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This book is due at the LOUIS R. WILSON LIBRARY on the 
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University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

MY LIFE''"^ 






'man's place in the universe," "the MALAY ARCHIPELAGO," "DARWINISM, 

"geographical distribution of ANIMALS," "NATURAL 










Among the numerous kind and even flattering notices 
of the first edition of this work, there were a con- 
siderable number in which objection was made to its 
great bulk, caused in part by the inclusion in it of 
subjects only indirectly related to myself, as well as 
of some of my early writings which were of no special 

Recognizing as I do the justice of this criticism, I 
gladly agreed to the suggestion of my publishers that 
I should prepare a new edition in one volume, by 
omitting all such superfluous matter as is above 
referred to. 

Feeling that I was not myself the best judge of 
what to omit, I asked my son, Mr. William G. Wallace, 
to undertake this task, after agreeing with him, and 
with my publishers, on several entire chapters which 
must certainly be omitted. In order to represent the 
general reader he asked a friend of his own, who had 
not read the book before, to assist him in forming an 
opinion in doubtful cases. I have also myself con- 
densed some diffuse portions, and have added a few 
additional facts, bringing the story of "My Life" 
down to the present time. 

a 2 



All the illustrations have been retained which are 
in any way referred to in the present work, and I 
trust that the result will be to render it acceptable to 
a new body of readers. 


October i, 1908. 


The present volumes would not have been written 
had not the representatives of my English and 
American publishers assured me that they would 
probably interest a large number of readers. 

I had indeed promised to write some account of 
my early life for the information of my son and 
daughter, but this would have been of very limited 
scope, and would probably not have been printed. 

Having never kept a diary, except when abroad, 
nor preserved any of the earlier letters of my friends, 
I at first thought that I had no materials for any full 
record of my life and experiences. But when I set 
to work in earnest to get together whatever scattered 
memoranda I could find, the numerous letters I 
possessed from men of considerable eminence, dating 
from my return home in 1862, together with a few of 
my own returned to me by some of my correspondents, 
I began to see that I had a fair amount of material, 
though I was very doubtful how far it would interest 
any considerable number of readers. 

As several of my friends have assured me that a 
true record of a life, especially if sufficiently full as to 
illustrate development of character so far as that is 



due to environment, would be extremely interesting, 
I have kept this in mind, perhaps unduly, though I 
am not at all sure that my own conclusions on this 
point are correct. 

It is difficult to write such a record as mine 
(extending to the memories of nearly eighty years) 
without subjecting one's self to the charge of diffuse- 
ness or egotism, and I cannot hope to escape this 
altogether. But as my experiences have been cer- 
tainly varied, if not exciting, I trust that the frequent 
change of scene and of occupation, together with the 
diversity of my interests and of the persons with 
whom I have been associated, may render this story 
of my life less tedious than might have been 

My thanks are due to those friends who have 
assisted me with facts or illustrations, and especially 
to Mrs. Arthur Waugh, who has been so kind as to 
make the very full Index to my book. 

Old Orchard, Broadstone, 
September^ 190 5- 



I. My Relatives and Ancestors . . . i 

II. My Earliest Memories, Usk and Hert- 
ford 13 

III. My School Life at Hertford ... 26 

IV. London Workers, Secularists and 


V. Land Surveying in Bedfordshire . . 58 

VI. Radnorshire 74 

VII. Residence in South Wales : Brecknock- 
shire AND Glamorganshire ... 87 

VIII. Self-education in Science and Litera- 
ture lOI 

IX. Life at Leicester and Neath . . .121 

X. Four Years in the Amazon Valley . . 143 

XL London, and Voyage to the East . . 163 

XII. In the Malay Archipelago (1854-1858) . 175 

XIII. In the Malay Archipelago (1S58-1862) . 189 

XIV. Life in London, 1862-1871 — Scientific 

AND Literary Work 203 



XV. Sir Charles Lyell and Charles Darwin 

(1863-1881) 220 

XVI. Herbert Spencer, Huxley, and Other 

Friends 239 

XVII. Home Life and Work (1870-1885) . . 260 

XVIII. A Lecture Tour in America (1886-1887) . 272 

XIX. Friends and Occupations of my Later 

Years (i 888-1 908) 294 

XX. Land Nationalization to Socialism . . 319 

XXI. Mesmerism to Spiritualism .... 334 

XXII. A Chapter on Money Matters— Earnings 

and Losses— Speculations and Law-suits 357 

XXIII. My Character— New Ideas .... 379 

■ XXIV. Predictions fulfilled : Latest Honours 390 

Index 399 


Alfred R. Wallace Frontispiece 

Thomas Vere Wallace. Aged 36 Between pages 10& 11 

(At the time of his marriage) 

Mary Anne Wallace. Aged 18 . „ „ 

(At the time of her marriage) 

Birthplace of A. R. Wallace, Usk, Mon- 
mouthshire .... 

The Grammar School, Hertford 

The Beacons, looking South 

Plan of Top of Beacons 

Section of Top of Beacons 

Maen Llia 

A Sketch in Derbyshire . 

A Village in Leicestershire 

Porth-yr-Ogof, Vale of Neath . 

Maen Madoc — Latin Inscription 

A. R. Wallace. Aged 24 

(From a Daguerrotype) 

A. R. Wallace. Aged 30 
Native House in Aru Islands . 

Facing p 

• 13 























A. R. Wallace. Aged 46 ... . Facing p. ii'j 

[^Publication of Malay Archipelago) 

A Letter from Dr. Purland ... „ 253 

My First Letter from Dr. Purland . ,, 253 

Envelope of Second Letter ... „ 253 

My Last Letter from Dr. Purland . „ 255 

The Dell, Grays ,,261 

[Built for A. R.Wallace) 

A. R. Wallace. Aged 55 . . . . ,, 265 

Nutwood Cottage^ Godalming ... „ 269 

The Moorish Tent, Louray Cavern. . ,, 276 

Old Orchard, Broadstone .... „ 307 

[Built by A. R. IV., 1902) 




Our family had but few relations, and I myself never 
saw a grandfather or grandmother, nor a true uncle, 
and but one aunt — my mother's only sister. The 
only cousins we ever had, so far as I know, were that 
sister's family of eight or nine, all but two of whom 
emigrated to South Australia in 1838. Of the two 
who remained in England, the daughter had married 
Mr. Burningham, and had only one child, a daughter, 
who has never married. The son, the Rev. Percy 
Wilson, had a family, none of whom, however, I have 
ever met, though I have recently had a visit from a 
son of another cousin, Algernon, with whom I had a 
considerable correspondence. 

My father was practically an only son, an elder 
boy dying when three months old ; and as his father 
died when he was a boy of twelve, and his mother 
when he was an infant, he had not much opportunity 
of hearing about the family history. I myself left 
home before I was fourteen, and only rarely visited 
my parents for short holidays, except once during my 



recovery from a dangerous illness, so that I also had 
little opportunity of learning anything of our ances- 
tors on the paternal side, more especially as my father 
seldom spoke of his youth, and I as a boy felt no 
interest in his genealogy. Neither did my eldest 
brother William — with whom I lived till I was of age 
— ever speak on the subject. The little I have gleaned 
was from my sister Fanny and from a recent ex- 
amination of tombstones and parish registers, and 
especially from an old Prayer-book {1723) which 
belonged to my grandfather Wallace, who had 
registered in it the dates of the births and baptisms 
of his two sons, while my father had continued the 
register to include his own family of nine children, of 
whom I am the only survivor. 

My paternal grandfather was married at Hanworth, 
Middlesex, in 1765, and the parish register describes 
him as William Wallace, of Hanworth, bachelor, and 
his wife as Elizabeth Dilke, of Laleham, widow. Both 
are buried in Laleham churchyard, where I presum.e 
the former Mrs. Dilke had some family burial rights, 
as my grandfather's brother, George Wallace, is also 
buried there. The register at Hanworth contains no 
record of my father's birth, but the church itself shows 
that quite a small colony of Wallaces lived at Han- 
worth. On a long stone in the floor of the chancel 
is the name of James Wallace, Esq., who died 
February 7, 1778, aged 8y years. He was therefore 
thirty-five years older than my grandfather, and may 
have been his uncle. Then follows Admiral Sir 
James Wallace, who died on March 6, 1803, aged 
69 years ; and Frances Sleigh, daughter of the 
above James Wallace, Esq., who died December 12, 
1820, aged 69 years. 


How or why my grandfather came to live at Han- 
worth (probably with his brother George, who is also 
buried at Laleham), I can only conjecture from the 
following facts. Baron Vere of Hanworth is one of 
the titles of the Dukes of St. Albans since 1750, when 
Vere Beauclerc, third son of the first Duke, was 
created Baron, and his son became fifth Duke of 
St. Albans in 1787. It is to be presumed that the 
village and a good deal of the land was at that time 
the property of this family, though they appear to 
have parted with it not long afterwards, as a Mr. Per- 
kins owned the park and rebuilt the church in 18 12. 
The St. Albans family have a tomb in the church. 
Now, my father's name was Thomas Vere Wallace, 
and it therefore seems probable that his father was a 
tenant of the first Baron Vere, and in his will he is 
styled " Victualler." He probably kept the inn on 
the estate. 

The only further scrap of information as to my 
father's family is derived from a remark he once 
made in my hearing, that his uncles at Stirling (I 
think he said) were very tall men. I myself was six 
feet in height when I was sixteen, and my eldest 
brother William was an inch taller, while my brother 
John and sister Fanny were both rather tall. My 
father and mother, however, were under rather than 
over middle height, and the remark about his tall 
uncles was to account for this abnormal height by 
showing that it was in the family. As all the Wal- 
laces of Scotland are held to be various branches of 
the one family of the hero Sir William Wallace, we 
have always considered ourselves to be descended 
from that famous stock ; and this view is supported 
by the fact that our family crest was said to be an 


ostrich's head with a horseshoe in its mouth, and this 
crest belongs, according to Burke's " Peerage," to 
Craigie- Wallace, one of the branches of the patriot's 

Of my mother's family I have somewhat fuller 
details, though not going any further back. Her 
father was John Greenell, of Hertford, who died there 
in 1824, at the age of 79. He had two daughters, 
Martha and Mary Anne, my mother. Their mother 
died when the two girls were two and three years 
old. Mr. Greenell married a second time, and his 
widow lived till 1828. My mother's grandfather, who 
died in 1797, aged 80, was for many years an alder- 
man, and twice Mayor of Hertford (in 1773 and 1779), 
as stated in the records of the borough. He was 
buried in St. Andrew's churchyard. 

There is also in the same churchyard a family 
tomb, in which my father and my sister Eliza are 
buried, but which belonged to a brother of my 
mother's grandfather, William Greenell, as shown by 
the inscription. 

I will now say a few words about my father's early 
life, and the various family troubles which, though 
apparently very disadvantageous to his children, may 
yet have been on the whole, as is so often the case, 
benefits in disguise. 

My father, Thomas Vere Wallace, was twelve 
years old when his father died, but his stepmother 
lived twenty-one years after her husband, and I think 
it not improbable that she may have resided in Mary- 
lebone near William Greenell the architect, and that 
my father went to school there. The only thing I 
remember his telling us about his school was that his 


master dressed in the old fashion, and that he had a 
best suit entirely of yellow velvet. 

When my father left school he was articled to a 
firm of solicitors— Messrs, Ewington and Chilcot, 
Bond Court, Walbrook, I think, as I find this name 
in an old note-book of my father's — and in 1792, 
when he had just come of age, he was duly sworn in 
as an Attorney-at-Law of the Court of King's Bench. 
He is described in the deed of admittance as of 
Lamb's Conduit Street, where he probably lodged 
while pursuing his legal studies, it being near the 
Inns of Court and at the same time almost in the 
country. He seems, however, never to have practised 
law, since he came into property which gave him an 
income of about ;^500 a year. 

From this time till he married, fifteen years later, 
he appears to have lived quite idly, so far as being 
without any systematic occupation, often going to 
Bath in the season, where, he used to tell us, he 
had met the celebrated Beau Brummell and other 
characters of the early years of the nineteenth century. 

My sister told me that while he remained a 
bachelor my father lived up to his income or very 
nearly so ; and from what we know of his after life 
this did not imply any extravagance or luxurious 
habits, but simply that he enjoyed himself in London 
and the country, living at the best inns or boarding- 
houses, and taking part in the amusements of the 
period, as a fairly well-to-do, middle-class gentleman. 

After his marriage in 1807 he lived in Marylebone, 
and his ordinary household expenses, of course, in- 
creased ; and as by 18 10 he had two children and the 
prospect of a large family, he appears to have felt the 
necessity of increasing his income. Having neglected 
the law so long, and probably having a distaste for 


it, he apparently thought it quite hopeless to begin 
to practise as a solicitor, and being entirely devoid of 
business habits, allowed himself to be persuaded into 
undertaking one of the most risky of literary specula- 
tions, the starting a new illustrated magazine, devoted 
apparently to art, antiquities, and general literature. 
After a very few numbers were issued the whole 
thing came to grief, partly, it was said, by the 
defalcations of a manager or book-keeper, who 
appropriated the money advanced by my father to 
pay for work and materials, and partly, no doubt, 
from the affair being in the hands of persons without 
the necessary business experience and literary capacity 
to make it a success. 

The result was that my father had to bear almost 
the whole loss, and this considerably reduced his 
already too scanty income. Whether he made any 
other efforts to earn money I do not know, but he 
continued to live in Marylebone till 1816, a daughter 
Emma having been born there in that year ; but soon 
after he appears to have removed to St. George's, 
Southwark, in which parish my brother John was 
born in 1818. Shortly afterwards his affairs must 
have been getting worse, and he determined to move 
with his family of six children to some place where 
living was as cheap as possible ; and, probably from 
having introductions to some residents there, fixed 
upon Usk, in Monmouthshire, where a sufficiently 
roomy cottage with a large garden was obtained, and 
where I was born on January 8, 1823. 

In the year 1828 my mother's step-mother, Mrs. 
Rebecca Greenell, died at Hertford, and I presume 
it was in consequence of this event that the family 
left Usk in that year, and lived at Hertford for 
the next nine or ten years, removing to Hoddesdon 


in 1837 or 1838, where my father died in 1843. 
These last fifteen years of his life were a period of 
great trouble and anxiety, his affairs becoming more 
and more involved, till at last the family became 
almost wholly dependent on my mother's small 
marriage settlement of less than a hundred a year, 
supplemented by his taking a few pupils and by 
a small salary which he received as librarian to a 
subscription library. 

During the latter part of the time we lived at 
Hertford his troubles were great. He appears to 
have allowed a solicitor and friend whom he trusted 
to realize what remained of his property and invest 
it in ground-rents which would bring in a larger 
income, and at the same time be perfectly secure. 
For a few years the income from this property was 
duly paid him, then it was partially and afterwards 
wholly stopped. It appeared that the solicitor was 
himself engaged in a large building speculation in 
London, which was certain to be ultimately of great 
value, but which he had not capital enough to com- 
plete. He therefore had to raise money, and did so 
by using funds entrusted to him for other purposes, 
among them my father's small capital. But, unfortu- 
nately, other creditors pressed upon him, and he was 
obliged to sacrifice the whole of the building estate at 
almost a nominal price. Out of the wreck of the 
solicitor's fortune my father obtained a small portion 
of the money due, with promises to pay all at some 
future time. Among the property thus lost were 
some legacies from my mother's relations to her 
children, and the whole affair got into the hands of 
the lawyers, from whom small amounts were periodi- 
cally received which helped to provide us with bare 


As a result of this series of misfortunes the children 
who reached their majority had little or nothing to 
start with in earning their own living, except a very 
ordinary education, and a more or less efficient training. 
The eldest son, William, was first articled to a firm of 
surveyors at Kington, Herefordshire, probably during 
the time we resided at Usk. He then spent a year 
or two in the office of an architect at Hertford, and 
finally a year in London with a large builder named 
Martin then engaged in the erection of King's College, 
in order to became familiar with the practical details 
of building. He may be said, therefore, to have had 
a really good professional education. At first he got 
into general land-surveying work, which was at that 
time rather abundant, owing to the surveys and 
valuations required for carrying out the Commutation 
of Tithes Act of 1836, and also for the enclosures of 
commons which were then very frequent. During the 
time I was with him we were largely engaged in this 
kind of work in various parts of England and Wales, 
as will be seen later on ; but the payment for such 
work was by no means liberal, and owing to the 
frequent periods of idleness between one job and 
another, it was about as much as my brother could 
do to earn our living and travelling expenses. 

About the time I went to live with my brother 
(1837) ^y sister Fanny entered a French school at 
Lille to learn the language and to teach English, and 
I think she was a year there. On her return she 
started the school at Hoddesdon, but after my father's 
death in 1843, she obtained a position as a teacher 
in Columbia College, Georgia, U.S.A., then just 
established under the Bishop of Georgia; and she 
only returned after my brother William's death in 
1846, when the surviving members of the family in 


England were reunited, and lived together for two 
years in a cottage near Neath, in Glamorganshire. 

My brother John, at the age of fourteen or fifteen, 
was apprenticed, first to Mr. Martin and then to Mr. 
Webster, a Londer builder living in Albany Street, 
Regent Park, where he became a thorough joiner 
and carpenter. He afterwards worked for a time for 
Cubitt and other large builders ; then, when he came 
to live with me at Neath, he learnt surveying and 
a little architecture. When I went to the Amazon, 
he took a small dairy-farm at too high a rent, and 
not making this pay, in 1849 he emigrated to 
California at the height of the first rush for gold, 
joined several mining camps, and was moderately 
successful. About five years later he came home, 
married Miss Webster, and returning to California, 
settled for some years at Columbia, a small mining 
town in Tuolumne County. He afterwards removed 
to Stockton, where he practised as surveyor and water 
engineer till his death in 1895. 

My younger brother, ^Herbert, was first placed 
with a trunk maker in Regent Street, but not liking 
this business, afterwards came to Neath and entered 
the pattern-shops of the Neath Ironworks. After his 
brother John went to California he came out to me 
at Para, and after a year spent on the Amazon as far 
as Barra on the Rio Negro, he returned to Para on 
his way home, where he caught yellow fever, and 
died in a few days at the early age of twenty-two. 
He was the only member of our family who had a 
considerable gift of poesy, and was probably more 
fitted for a literary career than for any mechanical or 
professional occupation. 

It will thus be seen that we were all of us very 
much thrown on our own resources to make our way 


in life ; and as we all, I think, inherited from my 
father a certain amount of constitutional inactivity or 
laziness, the necessity for work that our circumstances 
entailed was certainly beneficial in developing what- 
ever powers were latent in us ; and this is what I 
implied when I remarked that our father's loss of his 
property was perhaps a blessing in disguise. 

Of the five daughters, the first-born died when 
five months old ; the next, Eliza, died of consumption 
at Hertford, aged twenty-two. Two others, Mary 
Anne and Emma, died at Usk at the ages of eight 
and six respectively ; while Frances married Mr. 
Thomas Sims, a photographer, and died in London, 
aged eighty-one. 

On the whole, both the Wallaces and the Greenells 
seem to have been rather long-lived when they reached 
manhood or womanhood. The five ancestral Wallaces 
of whom I have records had an average age of seventy 
years, while the five Greenells had an average of 
seventy-six. Of our own family, my brother John 
reached seventy-seven, and my sister Fanny eighty- 
one. My brother William owed his death to a railway 
journey by night in winter, from London to South 
Wales in the miserable accommodation then afforded 
to third-class passengers, which, increased by a damp 
bed at Bristol, brought on severe congestion of the 
lungs, from which he never recovered. 

I will now give a short account of my father's 
appearance and character. In a miniature, painted 
just before his marriage, when he was thirty-five years 
old, he is represented in a blue coat with gilt buttons, 
a white waistcoat, a thick white neck-cloth coming up 
to the chin and showing no collar, and a frilled shirt- 
front. This was probably his wedding-coat, and his 

(At time of his marriage.) 


{.4i time of her maiTtage.) 


usual costume, indicating the transition from the richly 
coloured semi-court dress of the earlier Georgian 
period to the plain black of our own day. He is 
shown as having a ruddy complexion, blue eyes, and 
carefully dressed and curled hair, which I think must 
have been powdered, or else in the transition from 
light brown to pure white. As I remember him from 
the age of fifty-five onwards, his hair was rather thin 
and quite white, and he was always clean-shaved as 
in the miniature. 

In figure he was somewhat below the middle 
height. He was fairly active and fond of gardening 
and other country occupations, such as brewing beer 
and making grape or elder wine whenever he had 
the opportunity ; and during some years at Hertford 
he rented a garden about half a mile away, in order 
to grow vegetables and have some wholesome exercise. 

He was rather precise and regular in his habits, 
quiet and rather dignified in manners, and what 
would be termed a gentleman of the old school. Of 
course, he always wore a top-hat — a beaver hat as it 
was then called, before silk hats were invented — the 
only other headgear being sometimes a straw hat for 
use in the garden in summer. 

In character he was quiet and even-tempered, very 
religious in the orthodox Church-of-England way, and 
with such a reliance on Providence as almost to 
amount to fatalism. He was fond of reading, and 
through reading-clubs or lending-libraries we usually 
had some of the best books of travel or biography in 
the house. Some of these my father would read to 
us in the evening, and when Bowdler's edition of 
Shakespeare came out he obtained it, and often read 
a play to the assembled family. 

At one time my father wrote a good deal, and we 


were told it was a history of Hertford, or at other 
times some religious work ; but they were never 
finished, and I do not think they would ever have 
been worth publishing, his character not leading him 
to do any such work with sufficient thoroughness. 
He dabbled a little in antiquities and in heraldry, but 
did nothing systematic ; and though he had fair mental 
ability he possessed no special talent, either literary, 
artistic, or scientific. He sketched a little, but with 
a very weak and uncertain touch, and among his few 
scrap- and note-books that have been preserved, there 
is hardly anything original except one or two short 
poems in the usual didactic style of the period, but of 
no special merit. 



My earliest recollections of myself are as a little boy 
in short frocks and with bare arms and legs, playing 
with my brother and sisters, or sitting in my mother's 
lap or on a footstool listening to stories, of which 
some fairy-tales, especially "Jack the Giant-Killer," 
" Little Red Riding Hood," and " Jack and the Bean- 
stalk," seem to live in my memory ; and of a more 
realistic kind, " Sandford and Merton," which perhaps 
impressed me even more deeply than any. I clearly 
remember the little house and the room we chiefly 
occupied, with a French window opening to the 
garden, a steep wooded bank on the right, the road, 
river, and distant low hills to the left. The house 
itself was built close under this bank, which was quite 
rocky in places. 

The river in front of our house was the Usk, a fine 
stream on which we often saw men fishing in coracles, 
the ancient form of boat made of strong wicker-work, 
somewhat the shape of the deeper half of a cockle- 
shell, and covered with bullock's hide. Each coracle 
held one man, and it could be easily carried to and 
from the river on the owner's back. In those days of 
scanty population and abundant fish the river was not 
preserved, and a number of men got their living, or 
part of it, by supplying the towns with salmon and 


trout in their season. It is very interesting that this 
extremely ancient boat, which has been in use from 
pre-Roman times, and perhaps even from the Neolithic 
Age, should continue to be used on several of the 
Welsh rivers down to the present day. There is 
probably no other type of vessel now in existence 
which has remained unchanged for so long a period. 

The chief attraction of the river to us children 
was the opportunity it afforded us for catching small 
fish, especially lampreys. A short distance from our 
house, towards the little village of Llanbadock, the 
rocky bank came close to the road, and a stone quarry 
had been opened to obtain stone, both for building 
and road-mending purposes. Here, occasionally, the 
rock was blasted, and sometimes we had the fearful 
delight of watching the explosion from a safe distance, 
and seeing a cloud of the smaller stones shoot up into 
the air. At some earlier period very large charges of 
powder must have been used, hurling great slabs of 
rock across the road into the river, where they lay, 
forming convenient piers and standing-places on its 
margin. Some of these slabs were eight or ten feet 
long and nearly as wide ; and it was these that formed 
our favourite fishing-stations, where we sometimes 
found shoals of small lampreys, which could be scooped 
up in basins or old saucepans, and were then fried for 
our dinner or supper, to our great enjoyment. I think 
what we caught must have been the young fish, as 
my recollection of them is that they were like little 
eels, and not more than six or eight inches long, 
whereas the full-grown lampreys are from a foot and 
a half to nearly three feet long. 

At this time I must have been about four years 
old, as we left Usk when I was about five, or less. 
My brother John was four and a half years older, and 


I expect was the leader in most of our games and 
explorations. My two sisters were five and seven 
years older than John, so that they would have been 
about thirteen and fifteen, which would appear to me 
quite grown up ; and this makes me think that my 
recollections must go back to the time when I was 
just over three, as I quite distinctly remember two, if 
not three, besides myself, standing on the flat stones 
and catching lampreys. 

There is an incident in which I remember that my 
brother and at least one, if not two, of my sisters took 
part. Among the books read to us was " Sandford 
and Merton," the only part of which that I distinctly 
remember is when the two boys got lost in a wood 
after dark, and while Merton could do nothing but 
cry at the idea of having to pass the night without 
supper or bed, the resourceful Sandford comforted 
him by promising that he should have both, and set 
him to gather sticks for a fire, which he lit with a 
tinder-box and match from his pocket. Then, when 
a large fire had been made, he produced some potatoes 
which he had picked up in a field on the way, and 
which he then roasted beautifully in the embers, and 
even produced from another pocket a pinch of salt in 
a screw of paper, so that the two boys had a very 
good supper. Then, collecting fern and dead leaves 
for a bed, and I think making a coverlet by taking 
off their two jackets, which made them quite comfort- 
able while lying as close together as possible, they 
enjoyed a good night's sleep till daybreak, when they 
easily found their way home. 

This seemed so delightful that one day John 
provided himself with the matchbox, salt, and pota- 
toes, and having climbed up the steep bank behind 
our house, as we often did, and passed over a field or 


two to the woods beyond, to my great delight a fire 
was made, and we also feasted on potatoes with salt, 
as Sandford and Merton had done. Of course we 
did not complete the imitation of the story by sleep- 
ing in the wood, which would have been too bold and 
dangerous an undertaking for our sisters to join in, 
even if my brother and I had wished to do so. 

I may here mention a psychological peculiarity, 
no doubt common to many children of the same age, 
that, during the whole period of my residence at Usk, 
I have no clear recollection, and can form no distinct 
mental image, of either my father or mother, brothers 
or sisters. I simply recollect that they existed, but 
my recollection is only a blurred image, and does not 
extend to any peculiarities of feature, form, or even 
of dress or habits. It is only at a considerably later 
period that I begin to recollect them as distinct and 
well-marked individuals whose form and features 
could not be mistaken — as, in fact, being my father 
and mother, my brothers and sisters ; and the house 
and surroundings in which I can thus first recollect, 
and in some degree visualize them, enable me to say 
that I must have been then at least eight years old. 

What makes this deficiency the more curious is 
that, during the very same period at which I cannot 
recall the personal appearance of the individuals with 
whom my life was most closely associated, I can recall 
all the main features and many of the details of my 
outdoor, and, to a less degree, of my indoor, sur- 
roundings. The form and colour of the house, the 
road, the river close below it, the bridge with the 
cottage near its foot, the narrow fields between us 
and the bridge, the steep wooded bank at the back, 
the stone quarry and the very shape and position of 
the flat slabs on which we stood fishing, the cottages 


a little further on the road, the little church of Llan- 
badock and the stone stile into the churchyard, the 
fishermen and their coracles, the ruined castle, its 
winding stair and the delightful walk round its top — 
all come before me as I recall these earlier days with 
a distinctness strangely contrasted with the vague 
shadowy figures of the human beings who were my 
constant associates in all these scenes. In the house 
I recollect the arrangement of the rooms, the French 
window to the garden, and the blue-papered room n 
which I slept, but of the people always with me in 
those rooms, and even of the daily routine of our 
life, I remember nothing at all. 

