Letter (WCP371.371)



April 25th. 1859.

My dear Thomas1

Many thanks for your long letter2 which is the best you have ever written me, but I am too busy to promise you much in return.

Your ingenious arguments to persuade me to come home are quite unconvincing.3 I have much to do yet before I can return with satisfaction of mind; — were I to leave now I should be ever regretful & unhappy. That alone is an all-sufficient reason. If you like, I feel my work is here as well as my pleasure & why should I not follow out my vocation. As to materials for work at home, you are in error. I have indeed materials for a life's study of Entomology as far as the forms & structure & affinities of insects are concerned, — but I am engaged in a wider & more general study, — that of the relations of animals to time & space, or in other words their Geographical & Ecological distribution & its causes. I have set myself to work out this problem in the Indo-Australian Archipelago & I must visit & explore the largest number of islands possible & collect materials from the greatest number of localities in order to arrive at any definite results. As to health & life, what are they compared to peace & happiness & happiness is admirably described in the Fam. Herald4 as obtained by "work with a purpose, & the nobler the purpose the greater the happiness". — But [2] besides these mighty reasons, there are others quite as powerful, — pecuniary ones. I have not yet made enough to live upon, & I am likely to make it quicker here than I could in England. In England there is only one way in which I could live, by returning to my old profession of surveying. Now though I always liked surveying I like collecting better; & I could never now give my whole mind to any work apart from the study to which I have devoted my life. So far from being angry at being called an Enthusiast it is my pride & glory to be worthy to be so called. Who ever did any thing good or great who was not an enthusiast? The majority of mankind are enthusiasts only in one thing, in money-getting; & these call others enthusiasts as a term of reproach, because they think there is something in the world better than money getting.

As to riding in [a] carriage &c.5 it strikes me that the power or capability of getting rich is in an inverse proportion to a man's reflective powers & in direct proportion to his impudence. It is good to be rich, but not to get rich or to try to get rich, & few men are so unfitted to get rich if they did try as myself.6

[3] I do not understand your attack on Claudet.7 I did not quite see what his doctrine was, but I saw an ingenious combination to produce the stereoscopic effect by looking at a single picture image, — & if that effect is produced he is entitled to all credit for the discovery. You shirk this question altogether. If three or four persons can stand before a ground glass & on it can all see at once a picture as solid as in the stereoscope, here is an ingenious practical discovery. — I saw a notice also of another means of producing the same effect by a most ingenious combination — Two stereoscopic pictures are thrown by magic lantherne[?] on one disc so as exactly to overlap, but one is passed covered with red the other with green glass (or any two complementary colours) so as to form two coloured images which to the naked eye will be white & slightly confused, but the spectators all wear spectacles, one eye green the other red, & the consequence is that one eye sees only one picture, & the stereoscopic effect is produced! The idea of this highly delights me & I hope it is successful.

Your idea of painters painting with two eyes & producing stereoscopic effects I do not understand, but if there is anything [4] in it I suggest this experiment. Have a camera with two object glasses, the centres the distance apart of the two eyes & adjusted to throw their focal image exactly on the same surface [a diagram showing two lenses and their focal paths appears here] thus, — take pictures with this camera & you should have the effect of nature seen with two eyes.

If the result was only to blurr [sic] the outlines & mar the effect, then painters must paint with one eye only; & it is evident that for every thing but near objects our two eyes have but the effect of one, — & this is the reason why landscape stereoscopes have none of the charms of small close objects which produce such a startling effect of solid reality. I think for a distant landscape two identical pictures in the stereoscope would produce an equally good effect. Have you ever tried it? For it [is] evident that practically the two eyes see distant objects absolutely the same while close objects they see very different. I hope your engraving plans may succeed & be profitable. I know not exactly where I am going next but perhaps shall before I close this.

In haste | Yours very affectionately | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

Thos. Sims Esq.

Sims, Thomas (1826-1910). Brother-in-law of ARW; photographer.
The letter from Thomas Sims, to which this is a reply, has not been found.
The text from "I have much to do" to the end of the page is outlined in blue pencil.
The Family Herald: A Domestic Magazine of Useful Information & Amusement (1843-1940) was a weekly magazine founded by George Biggs. <https://www.revolvy.com/page/Family-Herald> [accessed 31 Aug. 2018].
"As to riding in [a] carriage &c." is outlined in blue pencil.
"In direct proportion... as myself" is outlined in blue pencil.
Claudet, Antoine François Jean. 1797-1867. French photographer operating in London from 1841. Author of Claudet, A.1858 [1859]. On the Stereomonoscope, a New Instrument by Which an apparently Single Picture Produces the Stereoscopic Illusion. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 9:194-196.

Published letter (WCP371.6896)

[1] [p. 871]

So far from being angry at being called an enthusiast (as you seem to suppose), it is my pride and glory to be worthy to be so called. Who ever did anything good or great who was not an enthusiast?

Please cite as “WCP371,” in Beccaloni, G. W. (ed.), Ɛpsilon: The Alfred Russel Wallace Collection accessed on 4 December 2023, https://epsilon.ac.uk/view/wallace/letters/WCP371