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Darwin Correspondence Project

From A. R. Wallace   2 October 1865

9, St. Mark’s Crescent, | Regent’s Park,

Oct 2nd. 1865

Dear Darwin

I was just leaving Town for a few days when I received your letter1 or should have replied at once.

The “Reader” has no doubt changed hands, & I am inclined to think for the better.2 It is purchased I believe by a gentleman who is a fellow of the Anthropolog. Society but I see no signs of its being made a special organ of that Soc.

The Editor (& (I believe Propr.) is a Mr. Bendyshe the most talented man in the Society,3 & judging from his speaking, which I have often heard, I should say the articles on “Simeon & Simony”, “Metropolitan Sewage” and “France & Mexico” are his, & these are in my opinion superior to anything that has been in the “Reader” for a long time;4 they have the point & brilliancy which are wanted to make leading articles readable & popular. The articles on Mill’s Pol. Economy & on Mazzini, are also first rate.5 He has introduced also the plan of having two & now three important articles in each number,—one Political or Social, one literary & one Scientific. Under the old regime they never had an editor above mediocrity, except Masson;6 there was a want of unity among the Proptrs., as to the aims & objects of the Journal; & there was a want of capital to secure the services of good writers.7 This seems to me to be now all changed for the better, & I only hope the rumour of that bète noir the Anthropological Soc., having any thing to do with it, may not cause our best men of science to withdraw their support & contributions.8

I have read Tyler & am reading Lecky. 9 I found the former somewhat disconnected, & unsatisfactory from the absence of any definite result or any decided opinion on most of the matters treated of.

Lecky I like much, though he is rather tedious & obscure at times. Most of what he says has been said so much more forcibly by Buckle whose work I have read for the second time with increased admiration although with a clear view of some of his errors.10 Nevertheless his is I think unapproachably the grandest work of the present century, & the one most likely to liberalise opinion.

Lubbock’s book is very good, but his concluding chapter very weak.11 Why are men of science so dreadfully afraid to say what they think & believe?

In reply to your kind enquiries about myself, I can only say that I am ashamed of my own laziness. I have done nothing lately but write a paper on Pigeons for the “Ibis”,12 & am drawing up a Catalogue of my Collection of Birds.13

As to my “Travels” I cannot bring myself to undertake them yet, & perhaps never shall, unless I should be fortunate enough to get a wife who would incite me thereto & assist me therein,—which is not likely.14

I am glad to hear that the “Origin” is still working its revolutionary way, on the Continent.15 Will Mueller’s book on it, be translated?16

I am glad to hear you are a little better. My poor friend Spruce is still worse than you are, & I fear now will not recover. He wants to write a book if he gets well enough.17

With best wishes Believe me | Dear Darwin | Yours very faithfully | Alfred R. Wallace