I cannot find any clear explanation of these facts 
in modern psychology, whereas they all become intel- 
ligible from the phrenological point of view. The 
shape of my head shows that I have form and indi- 
vidtiality but moderately developed, while locality^ 
ideality, colour, and comparison are decidedly stronger. 
Deficiency in the first two caused me to take little 
notice of the characteristic form and features of the 
separate individualities which were most familiar to 
me, and from that very cause attracted less close 
attention ; while the greater activity of the latter 
group gave interest and attractiveness to the ever- 
changing combinations in outdoor scenery, while the 
varied opportunities for the exercise of the physical 
activities, and the delight in the endless variety of 
nature which are so strong in early childhood, im- 
pressed these outdoor scenes and interests upon my 
memory. And throughout life the same limitations 
of observation and memory have been manifest. In 
a new locality it takes me a considerable time before 
I learn to recognize my various new acquaintances 
individually ; and looking back on the varied scenes 


amid which I have lived at home and abroad, while 
numerous objects, localities, and events are recalled 
with some distinctness, the people I met, or, with few 
exceptions, those with whom I became fairly well 
acquainted, seem but blurred and indistinct images. 

In the year 1883, when for the first time since my 
childhood I revisited, with my wife and two children, 
the scenes of my infancy, I obtained a striking proof 
of the accuracy of my memory of those scenes and 
objects. Although the town of Usk had grown con- 
siderably on the north side towards the railway, yet, 
to my surprise and delight, I found that no change 
whatever had occurred on our side of the river, where, 
between the bridge and Llanbadock, not a new house 
had been built, and our cottage and garden, the path 
up to the front door, and the steep woody bank 
behind it, remained exactly as pictured in my memory. 
Even the quarry appeared to have been very little 
enlarged, and the great flat stones were still in the 
river exactly as when I had stood upon them with my 
brothers and sisters sixty years before. The one 
change I noted here was that the well-remembered 
stone stile into the village churchyard had been re- 
placed by a wooden one. We also visited the ruined 
castle, ascended the winding stair, and walked round 
the top wall, and everything seemed to me exactly 
as I knew it of old, and neither smaller nor larger 
than my memory had so long pictured it. The view 
of the Abergavenny mountains pleased and interested 
me as in childhood, and the clear-flowing Usk seemed 
just as broad and as pleasant to the eye as my 
memory had always pictured it. 

So far as I can remember or have heard I had no 
illness of any kind at Usk, which was no doubt due 
to the free outdoor life we lived there, spending a great 


part of the day in the large garden or by the riverside, 
or in the fields and woods around us. As will be 
seen later on, this immunity ceased as soon as we 
went to live in a town. I remember only one childish 
accident. The cook was taking away a frying-pan 
with a good deal of boiling fat in it, which for some 
reason I wanted to see, and, stretching out my arm 
over it, I suppose to show that I wanted it lowered 
down, my fore-arm went into the fat and was badly 
scalded. I mention this only for the purpose of call- 
ing attention to the fact that, although I vividly 
remember the incident, I cannot recall that I suffered 
the least pain, though I was told afterwards that it 
was really a severe burn. This, and other facts of a 
similar kind, make me think that young children 
suffer far less pain than adults from the same injuries. 
And this is quite in accordance with the purpose for 
which pain exists, which is to guard the body against 
injuries dangerous to life, and to give us the impulse 
to escape rapidly from any danger. But as infants 
cannot escape from fatal dangers, and do not even 
know what things are dangerous and what not, only 
very slight sensations of pain are at first required, and 
such only are therefore developed, and these increase 
in intensity just in proportion as command over the 
muscles giving the power of rapid automatic move- 
ments becomes possible. The sensation of pain does 
not, probably, reach its maximum till the whole 
organism is fully developed in the adult individual. 
This is rather a comforting conclusion in view of the 
sufferings of so many infants needlessly massacred 
through the terrible defects of our vicious social 

I may add here a note as to my personal appear- 
ance at this age. I was exceedingly fair, and my long 


hair was of a very light flaxen tint, so that I was 
generally spoken of among the Welsh-speaking country 
people as the " little Saxon." 

My recollections of our leaving Usk and of the 
journey to London are very faint, only one incident 
of it being clearly visualized — the crossing the Severn 
at the Old Passage in an open ferry-boat. This is 
very clear to me, possibly because it was the first 
time I had ever been in a boat. I remember sitting 
with my mother and sisters on a seat at one side of 
the boat, which seemed to me about as wide as a 
small room, of its leaning over so that we were close 
to the water, and especially of the great boom of the 
mainsail, when our course was changed, requiring us 
all to stoop our heads for it to swing over us. It was 
a little awful to me, and I think we were all glad 
when it was over and we were safe on land again. 
We must have travelled all day by coach from Usk 
to the Severn, then on to Bristol, then from Bristol 
to London, where we stayed at an inn in Holborn. 

Of the next few months of my life I have also but 
slight recollections, confined to some isolated facts or 
incidents. On leaving the inn we went to my aunt's 
at Dulwich. I remember being much impressed with 
the large house, and especially with the beautiful 
grounds, with lawns, trees, and shrubs such as I had 
never seen before. There was here also a family of 
cousins, some about my own age, and the few days 
we stayed were very bright and enjoyable. Thence 
I was sent to a school in Essex, with some ladies who 
had about half a dozen boys and girls of my own age. 

My next recollections are of the town of Hertford, 
where we lived for eight or nine years, and where I 
received the whole of my school education. We had 
a small house, the first of a row of four at the 


beginning of St. Andrew's Street ; and I must have 
been a little more than six years old when I first 
remember myself in this house, which had a very 
narrow yard at the back, and a dwarf wall, perhaps 
five feet high, between us and the adjoining house. 
The very first incident I remember, which happened, 
I think, on the morning after my arrival, was of a 
boy about my own age looking over this wall, who at 
once inquired, " Hullo ! who are you } " I told him 
that I had just come, and what my name was, and 
we at once made friends. The stand of a water-butt 
enabled me to get up and sit upon the wall, and by 
means of some similar convenience he could do the 
same, and we were thus able to sit side by side and 
talk, or get over the wall and play together when we 
liked. Thus began the friendship of George Silk and 
Alfred Wallace, which, with long intervals of absence 
at various periods, has continued to this day. 

The old town of Hertford, in which I passed the 
most impressionable years of my life, and where I 
first obtained a rudimentary acquaintance with my 
fellow-creatures and with nature, is, perhaps, on the 
whole, one of the most pleasantly situated county 
towns in England, although as a boy I did not know 
this, and did not appreciate the many advantages I 
enjoyed. Among its most delightful features are 
numerous rivers and streams in the immediately sur- 
rounding country, affording pleasant walks through 
flowery meads, many picturesque old mills, and a 
great variety of landscape. The river Lea, coming 
from the south-west, passes through the middle of the 
town, where the old town-mill was situated in an 
open space called the Wash, which was no doubt 
liable to be flooded in early times. The miller was 
reputed to be one of the richest men in the town, yet 


we often saw him standing at the mill doors in his 
dusty miller's clothes as we passed on our way from 
school. He was a cousin of my mother's by marriage, 
and we children sometimes went to tea at his house, 
and then, as a great treat, were shown all over the 
mill with all its strange wheels and whirling mill- 
stones, its queer little pockets, on moving leather 
belts, carrying the wheat up to the stones in a 
continual stream, the ever-rattling sieves and cloths 
which sifted out the bran and pollard, and the weird 
peep into the dark cavern where the great dripping 
water-wheel went on its perpetual round. Where the 
river passed under the bridge close by, we could 
clamber up and look over the parapet into the deep, 
clear water rushing over a dam, and also see where 
the stream that turned the wheel passed swiftly under 
a low arch, and this was a sight that never palled 
upon us, so that almost every fine day, as we passed 
this way home from school, we gave a few moments 
to gazing into this dark, deep water, almost always in 
shadow owing to high buildings on both sides of it, 
but affording a pleasant peep to fields and gardens 

Here, too, in the river Beane, which had a gentle 
stream with alternate deep holes and sandy shallows, 
suitable for boys of all ages, was our favourite bathing- 
place, where, not long after our coming to Hertford, 
I was very nearly drowned. It was at a place called 
Willowhole, where those who could swim a little 
would jump in, and in a few strokes in any direction 
reach shallower water. I and my brother John and 
several schoolfellows were going to bathe, and I, who 
had undressed first, was standing on the brink, when 
one of my companions gave me a sudden push from 
behind, £tnd I tumbled in and went under water 


immediately. Coming to the surface half dazed, I 
splashed about and went under again, when my 
brother, who was four and a half years older, jumped 
in and pulled me out. I do not think I had actually 
lost consciousness, but I had swallowed a good deal 
of water, and I lay on the grass for some time before 
I got strength to dress, and by the time I got home I 
was quite well. It was, I think, the first year, if not 
the first time, I had ever bathed, and if my brother 
had not been there it is quite possible that I might 
have been drowned. This gave me such a fright that 
though I often bathed here afterwards, I always went 
in where the water was shallow, and did not learn to 
swim, however little, till several years later. 

Few small towns (it had then less than six 
thousand inhabitants) have a more agreeable public 
playground than the fine open space called Hartham 
with the level valley of the Lea stretching away to 
Ware on the east, the town itself just over the river 
on the south, while on the north, just across the river 
Beane, was a steep slope covered with scattered fir 
trees, and called the Warren, at the foot of which was 
a footpath leading to the picturesque little village and 
old church of Bengeo. This path along the Warren 
was a favourite walk of mine either alone or with a 
playmate, where we could scramble up the bank, 
climb up some of the old trees, or sit comfortably 
upon one or two old stumpy yews, which had such 
twisted branches and stiff spreading foliage as to 
form delightful seats. This place was very little 
frequented, and our wanderings in it were never 
interfered with. 

About three-quarters of a mile from the centre of 
the town, going along West Street, was a mill called 
Horn's Mill, which was a great attraction to me. It 


was an old-fashioned mill for grinding linseed, ex- 
pressing the oil, and making oil-cake. The mill stood 
close by the roadside, and there were small low 
windows always open, through which we could look 
in at the fascinating processes as long as we liked. 
First, there were two great vertical millstones of very 
smooth red granite, which shone beautifully from the 
oil of the ground seeds. These were fixed on each 
side of a massive vertical wooden axis on a central 
iron axle, revolving slowly and silently, and crushing 
the linseed into a fine oily meal. 

But this was only one part of this delightful kind 
of peepshow. A little way off an equally novel and 
still more complex operation was always going on, 
accompanied by strange noises always dear to the 
young. Looking in at other windows we saw 
numbers of workmen engaged in strange operations 
amid strange machinery, with its hum and whirl and 
reverberating noises. Close before us were long 
erections like shop counters, but not quite so high. 
Immediately above these, at a height of perhaps ten 
or twelve feet, a long cylindrical beam was continually 
revolving with fixed beams on each side of it, both 
higher up and lower down. At regular intervals 
along the counter were great upright wooden stampers 
shod with iron at the bottom. When not in action 
these were supported so that they were about two 
feet above the counter, and just below them was a 
square hole. As we looked on a man would take a 
small canvas sack about two feet long, fill it full of 
linseed meal from a large box by his side, place this 
bag in a strong cover of a kind of floorcloth with 
flaps going over the top and down each side. The 
sack of meal thus prepared would then be dropped 
into the hole, which it entered easily. Then a thin 


board of hard wood, tapered to the lower^ edge, was 
pushed down on one side of it, and outside this again 
another wedge-shaped piece was inserted. The top 
of this was now just under the iron cap of the heavy 
pile or rammer, and on pulling a rope, this was freed 
and dropped on the top of the wedge, which it forced 
halfway down. In a few seconds it was raised up 
again, and fell upon the wedge, driving it in a good 
deal further, and the third blow would send it down 
level with the top of the counter. Then when the 
rammer rose up, another rope was pulled, and it 
remained suspended ; a turn of a handle enabled the 
first wedge to be drawn out and a much thicker one 
inserted, when, after two or three blows, this became 
so hard to drive that the rammer falling upon it made 
a dull sound and rebounded a little ; and as the 
process went on the blows became sharper, and the 
pile would rebound two or three times like a billiard 
ball rebounding again and again from a stone floor, 
but in more rapid succession. This went on for 
hours, and when the process was finished, the meal in 
the sack had become so highly compressed that when 
taken out it was found to be converted into a compact 



My recollections of life at our first house in St. 
Andrew's Street are very scanty. My father had 
about half a dozen small boys to teach, and we used 
to play together ; but I think that when we had been 
there about a year or two, I went to the Grammar 
School with my brother John, and was at once set 
upon that most wearisome of tasks, the Latin 
grammar. It was soon after this that I had the first 
of the three serious illnesses which at different periods 
brought me within a few hours of death in the opinion 
of those around me. 

It was a severe attack of scarlet fever, and I 
remember little but heat and horrid dreams till one 
evening when all the family came to look at me, and 
I had something given me to drink all night. I was 
told afterwards that the doctor said this was the crisis, 
that I was to have port wine in tea-spoonfuls at short 
intervals, and that if I was not dead before morning 
I might recover. For some weeks after this I lived 
a very enjoyable life in bed, having tea and toast, 
puddings, grapes, and other luxuries till I was well 

It may be well here to give a brief outline of my 
school life at Hertford and of the schoolmaster who 
taught me. The school itself was built in the year 


1617, when the school was founded. It consisted of 
one large room, with a large square window at each 
end and two on each side. In the centre of one side 
was a roomy porch, and opposite to it a projecting 
portion, with a staircase leading to two rooms above 
the schoolroom and partly in the roof. The school- 
room was fairly lofty. Along the sides were what 
were termed porches — desks and seats against the 
wall with very solid, roughly carved ends of black 
oak, much cut with the initials or names of many 
generations of schoolboys. In the central space were 
two rows of desks with forms on each side. There 
was a master's desk at each end, and two others on 
the sides, and two open fireplaces equidistant from 
the ends. Every boy had a desk the sloping lid of 
which opened, to keep his school-books and anything 
else he liked, and between each pair of desks at the 
top was a leaden ink-pot, sunk in a hole in the middle 
rail of the desks. As we went to school even in 
winter at seven in the morning, and three days a 
week remained till five in the afternoon, some artificial 
lighting was necessary, and this was effected by the 
primitive method of every boy bringing his own 
candles or candle-ends with any kind of candlestick 
he liked. An empty ink-bottle was often used, or the 
candle was even stuck on to the desk with a little of 
its own grease. So that it enabled us to learn our 
lessons or do our sums, no one seemed to trouble 
about how we provided the light. 

The school was reached by a path along the 
bottom of All Saints' Churchyard, and entered by a 
door in the wall which entirely surrounded the school 
playground and master's garden. Over this door was 
a Latin motto — 

" Inter umbras Academi studere delectat." 


This was appropriate, as the grounds were surrounded 
by trees, and at the north end of the main playground 
there were two very fine elms, shown in the old 
engraving of the school here reproduced. 

The headmaster in my time was a rather irascible 
little man named Clement Henry Crutwell. He was 
usually called by the boys Old Cruttle or Old 
Clemmy, and when he overheard these names used, 
which was not often, he would give us a short lecture 
on the impropriety and impoliteness of miscalling 
those in authority over us. He was a good master, 
inasmuch as he kept order in the school, and carried 
on the work of teaching about eighty boys by four 
masters, all in one room, with great regularity and 
with no marked inconvenience. Whatever might be 
the noise and games going on when he was absent, 
the moment his step was heard in the porch silence 
and order at once reigned. 

Flogging with a cane was not uncommon for more 
serious offences, while for slighter ones he would box 
the ears severely. Caning was performed in the 
usual old-fashioned way by laying the boy across the 
desk, his hands being held on one side and his feet 
on the other, while the master, pulling the boy's 
trousers tight with one hand, laid on the cane with 
great vigour with the other. Mr. Crutwell always 
caned the boys himself, but the other masters 
administered minor punishments, such as slight ear- 
boxes, slapping the palm with a flat ruler, or rapping 
the knuckles with a round one. These punishments 
were usually deserved, though not always. A stupid 
boy, or one who had a bad verbal memory, was often 
punished for what was called invincible idleness when 
it was really congenital incapacity to learn what he took 
no interest in, or what often had no meaning for him. 



Mr. Crutwell was, I suppose, a fairly good classical 
scholar, as he took the higher classes in Latin and 
Greek. I left school too young even to begin Greek, 
but the last year or two I was in the Latin class 
which was going through Virgil's "^neid" with him. 
The system was very bad. The eight or ten boys in 
the class had an hour to prepare the translation, and 
they all sat together in a group opposite each other 
and close to Mr. Crutwell's desk, but under pretence 
of work there were always two or three of the boys 
who were full of talk and gossip and school stories, 
which kept us all employed and amused till within 
about a quarter of an hour of the time for being called 
up, when some one would remark, " I say, let's do our 
translation ; I don't know a word of it." Then the 
cleverest boy, or one who had already been through 
the book, would begin to translate, two or three others 
would have their dictionaries ready when he did not 
know the meaning of a word, and so we blundered 
through our forty or fifty lines. When we were called 
up, it was all a matter of chance whether we got 
through well or otherwise. If the master was in a 
good humour and the part we had to translate was 
specially interesting, he would help us on whenever 
we hesitated or blundered, and when we had got 
through the lesson, he would make a few remarks on 
the subject, and say, " Now I will read you the whole 
incident." He would then take out a translation of 
the " iEneid " in verse by a relative of his own — an 
uncle, I think — and, beginning perhaps a page or two 
back, read us several pages, so that we could better 
appreciate what we had been trying to translate. I, 
for one, always enjoyed these readings, as the verse 
was clear and melodious, and gave an excellent idea 
of the poetry of the Latin writer. Sometimes our 


laziness and ignorance were found out, and we either 
had to stay in an hour and go over it again, or 
copy it out a dozen times, or some other stupid 
imposition. But as this only occurred now and 
then, of course it did not in the least affect our 
general mode of procedure when supposed to be 
learning our lesson. Mr. Crutwell read well, with 
a good emphasis and intonation, and I obtained a 
better idea of what Virgil really was from his read- 
ings than from the fragmentary translations we 
scrambled through. 

Next to Latin grammar the most painful subject 
I learnt was geography, which ought to have been 
the most interesting. It consisted almost entirely 
in learning by heart the names of the chief towns, 
rivers, and mountains of the various countries from, 
I think, Pinnock's "School Geography," which gave 
the minimum of useful or interesting information. 
It was something like learning the multiplication 
table both in the painfulness of the process and the 
permanence of the results. The incessant grinding 
in both, week after week and year after year, resulted 
in my knowing both the product of any two numbers 
up to twelve, and the chief towns of any English 
county so thoroughly, that the result was automatic, 
and the name of Staffordshire brought into my mind 
Stafford, Litchfield, Leek, as surely and rapidly as 
eight times seven brought fifty-six. The labour and 
mental effort to one who like myself had little verbal 
memory was very painful, and though the result has 
been a somewhat useful acquisition during life, I 
cannot but think that the same amount of mental 
exertion wisely directed might have produced far 
greater and more generally useful results. 

History was very little better, being largely a 


matter of learning by heart names and dates, and 
reading the very baldest account of the doings of 
kings and queens, of wars, rebellions, and conquests. 
Whatever little knowledge of history I have ever 
acquired has been derived more from Shakespeare's 
plays and from good historical novels than from any- 
thing I learnt at school. 

At one period when the family was temporarily 
broken up, for some reason I do not remember, I was 
for about half a year a boarder in Mr. Crutwell's 
house, in company with twenty or thirty other boys ; 
and I will here give the routine of a moderately good 
boarding-school at that period. 

Our breakfast at eight consisted of a mug of milk- 
and-water and a large and very thick slice of bread- 
and-butter. For the average boy this was as much 
as he could eat, a few could not eat so much, a few 
wanted more, and the former often gave their surplus 
to the latter. Any boy could have an egg or a slice of 
bacon cooked if he bought it himself or had it sent from 
home, but comparatively very few had such luxuries. 

For dinner at one o'clock we had hot joints of 
meat and vegetables for five days and hot meat-pies 
on Saturdays. On Sundays we had a cold joint of 
meat, with hot fruit-pies in the summer and plum- 
pudding in the winter, with usually some extra 
delicacy as custard or a salad. Every boy had half 
a pint of fairly good beer to drink, and any one who 
wished could have a second helping of meat. 

At half-past five, I think, we had milk-and-water 
and bread-and-butter as at breakfast, from seven to 
eight we prepared lessons for the next day, and at 
eight o'clock we had supper, consisting of bread-and- 
cheese and, I think, another mug of beer. 


Our regular games were cricket, baseball, leapfrog, 
high and long jumps, and, in the winter, turnpikes 
with hoops. This latter was a means of enabling 
those who had no hoops to get the use of them. They 
kept turnpikes, formed by two bricks or stones placed 
the width of the foot apart, and the hoop-driver had 
to pass through without touching. If the hoop 
touched he gave it up, and kept the turnpike in his 
place. When there were turnpikes every five or ten 
yards all round the playground and a dozen or more 
hoops following each other pretty closely, the game 
was not devoid of its little excitements. We never 
played football (so far as I remember), which at that 
time was by no means such a common game as it is 
now. Among the smaller amusements which were 
always much liked were marbles and pegtops. The 
individuality of tops was rather curious, as some 
could only be made to spin by holding them with the 
peg upwards, others with it downwards, while others 
would spin when held in either position, and thrown 
almost anyhow. When tops were in fashion they 
might have been made the vehicle for very interest- 
ing teaching of mechanics, but that was quite beyond 
the range of the ordinary schoolmaster of the early 
part of the nineteenth century. 

During my last year's residence at Hertford an 
arrangement was made by which, I suppose, the fees 
paid for my schooling were remitted on condition 
that I assisted in the school. I was a good writer 
and reader, and while continuing my regular classes 
in Latin and algebra, I took the younger boys 
in reading and dictation, arithmetic and writing. 
Although I had no objection whatever to the work 
itself, the anomalous position it gave me in the 


school— there being a score of boys older than myself 
who were scholars only— was exceedingly distasteful. 
Another thing hurt me dreadfully at the time, 
because it exposed me to what I thought was the 
ridicule or contempt of the whole school. Like most 
other boys, I was reckless about my clothes, leaning 
my elbows on the desk till a hole was worn in my 
jacket, and, worse still, when cleaning my slate using 
my cuff to rub it dry. Slate sponges attached by a 
string were unknown to our school in those days. 
As new clothes were too costly to be had very often, 
my mother determined to save a jacket just taken 
for school wear by making covers for the sleeves, 
which I was to wear in school. These were made of 
black calico, reaching from the cuff to the elbow, and 
though I protested that I could not wear them, that 
I should be looked upon as a guy, and other equally 
valid reasons, they were one day put in my pocket, 
and I was told to put them on just before I entered 
the school. Of course I could not do it ; so I brought 
them back and told my mother. Then after another 
day or two of trial, one morning the dreaded thunder- 
bolt fell upon me. On entering school I was called 
up to the master's desk, he produced the dreaded 
calico sleeves, and told me that my mother wished me 
to wear them to save my jacket, and told me to put 
them on. Of course I had to do so. They fitted 
very well, and felt quite comfortable, and I dare say 
did not look so very strange. I have no doubt also 
that most of the boys had a fellow-feeling for me, and 
thought it a shame to thus make me an exception to all 
the school. But to me it seemed a cruel disgrace, and 
I was miserable so long as I wore them. How long 
that was I cannot remember, but while it lasted it 
was, perhaps, the severest punishment I ever endured. 



In an article on the civilizations of China and 
Japan in The Independent Revieiv (April, 1904), it is 
pointed out that the universal practice of " saving the 
face " of any kind of opponent rests upon the funda- 
mental idea of the right of every individual to be 
treated with personal respect. With them this prin- 
ciple is taught from childhood, and pervades every 
class of society, while with us it is only recognized by 
the higher classes, and by them is rarely extended 
to inferiors or to children. The feeling that demands 
this recognition is certainly strong in many children, 
and those who have suffered under the failure of their 
elders to respect it, can well appreciate the agony of 
shame endured by the more civilized Eastern peoples, 
whose feelings are so often outraged by the total 
absence of all respect shown them by their European 
masters or conquerors. In thus recognizing the 
sanctity of this deepest of human feelings these 
people manifest a truer phase of civilization than we 
have attained to. Even savages often surpass us 
in this respect. They will often refuse to enter an 
empty house during the absence of the owner, even 
though something belonging to themselves may have 
been left in it ; and when asked to call one of their 
sleeping companions to start on a journey, they will 
be careful not to touch him, and will positively refuse 
to shake him rudely, as an Englishman would have 
no scruple in doing. 

As the period from the age of six to fourteen 
which I spent at Hertford was that of my whole 
home-life till I had a home of my own twenty-eight 
years later, and because it was in many ways more 
educational than the time I spent at school, I think it 
well to give a short account of it. 

During the year or two spent at the first house we 


occupied in St. Andrew's Street very little occurred 
to impress itself upon my memory, partly, I think, 
because I was too young and had several playfellows 
of my own age, and partly, perhaps, because the very 
small house and yard at the back offered few facilities 
for home amusements. There was also at that time 
too much inequality between myself and my brother 
John for us to become such constant companions as 
we were a little later. 

When we moved to the house beyond the Old 
Cross, nearly opposite the lane leading to Hartham, 
the conditions were altogether more favourable. The 
house itself was a more commodious one, and besides 
a yard at one side, it had a small garden at the back 
with a flower border at each side, where I first became 
acquainted with some of our common garden flowers. 
The gable end of the house in the yard, facing nearly 
south, had few windows, and was covered over with 
an old vine which not only produced abundance of 
grapes, but enabled my father to make some gallons 
of wine from the thinnings. But the most interesting 
feature of the premises to us two boys was a small 
stable with a loft over it, which, not being used except 
to store garden-tools and odd lumber, we had practi- 
cally to ourselves. The loft especially was most 
delightful to us. It was reached by steps formed by 
nailing battens across the upright framing of the 
stable, with a square opening in the floor above. It 
thus required a little practice to climb up and down 
easily and to get a safe landing at top, and doing this 
became so familiar to us that we ran up and down 
it as quickly as sailors run up the shrouds of a vessel. 
Then the loft itself, under the slooping roof, gloomy 
and nearly dark in the remote corners, was almost 
like a robbers' cave ; while a door opening to the 


outside by which hay could be pitched up out of a 
cart, afforded us plenty of light when we required it, 
together with the novel sensation and spice of danger 
afforded by an opening down to the floor, yet eight 
or nine feet above the ground. 

This place was our greatest delight, and almost 
all the hours of daylight we could spare from school 
and meals were spent in it. Here we accumulated 
all kinds of odds and ends that might be useful for 
our various games or occupations, and here we were 
able to hide many forbidden treasures such as gun- 
powder, with which we used to make wild-fires as 
well as more elaborate fireworks. John was of a more 
mechanical turn than myself, and he used to excel in 
making all the little toys and playthings in which 
boys then used to delight. I, of course, looked on 
admiringly, and helped him in any way I could. I 
also tried to imitate him, but only succeeded in some 
of the simpler operations. Our most valuable guide 
was the "Boy's Own Book," which told us how to 
make numbers of things boys never think of making 
now, partly because everything is made for them, and 
also because children get so many presents of elabo- 
rate or highly ornamented toys when very young, 
that by the time they are old enough to make any- 
thing for themselves they are quite blas^^ and can 
only be satisfied by still more elaborate and expensive 

After my brother John went to London, and I 
was left alone at home, my younger brother being 
still too young for a playmate, I gave up most of 
these occupations, and began to develop a taste 
for reading. I still had one or two favourite com- 
panions with whom I used to go for long walks in the 
country, amusing ourselves in gravel or chalk pits, 


jumping over streams, and cutting fantastic walking- 
sticks out of the woods ; but nothing afterwards 
seemed to make up for the quiet hours spent with 
my brother in the delightful privacy of the loft. 

