WCP3351

Letter (WCP3351.3319)

[1]

Timor Delli,

March. 15th. 1861

My dear Thomas

I will now try and write you a few lines in reply to your last 3 letters1 which I have not quite before had time & inclination to do. First about your one eyed & two eyed theory for art &c. &c. I do not altogether agree with you. We do not see all objects wider with two eyes than with one. A spherical or curved object we do see so, because our right & left eye each see a portion of the surface not seen by the other, but for that very reason the portion seen perfectly with both eyes is less than with one. Thus we only2 see from a to a' with both our eyes the two side portions ab, a'b' being seen each with but one eye & therefore (when we are using both eyes) being seen obscurely. But if we look at a flat object whether whether square or oblique to the line of vision we see it of exactly the same size with two eyes as with one because the [2] [p. 2] one eye can see no part of it that the other does not see also. But in painting I believe that this difference of proportion where it does exist is far too small to be given by any artist and also too small to affect the picture if given.

Again I entirely deny that by any means the exact effect of a landscape with objects of various distances from the eye can be given on a flat surface; & moreover that the monocular clear outlined view is quite as true & good on the whole as the binocular hazy outlined view, & for this reason, — we cannot & do not see clearly a look at two objects at once, if at different distances from us. In a real view our eyes are directlyed successively at every object, which we then see clearly & with distinct outlines, every thing else [one illeg. word struck through] nearer & farther being indistinct; but being able to change the focal angle of our two eyes & their angle of direction with great rapidity we are enabled [3] [p. 3] to glance rapidly at each object in succession & thus ogbtain a general & detailed view of the whole. A house, a tree, a spire, the leaves of a shrub in the foreground, are each seen (while we direct our eyes to them) with perfectly definition & sharpness of outline. Now a monocular photo[graph]. gives this clearness of outline & accuracy of definition & thus represents every individual part of a landscape just as we see it when looking at that part. Now I maintain that this is right, because no painting can represent an object both distinct & indistinct. The only question is shall a painting shew3 us objects as we see them when looking at them, or as we see them when looking at something else near them. The only approach painters can make to this varying effect of binocular vision & what they often do, is to give the most important & main feature of their painting distinct as we should see it when looking at it in nature, while all around has a subdued [4] [p. 4] tone & haziness of outline like that produced by seeing the real objects when our vision is not absolutely directed to them.

But then if as in nature you turn your gaze to one of these objects in order to see it clearly you cannot do so, & this is a defect. Again I believe that we actually see in a good photograph better than in nature, because the best camera lenses are more perfectly adjusted than our eyes & give objects at varying distances with better definition. Thus on a picture we see at the same time near & distant objects easily & clearly, which in reality we cannot do.

If we could do so every one must acknowledge that our vision could be so much the more perfect & our appreciation of the beauties of nature more intense & complete; & insofar as good landscape painting gives us this power it is better [5] [p. 5] than nature itself, — & I think this may perhaps account for that excessive & entrancing beauty of a good landscape or of a good panorama. You will think these ideas horribly heterodox, but if we all thought alike there would be nothing to write about & nothing to learn. I quite agree with you however as to artists using both eyes to paint & to see their paintings, but I think you quite mistake the do theory of looking through the "catalogue"4;— it is not because the picture can be seen better with one eye, but because its effect can be better seen when all lateral objects are hidden & the catalogue does this; — a double take w[oul]d be better but that can not be extemporised so easily. Have you ever tried a stereograph taken with the cameras only the distance apart of the eyes? That must give nature. When the angle is greater the views in the stereoscope show us, not nature, but a perfect reduced model of nature seen nearer the eye. It is curious [6] [p. 6] that you sh[oul]d put Turner5 & the Prerhaph[aeli]tes6 [sic] as opposed & representing binoc[ular]. & monoc[ular]. painting when Turner himself praises up the Prerhaph[eali]tes & calls Holman Hunt7 the greatest living painter!!.

Now for your next letter w[hic]h relates to your engraving processes. I have been too long out of the way of civilization to be able to judge of your probable success, but I cannot understand from your descript[io]n how you are to get any detail in the dark part of a picture, when the adhesion of powdered gum to a partially dried photo[graph]. is the method employed unless you hit the moment when only the absolute black parts are dry & so retain no gum, — & this I sh[oul]d think must be very difficult. However the great point is does it bring out the detail & does it give the whole range of tone from high lights to deep shadows? The points on which I long ago asked information you say nothing about, — viz. [7] [p. 7] Are there any good lithographs or engravings yet published produced direct from photographs.[?] Such are advertised by a German Company & are alluded to in the Athenaeum8 as very successful. Now if yours are not likely to be better, it is not much use going on. You hint that Talbot’s9 & all other processes yet known give very poor results or are altogether impracticable. If such is the case & you believe you can do better I hope you will be able to get up a few good specimens against the next "Great Exhib[itio]n".10 Surely in the slack season in Septr you will have both light & time.

Now for your last letter of June. I am glad to find you are going on fairly in business. I met the other day a photographer11 who has been 8 years out in Australia & here. There was too much competition in Australia & he came to Batavia [Jakarta] & has travelled all through Java & a good part of Sumatra. — 3 months at [8] [p. 8] Macassar & is now going round the Moluccas staying 2 months at each place. He says it pays very well. The wealthy natives & chineese [sic] give a good price for Portraits of themselves[,] their wives & children & he takes great numbers of views for the stereoscope all of w[hic]h are sent home & readily sold.

