Letter (WCP4866.5267)


The Dell, Grays, Essex

Novr. 10th. 1872

Dear Sir Charles

I have read the Mss. with very great interest.1 Two points of importance are —Milton's advocacy of Scientific as against Classical education2 (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 Man3"!

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 fixed dogmas, — that new[?] philosophy & Science have been taught largely under the same influences, and, that even at the present day & among the most 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 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]4 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 fixed creeds or dogmas of whatever nature.

I should like this subject to be written on as strongly as Galton5 has written on an analogous subject at p. 356-357 of his "Hereditary Genius6". What splendid matter there is in those last chapters!7

I should 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 monotonous 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's8 premature agitation may force some future Government to disestablishment on 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"9 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.

The mss of a revised edition of The Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man (see note 3). ARW states this in Wallace, A.R. 1905. My Life: a Record of Events and Opinions.1. London: Chapman & Hall. [pp. 430-432], where this letter is included with some minor amendments and omissions.
Milton, John (1608 -1674). British poet, intellectual and civil servant; best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost (1667). The work referred to here is Milton, John, 1673. Poems, &c. Upon Several Occasions. Both English and Latin. &c. Composed Several Times. With a Small Tractate of Education To Mr. Hartlib. London: Thomas Dring. The tractate was first published in 1644 as an anonymous pamphlet, addressed to Puritan educator Samuel Hartlib. The John Milton Reading Room. <https://milton.host.dartmouth.edu/reading_room/of_education/intro.shtml> [accessed 5 Feb. 2022].
Lyell, Charles. 1863 [1873]. 4th edition. The Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man. With an Outline of Glacial and Post-Tertiary Geology and Remarks on the Origin of Species with Special Reference to Man's first Appearance on the Earth. London: John Murray. The first edition, in 1863, was published in three parts, with the title The Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man. With Remarks on Theories of the Origin of Species by Variation.
The page is numbered "2" at top centre in ARW's hand.
Galton, Francis (1822-1911). British biostatistician, polymath and founder of eugenics. One of the key figures in 19th Century research into heredity. Half-cousin of Charles Darwin.
Galton, Francis. 1869. Hereditary Genius, an Enquiry into its Laws and Consequences. London: MacMillan & Co.
"I should like ... those last chapters!" is written vertically, in the left-hand margin of the page
Miall, Edward (1809-1881). British politician, journalist, and Congregational minister; active in the Society for the Liberation of Religion from State Patronage and Control, 1853.
Possibly a reference to "Opinions of the Greeks and Romans, and their coincidence with those of the modern progressionist", a section in chapter XIX, "Recapitulation of Geologial Proofs of Man's Antiquity" in Lyell, C. 1863 (see note 3) p. 369.

Please cite as “WCP4866,” in Beccaloni, G. W. (ed.), Ɛpsilon: The Alfred Russel Wallace Collection accessed on 15 July 2024, https://epsilon.ac.uk/view/wallace/letters/WCP4866