Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP761

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Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Fred R. Birch

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Old Orchard, Broadstone, Dorset to Fred R. Birch [none given] on April .

Record created:
18 March 2011 by NHM


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  • letter (1)

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LETTER (WCP761.933)

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

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM Catkey-418774
Copyright owner:
Copyright of the A. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Physical description

Transcription information




Broadsto<ne>[MS burned]

April [MS burned]

My dear Fred1

I am now going to ma<ke> <your> hair stand on end with a new proposa<l for> your consideration! Before sending b[MS burned] Wickhams2 book to the Geog[raphical] Soc.[iety] library [MS burned] carelessly through the latter half of t[MS burned] about the Mosquito Indians and the San[MS burned] river, attracted partly by his fine dra[MS burned] the Indians which reminded me of the [MS burned] the Uaupés3 tribes. There I found at once [MS burned] at San Juan4, (Greytown) and Blewfields5[sic] (both on the [MS burned] at once refers to the luxuriant forests, full [MS burned] <of> parasites, orchids &c., and swarming with [MS burned] Morphos6 and all other sorts down to the e[MS burned]7 being specially mentioned as com<mon?> [MS burned] was there also, collecting birds. But, strange [MS burned] during the whole Orinoco and Rio Negro [MS burned] even while living for months in his Rubber [MS burned] forest n[ea]r San Fernando, he never once [MS burned] a butterfly! and hardly ever, livin<g?> [MS burned] it occurred to me, did I ever [MS burned] the Upper Rio Ne<gro> [[2]] [MS burned] seems to whisper No! Again, I certainly [MS burned] met with a tenth part of the swarming [MS burned]idae, Hesperidae8 [sic], Heliconidae9 &c. that <char>acterise Para10 and Santarem11 (Eya[?] &c. &c.). Now, <app>arently, all the regions north of the [MS burned] <Am>azon to Guiana and the Orinoco show [MS burned] approach to this poverty, and also, [MS burned] more marked, in beetles. The main [MS burned] <Am>azon Valley, the Brazil coast down to [MS burned] Janeiro & San [sic] Paolo, and the Andean valleys, [MS burned] all wonderfully rich. But; again, all [MS burned] east coasts of Central America from <Pan?>ama to Mexico are equally rich ! There [MS burned] seem to be great alternate areas of richness <an>d poverty. Again, I find that Belts12 place, [MS burned]tales", is only about 100 miles inland from [MS burned]fields - and that was very rich both in <butter>flies & beetles. Then, I found "Blewfields" [MS burned] <m>entioned as very healthy as well as all that [MS burned] steady trade-winds. Blewfields [MS burned] (ab[ou]t 600 pop[ulation]) [MS burned] formerly British, and [[3]] there are hospitable Moravian Missiona<ries> and quantities of Indians all round, [MS burned] collecting close by. So I thought here is [MS burned] place for F. Birch, probably not more collect[MS burned] anywhere else, and undoubtedly rich. [MS burned] healthy, & on a river, up which shor[MS burned] can be made in Canoe, cheaply. Owing [MS burned] abundance of Indians & the few Europeans, prob[abl]y very ch[MS burned] living. So I wrote at once to Poulton13 [MS burned] K. Jordan14, making the suggestion, as [MS burned] could prob[abl]y get there cheaper by far [MS burned] the Orinoco, be much safer in every [MS burned] sure of getting large collections, which is [MS burned] essential thing. Poulton prefers Br[MS burned] he says -- "I think Central America has been [MS burned] worked for Godman15; although I am sure [MS burned] Birch will find lots of new things". [MS burned] he thinks you would find still mo<re> [MS burned] Brazil - He says - "I think Central B[MS burned] even the Amazon is far les<s> [MS burned] richer. Ultimately [MS burned] [[4]] [MS burned] he should go west to [MS burned]es for as much of their length [MS burned and indistinct] as he can range".

[MS burned] <d>oubt ! But you must first earn £100 [MS burned] least, safe, and the question is, where you can [MS burned]t most certainly and at least cost. [MS burned] an idea that all Salvin16 & Godmans [MS burned]tors, having to send everything to them, [MS burned] not collect many duplicates of each [MS burned]ies, and as soon as new things became [MS burned]nty moved on to new districts. Hence <howe>ver well they worked the country they [MS burned] not overstock the market. Then, a few [MS burned] later, I got Mr Karl Jordans letter, which [MS burned]s that idea and is so important that [MS burned] you a copy of it - every word. If they [MS burned] not got many Nicaragua things it shows [MS burned] <n>either Champion17 and H. H. Smith18 (Godmans collectors) nor [MS burned] overstocked that market. As soon as I [MS burned] <fr>om you that you will go there (if possible) [MS burned] up the Orinoco (against which he [MS burned] no doubt for the best reasons) [MS burned] know what they will [[5]]19 offer for the first pick of all yo[MS burned] -- Butterflies, Beetles and Birds. [MS burned] be able to find out at P[ort] of Spain [MS burned] far you can get direct by coasting steam [MS burned] on the way there. You will prob<ably> have to make one change of ship, [MS burned] anywhere you stop on that coast yo<u> <will> probably find good collecting. You [MS burned] even get a passage free as a "deck [MS burned] <">.