It was during our residence at this house near the 
Old Cross that, I think, my father enjoyed his life 
more than anywhere else at Hertford. Not only had 
he a small piece of garden and the fine grape-vine 
already mentioned, but there was a roomy brew-house 
with a large copper, which enabled him to brew a 
barrel of beer as well as make elder wine and grape- 
wine, bottle gooseberries, and oth^r such work as he 
took great pleasure in doing. When here also, I 
think, he hired a small garden about half a mile off, 
where he could grow vegetables and small fruit, and 
where he spent a few hours of every fine day. And 
these various occupations were an additional source 
of interest and instruction to us boys. It was here, 
however, that our elder sister died of consumption in 
the year 1832, a little before she attained her twenty- 
second year. This was a severe loss to my father and 
mother, though I was not of an age to feel it much. 

In the year 1834, a misfortune occurred that still 
further reduced the family income. Mr. Wilson, who 
had married my mother's only sister, was one of the 
executors of her father's will, and as he was a lawyer 
(the other executor being a clergyman), and his own 
wife and her sister were the only legatees, he naturally 
had the sole management of the property. Owing to 
a series of events with which we were only very 
imperfectly acquainted, he became bankrupt in this 
year, and his own wife and large family were at once 
reduced from a condition of comfort and even afflu- 
ence to poverty almost as great as our own. But we 
children also suffered, for legacies of £100 each to 


my father's family, to be paid to us as we came of age, 
together with a considerable sum that had reverted 
to my mother on the death of her stepmother in 1828, 
had remained in Mr. Wilson's hands as trustee, and 
were all involved in the bankruptcy. He did all he 
possibly could for us, and ultimately, I believe, repaid 
a considerable part of the money, but while the legal 
proceedings were in progress, and they lasted fully 
three years, it was necessary for us to reduce expenses 
as much as possible. We had to leave our comfort- 
able house and garden, and for a time had the use of 
half a rambling old house near All Saints' Church. 

Before this, I think, my brother John had gone to 
London to be apprenticed, and the family at home 
consisted only of myself and my younger brother 
Herbert till my sister returned from France, where 
she had gone to study the language. It must have 
been about this time that I was sent for a few 
months as a boarder at the Grammar School, as 
already stated ; but this whole period of my life is 
very indistinct. I am sure, however, that we moved 
to the next house in St. Andrew's Street early in 
1836, because on May 15 of that year an annular 
eclipse of the sun occurred, visible in England, and I 
well remember the whole family coming out with 
smoked glasses into the narrow yard at the side of 
the house in order to see it. I was rather disap- 
pointed, as it only produced a peculiar gloom such as 
often occurs before a thunderstorm. 

At midsummer, I think, we again moved to a part 
of a house next to St. Andrew's Church, where we 
had the Silk family for neighbours in the larger half 
of the house. They also had most of the garden, on 
the lawn of which was a fine old mulberry tree, which 
in the late summer was so laden with fruit that the 


ground was covered beneath it, and I and my friend 
George used to climb up into the tree, where we could 
gather the largest and ripest fruit and feast luxuriously. 
This was the last house we occupied in Hertford, 
the family moving to Hoddesdon some time in 1837, 
to a pretty but very small red-brick house called 
Rawdon Cottage, while I went to London and stayed 
at Mr. Webster's with my brother John, preparatory 
to going with my eldest brother William to learn 

During the time I lived at Hertford I was subject 
to influences which did more for my real education 
than the mere verbal training I received at school. 
My father belonged to a book club, through which 
we had a constant stream of interesting books, 
many of which he used to read aloud in the evening. 
Among these I remember Mungo Park's travels and 
those of Denham and Clapperton in West Africa. 
We also had Hood's Comic Annual for successive 
years, and I well remember my delight with "The 
Pugsley Papers " and " A Tale of the Great Plague," 
while, as we lived first at a No. i , I associated Hood's 
" Number One " with our house, and learnt the verses 
by heart when I was about seven years old. Ever 
since those early experiences I have been an admirer 
of Hood in all his various moods, from his inimitable 
mixture of pun and pathos in his " Sea Spell," to the 
exquisite poetry of "The Haunted House," "The 
Elm Tree," and " The Bridge of Sighs." 

We also had some good old standard works in the 
house, " Fairy Tales," " Gulliver's Travels," " Robinson 
Crusoe," and the " Pilgrim's Progress," all of which 
I read over again and again with constant pleasure. 
We also had the « Lady of the Lake," " The Vicar 


of Wakefield," and some others ; and among the 
books from the club I well remember my father read- 
ing to us Defoe's wonderful " History of the Great 

I think it was soon after we went to the Old 
Cross house that my father became librarian to a 
fairly good proprietary town library, to which he 
went for three or four hours every afternoon to give 
out and receive books and keep everything in order. 
After my brother John left home and I lost my chief 
playmate and instructor, this library was a great 
resource for me, as it contained a large collection of 
all the standard novels of the day. Every wet 
Saturday afternoon I spent there ; and on Tuesdays 
and Thursdays, which were our four-o'clock days, I 
usually spent an hour there instead of stopping to 
play or going straight home. Sometimes I helped 
my father a little in arranging or getting down books, 
but I had most of the time for reading, squatting 
down on the floor in a corner, where I was quite out 
of the way. It was here that I read all Fenimore 
Cooper's novels, a great many of James's, and 
Harrison Ainsworth's " Rookwood," that fine high- 
wayman's story containing a vivid account of Dick 
Turpin's Ride to York. It was here, too, I read the 
earlier stories of Marryat and Bulwer, Godwin's 
" Caleb Williams," Warren's " Diary of a Physician," 
and such older works as " Don Quixote," Smollett's 
" Roderick Random," " Peregrine Pickle," and " Hum- 
phry Clinker," Fielding's " Tom Jones," and Miss 
Burney's " Evelina." I also read, partially or com- 
pletely, Milton's "Paradise Lost," Pope's "Iliad," 
Spenser's "Faerie Queene," and Dante's "Inferno," 
a good deal of Byron and Scott, some of the Spectator 
and Rambler, Southey's " Curse of Kehama," and, in 


fact, almost any book that I heard spoken of as 
celebrated or interesting. Walton's " Angler " was a 
favourite of my father's, and I well remember a wood- 
cut illustration of Dove Dale with greatly exaggerated 
rocks and pinnacles, which made me long to see such 
a strange and picturesque spot — a longing which I 
only gratified about a dozen years ago, finding it 
more exquisitely beautiful than I had imagined it to 
be, even if not quite so fantastic. 

My father and mother were old-fashioned religious 
people belonging to the Church of England, and, as 
a rule, we all went to church twice on Sundays, usually 
in the morning and evening. We also had to learn 
a collect every Sunday morning, and were periodically 
examined in our Catechism. On very wet evenings 
my father read us a chapter from the Bible and a 
sermon instead of the usual service. Among our 
friends, however, were some Dissenters, and a good 
many Quakers, who were very numerous in Hertford ; 
and on rare occasions we were taken to one of their 
chapels .instead of to church, and the variety alone 
made this quite a treat. We were generally advised 
when some " friend " was expected to speak, and it 
was on such occasions that we visited the Friends' 
Meeting House, though I remember one occasion 
when, during the whole time of the meeting, there 
was complete silence. And when any brother or 
sister was " moved to speak," it was usually very dull 
and wearisome ; and after having attended two or 
three times, and witnessed the novelty of the men 
and women sitting on opposite sides of the room, and 
there being no pulpit and no clergyman and no sing- 
ing, we did not care to go again. But the Dissenters' 
chapel was always a welcome change, and we went 
there not unfrequently to the evening service. The 


extempore prayers, the frequent singing, and the 
usually more vigorous and exciting style of preaching 
was to me far preferable to the monotony of the 
Church service ; and it was there only that, at one 
period of my life, I felt something of religious fervour, 
derived chiefly from the more picturesque and im- 
passioned of the hymns. As, however, there was no 
sufficient basis of intelligible fact or connected reason- 
ing to satisfy my intellect, this feeling soon left me, 
and has never returned. 



Having finally left school at Christmas, 1836 (before 
I had completed my fourteenth year), I think it was 
early in 1837 that I was sent to London to live at 
Mr. Webster's in Robert Street, Hampstead Road, 
where my brother John was apprenticed. My father 
and mother were then about to move to the small 
cottage at Hoddesdon, and it was convenient for me 
to be out of the way till my brother William could 
arrange to have me with him to learn land-surveying. 
Mr. Webster was a small master builder, who had 
a work-shop in a yard about five minutes' walk from 
the house, where he constantly employed eight or ten 
men preparing all the joinery work for the houses he 
built. At that time there were no great steam- 
factories for making doors and windows, working 
mouldings, etc., everything being done by hand, 
except in the case of the large builders and con- 
tractors, who had planing and sawing-mills of their 
own. Here in the yard was a sawpit in which two 
men, the top- and bottom-sawyers, were always at 
work cutting up imported balks of timber into the 
sizes required, while another oldish man was at work 
day after day planing up floor-boards. In the shop 
itself windows and doors, cupboards, staircases, and 
other joiner's work was always going on, and the men 


employed all lived in the small streets surrounding 
the shop. The working hours were from six to half- 
past five, with one and a half hours out for meals, 
leaving a working day of ten hours. 

Having nothing else to do, I used to spend the 
greater part of my time in the shop, seeing the men 
work, doing little jobs occasionally, and listening to 
their conversation. These were no doubt an average 
sample of London mechanics, and they were on the 
whole quite as respectable a set of men as any in a 
similar position to-day. I soon became quite at home 
in the shop, and got to know the peculiarities of each 
of the men. I heard their talk together, their jokes 
and chaff, their wishes and their ideas, and all those 
little touches of character which come out in the 
familiar intercourse of the workshop. My general 
impression is that there was very little swearing 
among them, much less than became common thirty 
years later, and perhaps about as much as among a 
similar class of men to-day. Neither was there much 
coarseness or indecency in their talk, far less indeed 
than I met with among professional young men a few 
years afterwards. One of the best of the workmen 
was a very loose character — a kind of Lothario or Don 
Juan by his own account — who would often talk about 
his adventures, and boast of them as the very essence 
of his life. He was a very good and amusing talker, 
and helped to make the time pass in the monotony of 
the shop ; but occasionally, when he became too 
explicit or too boastful, the foreman, who was a rather 
serious though very agreeable man, would gently call 
him to order, and repudiate altogether his praises of 
the joys of immorality. 

As my brother was, at the time I am now speak- 
ing of, nearly nineteen and a very good workman, he 


had complete liberty in the evenings after seven 
o'clock, the only limitation being that he had to be 
back about ten ; while on special occasions he was 
allowed to take the door-key. He often took me with 
him on fine evenings to some of the best business 
streets in London to enjoy the shops, and especially 
to see anything of particular interest exhibited in 
them. But our evenings were most frequently spent 
at what was then termed a " Hall of Science," situated 
in John Street, Tottenham Court Road (now altered 
to Whitfield Street). It was really a kind of club or 
mechanics' institute for advanced thinkers among 
workmen, and especially for the followers of Robert 
Owen, the founder of the Socialist movement in 
England. Here we sometimes heard lectures on 
Owen's doctrines, or on the principles of secularism 
or agnosticism, as it is now called ; at other times we 
read papers or books, or played draughts, dominoes, 
or bagatelle, and coffee was also supplied to any who 
wished for it. It was here that I first made acquaint- 
ance with some of Owen's writings, and especially 
with the wonderful and beneficent work he had 
carried on for many years at New Lanark. I also 
received my first knowledge of the arguments of 
sceptics, and read among other books Paine's "Age 
of Reason." 

It must have been in one of the books or papers 
I read here that I met with what I dare say is a very 
old dilemma as to the origin of evil. It runs thus : 
" Is God able to prevent evil but not willing ? Then 
he is not benevolent. Is he willing but not able ? 
Then he is not omnipotent. Is he both able and 
willing ? Whence then is evil ? " This struck me 
very much, and it seemed quite unanswerable, and 
when at home a year or two afterwards, I took the 


opportunity one day to repeat it to my father, rather 
expecting he would be very much shocked at my 
acquaintance with any such infidel literature. But 
he merely remarked that such problems were mysteries 
which the wisest cannot understand, and seemed dis- 
inclined to any discussion of the subject. This, of 
course, did not satisfy me, and if the argument did 
not really touch the question of the existence of God, 
it did seem to prove that the orthodox ideas as to 
His nature and powers cannot be accepted. 

I was also greatly impressed by a tract on 
" Consistency," written by Robert Dale Owen, the 
eldest son of Robert Owen, and as a writer superior 
in style and ability to his father. The chief object of 
it was to exhibit the horrible doctrine of eternal 
punishment as then commonly taught from thousands 
of pulpits by both the Church of England and 
Dissenters, and to argue that if those who taught 
and those who accepted such dogmas thoroughly 
believed them and realized their horror, all worldly 
pleasures and occupations would give way to the 
continual and strenuous effort to escape such a fate. 
I thoroughly agreed with Mr. Dale Owen's conclusion, 
that the orthodox religion of the day was degrading 
and hideous, and that the only true and wholly 
beneficial religion was that which inculcated the 
service of humanity, and whose only dogma was the 
brotherhood of man. Thus was laid the foundation 
of my religious scepticism. 

Similarly, my introduction to advanced political 
views, founded on the philosophy of human nature, 
was due to the writings and teachings of Robert 
Owen and some of his disciples. His great funda- 
mental principle, on which all his teaching and all his 


practice were founded, was that the character of every 
individual is formed for and not by himself, first by 
heredity, which gives him his natural disposition with 
all its powers and tendencies, its good and bad 
qualities; and, secondly, by environment, including 
education and surroundings from earliest infancy, 
which always modifies the original character for 
better or for worse. Of course, this was a theory of 
pure determinism, and was wholly opposed to the 
ordinary views, both of religious teachers and of 
governments, that, whatever the natural character, 
whatever the environment during childhood and 
youth, whatever the direct teaching, all men could be 
good if they liked, all could act virtuously, all cotdd 
obey the laws, and if they wilfully transgressed any 
of these laws or customs of their rulers and teachers, 
the only way to deal with them was to punish them, 
again and again, under the idea that they could thus 
be deterred from future transgression. The utter 
failure of this doctrine, which has been followed in 
practice during the whole period of human history, 
seems to have produced hardly any effect on our 
systems of criminal law or of general education ; and 
though other writers have exposed the error, and are 
still exposing it, yet no one saw so clearly as Owen 
how to put his views into practice ; no one, perhaps, 
in private life has ever had such opportunities of 
carrying out his principles ; no one has ever shown 
so much ingenuity, so much insight into character, so 
much organizing power ; and no one has ever pro- 
duced such striking results in the face of enormous 
difficulties as he produced during the twenty-six 
years of his management of New Lanark. 

Of course, it was objected that Owen's principles 
were erroneous and immoral because they wholly 


denied free-will, because he advocated the abolition 
of rewards and punishments as both unjust and 
unnecessary, and because (it was argued) to act on 
such a system would lead to a pandemonium of vice 
and crime. The reply to this is that, acting on the 
principle of absolute free-will, every government has 
alike failed to abolish, or even to any considerable 
degree to diminish, discontent, misery, disease, vice, 
and crime ; and that, on the other hand, Owen did, 
by acting on his own principle of the formation of 
character, transform a discontented, unhealthy, vicious, 
and wholly antagonistic population of 2500 persons 
to an enthusiastically favourable, contented, happy, 
healthy, and comparatively moral community, without 
ever having recourse to any legal punishment what- 
ever, and without, so far as appears, discharging any 
individual for robbery, idleness, or neglect of duty ; 
and all this was effected while increasing the efficiency 
of the whole manufacturing establishment, paying a 
liberal interest on the capital invested, and even 
producing a large annual surplus of profits which, 
in the four years 1809-13, averaged ;^4o,ooo a year, 
and only in the succeeding period, when the new 
shareholders agreed to limit their interest to 5 per 
cent, per annum, was this surplus devoted to education 
and the general well-being of the community. 

Although most people have heard of New Lanark, 
few have any idea of Owen's work there or of the 
means by which he gradually overcame opposition 
and achieved the most remarkable results. It will, 
therefore, not be out of place to give a short account 
of his methods as explained in his autobiography, 
which I only had the opportunity of reading a few 
years ago. 

In the year 1800, he became partner and sole 


manager of the New Lanark cotton-mills, and 
married the daughter of Mr. Dale, the former 
proprietor. Gradually, for many years, he had been 
elaborating his theory of human nature, and longing 
for an opportunity of putting his ideas in practice. 
And now he had got his opportunity. He had an 
extensive factory and workshops, with a village of 
about two thousand inhabitants all employed in the 
works, which, with about two hundred acres of sur- 
rounding land, belonged to the company. The 
character of the workers at New Lanark is thus 
described by Mr. W. L. Sargant, in his work " Robert 
Owen and his Social Philosophy," when describing 
the establishment of the mills about fifteeen years 
before Owen acquired them : " To obtain a supply of 
adult labourers a village was built round the works, 
and the houses were let at a low rent ; but the 
business was so unpopular that few, except the bad, 
the unemployed, and the destitute, would settle there. 
Even of such ragged labourers the numbers were 
insufficient ; and these, when they had learned their 
trade and become valuable, were self-willed and in- 
subordinate." Besides these, there were about five 
hundred children, chiefly obtained from the work- 
houses of Edinburgh and other large towns, who 
were apprenticed for seven years from the age of six 
to eight, and were lodged and boarded in a large 
building erected for the purpose by the former owner, 
Mr. Dale, and were well attended to. But these poor 
children had to work from six in the morning to seven 
in the evening (with an hour and three-quarters for 
meals) ; and it was only after this task was over that 
instruction began. The children hated their slavery ; 
many absconded ; some were stunted, and even 
dwarfed in stature ; and when their apprenticeship 



expired at the ages of thirteen to fifteen, they 
commonly went off to Glasgow or Edinburgh, with 
no natural guardians, and serving to swell the mass 
of vice and misery in the towns. " The condition of 
the families who had immigrated to the village was 
also very lamentable. The people lived almost with- 
out control in habits of vice, idleness, poverty, debt, 
and destitution. Some were drunk for weeks together. 
Thieving was general, and went on to a ruinous 
extent. . . . There was also a considerable drawback 
to the comfort of the people in the high price and bad 
quality of the commodities supplied in the village." 

When Owen told his intimate friends who knew 
all these facts that he hoped to reform these people 
by a system of justice and kindness, and gradually to 
discontinue all punishment, they naturally laughed at 
him for a wild enthusiast ; yet he ultimately succeeded 
to such an extent that hardly any one credited the 
accounts of it without personal inspection, and its 
fame spread over the whole civilized world. He had, 
besides the conditions already stated, two other great 
difficulties to overcome. The whole of the workers 
and overseers were strongly antagonistic to him as 
being an Englishman, whose speech they could hardly 
understand, and who, they believed, was sent to get 
more money for the owners and more work out of 
themselves. They, therefore, opposed all he did by 
every means that ingenuity could devise, and though 
he soon introduced more order and regularity in the 
work and improved the quality of the yarn produced, 
they saw in all this nothing but the acts of a tool of 
the mill-owners somewhat cleverer, and therefore 
more to be dreaded, than those who had preceded 
him. An equally fierce opposition was made to any 
improvement in the condition of the houses and streets 


as to dirt, ventilation, drainage, etc. He vainly tried 
to assure the more intelligent of the overseers and 
workmen that his object was to improve their con- 
dition, to make them more healthy and happier and 
better off than they were. This was incredible to 
them, and for two years he made very little progress. 

One thing, however, he did for the benefit of the 
workers which had some effect in disarming their 
enmity and suspicions. Instead of the retail shops 
where inferior articles were sold at credit for very 
high prices, he established stores and shops where 
every article of daily consumption was supplied at 
wholesale prices, adding only the cost of management. 
The result was that by paying ready money the 
people got far better quality at full 25 per cent, less 
than before ; and the result soon became visible in 
their superior dress, improved health, and in the 
general comfort of their houses. 

But what at length satisfied them that their 
manager was really their friend was his conduct when 
a great temporary scarcity of cotton and its rapid rise 
in price caused most of the mills to be shut, and 
reduced the workers to the greatest distress. But 
though Owen shut up the mills he continued to pay 
every worker full wages for the whole of the four 
months during which the scarcity lasted, employing 
them in thoroughly cleaning the mills and machinery, 
repairing the houses, etc. This cost £7000, which he 
paid on his own responsibility ; but it so completely 
gained the confidence of the people that he was 
afterwards able to carry out improvements without 
serious obstruction. Being wholly opposed to infant 
labour, he allowed all arrangements with the guardians 
to expire, built a number of better houses, and. thus 
obtained families of workers to take the place of the 


children ; but difficulties with the partners arose, the 
property was sold to a fresh set of partners, Owen 
being still the largest shareholder and manager, and 
a few years later again sold to Owen and a few of his 
personal friends, who agreed to allow him to manage 
the property, and to expend all profits above 5 per 
cent, for the benefit of the workers. Among his co- 
shareholders were Jeremy Bentham, with Joseph 
Foster and William Allen, well-known Quakers. It 
may be here stated that the property was purchased 
of Mr. Dale for i^6o,ooo, and was sold to Owen and 
his friends in 1814 for ;^i 14,100. This great increase 
of value was due in part to the large profits made by 
cotton mills generally at this period, and partly to 
Owen's skilful management and judicious expenditure. 
He was now at last able to carry out his plans for 
the education of the children, none of whom he would 
allow to enter the mills as workers till they were ten 
years old. He built handsome and roomy schools, 
playrooms and lecture-rooms for infants from two to 
six, and for the older children from six to ten years 
old ; and he obtained the best masters for the latter. 
The infant schools were superintended by himself, 
and managed by teachers he himself selected for their 
manifest love of children. His instructions to them 
were " that they were on no account ever to beat any 
one of the children, or to threaten them in any manner 
in word or action, or to use abusive terms, but were 
always to speak to them with a pleasant countenance, 
and in a kind manner and tone of voice ; that they 
should tell the infants and children that they must on 
all occasions do all they could to make their play- 
fellows happy ; and that the older ones, from five to 
six years of age, should take especial care of the 
younger ones, and should assist to teach them to 


make each other happy." And these instructions, he 
assures us, were strictly followed by the man and 
woman he chose as infant-schoolmaster and mistress. 

No books were to be used ; but the children " were 
to be taught the uses and nature or qualities of the 
common things around them, by familiar conversation 
when the children's curiosity was excited so as to 
induce them to ask questions respecting them." The 
schoolrooms were furnished with paintings of natural 
objects, and the children were also taught dancing, 
singing, and military evolutions, which they greatly 
enjoyed. The children were never kept at any one 
occupation or amusement till they were fatigued and 
were taken much into the open air and into the sur- 
rounding country, where they were taught something 
about every natural object. Here we see all the essen- 
tial features of the educational systems of Pestalozzi 
and Frcebel, worked out by his own observations of 
child-nature from his own childhood onward, and put 
into practice on the first opportunity with a complete- 
ness and success that were most remarkable. 

The effect of his system on the adult workers was 
hardly less remarkable. To stop the continued pil- 
fering of bobbins and other small articles in the mills, 
he invented a system (unfortunately not explained) 
by which the many thousands of these articles which 
passed from hand to hand daily were so recorded 
automatically that the loss of one by any particular 
worker could be always detected. In this way robbery 
large or small, was always discovered, but no one was 
ever punished for it. The certainty of discovery, how- 
ever, prevented its being attempted, and it very soon 
ceased altogether. 

Equally novel and ingenious was his method of 
avoiding the necessity for punishment, or even for 3, 


word of censure, for the many petty offences or 
infractions of rules that are inevitable in every large 
establishment. Owen calls it " the silent monitor," 
but the workers called it the "telegraph." Each 
superintendent of a department had a character-book, 
in which the daily conduct of every worker was set 
down by marks for each of the ordinary offences, 
neglect of work, swearing, etc., which when summed 
up gave a result in four degrees — bad, indifferent, 
good, excellent. For every individual there was 
a small wooden, four-sided tally, the sides being 
coloured black, blue, yellow, and white, corresponding 
to the above degrees of conduct. This tally was fixed 
at each one's work-place, with the indicative colour 
only visible, so that as Owen or his representative 
passed down the shops at any time during the day, 
he could note at a glance the conduct of each 
one during the preceding day, and thus get both 
a general and a detailed view of the behaviour of 
the workers. If any thought they were unfairly 
treated they could complain to him, but in hardly 
any cases did this happen. He tells us, "As I 
passed through all the rooms, the workers always 
observed me look at these telegraphs, and when 
black I merely looked at the person, and then at 
the colour, but never said a word to one of them 
by way of blame. At first," he says, "a large pro- 
portion daily were black and blue, few yellow, and 
scarcely any white. Gradually the blacks were changed 
for blue, the blues for yellow, and the yellows for white. 
Soon after the adoption of this telegraph I could at 
once see by the expression of countenance what was 
the colour which was shown. As there were four 
colours there were four different expressions of counte- 
nance, most evident to me as I passed along the rooms. 


. . . Never perhaps in the history of the human race 
has so simple a device created in so short a period 
so much order, virtue, goodness, and happiness, out of 
so much ignorance, error, and misery. And for many 
years the permanent daily conduct of a very large 
majority of those who were employed deserved, and 
had, No. I placed as their character on the books of 
the company." 

Every visitor to New Lanark who published any 
account of his observations seems to have agreed as 
to the exceptional health, good conduct, and well- 
being of the entire population ; while residents in the 
vicinity, as well as the ruling authorities of the dis- 
trict, bore witness that vice and crime were almost 
wholly unknown. And it must be remembered that 
this was all effected upon the chance population found 
there, which was certainly no better if no worse than 
the usual lowest class of manufacturing operatives at 
that period. There appears to have been not a single 
case of an individual or a family being expelled for 
bad conduct ; so that we are compelled to trace the 
marvellous improvement that occurred entirely to the 
partial application of Owen's principles of human 
nature, most patiently and skilfully applied by him- 
self. They were necessarily only a partial application, 
because a large number of the adults had not received 
the education and training from infancy which was 
essential for producing their full beneficial results. 
Again, the whole establishment was a manufactory, 
the property of private capitalists, and the adult 
population suffered all the disadvantages of having 
to work for long hours at a monotonous employment 
and at low rates of wages, circumstances wholly 
antagonistic to any full and healthy and elevated 
existence. Owen used always to declare that the 


beneficial results at which all visitors were so much 
astonished were only one-tenth part of what could and 
would be produced if his principles were fully applied- 
If the labour of such a community, or of groups of 
such communities, had been directed with equal skill 
to produce primarily the necessaries and comforts of 
life for its own inhabitants, with a surplus of such 
goods as they could produce most economically, in 
order by their sale in the surrounding district to be 
able to supply themselves with such native or foreign 
products as they required, then each worker would 
have been able to enjoy the benefits of change of 
occupation, always having some alternation of out- 
door as well as indoor work ; the hours of labour 
might be greatly reduced, and all the refinements 
of life might have been procured and enjoyed by 

The one great error Owen committed was giving 
up the New Lanark property and management, and 
spending his large fortune in the endeavour to found 
communities in various countries of chance assem- 
blages of adults, which his own principles should have 
shown him were doomed to failure. He always main- 
tained that a true system of education from infancy 
to manhood was essential to the best formation of 
character. His infant schools had only been about 
ten years in existence, when, owing to some diffi- 
culties with his Quaker partners, who had always 
objected to the dancing and drill, he gave up the 
management into their hands. 

