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The Alfred Russel Wallace Collection

Alfred Russel Wallace (1823 - 1913) was one of the world's most important scientists. His seminal contributions to biology rival those of his friend and colleague Charles Darwin, though he is far less well known. Together Wallace and Darwin proposed the theory of evolution by natural selection in 1858, and their prolific subsequent work laid the foundations of modern evolutionary biology, and much more besides.

Wallace made enduring scholarly contributions to subjects as diverse as glaciology, land reform, anthropology, ethnography, epidemiology, and astrobiology. His pioneering work on evolutionary biogeography (the science that seeks to explain the geographical distribution of organisms) led to him becoming recognised as that subject’s ‘father’. Beyond this Wallace is regarded as the pre-eminent collector and field biologist of tropical regions of the 19th century, and his book The Malay Archipelago (which was Joseph Conrad’s favourite bedside reading) is one of the most celebrated travel writings of that century and has never been out of print. Wallace was a man with an extraordinary breadth of interests who was actively engaged with many of the big questions and important issues of his day. He was anti-slavery, anti-eugenics, anti-vivisection, anti-militarism, anti-Imperialism, a conservationist and an advocate of woman's rights. He strongly believed in the rights of the ordinary person, was a socialist, an anti-vaccinationist (for rational reasons), and a believer in naturalistic, evolutionary spiritualism. He did not come from a privileged background and was largely self-taught. For a brief biography see http://www.wallaceletters.info/content/mini-biography

The Wallace Correspondence Project (WCP) was founded by George Beccaloni in 2010. Its aims are to locate, digitise, catalogue, transcribe, interpret and publish Wallace's surviving correspondence and other manuscripts. About 5,700 letters to and from Wallace are currently known to survive, and they are held by c. 240 institutions and individuals worldwide. Wallace's letters are a biographical treasure trove, which provides a far better picture of the 'real' Wallace than his heavily edited and censored published writings (e.g. his autobiography My Life (1905) and his letters in Marchant's Letters and Reminiscences (1916)). For example, Wallace never even mentions his wife's name (Annie) in any of his published writings, including his autobiography. The letters are also key to gaining a deeper understanding of his scientific and other work: how and why his ideas arose, and how they evolved over time.

The WCP is unlocking this valuable resource by gathering all the letters together for the first time, and transcribing them so that they can be more easily read and information within them discovered using electronic searches for words and phrases. The vast amount of unpublished information which is coming to light will surely form the basis for numerous articles, scholarly papers, PhD theses and perhaps the first definitive biography.

Epsilon is being used by the WCP's as its online archive of Wallace's correspondence. It replaces our previous archive, Wallace Letters Online, which was last updated in 2015. The process of editing the transcripts and associated metadata is a work in progress which will take many years to complete. Our project’s policy is, however, to make the information we have available to users at the earliest possible opportunity, even if it is incomplete and/or imperfect. For a guide to our data, including the protocols we use for metadata and transcriptions, please see http://www.wallaceletters.info/content/epsilon

Text Online
From:
Mary Ann Wallace (née Greenell)
To:
Thomas Wilson
Date:
5 July 1835
Source of text:
Natural History Museum, London: NHM WP1/3/3
Summary:

Asking how she should act to claim from him, as their Grandfather's executor, money due to her children, given his financial difficulties; particularly payment due for William's board and apothecary's bill, and Fanny's legacy.

Contributor:
Alfred Russel Wallace Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
Mary Ann Wallace (née Greenell)
To:
Louisa Draper
Date:
12 August 1835
Source of text:
Natural History Museum, London: NHM WP1/3/4
Summary:

Mr Wilson's financial difficulties, consequent loss of legacies owed to the Wallace children, and opinion that Miss Draper's father, as the co-executor of John Greenell's will, may be liable to pay them; stoppage of interest payments, pressing debts; asking Miss Draper to intercede, her father being ill.

