WCP390

Letter (WCP390.390)

[1]

Guia, upper Rio Negro,

Jan. 20th. 1851

My dear Thomas

The "Correio" [Portuguese: courier] or post from Barra1 arrived here three days ago, and brought me letters from home of May 1st. and July 12th. 1850.2 together with one from Mr Stevens3 of the latter date4 informing me of the safe arrival of my Rio Negro birds. There were also letters from my cousins George5 & Percy Wilson6 and a small packet of Illustrated London news7 which are always most acceptable.. At the same time I received three letters8 from John9 the first of his that have reached me dated respectively Jan. 1st., April 20 Feb. 26, and April 29th. 1850 and giving me full accounts up to the termination of his wood cutting expedition..10 My Mother11 & Fanny12 seem to think his misfortunes were partly his own fault & that he should not have undertaken the job, but as it was not the time to go to the mines,13 his only choice was to work or be idle, & I think he did perfectly right to undertake it..

In our next we shall hear how he gets on at the mines, if he goes there, but as his letters are so long reaching me I have told him not to write to me for the future but that you will forward me the letters you receive from him,— which I hope for the future be done.. I shall of course keep them safe for they are very well written & if I were in England, to arrange & cut out unnecessary parts I would publish them.. I write to you because I have much to say that more particularly concerns you, but my Mother & Fanny must consider the letter also to them as much as if I had addressed them directly.. You have not doubt received the letters I wrote you from Barra14 on receipt of your last15 and also those I wrote on the voyage here.16 I have now been here three months but have not been very successful in my collections. However I have not been idle and send a small box to Mr Stevens containing one which he will forward to you & which I will say more about by & bye.17 [2] I have been spending a month with some Indians 3 days journey up a narrow stream18 — From there we went ½ a days journey through the forest to a "serra" or rocky mountain where the celebrated Gallos de Serra19 breed. But we were there very unfortunate for though I had with me ten hunters & we remained nine days at the Serra suffering many inconveniences, (having only taken farinha20 [Portuguese: flour] & salt with us) I only got a dozen Gallos whereas I had expected in less time to have arranged fifty. Insects there were none at all & other good birds excessively rare — My canoe is now getting ready for a further journey up to near the Sources of the Rio Negro in Venezuela where I have reason to believe I shall find Insects more plentiful and at least as many birds as here — On my return from there, I shall take a voyage up the great River Uaupes21 or another up the Isanna,22 not so much for my collections which I do not expect to be very profitable there, but because I am so much interested in the country & the people that I am determined to see & know more of it and them than any other European traveller — If I do not get profit I hope at least to get some credit as an industrious & persevering traveller — You ask me about my book,23 and I will now give you my present ideas & intentions on that important subject — 1st. then, my Journal goes steadily on, and I am inclined to think it is now better written and more interesting than the part you have — That will I think have to be cut down & corrected a little, and I by the time I get home the whole will I think form a pretty thick volume — 2nd. I am preparing a work by which I think I shall obtain some credit, namely, one on the fishes of this country, which I intend to contain figures of all the species — I am very much interested in them and have already made drawings of one hundred different kinds almost all since leaving [3] Barra & I believe I have not yet got half the Rio Negro species — In the Amazons there are great numbers of kinds not found in these black waters and in the temperate regions of the Andes others different from these of the hotter low lands so that, if I am enabled successfully to prosecute my voyage there I have no doubt of getting an immense number of species,— and perhaps the greater part of them are yet undescribed. I also write full descriptions to accompany the figures and notes of their habits &c. whenever I can obtain information — The figures [MS torn leaving a hole] take great pains with & find I can do them [MS torn leaving a hole] I think to those of some of the best works [MS torn leaving a hole] [of Natural] History —-

3rd. I am also making characteristic sketches of the Palms with descriptions & notes of their uses &c. they are numerous. I am already acquainted with forty different species and have drawn thirty — so that by the time I return they will also probably have increased sufficiently to form a volume24

4th. I am collecting information, & thinking about a work25 on the Physical History of the Great Amazon valley, comprising its Geography, Geology, distribution of Animals and Plants, Meteorology & the history & Languages of the Aboriginal tribes — to be illustrated by a great map showing the colour of the waters, the extent of the flooded lands, the boundaries of the great forest district &c, &c —

I shall have a good deal of information, from personal observation & from the Indians, on the habits & natural history of the animals of the country which may perhaps amount to sufficient for a separate little work — as comparatively little is known of many of the animals of this country, here more than except stuffed specimens —.26

[4] And lastly there will be my collection of Butterflies which some day will furnish me work describing the new species which are very numerous. —

