Alfred Russel Wallace was a prolific writer and left us a mass of information about his life and scientific work. The following extracts, from Wallace's own work and that of other authors, are offered as insights into the man himself from a contemporary perspective.
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 today. He says:
We went to school 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 candle-stick 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 to do our sums, no one seemed to trouble about how we provided the light.
Later on Marchant adds the following aside:
It is curious to note that one destined to become a great traveller and explorer should have found the study of geography "a painful subject."
from Letters and Reminiscences, Volume 1, p.11
It was here, too, that during my solitary rambles I first began to feel the influence of nature and to wish to know more of the various flowers, shrubs and trees I daily met with, but of which for the most part I did not even know the English names. At the same time I hardly realised that there was such a science as a systematic botany, that every flower and every meanest and most insignificant weed had been accurately described and classified, and that there was any kind of system or order in the endless variety of plants and animals which I knew existed. This wish to know the names of wild plants, to be able even to speak of them, and to learn anything that was known about them, had arisen from a chance remark I had overheard about a year before. A lady, who was a governess in a Quaker family we knew at Hertford, was talking to some friends in the street when I and my father met them, and stayed for a few minutes to greet them. I then heard the lady say, "We found quite a rarity the other day - the Monotropa - it had not been found here before." This I pondered over, and wondered what the Monotropa was. All my father could tell me was that it was a rare plant; and I thought how nice it must be to know the names of rare plants when you found them. However, as I did not even know there were books that described every British plant, and as my brother appeared to take no interest in native plants or animals, except as fossils, nothing came of this desire for knowledge till a few years later.
from My Life, Volume 1, pp. 110-111
But, as already stated, the events which formed a turning-point in my life were, first, my acquaintance with Bates, and through him deriving a taste for the wonders of insects-life, opening to me a new aspect of nature, and later on finding in him a companion without whom I might never have ventured on my journey to the Amazon. The other and equally important circumstance was my reading Malthus, without which work I should probably not have hit upon the theory of natural selection and obtained full credit for its independent discovery. My year spent at Leicester must, therefore, be considered as perhaps the most important in my early life.
from My Life, Volume 1, p. 240.
During my constant attendance at the meetings of the Zoological and Entomological Societies and visits to the insect and bird departments of the British Museum, I had obtained sufficient information to satisfy me that the very finest field for an exploring and collecting naturalist was to be found in the great Malayan Archipelago, of which just sufficient was known to prove its wonderful richness, while no part of it, with the exception of the island of Java, had been well explored as regards its natural history. Sir James Brook had recently become Rajah of Sarawak, while the numerous Dutch settlements in Celebes and the Moluccas offered great facilities for a traveller. So far as known also, the country was generally healthy, and I determined that it would be much better for me to go to such a new country than return to the Amazon, where Bates had already been successfully collecting for five years, and where I knew there was a good bird-collector who had been long at work in the upper part of the river towards the Andes.
from My Life, Volume 1, p. 326.
I will tell you how my day is now occupied. Get up at half-past five, bath, and coffee. Sit down to arrange and put away my insects of the day before, and set them in a safe place to dry. Charles mends our insect nets, fills our pin cushions, and gets ready for the day. Breakfast at eight; out to the jungle at nine. We have to walk about a quarter mile up a steep hill to reach it, and arrive dripping with perspiration. Then we wander about in the delightful shade, along paths made by the Chinese wood cutters till two or three in the afternoon, generally returning with fifty or sixty beetles, some very rare or beautiful, and perhaps a few butterflies. Change clothes to sit down to kill and pin insects, Charles doing the flies, wasps and bugs; I do not trust him yet with beetles. Dinner at four, then at work again till six; coffee. Then read or talk, or if insects very numerous, work again till eight or nine. Then to bed.
from The Malay Archipelago, Volume 1, p. 338 (quotation from a letter written on May 28th, 1854).
... and on down the Straits of Malacca, with its richly-wooded shores, to our destination, Singapore, where I was to begin the eight years of wandering throughout the Malay Archipelago, which constituted the central and controlling incident of my life.
from The Malay Archipelago, Vol. 1, pp. 335-336
Here the birds are abundant and most beautiful, more so than on the lower Amazon, and I think I shall soon form a fine collection. ... So far both Charles and I have had excellent health. He can shoot pretty well, and is so fond of it that I can hardly get him to do anything else.
