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

 
 
Letters to Edward Westermarck (S712: 1940)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: Fourteen letters from Wallace to Edward Westermarck, concerning the writing of the latter's The History of Human Marriage. These were included in the article "Letters From Edward B. Tylor and Alfred Russel Wallace to Edward Westermarck; Ed. With Introductory Remarks Concerning the Publication of The History of Human Marriage" by K. Rob. V. Wikman that appeared in 1940 as Acta Academiae Aboensis Humaniora XIII.7. The Wallace letters make up the second half of the work. Note that there are several apparent minor editing errors in the source material that I have not bothered to correct. Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S712.htm


[[p. 13]] Wallace to Westermarck.

I.
Parkstone, Dorset, England
Jany. 29th. 1890.
Mr. Edward Westermarck.

Dear Sir

    I thank you very much for sending me your excellent Essay on »The Origin of Human Marriage».--I have not studied the question myself, but I have long felt and believed that the theory of primitive promiscuity of McLennan, Lubbock, Tylor and others was untrue, and I am [[p. 14]] very much pleased at the admirable and thorough way in which you have exposed its fallacy.

    Yours facts and your arguments seem to me quite conclusive and must, I am sure, carry conviction to most persons who have not committed themselves to the opposite view.

Believe me
Yours very sincerely
Alfred R. Wallace.


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II.
Decr. 4th. 1890.
Edw. Wastermarck, Esq.

Dear Sir

    I shall be glad to read your chapter on »Sexual selection among Animals» if you think it will not be sufficient for me to read it in the proof. I shall be very glad to see you in a week or two, but at present my small house is being altered and the builders have hardly left us a room to inhabit.

Yours very truly
Alfred R. Wallace.


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III.
Decr. 11th. 1890.
Edw. Wastermarck, Esq.

Dear Sir

    I return you the first proof the of your book with only one or two verbal alterations or suggestions.

Yours truly
Alfred R. Wallace.


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[[p. 15]] IV.
Decr. 17th. 1890.
Edward Westermarck, Esq.

Dear Sir

    I would rather you would put off your visit here a week or two because we have now builders in the house, most of our rooms are uninhabitable and we are altogether too full of dirt and discomfort to receive a visitor. When you come, there is a train from Waterloo Station at 8.5 am. if you would not mind starting so early: you would then reach here a little before 1 pm. and you could have lunch with us and return if you like either at 3. or 5.40 pm. reaching London at 7.40 or 9.50.

Yours very truly
Alfred Wallace.

The next morning train is at 11.15 reaching here at 3.31.
A. R. W.


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V.
Febr. 6th. 1891.
Edw. Westermarck, Esq.

Dear Sir

    Please do not send me 2nd. proofs of your book. It will read either the first or the second proofs, but not both. It is quite unnecessary and only confusing to me.

Believe me
Yours faithfully
Alfred R. Wallace.


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[[p. 16]] VI.
March 12th. 1891.
Edw. Westermarck, Esq.

My dear Sir

    Notwithstanding your full and ingenious discussion of the origin of sexual modesty in Chap. IX and of the concealment of the organs of generation, I cannot feel quite satisfied with it. Although there are many instances among savages of perfect nudity in one or both sexes, these are, after all, very few in comparison with those in which some regular concealment by clothing occurs. This is so general that I should think nine-tenths of all savages use it. There are several considerations which place the concealment of the sexual organs in a different category from concealment by clothing of other parts of the body. Sexual union among all peoples occurs normally at night, and there are I believe no people recorded among whom it is practised openly, at all times, and with no concealment. This may have arisen partly from the helplessness against attack of both parties, and also because the females, even of animals, require a considerable amount of solicitation or courting to obtain consent. Why this if there is no feeling that the act is different from all other acts, --a feeling of shame or modesty? Again, the erect attitude of man exposes the sexual organs more to accidental blows or wounds, or to be seized by an enemy, and this would naturally lead to the bandaging of the penis, especially among people who did not constantly carry shields to protect the body. Even the completely naked women of the Uaupes showed great sense of modesty in their attitudes, always turning sideways on meeting a man, and when sitting, so disposing the legs as to well conceal the pudenda.

    I am therefore disposed to think that a sense of sexual modesty arose in man with the erect posture, and that the comparatively few cases in which it now appears to be non-existent are perversions or reversions, and do not show the normal condition of savage man. Perhaps if you [[p. 17]] think over the subject from this point of view you may add a par. but I do not wish you to quote anything I have said here, which is merely a suggestion for your consideration.

Yours very faithfully
Alfred R. Wallace.

P. S. I would add that travellers are apt to exaggerate nudity or the absense of modesty and that their statements not unfrequently apply to the exception rather to the rule.
A. R. W.


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VII.
March 20th. 1891.
Edw. Westermarck, Esq.

Dear Sir

    Your interesting letter does not yet convince me of the correctness of your view, as to rudimentary dress (concealing the pudenda) being wholly due to desire to excite the sexual passions. I see no facts supporting it, and it seems to me improbable. However, as you have fully considered the matter, you have a right to your opinion,-- but I think it would be well to give the substance of your letter to me in your book, either as text or a note. It will show you have considered the other views and have rejected them. Your short chapter on Sexual Selection is very interesting to me because as an independent reasoner I find that your views very nearly approach mine. I have made several observations in pencil on the margin, where your facts are not quite accurate.