As to the British Museum12 I am most strongly in favour of removing the Natural History collections13 simply because the Building in great Russel [sic] Street is totally unadapted for a museum of Nat[ural]. Hist[ory]. I made a sketch for a National Museum with a plan14 for its management some time ago. It was shown to Prof. Owen15 & he said it was very good but for a National institution there was no occasion for the economy which I had insisted on among the other advantages of my plan. If you like to see [9] [p.9] the paper ask Mr Stevens16 to lend it you. It is not therefore a question of what parts can be most easily moved. The building is well fitted for Antiquities & Books but quite unfitted for Zoological specimens —

Now for Mr Darwin’s17 book18. You quite misunderstand both Mr. D[arwin]’s statement in the preface & his sentiments. I have of course been in correspondence with him since I first sent him my little essay19. His conduct has been most liberal & disinterested. I think any one who reads the Linn[ean]. Soc[iety]. papers20 & his book will see it. I do back him up in his whole round of conclusions & look upon him as the Newton21 of Natural History.

You begin by criticizing the title.. [10] [p. 10] Now though I consider the title admirable I believe it is not Mr. Darwin’s but the Publisher[']s,22 as you are no doubt aware that publishers will have a taking title & authors must & do give way to them. Mr D[arwin]. gave me a different title23 before the book came out.

Again you misquote & misunderstand Huxley24 who is a complete convert. Prof. Asa Gray25 & Dr. Hooker26 the two first botanists of Europe & America are converts. And Lyell27, the first Geologist living, who has all his life written against such conclusions as Darwin’s arrives at, is a convert & is about to declare or already has declared his [one illeg. word struck through] conversion28: A noble & almost unique example of a man yielding to conviction on a subject which he has taught as a master all his life, & confessing that he has all his life been wrong.

[11] [p. 11] I see clearly that you have not yet sufficiently read the book to enable you to criticise it. It is a book in which every page & almost every line has a bearing on the main argument, & it is very difficult to bear in mind such a variety of facts arguments and indications as are brought forward. It was only on the 5th. perusal that I fully appreciated the whole strength of the work, & as I had been long before familiar with the same subjects I cannot but think that persons less familiar with them, cannot have any clear idea of the accumulated arguments by a single perusal.

Your objections as far as I see any thing definite in them are so fully and clearly anticipated & answered in the book itself [12] [p. 12] that it is perfectly useless my saying any thing about them.

It seems to me however as clear as daylight that the principle of Natural Selection must act in nature. It is almost as necessary a truth as any of mathematics. Next, — the effects produced by this action cannot be limited. It cannot be shewn that there is any limit to them in nature — Again the millions of facts in the numerical relations of organic beings, — their geographical distribution, — their relations of affinity, — the modifications of their parts & again, — the phenomena of intercrossing, — embryology & morphology, — all are in accordance with his theory & almost all are necessary results from [13] [p. 13] it, — while in the other theory, they are all isolated facts having no connection with each other & as utterly unexplicable [sic] & confusing as fossils are in the theory that they are special creations and are not the remains of animals that have once lived. It is this vast chaos of facts, which are explicable & fall into beautiful order on the one theory, — which are inexplicable & remain in chaos on the other, which I think must ultimately force Darwin’s views on any & every reflecting mind.

[14] [p. 14] Isolated difficulties & objections are nothing against this vast cumulative argument. The human mind cannot go on for ever accumulating facts which remain unconnected & without any mutual bearing & bound together by no law. The evidence for the production of the organic world by the simple laws of inheritance is exactly of the same nature as that for the production of the present surface of the earth, hills[,] valleys[,] plains[,] rocks[,] strata[,] volcanoes, & all their fossil remains, by the slow and gradual action of natural laws causes now in operation. The mind that will ultimately reject Darwin must also, (to be consistent) reject [15] [p. 15] Lyell also. The same arguments of apparent stability which are thought to disprove refuse to believe that organic species can change will also disprove any change in the inorganic world, & you must believe with the your forefathers that each hill & each river, each inland lake & continent, were created as they stand, with the various strata & their various fossils, — all appearances and arguments to the contrary notwithstanding.

I can only recommend you to read again Darwin’s account29 of the Horse family & its comparison with Pigeons, — & if that does not convince or stagger you, then you are unconvertible. [16] [p. 16] I do not expect Mr. Darwin’s longer work30 will add any thing to the general strength of his argument. It will consist chiefly of the details (often numerical) of experiments & calculations of which he has already given the summaries & results. It will therefore be more confusing & less interesting to the general reader. It will prove to scientific men the accuracy of his details & point out the sources of his information but as not one in a thousand readers will ever test these details & references the smaller work will remain for general purposes the best.

[17] [p. 17] I am obliged to you & Mr Fry31 for your advice & fears about Mr. Stevens, & beg to assure you that Mr S[tevens]. has my perfect confidence. He is a thorough business man, & sends me frequently full & detailed accounts, with balance sheets when the collections are finally disposed of. I have every reason to be well satisfied with all he has done for me. As he gets in the money, what can be spared is invested in the purchase of E. India Railway32 shares guaranteed at 5 per cent. These were recommended by Mr. W. W. Saunders33 of "Lloyds"34 as the best & safest investment & they are entered in the joint names of Stevens & Saunders. Mr. S[tevens]. also sends me the Brokers accounts of the purchases. So I think this is all right & better without the interference of lawyers.

[18] [p. 18] I see that the Great Exhibition for 1862 seems determined on. If so it will be a great inducement to me to cut short the period of my banishment & get home in time to see it. I assure you I now feel at times very great longings for the peace & quiet of home, — very much weariness of this troublesome wearisome wandering life. I have lost some of that elasticity & freshness which made the overcoming difficulties a pleasure; & the country & people are now too familiar to me to retain any of the charms of novelty, which gild over so much that is really monotonous & disagreeable. My health too gives way & I [19] [p. 19] cannot now put up so well with fatigue & privations as at first. All these causes will induce me to come home as soon as possible & I think I may promise if no accidents happen to come back to dear & beautiful England in the summer of next year.