Quotation from a letter mentioned in the text p. 339.
I may as well state here that the "Charles" referred to in the preceding letter was a London boy, the son of a carpenter who had done a little work for my sister, and whose parents were willing for him to go with me to learn to be a collector. He was sixteen years old, but quite undersized for his age, so that no-one would have taken him for more than thirteen or fourteen. He remained with me about a year and a half, and learned to shoot and to catch insects, pretty well, but not to prepare them properly. He was rather of a religious turn, and when I left Borneo he decided to stay with the Bishop and become a teacher. After a year or two, however, he returned to Singapore and got employment on some plantations. About five years later he joined me in the Moluccas as a collector. He had grown to be a fine young man, over six feet. When I returned home he remained in Singapore, married and had a family. He died some fifteen years since.
As above, p. 340.
"In this archipelago there are two distinct faunas rigidly circumscribed which differ as much as do those of Africa and South America and more than those of Europe and North America; yet there is nothing on the map or on the face of the islands to mark their limits. The boundary line passes between islands closer together than others belonging to the same group. I believe the western part to be a separated portion of continental Asia while the eastern part is a fragmentary prolongation of a former west Pacific continent. In mammalia and birds, the distinction is marked by genera, families, and even orders confined to one region; insects by a number of genera and little groups of peculiar species, the families of insects having generally a very wide or universal distribution."
This letter proves that at this time I had not the least idea of the nature of Darwin's proposed work nor of the definite conclusions he had arrived at, nor had I myself any expectation of a complete solution of the great problem to which my paper was merely the prelude. Yet less than two months later that solution flashed upon me, and to a large extent marked out a different line of work from that which I had up to this time anticipated.
As above, pp. 358-359.
It was while waiting at Ternate in order to get ready for my next journey, and to decide where I should go, that the idea already referred to occurred to me. It has been shown how, for the preceding eight or nine years, the great problem of the origin of the species had been continually pondered over, and how my varied observations and study had been made use of to lay the foundation for its full discussion and elucidation. My paper written at Sarawak rendered it certain to my mind that the change had taken place by natural succession and descent - one species becoming changed either slowly or rapidly into another. But the exact process of the change and the causes which led to it were absolutely unknown and appeared almost inconceivable. The great difficulty was to understand how, if one species was gradually changed into another, there continued to be so many quite distinct species, so many which differed from their nearest allies by slight yet perfectly definite and constant characters. One would expect that if it was a law of nature that species were continually changing so as to become in time new and distinct species, the world would be full of an inextricable mixture of various slightly different forms, so that the well-defined and constant species we see would not exist. Again, not only are species, as a rule, separated from each other by distinct external characters, but they almost always differ also to some degree in their food, in the places they frequent, in their habits and instincts, all these characters are quite as definite and constant as are the external characters. The problem then was, not only how and why do species change, but how and why do they change into new and well-defined species, distinguished from each other in so many ways; why and how do they become so exactly adapted to distinct modes of life; and why do all the intermediate grades die out (as geology shows they have died out) and leave only clearly defined and well-marked species, genera, and higher groups of animals.
Now, the new idea or principle which Darwin had arrived at twenty years before, and which occurred to me at this time, answers all these questions and solves all these difficulties, and it is because it does so, and also because it is in itself self-evident and absolutely certain, that it has been accepted by the whole scientific world as affording a true solution of the great problem of the origin of the species.
