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

 
 
Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace. (S744b: 1909)
The Interview That Failed.

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: An "interview" by Antonia R. Williams printed on page 51 of the 20 January 1909 issue of The Woman Worker. To link directly to this page connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S744B.htm


     I knocked at the door of Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace. The situation was not without its piquancy. I, who would go out of my way ten miles to avoid meeting a stranger, found myself before one who, as soon as I had explained my presence, declined to be interviewed. He had my entire sympathy.

     The Editor of The Woman Worker and I, in common with every "Clarion"1 reader, had known and admired him ever since we could remember. His written word, his grip of the world's need for Socialism, his undaunted front in face of opposition and conventional ignorance, his intellectual breadth, were as familiar to us as the voice, the hand-clasp, the features of our best friend. And yet, there I was, under his roof like any other vulgar fellow anxious to intrude upon his silence, and to ask him if he preferred white wine to red.

     I waited for a moment, during which I profoundly regretted that The Woman Worker had ever been invented. I had not reckoned, however, with the inherent courtesy of the great man before me. With the fine instinct which inspires most serious thinkers--men and women alike--he invited me to look at his books--books lining floor to ceiling, and treating of all that concerns the human race, from the origin and progress of man to his modern impossible conditions under the thrall of poverty; from natural selection to the life of the rarest flower that grows. He showed me the house in which he lived, a home expressing the scientist's mind and the heart of an artist. He pointed out the Old Orchard, from which the house takes it name--the long garden, the stretches of wild gorse, the pond, the wooded slopes, the whole reach of moorland beauty lying between him and the shining mirrors of Poole Harbour.

     And then, when he had made me feel pleased that I had come, he gave me an armchair by his fire and spoke to me of Socialism, as the untried but wholly practicable force which is to solve the problem of unemployment, which is to redress the wrongs of women, and establish the right of every child born to an equal place in this world's struggle.

     He did not go far into the question of women's suffrage, but he has always advocated woman suffrage on the ground of common and equal rights. Whether 10 million or only ten ask for it makes no difference.

     I rose to go, but my host would not allow this until I had seen his flowers. To these, his greatest relaxation, are given three hours of his valuable day. It was more like fairyland than a greenhouse. Side by side with rare specimens from Ceylon were rose-coloured flowers tipped with vivid blue from South America, and blue lovely chalices of delicate texture with a wonderful design upon them in green and carmine. Clustering tendrils with gold centres shading into pale orange spoke for wonderful plants that were being cultivated far from their native soil by a hand which appreciated them and understood.

     With this thought I came away. It is significant of the great mind I was privileged to meet yesterday as it is significant of the great minds of all ages: there is nothing too vast for their pursuit and apprehension, while there is nothing too little for their understanding and sympathy.


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Editor's Note

1The Clarion, edited by Robert Blatchford, was Britain's leading socialist newspaper during most of the span of its existence (1891-1932).

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