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Darwin Correspondence Project

3.15 George Charles Wallich, photo

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In the years around 1868–1871, when professional photographers competed for sittings with Darwin, a doctor called George Charles Wallich approached him with a similar request. Wallich was planning to publish a set of his own photographs of scientists as Eminent Men of the Day. This was clearly patterned on Edward Walford’s Portraits of Men of Eminence (1865–1866), for which Ernest Edwards had provided the photographs, including one of Darwin. However, in a letter to Wallich of 18 April 1869, Darwin declined to come to his London studio to be photographed for this new series. ‘I have already refused some half dozen requests, but none with a quarter of the regret that this causes me.’ The sincerity of Darwin’s regret was proved by an invitation to Wallich to come to Down House, if he thought it worth his while, and to photograph him there – staying overnight if necessary and using the darkroom which had been created for Darwin’s son William. ‘I shall be most happy to do anything I can which you may require.’ In the event, Darwin did not figure among the scientists featured in Eminent Men of the Day, published in 1870–1871. However, in 1871 Wallich did take three separate photographs of Darwin (their character and date are established by the description in a copyright registration), probably on his visit to Down in May of that year. In format and style they resemble those by Elliott and Fry of the same date. In 1875, one of Wallich’s photographs was wood-engraved as a vignette by Moritz Klinkicht, to illustrate an article on Darwin’s ‘services to horticulture’ in The Gardener’s Chronicle. However, although the photographs were published and issued as ‘cartes de visite’ by the firm of W. & D. Downey, they were uncredited and seem to have dropped more or less into oblivion, until surviving copies were identified by John van Wyhe for Darwin, A Companion. Apparently the only one in a public collection is that in the Bancroft Library, which carries the Downeys’ label. A previous unidentified owner wrote on it by hand ‘Bought N.Y. Jan. 1874’. Van Wyhe records that another print was sold at Christie’s in 2005.  

Darwin’s solicitude to help Wallich in 1869 reflected the fact that they had already corresponded about scientific matters. As a military or naval surgeon, Wallich had been on board HMS Bulldog on its north Atlantic voyage of 1860, which was intended to survey the seabed and test the feasibility of laying underwater telegraph cables across to Labrador. As a result of his observations during the voyage, Wallich produced a pamphlet, Notes on the Presence of Animal Life at Vast Depths in the Sea (1860), which reflected his growing interest in marine biology. He sent a copy to Darwin, who responded in a letter full of questions and comments about Wallich’s ideas. The two men were in touch again early in 1872, when Darwin requested permission to use Wallich’s photograph of his daughter Beatrice as an illustration of spontaneous laughter in The Expression of the Emotions – she is the little girl wearing a hat in plate III. Wallich’s presentation of this photograph to Darwin, and his willingness to lend the negative for heliotyping, suggests that they continued to be on good terms. However, Wallich became increasingly embittered about the unfair (as he thought) treatment of his biological research by members of Darwin’s circle, Huxley in particular. 

  • physical location (one variant) Francis P. Farquhar Pictorial Collection, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley 

  • accession or collection number BANC PIC 1954.007- POR (Darwin, Charles-2) 

  • copyright holder Bancroft Library (for this print) 

  • originator of image George Charles Wallich 

  • date of creation probably between May and the end of June 1871 

  • computer-readable date 1871-05-01 to 1871-06-30 

  • medium and material photograph, carte de visite 

  • references and bibliography information kindly provided by Dean Smith of the Bancroft Library. Darwin’s letters to Wallich: 12 Dec. [1860], DCP-LETT-3020; 18 April [1869], DCP-LETT-6701; 24 February [1872], DCP-LETT-8223; and [20 March 1872], DCP-LETT-8248. National Archives, Kew, copyright record 1/17/499, 3 July 1871 (but with no photographs attached); the description indicates that two of the photographs of Darwin were three-quarter views, ‘looking towards his left’, and the other ‘front face’. The Gardener’s Chronicle, n.s. 3:62 (6 March 1875), p. 309. J. van Wyhe, ‘Iconography’, pp. 142, 172–173. 


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