Notwithstanding this one fatal error, an error due 
to the sensitive nobility of his character and to his 
optimistic belief in the power of truth to make its way 
against all adverse forces, Robert Owen will be re- 
membered as one of the wisest, noblest, and most 


practical of philanthropists, as well as one of the best 
and most lovable of men. 

I have a recollection of having once heard him give 
a short address at this " Hall of Science," and that I 
was struck by his tall spare figure, very lofty head, 
and highly benevolent countenance and mode of 
speaking. Although later in life my very scanty 
knowledge of his work was not sufficient to prevent 
my adopting the individualist views of Herbert 
Spencer and of the political economists, I have always 
looked upon Owen as my first teacher in the philo- 
sophy of human nature and my first guide through 
the labyrinth of social science. He influenced my 
character more than I then knew, and now that I 
have read his life and most of his works, I am fully 
convinced that he was the greatest of social reformers 
and the real founder of modern Socialism. For these 
reasons I trust that my readers will not consider the 
space I have here devoted to an outline of his great 
work at New Lanark is more than the subject 

The preceding sketch of his work is founded upon 
his " Life " written by himself, and accompanied by 
such a mass of confirmatory reports and correspon- 
dence as to show that it can be thoroughly relied on. 
It has, however, long been out of print, and very few 
people have read it or even heard of it, and it is for 
this reason that I have given this brief outline. 



It was, I think, early in the summer of 1837 that I 
went with my brother William into Bedfordshire to 
begin my education as a land-surveyor. The first 
work we had was to survey the parish of Higham 
Gobion for the commutation of the tithes. It was a 
small parish of about a thousand acres, with the 
church, vicarage, and a good farmhouse on the highest 
ground, and a few labourers' cottages scattered about, 
but nothing that could be called a village. The 
whole parish was one large farm ; the land was almost 
all arable and the fields very large, so that it was a 
simple piece of work. We took up our quarters at 
the Coach and Horses public-house in the village of 
Barton-in-the-Clay, six miles north of Luton, on the 
coach-road to Bedford. We were nearly a mile from 
the nearest part of the parish, but it was the most 
convenient place we could get. 

An intelligent young labourer was hired to draw 
the chain in measuring, while I carried a flag or 
measuring-rod and stuck in pegs or cut triangular 
holes in the grass, where required, to form marks for 
future reference. We carried bill-hooks for cutting 
rods and pegs, as well as for clearing away branches 
that obstructed the view, and for cutting gaps in the 
hedges on the main lines of the survey, in order to 


lay them out perfectly straight. We started work 
after an early breakfast, and usually took with us a 
good supply of bread-and-cheese and half a gallon 
of beer, and about one o'clock sat down under the 
shelter of a hedge to enjoy our lunch. My brother 
was a great smoker, and always had his pipe after 
lunch (and often before breakfast), and, of course, the 
chain-bearer smoked too. It therefore occurred to 
me that I might as well learn the art, and for some 
days I tried a few whiffs. Then, going a little too far, 
I had such a violent attack of headache and vomiting 
that I was cured once and for ever from any desire 
to smoke, and although I afterwards lived for some 
years among Portuguese and Dutch, almost all of 
whom are smokers, I never felt any inclination to try 

It was while living at Barton that I obtained my 
first information that there was such a science as 
geology, and that chalk was not everywhere found 
under the surface, as I had hitherto supposed. My 
brother, like most land-surveyors, was something of a 
geologist, and he showed me the fossil oysters of the 
genus Gryphaea and the Belemnites, which we had 
hitherto called "thunderbolts," and several other 
fossils which were abundant in the chalk and gravel 
around Barton. While here I acquired the rudiments 
of surveying and mapping, as well as calculating areas 
on the map by the rules of trigonometry. This I 
found very interesting work, and it was rendered 
more so by a large volume belonging to my brother 
giving an account of the great Trigonometrical Survey 
of England, with all the angles and the calculated 
lengths of the sides of the triangles formed by the 
different stations on hilltops, and by the various 
church spires and other conspicuous objects. The 


church spires of Barton and Higham Gobion had 
been thus used, and the distance between them accu- 
rately given ; and as the line from one to the other 
ran diagonally across the middle of the parish we 
were surveying, this was made our chief base-line, 
and the distance as measured found to agree very 
closely with that given in the survey. This volume 
was eagerly read by me, as it gave an account of all 
the instruments used, including the great theodolite 
three feet in diameter for measuring the angles of the 
larger triangles formed by distant mountain tops often 
twenty or thirty miles apart, and in a few cases more 
than a hundred miles ; the accurate measurement of 
the base-lines by steel chains laid in wooden troughs, 
and carefully tightened by exactly the same weight 
passing over a pulley, while the ends were adjusted 
by means of microscopes ; the exact temperature 
being also taken by several thermometers in order to 
allow for contraction or expansion of the chains ; and 
by all these refinements several base-lines of seven 
or eight miles in length were measured with extreme 
accuracy in distant parts of the country. These 
base-lines were tested by repeated measurements in 
opposite directions, which were found to differ only 
by about an inch, so that the mean of all the measure- 
ments was probably correct to less than half that 

These bases were connected by the system of tri- 
angulation already referred to, the angles at all the 
stations being taken with the best available instru- 
ments and often repeated by different observers, 
while allowance had also to be made for height above 
the sea-level, to which all the distances had to be 
reduced. In this way, starting from any one base, 
the lengths of the sides of all the triangles were 


calculated, and ultimately the length of the other 
bases ; and if there had been absolutely no error in 
any of the measurements of base-lines or of angles, 
the length of a base obtained by calculation would be 
the same as that by direct measurement. The results 
obtained showed a quite marvellous accuracy. Start- 
ing from the base measured on Salisbury Plain, the 
length of another base on the shore of Lough Foyle in 
the north of Ireland was calculated through the whole 
series of triangles connecting them, and this calculated 
length was found to differ from the measured length 
by only five inches and a fraction. The distance 
between these two base-lines is about three hundred 
and sixty miles. 

It was here, too, that during my solitary rambles 
I first began to feel the influence of nature and to 
wish to know more of the various flowers, shrubs, and 
trees I daily met with, but of which for the most part 
I did not even know the English names. At that 
time I hardly realized that there was such a science 
as systematic botany, that every flower and every 
meanest and most insignificant weed had been accu- 
rately described and classified, and that there was 
any kind of system or order in the endless variety of 
plants and animals which I knew existed. 

Barton was a rather large straggling village of the 
old-fashioned, self-contained type, with a variety of 
small tradesmen and mechanics, many of whom lived 
in their own freehold or leasehold houses with fair- 
sized gardens. Our landlord was a Radical, and took 
a newspaper called The Constitutional^ which was 
published at Birmingham, and contained a great deal 
of very interesting matter. This was about the time 
the dean and chapter refused to allow a monument to 
be erected to Byron in Westminster Abbey, which 


excited much indignation among his admirers. One 
of these wrote some lines on the subject which struck 
me as being so worthy of the occasion that I learnt 
them by heart, and by constant repetition (on sleep- 
less nights) have never forgotten them. They were 
printed in the newspaper without a signature, and I 
have never been able to learn who was the author of 
them. I give them here to show the kind of poetry 
I admired then and still enjoy — 

"Away with epitaph and sculptured bust ! 
Leave these to decorate the mouldering dust 
Of him who needs such substitutes for fame — 
The chisel's pomp to deck a worthless name. 
Away with these ! A Byron needs them not ; 
Nature herself selects a deathless spot, 
A nation's heart : the Poet cannot die, 
His epitaph is Immortality. 
What are earth's mansions to a tomb like this ? 
When time hath swept into forgetfulness 
Wealth-blazoned halls and gorgeous cemeteries. 
The mouldering Abbey with its sculptured lies, 
His name, emblazoned in the wild, the free, 
The deep, the beautiful of earth, shall be 
A household word with millions. Dark and wild 
His song at times, his spirit was the child 
Of burning passion. Yet when he awoke 
From his dark hours of bondage, when he broke 
His cage and seized his harp, did he not make 
A peal of matchless melody and shake 
The very earth with joy ? Still thrills the heart 
Of man at those sweet notes ; sacred despots start 
To curse them from their thrones ; they pierce the cell 
And cheer the captive in his chains ; they tell 
Lessons of life to struggling liberty. 
Death mars the man but spares his memory. 
Nor tears one laurel from his wreath of fame. 
How many glorious thoughts of his we claim 
Our heritage for ever ; beacon lights 
To guide the barque of freedom through the nights 
Of tyranny and woe, when not a star 
Of hope looks down to glad the mariner : 
Thoughts which must ever haunt us, like some dream 
Of childhood which we ne'er forget, a gleam 
Of sunshine flashing o'er life's troubled stream ! " 


Those who only know Byron by his more romantic 
or pathetic poems, and who may think the panegyric 
of the anonymous writer in The Constitutional* to be 
overdrawn, should read " The Age of Bronze," which 
is pervaded throughout with the detestation of war, 
with admiration of those who fought only for freedom, 
and with scorn and contempt for the majority of 
English landlords, who subordinated all ideas of 
justice or humanity to the keeping up of their rents. 
Even if it stood alone, this one poem would justify 
the poet as an upholder of the rights of man and as a 
truly ethical teacher. 

As there was no work of importance after the 
maps and reference books of the parish we had been 
surveying were completed and delivered, and winter 
was approaching, I went home for a short holiday. 
My father and mother and my younger brother were 
then living in Hoddesdon, and as there was no direct 
conveyance I made the journey on foot. It was, I 
think, the end of November, and as the distance was 
about thirty miles, and I was not very strong, I took 
two days, sleeping on the way at a roadside public- 
house. I went through Hitchin and Stevenage, and 
near the former place passed a quarry of a reddish 
chalk almost as hard as marble, which was used for 
building. This surprised me, as I had hitherto only 
seen the soft varieties of chalk, and had been accus- 
tomed to look upon it as more earth than stone. The 
only other thing that greatly interested me was a 
little beyond Stevenage, where, on a grassy strip by 

* This newspaper — The Constitutional — appears to have existed 
only two years. The Daily News, referring to a sale of Thackeray 
rarities last year, states that he contributed several articles to that paper 
as Paris correspondent, and that, in consequence, a set of the paper 
sold in 1899 for two hundred guineas. A friend informs me that it 
does not exist in the Bodleian Library. 


the roadside, were six ancient barrows or tumuli, 
which I carefully inspected ; and whenever I have 
since travelled by the Great Northern Railway, I 
have looked out for these six tumuli, near which the 
line passes. 

After a few weeks at home at Hoddesdon, I went 
back to Barton, where we had some work till after 
Christmas. On New Year's Day, 1838, the first 
section of the London and Birmingham Railway was 
opened to Tring, and I and my brother took advan- 
tage of it to go up to London, where he had some 
business, and the next day I walked to Hoddesdon 
for a short holiday. My brother while in London 
obtained the survey for tithe commutation of a parish 
in Bedfordshire, where I was to meet him on the 14th 
or 15th of January, at the village of Turvey, eight 
miles beyond Bedford. 

I had first to go back to Barton to pay a few bills 
and pack up the books, instruments, etc., we had left 
there to be sent by carrier's waggon. I therefore left 
home on the 12th, and I think walked back to 
Barton, and the next day did what was required, took 
leave of my friends there, and on the morning of the 
14th, after an early breakfast, started to walk to 
Turvey through Bedford, a distance of about twenty 
miles. I dined at Bedford, and reached Turvey before 

For the next six days we were at work laying out 
the main lines for the survey of the parish, cutting 
hedges, ranging flags, ascertaining boundaries, and 
beginning the actual measurements. 

A curious incident may here be noted. One day 
I was out on the frozen meadows across the river 
Ouse, assisting in marking out one of our main lines 
which had to cross the windings of the river, when I 


saw a pleasant-looking young man coming towards 
me carrying a double-barrelled gun. When he was 
a few yards off, two very large birds, looking like wild 
geese, came flying towards us, and as they passed over- 
head at a moderate height, he threw up his gun, fired 
both barrels, and brought them both to the ground. 
Of course I went up to look at them, and found they 
were a fine pair of wild swans, the male being about 
five feet long from beak to end of tail. " That was a 
good shot," I remarked ; to which he replied, " Oh ! 
you can't miss them, they are as big as a barn door." 
Afterwards I found that this was young Mr. H. H. 
Higgins, of Turvey Abbey, his father being one of 
the principal landowners in the parish. 

More than half a century later (in November, 
1889), I was invited to Liverpool to give some 
lectures, and some time before the date fixed upon 
I received a very kind letter from the Rev. H. H. 
Higgins, inviting me to dine with him on my arrival, 
and offering to assist me in every way he could. I 
declined the invitation, but told him what hotel I was 
going to, and said that I should be glad to see him. 
His letter recalled to me my acquaintance at Turvey, 
but I did not see how a Liverpool clergyman could 
have any close relationship to a wealthy Bedfordshire 
landowner. I found Mr. Higgins at the station with 
a carriage ready, and he told me that, as I did not 
wish to go out to dinner, he and some friends had 
taken the liberty of ordering a dinner at my hotel, 
and hoped I would dine with them. He was as 
pleasant as an old friend, and of course I accepted. 

When his friends left about an hour after dinner, 
I asked him, if he had no engagement, to stay a little 
longer, as I wished to find out the mystery. I then 
asked him if he knew a place called Turvey, in 



Bedfordshire, to which he reph'ed, " I ought to know 
it, for I was born there, and my father owned the 
estate there to which I am heir." I then felt pretty 
sure of my man, and asked him if he remembered, 
during a very hard frost about fifty years ago, shoot- 
ing a pair of wild swans at Turvey. " Why, of course 
I do," said he. " But how do you know it ? " 
*' Because I was there at the time and saw you shoot 
them. Do not you remember a thin tall lad who 
came up to you and said, 'That was a good shot/ 
and you replied, * Oh ! you can't miss them, they are 
as big as a barn door ' } " " No," he said, " I don't 
remember you at all, but that is just what I should 
have said." His delight was great, for his story of 
how he shot the two wild swans was not credited 
even by his own family, and he made me promise 
to go to his house after the lecture on the next night, 
and prove to them that he had not been romancing. 
When I went, I was duly introduced to his grown-up 
sons and daughters as one who had been present 
at the shooting of the swans, which I had been 
the first to mention. That was a proud moment for 
the Rev. H. H. Higgins, and a very pleasant one to 

Soon after we came to Turvey a young gentleman 
from Bedford came to us to learn a little surveying. 
He was, I think, the son of an auctioneer or estate 
agent, and was about eighteen or twenty years old. 
As my brother was occasionally away for several 
days at a time when we sometimes had nothing to 
go on with, he would amuse himself fishing, of which 
he was very fond. Sometimes I went with him, but 
I usually preferred walking about the country, though 
I cannot remember that I had at this time any special 
interest in doing so. He often caught some large 


coarse fish, such as bream or pike, which were the 
commonest fish in the river, but were hardly worth 
eating. Towards the latter part of our survey in the 
spring months, my brother left us a portion of the 
work to do by ourselves when he was away for a 
week or two. I was therefore left mostly to the com- 
panionship of our temporary pupil, and he, like the 
majority of the young men I met at this period of 
my life, was by no means an edifying acquaintance. 

But, notwithstanding that I was continually thrown 
into such society from the time I left school, I do not 
think it produced the least bad effect upon my 
character or habits in after-life. This was partly 
owing to natural disposition, which was reflective and 
imaginative, but more perhaps to the quiet and order 
of my home, where I never heard a rude word or an 
offensive expression. The effect of this was intensified 
by my extreme shyness, which made it impossible for 
me to use words or discuss subjects which were 
altogether foreign to my home-life, as a result of 
which I have never been able to use an oath, although 
I have frequently felt those impulses and passions 
which in many people can only find adequate expres- 
sion in such language. This, I think, is a rather 
striking example of the effects of home influence 
during childhood, and of that kind of education on 
which Robert Owen depended for the general improve- 
ment of character and habits. 

It was some time in May or June of 1838 that 
we left Turvey for Silsoe, where my brother had 
some temporary work. This very small village is an 
appanage of Wrest Park, the seat of Earl de Grey, 
and is about halfway between Luton and Bedford. 
It consisted of a large inn with a considerable posting 
business, a few small houses, cottages, and one or 

68 • MY LIFE 

two shops, and, like most such villages, it is no larger 
to-day than it was then. 

Our work here was mainly copying maps or 
making surveys connected with the estate, and for 
this purpose we had the use of a small empty house 
nearly opposite the inn, where a large drawing-table 
and a few chairs and stools were all the furniture we 
required. Here we used sometimes to sit of a 
summer's evening with one or two friends for privacy 
and quiet conversation. 

One day, having to drive over to Dunstable on 
some business, my brother took me with him. When 
there, we walked out to a deep cutting through the 
chalk about a mile to the north-west, where the road 
was being improved by further excavation to make 
the ascent easier. This was the great mail-coach 
road to Birmingham and Holyhead, and although 
the railway from London to Birmingham was then 
making and partly finished, nobody seemed to 
imagine that in twelve years more a railway would 
be opened the whole distance, and, so far as the mails 
and all through traffic were concerned, all such costly 
improvement on the high-roads would be quite 

My brother had some conversation with the 
engineer who was inspecting the work, and took a 
lump of chalk home with him to ascertain its specific 
gravity, as to which there was some difference of 
opinion. While taking luncheon at the hotel we met 
a gentleman named Matthews about my brother's age, 
who turned out to be a surveyor, and who was also in- 
terested in engineering generally ; and after luncheon 
they borrowed a small pair of scales and a large jug 
of water, and by suspending the chalk by a thread 
below the scale-pan, they weighed it in water, having 


first weighed it dry in the ordinary way, and the 
weight in air, divided by the difference between the 
weights in air and water, gives the specific gravity 
sufficiently near for ordinary purposes. This little 
experiment interested me greatly, and made me wish 
to know something about mechanics and physics. 
Mr. Matthews lived at Leighton Buzzard, where he 
carried on the business of watch and clock maker as 
well as that of engineer and surveyor. He had under- 
taken the survey of the parish of Soulbury, but 
having too much other work to attend to, he was 
looking out for some one to take it off his hands. 
This matter was soon agreed upon, and a few weeks 
afterwards we left Silsoe to begin the work. 

The village of Soulbury is a very small one, 
though the parish is rather large. It is only three 
miles from Leighton, and we obtained accommodation 
in the school-house. 

The district was rather an interesting one. The 
parish was crossed about its centre by the small river 
Ouzel, a tributary of the Ouse, bordered by flat 
verdant meadows, beyond which the ground rose on 
both sides into low hills, which to the north-east 
reached five hundred feet above the sea, and being 
of a sand formation, were covered with heaths and 
woods of fir trees. Parallel with the river was the 
Grand Junction Canal, which at that time carried all 
the heavy goods from the manufacturing districts of 
the Midlands to London. Following the same general 
direction, but about half a mile west on higher 
ground, the London and Birmingham Railway was 
in course of construction, a good deal of the earth- 
work being completed, most of the bridges built 
or building, and the whole country enlivened by the 
work going on. 


At the same time the canal had been improved at 
great cost to enable it to carry the increased trade 
that had been caused by the rapid growth of London 
and the prosperity of agriculture during the early 
portion of the nineteenth century. About thirty 
miles further on the watershed between the river- 
basins of the Ouse and Severn had to be crossed, a 
district of small rainfall and scanty streams, from 
which the whole supply of the canal, both for its locks 
as well as for evaporation and leakage, had to be 
drawn. Whenever there was a deficiency of water 
here to float the barges and fill the locks, trafific was 
checked till the canal filled again ; and this had 
become so serious that, for a considerable portion of 
the canal, it had been found necessary to erect steam- ' 
engines to pump up the water at every lock from the 
lower to the higher level. Sometimes there were two, 
three, or more locks close together, and in these cases 
a more powerful engine was erected to pump the 
water the greater height. Up to this time I had 
never seen a steam-engine, and therefore took the 
greatest interest in examining these both at rest and 
at work. They had been erected by the celebrated 
firm of Boulton and Watt, and were all of the low- 
pressure type then in use, with large cylinders, over- 
head beam, and parallel motion, but each one having 
its special features, the purport of which was explained 
to me by my brother, and gave me my first insight 
into some of the more important applications of the 
sciences of mechanics and physics. 

Of course at that time nobody foresaw the rapid 
development of railways all over the country, or 
imagined that they could ever compete with canals 
in carrying heavy goods. Yet within two years after 
the completion of the line to Birmingham, the traffic 


of the canal had decreased to 1,000,000 tons, while it 
was 1,100,000 tons in 1837. Afterwards it began 
slowly to rise again, and had reached 1,627,000 tons 
in 1900, an exceedingly small increase as compared 
with that of the railway. And this increase is wholly 
due to local traffic between places adjacent to the 

In the northern part of the parish, which extended 
nearly to the village of Great Brickhill, were some 
curious dry valleys with flat bottoms, and sides clothed 
with fir woods, a kind of country I had not yet seen, 
and which impressed me as showing some connection 
between the geological formation of the country and 
its physical features, though it was many years later 
when, by reading Lyell's " Principles of Geology," I 
first understood why it should be so. Another interest- 
ing feature of the place, of which no one then saw the 
significance, was a large mass of hard conglomerate 
rock, or pudding-stone, which lay in the centre of the 
spot where the three roads met in front of the house 
where we lodged. It was roughly about a yard in 
diameter and about the same height, and had probably 
at some remote period determined the position of the 
village and the meeting-point of the three roads. 
Being a kind of rock quite different from any found 
in that part of England, it was probably associated 
with some legend in early time, but it is in all pro- 
bability a relic of the Ice Age, and was brought by the 
glacier or ice-sheet that at one time extended over 
all midland England as far as the Thames valley. 
But at this time not a single British geologist knew 
anything about a glacial epoch, it being two years 
later, in 1840, when Louis Agassiz showed Dr. 
Buckland such striking indications of ice-action in 
Scotland as to convince him of the reality of such 

72^ MY LIFE 

a development of glaciers in our own country at a 
very recent period. 

Having finished our plans of Soulbury, and made 
the three copies needed with their books of reference, 
with some other odd work, my brother took me up to 
London on Christmas Eve, travelling by coach to 
Berkhampstead and thence on to London by the 
railway, which had been just opened. We went third 
class for economy, in open trucks identical with 
modern goods trucks, except that they had hinged 
doors, but with no seats whatever, so that any one 
tired of standing must sit upon the floor. Luckily it 
was mild weather, and the train did not go more than 
fifteen or twenty miles an hour, yet even at that pace 
the wind was very disagreeable. The next day we 
went home to Hoddesdon for a holiday. It had been 
settled that, as no more surveying work was in view, 
I should go back to Leighton to Mr. Matthews for a 
few months to see if I should like to learn the watch 
and clock making business as well as surveying and 
general engineering ; and as there seemed to be 
nothing else available, I did so. 

Mr. William Matthews was a man of about thirty. 
He had been married two years, and had a little girl 
under a year old. Both he and Mrs. Matthews were 
pleasant people, and I felt that I should be comfort- 
able with them, Mr, Matthews had also charge of 
the town gas-works, which involved some knowledge 
of practical chemistry, and a good deal of mechanical 
work. I spent about nine months in his house, and 
during that time learnt to take an ordinary watch to 
pieces, clean it properly, and put it together again, 
and the same with a clock ; to do small repairs to 
jewellery ; and to make some attempts at engraving 


initials on silver. I also saw the general routine of 
gas manufacture ; but hardly any surveying, which 
was the work I liked best. I was, therefore, very 
glad when circumstances, not connected with myself, 
put an end to the arrangement. Mr. Matthews 
accepted the offer of a partnership in an old-estab- 
lished wholesale watchmaking firm in the city of 
London, and gave up his Leighton business. 

This may be considered the first of several turning- 
points of my life, at which, by circumstances beyond 
my own control, I have been insensibly directed into 
the course best adapted to develop my special mental 
and physical activities. If I had been apprenticed to 
Mr. Matthews I should have become a mechanical 
tradesman in a country town, by which my life would 
almost certainly have been shortened and my mental 
development stunted by the monotony of my occu- 



In the autumn of 1839 my brother came to Leighton 
to take me away, and in a day or two we started for 
Herefordshire, going by the recently opened railroad 
to Birmingham, where we visited an old friend of my 
brother's, a schoolmaster, whose name I forget, and 
who I remember showed us with some pride how his 
school was warmed by hot-water pipes, then some- 
what unusual. We then went on by coach through 
Worcester to Kington, a small town of about two 
thousand inhabitants, only two miles from the 
boundary of Radnorshire. It is pleasantly situated 
in a hilly country, and has a small stream flowing 
through it. Just beyond the county boundary, on 
the road to Old and New Radnor, there is an isolated 
craggy hill called the Stanner Rocks, which, being a 
hard kind of basalt very good for road-metal, was 
being continually cut away for that purpose. It was 
covered with scrubby wood, and was the most 
picturesque object in the immediately surrounding 

In a solitary letter, accidentally preserved, written 
at this time to my earliest friend, George Silk, I find 
the following passage which well expresses the pleasure 
I felt in getting back to land-surveying : — 

"I think you would like land-surveying, about 


half indoors and half outdoors work. It is delightful 
on a fine summer's day to be (literally) ' cutting ' all 
over the country, following the chain and admiring 
the beauties of nature, breathing the fresh and pure 
air on the hills, or in the noontide heat enjoying our 
luncheon of bread-and-cheese in a pleasant valley by 
the side of a rippling brook. Sometimes, indeed, it 
is not quite so pleasant on a cold winter's day to find 
yourself on the top of a bare hill, not a house within 
a mile, and the wind and sleet chilling you to the 
bone. But it is all made up for in the evening ; and 
those who are in the house all day can have no idea 
of the pleasure there is in sitting down to a good 
dinner and feeling hungry enough to eat plates, 
dishes, and all." 

Some time during the winter I went alone to 
correct an old map of the parish of New Radnor. 
This required no regular surveying, but only the 
insertion of any new roads, buildings, or divisions of 
fields, and taking out any that had been cleared 
away. As these changes were not numerous and the 
new fences were almost always straight lines, it was 
easy to mark on the map the two ends of such fences 
by measuring from the nearest fixed point with a ten 
or fifteen-link measuring-rod, and then drawing them 
in upon the plan. Sometimes the direction was 
checked by taking an angle with the pocket sextant 
at one or both ends, where one of these could not be 
seen from the other. As the whole plan was far too 
large to be taken into the field, tracings were made 
of portions about half a mile square, which were 
mounted on stiff paper or linen, and folded up in a 
loose cover for easy reference. In this way a whole 
parish of several thousand acres could be examined 
and corrected in a week or two, especially in a country 


like Wales, where, from a few elevated points, large 
tracts could be distinctly seen spread out below, and 
any difference from the old map be easily detected. 
I liked this kind of work very much, as I have 
always been partial to a certain amount of solitude, 
and am especially fond of rambling over a country 
new to me. 

New Radnor, though formerly a town of some 
importance, was then, and I believe is still, a mere 
village, and a poor one, Presteign being the county 
town. It is situated on the southern border of Radnor 
Forest, a tract of bare mountains about twenty square 
miles in extent, the highest point being a little over 
two thousand feet above the sea. Over a good deal 
of this country I wandered for about a week, and 
enjoyed my work very much. 

