sentenced to three months hard labour. Due to a bureaucratic error the sentence was never served and Slade managed to leave the country.

6. Fortnightly Review. A magazine first published in in 1865 and serving as a platform for promoting (mainly) Liberal ideas.

7. The date of the letter is written in pencil at the top of the page: "18/XII/76". It is not in Wallace’s hand-writing. Similarly, the number 133 is pencilled in the top right-hand corner of the page

8. The text continues unbroken. However, Wallace has marked a break and inserted the phrase "New Para", indicating that the next sentence, starting "Did a Mr Tweedie . .", should be read as the commencement of a new paragraph.

9. A. C. Tweedie’s book, "Mesmerism and its Realities: further proved by Illustrations of its Curative Powers in Disease" was first published in 1858 (Edinburgh, Paton and Ritchie).

10. William Benjamin Carpenter (1813-1885). English physician and invertebrate zoologist. He was a critic of claims of paranormal phenomena, psychical research and Spritualism.

11. The stamp of the Society for Psychical Research is in the left-hand margin, towards the bottom of the page.

12. Wallace has written the addressee’s name has been written at the bottom of the letter.

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