At the time in question I was suffering from a sharp attack of intermittent fever, and every day during the cold and succeeding hot fits had to lie down for several hours, during which time I had nothing to do but to think over any subjects then particularly interesting me. One day something brought to my recollection Malthus's "Principles of Population", which I had read about twelve years before. I thought of his clear exposition of "the positive checks to increase" - disease, accidents, war, and famine - which keep down the population of savage races to so much lower an average than that of more civilized peoples. It then occurred to me that these causes or their equivalents are continually acting in the case of animals also; and as animals usually breed much more rapidly than does mankind, the destruction every year from these causes must be enormous in order to keep down the numbers of each species, since they evidently do not increase regularly from year to year, as otherwise the world would long ago have been densely crowded with those that breed most quickly. Vaguely thinking over the enormous and constant destruction which this implied, it occurred to me to ask the question, Why do some die and some live? And the answer was clearly, that on the whole the best fitted live. From the effects of disease the most healthy escaped; from enemies, the strongest, the swiftest, or the most cunning; from famine, the best hunters or those with the best digestion; and so on. Then it suddenly flashed upon me that this self-acting process would necessarily improve the race, because in every generation the inferior would inevitably be killed off and the superior would remain - that is, the fittest would survive. Then at once I seemed to see the whole effect of this, that when changes of land and sea, or of climate, or of food-supply, or of enemies occurred - and we know that such changes have always been taking place - and considering the amount of individual variation that my experience as a collector had shown me to exist, then it followed that all the changes necessary for the adaptation of the species to the changing conditions would be brought about; and as great changes in the environment are always slow, there would be ample time for the change to be effected by the survival of the best fitted in every generation. In this way every part of an animal's organization could be modified exactly as required, and in the very process of this modification the unmodified would die out, and thus the definite characters and the clear isolation of each new species would be explained. The more I thought over it the more I became convinced that I had at length found the long-sought-for law of nature that solved the problem of the origin of the species. For the next hour I thought over the deficiencies in the theories of Lamarck and of the author of the "Vestiges," and I saw that my new theory supplemented these views and obviated every important difficulty. I waited anxiously for the termination of my fit so that I might at once make notes for a paper on the subject. The same evening I did this pretty fully, and on the two succeeding evenings wrote it out carefully in order to send it to Darwin by the next post, which would leave in a day or two.
I wrote a letter to him in which I said I hoped the idea would be as new to him as it was to me, and that it would supply the missing factor to explain the origin of the species. I asked him if he thought it sufficiently important to show it to Sir Charles Lyell, who had thought so highly of my former paper.
from My Life, pp. 360-363.
My Dear Wallace,
I have finished your book; it seems to me excellent, and at the same time most pleasant to read. That you ever returned alive is wonderful after all your risks from illness and sea voyages, especially that most interesting one to Waigiou and back. Of all the impressions which I have received from your book, the strongest is that your perseverance in the cause of science was heroic. Your descriptions of catching butterflies have made me quite envious, and at the same time have made me feel almost young again, so vividly have they brought before my mind old days when I collected, though I never made such captures as yours. Certainly collecting is the best sport in the world. I shall be astonished if your book has not great success; and your splendid generalizations on Geographical Distribution, with which I am familiar from your papers, will be new to most of your readers. I think I enjoyed most the Timor case, as it is best demonstrated; but perhaps Celebes is really the most valuable. I should prefer looking at the whole Asiatic continent as having formerly been more African in its fauna, than admitting to the former existence of a continent across the Indian Ocean .......
from The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Volume 3, pp. 113-115.
It will be remembered that Darwin and Wallace, on their respective returns to England, after many years spent in journeyings by land and sea and in laborious research, found the first few months fully occupied in going over their large and varied collections, sorting and arranging with scrupulous care the rare species they had taken, and in discovering the right men to name and classify them into correct groups.
This series of papers on birds and insects (referred to previously), with others on the physical geography of the Archipelago and its various races of man, furnished all the necessary materials for the general sketch of the natural history of these islands, and the many problems arising therefrom, which made The Malay Archipelago the most popular of his (Wallace's) books. In addition to his own personal knowledge, however, some interesting comparisons are drawn between the accounts given by early explorers and the impressions left on his own mind by the same places and people. On the publication of his work in 1869, extensive and highly appreciative reviews appeared in all the leading papers and journals and today it is still looked upon as one of the most trustworthy and informative books of travel.
