WCP353

Letter (WCP353.353)

[1]1

Singapore

April 30th. 18542

My dear Mother

We arrived here safe on the 20th of this month having had very fine weather all the voyage. On shore I was obliged to go to a Hotel which was very expensive so I tried to get out into the country as soon as I could, which however I did3 not manage in less than a week, when I at last got permission to stay with a French Roman Catholic Missionary4 who lives about 8 miles out of the Town & close to the Jungle. The greater part of the Inhabitants of Singapore are Chineese [sic] many of whom are very rich, & all the villages about are almost entirely of Chinese who cultivate pepper & Gambir.5 Some of the English merchants here have splendid Country houses. I dined with one to whom I brought an introduction — His house was most elegant & full of magnificent Chineese & Japan furniture. We are now [2] at the mission of Bukit Tima [Bukit Timah]. The missionary speaks English Malay & Chineese as well as French and is a very pleasant man. He has built a pretty church here & has about three hundred Chineese converts. Having only been here four days I cannot tell much about my collections yet. Insects however are plentiful. Some sorts more so than at Pará,6 others less. I have not yet decided what I shall do but I think to stay here a month & then go to Malacca [Malacca City] till my boxes arrive by the "Eliza Thornton".7

The mail from England will be in tomorrow or next day when I shall expect some letters & papers. I wrote last to George Silk8 from Aden & told him to shew you the letter. Letters addressed to me, care of Messrs. Hamilton Gray & Co.9 will reach me till further orders. [3]10 Tell Mr. Stevens11 I will write to him next mail & tell him a little about the Insects &c. I have not seen any tigers yet & do not expect to, for there are not many in this neighbourhood & there has not been a man killed at this place for two years — Charles12 gets on pretty well. He is quite well in health & catches a few insects, but he is very untidy which you may imagine by his clothes being all torn to pieces by the time we arrived here. He will no doubt improve & will soon be useful. Singapore is a very curious & interesting place. The Chinese do all the work, they are a most industrious people, & the place could hardly exist without them. The harbour is full of Chinese Junks & small native vessels. There are now also 3 English men of war as some [4] Russian vessels were expected here.13

Malay is the universal language in which all business is carried on. It is easy & I am beginning to pick up a little, but when we go to Malacca shall learn it most, as there they speak nothing else. I am very unfortunate with my watch. I dropped it on board & broke the balance spring & have now sent it home to Mr Matthews14 to repair as I cannot trust any one here to do it. The bill will be sent to Mr. Stevens who please tell to pay it. There was also a book I left unpaid for 10s/6d I think at Williams & Norgate.15 — Tell Mr S[tevens] to pay this also. Every thing for living in the Town of Singapore is very dear except clothing &c. I have had a lot of jackets & trousers made by a Chineese very well at 2s. each for making — Love to Fanny16 & Thomas.17

I remain Your affectionate Son | Alfred R Wallace [signature]

P.S. The climate here is almost that of Para & is very delightful — The forest too looks very much the same. Palms are very abundant — A W.18

address —"A. R. Wallace Esqr to the care of Messrs. Hamilton Gray & Co — Singapore (via Southampton)["]19

