Alfred Russel Wallace:Letters and Reminiscences, Vol. 1(txt+pdf+epub+mobi电子书下载)

作者:Marchant, James


Alfred Russel Wallace:Letters and Reminiscences, Vol. 1

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These two volumes consist of a selection from several thousands of letters entrusted to me by the Wallace family and dating from the dawn of Darwinism to the second decade of the twentieth century, supplemented by such biographical particulars and comments as are required for the elucidation of the correspondence and for giving movement and continuity to the whole.

The wealth and variety of Wallace's own correspondence, excluding the large collection of letters which he received from many eminent men and women, and the necessity for somewhat lengthy introductions and many annotations, have expanded the work to two (there was, indeed, enough good material to make four) volumes. The family has given me unstinted confidence in using or rejecting letters and reminiscences, and although I have consulted scientific and literary friends, I alone must be blamed for sins of omission or commission. Nothing has been suppressed in the unpublished letters, or in any of the letters which appear in these volumes, because there was anything to hide. Everything Wallace wrote, all his private letters, could be published to the world. His life was an open book—"no weakness, no contempt, dispraise, or blame, nothing but well and fair."

The profoundly interesting and now historic correspondence between Darwin and Wallace, part of which has already appeared in the "Life and Letters of Charles Darwin" and "More Letters," and part in Wallace's autobiography, entitled "My Life," is here published, with new additions, for the first time as a whole, so that the reader now has before him the necessary material to form a true estimate of the origin and growth of the theory of Natural Selection, and of the personal relationships of its noble co-discoverers.

My warmest thanks are offered to Sir Francis Darwin for permission to use his father's letters, for his annotations, and for rendering help in checking the typescript of the Darwin letters; to Mr. John Murray, C.V.O., for permission to use letters and notes from the "Life and Letters of Charles Darwin" and from "More Letters"; to Messrs. Chapman and Hall for their great generosity in allowing the free use of letters and material in Wallace's "My Life"; to Prof. E.B. Poulton, Prof. Sir W.F. Barrett, Sir Wm. Thiselton-Dyer, Dr. Henry Forbes, and others for letters and reminiscences; and to Prof. Poulton for reading the proofs and for valuable suggestions. An intimate chapter on Wallace's Home Life has been contributed by his son and daughter, Mr. W.G. Wallace and Miss Violet Wallace.J.M.

March, 1916.


In Westminster Abbey there repose, almost side by side, by no conscious design yet with deep significance, the mortal remains of Isaac Newton and of Charles Darwin. "'The Origin of Species,'" said Wallace, "will live as long as the 'Principia' of Newton." Near by are the tombs of Sir John Herschel, Lord Kelvin and Sir Charles Lyell; and the medallions in memory of Joule, Darwin, Stokes and Adams have been rearranged so as to admit similar memorials of Lister, Hooker and Alfred Russel Wallace. Now that the plan is completed, Darwin and Wallace are together in this wonderful galaxy of the great men of science of the nineteenth century. Several illustrious names are missing from this eminent company; foremost amongst them being that of Herbert Spencer, the lofty master of that synthetic philosophy which seemed to his disciples to have the proportions and qualities of an enduring monument, and whose incomparable fertility of creative thought entitled him to share the throne with Darwin. It was Spencer, Darwin, Wallace, Hooker, Lyell and Huxley who led that historic movement which garnered the work of Lamarck and Buffon, and gave new direction to the ceaseless interrogation of nature to discover the [pg 002]"how" and the "why" of the august progression of life. Looking over the long list of the departed whose names are enshrined in our Minster, one has sorrowfully to observe that contemporary opinion of their place in history and abiding worth was not infrequently astray; that memory has, indeed, forgotten their works; and their memorials might be removed to some cloister without loss of respect for the dead, perhaps even with the silent approval of their own day and generation could it awake from its endless sleep and review the strange and eventful course of human life since they left "this bank and shoal of time." But may it not be safely prophesied that of all the names on the starry scroll of national fame that of Charles Darwin will, surely, remain unquestioned? And entwined with his enduring memory, by right of worth and work, and we know with Darwin's fullest approval, our successors will discover the name of Alfred Russel Wallace. Darwin and Wallace were pre-eminent sons of light.