The Malay Archipelago extends for more than 4,000 miles in length from east to west, and is about 1,300 in breadth from north to south. It would stretch over an expanse equal to that of all Europe from the extreme west far into Central Asia, or would cover the widest parts of South America, and extend far beyond the land into the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. It includes three islands larger than Great Britain; and in one of them, Borneo, the whole of the British Isles might be set down, and would be surrounded by a sea of forests. New Guinea, though less compact in shape, is probably larger than Borneo. Sumatra is about equal in extent to Great Britain; Java, Luzon and Celebes are each about the size of Ireland. Eighteen more islands are, on the average, as large as Jamaica; more than a hundred are as large as the Isle of Wight; while the isles and islets of smaller size are innumerable.
The absolute extent of land in the Archipelago is not greater than that contained by Western Europe from Hungary to Spain; but, owing to the manner in which the land is broken up and divided, the variety of its productions is rather in proportion to the immense surface over which the islands are spread, than to the quantity of land which they contain.
from The Malay Archipelago, Volume 1, pp. 4-5.
The coasts of these islands are very different according to their geological formation. The volcanoes, active or extinct, have steep black beaches of volcanic sand, or are fringed with rugged masses of lava and basalt. Coral is generally absent, occurring in only small patches in quiet bays, and rarely or never forming reefs. Ternate, Tidore, and Makian belong to this class. Islands of volcanic origin, not themselves volcanoes, but which have been probably recently upraised, are generally more or less completely surrounded by fringing reefs of coral, and have beaches of shining white coral sand. Their coasts present volcanic conglomerates, basalt, and in some places a foundation of stratified rocks, with patches of upraised coral. Mareh and Motir are of this character, the outline of the latter giving it the appearance of having been a true volcano, and it is said by Forrest to have thrown out stones in 1778. The next day (Oct. 12th), we coasted along the island of Makian, which consists of a single grand volcano. It was now quiescent, but about tow centuries ago (in 1646) there was a terrible eruption, which blew up the whole top of the mountain, leaving the truncated jagged summit and vast gloomy crater valley which at this time distinguished it. It was said to have been as lofty as Tidore before this catastrophe.
from The Malay Archipelago.
(Not long after Wallace left the Archipelago, on December 29th, 1862, this mountain again erupted and caused great destruction and hardship for the people of the island.)
... I now saw that I had got a great prize, no less than a completely new form of the Bird of Paradise, differing most remarkably from every other known bird. The general plumage is very sober, being a pure ashy olive, with a purplish tinge on the back; the crown of the head is beautifully glossed with pale metallic violet, and the feathers of the front extend as much over the beak as in most of the family. The neck and breast are scaled with fine metallic green, and the feathers on the lower part are elongated on each side, so as to form a two-pointed gorget, which can be folded beneath the wings, or partially erected and spread out in the same way as the side plumes of most of the birds of paradise. The four long white plumes which give the bird its altogether unique character, spring from little tubercles close to the upper edge of the shoulder or the bend of the wing; they are narrow, gently curved, and equally webbed on both sides, of a pure creamy white colour. They are about six inches long, equalling the wing, and can be raised at right angles to it, or laid along the body at the pleasure of the bird. The bill is horn colour, the legs yellow, and the iris pale olive. This striking novelty has been named by Mr. G.R. Gray of the British Museum, Semioptera Wallacei, or "Wallace's Standard Wing."
from The Malay Archipelago, Volume 2, pp. 39-41.
One afternoon we stayed at Makian; many of the men went on shore, and a great deal of plantains, bananas, and other fruits were brought on board. We then went on a little way, and in the evening anchored again. When going to bed for the night, I put out my candle, there being still a glimmering lamp burning, and, missing my handkerchief, thought I saw it on a box which formed one side of my bed, and put out my hand to take it. I quickly drew back on feeling something cool and very smooth, which moved as I touched it. "Bring the light, quick," I cried; "here's a snake." And there he was, sure enough, nicely coiled up, with his head just raised to inquire who had disturbed him. It was now necessary to catch or kill him neatly, or he would escape among the piles of miscellaneous luggage, and we should hardly sleep comfortably. One of the ex-convicts volunteered to catch him with his hand wrapped up in a cloth, but from the way he went about it I saw he was nervous and would let the thing go, so I would not allow him to make the attempt. I then got a chopping-knife, and carefully moving my insect nets, which hung just over the snake and prevented me getting a free blow, I cut him quietly across the back, holding him down while my boy with another knife crushed his head. On examination, I found he had large poison fangs, and it is a wonder he did not bite me when I first touched him.
from The Malay Archipelago, Volume 2, pp. 70-71.