C[harles]. Allen35 will stay a year longer & complete the work which I shall not be able to do.

I have been pretty comfortable here having for two months had the society of Mr. Geach36 a cornish [sic] mining Engineer who has been looking for Copper here. He is a very intelligent & pleasant fellow but has now left.. Another [20] [p. 20] Englishman Capt[ai]n Hart37 is a resident here. He has a little house on the foot of the hills 2 miles out of Town & I have a cottage (which was Mr Geach’s) a 1/3 mile further. He is what you may call a speculative man, has read a good deal, knows a little & wants to know more & is fond of speculating on the most abstruse & unattainable points of science & philosophy. You would be astonished at the number of men among the Captains & traders of these parts who have more than an average amount of literary & scientific taste, — whereas among the naval & military officers & the various Government officials very few have any such tastes, — but find their only amusements in card playing & dissipation. Some of the most intelligent & best informed Dutchmen I have met with are trading Captains or Merchants.

This country much resembles [21] [p. 21] Australia in its physical features, & is very barren compared with most of the other islands of the Archipelago. It is very rugged & mountainous having no true forests, but a scanty vegetation of Gum trees with a few thickets in moist places. It is consequently very poor in insects & in fact will hardly pay my expenses, but having once come here I may as well give it a fair trial. Birds are tolerably abundant but with few exceptions very dull coloured. I really believe the whole series of Birds of the tropical island of Timor are less beautiful & bright coloured than those of Great Britain. In the mountains potatoes[,] cabbages & wheat are grown in abundance & we get excellent pure [22] [p. 22] bread made by Chinamen in Delli [Dili]. Fowls[,] sheep[,] pigs & onions are also always to be had so that it is the easiest country to live in I have yet met with, as in most other places one is always doubtful whether a dinner can be obtained.

I have been [on] a trip to the hills & staid38 ten days in the clouds, but it was very wet being the wrong season. In about a month I leave here for Bouru [Buru] where I spend 2 months to complete my Zoological Survey of the Moluccas.

Having now paid you off my literary debts I trust you will give me credit again for some long letters on things in general. Address now to care of Hamilton Gray & Co.39 Singapore. & with love & remembrances to all friends[,]

I remain | My dear Thomas | Yours very faithfully | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

Mr. T[homas]. Sims.

[23] P.S. I see in a vol. of the Fam[ily]. Herald40 a statement that at the B[ritish]. Ass[ociation]. at Glasgow 185541. Photo-lithographs were exhibited obtained by a coating of bitumen dissolved in Sulp[huric]. ether applied to the stone42. This is said to be sensitive to light & receives a picture from a negative. Sulp[huric]. ether dissolves away the bitumen when not acted on. Stone then washed and ready for the printer. They say the lithographs were beautiful. The same process on copper or steel produced etchings by coating the plate with gold which adheres only to the bare places. Here is a process quite diff[erent]. from the Bich[romate]. of potassium & gum that you mention, so that it seems you do not know all that has been done in England even so long ago as 1855.

I have been much interested by Claudet’s43 description (at the last B[ritish]. Ass[ociation]. at Oxford) of the Solar Camera for enlarging photographs & his account of its theory44. It is admirable & as he says will certainly produce [24] great results. The only difficulty is the necessity of some equatorial motion to keep the sun[‘]s image exactly on the centre of the lens. It will enable photographers to use the shortest focus in the field thus getting instantaneous pictures & then to enlarge these to any size preserving full strength & bringing out all detail. By such an arrangement there seems nothing that photography will not do.

Will you, next time you visit my mother45, make me a little plan of her cottage showing the rooms & their dimensions, so that I may see if there will be room enough for me on my return. I shall want a good large room for my collections, & as when I can decide exactly on my return it would be as well to get a little larger house beforehand if necessary. Please do not forget this.

Yours &c.| ARW. [signature]

P.S.46 Write by next mail, as circumstances have occurred which make it possible I may return home this year. ARW. [signature]

[25] P.S. You allude in your last letter to a subject I never touch upon because I know we can not agree upon it. However I will now say a few words that you may know my opinions & if you wish to convert me to your way of thinking take more vigorous measures to effect it.

You intimate that the happiness to be enjoyed in a future state will depend upon, & be a reward for, our belief in certain doctrines which you conceive to constitute the essence of true religion. You must think therefore that belief is voluntary & also that it is meritorious.

But I think a little consideration will show you that belief is quite independent of our will, & our common expressions shew it. We say "I wish I could believe him innocent but the evidence is too clear". Or, — "Whatever people may say I can never beliefve he would do such a mean action". Now suppose in any similar case the evidence on both sides leads you to a certain belief or disbelief, — & [one illeg. word struck through] then a reward is offered you for changing your opinion. Can you really change your opinion & belief, for the hopes of reward or the fear of punishment?

[26] Will you not say "As the matter stands I can’t change my belief. You must give me proofs that I am wrong or show that the evidence I have heard is false & then I may change my belief". It may be that you do get more evidence & do change your belief, but this change is not voluntary on your part. It depends upon the force of evidence upon your individual mind, & the evidence remaining the same & your mental faculties remaining unimpaired, you cannot believe otherwise any more than you can fly.

