RECORD: S707ah. Wallace, A. R. 1863. [Letter to Henry Walter Bates, c. 1863]. In: Clodd, Edward. 1916. Memories. London: Chapman and Hall, pp. 64-65.

REVISION HISTORY: Body text helpfully provided by Charles H. Smith from his Alfred Russel Wallace Page
Additions by John van Wyhe.

[page] 64

Among Bates's papers I found the following tribute to his book from his co-explorer, Alfred Russel Wallace. After nearly two years' work together they parted company, finding it more convenient to explore separate districts and collect independently. The result was  Bates's book on the Amazons, and Wallace's on the  Rio Negro.

"5, Westbourne Grove Terrace, W.,
"Thursday [1863].

"Dear Bates,

"Supposing you are still in Leicester I write a few lines to tell you that I have just finished reading your book, from which I have derived much pleasure. It has recalled to me old and familiar scenes which had almost faded away from memory like a dream.

"I am therefore, perhaps, not well-fitted to judge of its effect on the public; as for me it has an altogether peculiar charm, but it is so thoroughly well written, the style is so easy and the matter generally so new and interesting that I am sure most persons who will read it carefully will be pleased and delighted.

"The bits of Natural History are very good, and they too have a charm for me on account of our opinions on such topics which, perhaps, others may not feel in an equal degree. Your vindication of butterfly study at Vol. II. p. 326, is in particular most admirable. Your estimate of the character of the Indian is, I think, very just, and you have dwelt upon it so that I think it will leave a distinct impression upon any reader.

"The most interesting part to me is the latter half of Vol. II., as it is the most novel. To others the whole book will probably be equally delightful.

"I see no signs of labour in the style, neither do I detect any of that flowery exaggeration you had led me to expect. There is not a line nor an epithet on

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subjects of natural scenery, vegetable and animal life, that I cannot fully support and agree with. On the whole I must congratulate you on having produced so extremely pleasant and interesting a book, which I am sure will delight all who know you, and if the general public do not also appreciate it, it will show that they have no taste left for unadulterated and unsensational books of travel. Thanks for the kind manner in which you have mentioned my name.

"I remain, dear Bates,
"Yours very faithfully,
"Alfred R. Wallace."

As is well-known, Wallace, when in the Malay Archipelago, independently arrived at exactly the same theory of the origin of species which was formulated by Darwin after years of study of the problem. But to the end of his life, Wallace rejected the theory as applicable to man's intellectual and spiritual nature, contending that these can have an adequate cause only in the unseen universe of Spirit, in other words, that there was a stage in man's development when the Almighty imported a "soul" into him. At what stage remains vague, and by what method, undetermined. The result, in Wallace's case, was belief in Spiritualism as adducing evidence, through mediums, of survival after death as a definite, real and practical conviction. So he argues, in his credulous way, in his book on Miracles and Modern Spiritualism.

Concerning this aberration of a presumably keen intellect, Bates told me the following. When the two were in Leicester, they went to a lecture on what was then called "Electro-biology" or "Animal magnetism." One of the audience was asked to come on the platform

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to submit to be hypnotized, this being effected by continuous staring at a strong light until the nerve centres of the eyes were fatigued and the balance of the nervous system upset, the subject falling into paralysis of will and unconsciously performing all sorts of antics, e. g. nursing a pillow as if it were a baby, and dancing ridiculously to music. After the two left the hall, Wallace expressed the conviction that the phenomena were brought about by spiritual, that is, supernatural, influences!

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Citation: John van Wyhe, ed. 2012-. Wallace Online. (

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