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

Letters of Alfred Russel Wallace to Lester F. Ward
(S710: 1935)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: The title of a note by Bernhard J. Stern printed in the April 1935 issue of The Scientific Monthly featuring five letters from Wallace to Ward sent over an eleven year period. Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S710.htm

[[p. 377]] Godalming, England, September 25, 1887

    The receipt with other books &c. of your very fine & interesting "Flora of the Laramie Group" [U. S. Geological Survey, Sixth Annual Report--Washington 1887--pp. 399-557]--reminds me that I must write to you, not only to thank you for it, but also to let you know that I have reached home & to give you a short résumé of my tour after leaving Washington.

    I staid a week at Cincinnati & saw there the spring flora pretty well developed in some of the bits of forest near the City; and also visited several of the Ohio mounds. At Sioux City, Iowa, I met Miss Bandusia Wakefield, a fine botanical artist & amateur botanist. At Lawrence, Kansas, I saw their (the University's) fine collection of Cretaceous Plants from the Sandstone nodules containing some very remarkable forms. At Manhattan, Kansas, Prof. Popenhoe took me on an excursion & showed me a good deal of the interesting Prairie flora which on some of the rocky hills was very rich and peculiar, and I saw more of it at Salina, Kan., where I staid a week. In California (end of May) I was too late for the beautiful spring [[p. 378]] flowers, though at the Yosemite & "Bigbees" [[sic "Big trees"]] I saw some of the forest flora--the coniferous forests of the Sierra being grand beyond description; but on my return in July, I staid a week on the summit of Sierra Nevada & found the sub-alpine flora in perfection and very beautiful. I next staid a week in the Colorado Rockies, in the vicinity of Gray's Peak, which I ascended on foot, where I was enchanted with the glorious alpine vegetation above the timberline, 11,000-14,000 feet. I sent home parcels of plants every day, and am glad to find that a large portion of them have arrived safe. Should you ever go to that neighborhood let me recommend you to go up a valley called "Grizzly Gulch" which is far more "flowery" than the usual trail to Gray's Peak. I left this spot with regret but I had to give a lecture at the Ag. College of Michigan, near Lansing in the end of July. There Professors Beal and Bailey kindly showed me the native vegetation in some tracts of virgin forest & bog, full of Saracenias & Habenaria ciliaris, & a great number of ferns, some of which I sent home. Finding the heat very great & the country too much dried up to be interesting to me, I spent a week with the Allens at Kingston, Can., & then sailed from Montreal the 10th August. During all my journeys I was very well in health except that I suffered from inflamed eyes which has become almost chronic so that I cannot work or read at night. If you have made your excursion to the Yellowstone, I suppose you will have returned by this time, and if you should have brought any seeds of showy flowers I should be glad of a few. There are also a few Washington plants I should like. A fine pea--was it Lathyrus venosus or Clitoria mariana you said you could send me seeds of? I should also like some roots of Viola pedata var. bicolor, Silene pennsylvanica, Orchis spectabilis, & Cypripedium acaule. These will come well if the roots are tied up in damp moss, the leaves if any in dry moss, & the whole packed up in a roll in oiled paper or tea-lead with dry moss. The limit of weight is now 8 3/4 oz. so boxes are too heavy. Prof. Beal has sent me some plants in oiled paper which have come well.

    Hoping you are quite well, and with kind remembrances to Mrs. Ward, and to all my Washington friends, Believe me,

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Godalming, England, December 24, 1887

   Thank you very much for sending me a copy of your valuable work on Dynamic Sociology. I have spoken of it to several friends here & have lent it to one of the masters of Charterhouse School, who is much pleased with many parts of it. Your excellent account of the Philosophy of H. Spencer & of Comte is greatly admired.

    I am much pleased that Mrs. Ward should have read my "Island Life" & been interested in it. I think she would find my "Tropical Nature" more generally interesting.