Belief then is not voluntary, — how then can it be meritorious? When a jury try a case; all hear the same evidence but 9 say guilty & 3 not guilty, according to the honest belief of each. Are either of these more worthy of reward on that account than the others? Certainly you will say, no! But suppose [27] beforehand they all know or suspect that those who say not guilty will be punished & the rest rewarded, what is likely to be the result? Why perhaps 6 will say guilty honestly believing it, & glad they can with a clear conscience escape punishment, — 3 will say not-guilty boldly, & rather bear the punishment than be false or dishonest, — & the other 3 fearful of being convinced against their will, will carefully stop their ears while the witnesses for the defence are being examined & [one illeg. word struck through] delude themselves with the idea they gain an honest verdict, because they have heard only one side of the evidence. If any out of the dozen deserve punishment you will surely agree with me it is these. Belief or disbelief is therefore not meritorious, & where founded on an unfair balance of evidence is blameable.

[28] Now to apply these principles to my own case. In my early youth, I heard as 99 hundredths of the world do, only the evidence on one side & became impressed with a veneration for religion which has left some traces even to this day. I have since heard & read much on both sides, & pondered much upon the matter in all its bearings. I spent as you know a year and a half in a clergyman’s47 family & heard almost every Sunday the very best[,] most earnest & most impressive preachers it has ever been my fortune to meet with, — but it produced no effect whatever on my mind. I have since wandered among men of many races & many religions. I have studied man & nature in all its aspects & I have sought after truth. In my solitude I have pondered much on the incomprehensible subjects of space[,] eternity[,] life & death! I think I have fairly heard & fairly weighed the evidence on both sides, & I remain an utter disbeliever in almost all that you consider almost[?] the most sacred truths.

I will pass over as utterly contemptible the oft-repeated accusation that sceptics shut out evidence because they will not be governed by the morality of Christianity. You I know will not believe that in my case, & I know its falsehood as a general rule. I only ask do you think I can changed the self-formed convictions of 25 years? And can you think such a change would have any thing in it to merit reward from justice.

I am thankful that I can see much to admire in all religions. To the mass of mankind religion of some kind is a necessity. But whether there be a God & whatever48 be his nature. Whether we have an immortal soul or not, & whatever may be our state after death, I can have no fear of having to suffer for the49 study of nature and the search after truth, or believe that they[?] will be better off in a future state, who have lived in the belief of doctrines inculcated50 from childhood & which are to them rather a matter of blind faith than intelligent conviction.

ARW. [signature]

