Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP738

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Frederick R. ("Fred") Birch
? 2 July ?1905

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Old Orchard, Broadstone, Wimborne, Dorset to Frederick R. ("Fred") Birch [none given] on ?2 July ?1905.

Record created:
18 March 2011 by NHM


Advises on how to protect Birch's tropical dwelling from termites and rats.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)

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LETTER (WCP738.910)

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

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM Catkey-418738
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Physical description

Transcription information




Broadstone, <Wimbourn>

July 2 [MS damaged]

My dear Fred

I was very glad to [MS damaged] the account of your interview with <Captain Boynton.3> [MS damaged] I am inclined to think he purposely <exag> [MS damaged] -gerated the discomforts of S[anta]. Catalina <in> [MS damaged] order to test you. I am surprised to [MS damaged] he thinks well of Tolstoy & me! [word illeg.] [MS damaged] character you heard of him makes him [MS damaged] kind of well educated pirate like one <has> [MS damaged] been reading about in Max Pemberton's4 <story> [MS damaged] "The Iron Pirate"5 or like Byron's old [MS damaged] [word illeg.] Corsair6 -- who was -- "the wildest [word illeg.] [MS damaged] man, tWho ever scuttled ship or cut[?] [MS damaged] throat." But as Mrs. B[oynton]. did not [MS damaged] you of the horrors of "sketen[?]" & [MS damaged] they are probably bearable.

The fact of rats eating termites is [MS damaged] new to me. There is one way, I think <of> [MS damaged] getting rid of both termites & rats [MS damaged] would be perhaps a little [MS damaged] soak all woodwork [MS damaged] [[2]]7,8 [MS damaged] [word illeg.] -sublimate (Mercurie [sic] -chloride) or [MS damaged] chloride of mercury. It dissolves in 16 [MS damaged] <times> its weight in water, but I expect [MS damaged] much weaker solution would be stong [MS damaged] enough as it is a most virulent poison, and [MS damaged] must be used carefully; but I do not think any insect would touch wood [MS damaged] [word illeg.] had absorbed any of it. Wood posts [MS damaged] [wo]uld be repeatedly washed with it near [MS damaged] ground and if rats then gnawed the wood it would certainly kill them. Any thing they will eat soaked in it and laid around the house would kill them, but also dogs & cats. I once (with my brother) in Wales had a bedroom swarming with bugs. [MS damaged] [word illeg.] in floors, walls, & [word illeg.] the old wood bedstead [MS damaged] <was> full of them. They [2 words illeg.] in thousands. [MS damaged] washed floor[,] walls & even[?] ceiling, & the [MS damaged] taken to pieces) with this solution, lived [MS damaged] & never saw another bug! [MS damaged] & can no doubt be got [[3]]9 from any chemist in P[ort]. of S[pain]. If [MS damaged] it you must be very careful as it <will> [MS damaged] your skin or any clothes if left on [MS damaged]

I wonder if the rats at S[anta]. Catalina <are> [MS damaged] introduced or are real native forest rats.

As to your collections I would advise [MS damaged] all home in small store boxes or cigar <boxes> [MS damaged] separately by post. There is a <parcel> [MS damaged] post now to Venezuela twice a month [MS damaged] I presume from it 3lb -- 3/8, 7lb -- 4/110, 11lb -- [MS damaged] max[imum] size 4 f[oo]t. X 2 f[oo]t. girth. Once [word illeg.] [MS damaged] to a post office and they will [word illeg.] [MS damaged] be safe.

If you have called again on Mrs B[oynton]. she will parhaps give you ome useful [MS damaged] and enable you to judge if Capt[ain].was [MS damaged]

A Foreign Office Passport in general empowers you to travel to any for[eign] [MS damaged] and have the assistance <of> [MS damaged] British officials, Consuls &c. [word illeg.] [MS damaged] certificate of [word illeg.] [MS damaged] [[4]]11,12 [MS damaged] seen, from my last letter, that you [MS damaged] d[MS damaged] one as regards Janson13 exactly [MS damaged] I recommended: Maranhão is [MS damaged] Portuguese name -- , Marachand Eng[ineering] of the [MS damaged], the next port beyond the Amazon.