The head of the letter is annotated "2nd letter" in another hand in the top left-hand corner. Various sections have been marked in blue pencil, possibly by ARW, perhaps for later publication. This letter is printed in: Wyhe, J. van and Rookmaaker, K. (Eds). Alfred Russel Wallace: Letters from the Malay Archipelago. [Paperback edition]. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. [pp. 10-14].
The letter is annotated "Singapore" in another hand under the date.
The word "did" has been underlined in blue pencil.
Mauduit, Anatole Mauduit (1817-1858). Missionary with the Missions Étrangères de Paris at the church of St Joseph, Bukit Timah.
Gambier, a product of Uncaria gambir used in tanning (The Editors of Enclyclopedia Britannica. 2018. Rubiaciae. Plant Family. Enclyclopedia Britannica. <https://www.britannica.com/plant/Rubiaceae#ref285545> [accessed 17 July 2018]).
"Pará", now Belém, capital of Pará state in northern Brazil (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2018. Belém. Brazil. Encyclopaedia Britannica. <https://www.britannica.com/place/Belem-Brazil> [accessed 27 June 2018]).
The Eliza Thornton of London sailed from Gravesend, 17 March 1854, for Singapore (The Morning Post. Monday, 20 March 1854. Ship News. Gravesend. Findmypast. <https://search.findmypast.co.uk> [accessed 17 July 2018]).
Silk, George Charles (1822-1910). Friend of ARW since childhood; secretary to the Archdeacon of Middlesex; see WCP352.352 for the letter sent to him by ARW from Aden.
A trading firm in existence in Singapore between 1832 and 1886; acting as ARW's agent there (Ng, Y. P. 2018. What's in the Name? How the Streets and Villages in Singapore got their Names. [Paperback edition]. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd. [p. 170]).
Wallace has written the following in the left-hand margin to be read if the page is rotated: "I enclose two wings of one of the fine Singapore butterflies.".
Stevens, Samuel (1817-1899). Entomologist and dealer in natural history specimens.
Allen, Charles Martin (1839-1892). ARW's assistant in the Malay Archipelago, the Moluccas and New Guinea.
After the outbreak in 1854 of the Crimean War involving Britain and her allies against Russia, fears for the exposed position of Singapore were raised when a Russian naval squadron entered the South China Sea (Murfett, M. H., Miksic, J. N., Farrell, B. and Chiang, M. S. 2011. Between Two Oceans: A Military History of Singapore from 1275 to 1971. [2nd edition]. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions. [p. 66]).
Matthews, William (c. 1809-1885). British watch and clock maker, of Leighton Buzzard, with whom ARW stayed to learn the trade.
Williams & Norgate, foreign booksellers, 14, Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, London (University of Oxford. Bodleian Libraries. N.d. Williams & Norgate. British Book Trade Index. <http://bbti.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/details/?traderid=124826> [accessed 19 July 2018]).
Sims (née Wallace), Frances ("Fanny") (1812-1893). Sister of ARW; teacher.
Sims, Thomas (1826-1910). Brother-in-law of ARW; photographer.
Wallace has written this postscript in the left-hand margin to be read if the page is rotated.
Wallace has written the address in the left-hand margin of page 1, to be read if the page is rotated.

Published letter (WCP353.5899)

[1] [p. 47]

TO HIS MOTHER

Singapore. April 30, 1854.

My dear Mother,— We arrived here safe on the 20th of this month, having had very fine weather all the voyage. On shore I was obliged to go to a hotel, which was very expensive, so I tried to get out into the country as soon as I could, which, however, I did not manage in less than a week, when I at last got permission to stay with a French Roman Catholic missionary who lives about eight miles out of the town and close to the jungle. The greater part of the inhabitants of Singapore are Chinese, many of whom are very rich, and all the villages about are almost entirely of Chinese, who cultivate pepper and gambir. Some of the English merchants here have splendid country houses. I dined with one to whom I brought an introduction. His house was most elegant, and full of magnificent Chinese and Japanese furniture. We are now at the Mission of Bukit Tima. The missionary speaks English, Malay and Chinese, as well as French, and is a very pleasant man, He has built a very pretty church here, and has about 300 Chinese converts. Having only been here four days, I cannot tell [2] [p. 48] much about my collections yet. Insects, however are plentiful....

Charles gets on pretty well in health, and catches a few insects; but he is very untidy, as you may imagine by his clothes being all torn to pieces by the time we arrived here. He will no doubt improve and will soon be useful.

Malay is the universal language, in which all business is carried on. It is easy, and I am beginning to pick up a little, but when we go to Malacca shall learn it most, as there they speak nothing else. I am very unfortunate with my watch. I dropped it over board and broke the balance-spring, and have now sent it home to Mr. Matthews to repair, as I cannot trust anyone here to do it....

Love to Fanny and Thomas — I remain your affectionate son, | ALFRED R. WALLACE.

Please cite as “WCP353,” in Beccaloni, G. W. (ed.), Ɛpsilon: The Alfred Russel Wallace Collection accessed on 25 September 2022, https://epsilon.ac.uk/view/wallace/letters/WCP353