Letter (WCP217.217)


Parkstone, Dorset.

Thursday morn[in]g. [1890]

My dear Violet

I forgot yesterday to tell you that Miller’s have sent me in a bill for binding your drawing books for — you’ll never guess — 18.6!!s.d

I stormed & raged & declared it was absurd! preposterous!! unheard of atrocity!!! But still the binder declares that is the price — because it’s calf,!! & a good deal of trouble!!! [2] So I want you to take one of them to any good bookseller near you and ask him how much he will charge for binding exactly like it, — and ask him to write the price on a piece of paper with his name, so that I can show these awful extortioners here!!

Harris has sent us a box of flowers from the south of France! There is [3] a peace-offering!

The coal business is the most dreadful bungle, & illustrates the absurdities of our system of society & work. The simple facts are these. The Colliery owners, having got too large stocks of coal, tell the men they cannot afford to pay the usual wages, & must lower them. The men, knowing the trouble there is when once wages are lowered to get them up again, say — As the reason you want to lower our wages is the large stocks of coal and consequent fall of prices probably we will leave off work one or two weeks, till the stocks are reduced to the average quantity, & then go on at our regular wages as before. But, just because it seems such a huge & unheard [4] of thing for 100,000 men all to leave off work, there is a kind of panic. — All the dealers, thinking prices will go up, send in orders for coal, — & they cannot all be supplied at once. Rich people fill their cellars, fearing a rise in price. So the Colliery owners & the Coal merchants put up the price of coal, though the very reason for the lowering wages was that the stock of coal was so large that prices must fall!! The result will be that the coal-merchants & colliery owners will make thousands of extra profit, and the poor workmen will lose one or two weeks’ wages! Why do not the Colliery owners now offer to keep on at full wages? Then there would be no stoppage at all! There is really no scarcity of coal, just the reverse; and no reason whatever for rise of price but stupid panic. The only fault of the men is that they [5] could2 not possibly imagine people would be such fools!

Your affectionate Papa | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

Text in unknown hand reads "Harris Coal Strike" in pencil at the top left of page 1
The sentence from "Could" to "fools" and the valediction is written vertically up the left margin of page 1, overlapping some of the text of the letter

Please cite as “WCP217,” in Beccaloni, G. W. (ed.), Ɛpsilon: The Alfred Russel Wallace Collection accessed on 12 April 2024, https://epsilon.ac.uk/view/wallace/letters/WCP217