C. Darwin Esq.


CD had asked Wallace for confirmation of the rumour that he heard from Joseph Dalton Hooker that the Reader had been sold to members of the Anthropological Society of London (see letter to A. R. Wallace, 22 September [1865]; see also letter from F. H. Hooker, 6 September [1865] and n. 7).
Thomas Bendyshe was both owner and editor of the Reader after August 1865 (Sullivan ed. 1984, p. 3).
Wallace refers to three unsigned leading articles in the Reader. ‘Simeon and simony’ was on the selling of positions in the Church of England (Reader, 9 September 1865, pp. 279–80). ‘Metropolitan sewage’ discussed what to do with London’s sewage output (Reader, 16 September 1865, pp. 307–8). ‘France and Mexico’ reported on Archduke Maximilian of Austria’s becoming emperor of Mexico (Reader, 30 September 1865, pp. 363–4).
The review article ‘Political economy for the million’ discussed the new ‘people’s edition’ issued by the London publisher, Longman, Green, & Co., of works by John Stuart Mill (Reader, 23 September 1865, p. 346). Bendyshe had been expelled from the Conservative Club, London, for voting for Mill at the Westminster election of 12 July 1865 (DNB). ‘Guiseppe Mazzini’, the leading article of the same issue, discussed the career of the Italian revolutionary (Reader, 23 September 1865, pp. 335–6).
David Masson was the editor-in-chief of the Reader from April until the summer of 1863 (Sullivan ed. 1984, p. 349). He was instrumental in increasing the scientific content of the magazine and giving greater coverage to scientific events (Byrne 1964, p. 63).
From December 1864 to July 1865 there was no editor-in-chief of the Reader (Sullivan ed. 1984, p. 349). Editorial responsibilities, especially for the scientific content, were divided among a number of persons, including William Fraser Rae and Thomas Henry Huxley (Byrne 1964, p. 63). For more on the ownership and operation of the Reader, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, 1 January 1865, n. 14, the letter from Herbert Spencer, 22 April 1865, n.1, and the letter from F. H. Hooker, 6 September [1865], n. 7.
The Anthropological Society of London had been founded by James Hunt in January 1863. Hunt had been a member of the Ethnological Society of London from 1856 and joint secretary from 1860 before resigning in 1863 to found his own competing organisation. While the Ethnological Society numbered many leading Darwinians among its members, the Anthropological Society was strongly opposed to Darwinian views. For the rivalry between the two organisations, see Stocking 1987, pp. 248–54; see also Correspondence vol. 12, letter from J. D. Hooker, 9 [March] 1864 and n. 23, and letter from A. R. Wallace, 10 May 1864 and n. 7. Bendyshe was an active member of the Anthropological Society, often translating works from foreign languages to be published by the society (DNB; Stocking 1971, p. 376). Wallace himself had been a member of the Anthropological Society when it was first founded and still attended meetings occasionally as well as publishing articles in the Anthropological Review (see, for example, A. R. Wallace 1864a; see also Stocking 1987, p. 248).
In Buckle 1857–61, Henry Thomas Buckle described the advance of civilisation in England. He linked scientific advancement and economic growth with political liberalism in a progressive view of history. CD was also a great admirer of Buckle’s work (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 13 July 1865, n. 16).
The reference is to Lubbock 1865; see letter to John Lubbock, 11 June [1865] and n. 4.
Wallace’s article, ‘On the pigeons of the Malay Archipelago’, appeared in Ibis, October 1865, pp. 365–400. CD’s lightly annotated presentation copy is in DAR 133: 11.
Wallace’s catalogue ‘On the raptorial birds of the Malayan Archipelago’ appeared in Ibis, January 1868, pp. 1–27, and April 1868, pp. 215–16. He had already published a number of bird lists based on his collection but never completed a comprehensive catalogue (see C. H. Smith ed. 1991 for a complete bibliography of Wallace’s writings). Wallace later wrote that after completing a series of papers on his collections of birds and insects, he had so many interesting areas of research to pursue that he no longer wished to spend time on the mere description of his collections (A. R. Wallace 1905, 1: 404).
CD had recently asked Wallace how his book on his travels was progressing (see letter to A. R. Wallace, 22 September [1865] and n. 3). Earlier, Wallace had written to CD about the sudden breaking off of his engagement (see letter from A. R. Wallace, 20 January 1865 and n. 1). See also A. R. Wallace 1905, 1: 386.
In his letter to Wallace of 22 September [1865], CD had mentioned Fritz Müller’s book (Müller 1864) and also the forthcoming second edition of the French translation of Origin (Royer trans. 1866).
An English translation of Müller 1864 appeared in 1869 (Dallas trans. 1869).
Wallace had met Richard Spruce in July 1849 while they were both collecting in the Amazon basin. Spruce developed an intestinal illness while collecting Cinchona seeds and plants in Ecuador in 1860; the illness eventually left him unable even to sit up for more than short periods of time. He continued to travel in South America for the next four years, but with ever-worsening health, before returning to England. He received a Civil List pension in 1865. In 1869, his condition improved enough for him to resume his botanical work. See Spruce 1908, 1: xxxiv–xxxv; Journal of Botany 32 (1894): 51–2.


Buckle, Henry Thomas. 1857–61. History of civilization in England. 2 vols. London: John W. Parker & Son.

Byrne, John Francis. 1964. The Reader: a review of literature, science and the arts, 1863–1867. PhD thesis. Northwestern University.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

Lecky, William Edward Hartpole. 1865. History of the rise and influence of the spirit of rationalism in Europe. 2 vols. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, & Green.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Spruce, Richard. 1908. Notes of a botanist on the Amazon & Andes, being records of travel … during the years 1849–1864. Edited by Alfred Russel Wallace. 2 vols. London: Macmillan and Co.

Stocking, George W., Jr. 1971. What’s in a name? The origins of the Royal Anthropological Institute (1837–71). Man n.s. 6: 369–90.

Stocking, George W., Jr. 1987. Victorian anthropology. New York: The Free Press. London: Collier Macmillan.

Tylor, Edward Burnett. 1865. Researches into the early history of mankind and the development of civilization. London: John Murray.

Wallace, Alfred Russel. 1905. My life: a record of events and opinions. 2 vols. London: Chapman & Hall.


Information concerning improvements in the Reader under new sponsorship.

Current reading and work [on pigeons for Ibis 1 (1865): 365–400, and catalogue of his collection of birds].

Book of travels postponed indefinitely.

Letter details

Letter no.
Alfred Russel Wallace
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, St Mark’s Crescent, 9
Source of text
DAR 106: B27–30
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4906,” accessed on 6 June 2023,

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