Contributor:
Alfred Russel Wallace Correspondence Project
From:
Alfred Russel Wallace
To:
Frances ("Fanny") Sims (née Wallace)
Date:
1836-1843
Source of text:
Natural History Museum, London: NHM WP3/13
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Alfred Russel Wallace Correspondence Project
From:
Alfred Russel Wallace
To:
Herbert Edward ("Edward") Wallace
Date:
May 1836
Source of text:
Natural History Museum, London: NHM WP3/13
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Alfred Russel Wallace Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
Thomas Wilson
To:
Mary Ann Wallace (née Greenell)
Date:
26 March 1838
Source of text:
Natural History Museum, London: NHM WP1/3/91/1
Summary:

The Wilson's imminent emigration to Australia and re legacies (from the Greenell side of the family) for ARW and his brother John Wallace. Thomas Wilson was Mary Ann Wallace's brother in law and the executor of the will of ?J ?S Greenell.

Contributor:
Alfred Russel Wallace Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
Stephen Pugh
To:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Date:
1839-c. 1843
Source of text:
Wallace, A. R. (1905). In: My Life: A Record of Events and Opinions . Vol. 1. London: Chapman & Hall. [p. 143]
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Alfred Russel Wallace Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
Alfred Russel Wallace
To:
John Wallace
Date:
11 January 1840
Source of text:
Natural History Museum, London: NHM WP1/3/6
Summary:

The Penny Post, including a poem on the subject; John's membership of the Literary Society; Chartist trials at Monmouth; description of lodgings and Mr and Mrs Wright.

Contributor:
Alfred Russel Wallace Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
Alfred Russel Wallace
To:
George Charles Silk
Date:
12 January 1840
Source of text:
Natural History Museum, London: NHM WP1/3/7
Summary:

Hertford Literary Society; Penny Post; countryside around Kington; Chartist trials; Crutwell and other acquaintances in Hertford.

Contributor:
Alfred Russel Wallace Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
Alfred Russel Wallace
To:
George Charles Silk
Date:
15 January 1840
Source of text:
  • Natural History Museum, London: NHM WP1/3/5
  • Wallace, A. R. (1905). In: My Life: A Record of Events and Opinions. Vol. 1. London: Chapman & Hall. [pp. 142-143]
Summary:

Asks about closure of Hertford library and sale of its books; describes his rail journey to Kington area, ecstatic about outdoor pleasures of enjoying nature while land surveying; Chartists are gaining strength, ominous for nation.

Contributor:
Alfred Russel Wallace Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
Alfred Russel Wallace
To:
Herbert Edward ("Edward") Wallace
Date:
c. 1841
Source of text:
Wallace, A. R. (1905). In: My Life: A Record of Events and Opinions . Vol. 1. London: Chapman & Hall. [p. 178]
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Alfred Russel Wallace Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
[unknown person]
To:
Frances ("Fanny") Sims (née Wallace)
Date:
3 January 1841
Source of text:
  • Natural History Museum, London: NHM WP18/32
  • Natural History Museum, London: NHM WP18/32
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Alfred Russel Wallace Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
Alfred Russel Wallace
To:
Herbert Edward ("Edward") Wallace
Date:
[16] [March] [1842]
Source of text:
  • Natural History Museum, London: NHM WP1/3/9
  • Wallace, A. R. (1905). In: My Life: A Record of Events and Opinions. Vol. 1. London: Chapman & Hall. [p. 178]
Summary:

A long, evocative, descriptive poem about Wales, contrasting wild and beautiful countryside with the ugly hell of coal mines and Welsh miners’ brutal existence there.

Contributor:
Alfred Russel Wallace Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
Alfred Russel Wallace
To:
William Henry Fox Talbot
Date:
21 April 1843
Source of text:
  • British Library, The: Talbot: Letters to W. H. F. Talbot (VEZ-WAT), Add MS 88942/2/143: 1821-1867
  • British Library, The: 29841
  • British Library, The: 29841
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Alfred Russel Wallace Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
William Greenell Wallace [ARW's brother]
To:
Frances ("Fanny") Sims (née Wallace)
Date:
8 August 1844
Source of text:
Natural History Museum, London: NHM WP1/3/10
Summary:

His new lodgings and hope for work; asking after friends in Hertford; wishing her a pleasant voyage and advising her to get some creosote for toothache.

