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Darwin Correspondence Project

From A. B. Buckley   7 November 1880

1 St Mary’s Terrace | Paddington W.

Nov 7. 1880.

Dear Mr. Darwin,

It is all right as far as regards Mr. Wallace himself—

I told him that you & Mr. Huxley thought him entitled to a Govt. pension if it could be got—1 At first he hesitated but when I represented that such men as Joule & Faraday had received it2 he said “I confess it would be a very great relief to me and if such men as Darwin & Huxley think I may accept it it suppose I may”—adding “I really have some claim, for most naturalists & travellers on their return from a foreign country have been given some post, & I have tried for one in vain”.

It seems some friend suggested it to him some time ago but he rejected the idea; but now that it comes from men like yourself & Huxley who can appreciate his work it makes a difference—

I could not get the memorial lists but when I said that you would have only a few good names & suggested the Duke of Argyll,3 Mr. Wallace said he is just the man who would probably give his name with pleasure—

He quite understands that the result is very doubtful & indeed he said very little about it, for when I had once ascertained his views I did not want to lead him to dwell upon it—

I have nothing I think to add to the notes I gave you.4 I enclose a very brief statement which may be of some use, though of the real value of his work you can speak best—

From my short conversation yesterday I am more than ever sure that your generous efforts if they succeed will really confer a great boon on Mr. Wallace & relieve him of anxiety—

If I can look out anything more for you please let me know—

With kind remembrances to Mrs. Darwin | Yours very sincerely | Arabella B Buckley


He gave up his profession of surveyor & architect from pure love of Natural History & depended entirely on his collections for his remuneration— The loss of these collections sent him to the Malay ⁠⟨⁠archipelago⁠⟩⁠ & on his return from there in 1862 he began at once to try for some post as naturalist & curator—5 The East London Museum was as nearly promised to him as was possible before the building was concluded, & the loan of Sir R Wallace’s pictures giving a new turn to the use of the building threw him out—6 His failure with regard to Epping Forest7 & other appointments has led him to give up all idea at his age of obtaining a post— Want of success in some investments has diminished his income & he is dependent now chiefly on his writings which are (not very) remunerative in an inverse ratio to their true value—

His chief claims seem to be

That he has opened out a knowledge of the whole flora & fauna of the Malay Archipelago of which specimens are in the British & other museums—

His share in the question of the Origin of Species—

And above all his application of this theory to the Geographical distribution of Animals8

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘Tropical | Nature | 370’ pencil
End of enclosure: ‘His views of the [illeg] of animals—which illustrates together with colouration [‘in’ del] originality of his mind’ pencil


CD had been asked by Thomas Henry Huxley to prepare a statement of Alfred Russel Wallace’s claims for a government pension (see letter to A. B. Buckley, 31 October [1880]).
Michael Faraday received a civil list pension in 1835; James Prescott Joule received one in 1878 (ODNB). On the history of civil list pensions, see MacLeod 1970.
For Buckley’s notes on Wallace, see Appendix VI.
On Wallace’s work as a surveyor, the loss of his South American collections, and his activities after his return to England in 1862, see Raby 2001, pp. 15–19, 81, and 163–83.
Wallace had hoped to be appointed director of a new branch of the South Kensington Museum at Bethnal Green in east London (see Raby 2001, pp. 199, 206, 211, and Fichman 2004, p. 60). When the museum opened in 1872, it displayed Richard Wallace’s large collection of paintings and French decorative arts (see Lasic 2014).
On Wallace’s failure to obtain the post of superintendent of Epping Forest, see Correspondence vol. 27, letter from A. B. Buckley, 16 December 1879 and n. 1, and Raby 2001, pp. 218–21).


Darwin, Charles and Wallace, Alfred Russel. 1858. On the tendency of species to form varieties; and on the perpetuation of varieties and species by natural means of selection … Communicated by Sir Charles Lyell … and J. D. Hooker. [Read 1 July 1858.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Zoology) 3 (1859): 45–62. [Shorter publications, pp. 282–96.]

Fichman, Martin. 2004. An elusive Victorian: the evolution of Alfred Russel Wallace. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lasic, Barbara. 2014. Going east: the Wallace collection at Bethnal Green, 1872–1875. Journal of the History of Collections 26: 249–61.

MacLeod, Roy M. 1970. Science and the civil list, 1824–1914. Technology + Society 6: 47–55.

Raby, Peter. 2001. Alfred Russel Wallace: a life. London: Chatto & Windus.

Wallace, Alfred Russel. 1876a. The geographical distribution of animals, with a study of the relations of living and extinct faunas as elucidating the past changes of the earth’s surface. 2 vols. London: Macmillan and Co.


Has spoken to Wallace to see if reluctant to accept a Government pension. He would accept if CD and Huxley believe it justified. Encloses details of Wallace’s efforts to obtain a position as naturalist and his claims for a pension.

Letter details

Letter no.
Arabella Burton Buckley
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 160: 370
Physical description
ALS 6pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12802,” accessed on 19 April 2024,