Early the next year, I think about February, my 
brother and I went to do some surveying at Rhaidr- 
Gwy (now commonly called Rhayader), a small town 
in Radnorshire on the Upper Wye, and only fifteen 
miles from its source in the Plynlymmon range. A 
young man from Carmarthenshire came to us here to 
learn surveying, and to him I probably owe my life. 
One day, I think on a Sunday afternoon, we were 
walking together up a rocky and boggy valley which 
extended some miles to the west of the town. As 
we were strolling along, picking our way among the 
rocks and bog, I inadvertently stepped upon one of 
those small bog eyeholes which abound in such 
places, and are very dangerous, being often deep 
enough to swallow up a man, or even a horse. One 
leg went in suddenly up to the hip, and I fell down, 
but fortunately with my other leg stretched out upon 
the surface. I was, however, in such a position that I 
could not rise, and had I been alone my efforts to 


extricate myself might easily have drawn my whole 
body into the bog, as I could feel no bottom to it. 
But my companion easily pulled me out, and we 
walked home, and thought little of it. It had, how- 
ever, been a hard frost for some time, and the mud 
was ice-cold, and after a few days I developed a bad 
cough with loss of appetite and weakness. The local 
doctor was a friend of ours, and he gave me some 
medicine, but it did no good, and I got worse and 
worse, with no special pain, but with a disgust of food, 
and for more than a week I ate nothing but perhaps 
a small biscuit each day soaked in tea without milk, 
though always before and since I greatly disliked tea 
without milk. At length the doctor became frightened, 
and told my brother that he could do nothing for me, 
and that he could not be answerable for my life. He 
added that he knew but one man who could save me, 
a former teacher of his, Dr. Ramage, who was the only 
man who could cure serious lung disease, though he 
was considered a quack by his fellow-practitioners. 

As I got no better, a few days later we started for 
London, I think sleeping at Birmingham on the way. 
On going to Dr. Ramage, who tested my lungs, etc., 
he told my brother that he was just in time, for that 
in a week more he could probably not have saved 
me, as I had an extensive abscess of the lungs. His 
treatment was very simple but most effective, and 
was the forerunner of that rational treatment by 
which it is now known that most lung diseases are 
curable. He ordered me to go home to Hoddesdon 
immediately, to apply half a dozen leeches to my 
chest at a place he marked with ink, and to take a 
bitter medicine he prescribed to give me an appetite ; 
but these were only preliminaries. The essential 
thing was the use of a small bone breathing-tube, 


which he told us where to buy, and which I was to 
use three times a day for as many minutes as I could 
without fatigue ; that I was to eat and drink anything 
I fancied, be kept warm, but when the weather was 
mild sit out-of-doors. I was to come back to him in 
a week. 

The effect of his treatment was immediate. I at 
once began to eat, and though I could not breathe 
through the tube for more than a minute at first, I 
was soon enabled to increase it to three and then to 
five minutes. It was constructed with a valve so that 
the air entered freely, but passed out slowly so that 
it was kept in the lungs for a few seconds at each 
inspiration. When I paid my second visit to Dr. 
Ramage, he told me that I was getting on well, and 
need not come to him again, that I was to continue 
using the breathing-tube for five minutes three or four 
times a day. He also strongly advised me, now I saw 
the effect of deep and regular breathing, to practise 
breathing in the same way without the tube, and 
especially to do so when at leisure, when lying down, 
or leaning back in an easy-chair, and to be sure to fill 
my lungs well and breathe out slowly. " The natural 
food of the lungs," he said, " is fresh air. If people 
knew this, and acted upon it, there would be no con- 
sumption, no lung disease." I have never forgotten 
this. I have practised it all my life (at intervals), and 
do so still, and I am sure that I owe my life to Dr. 
Ramage's treatment and advice. 

In about two months I was well again, and went 
back to Kington, and after a little office-work my 
brother and I went to the little village of Llanbister, 
near the middle of Radnorshire, the nearest towns 
being Builth, in Brecknockshire, and Newtown in 


Montgomeryshire, both more than twelve miles distant. 
This was a very large parish, being fifteen miles long, 
but I think we could only have corrected the old map 
or we should have been longer there than we really 
were. Here, also, we had a young gentleman with us 
for a month or two to practise surveying. He was, I 
think, a Welshman, and a pleasant and tolerably 
respectable young man, but he had one dreadful 
habit — excessive smoking. I have never met a 
person so much a slave to the habit, and even if I 
had had any inclination to try it again after my first 
failure, his example would have cured me. 

He prided himself on being a kind of champion 
smoker, and assured us that he had once, for a wager, 
smoked a good-sized china teapot full of tobacco 
through the spout. 

When we had finished at Llanbister, we went 
about ten miles south to a piece of work that was 
new to me — the making of a survey and plans for the 
inclosure of common lands. This was at Llandrindod 
Wells, where there was then a large extent of moor 
and mountain surrounded by scattered cottages with 
their gardens and small fields, which, with their rights 
of common, enabled the occupants to keep a horse, 
cow, or a few sheep, and thus make a living. All this 
was now to be taken away from them, and the whole 
of this open land divided among the landowners of 
the parish or manor in proportion to the size or value 
of their estates. To those that had much, much was 
to be given, while from the poor their rights were 
taken away ; for though nominally those that owned 
a little land had some compensation, it was so small 
as to be of no use to them in comparison with 
the grazing rights they before possessed. In the case 
of all cottagers who were tenants or leaseholders, it 


was simple robbery, as they had no compensation 
whatever, and were left wholly dependent on farmers 
for employment. And this was all done — as similar 
inclosures are almost always done — under false pre- 
tences. The " General Inclosure Act " states in its 
preamble, " Whereas it is expedient to facilitate the 
inclosure and improvement of commons and other 
lands now subject to the rights of property which 
obstruct cultivation and the productive employment 
of labour, be it enacted," etc. But in hundreds of 
cases, when the commons, heaths, and mountains 
have been partitioned out among the landowners, the 
land remains as little cultivated as before. It is either 
thrown into adjacent farms as rough pasture at a 
nominal rent, or is used for game-coverts, and often 
continues in this waste and unproductive state for 
half a century or more, till any portions of it are 
required for railroads, or for building upon, when a 
price equal to that of the best land in the district is 
often demanded and obtained. I know of thousands 
of acres in many parts of the south of England to 
which these remarks will apply, and if this is not 
obtaining land under false pretences — a legalized 
robbery of the poor for the aggrandizement of the 
rich, who were the law-makers — words have no 

In this particular case the same course has been 
pursued. While I was writing these pages a friend 
was staying at Llandrindod, and I took the oppor- 
tunity of asking him what was the present condition 
of the land more than sixty years after its inclosure. 
He informs me that, by inquiries among old inhabit- 
ants, he finds that at the time nothing was done 
except to inclose the portions allotted to each land- 
lord with turf banks or other rough fencing ; and that 


to this day almost all the great boggy moor, with the 
mountain slopes and summits, has not been improved 
in any way, either by draining, cultivation, or plant- 
ing, but is still wild, rough pasture. But about thirty 
years after the inclosure the railway from Shrewsbury 
through South Wales passed through the place, and 
immediately afterwards a few villas and boarding- 
houses were built, and some of the inclosed land was 
sold at building prices. This has gone on year by 
year, and though the resident population is still only 
about 2000, it is said that 10,000 visitors (more or 
less) come every summer, and the chief increase of 
houses has been for their accommodation. My friend 
tells me that, except close to the village and railway, 
the whole country which was inclosed — many hun- 
dreds of acres — is still bare and uncultivated, with 
hardly any animals to be seen upon it. Milk is scanty 
and poor, and the only butter is Cornish or Australian, 
so that the inclosure has not led to the supply of the 
simplest agricultural needs of the population. Even 
the piece of common that was reserved for the use of 
the inhabitants is now used for golf-links ! 

Here, then, as in so many other cases, the express 
purpose for which alone the legislature permitted the in- 
closure has not been fulfilled, and in equity the whole 
of the land, and the whole money proceeds of the sale 
of such portions as have been built upon, should revert 
to the public. The prices now realized by this almost 
worthless land, agriculturally, are enormous. In or 
near the village it sells for ;^I500 an acre, or even 
more, while quite outside these limits it is from ;^300 
to ;^400. 

In regard to this fundamental question of land 
ownership people are so blinded by custom and by 
the fact that it is sanctioned by the law, that it may 



be well for a moment to set these entirely on one 
side, and consider what would have been the proper, 
the equitable, and the most beneficial mode of dealing 
with our common and waste lands at the time of the 
last general Inclosure Act in the early years of the 
reign of Queen Victoria. Considering, then, that 
these uninclosed wastes were the last remnant of our 
country's land over which we, the public, had any 
opportunity of free passage to breathe pure air and 
enjoy the beauties of nature ; considering that these 
wastes, although almost worthless agriculturally, were 
of especial value to the poor of the parishes or manors 
in which they were situated, not only giving them 
pasture for their few domestic animals, but in some 
cases peat for fuel and loppings of trees for fences or 
garden sticks ; considering that an acre or two of 
such land, when inclosed and cultivated, would give 
them, in return for the labour of themselves and their 
families during spare hours, a considerable portion 
of their subsistence, would enable them to create a 
home from which they could not be ejected by the 
will of any landlord or employer, and would thus 
raise them at once to a condition of comparative 
independence and security, abolishing the terrible 
spectre of the workhouse for their old age, which now 
haunts the peasant or labourer throughout life, and 
is the fundamental cause of that exodus to the towns 
about which so much nonsense is talked ; considering, 
further, that just in proportion as men rise in the 
social scale, these various uses of the waste lands 
become less and less vitally important, till, when we 
arrive at the country squire and great landowner, the 
only use of the inclosed common or moor is either to 
be used as a breeding-ground for game, or to add to 
some of his farms a few acres of land at an almost 


nominal rent ; — considering all these circumstances, 
and further, that those who perform what is funda- 
mentally the most important and the most beneficial 
of all work, the production of food, should be able to 
obtain at least the necessaries of life by that work, and 
secure a comfortable old age by their own fireside, — 
how would any lover of his country think that such 
lands ought to be dealt with in the best interests of 
the whole community ? 

Surely, that the very first thing to be done should 
be to provide that all workers upon the land, either 
directly or indirectly, should have plots of from one 
to five acres, in proportion to the amount of such 
waste and the needs of the inhabitants. The land 
thus allotted to be held by them in perpetuity, from 
the local authority, at a low rent such as any farmer 
would give for it as an addition to his farm. In cases 
where the amount of common land was very great in 
proportion to the population, some of the most suit- 
able land might be reserved for a common pasture, 
for wood or fuel, or for recreation, and the remainder 
allotted to applicants from adjacent parishes where 
there was no common land. 

Another thing that should be attended to in all 
such inclosures of waste land is the preservation for 
the people at large of rights of way over it in various 
directions, both to afford ample means of enjoying 
the beauties of nature and also to give pedestrians 
short cuts to villages, hamlets, or railway stations. 
One of the greatest blessings that might be easily 
attained if the land were resumed by the people to 
be held for the common good, would be the estab- 
lishment of ample footpaths along every railway in 
the kingdom, with sufficient bridges or subways for 
safe crossing ; and also (and more especially) along 


the banks of every river or brook, such paths to be 
diverted around any dwelling-house that may have 
gardens extending to the water's edge, all such paths 
to be made and kept in repair by the District Councils. 
Under the present system old paths are often closed, 
but we never hear of new ones being made, yet such 
are now more than ever necessary when most of our 
roads are rendered dangerous by motor-cars and 
cycles, and exceedingly disagreeable and unhealthy 
to pedestrians by the clouds of gritty dust continually 
raised by these vehicles. 

This all-embracing system of land-robbery, for 
which nothing is too great and nothing too small ; 
which has absorbed meadow and forest, moor and 
mountain, which has appropriated most of our rivers 
and lakes and the fish that live in them ; which often 
claims the very seashore and rocky coasts of our 
island home, fencing them off from the wayfarer who 
seeks the solace of their health-giving air and wild 
beauty, while making the peasant pay for his seaweed 
manure and the fisherman for his bait of shell-fish ; 
which has desolated whole counties to replace men 
by sheep or cattle, and has destroyed fields and cot- 
tages to make a wilderness for deer and grouse ; 
which has stolen the commons and filched the road- 
side wastes ; which has driven the labouring poor into 
the cities, and has thus been the primary and chief 
cause of the lifelong misery, disease, and early death 
of thousands who might have lived lives of honest 
toil and comparative well-being had they been per- 
mitted free access to land in their native villages ; — 
it is the advocates and beneficiaries of this inhuman 
system who, when a partial restitution of their unholy 
gains is proposed, are the loudest in their cries of 
" robbery " I 


But all the robbery, all the spoliation, all the legal 
and illegal filching, has been on their side, and they 
still hold the stolen property. They made laws to 
legalize their actions, and, some day, we, the people, 
will make laws which will not only legalize but justify 
our process of restitution. It will justify it, because, 
unlike their laws, which always took from the poor to 
give to the rich — to the very class which made the 
laws — ours will only take from the superfluity of the 
rich, not to give to the poor or to any individuals, but 
to be so administered as to enable every man to live 
by honest work, to restore to the whole people their 
birthright in their native soil, and to relieve all alike 
from a heavy burden of unnecessary and unjust 
taxation. This will be the true statesmanship of the 
future, and it will be justified alike by equity, by 
ethics, and by religion. 

In the preceding pages I have expressed the 
opinions which have been gradually formed as the 
result of the experience and study of my whole life. 
My first work on the subject was entitled " Land 
Nationalization : its Necessity and its Aims," and 
was published in the year 1882 ; and this, together 
with the various essays in the second volume of my 
"Studies Scientific and Social," published in 1900, 
may be taken as expressing the views I now hold, 
and as pointing out some of the fundamental con- 
ditions which I believe to be essential for the well- 
being of society. 

But at the time of which I am now writing such 
ideas never entered my head. I certainly thought it 
a pity to inclose a wild, picturesque, boggy, and 
barren moor, but I took it for granted that there was 
some right and reason in it, instead of being, as it 


certainly was, both unjust, unwise, and cruel. But 
the surveying was interesting work, as every trickling 
stream, every tree, every mass of rock or boggy 
waterhole, had to be marked on the map in its true 
relative position, as well as the various footpaths or 
roucfh cart-roads that crossed the common in various 

At that time the medicinal springs, though they 
had been used from the time of the Romans, were 
only visited by a few Welsh or West of England 
people, and there was little accommodation for 
visitors, except in the small hotel where we lodged. 
One of our great luxuries here was the Welsh mutton 
fed on the neighbouring mountains, so small that a 
hind-quarter weighed only seven or eight pounds, but 
which, when hung a few days or a week, was most 
delicious eating. I agree with George Borrow in his 
praise of this dish. In his " Wild Wales " he says, 
" As for the leg of mutton it was truly wonderful ; 
nothing so good had I ever tasted in the shape of a 
leg of mutton. The leg of mutton of Wales beats 
the leg of mutton of any other country, and I had 
never tasted a Welsh leg of mutton before. Cer- 
tainly I shall never forget that first Welsh leg of 
mutton which I tasted, rich but delicate, replete with 
juices derived from the aromatic herbs of the noble 
Berwyn mountain, cooked to a turn, and weighing 
just four pounds." Well done, George Borrow ! You 
had a good taste in ale and mutton, and were not 
afraid to acknowledge it. 



It was in the summer or early autumn of 1841 that 
we left Kington for the tiny village of Trallong, a 
few miles beyond the town of Brecon, the parish we 
had to survey, and obtained lodgings in the house of 
a shoemaker, where we were very comfortable for 
some months. The house was pleasantly situated 
about two hundred and fifty feet above the river, 
with an uninterrupted view to the south-east over 
woody hills of moderate height to the fine range of the 
Great Forest, culminating in the double peaks of the 
Beacons, which were seen here fully separated with 
the narrow ridge connecting them. At sunset they 
were often beautifully tinted, and my brother made a 
charming little water-colour sketch of them, which, 
with most of his best sketches, were placed in an 
album by my sister, and this was stolen or lost while 
she was moving in London. 

I looked daily at the Beacons with longing eyes, 
and on a fine autumn day one of the shoemaker's 
sons with a friend or two and myself started oft" to 
make the ascent. Though less than six miles from 
us in a straight line, we had to take a rather cir- 
cuitous course over a range of hills, and then up to 
the head of a broad valley, which took us within a 


mile of the summit, making the distance about ten 
miles. But the day was gloriously fine, the country 
beautiful, and the view from the top very grand; 
while the summit itself was so curious as greatly to 
surprise me, though I did not fully appreciate its very 
instructive teaching till some years later, after I had 
ascended many other mountains, had studied Lyell's 
" Principles of Geology," and had fully grasped the 
modern views on sub-aerial denudation. As Breck- 
nockshire is comparatively little known, and few 
English tourists make the ascent of the Beacons, a 
short account of them will be both interesting and 

The northern face of the mountain is very rocky 
and precipitous, while on the southern and western 
sides easy slopes reach almost to the summit. The 
last few yards is, however, rather steep, and at the 
very top there is a thick layer of peat, which over- 
hangs the rock a little. On surmounting this on the 
west side the visitor finds himself in a nearly flat 
triangular space, perhaps three or four acres in extent, 
bounded on the north by a very steep rocky slope, 
and on the other sides by steep but not difficult grass 
slopes. To the north-east he sees the chief summit 
about a quarter of a mile distant and nearly fifty feet 
higher, while connecting the two is a narrow ridge or 
saddle-back, which descends about a hundred feet in 
a regular curve, and then rises again, giving an easy 
access to the higher peak. The top of this ridge is 
only a foot or two wide and very steep on the 
northern slope, but the southern slope is less precipi- 
tous, and about a hundred yards down it there is a 
small spring where the visitor can get deliciously 
cool and pure water. The north-eastern summit is 
also triangular, a little larger than the other, and 


\Toface p. 


bounded by a very dangerous precipice on the side 
towards Brecon, where there is a nearly vertical 
slope of craggy rock for three or four hundred feet 
and a very steep rocky slope for a thousand, so that 
a fall is almost certainly fatal, and several such acci- 
dents have occurred, especially when parties of young 
men from Brecon make a holiday picnic to the 

What strikes the observant eye as especially 
interesting is the circumstance that these two tri- 
angular patches, forming the culminating points of 
South Wales, both slope to the south-west, and by 
stooping down on either of them, and looking towards 
the other, we find that their surfaces correspond so 
closely in direction and amount of slope, that they 
impress one at once as being really portions of one 
continuous mountain summit. This becomes more 
certain when we look at the whole mountain mass, of 
which they form a part, known as the " Fforest Fawr," 
or great forest of Brecknock. This extends about 
twenty miles from east to west and ten or twelve 
miles from north to south ; and in every part of it 
the chief summits are from 2000 to 2500 feet high, 
while near its western end, about twelve miles from 
the Beacons, is the second highest summit. Van Voel, 
reaching 2632 feet. Most of these mountains have 
rounded summits which are smooth and covered with 
grassy or sedgy vegetation, but many of them have 
some craggy slopes or precipices on their northern 

Almost the whole of this region is of the Old Red 
Sandstone formation, which here consists of nearly 
horizontal strata with a moderate dip to the south ; 
and the whole of the very numerous valleys with 
generally smooth and gradually sloping sides which 


everywhere intersect it, must be all due to sub-aerial 
denudation — that is, to rain, frost, and snow — the 
dibris due to which is carried away by the brooks 
and rivers. The geologist looks upon the rounded 
summits of these mountains as indications of an 
extensive gently undulating plateau, which had been 
slowly raised above the surface of the lakes or inland 
seas in which they had been deposited, and subjected 
to so little disturbance that the strata remain in a 
nearly horizontal position. When from the summit 
of any of these higher mountains we look over the 
wide parallel or radiating valleys with the rounded 
grassy ridges, and consider that the whole of the 
material that once filled all these valleys to the level 
of the mountain-top has been washed away day by 
day and year by year, by the very same agencies 
that after heavy rain now render turbid every brooklet, 
stream, and river, usually so clear and limpid, we 
obtain an excellent illustration of how Nature works 
in moulding the earth's surface by a process so slow 
as to be to us almost imperceptible. 

This process of denudation is rendered especially 
clear to us by the singular formation of the twin 
summits of the Brecon Beacons. Here we are able, 
as it were, to catch Nature at work. Owing to the 
rare occurrence of a nearly equal rate of denudation 
in four or five directions around this highest part 
of the original plateau, we have remaining for our 
inspection two little triangular patches of the original 
peat-covered surface joined together by the narrow 
saddle, as shown in the sketches opposite, giving a 
plan of the summits and a section through them to 
explain how accurately the two coincide in their 
slope with that of the original plateau. Every year 
the frost loosens the rock on the northern precipices, 



\ To face p. 90. 


every heavy rain washes down earth from the ridge, 
while the gentler showers and mists penetrate the soil 
to the rock surface, which they slowly decompose. 
Thus, year by year, the flat portion of the summits 
becomes smaller, and a few thousand years will prob- 
ably suffice to eat them away altogether, and leave 
rocky peaks more like that of Snowdon. The forma- 
tion, as we now find it, is, in my experience, unique — 
that is, a mountain-top presenting two small patches 
of almost level ground, evidently being the last rem- 
nant of the great rolling plateau, out of which the 
whole range has been excavated. Double-headed 
mountains are by no means uncommon, but they are 
usually peaked or irregular, and carved out of inclined 
or twisted strata. The peculiarity of the Beacons 
consists in the strata being nearly horizontal and 
undisturbed, while the rock formation is not such as 
usually to break away into vertical precipices. The 
original surface must have had a very easy slope, 
while there were no meteorological conditions leading 
to great inequalities of weathering. The thick cover- 
ing of peat has also aided in the result by preserving 
the original surface from being scored into gullies, and 
thus more rapidly denuded. 

After we had completed most of our work at 
Trallong we had to go further up the valley to 
Devynock. This is an enormous parish of more than 
twenty thousand acres, divided into four townships or 
chapelries, the two eastern of which, Maescar and 
Senni, we had to survey. In these mountain districts, 
however, we only surveyed those small portions where 
the new roads or new inclosures had been made, the 
older maps being accepted as sufficiently accurate for 
the large uninclosed areas of mountain land. We 


first went to Senni Bridge, where both districts 
terminate in the Usk valley ; but after a short time 
I went to stay in a little public-house at Senni in the 
midst of my work, while my brother stayed at Devy- 
nock or at Trallong, which latter was quite as near 
for half the work. 

When I went up to Senni Street (Heol Senni, as 
it is called in Welsh) I greatly enjoyed wandering 
over the pretty valley which extended a long way 
into the mountains, flowing over nearly level meadows 
and with an unusually twisted course. This I found 
was so erroneously mapped, the numerous bends 
having been inserted at random as if of no importance, 
that I had to survey its course afresh. Above the 
village there were several lateral tributaries descend- 
ing in deep woody dingles, often very picturesque, 
and these had usually one or more waterfalls in their 
course, or deep rocky chasms ; and as these came upon 
me unexpectedly, and I had seen very few like them 
in Radnorshire, they were more especially attractive 
to me. 

One Sunday afternoon I walked up the valley and 
over a mountain-ridge to the head waters of the Llia 
river, one of the tributaries of the river Neath, to see 
an ancient stone, named Maen Llia on the ordnance 
map. I was much pleased to find a huge erect slab of 
Old Red Sandstone nearly twelve feet high, a photo- 
graph of which I am able to give through the kindness 
of Miss Florence Neale of Penarth. These strange 
relics of antiquity have always greatly interested me, 
and this, being the first I had ever seen, produced an 
impression which is still clear and vivid. 

The people here were all thoroughly Welsh, but 
the landlord of the inn, and a young man who lived 
with him, spoke English fairly well. 


[To face p. 92. 


Among the numerous Englishmen who visit 
Wales for business or pleasure, few are aware to 
what an extent this ancient British form of speech 
is still in use among the people, how many are still 
unable to speak English, and what an amount of 
poetry and legend their language contains. Some 
account of this literature is to be found in that very 
interesting book, George Borrow's " Wild Wales," and 
he claims for Dafydd ap Gwilym, a contemporary of 
our Chaucer, the position of "the greatest poetical 
genius that has appeared in Europe since the revival 
of literature." At the present day there are no less 
than twenty weekly newspapers and about the same 
number of monthly magazines published in the 
Welsh language, besides one quarterly and two 
bi-monthly reviews. Abstracts of the principal Acts 
of Parliament and Parliamentary papers are translated 
into Welsh, and one firm of booksellers, Messrs. 
Hughes and Son, of Wrexham, issue a list of more 
than three hundred Welsh books mostly published 
by themselves. Another indication of the wide use 
of the Welsh language and of the general education 
of the people, is the fact that the British and Foreign 
Bible Society now sell annually about 18,000 Bibles, 
22,000 Testaments, and 10,000 special portions (as 
the Psalms, the Gospels, etc.) ; while the total sale of 
the Welsh Scriptures during the last century has been 
3i millions. Considering that the total population of 
Wales is only about i^ millions, that two counties, 
Pembrokeshire and Radnorshire, do not speak Welsh, 
and that the great seaports and the mining districts 
contain large numbers of English and foreign work- 
men, we have ample proof that the Welsh are still a 
distinct nation, with a peculiar language, literature, 
and history, and that the claim which they are now 


making for home rule, along with the other great sub- 
divisions of the British Islands, is thoroughly justified. 

It was late in the autumn of 1841 that we returned 
to Kington, and shortly after bade adieu to the wild 
but not very picturesque Radnorshire mountains for 
the more varied and interesting county of Glamorgan. 
I have no distinct recollection of our journey, but I 
believe it was by coach through Hay and Brecon to 
Merthyr Tydvil, and thence by chaise to Neath. 
One solitary example of the rhyming letters I used 
to write has been preserved, giving my younger 
brother Herbert an account of our journey, of the 
country, and of our work, of which, though very poor 
doggerel, a sample may be given. After a few 
references to family matters, I proceed to description. 

" From Kington to this place we came 
By many a spot of ancient fame, 

But now of small renown, 
O'er many a mountain dark and drear, 
And vales whose groves the parting year 

Had tinged with mellow brown ; 
And as the morning sun arose 
New beauties round us to disclose, 

We reached fair Brecon town ; 
Then crossed the Usk, my native stream, 

A river clear and bright, 
Which showed a fair and much-lov'd scene 

Unto my lingering sight." 

We had to go to Glamorganshire to partially 
survey and make a corrected map of the parish of 
Cadoxton-juxta-Neath, which occupies the whole 
northern side of the Neath valley from opposite the 
town of Neath to the boundary of the county at Pont- 
Nedd-Fychan, a distance of nearly fifteen miles, with 
a width varying from two to three miles, the boundary 
running for the most part along the crest of the 


mountains that bound the valley on the north-west. 
We lodged and boarded at a farmhouse called Bryn- 
coch (Red Hill), situated on a rising ground about 
two miles north of the town. Here we stayed more 
than a year, living plainly but very well, and enjoying 
the luxuries of home-made bread, fresh butter and 
eggs, unlimited milk and cream, with cheese made 
from a mixture of cow's and sheep's milk, having a 
special flavour which I soon got very fond of. In 
this part of Wales it is the custom to milk the ewes 
chiefly for the purpose of making this cheese, which 
is very much esteemed. 

