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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Alfred Russel Wallace   20 January 1865

5 Westbourne Grove Terrace | W.

January 20th. 1865

My dear Darwin

I was pleased to hear a few weeks since that you were a little better in health & were again working, & I sincerely hope you are now getting over your severe illness.

For the last six months I have been doing absolutely nothing, & fear I shall not be inclined for work for some time to come. The reason is that I have suffered one of those severe disappointments few men have to endure. I was engaged to be married at ’Xmas, & had every reason to look forward to happiness, when at the last moment, when every thing was arranged, & even the invitations sent out by the lady’s father, all was suddenly broken off! No cause has been given me except mysterious statements of the impossibility of our being happy, although her affection for me remains unchanged. 1

Of course I can only impute it to some delusion on her part as to the state of her health. You may imagine how this has upset me when I tell you that I never in my life before had met with a woman I could love, & in this case I firmly believe I was most truly loved in return.

Scarcely any of my acquaintances know of this, but though we have met so little yet I look upon you as a friend, & as such hope you will pardon my boring you with my private affairs.

I send you two papers of mine of which I have lately got copies,2 & with best wishes for your speedy restoration to perfect health | Believe me | Dear Darwin | Yours very sincerely | Alfred R. Wallace

Charles Darwin Esq—


Wallace had been engaged to Marian Leslie, daughter of Lewis James Leslie (A. R. Wallace, notes for Wallace 1905 (Wallace family papers, private collection); Census returns 1861 (Public Record Office RG9/18: 2)). Wallace discusses the engagement in A. R. Wallace 1905, 1: 409–11. He married Annie Mitten, the eldest daughter of the bryologist William Mitten, in 1866 (A. R. Wallace 1905, 1: 411–12).
A. R. Wallace 1863b and 1864b. An inscribed and annotated copy of A. R. Wallace 1863b is in DAR 133: 10. An annotated copy of A. R. Wallace 1864b is in the collection of unbound journals, Darwin Library–CUL.


His distress that his engagement has been broken off.

Sends copies of two papers ["On the parrots of the Malayan region", Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond. (1864): 279–97;

"On the physical geography of the Malay Archipelago", J. R. Geogr. Soc. 33 (1863): 217–34].

Letter details

Letter no.
Alfred Russel Wallace
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Westbourne Grove Terrace, 5
Source of text
DAR 106: B20–1
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4750,” accessed on 18 September 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13