While at Manowolko I had purchased for 100 florins (9l.) a small prau, which was brought over the next day, as I was informed it was more easy to have the necessary alterations made in Goram, where several Ké workmen were settled.
As soon as we began getting my prau ready I was obliged to give up collecting, as I found that unless I was constantly on the spot myself very little work would be done. As I proposed making long voyages in this boat, I determined to fit it up conveniently, and was obliged to do all the inside work myself, assisted by my two Amboynese boys. I had plenty of visitors, surprised to see a white man at work, and much astonished at the novel arrangements I was making in one of their native vessels. Luckily I had a few tools of my own, including a small saw and some chisels, and these were now severely tried, cutting and fitting heavy iron-wood planks for the flooring and the posts that support the triangular mast. Being one of the best London make, they stood the work well, and without them it would have been impossible for me to finish my boat with half the neatness, or in double the time. I had a Ké workman to put in new ribs, for which I bought nails of a Bugis trader, at 8d. a pound. My gimlets were, however, too small; and having no augers we were obliged to bore all the holes with hot irons, a most tedious and unsatisfactory operation.
Five men had engaged to work at the prau till finished, and then go with me to Mysol, Waigiou, and Ternate. Their ideas of work were, however, very different from mine, and I had immense difficulty with them; seldom more than two or three coming together, and a hundred excuses being given for working only half a day when they did come. Yet they were constantly begging advances of money, saying they had nothing to eat. When I gave it them they were sure to stay away the next day, and when I refused any further advances some of them declined working any more. As the boat approached completion my difficulties with the men increased. The uncle of one had commenced a war, or sort of faction fight, and wanted his assistance; another's wife was ill, and would not let him come; a third had fever and ague, and pains in his head and back; and a fourth had an inexorable creditor who would not let him out of his sight. They had all received a month's wages in advance; and though the amount was not large, it was necessary to make them pay it back, or I should get no men at all. I therefore sent the village constable after two, and kept them in custody a day, when they returned about three-fourths of what they owed me. The sick man also paid, and the steersman found a substitute who was willing to take his debt, and receive only the balance of his wages.
from The Malay Archipelago, Volume 2, pp.108-110.
Thus he cultivated the gift of resourcefulness and self-reliance on which he had so often to depend when far removed from all civilisation during his travels on the Amazon and in the Malay Archipelago.
A somewhat amusing instance of this is found in a letter to his sister, dated June 25th, 1855, at a time when he wanted a really capable man for his companion in place of the good-natured but incapable Charles whom he had brought with him from London to teach collecting. In reply to some remarks by his sister about a young man who she thought would be suitable, he wrote: "Do not tell me merely that he is 'a very nice young man.' Of course he is ..... I should like to know whether he can live on rice and salt fish for a week on occasion ... Can he sleep on a board? ... Can he walk twenty miles a day? Whether he can work, for there is sometimes as hard work in collecting as in anything. Can he saw a piece of wood straight? Ask him to make you anything - a little card box, a wooden peg or bottle-stopper, and see if he makes them neat and square."
from Letters and Reminiscences, Volume 1, p.14.
When my boat was at length launched and loaded, I got my men together, and actually set sail the next day (May 27th), much to the astonishment of the Goram people, to whom such punctuality was a novelty. I had a crew of three men and a boy, besides my two Amboyna lads; which was sufficient for sailing, though rather too few if obliged to row much. The next day was very wet, with squalls, calms, and contrary winds, and with some difficulty we reached Kilwaru, the metropolis of the Bugis traders in the far East. As I wanted to make some purchases, I stayed here two days, and sent two boxes of my specimens by a Macassar prau to be forwarded to Ternate, thus relieving myself of a considerable incumbrance.(sic) I bought knives, basins, and handkerchiefs for barter, which with the choppers, cloth, and beads I had brought with me, made a pretty good assortment. I also bought two tower muskets to satisfy my crew, who insisted on the necessity of being armed against attacks of pirates; and with spices and a few articles of food for the voyage nearly my last doit was expended.
from The Malay Archipelago, Volume 2, p. 113.