A little rocky stream bordered by trees and bushes 
ran through the farm, and was one of my favourite 
haunts. There was one little sequestered pool about 
twenty feet long into which the water fell over a 
ledge about a foot high. This pool was seven or 
eight feet deep, but shallowed at the further end, and 
thus formed a delightful bathing-place. Ever since 
my early escape from drowning at Hertford, I had 
been rather shy of the water, and had not learned to 
swim ; but here the distance was so short that I 
determined to try, and soon got to enjoy it so much 
that every fine warm day I used to go and plunge 
head first off my ledge and swim in five or six strokes 
to the shallow water. In this very limited sphere of 
action I gained some amount of confidence in the 
water, and afterwards should probably have been able 
to swim a dozen or twenty yards, so as to reach the 
bank of a moderate-sized river, or sustain myself till 
some neighbouring boat came to my assistance. But 
I have never needed even this moderate amount of 
effort to save my life, and have never had either the 
opportunity or inclination to become a practised 
swimmer. This was partly due to a physical 


deficiency which I was unable to overcome. My 
legs are unusually long for my height, and the bones 
are unusually large. The result is that they per- 
sistently sink in the water, bringing me into a nearly 
vertical position, and their weight renders it almost 
impossible to keep my mouth above water. This is 
the case even in salt water, and being also rather 
deficient in strength of muscle, I became disinclined 
to practise what I felt to be beyond my powers. 

The parish being so extensive we had to stay at 
many different points for convenience of the survey, 
and one of these was about five miles up the Dulais 
valley, where we stayed at a small beershop in the 
hamlet of Crynant. I was often here alone for weeks 
together, and saw a good deal of the labourers and 
farmers, few of whom could speak any English. The 
landlady here brewed her own beer in very primitive 
fashion in a large iron pot or cauldron in the wash- 
house, and had it ready for sale in a few days — a 
rather thick and sweetish liquor, but very palatable. 
The malt and hops were bought in small quantities 
as wanted, and brewing took place weekly, or even 
oftener, when there was a brisk demand. 

After living about a year at Bryn-coch we moved 
a little nearer the town to the other side of the Clydach 
river, and lodged with an old colliery surveyor, Samuel 
Osgood, in the employment of Mr. Price, of the Neath 
Abbey Iron Works. The house was an old but roomy 
cottage, and we had a large bedroom and a room 
downstairs for an oiifice and living room, while Mr. 
Osgood had another, and there was also a roomy 
kitchen. A tramway from some collieries to the 
works ran in front of the house at a little distance, 
and we had a good view of the town and up the vale 
of Neath. Behind us rose the Drymau Mountain, 


nearly seven hundred feet above us, the level top of 
which was frequented by peewits, and whose steep 
slopes were covered with trees and bushes. Here we 
lived till I left Neath a year later, and were on the 
whole very comfortable, though our first experience 
was a rather trying one. The bedroom we occupied 
had been unused for years, and though it had been 
cleaned for our use we found that every part of it, 
bedstead, floor, and walls, in every crack and cranny, 
harboured the Cimex lectularius, or bedbug, which 
attacked us by hundreds, and altogether banished 
sleep. This required prompt and thorough measures, 
and my brother at once took them. I was sent to 
the town for some ounces of corrosive sublimate ; the 
old wooden bedstead was taken to pieces, and, with 
the chairs, tables, drawers, etc., carried outside. The 
poison was dissolved in a large pailful of water, and 
with this solution by means of a whitewasher's brush 
the whole of the floor was thoroughly soaked, so that 
the poison might penetrate every crevice, while the 
walls and ceiling were also washed over. The bed- 
stead and furniture were all treated in the same way, 
and everything put back in its place by the evening. 
We did all the work ourselves, with the assistance of 
Mrs. Osgood and a servant-girl, and so effectual was 
the treatment that for nearly a year that we lived 
there we were wholly unmolested by insect enemies. 

About that time the method of measuring the 
acreage of fields on maps by means of tracing-paper 
divided into squares of one chain each, with a beam- 
compass to sum up each line of squares, had recently 
come into use by surveyors ; and Mr. Osgood amused 
himself by making a number of these compasses of 
various kinds of wood nicely finished and well 
polished, rather as examples of his skill than for 



any use he had for them, though he occasionally sold 
them to some of the local surveyors. He had these 
all suspended vertically on the wall instead of horizon- 
tally, as they are usually placed, and as they look 
best. While we were one day admiring the work- 
manship of an addition to the series, he remarked, " I 
dare say you don't know why I hang them up that 
way ; very few people do." Of course, we acknow- 
ledged we did not know. '* Well," said he, " it is very 
important. The air presses with a weight of fifteen 
pounds on every square inch, and if I hung them up 
level the pressure in the middle would very soon bend 
them, and they would be spoilt." My brother knew 
it was no good to try to show him his error, so he 
merely said, " Yes, that's a very good idea of yours," 
and left the old man in the happy belief that he was 
quite scientific in his methods. 

After we had completed the survey and maps of 
Cadoxton, which occupied us about six months, we 
had not much to do except small pieces of work of 
various kinds. One of these was to make a survey 
and take soundings of the river between the bridge 
and the sea, a distance of three or four miles, 
for a proposed scheme of improving the navigation, 
making docks, etc., which was partly carried out some 
years later. We also had a little architectural and 
engineering work, in designing and superintending 
the erection of warehouses with powerful cranes, 
which gave me some insight into practical building. 
To assist in making working drawings and specifica- 
tions, my brother had purchased a well-known work, 
Bartholomew's " Specifications for Practical Archi- 
tecture." This book, though mainly on a very dry 
and technical subject, contained an introduction on 


the principles of Gothic architecture which gave me 
ideas upon the subject of the greatest interest and 
value, and which have enabled me to form an inde- 
pendent judgment on modern imitations of Gothic or 
of any other styles. Bartholomew was an enthusiast 
for Gothic, which he maintained was the only true 
and scientific system of architectural construction in 
existence. He showed how all the most striking and 
ornamental features of Gothic architecture are essential 
to the stability of a large stone-built structure — the 
lofty nave with its clerestory windows and arched roof ; 
the lateral aisles at a lower level, also with arched 
roofs ; the outer thrust of these arches supported by 
deep buttresses on the ground, with arched or flying 
buttresses above ; and these again rendered more 
secure by being weighted down with rows of pinnacles, 
which add so much to the beauty of Gothic buildings. 
He rendered his argument more clear by giving a 
generalized cross-section of a cathedral, and drawing 
within the buttresses the figure of a man with out- 
stretched arms pushing against the upper arches to 
resist their outward thrust, and being kept more 
steady by a heavy load upon his head and shoulders 
representing the pinnacle. This section and figure 
illuminated the whole construction of the master- 
pieces of the old architects so clearly and forcibly, 
that though I have not seen the book since, I have 
never forgotten it. It has furnished me with a stand- 
ard by which to judge all architecture, and has guided 
my taste in such a small matter as the use of stone 
slabs over window openings in brick buildings, thus 
concealing the structural brick arch, and using stone 
as a beam, a purpose for which iron or wood is better 
suited. It also made me a very severe critic of modern 
imitations of Gothic in which we often see buttresses 


and pinnacles for ornament alone, when the roof is 
wholly of wood and there is no outward thrust to be 
guarded against ; while in some cases we see useless 
gargoyles, which in the old buildings stretched out to 
carry the water clear of the walls, but which are still 
sometimes imitated when the water is carried into 
drains by iron gutters and water-pipes. I also learnt 
to appreciate the beautiful tracery of the large cir- 
cular or pointed windows, whose harmonies and well- 
balanced curves and infinitely varied designs are a 
delight to the eye ; while in most modern structures 
the attempts at imitating them are deplorable failures, 
being usually clumsy, unbalanced, and monotonous. 
One of the very few modern Gothic buildings in 
which the architect has caught the spirit of the old 
work is Barry's Houses of Parliament, which, whether 
in general effect or in its beautifully designed details, 
is a delight to the true lover of Gothic architecture. 



During the larger portion of my residence at Neath 
we had very little to do, and my brother was often away, 
either seeking employment or engaged upon small 
matters of business in various parts of the country. 
I was thus left a good deal to my own devices, and, 
having no friends of my own age, I occupied myself 
with various pursuits in which I had begun to take 
an interest. Having learnt the use of the sextant in 
surveying, and my brother having a book on Nautical 
Astronomy, I practised a few of the simpler observa- 
tions. Among these were determining the meridian 
by equal altitudes of the sun, and also by the pole- 
star at its upper or lower culmination ; finding the 
latitude by the meridian altitude of the sun, or of 
some of the principal stars ; and making a rude sun- 
dial by erecting a gnomon towards the pole. For 
these simple calculations I had Hannay and Dietrich- 
sen's Almanac, a copious publication which gave all 
the important data in the Nautical Almanac, besides 
much other interesting matter, useful for the astro- 
nomical amateur or the ordinary navigator. I also 
tried to make a telescope by purchasing a lens of 
about two feet focus at an optician's in Swansea, fixing 
it in a paper tube and using the eye-piece of a small 
opera-glass. With it I was able to observe the moon 

102 MY LIFE 

and Jupiter's satellites, and some of the larger star- 
clusters ; but, of course, very imperfectly. Yet it 
served to increase my interest in astronomy, and to 
induce me to study with some care the various 
methods of construction of the more important astro- 
nomical instruments ; and it also led me throughout 
my life to be deeply interested in the grand onward 
march of astronomical discovery. 

But what occupied me chiefly and became more 
and more the solace and delight of my lonely rambles 
among the moors and mountains, was my first intro- 
duction to the variety, the beauty, and the mystery of 
Nature as manifested in the vegetable kingdom. 

I obtained a shilling paper-covered book published 
by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, 
the title of which I forget, but which contained an 
outline of the structure of plants and a short descrip- 
tion of their various parts and organs ; and also a 
good description of about a dozen of the most common 
of the natural orders of British plants. This little 
book was a revelation to me, and for a year was my 
constant companion. On Sundays I would stroll in 
the fields and woods, learning the various parts and 
organs of any flowers I could gather, and then trying 
how many of them belonged to any of the orders 
described in my book. Great was my delight when 
I found that I could identify a Crucifer, an Umbellifer, 
and a Labiate ; and as one after another the different 
orders were recognized, I began to realize for the first 
time the system that underlay all the variety of 
nature. When my brother was away and there was 
no work to do, I would spend the greater part of the 
day wandering over the hills or by the streams 
gathering flowers, and either determining their position 
from my book, or coming to the conclusion that they 


belonged to other orders of which I knew nothing, 
and as time went on I found that there were a very- 
large number of these, including many of our most 
beautiful and curious flowers, and I felt that I must 
get some other book by which I could learn something 
about these also. 

At length I obtained Lindley's "Elements of 
Botany," which to my disappointment did not contain 
references to British plants, and did not state which 
orders contained British species. The woodcuts 
and descriptions of all the natural orders were, how- 
ever, very useful, and on the broad margins of the 
pages, I copied the characters of the British species 
from Loudon's " Encyclopaedia of Plants," which I 
borrowed from a friend. I was thus able to identify 
most of the plants I met with. 

But I soon found that by merely identifying the 
plants I gathered in my walks I lost much time in 
examining the same species several times, and even 
then not being always quite sure that I had found the 
same plant before. I therefore began to form a 
herbarium, collecting good specimens and drying 
them carefully between drying papers and a couple 
of boards weighted with books or stones. My brother, 
however, did not approve of my devotion to this study, 
even though I had absolutely nothing else to do, nor 
did he suggest any way in which I could employ my 
leisure more profitably. He said very little to me on 
the subject beyond a casual remark, but a letter from 
my mother showed me that he thought I was wasting 
my time. Neither he nor I could foresee that it would 
have any effect on my future life, and I myself only 
looked upon it as an intensely interesting occupation 
for time that would otherwise be wasted. Even when 
we were busy I had Sundays perfectly free, and used 

104 MY LIFE 

then to take long walks over the mountains with my 
collecting-box, which I brought home full of treasures. 
I first named the species as nearly as I could do so, 
and then laid them out to be pressed and dried. At 
such times I experienced the joy which every discovery 
of a new form of life gives to the lover of nature, almost 
equal to those raptures which I afterwards felt at every 
capture of new butterflies on the Amazon, or at the con- 
stant stream of new species of birds, beetles, and butter- 
flies in Borneo, the Moluccas, and the Aru Islands. 

It must be remembered that my ignorance of plants 
at this time was extreme. I knew the wild rose, 
bramble, hawthorn, buttercup, poppy, daisy, and fox- 
glove, and a very few others equally common and 
popular, and this was all. I knew nothing whatever 
as to genera and species, nor of the large numbers of 
distinct forms related to each other and grouped into 
natural orders. My delight, therefore, was great when 
I was now able to identify the charming little eye- 
bright, the strange-looking cow-wheat and louse-wort, 
the handsome mullein and the pretty creeping toad- 
flax, and to find that all of them, as well as the lordly 
foxglove, formed parts of one great natural order, and 
that under all their superficial diversity of form there 
was a similarity of structure which, when once clearly 
understood, enabled me to locate each fresh species 
with greater ease. The Crucifers, the Pea tribe, the 
Umbelliferae, the Compositae, and the Labiates offered 
great difficulties, and it was only after repeated efforts 
that I was able to name with certainty a few of the 
species, after which each additional discovery became 
a little less difficult, though the time I gave to the 
study before I left England was not sufficient for me 
to acquaint myself with more than a moderate pro- 
portion of the names of the species I collected. 


Now, I have some reason to believe that this was 
the . turning-point of my life^ the tide that carried me 
on, not to fortune but to whatever reputation I have 
acquired, and which has certainly been to me a never- 
failing source of much health of body and supreme 
mental enjoyment. If my brother had had constant 
work for me so that I never had an idle day, and if I 
had continued to be similarly employed after I became 
of age, I should most probably have become entirely 
absorbed in my profession, which, in its various 
departments, I always found extremely interesting, 
and should therefore not have felt the need of any 
other occupation or study. 

I know now, though I was ignorant of it at the 
time, that my brother's life was a very anxious one, 
that the difficulty of finding remunerative work was 
very great, and that he was often hard pressed to earn 
enough to keep us both in the very humble way in 
which we lived. He never alluded to this that I can 
remember, nor did I ever hear how much our board 
and lodging cost him, nor ever saw him make the 
weekly or monthly payments. During the seven 
years I was with him I hardly ever had more than a 
few shillings for personal expenses ; but every year or 
two, when I went home, what new clothes were 
absolutely necessary were provided for me, with 
perhaps ten shillings or a pound as pocket-money till 
my next visit, and this, I think, was partly or wholly 
paid out of the small legacy left me by my grand- 
father. This seemed very hard at the time, but I now 
see clearly that even this was useful to me, and was 
really an important factor in moulding my character 
and determining my work in life. Had my father 
been a moderately rich man and had supplied me with 
a good wardrobe and ample pocket-money ; had my 


brother obtained a partnership in some firm in a 
populous town or city, or had established himself in 
his profession, I might never have turned to nature 
as the solace and enjoyment of my solitary hours, 
my whole life would have been differently shaped, 
and though I should, no doubt, have given some 
attention to science, it seems very unlikely that I 
should have ever undertaken what at that time seemed 
rather a wild scheme, a journey to the almost unknown 
forests of the Amazon in order to observe nature and 
make a living by collecting. All this may have been 
pure chance, as I long thought it was, but of late years 
I am more inclined to Hamlet's belief when he said — 

" There's a divinity that shapes our ends, 
Rough-hew them how we will." 

Of course, I do not adopt the view that each man's 
life, in all its details, is guided by the Deity for His 
special ends. That would be, indeed, to make us all 
conscious automata, puppets in the hands of an all- 
powerful destiny. But I have good reasons for the 
belief that we are surrounded by a host of unseen 
friends and relatives who have gone before us, and 
who have certain limited powers of influencing, and 
even, in particular cases, almost of determining, the 
actions of living persons, and may thus in a great 
variety of indirect ways modify the circumstances and 
character of any one or more individuals in whom 
they are specially interested. But a great number of 
these occurrences in every one's life are apparently 
what we term chance, and even if all are so, the 
conclusion I wish to lay stress upon is not affected. 
It is, that many of the conditions and circumstances 
that constitute our environment, though at the time 
they may seem unfortunate or even unjust, yet are 


often more truly beneficial than those which we 

should consider more favourable. Sometimes they 

only aid in the formation of character ; sometimes 

they also lead to action which gives scope for the use 

of what might have been dormant or unused faculties 

(as, I think, has occurred in my own case) ; but much 

more frequently they seem to us wholly injurious, 

leading to a life of misery or crime, and turning what 

in themselves are good faculties to evil purposes. 

When this occurs in any large number of cases, as 

it certainly does with us now, we may be sure that 

it is the system of society that is at fault, and the 

most strenuous efforts of all who see this should be 

devoted, not to the mere temporary alleviation of the 

evils due to it, but to the gradual modification of the 

system itself. This is my present view. At the time 

of which I am now writing, I had not begun even to 

think of these matters, although facts which I now 

see to be of great importance in connection with them 

were being slowly accumulated for use in after-years. 

It was during the time that I was most occupied 

out of doors with the observation and collection of 

plants that I began to write down, more or less 

systematically, my ideas on various subjects that 

interested me. Three of these early attempts have 

been preserved and are now before me. They all 

bear dates of the autumn or winter of 1843, when I 

was between nineteen and twenty years of age. 

One of these is a rough sketch of a popular lecture 
on Botany, addressed to an audience supposed to be 
as ignorant as I was myself when I began to observe 
our native flowers. I was led to write it, partly on 
account of the difficulties I myself had felt in obtain- 
ing the kind of information I required, but chiefly on 
account of a lecture I had attended at Neath by a 

io8 MY LIFE 

local botanist of some repute, which seemed to me so 
meagre, so uninteresting, and so utterly unlike what 
such a lecture ought to be, that I wanted to try if I 
could not do something better. The lecture in 
question consisted in an enumeration of the whole 
series of the " Linnaean Classes and Orders," stating 
their characters and naming a few of the plants 
comprised in each. It was illustrated by a series of 
coloured figures on cards about the size of ordinary 
playing cards, which the lecturer held up one after 
the other to show what he was talking about. The 
Linnaean system was upheld as being far the most 
useful as a means of determining the names of plants, 
and the natural system was treated as quite useless 
for beginners, and only suited for experienced 

All this was so entirely opposed to views I had 
already formed, that I devoted a large portion of my 
lecture to the question of classification in general, 
showed that any classification, however artificial, was 
better than none, and that Linnaeus made a great 
advance when he substituted generic and specific 
names for the short Latin descriptions of species 
before used, and by classifying all known plants by 
means of a few well-marked and easily observed 
characters. I then showed how and why this classifica- 
tion was only occasionally, and as it were accidentally, 
a natural one ; that in a vast number of cases it 
grouped together plants which were essentially unlike 
each other ; and that for all purposes, except the 
naming of species, it was both useless and incon- 
venient. I then showed what the natural system of 
classification really was, what it aimed at, and the much 
greater interest it gave to the study of botany. I 
explained the principles on which the various natural 


orders were founded, and showed how often they gave 
us a clue to the properties of large groups of species, 
and enabled us to detect real affinities under very 
diverse external forms. 

I concluded by passing in review some of the best 
marked orders as illustrating these various features. 
Although crudely written and containing some errors, 
I still think it would serve as a useful lecture to an 
audience generally ignorant of the whole subject, such 
as the young mechanics of a manufacturing town. 
Its chief interest to me now is that it shows my early 
bent towards classification, not the highly elaborate 
type that seeks to divide and subdivide under 
different headings with technical names, rendering the 
whole scheme difficult to comprehend, and being in 
most cases a hindrance rather than an aid to the 
learner, but a simple and intelligible classification 
which recognizes and defines all great natural groups, 
and does not needlessly multiply them on account of 
minute technical differences. It has always seemed 
to me that the natural orders of flowering plants 
afford one of the best, if not the very best, example 
of such a classification. 

It is this attraction to classification, not as a 
metaphysically complete system, but as an aid to the 
comprehension of a subject, which is, I think, one of 
the chief causes of the success of my books, in almost 
all of which I have aimed at a simple and intelligible 
rather than a strictly logical arrangement of the 

Another lecture, the draft for which I prepared 
pretty fully, was on a rather wider subject — "The 
Advantages of Varied Knowledge " — in opposition 
to the idea that it was better to learn one subject 


thoroughly than to know something of many subjects. 
In the case of a business or profession, something 
may be said for the latter view, but I treated it as a 
purely personal matter which led to the cultivation 
of a variety of faculties, and gave pleasurable occu- 
pation throughout life. A few extracts may, perhaps, 
be permitted from this early attempt. Speaking of 
a general acquaintance with history, biography, art, 
and science, I say, " There is an intrinsic value to 
ourselves in these varied branches of knowledge, so 
much indescribable pleasure in their possession, so 
much do they add to the enjoyment of every moment 
of our existence, that it is impossible to estimate 
their value, and we would hardly accept boundless 
wealth, at the cost, if it were possible, of their irre- 
coverable loss. And if it is thus we feel as to our 
general store of mental acquirements, still more do 
we appreciate the value of any particular branch of 
study we may ardently pursue. What pleasure would 
remain for the enthusiastic artist, were he forbidden 
to gaze upon the face of Nature, and transfer her 
loveliest scenes to his canvas ? or for the poet, were 
the means denied him to rescue from oblivion the 
passing visions of his imagination ? or to the chemist, 
were he snatched from his laboratory ere some novel 
experiment were concluded, or some ardently pursued 
theory confirmed ? or to any of us, were we compelled 
to forego some intellectual pursuit that was bound 
up with our every thought .' And here we see the 
advantage possessed by him whose studies have been 
in various directions, and who at different times has 
had many different pursuits, for whatever may happen, 
he will always find something in his surroundings to 
interest and instruct him." 

And further on, as illustrations of the interest in 


common things conferred by a knowledge of the 
elementary laws of physical science, I remark — 

**Many who marvel at the rolling thunder care 
not to inquire what causes the sound which is heard 
when a tightly-fitting cork is quickly drawn from a 
bottle, or when a whip is cracked or a pistol fired ; 
and while they are struck with awe and admiration 
at the dazzling lightning, look upon the sparks drawn 
from a cat's back on a frosty evening and the slight 
crackle that accompanies them as being only fit to 
amuse a child ; yet in each case the cause of the 
trifling and of the grand phenomena is the same. He 
who has extended his inquiries into the varied pheno- 
mena of nature learns to despise no fact, however 
small, and to consider the most apparently insignifi- 
cant and common occurrences as much in need of 
explanation as those of a grander and more imposing 
character. He sees in every dewdrop trembling on 
the grass causes at work analogous to those which 
have produced the spherical figure of the earth and 
planets ; and in the beautiful forms of crystallization 
on his window-panes on a frosty morning he recog- 
nizes the action of laws which may also have a part 
in the production of the similar forms of plants and 
of many of the lower animal types. Thus the simplest 
facts of everyday life have to him an inner meaning, 
and he sees that they depend upon the same general 
laws as those that are at work in the grandest phe- 
nomena of nature." 

I then pass in review the chief arts and sciences, 
showing their inter-relations and unsolved problems ; 
and in remarking on the Daguerrotype, then the only 
mode of photographic portraiture, I make a sugges- 
tion that, though very simple, has not yet been carried 
out. It is as follows : — 

112 MY LIFE 

" It would be a curious and interesting thing to 
have a series of portraits taken of a person each 
successive year. These would show the gradual 
changes from childhood to old age in a very striking 
manner ; and if a number of such series from different 
individuals were obtained, and a brief outline given 
of their lives during each preceding year, we should 
have materials not merely for the curious to gaze at, 
but which might elucidate the problem of how far the 
mind reacts upon the countenance. We should see 
the effects of pain or pleasure, of idleness or activity, 
of dissipation or study, and thus watch the action of 
the various passions of the mind in modifying the 
form of the body, and particularly the expression of 
the features." 

Now that photography is so widespread and so 
greatly improved, it is rather curious that nothing of 
this kind has been done. Some of our numerous 
scientific societies might offer to take such photo- 
graphs of any of their members who would agree to 
be taken regularly, and would undertake to have one 
or two of their children similarly taken till they came 
of age, and also to prepare a very short record each 
year of the main events or occupations of their lives. 
If this were widely done in every part of the country, 
a most interesting and instructive collection of those 
series which were most complete would be obtained. 
I have given the concluding passage of the lecture 
as it appears in the rough draft, which was never 

" Can we believe that we are fulfilling the purpose 
of our existence while so many of the wonders and 
beauties of the creation remain unnoticed around us } 
While so much of the mystery which man has been 
able to penetrate, however imperfectly, is still all dark 


to us ? While so many of the laws which govern the 
universe and which influence our lives are, by us, 
unknown and uncared for ? And this not because we 
want the power, but the will, to acquaint ourselves 
with them. Can we think it right that, with the key 
to so much that we ought to know, and that we should 
be the better for knowing, in our possession, we seek 
not to open the door, but allow this great store of 
mental wealth to lie unused, producing no return to 
us, while our highest powers and capacities rust for 
want of use ? 

" It is true that man is still, as he always has been, 
subject to error ; his judgments are often incorrect, 
his beliefs false, his opinions changeable from age to 
age. But experience of error is the best guide to 
truth, often dearly bought, and, therefore, the more 
to be relied upon. And what is it but the accumu- 
lated experience of past ages that serves us as a 
beacon light to warn us from error, to guide us in the 
way of truth ? How little should we know had the 
knowledge acquired by each preceding age died with 
it ! How blindly should we grope our way in the 
same obscurity as did our ancestors, pursue the same 
phantoms, make the same fatal blunders, encounter 
the same perils, in order to purchase the same truths 
which had been already acquired by the same process, 
and lost again and again in bygone ages ! But the 
wonder-working press prevents this loss ; truths once 
acquired are treasured up by it for posterity, and each 
succeeding generation adds something to the stock of 
acquired knowledge, so that our acquaintance with 
the works of nature is ever increasing, the range of 
our inquiries is extended each age, the power of mind 
over matter becomes, year by year, more complete. 
Yet our horizon ever widens, the limits to our advance 


114 MY LIFE 

seem more distant than ever, and there seems nothing 
too noble, too exalted, too marvellous, for the ever- 
increasing knowledge of future generations to attain to. 

" Is it not fitting that, as intellectual beings with 
such high powers, we should each of us acquire a 
knowledge of what past generations have taught us, 
so that, should the opportunity occur, we may be able 
to add somewhat, however small, to the fund of 
instruction for posterity ? Shall we not, then, feel the 
satisfaction of having done all in our power to improve 
by culture those higher faculties that distinguish us 
from the brutes, that none of the talents with which 
we may have been gifted have been suffered to lie 
altogether idle ? And, lastly, can any reflecting mind 
have a doubt that, by improving to the utmost the 
nobler faculties of our nature in this world, we shall 
be the better fitted to enter upon and enjoy whatever 
new state of being the future may have in store 
for us?" 

These platitudes are of no particular interest, 
except as showing the bent of my mind at that period, 
and as indicating a disposition for discursive reading 
and study, which has been a great advantage to 
myself, and which has enabled me to write on a 
variety of subjects without committing any very 
grievous blunders (so far as my critics have pointed 
out), and with, I hope, some little profit to my readers. 

In April, 1843, my father died at Hoddesdon, at 
the age of seventy-two, and was buried in the family 
vault in St. Andrew's Churchyard, Hertford. As my 
sister's school was not paying very well, and it was 
necessary to economize as much as possible, the 
house was given up early the following year, my 
mother took an engagement as housekeeper in a 


gentleman's family at Isleworth, and my sister 
obtained a post as teacher at an Episcopal College, 
then just founded by the Bishop of Georgia (Dr. 
Elliott), at Montpelier Springs, seventeen miles from 
Macon, and left England in August, 1844. 

Shortly before I came of age in January, 1844, 
my brother told me that as he had no work in prospect 
it was necessary that I should leave him and look 
out for myself ; so I determined to go up to London 
and endeavour to obtain some employment. 