    You carry the importance of recognition even farther than I have done, and I am very glad of your support in this. But I feel sure that there is a normal production of colour in animate as in inanimate nature, [[p. 18]] which is modified or directed for utility but not produced by it. Else why colour in internal organs blood, bile, etc. in sightless organisms as bivalve Molluscs and in the mineral kingdom? The hair of man, --black, red or flaxen, --is certainly produced by physiological causes in correlation with other physical characters, --and is not due to utility in itself. Again the brilliancy and diversity of the warning colours of the inedible catterpillars is a strong case. As a warning of inedibility one colour for all--red or yellow or blue --, contrasting with the green or brown of edible catterpillars would have been b e t t e r as being more easily learnt and recognised by insectivorous birds etc. etc. No solution or utility is conceivable here for the diversity of brilliant colour.

    With all the rest of your argument I am in full accord, and I hope you will retain the Chapter.

Yours very faithfully
Alfred R. Wallace.


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VIII.
April 13th. 1891.

Dear Mr Westermarck

    I think your Chapter on Sexual Selection will do very well now. I have given a few pencil notes of modifications which will I think be clearer and more accurate.

    I like your discussion of the origin of universal repugnance to incest very much, and I think you have solved the problem.

Yours very truly
Alfred R. Wallace.


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IX.
May 3rd. 1891.

Dear Mr. Westermarck

    I think it will be very injudicious to conclude your work with so comparatively unimportant a subject as The duration of Marriage. The book [[p. 19]] is such a vast accumulation of facts, that few but professed Anthropological students will read it through. It is therefore very important to give in a concluding Chapter, a Summary of the facts and conclusions arrived at in the whole work. This will be the only popular part of the book, and such a Chapter is absolutely necessary in order that the Reviewers may give a reasonably fair account of your Work. It will be very easy for you to pass in review the various subjects you have treated, stating in each case your conclusions and how they differ from those of preceeding writers, and referring to the Chapters or pages where the facts are given on which your conclusion is founded. Such a Chapter will ensure good reviews, and in all probability double the sale of the book.

    You might conclude with a few general philosophical reflexions on the bearing of the whole enquiry on the future of Marriage. You might perhaps be interested to read an article of mine in the »Fortnightly Review» of September 1890 which incidentally gives my ideas on that point.

    I see that a french writer has just anticipated your work. I saw the advertisement the other day, but I forget where. No doubt you have heard of it. It might be as well to refer to it, either in the concluding Chapter or in the Preface.

Yours very truly
Alfred R. Wallace.


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X.
May 14th. 1891.
Edward Westermarck, Esq.

My dear Sir

    I return you the last proof. I have made one or two verbal suggestions, --especially »marriage» in place of »sexual intercourse» because [[p. 20]] this last chapter will be the most read, and it is well to be as reticent as possible.

    I enclose also a »Prefatory Note», which I suppose is something of the kind that you and Messrs Macmillan wish for.

Yours very truly
Alfred Wallace.


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XI.
May 22nd. 1891.
Edw. Westermarck, Esq.

Dear Sir

    I wish to inform you that I shall be from home on Monday and Tuesday next, and perhaps again at the end of the week. I shall be glad to see you on Wednesday if you can come on that day. If not then the week after.

Yours faithfully
Alfred R. Wallace.


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XII.
[Postmark: Parkstone Ju. 2. 91.]
[Post card addressed to]
Edward Westermarck, Esq.
15, Bedford Place, Russell
Square, London W. C.

Dr. Sir

    I sent revise of the introductory note to the printers marked »Press». There were no further corrections.

Yours truly
Alfred R. Wallace.


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[[p. 21]] XIII.
Jany. 20th. 1892.

Dear Mr Westermarck.

    Many thanks for your letter and your kind offer to send me some views of your Scenery which will be very acceptable.

    I am very glad to see that Macmillan has brought out your book in such a handsome volume, and I trust that it is selling satisfactorily and that it will, notwithstanding its peculiar subject and somewhat repulsive details bring you in a moderate return besides bare reputation.

    I quite think with you that Prof. Robertson Smith's criticism is altogether erroneous,-- but then he evidently has not grasped the wide-reaching principle of natural-selection as you have done. For want of this he does not see that in the case he refers to individual variations are all that are required to bring the »group» into existence, and thus his criticism that you postulate the thing to be explained falls to the ground. To naturalists the very objections of Prof. R. Smith that you assume the laws of society (as regards marriage) to be in many cases »formulated instincts» will seem the greatest merit of your book.

    It is so many years since I read much of Anthropology that I made a very stupid mistake in naming Prof. E. Tylor among those who had adopted the views of McLennan etc. I have written to Macmillan to insert an »Erratum» slip in all copies on hand, and to omit his name from any reprint. I still differ from you on the sexual origin of dress. I do not know if any of your critics have touched on this. It is however not a very important matter.

Believe me
Yours very faithfully
Alfred R. Wallace.

    P. S. Your facts about the Foula intermarriages are very interesting. The community being so small there can be no adequate selection,-- and this would also be the case among the small tribes of most savages.
A. R. W.


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[[p. 22]] XIV.
Oct. 30th. 1893.

Dear Mr Westermarck

    From the Maps of rain distribution in Africa in Stanford's Compendium, the dryest months in the Gorilla country seem to be January and February, and these would be probably the months of greatest fruit supply. But in the regions close to the equator there is usually so much sunshine and the rain is so equally distributed that fruits are to be found--green or ripe--all the year round.

    I found the young sucking orang-utan in May, and that was about the 2nd or 3rd month of the dry season in which fruits began to be plentiful and continued so till October, as far as I remember. There were however always showers.

    The great man-like apes are I think confined to these equatorial regions on account of there being both continuous forest for protection and a continuous fruit supply for food. Probably the low and high grounds supply fruit at different seasons. Also the swamps and the mountains.

Yours very truly
Alfred R. Wallace.


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