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Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

Wallace's Australasia (S323: 1880)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A letter to the Editor responding to A. H. Everett's criticisms of Wallace's book. Printed on page 562 of the 15 April 1880 issue of Nature. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S323.htm

     Mr. Everett appears surprised that he should have to make any corrections in my brief account, in the above-named work, of Borneo and the Philippines, countries in which he has resided and travelled for many years. My surprise is that he has not been able to make far larger and more important corrections. Residents abroad soon acquire a mass of local information, and naturally think that what has been long familiar to themselves must be well known in England, forgetting that books on such subjects are written at long intervals, and when written rarely contain all the information up to date. I am exceedingly thankful for any additional facts or corrections for a new edition of the book, but I do not acknowledge to "errors" in the omission of facts which were not to be found in any books in English libraries at the time I wrote. I will make a few observations on the chief points in Mr. Everett's letter.

     1. As to the accuracy of the maps I am not responsible, as Mr. Everett might well have supposed in a series of works issued in Mr. Stanford's name. The fact that Palawan and Mindanao are now as completely Spanish possessions as Luzon, is, I think, quite new to British readers.

     2. I certainly omitted the mention of Tupaia among the Philippine mammals by an oversight. In giving a general sketch of the peculiarities of Philippine zoology I should, however, again omit Palawan from consideration, as that island is zoologically more nearly connected with Borneo. In the absence of all other information about Palawan, I took my account chiefly from Crawfurd's "Descriptive Dictionary." He mentions the frizzled hair of the natives, and deer among the wild animals; and as deer abound both in Borneo and the Philippines, their absence in Palawan requires proof rather than their presence.

     3. The detailed range of the rhinoceros and wild cattle in Borneo has not yet, that I am aware, been given by any writer. My general statements, though imperfect, do not seem very far from the truth.

     4. As to what Mr. Everett styles my "extraordinary statement" about the "Idaan" and "Milanow" tribes, I founded it on Mr. Spencer St. John's book. He says (vol. i. p. 396) of the Idaan--"They were a dark, sharp-featured race, intelligent-looking, and appeared in features very much like the Land Dyaks of Sarawak." While of the Milanows he says (i. p. 46) "some are clothed like Mahomedans, others like Dyaks, to which race they undoubtedly belong." As the Milanows live at the mouths of rivers, while the Idaan live inland, I cannot see the "extraordinary" character of the statement that they "correspond" to the division of Land and Sea Dyaks usually made in the Sarawak territory. This does not imply that there are no differences of language, customs, &c., but rather that there are such differences; but if there are radical physical differences they were evidently not known to Mr. St. John, whose long residence in Borneo and great opportunities for acquiring information entitle him to be considered an authority.

     It will be seen that Mr. Everett's new matter is very scanty, and I should not have thought it worth while to do anything more than make use of it, were not his letter written in a somewhat critical spirit, which I think he would not have adopted had he known the great difficulty of obtaining accurate information on the innumerable subjects that have to be treated in a book of so wide a scope as "Australasia," and dealing with countries which have been as yet imperfectly described. Like some other critics, too, he forgets that general statements for popular information, which must be comprised within a few lines, cannot always be made strictly accurate without becoming vague, and thus ceasing to convey any definite ideas.

Alfred R. Wallace

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