Not a single person in the village could speak more than a few words of Malay, and hardly any of the people had seen a European before. One most disagreeable result of this was that I excited terror alike in man and beast. Wherever I went, dogs barked, children screamed, women ran away, and men stared as though I were some strange and terrible cannibal monster. Even the pack-horses on the roads and paths would start aside when I appeared and rush into the jungle; and as to those horrid, ugly brutes, the buffaloes, they could never be approached by me; not for fear of my own but of others' safety. They would first stick out their necks and stare at me, and then on a nearer view break loose from their halters or tethers, and rush away helter-skelter as if a demon were after them, without any regard for what might be in their way. Whenever I met buffaloes carrying packs along a pathway, or being driven home to the village, I had to turn aside into the jungle and hide myself till they had passed, to avoid a catastrophe which would increase the dislike with which I was already regarded. Every day about noon the buffaloes were brought into the village and were tethered in the shaded around the houses; an then I had to creep about like a thief by back ways, for no one could tell what mischief they would do children and houses were I to walk among them. If I came suddenly upon a well where women were drawing water or women bathing, a sudden flight was the certain result; which things occurring day after day, were very unpleasant to a person who does not like to be disliked, and who had never been accustomed to be treated as an ogre.
from The Malay Archipelago, Volume 1, pp 349-350.
My house, like all bamboo structures in this country, was a leaning one, the strong westerly winds of the wet season having set all its posts out of the perpendicular to such a degree, as to make me think it might some day possibly go over altogether. It is a remarkable thing that the natives of Celebes have not discovered the use of diagonal struts in strengthening buildings. I doubt if there is a native house in the country two years old and at all exposed to the wind, which stands upright; and no wonder, as they merely consist of posts and joists all placed upright or horizontal, and fastened rudely together with rattans. They might be seen in every stage of the process of tumbling down, from the first slight inclination to such a dangerous slope that it becomes a notice to quit to the occupiers.
as above, p. 351.
During my stay at Rurúkan my curiosity was satisfied by experiencing a pretty sharp earthquake-shock. On the evening of June 29th, at a quarter after eight, as I was sitting reading, the house began shaking with a very gentle, but rapidly increasing motion. I sat still enjoying the novel sensation for some seconds; but in less than half a minute it became strong enough to shake me in my chair, and to make the house visibly rock about, and creak and crack as if it would all to pieces. Then began a cry throughout the village of "Tana goyang! Tana goyang!" (Earthquake! Earthquake!). Everybody rushed out of their houses - women screamed and children cried - and I thought it prudent to go out too. On getting up, I found my head giddy and my steps unsteady, and could hardly walk without falling. The shock continued about a minute, during which time I felt as if I had been turned round and round, and was almost sea-sick. Going into the house again, I found a lamp and a bottle of arrack upset. The tumbler which formed the lamp had been thrown out of the saucer in which it stood. The shock appeared to be nearly vertical, rapid, vibratory, and jerking. It was sufficient, I have no doubt, to have thrown down brick chimneys and walls and church towers; but as the houses here are all low, and strongly framed of timber, it is impossible for them to be much injured, except by a shock that would utterly destroy a European city. The people told me it was ten years since they had a stronger shock than this, at which time many houses were thrown down and some people killed.
as above, pp. 391-392.
The voyage from Waigiou to Ternate was again most tedious and unfortunate, occupying thirty-eight days, whereas with reasonably favourable weather it should not have required more than ten or twelve. Taking my whole voyage in this canoe from Goram to Waigiou and Ternate, I thus summarized my account of it in my Malay Archipelago:
My first crew ran away in a body; two men were lost on a desert island, and only recovered a month later after twice sending in search of them; we were ten times run aground on coral reefs; we lost four anchors; our sails were devoured by rats; our small boat was lost astern; we were thirty-eight days on a voyage which should have taken twelve; we were many times short of food and water; we had no compass-lamp owing to there being not a drop of oil in Waigiou when we left; and, to crown all, during our whole voyage from Goram by Ceram to Waigiou, and from Waigiou to Ternate, occupying in all seventy-eight days (or only twelve days short of three months), all in what was supposed to be the favourable season, we had not one single day of fair wind. We were always close brace up, always struggling against wind, currents, and leeway, and in a vessel that would scarcely sail nearer than eight points from the wind! Every seaman will admit that my first (and last) voyage in a boat of my own was a very unfortunate one.
from The Malay Archipelago, Volume 2, pp. 370-371.