In the copy of K. J.s letter I have underlined the important points. [MS burned] Mr Rothschild financed André, and [MS burned] first part of the letter means (I thin<k)> [MS burned] his collections did not near pay his exp<enses?> [MS burned] and that even where he did do his bes<t> [MS burned] they were not first-rate.

Note what he says about "amassin<g> [MS burned] to make it pay. That means, I think [MS burned] average collectors they send out do <not> [MS burned] hard enought or steadily e<nough>[MS burned] par. [?] is very [MS burned] [[6]] [MS burned] Jordan knows what are in the [MS burned] if English and Continental collections. [MS burned] you must not say that you "dont want [MS burned] make money". You must make money [MS burned] you cannot go to your longed-for [MS burned] Andes! Then, you can amuse yourself <a>nd collect only for yourself if you like, [MS burned]t to do that you must earn £200 or £300 clear, and I think it quite possible that a year at Blewfields & <t>he district inland may give you that.

Prof. Poulton tells me you wrote him a lon>g letter & he has written you in reply. He a>lso tells me speaking of you - "His time in Tr>inidad has not been wasted. It has evidently m>ade him a very fine and experienced co>llector in the tropics." There is a nice [MS burned]e for you! Then he says - "If he [MS burned]ted the special things Tring wants & [MS burned] them direct, they would pay [MS burned] make enquiries [[7]] about this as soon as seems adv[MS burned]. Of course the difficulty is, that oth<ers> [MS burned] want first choice too. But as "Trin<g> [MS burned] the three chief items - Butterflies, B<eetles> & Birds - and moreover are not af<raid> of the course cost of what they wan<t> [MS burned] would save much trouble to le[MS burned] have first sets or first picks, an<d> [MS burned] remainder might be sent either [MS burned] Jansen, for sale, or to your hom<e> [MS burned]. Then the small mammals (when [MS burned] get them) would go direct to the [MS burned] as well as all the miscellaneous [MS burned] orders.

Prof. Poulton has sent me a copy of [MS burned] Ent.[omological] Soc.[iety] Pres.[idential] Address, which I send [MS burned] book-post. It is rather stiff reaso[MS burned] some of it) but the arguments [MS burned] by the instincts of Insects agains<t> [MS burned] "inheritance of acquired [MS burned] much stronger [MS burned] [[8]]20 [MS burned] <wo>uld have been.

[MS burned] tomorrow is mail day, from here, [MS burned]e written this before receiving anything [MS burned] you but you may have missed a post [MS burned] consequence of being in the wilderness.

[MS burned]esday 9. am.

[MS burned] <t>his mornings post has brought nothing [MS burned] you I conclude you are at Guaguayare21 [sic?], [MS burned] hope you have at last got some [MS burned]les and land-shells.

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


1. Fred Birch, naturalist

2. Captain John Clements Wickham (1798-1864), captain of the Beagle

3. Uaupés (or Vaupés) is a river in Colombia

4. San Juan del norte (also known as Greytown), is now known as San Juan del Nicaragua

5. Bluefields is a Nicaraguan port

6. Morpho is a genus of butterfly

7. It is not certain where in the text the insertion belongs

8. Hesperiidae is a family of butterflies

9. Heliconidae are a small group of Neotropical butterflies

10. Pará is a state in Brazil

11. Santarém is a city in the state of Pará in Brazil

12. Thomas Belt (1832-1878), naturalist

13. Sir Edward B. Poulton (1856-1943), biologist

14. Dr Karl Jordan (1861-1959)

15. Frederick Du Cane Godman (1834-1919), naturalist

16. Osbert Salvin (1835-1898), naturalist

17. George Charles Champion (1851-1927), entomologist

18. Herbert H. Smith (1851-1919), naturalist

19. The number 5 written in ARWs hand centred at the top of the page and circled

20. The number 8 written in ARWs hand centred at the top of the page and circled

21. Possibly Guayaguayare, the southernmost village in Trinidad and Tobago

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