Contributor:
Alfred Russel Wallace Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
Frances ("Fanny") Sims (née Wallace)
To:
Mary Ann Wallace (née Greenell)
Date:
11 September 1844
Source of text:
Natural History Museum, London: NHM WP1/3/92/1
Summary:

Chatty shipboard observations for her mother in England while en route to New York City; behavior of passengers; illnesses; favorable first impressions of America, on way to Canada, then settles in Southern U.S. Finds comfortable teaching situation in Georgia girl’s school. Wishes mother could join her, but distance is prohibitive.

Contributor:
Alfred Russel Wallace Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
Frances ("Fanny") Sims (née Wallace)
To:
Wallace, Alfred Russel & Wallace, Herbert Edward & Wallace, John & Wallace, William
Date:
12 September 1844
Source of text:
Natural History Museum, London: NHM WP1/3/92/2
Summary:

Life aboard ship; chattering Americans and silent Englishmen. Saw whales, dolphins (sailors harpooned three and ate them) and “sea Monsters.”“Passengers think of nothing else but eating, drinking, & smoking.” Englishman says “land in America is cheap and yields abundantly.” Droll gentleman from Georgia tells “such absurd stories about the niggers and sings their songs.”

Contributor:
Alfred Russel Wallace Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
Frances ("Fanny") Sims (née Wallace)
To:
William Greenell Wallace [ARW's brother]
Date:
26 September 1844
Source of text:
Natural History Museum, London: NHM WP1/3/92/3
Summary:

Boat to Savannah, Georgia from New York City. Enjoys Southern-style pancakes and cornbread. Nearly wrecked in English Channel; captain leaped out of bed, grabbed the wheel, and averted collision with much larger ship. Took train to Macon, settled in healthy, pleasant farm. Teaches music, arithmetic, and English grammar. Pupils are 55 girls, ages 10-17. Wooded estate contains several farms, worked by 40 slaves. Food and service excellent: everything “better than expected.” In nearby town “coffins for sale” in many of the shops.

Contributor:
Alfred Russel Wallace Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
Frances ("Fanny") Sims (née Wallace)
To:
Mary Ann Wallace (née Greenell)
Date:
19 October 1844
Source of text:
Natural History Museum, London: NHM WP1/3/92/4
Summary:

Repeats, for mother, the near-disasters during sea voyage already written to brothers (WCP1259). “Dark and stormy” night in Channel, almost ran into much larger vessel in fog, was rescued by Captain’s quick move from bed to taking the wheel or “we should have all been at the bottom of the sea in our berths.” Later a fire on board was extinguished. Nearly ran aground on French coast, stalled off Cape Hatteras. Now situated in Georgia school for girls teaching arithmetic, music, grammar, French to 24 pupils; very agreeable life, but “quite long to have Alfred here with me”; want him to teach me botany. Five teachers here, more schools planned. Wants mother and brothers to join her in making new life here.

Contributor:
Alfred Russel Wallace Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
Frances ("Fanny") Sims (née Wallace)
To:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Date:
4? November 1844
Source of text:
Natural History Museum, London: NHM WP1/3/92/5
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Alfred Russel Wallace Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
Frances ("Fanny") Sims (née Wallace)
To:
John Wallace
Date:
16 November 1844
Source of text:
Natural History Museum, London: NHM WP1/3/92/6
Summary:

Coming summer vacation will join ladies visiting northern Georgia; hope to have ARW with us. Ship’s captain, a Frenchman, accidentally set a lady passenger’s dress afire with his cigar. Slaves are “a happy people altogether...do not feel their own misery, as we do for them” but most never get “a kind look or smile” from their “employers” [masters]. They have great love of dress, great gentility, many become preachers. Her American “expedition has succeeded very well.” ARW could make good life here as Engineer/Land surveyor. Good marriages among gentry; “they all have either money or land...Talents are a fortune here.”

Contributor:
Alfred Russel Wallace Correspondence Project