This for yourself; — Show the letter only to my mother.51

Letters
ARW has sketched a diagram showing the vision field for the left and right eyes, with points marking a, b, a', and b' as referred to in the text.
Archaic form of "show".
Catalogue
Turner, Joseph Mallord William (1775-1851). British romantic painter.
A group, founded in 1848, of English painters known as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. They opposed London's Royal Academy of the Arts promoted painting techniques and emulated the art style pre-dating the Italian artist Raphael. See Tate. 2020. Art Term Pre-Raphaelite. Tate <https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/p/pre-raphaelite> [accessed 2 July 2020].
Hunt, William Holman (1827-1910). British painter and a founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
A literary magazine published in London 1828-1921. See Ockerbloom J. M. (Ed.) n.d. The Athenaeum. The Online Books Page. <https://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/serial?id=athenaeum> [accessed 5 July 2020].
Talbot, William Henry Fox (1800-1877). British inventor and photography pioneer.
The International Exhibition of 1862, or Great London Exposition, held from 1 May to 1 November 1862. See Royal Academy of Arts. 2020. London International Exhibition (1862) Royal Academy of Arts <https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/art-artists/organisation/london-international-exhibition-1862> [accessed 5 July 2020].
Woodbury, Walter Bentley (1834-1885). British inventor and photography pioneer.
The British Museum in London was founded in 1753. See The British Museum. 2020. History. The British Museum. <https://www.britishmuseum.org/about-us/british-museum-story/history> [accessed 5 July 2020].
Ultimately, the collections were moved to British Museum (Natural History) [Natural History Museum] that opened in 1881. See Natural History Museum. 2020. History and architecture. Natural History Museum. <https://www.nhm.ac.uk/about-us/history-and-architecture.html> [accessed 5 July 2020].
Not identified.
Owen, Richard (1804-1892). British comparative anatomist and vertebrate palaeontologist. Instrumental in establishing the British Museum (Natural History) in South Kensington. Outspoken opponent of natural selection.
Stevens, Samuel (1817-1899). British entomologist and dealer in natural history specimens; agent of ARW.
Darwin, Charles Robert (1809-1882). British naturalist, geologist and author, notably of On the Origin of Species (1859).
Darwin, C. 1859. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. London: John Murray.
Wallace, A. R. 1858. On the tendency of varieties to depart indefinitely from the original type [dated Feb. 1858, Ternate, original manuscript not located]. See WCP5647.6498, Darwin to Lyell 18 June 1858.
Darwin, C. & Wallace, A. 1858. On the tendency of species to form varieties; and on the perpetuation of varieties and species by natural means of selection. Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London (Zoology). 3(9): 45-62.
Newton, Isaac (1642-1727). British natural philosopher and mathematician.
Murray, John (1808-1892). Third generation proprietor of the British Murray family publishing house of London, and author of guide books. Notably published the Quarterly Review and Darwin's Origin of Species.
This letter from Darwin to ARW is presumed lost and the text is not known. It is mentioned in WCP5298.5842, Darwin to J. D. Hooker, 13 July 1858; WCP1454.4022, ARW to J. D. Hooker, 6 October 1858; WCP369, ARW to M. A. Wallace, 6 October 1858.
Huxley, Thomas Henry (1825-1895). British biologist and author known as "Darwin's Bulldog".
Gray, Asa (1810-1888). American botanist. Professor of natural history, Harvard University, 1842-73.
Hooker, Joseph Dalton (1817-1911). British botanist and explorer. Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew 1865-85. President of the Royal Society 1873-78.
Lyell, Charles (1797-1875). British geologist and author, notably of the influential Principles of Geology (1830–3). President of the Geological Society of London, 1835–7 & 1849–51.
Not until the tenth edition (1868) of his Principles of Geology did Lyell, according to Martin Rudwick, "at last concede the case for evolution and for the directionality of the fossil record." See Rudwick, M. J. S. 1998. Lyell and the Principles of Geology. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 143: 3-15 [p. 13]
See Darwin, C. 1859. On the Origin of Species [Chapter 5 pp. 163-167]
On the Origin of Species was an abstract of Darwin’s planned longer work which he never completed. See Stauffer, R. C. (Ed.). 1975. Charles Darwin's Natural Selection; being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Probably Fry, Samuel (1835-1890). British photographer and friend of Thomas Sims.
The East Indian Railway Company, established in 1845, built railways in eastern and northern India. See Huddleston, G. 1906. History of the East Indian Railway. Calcutta: Thacker, Spink & Co.
Saunders, William Wilson (1809-1879). British insurance broker, entomologist and botanist.
Lloyd's of London, a British insurance market founded in 1688. See Lloyd's 2020. Corporate History. Lloyd's <https://www.lloyds.com/about-lloyds/history/corporate-history> [accessed 6 July 2020].
Allen, Charles Martin (1839-1892). British. ARW's assistant in the Malay Archipelago.
Geach, Frederick F. (1835-1890). British mining engineer and friend of ARW.
Hart, Alfred Edward ( 1815-1871). British merchant captain and coffee-grower on Timor.
Archaic form of "stayed".
The firm Hamilton, Gray & Co. operated in Singapore since 1832. See Van Wyhe, J. and Rookmaaker, K. (Eds) 2013. Alfred Russel Wallace: Letters from the Malay Archipelago. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. [p. 12].
Family Herald, a British newspaper published from 1842-1940. See Brake, L. & Demoor, M. (Eds) 2009. Dictionary of Nineteenth-century Journalism in Great Britain and Ireland. Ghent, Belgium: Academia Press. [p. 213-14].
The British Association for the Advancement of Science held its twenty-fifth meeting in Glasgow, Scotland in September 1855.
See Ramsay, A. C. 1856. On a process for obtaining lithographs by the photographic process. Report of the Twenty-fifth Meeting for the Advancement of Science [Held at Glasgow in September 1855]. London: John Murray. [p. 69-70]
Claudet, Antoine François Jean (1797-1867). French-born photographer and inventor.
Claudet, A. F. J. 1861. On the Principles of the Solar Camera. Report of the Thirtieth Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science; Held at Oxford in June and July 1960. London: John Murray [pp. 62-63].
Wallace (née Greenell), Mary Ann (1792-1868). Mother of ARW.
The text which runs from "P.S." to the end of this page [24] is written vertically in the left margin.
Hill, Abraham ( - ). Reverend and Headmaster of Collegiate School in Leicester, where ARW was a teacher 1844-5.
The text from "I am thankful" to "God & whatever" is written vertically in the left margin of p. 25.
The text from "be his nature" to "suffer for the" is written vertically in the left margin of p. 26.
The text from "study of" to "doctrines inculcated" is written vertically in the left margin of p. 27.
The text from "from childhood" to "to my mother." is written vertically in the left margin of p. 28.

Envelope (WCP3351.5009)

Envelope addressed to "Mrs. Sims, 13a Westbourne Grove, Bayswater, London", postmarked "PAID | 19SP61 | W LONDON"; with floral seal and postmark on back of envelope. [Envelope (WCP3351.5009)]

Published letter (WCP3351.5917)

[1] [p. 73]

Delli, Timor. March 15, 1861.1

My dear Thomas, — I will now try and write you a few lines in reply to your last three letters2, which I have not before had time and inclination to do. First, about your one-eyed and two-eyed theory of art, etc. etc. I do not altogether agree with you. We do not see all objects wider with two eyes than with one. A spherical or curved object we do see so, because our right and left eye each see a portion of the surface not seen by the other, but for that very reason the portion seen perfectly with both eyes is less than with one. Thus (see diagram on next page) we only see from A to A with both our eyes, the two side portions Ab Ab being [2] [p. 74] seen with but one eye, and therefore (when we are using both eyes) being seen obscurely. But if we look at a flat object, whether square or oblique to the line of vision, we see it of exactly the same size with two eyes as with one because the one eye can see no part of it that the other does not see also. But in painting I believe that this difference of proportion, where it does exist, is far too small to be given by any artist and also too small to affect the picture if given.

