WCP374

Letter (WCP374.374)

[1]

Ternate1

Decr. 24th. 1860

Dear Bates

Many thanks for your long & interesting letter.2 I have myself suffered much in the same way as you describe & I think more severely. The kind of "tedium vitae" [Latin: weariness of life] you mention I also occasionally experience here. I impute it to a too monotonous existence.

I know not how or to whom to express fully my admiration of Darwin's3 book.4 To him it would seem flattery to others self praise;— but I do honestly believe that with however much patience I had worked up & experimented on the subject I could never have approached the completeness of his book,— its vast accumulation of evidence,— its overwhelming argument, & its admirable tone & spirit. I really feel thankful that it has not been [2] left to me to give the theory to the public.

Mr. Darwin has created a new science & a new Philosophy, & I believe that never has such a complete illustration of a new branch of human knowledge, been due to the labours & researches of a single man. Never have such vast masses of widely scattered & hitherto utterly disconnected facts been combined in to a system, & brought to bear upon the establishment of such a grand & new & simple philosophy!

I am surprised at your joining the N. & S. banks of lower Amazon into one region.5 Did you not find a sufficiency of distinct sp[ecies]. at Obydos6 & Barra7 to separate them from V[illa]. Nova8 & Santarem [Santarém]?9..

I am now convinced that insects on the whole do not give such true indications in Zoological Geog[raphy]. as Birds & Mammals [3] because they have,— 1st. such immensely greater chances of distribution, & 2nd. because they are so much more affected by local circumstances.10 also 3rd. because the sp[ecies]. seem to change quicker & therefore disguise a comparatively recent identity. Thus the insects of two originally distinct regions vary rapidly become amalgamated,— a portion of the same region may come to be inhabited by very distinct insect faunas owing to differences of soil[,] climate &c. &c.. This is strikingly shown here, where the insect fauna from Malacca11 to N[ew]. Guinea has a very large amount of characteristic uniformity; while Australia from its distinct climate & vegetation shows a wide difference — I am inclined to think therefore, that a preliminary study of first the Mammals & then the Birds are indispensable to a correct understanding of the Geographical & physical changes on which the present insect distribution depends. [4] With regard to exchange, I think it must be left till my return, which according to my present plans will not be delayed beyond a year & a half from this date. The groups I intend to collect generally are,— Papilios & Pieridiae only among Lepidoptera;—12 & Cicindelidae[,] Carabides Lac.[,] Buprestidae[,] Cleridae[,] Longicornes & Brenthidae among Coleoptera13 — Also illustrations of genera of Coleoptera generally & the more common of the remarkable or handsome species. If you will put by for me at your leisure the most complete set you can spare of these groups, I shall (I have no doubt) be able to let you have an equal number of such specimens as you may desire.

In a day or two I leave for Timor14 where if I am lucky in finding a good locality I expect some fine & interesting insects.

In haste | Yours faithfully | Alfred R Wallace [signature]

H. W. Bates Esq.

An island in Indonesia, part of the Moluccas, or Maluku Islands.

2.

your long & interesting letter: [needs cross-reference to another letter in the volume, if it exists (did not find this letter in van Wyhe & Rookmaaker nor NHM database)]
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. By the time this letter was written, Darwin's book was in its third edition.
your joining the N. & S. banks of lower Amazon into one region: [MB: I assume this was stated in a letter from Bates to ARW (perhaps that mentioned in n. 1; I could not find a journal article from Bates prior to Dec 1860 that discussed this topic]
Óbidos, a town in the Brazilian state of Pará.
Barra do Rio Negro (Manuas), capital city of the Brazilian state of Amazonas.
Villa Nova (or Vila Nova), now Parintins, a town in the Brazilian state of Pará, west of Óbidos.
A city in the Brazilian state of Pará.
The words from "also" to "identity." are written vertically up the left margin of page 2.
The capital city of the Malaysian state of Malacca, in the southern region of the Malay Peninsula.
Genera in the order of insects that includes butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera).
Genera in the order of insects that includes beetles and weevils (Coleoptera).
An island in Indonesia.

Published letter (WCP374.5916)

[1] [p. 72]

To H. W. BATES

Ternate. December 24, 1860.