Among the great men of the Victorian age Wallace occupied a unique position. He was the co-discoverer of the illuminating theory of Natural Selection; he watched its struggle for recognition against prejudice, ignorance, ridicule and misrepresentation; its gradual adoption by its traditional enemies; and its final supremacy. And he lived beyond the hour of its signal triumph and witnessed the further advance into the same field of research of other patient investigators who are disclosing fresh phases of the same fundamental laws of development, and are accumulating a vast array of new facts which tell of still richer light to come to enlighten every man born into the world. To have lived through that brilliant period and into the second decade of the twentieth century; to have outlived all contemporaries, having been the co-revealer of the greatest and most far-reaching generalisation in an era which abounded in fruitful discoveries and in [pg 003]revolutionary advances in the application of science to life, is verily to have been the chosen of the gods.

Who and what manner of man was Alfred Russel Wallace? Who were his forbears? How did he obtain his insight into the closest secrets of nature? What was the extent of his contributions to our stock of human knowledge? In which directions did he most influence his age? What is known of his inner life? These are some of the questions which most present-day readers and all future readers into whose hands this book may come will ask.

As to his descent, his upbringing, his education and his estimate of his own character and work, we can, with rare good fortune, refer them to his autobiography, in which he tells his own story and relates the circumstances which, combined with his natural disposition, led him to be a great naturalist and a courageous social reformer; nay more, his autobiography is also in part a peculiar revelation of the inner man such as no biography could approach. We are also able to send inquirers to the biographies and works of his contemporaries—Darwin, Hooker, Lyell, Huxley and many others. All this material is already available to the diligent reader. But there are other sources of information which the present book discloses—Wallace's home life, the large collection of his own letters, the reminiscences of friends, communications which he received from many co-workers and correspondents which, besides being of interest in themselves, often cast a sidelight upon his own mind and work. All these are of peculiar and intimate value to those who desire to form a complete estimate of Wallace. And it is to help the reader to achieve this desirable result that the present work is published.

It may be stated here that Wallace had suggested to the present [pg 004]writer that he should undertake a new work, to be called "Darwin and Wallace," which was to have been a comparative study of their literary and scientific writings, with an estimate of the present position of the theory of Natural Selection as an adequate explanation of the process of organic evolution. Wallace had promised to give as much assistance as possible in selecting the material without which the task on such a scale would obviously have been impossible. Alas! soon after the agreement with the publishers was signed and in the very month that the plan of the work was to have been shown to Wallace, his hand was unexpectedly stilled in death; and the book remains unwritten. But as the names of Darwin and Wallace are inseparable even by the scythe of time, a slight attempt is here made, in the first sections of Part I. and Part II., to take note of their ancestry and the diversities and similarities in their respective characters and environments—social and educational; to mark the chief characteristics of their literary works and the more salient conditions and events which led them, independently, to the idea of Natural Selection.

Finally, it may be remarked that up to the present time the unique work and position of Wallace have not been fully disclosed owing to his great modesty and to the fact that he outlived all his contemporaries. "I am afraid," wrote Sir W.T. Thiselton-Dyer to him in one of his letters (1893), "the splendid modesty of the big men will be a rarer commodity in the future. No doubt many of the younger ones know an immense deal; but I doubt if many of them will ever exhibit the grasp of great principles which we owe to you and your splendid band of contemporaries." If this work helps to preserve the records of the influence and achievements of this illustrious and versatile genius and of the other eminent men who brought the great conception of [pg 005]Evolution to light, it will surely have justified its existence.


I.—Wallace and Darwin—Early Years

As springs burst forth, now here, now there, on the mountain side, and find their way together to the vast ocean, so, at certain periods of history, men destined to become great are born within a few years of each other, and in the course of life meet and mingle their varied gifts of soul and intellect for the ultimate benefit of mankind. Between the years 1807 and 1825 at least eight illustrious scientists "saw the light"—Sir Charles Lyell, Sir Joseph Hooker, T.H. Huxley, Herbert Spencer, John Tyndall, Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace and Louis Agassiz; whilst amongst statesmen and authors we recall Bismarck, Gladstone, Lincoln, Tennyson, Longfellow, Robert and Elizabeth Browning, Ruskin, John Stuart Blackie and Oliver Wendell Holmes—a wonderful galaxy of shining names.

