Letter (WCP4866.5267)


The Dell, Grays, Essex

Nov[ember]. 10th. 1872

Dear Sir Charles

I have read the MSS. with very great interest. Two points of importance are —Milton’s advocacy of Scientific as against Classical education (which I should think would be new to most persons) — and, freedom of thought as essential to intellectual progress. No more need be said on the first point; — it seems to me excellently done, only I would omit altogether the illustration on p.9 & p[ar]t of p.8, which interrupts and weakens the main discussion. The second (occupying [2] pp.13-23 of your MSS.) is of such immense importance & your opinion on it, clearly expressed, would have so much weight, that I should much wish it to be developed in a little more detail, — though I cannot see how it can possibly be got into the "Antiquity of Man1"!

The points that may be more fully treated seem to me to be, — 1st. — to show in a little more detail, that there was such practical freedom of opinion in Greek schools & Academies. Socrates being executed for heretical teaching renders it necessary to do this, as, prima facie, the facts seem to be the other way. 2nd. To put forward [3] strongly the fact, that, ever since the establishment of Christianity the education of Europe has been wholly in the hands of men bound down by penalties to forced dogmas, — that [word illeg. crossed out] philosophy & science have been taught largely under the same influences, and, that men[?] at the present day & among the civilized nations it causes half the greater part of the intellectual strength of the world to be wasted, in endeavours to reconcile old dogmas with modern thought; while no step in advance can be made without the fiercest opposition by those by those whose vested interests are bound up in these dogmas.

3rd. I should like to see (though [4] perhaps you are not prepared to do it) a strong passage, following up your concluding words (p.23), — pointing out, — that it is a disgrace to civilization and a crime against posterity, that the great mass of the instructors of our youth should still be those who are fettered by creed & dogmas which they are under a penalty to teach; — and maintaining that it is the very first duty to of the government of a free people to take away all such restraints from that the national church, and so allow the national teachers to represent the most advanced thought, the highest intellect, & the purest morality the age can produce. It is equally [5] 22 the duty of the state to forbid disqualify as teachers in all schools or colleges in any way under its control, those whose interests are in any way bound up with the propagation of forced creeds or dogmas of whatever nature.

I should like this subject to be written on as strongly as Galton3 has written on an analogous subject at p.356-357 of his "Hereditary Genius4". What splendid matter there is in these last chapters!5

I shall be exceedingly glad if you could do something of this kind, because I look with great alarm on the movement for the disestablishment of the Church of England, — a step which I fear would retard freedom of thought for centuries. This would inevitably be its effect if any similar proportion of its revenues as in the case of [6] the Irish Church, was handed over to the disestablished Ch[urch]. of England, — which would then still retain most of its prestige & respectability, — would have enormous wealth, which might be indefinitely increased by further private endowments, — & would have a ruling episcopacy endowed with absolute power who would keep up creeds & dogmas & repress all freedom of thought & action, & thus do irreparable injury to the nation. Besides this, we should lose a grand organization for education, and a splendid endowment which might confer incalculable benefits [7] on society if only its recipients were rendered absolutely free. What might have been the result if during the last 100 years the 20,000 sermons which are preached every Sunday in Gt. Britain, instead of being rigidly confined to one monstrous subject, had been true lessons in civilization, morality, the laws of health, & other useful knowledge, — and if the teachers had been the high class of men who, if unfettered, would have gone into this, the noblest of professions.

I so much fear that Miall’s6 premature agitation may force some future Government to disestablishment of any terms, that I think it of [8] the greatest importance to point out what may be lost by such a step.


Antiquity of Man. Your suggestion as to putting the Glacial Chapters in an appendix , I think excellent. On reading them again I find them so full of useful and suggestive matter that it would be a pity to leave them out altogether, — yet they undoubtedly interrupt the continuity of the main subject. I have only read yet to Ch[apter]. XIV., & see very little to alter as far as I know. The plan of an Appendix will be in every way the easiest & involves least work, — but I fear the "Greeks"7 cannot come in even in an Appendix. Cannot you develope[sic] it into a thin book? It will do much good.

I remain | yours very sincerely | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

Sir Charles Lyell Bart.

Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man, by Sir Charles Lyell. Initially published in three parts in February, April and November 1863. The much revised fourth edition was published in 1873.
The page / catalogue number, "427", appears at the top left of the page, and Wallace has numbered the page at top, centre, with an encircled "2".
Sir Francis Galton FRS (1822 — 1911). English polymath. A cousin of Charles Darwin, he was, amongst other things, an anthropologist and eugenicist.
Hereditary Genius by Sir Francis Galton. Published by Macmillan, London 1869.
This passage was written vertically, in the left-hand margin of the page.
Edward Miall (1809 — 1881). English journalist and promoter of disestablishment of the Church of England. He was founder of the Liberation Society, and a Liberal Party politician.
Possibly a reference to charges raised in the Athenaeum by Hugh Falconer (1808 — 1865) and elsewhere by John Lubbock (1834 — 1913) that Lyell had misleadingly cast himself in the lead while ignoring the work of others.

Please cite as “WCP4866,” in Beccaloni, G. W. (ed.), Ɛpsilon: The Alfred Russel Wallace Collection accessed on 2 July 2022, https://epsilon.ac.uk/view/wallace/letters/WCP4866