In 1870 he (Darwin) had written to me, "I hope it is a satisfaction to you to reflect - and very few things in my life have been more satisfactory to me - that we have never felt any jealousy towards each other, though in some sense rivals. I believe I can say this of myself with truth, and I am absolutely sure it is true of you." The above long letter (pp. 14-15) will show that this friendly feeling was retained by him to the last, and to have thus inspired and retained it, notwithstanding our many differences of opinion, I feel to be one of the greatest honours of my life.
from My Life: A Record of Events and Opinions, Volume 2, p.16.
The eight years spent by Wallace in this almost unknown part of the world were times of strenuous mental and physical exertion, resulting in the gathering of an enormous amount of matter for future scientific investigation but counterbalanced, unfortunately, by more or less continuous ill-health - which at times made the effort of clear reasoning and close application to scientific pursuits extremely difficult.
An indication of the unwearying application with which he went about his task is seen in the fact that during this period the collected 125,600 specimens of natural history, travelled about 14,000 miles within the archipelago, and made sixty or seventy journeys "each involving some preparation and loss of time", so that "not more than six years were really occupied in collecting."
A faint idea of this long and solitary sojourn in lonely places is given in a letter to his old friend Bates, dated December 24th, 1860, in which he says: "Many thanks for your long and interesting letter. I have myself sacrificed much in the same way as you describe and I think more severely. The kind of taedium vitae you mention I also occasionally experience here. I impute it to a too monotonous existence." And again when he begs his friend to write, as he is "half froze for news."
As already stated, Wallace, at no time during these wanderings, had any escort or protection, having to rely entirely upon his own tact and patience, combined with firmness, in his dealings with the natives. On one occasion he was taken ill and had to remain six weeks with none but native Papuans around him, and he became so attached to them that when saying goodbye it was with the full intention of returning amongst them at a later period. In another place he speaks of sleeping under cover of an open palm-leaf hut as calmly as under the protection of the Metropolitan Police.
from Letters and Reminiscences, Volume 1, pp. 40-41.
The scientific discoveries arising out of these eight years of laborious work and physical hardship were first - with the exception of the memorable essay on Natural Selection - included in his books The Malay Archipelago. The Geographical Distribution of Animals, Island Life and Australasia, besides a number of papers contributed to various scientific journals.
Later, he settled down to his literary work, and, with the exception of one or two visits to the Continent and America, spent the remainder of his life in England - a life full of activity, the results of which still permeate scientific research.
as above, pp. 42-44.
I am writing these concluding words on the second anniversary of his death. Before me lies the telegram which brought me the sad news that he had "passed away very peacefully at 9.25 a.m., without regaining consciousness." He was in his ninety-first year. It was suggested that he should be buried in Westminster Abbey, beside Charles Darwin, but Mrs. Wallace and the family, expressing his own wishes as well as theirs, did not desire it. On Monday, November 10th, he was laid to rest with touching simplicity in the little cemetery of Broadstone, on a pine-clad hill swept by ocean breezes. He was followed on his last earthly journey by his son and daughter, by Miss Mitten, his sister-in-law, and by the present writer. Mrs. Wallace, being an invalid, was unable to attend. The funeral service was conducted by the Bishop of Salisbury (Dr. Ridgeway), and among the official representatives were Prof. Raphael Meldola and Prof. E.B. Poulton representing the Royal Society; the latter and Dr. Scott representing the Linnean Society, and Mr. Joseph Hyder the Land Nationalisation Society. A singularly appropriate monument, consisting of a fossil tree-trunk from the Portland beds, has been erected over his grave upon a base of Purbeck stone, which bears the following inscription:
A year later, on the 10th of December, 1914, his widow died after a long illness, and was buried in the same grave.