As the period of my home and school life and 
subsequent tutelage under my brother now came to 
an end, and I had for the future to make my own 
way in the world, this affords a suitable occasion for 
a brief review of the chief points in my character, 
which may now be considered to have been fairly 
determined, although some portions of it had not yet 
had opportunity for full development. 

I do not think that at this time I could be said to 
have shown special superiority in any of the higher 
mental faculties, but I possessed a strong desire to 
know the causes of things, a great love of beauty in 
form and colour, and a considerable but not excessive 
desire for order and arrangement in whatever I had 
to do. If I had one distinct mental faculty more 
prominent than another, it was the power of correct 
reasoning from a review of the known facts in any 
case to the causes or laws which produced them, and 
also in detecting fallacies in the reasoning of other 
persons. This power has greatly helped me in all 
my writings, especially those on natural history and 
sociology. The determination of the direction in 
which I should use these powers was due to my 
possession in a high degree of the two mental quali- 
ties usually termed emotional or moral, an intense 


appreciation of the beauty, harmony, and variety in 
nature and in all natural phenomena, and an equally 
strong passion for justice as between man and man — 
an abhorrence of all tyranny, all compulsion, all un- 
necessary interference with the liberty of others. 
These characteristics, combined with certain favour- 
able conditions, some of which have already been re- 
ferred to, have determined the direction of the pursuits 
and inquiries in which I have spent a large portion of 
my life. 

It will be well to state here certain marked defi- 
ciencies in my mental equipment which have also 
had a share in determining the direction of my special 
activities. My greatest, though not perhaps most 
important, defect is my inability to perceive the 
niceties of melody and harmony in music ; in common 
language, I have no ear for music. But as I have a 
fair appreciation of time, expression, and general 
harmony, I am deeply affected by grand, pathetic, or 
religious music, and can at once tell when the heart 
and soul of the musician is in his performance, though 
any number of technical errors, false notes, or harsh 
discords would pass unnoticed. Another and more 
serious defect is in verbal memory, which, combined 
with the inability to reproduce vocal sounds, has 
rendered the acquirement of all foreign languages 
very difficult and distasteful. This, with my very 
imperfect school training, added to my shyness and 
want of confidence, must have caused me to appear a 
very dull, ignorant, and uneducated person to numbers 
of chance acquaintances. This deficiency has also 
put me at a great disadvantage as a public speaker. 
I can rarely find the right word or expression to 
enforce or illustrate my argument, and constantly feel 
the same difficulty in private conversation. In writing 


it is not so injurious, for when I have time for 
deliberate thought I can generally express myself 
with tolerable clearness and accuracy. I think, too, 
that the absence of the flow of words which so many 
writers possess has caused me to avoid that extreme 
diffuseness and verbosity which is so great a fault in 
many scientific and philosophical works. 

Another important defect is in the power of 
rapidly seeing analogies or hidden resemblances and 
incongruities, a deficiency which, in combination with 
that of language, has produced the total absence of 
wit or humour, paradox or brilliancy, in my writings, 
although no one can enjoy and admire these qualities 
more than I do. The rhythm and pathos, as well as 
the inimitable puns of Hood, were the delight of my 
youth, as are the more recondite and fantastic humour 
of Mark Twain and Lewis Carroll in my old age. The 
faculty which gives to its possessor wit or humour is 
also essential to the high mathematician, who is 
almost always witty or poetical as well ; and I was 
therefore debarred from any hope of success in this 
direction ; while my very limited power of drawing or 
perception of the intricacies of form were equally 
antagonistic to much progress as an artist or a 

Other deficiencies of great influence in my life 
have been my want of assertiveness and of physical 
courage, which, combined with delicacy of the nervous 
system and of bodily constitution, and a general dis- 
inclination to much exertion, physical or mental, have 
caused that shyness, reticence, and love of solitude 
which, though often misunderstood and leading to 
unpleasant results, have, perhaps, on the whole, been 
beneficial to me. They have helped to give me those 
long periods, both at home and abroad, when, alone and 

ii8 MY LIFE 

surrounded only by wild nature and uncultured man, 
I could ponder at leisure on the various matters that 
interested me. Thus was induced a receptiveness of 
mind which enabled me at various times to utilize 
what appeared to me as sudden intuitions — flashes of 
light leading to a solution of some problem which 
was then before me ; and these flashes would often 
come to me when, pen in hand, I was engaged in 
writing on a subject on which I had no intention or 
expectation of saying anything new. 

Before leaving this sketch of my mental nature at 
the threshold of my uncontrolled life, I may properly 
say a few words on the position I had arrived at in 
regard to the great question of religious belief. I 
have already shown that my early home training was 
in a thoroughly religious but by no means rigid 
family, where, however, no religious doubts were ever 
expressed, and where the word " atheist " was used 
with bated breath as pertaining to a being too debased 
almost for human society. The only regular teaching 
I received was to say or hear a formal prayer before 
going to bed, hearing grace before and after dinner, 
and learning a collect every Sunday morning, the 
latter certainly one of the most stupid ways of 
inculcating religion ever conceived. On Sunday 
evenings, if we did not go to church or chapel, my 
father would read some old sermon, and when we did 
go we were asked on our return what was the text. 
The only books allowed to be read on Sundays were 
the " Pilgrim's Progress " or " Paradise Lost," or some 
religious tracts or moral tales, or the more interesting 
parts of the Bible were read by my mother, or we 
read ourselves about Esther and Mordecai or Bel and 
the Dragon, which were as good as any story-book. 
Put all this made little impression upon me, as it 


never dealt sufficiently with the mystery, the great- 
ness, the ideal and emotional aspects of religion, 
which only appealed to me occasionally in some of 
the grander psalms and hymns, or through the words 
of some preacher more impassioned than usual. 

As might have been expected, therefore, what 
little religious belief I had very quickly vanished 
under the influence of philosophical or scientific 
scepticism. This came first upon me when I spent 
a month or two in London with my brother John, as 
already related ; and during the seven years I lived 
with my brother William, though the subject of 
religion was not often mentioned, there was a per- 
vading spirit of scepticism, or free-thought as it was 
then called, which strengthened and confirmed my 
doubts as to the truth or value of all ordinary religious 

He occasionally borrowed interesting books which 
I usually read. One of these was an old edition of 
Rabelais' works, which both interested and greatly 
amused me ; but that which bears most upon the 
present subject was a reprint of lectures on Strauss' 
" Life of Jesus," which had not then been translated 
into English. These lectures were, I think, delivered 
by some Unitarian minister or writer, and they gave 
an admirable and most interesting summary of the 
whole work. The now well-known argument, that all 
the miracles related in the Gospels were mere myths, 
which in periods of ignorance and credulity always 
grow up around all great men, and especially around 
all great moral teachers when the actual witnesses of 
his career are gone and his disciples begin to write 
about him, was set forth with great skill. This argu- 
ment appeared conclusive to my brother and some of 
his friends with whom he discussed it, and, of course, 

120 MY LIFE 

in my then frame of mind it seemed equally con- 
clusive to me, and helped to complete the destruction 
of whatever religious beliefs still lingered in my mind. 
It was not till many years afterwards that I saw 
reason to doubt this whole argument, and to perceive 
that it was based upon pure assumptions which were 
not in accordance with admitted historical facts. 

My brother never went to church himself, but for 
the first few years I was with him he sent me once 
every Sunday ; but, of course, the only effect of this 
was to deepen my spirit of scepticism, as I found no 
attempt in any of the clergymen to reason on any of 
the fundamental questions at the root of the Christian 
and every other religion. Many of our acquaintances 
were either church- or chapel-goers, but usually as a 
matter of form and convention, and, on the whole, 
religion seemed to have no influence whatever on 
their conduct or conversation. The majority, especially 
of the younger men, were either professors of religion 
who thought or cared nothing about it, or were open 
sceptics and scorners. 

In addition to these influences my growing taste 
for various branches of physical science and my in- 
creasing love of nature disinclined me more and more 
for either the observances or the doctrines of orthodox 
religion, so that by the time I came of age I was 
absolutely non-religious, I cared and thought nothing 
about it, and could be best described by the modern 
term " agnostic." 

The next four years of my life were also of great 
importance both in determining the direction of my 
activity, and in laying the foundation for my study of 
special subjects through which I have obtained most 
admiration or notoriety. These will form the subject 
of the following chapter. 



As I came of age in January, 1844, ^^^ there was 
nothing doing at Neath, I left my brother about the 
middle of December so as to spend the Christmas 
with my mother and sister at Hoddesdon, after which 
I returned to London, sharing my brother John's 
lodging till I could find some employment. At that 
time the tithe-commutation surveys were nearly all 
completed, and the rush of railway work had not 
begun : surveying was consequently very slack. As 
my brother William, who had a large acquaintance 
among surveyors and engineers all over the south of 
England, could not find employment, except some 
very small local business, I felt it to be quite useless 
for me to seek for similar work. I therefore deter- 
mined to try for some post in a school to teach 
English, surveying, elementary drawing, etc. Through 
some school agency I heard of two vacancies that 
might possibly suit. The first required, in addition 
to English, junior Latin and algebra. I applied for 
this, but failed to obtain the appointment, as neither 
my Latin nor my algebra was up to the required 

My next attempt was more hopeful, as drawing, 
surveying, and mapping were required. On this occa- 
sion I met a clergyman, a young man, easy and 

122 MY LIFE 

friendly in his manner. I had taken with me a small 
coloured map I had made at Neath to serve as a 
specimen, and also one or two pencil sketches. These 
seemed to satisfy him, and as I was only wanted to 
take the junior classes in English reading, writing, 
and arithmetic, teach a very few boys surveying, and 
beginners in drawing, he agreed to engage me. I 
was to live in the house, preside over the evening 
preparation of the boarders (about twenty in number), 
and to have, I think, thirty or forty pounds a year, 
with which I was quite satisfied. My employer was 
the Rev. Abraham Hill, Headmaster of the Collegiate 
School at Leicester. 

I commenced work in about a fortnight. After a 
few weeks, finding I knew a little Latin, Mr. Hill 
asked me to take the lowest class, and even that 
required some preparation in the evening. Mr. Hill 
was a good mathematician, and finding I was desirous 
of learning a little more algebra, offered to assist me. 
He lent me Hind's Algebra, which I worked all 
through successfully, and this was followed by the 
same author's Trigonometry, which I also went through, 
with occasional struggles. Then I attacked the 
Differential Calculus, and worked through that ; but 
I could never fully grasp the essential principle of it. 
Finally, I began the Integral Calculus, and here I 
found myself at the end of my tether. I learnt some 
of the simpler processes, but very soon got baffled, 
and felt that I wanted some faculty necessary for 
seeing my way through what seemed to me an almost 
trackless labyrinth. Whether, under Mr. Hill's in- 
struction, I should ultimately have been able to over- 
come these difficulties I cannot positively say, but I 
have good reason to believe that I never should have 
done so. Briefly stated, just as no amount of teaching 


or practice would ever have made me a good musician, 
so, however much time and study I gave to the subject, 
I could never have become a good mathematician. 
Whether all this work did me any good or not, I am 
rather doubtful. My after-life being directed to 
altogether different studies, I never had occasion to 
use my newly acquired knowledge, and soon forgot 
most of the processes. But it gave me an interest in 
mathematics which I have never lost ; and I rarely 
come across a mathematical investigation without 
looking through it and trying to follow the reason- 
ing, though I soon get lost in the formulae. Still, 
the ever-growing complexity of the higher mathe- 
matics has a kind of fascination for me as exhibiting 
powers of the human mind so very far above my 

There was in Leicester a very good town library, 
to which I had access on paying a small subscription, 
and as I had time for several hours' reading daily, I 
took full advantage of it. Among the works I read 
here, which influenced my future, were Humboldt's 
" Personal Narrative of Travels in South America," 
which was, I think, the first book that gave me a desire 
to visit the tropics. I also read here Prescott's 
" History of the Conquests of Mexico and Peru," 
Robertson's " History of Charles V." and his " History 
of America," and a number of other standard works. 
But perhaps the most important book I read was 
Malthus's " Principles of Population," which I greatly 
admired for its masterly summary of facts and logical 
induction to conclusions. It was the first work I had 
yet read treating of any of the problems of philo- 
sophical biology, and its main principles remained 
with me as a permanent possession, and twenty years 

124 MY LIFE 

later gave me the long-sought clue to the effective 
agent in the evolution of organic species. 

It was at Leicester that I was first introduced to 
a subject which I had at that time never heard of, but 
which has played an important part in my mental 
growth — psychical research, as it is now termed. 
Some time in 1844 Mr. Spencer Hall gave some 
lectures on mesmerism illustrated by experiments, 
which I, as well as a few of the older boys, attended. 
I was greatly interested and astonished at the pheno- 
mena exhibited, in some cases with persons who 
volunteered from the audience ; and I was also im- 
pressed by the manner of the lecturer, which was not 
at all that of the showman or the conjurer. At the 
conclusion of the course he assured us that most 
persons possessed in some degree the power of mes- 
merising others, and that by trying with a few of our 
younger friends or acquaintances, and simply doing 
what we had seen him do, we should probably suc- 
ceed. He also showed us how to distinguish between 
the genuine mesmeric trance, and any attempt to 
imitate it. 

In consequence of this statement, one or two of the 
elder boys tried to mesmerise some of the younger 
ones, and in a short time succeeded ; and they asked 
me to see their experiments. I found that they could 
produce the trance state, which had all the appearance 
of being genuine, and also a cataleptic rigidity of the 
limbs by passes and by suggestion, both in the trance 
and afterwards in the normal waking state. This led 
me to try myself in the privacy of my own room, and 
I succeeded after one or two attempts in mesmerising 
three boys from twelve to sixteen years of age, while 
on others within the same ages I could produce no 


effect, or an exceedingly slight one. During the 
trance they seemed in a state of semi-torpor, with 
apparently no volition. They would remain perfectly 
quiescent so long as I did not notice them, but would 
at once answer any questions or do anything I told 
them. On the two boys with whom I continued to 
experiment for some time, I could produce catalepsy 
of any limb or of the whole body, and in this state 
they could do things which they could not, and 
certainly would not have done in their normal state. 
For example, on the rigid outstretched arm I would 
hang at the wrist an ordinary bedroom chair, and the 
boy would hold it there for several minutes, while I 
sat down and wrote a short letter for instance, without 
any complaint, or making any remark when I took it 
off. I never left it more than five minutes, because I 
was afraid that some injury might be caused by it. 
I soon found that this rigidity could be produced in 
those who had been mesmerised by suggestion only, 
and in this way often fixed them in any position, 
notwithstanding their efforts to change it. One 
experiment was to place a shilling on the table in 
front of a boy, and then say to him, " Now, you can't 
touch that shilling." He would at once move his 
hand towards it, but when half-way it would seem to 
stick fast, and all his efforts could not bring it nearer, 
though he was promised the shilling if he could 
take it. 

But perhaps the most interesting group of pheno- 
mena to me were those termed phreno-mesmerism. 
I had read, when with my brother, George Combe's 
" Constitution of Man," with which I had been greatly 
interested, and afterwards one of the writer's works 
on Phrenology, and at the lecture I had seen some of 
the effects of exciting the phrenological organs by 

126 MY LIFE 

touching the corresponding parts of the patient's 
head. But as I had no book containing a chart of 
the organs, I bought a small phrenological bust to 
help me in determining the positions. 

Having my patient in the trance, and standing 
close to him, with the bust on my table behind him, 
I touched successively several of the organs, the 
position of which it was easy to determine. After a 
few seconds he would change his attitude and the 
expression of his face in correspondence with the 
organ excited. In most cases the effect was unmis- 
takable, and superior to that which the most finished 
actor could give to a character exhibiting the same 
passion or emotion. 

At this very time the interest excited by painless 
surgical operations during the mesmeric trance was 
at its height, as I have described in my " Wonderful 
Century " (chap, xxi.), and I had read a good deal 
about these, and also about the supposed excitement 
of the phrenological organs, and the theory that these 
latter were caused by mental suggestion from the 
operator to the patient, or what is now termed tele- 
pathy. But as the manifestations often occurred in 
a different form from what I expected, I felt sure that 
this theory was not correct. One day I intended to 
touch a particular organ, and the effect on the patient 
was quite different from what I expected, and looking 
at the bust while my finger was still on the boy's 
head, I found that I was not touching the part I 
supposed, but an adjacent part, and that the effect 
exactly corresponded to the organ touched and not to 
the organ I thought I had touched, completely dis- 
proving the theory of suggestion. I then tried several 
experiments by looking away from the boy's head 
while I put my finger on it at random, when I always 


found that the effect produced corresponded to that 
indicated by the bust. I thus established, to my own 
satisfaction, the fact that a real effect was produced 
on the actions and speech of a mesmeric patient by 
the operator touching various parts of the head ; that 
the effect corresponded with the natural expression of 
the emotion due to the phrenological organ situated 
at that part — as combativeness, acquisitiveness, fear, 
veneration, wonder, tune, and many others ; and that 
it was in no way caused by the will or suggestion of 
the operator. 

As soon as I found that these experiments were 
successful, I informed Mr. Hill, who made no objec- 
tion to my continuing them, and several times came 
to see them. He was so much impressed that one 
evening he invited two or three friends who were 
interested in the subject, and with my best patient I 
showed most of the phenomena. 

The importance of these experiments to me was 
that they convinced me, once for all, that the ante- 
cedently incredible may nevertheless be true ; and, 
further, that the accusations of imposture by scientific 
men should have no weight whatever against the 
detailed observations and statements of other men, 
presumably as sane and sensible as their opponents, 
who had witnessed and tested the phenomena, as I 
had done myself in the case of some of them. 

While living at Leicester I first met Henry Walter 
Bates. How I was introduced to him I do not exactly 
remember, but I rather think I heard him mentioned 
as an enthusiastic entomologist, and met him at the 
library. I found that his specialty was beetle col- 
lecting, though he also had a good set of British 
butterflies. Of the former I knew nothing, but as I 
already knew the fascinations of plant life I was quite 

128 MY LIFE 

prepared to take an interest in any other department 
of nature. He asked me to see his collection, and I 
was amazed to find the great number and variety of 
beetles, their many strange forms and often beautiful 
markings or colouring, and was even more surprised 
when I found that almost all I saw had been collected 
around Leicester, and that there were still many more 
to be discovered. If I had been asked before how 
many different kinds of beetles were to be found in 
any small district near a town, I should probably 
have guessed fifty or at the outside a hundred, and 
thought that a very liberal allowance. But I now 
learnt that many hundreds could easily be collected, 
and that there were probably a thousand different 
kinds within ten miles of the town ; and he showed me 
a thick volume containing descriptions of more than 
three thousand species inhabiting the British Isles. 
I also learnt from him in what an infinite variety of 
places beetles may be found, while some may be 
collected all the year round, so I at once determined 
to begin collecting, as I did not find a great many 
new plants near Leicester. I therefore obtained a 
collecting bottle, pins, and a store-box ; and in order 
to learn their names and classification I obtained, 
at wholesale price through Mr. Hill's bookseller, 
Stephen's " Manual of British Coleoptera," which 
henceforth for some years gave me almost as much 
pleasure as Lindley's " Botany," with my MSS. de- 
scriptions, had already done. 

This new pursuit gave a fresh interest to my 
Wednesday and Saturday afternoon walks into the 
country, when two or three of the boys often accom- 
panied me. The most delightful of all our walks was 
to Bradgate Park, about five miles from the town, a 
wild, neglected park with the ruins of a mansion, and 


[To face p. 129. 


[To face p. 129. 


many fine trees and woods and ferny or bushy slopes. 
Sometimes the whole school went for a picnic, the 
park at that time being quite open, and we hardly 
ever met any one. After we got out of the town 
there was a wide grassy lane that led to it, which 
itself was a delightful walk and was a good collecting 
ground for both plants and insects. For variety we 
had the meadows along the course of the little river 
Soar, which were very pleasant in spring and summer. 
Twice during the summer the whole of the boarders 
were taken for a long day's excursion. The first 
time we went to Kenilworth Castle, about thirty miles 
distant, driving in coaches by pleasant country roads, 
and passing through Coventry. Towards the autumn 
we had a much longer excursion, partly by coach and 
partly by canal boat, to a very picturesque country 
with wooded hills and limestone cliffs, rural villages, 
and an isolated hill, from the top of which we had a 
very fine and extensive view. I think it must have 
been in Derbyshire, near Wirksworth, as there is a 
long canal tunnel on the way there. One of the 
rough out-of-door sketches made on this occasion is 
reproduced here on a reduced scale, as well as a 
more finished drawing of some village, perhaps near 
Leicester, as they may possibly enable some reader 
to recognize the localities, and also serve to show the 
limits of my power as an artist. 

Early in the year 1846 I received the totally 
unexpected news of the death of my brother William 
at Neath. He had been in London to give evidence 
before a committee on the South Wales Railway Bill, 
and returning at night caught a severe cold by being 
chilled in a wretched third-class carriage, succeeded 
by a damp bed at Bristol. This brought on congestion 
of the lungs, to which he speedily succumbed. I and 



my brother John went down to Neath to the funeral, 
and as William had died without a will, we had to 
take out letters of administration. Finding from my 
brother's papers that he had obtained a small local 
business, and that there was railway work in prospect, 
I determined to take his place, and at once asked 
permission of Mr. Hill to be allowed to leave at 

My two years spent at Leicester had been in many 
ways useful to me, and had also a determining in- 
fluence on my whole future life. It satisfied me that 
I had no vocation for teaching, for though I performed 
my duties I believe quite to Mr. Hill's satisfaction, I 
felt myself out of place, partly because I knew no 
subject — with the one exception of surveying — 
sufficiently well to be able to teach it properly, but 
mainly because a completely subordinate position 
was distasteful to me, although I could not have had 
a more considerate employer than Mr. Hill. The 
time and opportunity I had for reading was a great 
advantage, and gave me an enduring love of good 
literature. The events which formed a turning-point 
in my life were, first, my acquaintance with Bates, 
and through him deriving a taste for the wonders of 
insect-life, opening to me a new aspect of nature, and 
later on finding in him a companion without whom I 
might never have ventured on my journey to the 
Amazon. The other and equally important circum- 
stance was my reading Malthus, without which work 
I should probably not have hit upon the theory of 
natural selection and obtained full credit for its 
independent discovery. My two years spent at 
Leicester must, therefore, be considered as perhaps 
the most important in my early life. 

At Easter I bade farewell to Leicester and went 


to Neath with my brother John, in order to wind up 
our brother William's affairs. We found from his 
books that a considerable amount was owing to him 
for work done during the past year or two, and we 
duly made out accounts of all these and sent them in 
to the respective parties. Some were paid at once, 
others we had to write again for and had some trouble 
to get paid. 

When we had wound up William's affairs as well 
as we could, my brother John returned to London, 
and I was left to see if any work was to be had, and 
in the mean time devoted myself to collecting butter- 
flies and beetles. While at Leicester I had been 
altogether out of the business world and do not 
remember even looking at a newspaper, or I might 
have heard something of the great railway mania 
which that year reached its culmination. I now first 
heard rumours of it, and some one told me of a civil 
engineer in Swansea who wanted all the surveyors he 
could get, and that they all had two guineas a day, 
and often more. This I could hardly credit, but I 
wrote to the gentleman, who soon after called on me 
and asked me if I could do levelling. I told him I 
could, and had a very good level and levelling staves. 
After some little conversation he told me he wanted 
a line of levels up the Vale of Neath to Merthyr 
Tydfil for a proposed railway, with cross levels at 
frequent intervals, and that he would give me two 
guineas a day, and all expenses of chain and staff 
men, hotels, etc. He gave me all necessary in- 
structions, and said he would send a surveyor to map 
the route at the same time. This was, I think, about 
midsummer, and I was hard at work till the autumn, 
and enjoyed myself immensely. It took me up the 
south-east side of the valley, of which I knew very 

132 MY LIFE 

little, along pleasant lanes and paths through woods 
and by streams, and up one of the wildest and most 
picturesque little glens I have ever explored. Here 
we had to climb over huge rocks as big as houses, 
ascend cascades, and take cross-levels up steep banks 
and precipices all densely wooded. It was surveying 
under difficulties, and excessively interesting. After 
the first rough levels were taken and the survey 
made, the engineers were able to mark out the line 
provisionally, and I then went over the actual line to 
enable the sections to be drawn as required by the 
Parliamentary Standing Orders. 

In this year of wild speculation it is said that 

plans and sections for 1263 new railways were duly 

deposited, having a proposed capital of ;^ 5 63,000,000, 

and the sum required to be deposited at the Board of 

Tr ide was so much larger than the total amount of 

gold in the Bank of England and notes in circulation 

at the time, that the public got frightened, a panic 

ensued, shares in the new lines which had been at a 

high premium fell almost to nothing, and even the 

established lines were greatly depreciated. Many of 

the lines were proposed merely for speculation, or to 

be bought off by opposing lines which had a better 

chance of success. The line we were at work on was 

a branch of the Great Western and South Wales 

Railway then making, and was for the purpose of 

bringing the coal and iron of Merthyr Tydfil and the 

surrounding district to Swansea, then the chief port 

of South Wales. But we had a competitor along the 

whole of our route in a great line from Swansea to 

Yarmouth, by way of Merthyr, Hereford, Worcester, 

and across the midland agricultural counties, called, 

I think, the East and West Junction Railway, which 

sounded grand, but which had no chance of passing. 


It competed, however, with several other lines, and I 
heard that many of these agreed to make up a sum 
to buy off its opposition. Not one-tenth of the lines 
proposed that year were ever made, and the money 
wasted upon surveyors, engineers, and law expenses 
must have amounted to millions. 

Finding it rather dull at Neath living by myself, I 
persuaded my brother to give up his work in London 
as a journeyman carpenter and join me, thinking that 
with his practical experience and my general know- 
ledge, we might be able to do architectural, building, 
and engineering work, as well as surveying, and in 
time get up a profitable business. We returned 
together early in January, and continued to board 
and lodge with Mr. Sims in the main street, where 
I had been very comfortable, till the autumn, when, 
hearing that my sister would probably be home from 
America the following summer, and my mother 
wishing to live with us, we took a small cottage close 
to Llantwit Church, and less than a mile from the 
middle of the town. It had a nice little garden and 
yard, with fowl-house, shed, etc., going down to the 
Neath Canal, immediately beyond which was the 
river Neath, with a pretty view across the valley to 
Cadoxton and the fine Drumau mountain. 

Having the canal close at hand and the river 
beyond, and then another canal to Swansea, made us 
long for a small boat, and not having much to do, my 
brother determined to build one, so light that it could 
be easily drawn or carried from the canal to the river, 
and so give access to Swansea. It was made as small 
and light as possible to carry two or, at most, three 
persons. When finished, we tried it with much 
anxiety, and found it rather unstable, but with a 
little ballast at the bottom and care in moving, it did 

134 MY LIFE 

very well, and was very easy to row. One day I 
persuaded my mother to let me row her to Swansea, 
where we made a few purchases ; and then came back 
quite safely till within about a mile of home, when, 
passing under a bridge, my mother put her hand out 
to keep the boat from touching, and leaning over a 
little too much, the side went under water, and upset 
us both. As the water was only about two or three feet 
deep we escaped with a thorough wetting. The boat 
was soon^baled dry, and then I rowed on to Neath 
Bridge, where my mother got out and walked home, 
and did not trust herself in our boat again, though I 
and my brother had many pleasant excursions. 