When writing lately to my friend Prof[essor]. [MS damaged] <Branner14> of the Stanford University in California [MS damaged] [word illeg.] another matter I asked him if he [MS damaged] knew anything of the Entomolgy of Brazil and especially if beetles [were] more abundant [MS damaged] <in> the interior. He was many years there [MS damaged] [word illeg.] the geology of the whole country. [MS damaged] <He> says in reply: -- "You ask about beetles in the highlands of Brazil. I used to do considerable entomological collecting, [MS damaged] <but> I did not pay special attention to beetles. [MS damaged] <My> recollection is that they are quite abundant in the forest regions of Pernambuco, [MS damaged] Sergipe and Bahia. It would [MS damaged] your friend to go [[5]]15,16 5/17 to Bahia and to follow along <the> [MS damaged] railway that goes from the port <to> [MS damaged] Joazeiro [sic] onthe Rio san Francisco. The railway line together with the forest regions near Bahia woud afford <a> [MS damaged] variety of conditions."

This give a certain amout of [word illeg.] [MS damaged] of what others have recommended.

If you go to S[an]ta. Catalina please 11. There is fire damage to the left-hand edge, and the top and bottom left-hand corners of the page.

[MS damaged] me with your first a second letter [MS damaged] little sketch map of the surrounding country, marking, forest, campo[,] [MS damaged] hills -- rivers &c. however rough [MS damaged] with any paths, roads &c.. I [MS damaged] to hear of your getting Morphos[,] [MS damaged] Papilios, Heliconias &c. by the [MS damaged] ????? and ?????? by <the> [MS damaged] hundred, and longicorns by the [MS damaged]

As to mosquitos, if [MS damaged] early and get [MS damaged] [[6]]18 dodge the mosquitos.

Perhaps you will be interested to hear that after about a year's work I have written my 75 years recollections [MS damaged] <in> 40 chapters, and have just begun [MS damaged] [word illeg.] over it for corrections and some [MS damaged] additions and ???????.

I am still in fair health and the garden is full of flowers.

Perhaps Capt[ain]. B[oynton]. has been in Brazil or at Bluefields & can give you some information.

Yours very sincerely | Alfred R.Wallace -- [signature]


1. There is fire damage to the right-hand and bottom edges of the page.

2. There is a number inscribed in pencil placed in the top left-hand corner of hte page. It reads "81".

3. Boynton, George R. (c.1842-1911). American Civil War veteran and inveterate adventurer.

4. Pemberton, Sir Max. (1863-1950). British journalist and author.

5. Pemberton, Max. (1893). The Iron Pirate: A Plain Tale of Strange Happenings on the Sea. Cassell & Co., London.

6. Byron, Lord George Gordon. (1814). The Corsair: A Tale. John Murray, London.

7. There is fire damage to the left-hand edge, and the top and bottom left-hand corners of the page.

8. There is a stamp placed at the top to the page. It reads: Entomology BMNH Library

9. There is fire damage to the right-hand edge, and the top and bottom right-hand corners of the page.

10. Respectively, three shillings and eight pence, and four shillings and one penny. Equivalent to approximately 18p and just over 20p in modern, decimalised currency.

11. There is fire damage to the left-hand edge, and the top and bottom left-hand corners of the page.

12. Thare is a catalogue/reference number written in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. It reads: 418478

13. Possibly Janson, Oliver Erichson (1850-1925). English entomologist.

14. Branner, John Casper (1850-1922). American geologist and President of Stanford University (1913-1916).

15. There is fire damage to the right-hand edge, and the top and bottom right-hand corners of the page.

16. There is a number inscribed in pencil placed in the top left-hand corner of hte page. It reads "82".

17. The page has been numbered by the author.

18. There is fire damage to the left-hand edge, and the top and bottom left-hand corners of the page.

5. There is fire damage to the left-hand and bottom edges of the page.

7. There is a stamp placed below Wallace's signature. It reads: Entomology BMNH Library

nt cheque WPI/8/164



Dec 3 1904

Dear A Wallace,

Is this the John Roberts or another? I think you said he was a young man & I am afraid that this may turn out to be some collateral. But it is evidently the only John Roberts in the Epsom registers between 1837 & 1847.

Yours truly,

S C Cockerell1

I am sending 7/7 to Mr. Andrews, [illeg] I paid [illeg] the other day at Somerset House, making 9/7 to the total I sent you.


1. Cockerell, Sydney Carlyle: (1867 –1962) was an English museum curator and collector.


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