Again3, I entirely deny that by any means the exact effect of a landscape with objects at various distances from the eye can be given on a flat surface; and moreover that the monocular clear outlined view is quite as true and good on the whole as the binocular hazy outlined view, and for this reason: we cannot and do not see clearly or look at two objects at once, if at different distances from us. In a real view our eyes are directed successively at every object, which we then see clearly and with distinct outlines, everything else — nearer and farther — being indistinct; but being able to change the focal angle of our two eyes and their angle of direction with great rapidity, we are enabled to glance rapidly at each object in succession and thus obtain a general and detailed view of the whole. A house, a tree, a spire, the leaves of a shrub in the foreground, are each seen (while we direct our eyes to them) with perfect definition and sharpness of outline. Now a monocular photo gives the clearness of outline and accuracy of definition, and thus [3] [p. 75] represents every individual part of a landscape just as we see it when looking at that part. Now I maintain that this is right, because no painting can represent an object both distinct and indistinct. The only question is, Shall a painting show us objects as we see them when looking at them, or as we see them when looking at something else near them? The only approach painters can make to this varying effect of binocular vision, and what they often do, is to give the most important and main feature of their painting distinct as we should see it when looking at it in nature, while all around has a subdued tone and haziness of outline like that produced by seeing the real objects when our vision is not absolutely directed to them. But then if, as in nature, when you turn your gaze to one of these objects in order to see it clearly, you cannot do so, this is a defect. Again, I believe that we actually see in a good photograph better than in nature, because the best camera lenses are more perfectly adjusted than our eyes, and give objects at varying distances with better definition. Thus in a picture we see at the same time near and distinct objects easily and clearly, which in reality we cannot do. If we could do so, everyone must acknowledge that our vision would be so much the more perfect and our appreciation of the beauties of nature more intense and complete; and in so far as a good landscape painting gives us this power it is better than nature itself; and I think this may account for that excessive and entrancing beauty of a good landscape or of a good panorama. You will think these ideas horribly heterodox, but if we all thought alike there would be nothing to write about and nothing to learn. I quite agree with you, however, as to artists using both eyes to paint and to see their paintings, but I think you quite mistake the theory of looking through the "catalogue"4; it is not because the picture can be seen better with one eye, but [4] [p. 76] because its effect can be better seen when all lateral objects are hidden — the catalogue does this. A double tube would be better, but that cannot be extemporised so easily. Have you ever tried a stereograph taken with the camera only the distance apart of the eyes? That must give nature. When the angle is greater the views in the stereoscope show us, not nature, but a perfect reduced model of nature seen nearer the eye.

It is curious that you should put Turner5 and the Pre-Raphaelites6 as opposed and representing binocular and monocular painting when Turner himself praises up the Pre-Raphaelites and calls Holman Hunt7 the greatest living painter!!...

Now for Mr. Darwin's8 book9. You quite misunderstand Mr. D[arwin].'s statement in the preface and his sentiments. I have, of course, been in correspondence with him since I first sent him my little essay10. His conduct has been most liberal and disinterested. I think anyone who reads the Linnean Society papers11 and his book will see it. I do back him up in his whole round of conclusions and look upon him as the Newton12 of Natural History.

You begin by criticising the title. Now, though I consider the title admirable, I believe it is not Mr. Darwin's but the Publisher's13, as you are no doubt aware that publishers will have a taking title, and authors must and do give way to them. Mr. D[arwin]. gave me a different title14 before the book came out. Again, you misquote and misunderstand Huxley15, who is a complete convert. Prof. Asa Gray16 and Dr. Hooker17, the two first botanists of Europe and America, are converts. And Lyell18, the first geologist living, who has all his life written against such conclusions as Darwin arrives at, is a convert and is about to declare or already has declared his conversion19 — a noble and almost unique example of a man yielding to conviction on a subject [5] [p. 77] which he has taught as a master all his life, and confessing that he has all his life been wrong.

It is clear that you have not yet sufficiently read the book to enable you to criticise it. It is a book in which every page and almost every line has a bearing on the main argument, and it is very difficult to bear in mind such a variety of facts, arguments and indications as are brought forward. It was only on the fifth perusal that I fully appreciated the whole strength of the work, and as I had been long before familiar with the same subjects I cannot but think that persons less familiar with them cannot have any clear idea of the accumulated argument by a single perusal.

Your objections, so far as I can see anything definite in them, are so fully and clearly anticipated and answered in the book itself that it is perfectly useless my saying anything about them. It seems to me, however, as clear as daylight that the principle of Natural Selection must act in nature. It is almost as necessary a truth as any of mathematics. Next, the effects produced by this action cannot be limited. It cannot be shown that there is any limit to them in nature. Again, the millions of facts in the numerical relations of organic beings, their geographical distribution, their relations of affinity, the modification of their parts and organs, the phenomena of intercrossing, embryology and morphology — all are in accordance with his theory, and almost all are necessary results from it; while on the other theory they are all isolated facts having no connection with each other and as utterly inexplicable and confusing as fossils are on the theory that they are special creations and are not the remains of animals that have once lived. It is the vast chaos of facts, which are explicable and fall into beautiful order on the one theory, which are inexplicable and remain a chaos on the other, [6] [p. 78] which I think must ultimately force Darwin's views on any and every reflecting mind. Isolated difficulties and objections are nothing against this vast cumulative argument. The human mind cannot go on for ever accumulating facts which remain unconnected and without any mutual bearing and bound together by no law. The evidence for the production of the organic world by the simple laws of inheritance is exactly of the same nature as that for the production of the present surface of the earth — hills and valleys, plains, rocks, strata, volcanoes, and all their fossil remains — by the slow and natural action of natural causes now in operation. The mind that will ultimately reject Darwin must (to be consistent) reject Lyell also. The same arguments of apparent stability which are thought to disprove that organic species can change will also disprove any change in the inorganic world, and you must believe with your forefathers that each hill and each river, each inland lake and continent, were created as they stand, with their various strata and their various fossils — all appearances and arguments to the contrary notwithstanding. I can only recommend you to read again Darwin's account20 of the horse family and its comparison with pigeons; and if that does not convince and stagger you, then you are unconvertible. I do not expect Mr. Darwin's larger work21 will add anything to the general strength of his argument. It will consist chiefly of the details (often numerical) and experiments and calculations of which he has already given the summaries and results. It will therefore be more confusing and less interesting to the general reader. It will prove to scientific men the accuracy of his details, and point out the sources of his information, but as not one in a thousand readers will ever test these details and references the smaller work will remain for general purposes the best....