The first group is the one with which we are closely associated in this section, in which we have brought together the names of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace—between whose births there was a period of fourteen years, Darwin being born on the 12th of February, 1809, and Wallace on the 8th of January, 1823.

In each case we are indebted to an autobiography for an account of their early life and work, written almost entirely from memory when at an age which enabled them to take an unbiased view of the past.

The autobiography of Darwin was written for the benefit of his [pg 006]family only, when he was 67; while the two large volumes entitled "My Life" were written by Wallace when he was 82, for the pleasure of reviewing his long career. These records are characterised by that charming modesty and simplicity of life and manner which was so marked a feature of both men.

In the circumstances surrounding their early days there was very little to indicate the similarity in character and mental gifts which became so evident in their later years. A brief outline of the hereditary influences immediately affecting them will enable us to trace something of the essential differences as well as the similarities which marked their scientific and literary attainments.

The earliest records of the Darwin family show that in 1500 an ancestor of that name (though spelt differently) was a substantial yeoman living on the borders of Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. In the reign of James I. the post of Yeoman of the Royal Armoury of Greenwich was granted to William Darwin, whose son served with the Royalist Army under Charles I. During the Commonwealth, however, he became a barrister of Lincoln's Inn, and later the Recorder of the City of Lincoln.

Passing over a generation, we find that a brother of Dr. Erasmus Darwin "cultivated botany," and, when far advanced in years, published a volume entitled "Principia Botanica," while Erasmus developed into a poet and philosopher. The eldest son of the latter "inherited a strong taste for various branches of science ... and at a very early age collected specimens of all kinds." The youngest son, Robert Waring, father of Charles Darwin, became a successful physician, "a man of genial temperament, strong character, fond of society," and was the possessor of great psychic power by which he could readily sum up the characters of others, and even occasionally read their thoughts. A [pg 007]judicious use of this gift was frequently found to be more efficacious than actual medicine! To the end of his life Charles Darwin entertained the greatest affection and reverence for his father, and frequently spoke of him to his own children.

From this brief summary of the family history it is easy to perceive the inherited traits which were combined in the attractive personality of the great scientist. From his early forbears came the keen love of sport and outdoor exercise (to which considerable reference is made in his youth and early manhood); the close application of the philosopher; and the natural aptitude for collecting specimens of all kinds. To his grandfather he was doubtless indebted for his poetic imagination, which, consciously or unconsciously, pervaded his thoughts and writings, saving them from the cold scientific atmosphere which often chills the lay mind. Lastly, the geniality of his father was strongly evidenced by his own love of social intercourse, his courtesy and ready wit, whilst the gentleness of his mother—who unfortunately died when he was 7 years old—left a delicacy of feeling which pervaded his character to the very last.

No such sure mental influences, reaching back through several generations, can be traced in the records of the Wallace family, although what is known reveals the source of the dogged perseverance with which Wallace faced the immense difficulties met with by all early pioneer travellers, of that happy diversity of mental interests which helped to relieve his periods of loneliness and inactivity, and of that quiet determination to pursue to the utmost limit every idea which impressed his mind as containing the germ of a wider and more comprehensive truth than had yet been generally recognised and accepted.

The innate reticence and shyness of manner which were noticeable all through his life covered a large-heartedness even in the [pg 008]most careful observation of facts, and produced a tolerant disposition towards his fellow-men even when he most disagreed with their views or dogmas. He was one of those of whom it may be truly said in hackneyed phrases that he was "born great," whilst destined to have "greatness thrust upon him" in the shape of honours which he received with hesitation.