These are my present ideas as to what I shall give to the public on my return & you will see that I have plenty of work for two or three years, as all will require more or less research in Museums & Libraries to make them as complete as I should wish any thing I publish, to be. I give you all this for your own private information & do not wish it to [MS torn leaving a hole] [be made] public, as there is "many a slip [MS torn leaving a hole] [between the cup] & the lip" & I may never be able to do half I should wish — If you are asked as to what I intend publishing on my return, you may say, that, besides any journal I shall probably publish some works on the Natural History of the Country. You may perhaps imagine the from the way in which I talk of journeys to the Andes that I have no desire to return home — But if you think so you are greatly mistaken — not a day or a night passes that I do not think of all of you — Whatever inconveniences I suffer, I endure patiently considering that having passed through them will only enhance the pleasure of returning home again. And it is only because I am determined to return with satisfaction & credit to myself & to you all, that I have resolved on thoroughly investigating this wonderful country, not merely seeing and doing what others have done before me, but adding something to the stores of science, and giving some information to the world that I alone shall be able to do — It is this that impels me27

Barra do Rio Negro (Manaus), capital city of the Brazilian state of Amazonas.
letters from home of May 1st. and July 12th. 1850: [cross referencing to these letters in the volume]
Stevens, Samuel (1817-1899). Entomologist and dealer in natural history specimens.
one from Mr Stevens of the latter date: [cross referencing to this letter in the volume]
Wilson, George (1815-1894). ARW's cousin, son of his uncle Thomas Wilson (1787-1863).
Wilson, Theodore Percival ("Percy") (1819-1881). ARW's cousin, son of his uncle Thomas Wilson (1787-1863).
The Illustrated London News, established in 1842 as the first illustrated weekly news magazine.
three letters: [cross referencing to these letters in the volume]
Wallace, John (1818-1895). Brother of ARW; engineer and surveyor.
When John Wallace arrived in San Francisco, California, USA in December 1849, months passed until weather was suitable for travel to the mines so he joined a woodcutting enterprise in Marin County that proved unsuccessful. See Manna, S. J. 2008. A Brothers' Reunion: Evolution's Champion: Alfred Russel Wallace and Forty-Niner John Wallace. California History, 85(4): 4-25, 70-71.
Wallace (née Greenell), Mary Ann (1792-1868). Mother of ARW.
Sims (née Wallace), Frances ("Fanny") (1812-1893). Sister of ARW; teacher.
When mining gold proved unsuccessful, John Wallace became an engineer and surveyor for water and railroad companies. The city of Wallace, California, USA was named for him. See Manna, S. J. 2008. A Brothers' Reunion: Evolution's Champion: Alfred Russel Wallace and Forty-Niner John Wallace. California History, 85(4): 4-25, 70-71.
letters I wrote you from Barra: [cross referencing to these letters in the volume]
your last: [cross referencing to this letter in the volume]
those I wrote on the voyage here: [cross referencing to these letters in the volume]
The text "Of course direct to Barra as before." is written vertically up the left hand margin of the page.
The Rio Cobati, most common Cubate, a tributary of the Rio Içana.
A species of bird, Rupicola crocea, identified as "Rupocola cayana" in Wallace, A. R. 1853. Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro, With an Account of the Native Tribes, and Observations on the Climate, Geology, and Natural History of the Amazon Valley. London: Reeve & Co., 474.
Cassava meal (Wallace, A. R. 1853. Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro, With an Account of the Native Tribes, and Observations on the Climate, Geology, and Natural History of the Amazon Valley. London: Reeve & Co. [p. 17]).
The Rio Uaupés, a tributary of the Rio Negro.
The Rio Isanna [Içana], a tributary of the Rio Negro.
Wallace, A. R. 1853. Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro, With an Account of the Native Tribes, and Observations on the Climate, Geology, and Natural History of the Amazon Valley. London: Reeve & Co.
Wallace, A. R. 1853. Palm Trees of the Amazon and Their Uses. London: John Van Voorst.
Wallace, A. R. 1853. Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro, With an Account of the Native Tribes, and Observations on the Climate, Geology, and Natural History of the Amazon Valley. London: Reeve & Co.
The following text is written vertically up the left hand margin of the page: "The newspapers sent are very irregular, almost every other week being absent, so that many interesting things alluded to I cannot read — Try and send them regularly — tied up with string & sealed & tell me in your letters if they the nos.[numbers] sent. I now receive a dozen some of them only fragments —".
The letter is incomplete and ends here.

Please cite as “WCP390,” in Beccaloni, G. W. (ed.), Ɛpsilon: The Alfred Russel Wallace Collection accessed on 26 February 2024, https://epsilon.ac.uk/view/wallace/letters/WCP390