[7] [79] I see that the Great Exhibition for 186222 seems determined on. If so it will be a great inducement to me to cut short the period of my banishment and get home in time to see it. I assure you I now feel at times very great longings for the peace and quiet of home — very much weariness of this troublesome, wearisome, wandering life. I have lost some of that elasticity and freshness which made the overcoming of difficulties a pleasure, and the country and people are now too familiar to me to retain any of the charms of novelty which gild over so much that is really monotonous and disagreeable. My health, too, gives way, and I cannot now put up so well with fatigue and privations as at first. All these causes will induce me to come home as soon as possible, and I think I may promise, if no accident happens, to come back to dear and beautiful England in the summer of next year. C[harles]. Allen23 will stay a year longer and complete the work which I shall not be able to do.

I have been pretty comfortable here, having for two months had the society of Mr. Geach24, a Cornish mining engineer who has been looking for copper here. He is a very intelligent and pleasant fellow, but has now left. Another Englishman, Capt. Hart25, is a resident here. He has a little house on the foot of the hills two miles out of town; I have a cottage (which was Mr. Geach's) a quarter of a mile farther. He is what you may call a speculative man: he reads a good deal, knows a little and wants to know more, and is fond of speculating on the most abstruse and unattainable points of science and philosophy. You would be astonished at the number of men among the captains and traders of these parts who have more than an average amount of literary and scientific taste; whereas among the naval and military officers and various Government officials very few have any such taste, but find their only amusements in card-playing and dissipation. Some of [8] [p. 80] the most intelligent and best informed Dutchmen I have met with are trading captains and merchants.

This country much resembles Australia in its physical features, and is very barren compared with most of the other islands.... It is very rugged and mountainous, having no true forests, but a scanty vegetation of gum trees with a few thickets in moist places. It is consequently very poor in insects, and in fact will hardly pay my expenses; but having once come here I may as well give it a fair trial. Birds are tolerably abundant, but with few exceptions very dull coloured. I really believe the whole series of birds of the tropical island of Timor are less beautiful and bright-coloured than those of Great Britain. In the mountains potatoes, cabbages and wheat are grown in abundance, and so we get excellent pure bread made by Chinamen in Delli [Dili]. Fowls, sheep, pigs and onions are also always to be had, so that it is the easiest country to live in I have yet met with, as in most other places one is always doubtful whether a dinner can be obtained. I have been a trip to the hills and stayed ten days in the clouds, but it was very wet, being the wrong season....

Having now paid you off my literary debts, I trust you will give me credit again for some long letters on things in general. Address now to care of Hamilton, Gray and Co.26, Singapore, and with love and remembrances to all friends, I remain, my dear Thomas, yours very faithfully,

ALFRED R. WALLACE.

P.S. — ... Will you, next time you visit my mother27, make me a little plan of her cottage, showing the rooms and their dimensions, so that I may see if there will be room enough for me on my return? I shall want a good-sized room for my collections, and when I can decide exactly on my return it would be as well to get a little larger house [9] [p. 81] beforehand if necessary. Please do not forget this. — Yours, A. R. W.

P.S. — Write by next mail, as circumstances have occurred which make it possible I may return home this year. — A. R. W.

P.S. — You allude in your last letter to a subject I never touch upon because I know we cannot agree upon it. However, I will now say a few words, that you may know my opinions, and if you wish to convert me to your way of thinking, take more vigorous measures to effect it. You intimate that the happiness to be enjoyed in a future state will depend upon, and be a reward for, our belief in certain doctrines which you believe to constitute the essence of true religion. You must think, therefore, that belief is voluntary and also that it is meritorious. But I think that a little consideration will show you that belief is quite independent of our will, and our common expressions show it. We say, "I wish I could believe him innocent, but the evidence is too clear"; or, "Whatever people may say, I can never believe he can do such a mean action." Now, suppose in any similar case the evidence on both sides leads you to a certain belief or disbelief, and then a reward is offered you for changing your opinion. Can you really change your opinion and belief, for the hope of reward or the fear of punishment? Will you not say, "As the matter stands I can't change my belief. You must give me proofs that I am wrong or show that the evidence I have heard is false, and then I may change my belief"? It may be that you do get more and do change your belief. But this change is not voluntary on your part. It depends upon the force of evidence upon your individual mind, and the evidence remaining the same and your mental faculties remaining unimpaired — you cannot believe otherwise any more than you can fly.

Belief, then, is not voluntary. How, then, can it be [10] [p. 82] meritorious? When a jury try a case, all hear the same evidence, but nine say "Guilty" and three "Not guilty," according to the honest belief of each. Are either of these more worthy of reward on that account than the others? Certainly you will say No! But suppose beforehand they all know or suspect that those who say "Not guilty" will be punished and the rest rewarded: what is likely to be the result? Why, perhaps six will say "Guilty" honestly believing it, and glad they can with a clear conscience escape punishment; three will say "Not guilty" boldly, and rather bear the punishment than be false or dishonest; the other three, fearful of being convinced against their will, will carefully stop their ears while the witnesses for the defence are being examined, and delude themselves with the idea they give an honest verdict because they have heard only one side of the evidence. If any out of the dozen deserve punishment, you will surely agree with me it is these. Belief or disbelief is therefore not meritorious, and when founded on an unfair balance of evidence is blameable.