From his autobiography we gather that his father, though dimly tracing his descent from the famous Wallace of Stirling, was born at Hanworth, in Middlesex, where there appears to have been a small colony of residents bearing the same name but occupying varied social positions, from admiral to hotel-keeper—the grandfather of Alfred Russel Wallace being known as a victualler. Thomas Vere Wallace was the only son of this worthy innkeeper; and, being possessed of somewhat wider ambitions than a country life offered, was articled to a solicitor in London, and eventually became an attorney-at-law. On his father's death he inherited a small private income, and, not being of an energetic disposition, he preferred to live quietly on it instead of continuing his practice. His main interests were somewhat literary and artistic, but without any definite aim; and this lack of natural energy, mental and physical, reappeared in most of the nine children subsequently born to him, including Alfred Russel, who realised that had it not been for the one definite interest which gradually determined his course in life (an interest demanding steady perseverance and concentrated thought as well as physical enterprise), his career might easily have been much less useful.

It was undoubtedly from his father that he acquired an appreciation of good literature, as they were in the habit of hearing Shakespeare and similar works read aloud round the fireside on winter nights; whilst from his mother came artistic and business-like instincts[pg 009]—several of her relatives having been architects of no mean skill, combining with their art sound business qualities which placed them in positions of civic authority and brought them the respect due to men of upright character and good parts.

During the chequered experiences which followed the marriage of Thomas Vere Wallace and Mary Ann Greenell there appears to have been complete mutual affection and understanding. Although Wallace makes but slight reference to his mother's character and habits, one may readily conclude that her disposition and influence were such as to leave an indelible impression for good on the minds of her children, amongst her qualities being a talent for not merely accepting circumstances but in a quiet way making the most of each experience as it came—a talent which we find repeated on many occasions in the life of her son Alfred.

It is a little curious that each of these great scientists should have been born in a house overlooking a well-known river—the home of the Darwins standing on the banks of the Severn, at Shrewsbury, and that of the Wallaces a stone's throw from the waters of the romantic and beautiful Usk, of Monmouthshire.

With remarkable clearness Dr. Wallace could recall events and scenes back to the time when he was only 4 years of age. His first childish experiment occurred about that time, due to his being greatly impressed by the story of the "Fox and the Pitcher" in Æsop's Fables. Finding a jar standing in the yard outside their house, he promptly proceeded to pour a small quantity of water into it, and then added a handful of small stones. The water not rising to the surface, as it did in the fable, he found a spade and scraped up a mixture of earth and pebbles which he added to the stones already in the jar. The result, [pg however, proving quite unsatisfactory, he gave up the experiment 010]in disgust and refused to believe in the truth of the fable. His restless brain and vivid imagination at this early period is shown by some dreams which he could still recall when 82 years of age; whilst the strong impression left on his mind by certain localities, with all their graphic detail of form and colour, enabled him to enjoy over again many of the simple pleasures that made up his early life in the beautiful grounds of the ancient castle in which he used to play.

The first great event in his life was the journey undertaken by ferry-boat and stage-coach from Usk to Hertford, to which town the family removed when he was 6 years old, and where they remained for the next eight years, until he left school.

The morning after their arrival an incident occurred which left its trace as of a slender golden thread running throughout the fabric of his long life. Alfred, with child-like curiosity about his new surroundings, wandered into the yard behind their house, and presently heard a voice coming from the other side of the low wall, saying, "Hallo! who are you?" and saw a boy about his own age peering over the top. Explanations followed, and soon, by the aid of two water-butts, the small boys found themselves sitting side by side on the top of the wall, holding a long and intimate conversation. Thus began his friendship with George Silk, and by some curious trend of circumstances the two 1families became neighbours on several subsequent occasions, so that the friendship was maintained until in due course the boys [pg 011]separated each to his own way in life—the one to wander in foreign lands, the other to occupy a responsible position at home.

After spending about a year at private schools, Alfred Wallace was sent with his brother John to Hertford Grammar School. His recollections of these school days are full of interest, especially as contrasted with the school life of to-day. He says: "We went to school even in the winter at seven in the morning, and three days a week remained till five in the afternoon; some artificial light was necessary, and this was effected by the primitive method of every boy bringing his own candle or candle-ends with any kind of candlestick he liked. An empty ink-bottle was often used, or the candle was even stuck on to the desk with a little of its own grease. So that it enabled us to learn our lessons or do our sums, no one seemed to trouble about how we provided the light."





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