    I should have much liked to have seen "High Island" in May & June but the fates forbade. Your spring is so dreadfully long coming! We have had no snow yet & very little frost, & my garden is full of young plants coming up ready for spring, Narcissi, Snowdrops, Anemones, White lilies, &c. while two or three species of Helleborus, which we call Christmas roses, are in flower. Thus the interest in our gardens never ceases, & every month in the year can afford some few out-of-door flowers. In this respect only California & Florida can equal us. Hoping to receive the promised seeds & plants next summer,

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Parkstone, Dorset, November 21, 1893

    Many thanks for sending me your new book--The Psychic Factors of Civilization. I have read the third part through, carefully, & think your exposition of the scientific character of Socialism as opposed to Herbert Spencer's Individualism exceedingly forcible, and calculated to do much good. I have also looked through & read a good deal of the first & second parts, which however being so purely psychological does not interest me so much. Chapter XVII on Social Friction is however an exception, & seems rather out of place, & would come better in the 3rd part. If these were embodied together, with a good deal more of concrete illustration, it would form an excellent work on the Scientific Basis of Socialism which would have great value as a weapon against the individualist school, and would enlighten many who are now blinded by the prestige of Spencer & the Political Economists. The greater part of your book is so purely philosophical and it is so difficult to see the bearing of several of the chapters on Social reform, that I fear it will not reach beyond students of philosophy & psychology, & thus have less influence than it deserves to have in shaping public opinion as to the true method of political and Social advance.

    No doubt we are advancing on the very lines you point out as the true ones, but only empirically, and so much in the very teeth of the popular political economy that politicians only give way to it as a concession to the demands of the populace. I think I shall try to make known your doctrine in the form of a popular review article, though it will be a difficult job.

    How dreadfully Herbert Spencer has fallen off in his Justice. Parts of it are so weak and [[p. 379]] illogical as to be absolutely childish. You have no doubt seen H. George's severe criticism of it.

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Parkstone, Dorset, June 7, 1894

    I am glad to hear you are coming to England. I shall not be at Oxford myself as I have long given up attending the Association, but I shall hope to see you here, either before or afterwards, & shall be glad to give you a bed for a few days & accompany you to Weymouth & Portland. You will probably meet Carruthers of the Nat. Hist. Museum, who, if I mistake not, has also studied the Cycads, & no doubt they have a fine collection at South Kensington. I have no doubt Mr. Mensell-Pleydell--a good local botanist & geologist, author of the "Flora of Dorsetshire"--would accompany us to Portland & shew you the best localities for the plant-remains. At Portland there are fine specimens of trunks 20 feet long & more outside some of the houses, and I dare say there are some good private collections, & also at the Dorchester Museum.

    We are here moving on rapidly towards Socialism, more so, I think, than you in America. The majority of our more intelligent workers are socialists, but of a reasonable type, who never even think of force, but of educating their fellow-workers & then carrying out their own ideas & principles by the majority they will some day have in Parliament.

    Please let me know when to expect you. There are trains from Oxford here.

*                 *                 *

Parkstone, Dorset, England, October 12, 1898

    I should have acknowledged your Outlines of Sociology long ago, but I was busy bringing out my own book, and with discussions & correspondence on the Vaccination question. I read most of the chapters of your book in the copies of the original papers which you were so good as to send me, but I am glad to have the connected whole, which contains I think some of the best things re Sociology you have written. Never was sound teaching on the subject more wanted, and wise legislation, if we are not to be soon plunged into a revolution I have been reading with great interest Mr. Wyckoff's papers on the Workers in Scribners Magazine, and I ask myself how much longer will men continue to work at their highest tension for a bare supply of necessaries and with no prospect of rest and comfort in old age. And even to get work at all, on these terms becomes increasingly difficult. The whole miserable system--or want of system--has also been brought more vividly before me by my son's experience in America where he has now been a year and a half. He has had the best education I could give him in Electrical Engineering--3 years in College and 3 years in the workshops & at various jobs. So far, in America, he has been able to get nothing but labourer's or lineman's work at moderate wages, but the bosses always keep them at high pressure for nine hours a day, after which of course they are not fit for much but eating and sleeping. He enjoys the work greatly, being young and strong, especially as it has enabled him to see already a good deal of the country & people. He & a friend who went out with him worked their way, mainly bicycling, from Boston through the Adirondacks to Niagara, Chicago, and to Denver, and they want to go across to California if they can manage it. He is a thorough Socialist, and makes friends with most of the men he works with, but after a job they often have weeks or months of idleness before they get another. What a terrible thing it is that under the present social system, the vast majority of workers, however steady and well educated, have, and can have, no prospect but a life of toil and an old age of poverty or worse--and this when the work actually done, is properly organized, would provide not only necessaries but comforts for all, with ample leisure and a restful old age. Surely the coming century must see the end of the existing system of cut-throat competition, and wealth production based on the misery & starvation of the millions!

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Copyright: Alfred Russel Wallace Literary Estate.

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