Now to apply the principles to my own case. In my early youth I heard, as ninety-nine-hundredths of the world do, only the evidence on one side, and became impressed with a veneration for religion which has left some traces even to this day. I have since heard and read much on both sides, and pondered much upon the matter in all its bearings. I spent, as you know, a year and a half in a clergyman's28 family and heard almost every Tuesday the very best, most earnest and most impressive preacher it has ever been my fortune to meet with, but it produced no effect whatever on my mind. I have since wandered among men of many races and many religions. I have studied man, and nature in all its aspects, and I have sought after truth. In my solitude I have pondered much on the incomprehensible subjects of space, eternity, life and death. I think I have [11] [p. 83] fairly heard and fairly weighed the evidence on both sides, and I remain an utter disbeliever in almost all that you consider the most sacred truths. I will pass over as utterly contemptible the oft-repeated accusation that sceptics shut out evidence because they will not be governed by the morality of Christianity. You I know will not believe that in my case, and I know its falsehood as a general rule. I only ask, Do you think I can change the self-formed convictions of twenty-five years, and could you think such a change would have anything in it to merit reward from justice? I am thankful I can see much to admire in all religions. To the mass of mankind religion of some kind is a necessity. But whether there be a God and whatever be His nature; whether we have an immortal soul or not, or whatever may be our state after death, I can have no fear of having to suffer for the study of nature and the search for truth, or believe that those will be better off in a future state who have lived in the belief of doctrines inculcated from childhood, and which are to them rather a matter of blind faith than intelligent conviction. — A. R. W.

This for yourself; show the letter only to my mother.

A footnote on page 73 of the publication reads "The original of this letter is in the possession of the Trustees of the British Museum."
Letters cross reference or lost(?)
A diagram showing the vision field for the left and right eyes, with points marking a, b, a', and b' is inserted in the text of this paragraph.
Catalogue
Turner, Joseph Mallord William (1775-1851). British romantic painter.
A group, founded in 1848, of English painters known as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. They opposed London's Royal Academy of the Arts promoted painting techniques and emulated the art style pre-dating the Italian artist Raphael. See Tate. 2020. Art Term Pre-Raphaelite. Tate <https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/p/pre-raphaelite> [accessed 2 July 2020].
Hunt, William Holman (1827-1910). British painter and a founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
Darwin, Charles Robert (1809-1882). British naturalist, geologist and author, notably of On the Origin of Species (1859).
Darwin, C. 1859. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. London: John Murray.
Wallace, A. R. 1858. On the tendency of varieties to depart indefinitely from the original type [dated Feb. 1858, Ternate, original manuscript not located]. See WCP5647.6498, Darwin to Lyell 18 June 1858.
Darwin, C. & Wallace, A. 1858. On the tendency of species to form varieties; and on the perpetuation of varieties and species by natural means of selection. Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London (Zoology). 3(9): 45-62.
Newton, Isaac (1642-1727). British natural philosopher and mathematician.
Murray, John (1808-1892). Third generation proprietor of the British Murray family publishing house of London, and author of guide books. Notably published the Quarterly Review and Darwin's Origin of Species.
This letter from Darwin to ARW is presumed lost and the text is not known. It is mentioned in WCP5298.5842, Darwin to J. D. Hooker, 13 July 1858; WCP1454.4022, ARW to J. D. Hooker, 6 October 1858; WCP369, ARW to M. A. Wallace, 6 October 1858.
Huxley, Thomas Henry (1825-1895). British biologist and author known as "Darwin's Bulldog".
Gray, Asa (1810-1888). American botanist. Professor of natural history, Harvard University, 1842-73.
Hooker, Joseph Dalton (1817-1911). British botanist and explorer. Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew 1865-85. President of the Royal Society 1873-78.
Lyell, Charles (1797-1875). British geologist and author, notably of the influential Principles of Geology (1830–3). President of the Geological Society of London, 1835–7 & 1849–51.
Not until the tenth edition (1868) of his Principles of Geology did Lyell, according to Martin Rudwick, "at last concede the case for evolution and for the directionality of the fossil record." See Rudwick, M. J. S. 1998. Lyell and the Principles of Geology. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 143: 3-15 [p. 13]
See Darwin, C. 1859. On the Origin of Species [Chapter 5 pp. 163-167]
On the Origin of Species was an abstract of Darwin’s planned longer work which he never completed. See Stauffer, R. C. (Ed.). 1975. Charles Darwin's Natural Selection; being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
The International Exhibition of 1862, or Great London Exposition, held from 1 May to 1 November 1862. See Royal Academy of Arts. 2020. London International Exhibition (1862) Royal Academy of Arts <https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/art-artists/organisation/london-international-exhibition-1862> [accessed 5 July 2020].
Allen, Charles Martin (1839-1892). British. ARW's assistant in the Malay Archipelago.
Geach, Frederick F. (1835-1890). British mining engineer and friend of ARW.
Hart, Alfred Edward (1815-1871). British merchant captain and coffee-grower on Timor.
The firm Hamilton, Gray & Co. operated in Singapore since 1832. See Van Wyhe, J. and Rookmaaker, K. (Eds) 2013. Alfred Russel Wallace: Letters from the Malay Archipelago. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. [p. 12].
Wallace (née Greenell), Mary Ann (1792-1868). Mother of ARW.
Hill, Abraham ( - ). Reverend and Headmaster of Collegiate School in Leicester, where ARW was a teacher 1844-5.

Please cite as “WCP3351,” in Beccaloni, G. W. (ed.), Ɛpsilon: The Alfred Russel Wallace Collection accessed on 9 December 2022, https://epsilon.ac.uk/view/wallace/letters/WCP3351