Dear Bates,— Many thanks for your long and interesting letter. I have myself suflered much in the same way as you describe, and I think more severely. The kind of taedium vitae you mention I also occasionally experience here. I impute it to a too monotonous existence. [2]

I know not how or to whom to express fully my admiration of Darwin's book. To him it would seem flattery, to others self-praise; but I do honestly believe that with however much patience I had worked up and experimented on the subject, I could never have approached the completeness of his book — its vast accumulation of evidence, its overwhelming argument, and its admirable tone and spirit. I really feel thankful that it has not been left to me to give the theory to the public. Mr. Darwin has created a new science and a new philosophy, and I believe that never has such a complete illustration of a new branch of human knowledge been due to the labours and researches of a single man. Never have such vast masses of widely scattered and hitherto utterly disconnected facts been combined into a system, and brought to bear upon the establishment of such a grand and new and simple philosophy!... — In haste, yours faithfully, | ALFRED R. WALLACE.

Published letter (WCP374.6922)

[1]

"Ternate, December 24, I860.

"DEAR BATES,

"Many thanks for your long and interesting letter. I have myself suffered much in the same way as you describe, and I think more severely. The kind of taedium vitae1 you mention I also occasionally experience here. I impute it to a too monotonous existence.

"I know not how, or to whom, to express fully my admiration of Darwin"s book. To him it would seem flattery, to others self-praise ; but I do honestly believe that with however much patience I had worked and experimented on the subject, I could never have approached the completeness of his book, its vast accumulation of evidence, its overwhelming argument, and its admirable tone and spirit. I really feel thankful that it has not been left to me to give the theory to the world. Mr. Darwin has created a. new science and a new philosophy; and I believe that never has such a complete illustration of a new branch of human knowledge been due to the labours and researches of a single man. Never have such vast masses of widely scattered and hitherto quite unconnected facts been combined into a system and brought to bear upon the establishment of such a grand and new and simple philosophy.

"I am surprised at your joining the north and south banks of the lower Amazon into one region. Did you not find a sufficiency of distinct species at Obydos and Barra to separate them from Villa Nova and Santarem? I am now convinced that insects, on the whole, do not give such true indications of zoological geography as birds and mammals, because, first, they have such immensely greater means of dispersal across rivers and seas; second, [2] [p. 198] because they are so much more influenced by surrounding circumstances ; and third, because the species seem to change more quickly, and therefore disguise a comparatively recent identity. Thus the insects of adjacent regions, though originally distinct, may become rapidly amalgamated, or portions of the same region may come to be inhabited by very distinct insect-faunas owing to differences of soil, climate, etc. This is strikingly shown here, where the insect-fauna from Malacca to New Guinea has a very large amount of characteristic uniformity, while Australia, from its distinct climate and vegetation, shows a wide difference. I am inclined to think, therefore, that a preliminary study of, first, the mammals, and then the birds, is indispensable to a correct understanding of the geographical and physical changes on which the present insect-distribution depends....

"In a day or two I leave for Timor, where, if I am lucky in finding a good locality, I expect some fine and interesting insects."

My last two letters before coming home were written in the wilds of Sumatra to Bates and Silk.

An extract from the letter to Bates will give some idea of the difficulty I had in finding good collecting places.

"I am here making what I intend to be my last collections, but am doing very little in insects, as it is the wet season and all seems dead. I find in those districts where the seasons are strongly contrasted the good collecting time is very limited — only about a month or two at the beginning of the dry, and a few weeks at the commencement of the rains. It is now two years since I have been able to get any beetles, owing to bad localities and bad weather, so I am becoming disgusted. When I do find a good [3] [p. 199] place it is generally very good, but such are dreadfully scarce. In Java I had to go forty miles in the eastern part and sixty miles in the western to reach a bit of forest, and then I got scarcely anything. Here I had to come a hundred miles inland, by Palembang, and though in the very centre of Eastern Sumatra, the forest is only in patches, and it is the height of the rains, so I get nothing. A longicorn is a rarity, and I suppose I shall not have as many species in two months as I have obtained in three or four days in a really good locality. I am getting, however, some sweet little blue butterflies (Lycaenidae), which is the only thing that keeps up my spirits."

Latin: Tiredness of Life. World-weariness.

Please cite as “WCP374,” in Beccaloni, G. W. (ed.), Ɛpsilon: The Alfred Russel Wallace Collection accessed on 2 July 2022, https://epsilon.ac.uk/view/wallace/letters/WCP374