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

Noted Scientist's Letter to Local Man Expounds
Nature Beauty Theory at Meeting (S706c: 1913)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A personal letter to Delacourt Kell, read by Kell at a meeting he attended on 23 November 1913. Printed as part of a story of this title appearing on page 1 of Section Two of The Pomona Daily Review (Pomona, CA) issue of 24 November 1913. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S706C.htm

    In a brilliant paper read by Delacourt Kell before the Outlook Club Sunday night, on "The Meaning of Beauty in Nature," the speaker took the position that certain forms of beauty in plants and animals are of species.

    In this connection he read a letter written to himself by the late Alfred Russell Wallace of England co-founder with Darwin of the Theory of Natural Selection.

    This interesting letter is dated July 31, 1913, from Old Orchard, Broadstone Dorset and addressed to Mr. Kell. It reads as follows:

    "I think you have somehow misunderstood the point of my main argument in my "World of Life," when you object to my supposed view that each special "beauty" in nature was "put there" for the enjoyment of man; and again, that it is the "sole purpose" of such beauty.

    What I have endeavored to prove is that the whole process of life development is and has been one of subservience to law, the chief we can perceive being "survival of the fittest," which implies that every detail in life forms has arisen as it was wanted. In order that this great law (and others which I have suggested) should finally produce man, the whole material universe and especially that portion of it from which organic forms are built up, must have been so constituted as to result in that endless diversity in form, structure, action, habits, etc., which render it so intensely interesting and instructive to man so soon as he has developed enough to study, or even to thing [sic] about it.

    To this is added almost infinite diversities of beauty in form, motion, surface-texture and especially in color, which man's senses and intellect are specially adapted to receive. This exquisite variety of charm is not in the objects themselves, but in our own faculties of perception and enjoyment. Without us it would not necessarily have been beauty at all, as we understand it, but only various useful sensations of diversity.

    To me, the supreme marvel of the universe of life is, that during its development under the law of utility for the ultimate evolution of man it should also have developed all the infinite charms which we are able to perceive and enjoy, while it cannot be proved that any other living thing does so enjoy them. That being so the life-world becomes a greater wonder than ever as the developer and educator of man, who alone enjoys and is educated by these special characteristics of it. There is, therefore, no special adaptation of each beauty for man because the whole is one vast foreseen adaptation for a given end and purpose. Yours truly,

Alfred R. Wallace.

    Whether the above is the true explanation, or whether these variations in form, color, motion and sound which we call beautiful serve other ends in nature Mr. Kell did not attempt to decide, but merely pointed out that in many cases that end could not be beauty.

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