My chief work in 1846 had been the survey of the 
parish of Llantwit-juxta-Neath. The agent of the 
GnoU Estate had undertaken the valuation for 
the tithe commutation, and arranged with me to do 
the survey and make the map and the necessary 
copies. When all was finished and the valuation 
made, I was told that I must collect the payment 
from the various farmers in the parish, who would 
afterwards deduct it from their rent. This was 
a disagreeable business, as many of the farmers 
were very poor ; some could not speak English, and 
could not be made to understand what it was all 
about ; others positively refused to pay ; and the 
separate amounts were often so small that it was not 
worth going to law about them, so that several were 
never paid at all, and others not for a year afterwards. 
This was one of the things that disgusted me with 
business, and made me more than ever disposed to 
give it all up if I could get anything else to do. 

My brother John and I also obtained a little 
building and architectural work, and amongst other 
structures we designed and supervised the erection of 


the Mechanics' Institute at Neath. It was before the 
members of this institute that I made my first essay 
as a lecturer, having been persuaded to give a series 
of lectures on physics during two winters. I also 
gave a lecture describing a short visit I had made to 

During the two summers that I and my brother 
John lived at Neath we spent a good deal of our 
leisure time in wandering about this beautiful district, 
on my part in search of insects, while my brother 
always had his eyes open for any uncommon bird or 

Though I have by no means a very wide ac- 
quaintance with the mountain districts of Britain, yet 
I know Wales pretty well ; have visited the best parts 
of the lake district ; in Scotland have been to Loch 
Lomond, Loch Katrine, and Loch Tay ; have climbed 
Ben Lawers, and roamed through Glen Clova in search 
for rare plants ; — but I cannot call to mind a single 
valley that in the same extent of country comprises so 
much beautiful and picturesque scenery, and so many 
interesting special features, as the Vale of Neath. 
The town itself is beautifully situated, with the fine 
wooded and rock-girt Drumau Mountain to the west, 
while immediately to the east are well-wooded heights 
crowned by Gnoll House, and to the south-east, three 
miles away, a high rounded hill, up which a chimney 
has been carried from the Cwm Avon copperworks in 

' In 1895 ^ received a letter from Cardiff, from one of the workmen 
who attended the Neath Mechanics' Institution, asking if the author of 
" Island Life," the " Malay Archipelago," and other books is the same 
Mr. Alfred Wallace who taught in the evening science classes to the 
Neath Abbey artificers. He writes — "I have often had a desire to 
know, as I benefited more while in your class — if you are the same 
Mr, A. Wallace — than I ever was taught at school. I have often 
wished I knew how to thank you for the good I and others received 
from your teaching. — (Signed) Matthew Jones." 

136 MY LIFE 

the valley beyond, the smoke from which gives the 
hill much the appearance of an active volcano. To 
the south-west the view extends down the valley to 
Swansea Bay, while to the north-east stretches the 
Vale of Neath itself, nearly straight for twelve miles, 
the river winding in a level fertile valley about a 
quarter to half a mile wide, bounded on each side by 
abrupt hills, whose lower slopes are finely wooded, 
and backed by mountains from fifteen hundred to 
eighteen hundred feet high. The view up this valley 
is delightful, its sides being varied with a few houses 
peeping out from the woods, abundance of lateral 
valleys and ravines, with here and there the glint of 
falling water, while its generally straight direction 
affords fine perspective effects, sometimes fading in 
the distance into a warm yellow haze, at others 
affording a view of the distant mountain ranges 

At twelve miles from the town we come to the 
little village of Pont-nedd-fychan (the bridge of the 
little Neath river), where we enter upon a quite 
distinct type of scenery, dependent on our passing 
out of the South Wales coal basin, crossing the hard 
rock-belt of the millstone grit, succeeded by the 
picturesque crags of the mountain limestone, and 
then entering on the extensive formation of the Old 
Red Sandstone. 

Within a mile of Pont-nedd-fychan is the Dinas 
rock, a tongue of mountain limestone jutting out 
across the millstone grit, and forming fine precipices, 
one of which was called the Bwa-maen or bow rock, 
from its being apparently bent double. Lower down 
there are also some curious waving lines of apparent 
stratification, but on a recent examination I am 
inclined to think that these are really glacial 


\Tofacef. 137. 


groovings caused by the ice coming down from 
Hirwain, right against these ravines and precipices, 
and being thus heaped up and obliged to flow away 
at right angles to its former course. 

But the most remarkable and interesting of the 
natural phenomena of the upper valley is Porth-yr- 
Ogof (the gateway of the cavern), where the river 
Mellte runs for a quarter of a mile underground. 
The entrance is under a fine arch of limestone rock 
overhung with trees, as shown in the accompanying 
photograph. The outlet is more irregular and less 
lofty, and is also less easily accessible ; but the valley 
just below has wooded banks, open glades, and fan- 
tastic rocks near the cave, forming one of the most 
charmingly picturesque spots imaginable. 

I have already described one of the curious 
" standing stones " near the source of the Llia river, 
but there is a still more interesting example about a 
mile and a half north-west of Ystrad-fellte, where the 
old Roman road — the Sarn Helen — crosses over the 
ridge between the Nedd and the Llia valleys. This 
is a tall, narrow stone, roughly quadrilateral, on one 
of the faces of which there is a rudely inscribed Latin 
inscription, as seen in the photograph, and in a copy 
of the letters given. It reads as follows : — 


meaning " [The body] of Dervacus the son of Justus 
lies here." It will be seen that the letters D, A, and I 
in Dervaci, and the T and I in Justi are inverted or 
reversed, probably indicating that the cutting was 
done by an illiterate workman, who placed them as 
most convenient when working on an erect stone. 
The stone itself is probably British, and was utilized 

138 MY LIFE 

as a memorial of a Roman soldier who died near the 

One of our most memorable excursions was in 
June, 1846, when I and my brother spent the night 
in the water-cave. I wanted to go again to the top 
of the Beacons to see if I could find any rare beetles 
there, and also to show my brother the waterfalls and 
other beauties of the upper valley. Starting after an 
early breakfast we walked to Pont-nedd-fychan, and 
then turned up the western branch to the Rocking 
Stone, a large boulder of millstone-grit resting on a 
nearly level surface, but which by a succession of 
pushes with one hand can be made to rock consider- 
ably. It was here I obtained one of the most beauti- 
ful British beetles, Trichms fasciatus, the only time I 
ever captured it. We then went on to the Gladys and 
Einon Gam falls ; then, turning back, followed up the 
river Nedd for some miles, crossed over to the cavern, 
and then on to Ystrad-fellte, where we had supper 
and spent the night, having walked leisurely about 
eighteen or twenty miles. 

The next morning early we proceeded up the 
valley to the highest farm on the Dringarth, then 
struck across the mountain to the road from Hirwain 
to Brecon, which we followed to the bridge over the 
Taff, and then turned off towards the Beacons, the 
weather being perfect. It was a delightful walk, on 
a gradual slope of fifteen hundred feet in a mile and 
a half, with a little steeper bit at the end, and the 
small overhanging cap of peat at the summit, as 
already described. I searched over it for beetles, 
which were, however, v^ry scarce, and we then walked 
a little way down the southern slope to where a tiny 
spring trickles out — the highest source of the river 
Taff — and there, lying on the soft mountain turf, 



enjoyed our lunch and the distant view over valley 
and mountain to the faint haze of the Bristol 

We took nearly the same route back, had a 
substantial tea at the little inn at Ystrad-fellte, and 
then, about seven o'clock, walked down to the cave 
to prepare our quarters for the night. I think we had 
both of us at this time determined, if possible, to go 
abroad into more or less wild countries, and we 
wanted for once to try sleeping out-of-doors, with no 
shelter or bed but what nature provided. 

Just inside the entrance of the cave there are 
slopes of water-worn rock and quantities of large 
pebbles and boulders, and here it was quite dry, while 
farther in, where there were patches of smaller stones 
and sand, it was much colder and quite damp, so our 
choice of a bed was limited to rock or boulders. We first 
chose a place for a fire, and then searched for sufficient 
dead or dry wood to last us the night. This took us 
a good while, and it was getting dusk before we lit 
our fire. We then sat down, enjoying the flicker of 
the flame on the roof of the cavern, the glimmer of 
the stars through the trees outside, and the gentle 
murmur of the little river beside us. After a scanty 
supper we tried to find a place where we could sleep 
with the minimum of discomfort, but with very little 
success. I found it almost impossible to lie still for 
half an hour without seeking a more comfortable 
position, but the change brought little relief. I think 
we had determined purposely to make no preparation, 
but to camp out just as if we had come accidentally 
to the place in an unknown country, and had been 
compelled to sleep there. But very little sleep was 
to be had, and while in health I have never passed a 
more uncomfortable night. Luckily it was not a long 


one, and before sunrise we left our gloomy bedroom, 
walked up to the main road to get into the sunshine, 
descended into the Nedd valley and strolled along, 
enjoying the fresh morning air and warm sun till we 
neared Pont-nedd-fychan, when, finding a suitable 
pool, we took a delightful and refreshing bath, dried 
our bodies in the sun, and then walked on to the 
little inn, where we enjoyed our ample dish of eggs 
and bacon, with tea, and brown bread-and-butter. 

There is one subject on which I obtained con- 
clusive evidence while living at Neath, which may 
here be briefly noticed. I have already described 
how at Leicester I became convinced of the genuine- 
ness of the phenomena of mesmerism, and was able 
thoroughly to test them myself. I also was able 
to make experiments which satisfied me of the truth 
of phrenology, and had read sufficient to enable me 
to understand its general principles. But during my 
early residence at Neath after my brother's death, I 
heard two lectures on the subject, and in both cases 
I had my character delineated with such accuracy as 
to render it certain that the positions of all the mental 
organs had been very precisely determined. It must 
be understood that the lecturers were both strangers, 
and that they each gave only a single lecture on their 
way to more important centres. 

I will give the more detailed of the two delinea- 
tions. It is as follows, only omitting a few words at 
the end which are of a purely personal nature : — 

" (a) There is some delicacy in the nervous system, 
and consequent sensitiveness which unfits it for any 
very long-continued exertion ; but this may be over- 
come by a strong will. There is some tendency to 
indigestion ; this requires air and exercise. 

" (d) The power of fixing the attention is very 


good indeed, and there is very considerable perceptive 
power, so that this gentleman should learn easily and 
remember well, notwithstanding verbal memory is 
but moderate. Concentrativeness is the chief organ 
upon which all the memories depend, and this is 
undoubtedly large. 

" {c) He has some vanity, and more ambition. 
He may occasionally exhibit a want of self-confidence ; 
but general opinion ascribes to him too much. In 
this, opinion is wrong : he knows that he has not 
enough ; he may assume it, but it will sit ill. 

" {d) If Wit were larger he would be a good Mathe- 
matician ; but without it, however clear and analytical 
the mind may be, it wants breadth and depth, and so 
I do not put down his mathematical talents as first- 
rate, although Number is good. The same must be 
said of his classical abilities — good, but not first- 

" {e) He has some love for music from his Ideality, 
but I do not find a good ear, or sufficient time ; he 
has, however, mechanical ability sufficient to produce 
enough of both, especially for the flute, if he so 

" (/) As an artist, he would excel if his vision 
were perfect : he has every necessary faculty, even to 

" {g) He is fond of argument, and not easily con- 
vinced ; he would exhibit physical courage if called 
upon ; and although he loves money — as who does 
not .? — so far from there being any evidence of greedi- 
ness, he is benevolent and liberal, but probably not 
extravagant. This part of his disposition is, however, 
so evenly balanced that there is not likely to be 
much peculiarity. 

" {h) His domestic affections are his best. 

142 MY LIFE 

Conscientiousness ought to be one more, but I do not 
see what will try it. 


This delineation, and the other, which though not 
so complete agreed with it in nearly every particular, 
seem to me wonderfully accurate. That these two 
expositions of my character, the result of a very rapid 
examination of the form of my head by two perfect 
strangers, are so exact in many distinct points, 
demonstrates, I think, a large amount of truth — both 
in principle and in the details — of the method by 
which they were arrived at. 


(From a Daguerreotype.) 

[To/acep. 143. 



During my residence at Neath I kept up some 
correspondence with H. W. Bates, chiefly on insect 
collecting. We exchanged specimens, and, I think 
in the summer of 1847, he came on a week's visit, 
which we spent chiefly in beetle-collecting and in dis- 
cussing various matters, and it must have been at 
this time that we talked over a proposed collecting 
journey to the tropics, but had not then decided where 
to go. Mr. Bates' widow having kindly returned to 
me such of my letters as he had preserved, I find in 
them some references to the subjects in which I was 
then interested. I will, therefore, here give a few 
extracts from them. 

I had recently read "Vestiges of the Natural 
History of Creation," and was much impressed by it, 
and I gave my views concerning it in several of my 
letters to Bates. In one letter I wrote, " It furnishes 
a subject for every observer of nature to attend to ; 
every fact he observes will make either for or against 
it, and it thus serves both as an incitement to the 
collection of facts, and an object to which they can 
be applied when collected. Many eminent writers 
support the theory of the progressive development of 
animals and plants." 

And in another letter : — " I was much pleased to 

144 MY LIFE 

find that you so well appreciated Lyell. I first read 
Darwin's ' Journal ' three or four years ago, and have 
lately re-read it. As the Journal of a scientific 
traveller, it is second only to Humboldt's ' Personal 
Narrative ' — as a work of general interest, perhaps 
superior to it." My reference to Darwin's "Journal " 
and to Humboldt's " Personal Narrative " indicate, I 
believe, the two works to whose inspiration I owe my 
determination to visit the tropics as a collector. 

In the last letter to Bates before our South 
American voyage I wrote : — " I begin to feel rather 
dissatisfied with a mere local collection, little is to be 
learned by it. I should like to take some one family 
to study thoroughly, principally with a view to the 
theory of the origin of species. By that means I am 
strongly of opinion that some definite results might 
be arrived at." And at the very end of the letter I 
say : — " There is a work published by the Ray Society 
I should much like to see, Oken's ' Elements of 
Physiophilosophy.' There is a review of it in the 
AthencBum. It contains some remarkable views on 
my favourite subject — the variations, arrangements, 
distribution, etc., of species." 

These extracts from my early letters to Bates 
suffice to show that the great problem of the origin 
of species was already distinctly formulated in my 
mind ; that I was not satisfied with the more or less 
vague solutions at that time offered ; that I believed 
the conception of evolution through natural law so 
clearly formulated in the " Vestiges " to be, so far as 
it went, a true one ; and that I firmly believed that a 
full and careful study of the facts of nature would 
ultimately lead to a solution of the mystery. 

What decided our going to Para and the Amazon 
rather than to any other part of the tropics was the 


publication in 1847 of "A Voyage up the Amazon," 
by Mr. W. H. Edwards. This little book was so 
clearly and brightly written, described so well the 
beauty and the grandeur of tropical vegetation, and 
gave such a pleasing account of the people, while 
showing that expenses of living and of travelling were 
both very moderate, that Bates and myself at once 
agreed that this was the very place for us to go to if 
there was any chance of paying our expenses by the 
sale of our duplicate collections. We immediately 
communicated with Mr. Edward Doubleday, who had 
charge of the butterflies at the British Museum, for 
his advice upon the matter. He assured us that the 
whole of Northern Brazil was very little known, and 
that there was no doubt we could easily pay our 
expenses. Thus encouraged, we determined to go 
to Para, and began to make all the necessary 

After spending some time in London studying 
the insects in the British Museum, purchasing collect- 
ing apparatus and outfit, we set sail from Liverpool 
on April 20, 1848. 

At this time there were very few steamships, and 
most of the ocean trade was still carried on in sailing 
vessels. Ours was one of the smallest, being a 
barque of 192 tons named the Mischief, and said 
to be a very fast sailer. Bates and I were the only 

We encountered violent storms in the Bay of 
Biscay, the waves flooded our decks, washed away 
part of our bulwarks, and very nearly swamped us 
altogether. All this time I was in my berth prostrate 
with sea-sickness. After the first six days the weather 
became fine, and the remainder of the voyage was very 

146 MY LIFE 

We landed at Para on May 19, twenty-nine days 
after leaving Liverpool. 

From this date till I landed at Deal in October, 
1852, my adventures are narrated in my book 
" Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro," and I 
will here, therefore, only give a very brief outline of 
my wanderings. 

For the first four months Bates and I lived and 
collected together in and around Para, but on our 
return from an expedition which we had made up the 
Tocantins river, we agreed that it would be better for 
many reasons to travel and collect independently ; 
one reason being that the country was so vast and so 
rich in birds and insects that much better results 
would be obtained if we each explored separate 
districts. We therefore separated, but we again met 
at Santarem and at the Barra. Afterwards Bates 
devoted himself to the Upper Amazon, while I 
ascended the Rio Negro and the unknown Uaupes. 

After spending about nine months collecting in 
the neighbourhood of Para, I went on an expedition 
up the river Guama, on my return from which in July, 
1849, my younger brother, Herbert, joined me with 
the idea of becoming a collector. We spent a month 
together in Para, and then went to Santarem, where 
we intended to stay for some time. Dr. Richard 
Spruce, the now well-known traveller and botanist, 
had come out in the same ship with my brother, and 
we much enjoyed his society during the short time he 
stayed with us here. 

After spending three months at Santarem we 
went to the city of Barra at the mouth of the Rio 
Negro, but here we found the scarcity of insects and 
birds a great contrast to the abundance at Para, 
and after exploring the neighbouring country in all 


directions with poor results I determined to make a 
long expedition to the Upper Rio Negro, whilst my 
brother, who had finally decided to give up collecting, 
which had little interest for him, was to remain a 
few months at Barra, and then return to Para and 

When he arrived at Para, and while waiting for 
his ship to sail, he was seized with yellow fever, and 
died in a few days. 

The remainder of my South American travels 
consisted of two voyages up the Rio Negro. On the 
first I went beyond the boundaries of Brazil, and 
crossed by a road in the forest to one of the tribu- 
taries of the Orinoco. Returning thence I visited a 
village up a small branch of the Rio Negro, where 
there is an isolated rocky mountain, the haunt of the 
beautiful Cock of the Rock ; afterwards going up the 
Uaupes as far as the second cataract at Juaurite. I 
then returned with my collections to Barra, having 
determined to go much farther up the Uaupes in 
order to obtain, if possible, the white umbrella bird 
which I had been positively assured was found there ; 
and also in the hopes of finding some new and better 
collecting ground near the Andes. These journeys 
were made, but the second was cut short by delays 
and the wet season. My health also had suffered so 
much by a succession of fevers and dysentery that I 
did not consider it prudent to stay longer in the 

Although during the last two journeys in the Rio 
Negro and Orinoco districts I had made rather large 
miscellaneous collections, and especially of articles of 
native workmanship, I never found any locality at all 
comparable with Para as a collecting ground. The 
numerous places I visited along more than a thousand 

148 MY LIFE 

miles of river, all alike had that poverty of insect and 
bird-life which characterized Barra itself, a poverty 
which is not altogether explicable. The enormous 
difficulties and delays of travel made it impossible to 
be at the right place at the right season ; while the 
excessive wetness of the climate rendered the loss of 
the only month or two of fine weather irreparable for 
the whole year. The comparative scantiness of native 
population at all the towns of the Rio Negro, the small 
amount of cultivation, the scarcity of roads through 
the forest, and the want of any guide from the 
experience of previous collectors, combined to render 
my numerous journeys in this almost totally unknown 
region comparatively unproductive in birds and in- 
sects. As it happened (owing to Custom House 
formalities at Barra), the whole of my collections 
during the last two voyages were with me on the ship 
that was burnt, and were thus totally lost. 

One letter I wrote from Guia on the Upper Rio 
Negro, three months after my arrival there, has 
been preserved, and from it I extract the following 
passage : — 

" I have been spending a month with some Indians 
three days' journey up a narrow stream (called the 
Cobati River). From there we went half a day's 
journey through the forest to a rocky mountain where 
the celebrated ' Gallos de Serra ' (Cocks of the Rock) 
breed. But we were very unfortunate, for though 
I had with me ten hunters and we remained nine 
days at the Serra, suffering many inconveniences 
(having only taken farinha and salt with us), I only 
got a dozen gallos, whereas I had expected in less 
time to have secured fifty. Insects there were none 
at all ; and other good birds excessively rare. 


" My canoe is now getting ready for a further 
journey up to near the sources of the Rio Negro in 
Venezuela, where I have reason to believe I shall 
find insects more plentiful, and at least as many birds 
as here. On my return from there I shall take a 
voyage up the great River Uaupes, and another up 
the Isanna, not so much for my collections, which I 
do not expect to be very profitable there, but because 
I am so much interested in the country and the 
people that I am determined to see and know more 
of it and them than any other European traveller. 
If I do not get profit, I hope at least to get some 
credit as an industrious and persevering traveller." 

Looking back over my four years' wanderings in 
the Amazon valley, there seem to me to be three 
great features which especially impressed me, and 
which fully equalled or even surpassed my expecta- 
tions of them. The first was the virgin forest, every- 
where grand, often beautiful and even sublime. Its 
wonderful variety with a more general uniformity never 
palled. Standing under one of its great buttressed 
trees — itself a marvel of nature — and looking care- 
fully around, noting the various columnar trunks 
rising like lofty pillars, one soon perceives that hardly 
two of these are alike. The shape of the trunks, 
their colour and texture, the nature of their bark, 
their mode of branching and the character of the 
foliage far overhead, or of the fruits or flowers lying 
on the ground, have an individuality which shows that 
they are all distinct species differing from one another 
as our oak, elm, beech, ash, lime, and sycamore differ. 
This extraordinary variety of the species is a general 
though not universal characteristic of tropical forests, 
but seems to be nowhere so marked a feature as in 
the great forest regions which encircle the globe for 


a few degrees on each side of the equator. An 
equatorial forest is a kind of natural arboretum, where 
specimens of an immense number of species are 
brought together by nature. The western half of the 
island of Java affords an example of such a forest- 
region which has been well explored, botanically ; 
and although almost all the fertile plains have been 
cleared for cultivation, and the forests cover only a 
small proportion of the country, the number of distinct 
species of forest-trees is said to be over fifteen 

The second feature, that I can never think of 
without delight, is the wonderful variety and exquisite 
beauty of the butterflies and birds, a variety and 
charm which grow upon one month after month and 
year after year, as ever new and beautiful, strange 
and even mysterious, forms are continually met with. 
Even now I can hardly recall them without a thrill 
of admiration and wonder. 

The third and most unexpected sensation of 
surprise and delight was my first meeting and living 
with man in a state of nature — with absolute uncon- 
taminated savages ! This was on the Uaup6s River, 
and the surprise of it was that I did not in the least 
expect to be so surprised. I had already been two 
years in the country, always among Indians of many 
tribes ; but these were all what are called tame 
Indians, they wore at least trousers and shirt ; they 
had been (nominally) converted to Christianity, and 
were under the government of the nearest authorities ; 
and all of them spoke either Portuguese or the 
common language, called " Lingoa-Geral." 

But these true wild Indians of the Uaupes were 
at once seen to be something totally different. They 
had nothing that we call clothes ; they had peculiar 


ornaments, tribal marks, etc. ; they all carried weapons 
or tools of their own manufacture ; they were living, 
for the most part, in large houses, many families 
together,, quite unlike the huts of the tame Indians ; 
but, more than all, their whole aspect and manner 
were different — they were all going about their own 
work or pleasure which had nothing to do with white 
men or their ways ; they walked with the free step of 
the independent forest-dweller, and, except the few 
that were known to my companion, paid no attention 
whatever to us, mere strangers of an alien race. In 
every detail they were original and self-sustaining as 
are the wild animals of the forests, absolutely in- 
dependent of civilization, and who could and did live 
their own lives in their own way, as they had done 
for countless generations before America was dis- 
covered. I could not have believed that there would 
be so much difference in the aspect of the same 
people in their native state and when living under 
European supervision. The true denizen of the 
Amazonian forests, like the forest itself, is unique 
and not to be forgotten. 

My voyage home was rather adventurous. I will 
therefore print here a letter written to Dr. Spruce, 
which has not before been made public, and which 
describes it. 

" Brig Jordesoti, N. Lat. 49° 30', W. Long. 20°. 

"Sunday, September 19, 1852. 

"My dear Friend, 

" Having now some prospect of being home 
in a week or ten days, I will commence giving you 
an account of the peculiar circumstances which have 
already kept me at sea seventy days on a voyage 
which took us only twenty-nine days on our passage 

152 MY LIFE 

out. I hope you have received the letter sent you 

from Para, dated July 9 or 10, in which I informed 

you that I had taken my passage in a vessel bound 

for London, which was to sail in a few days. On 

Monday, July 12, I went on board with all my cargo, 

and some articles purchased or collected on my way 

down, with the remnant (about twenty) of my live 

stock.^ After being at sea about a week I had a 

slight attack of fever, and at first thought I had got 

the yellow fever after all. However, a little calomel 

set me right in a few days, but I remained rather 

weak, and spent most of my time reading in the 

cabin, which was very comfortable. On Friday, 

August 6, we were in N. Lat. 30° 30', W. Long. 52°, 

when, about nine in the morning, just after breakfast, 

Captain Turner, who was half-owner of the vessel, 

came into the cabin, and said, ' I'm afraid the ship's 

on fire. Come and see what you think of it' Going 

on deck I found a thick smoke coming out of the 

forecastle, which we both thought more like the steam 

from heating vegetable matter than the smoke from 

a fire. The fore hatchway was immediately opened 

to try and ascertain the origin of the smoke, and a 

quantity of cargo was thrown out, but the smoke 

continuing without any perceptible increase, we went 

to the after hatchway, and after throwing out a 

quantity of piassaba, with which the upper part of 

the hold was filled, the smoke became so dense that 

the men could not stay in it. Most of them were 

then set to work throwing in buckets of water, and 

the rest proceeded to the cabin and opened the 

lazaretto or store-place beneath its floor, and found 

smoke issuing from the bulkhead separating it from 

' These consisted of numerous parrots and parrakeets, and several 
uncommon monkeys, a forest wild-dog, etc. 


the hold, which extended halfway under the fore part 
of the cabin. Attempts were then made to break 
down this bulkhead, but it resisted all efforts, the 
smoke being so suffocating as to prevent any one 
stopping in it more than a minute at a time. A hole 
was then cut in the cabin floor, and while the carpenter 
was doing this, the rest of the crew were employed 
getting out the boats, the captain looked after his 
chronometer, sextant, books, charts and compasses, 
and I got up a small tin box containing a few shirts, 
and put in it my drawings of fishes and palms, which 
were luckily at hand ; also my watch and a purse 
with a few sovereigns. Most of my clothes were 
scattered about the cabin, and in the dense suffocating 
smoke it was impossible to look about after them. 
There were two boats, the long-boat and the captain's 
gig, and it took a good deal of time to get the merest 
necessaries collected and put into them, and to lower 
them into the water. Two casks of biscuit and a cask 
of water were got in, a lot of raw pork and some ham, 
a few tins of preserved meats and vegetables, and 
some wine. Then there were corks to stop the holes 
in the boats, oars, masts, sails, and rudders to be 
looked up, spare spars, cordage, twine, canvas, needles, 
carpenter's tools, nails, etc. The crew brought up 
their bags of clothes, and all were bundled indis- 
criminately into the boats, which, having been so long 
in the sun, were very leaky, and soon became half 
full of water, so that two men in each of them had 
to be constantly baling out the water with buckets. 
Blankets, rugs, pillows, and clothes were all soaked, 
and the boats seemed overloaded, though there was 
really very little weight in them. All being now 
prepared, the crew were again employed pouring 
water in the cabin and hatchway. 

154 MY LIFE 

" The cargo of the ship consisted of rubber, cocoa, 
anatto, balsam-capivi, and piassaba. The balsam was 
in small casks, twenty stowed in sand, and twenty 
small kegs in rice-chaff, immediately beneath the 
cabin floor, where the fire seemed to be. For some 
time we had heard this bubbling and hissing as if 
boiling furiously, the heat in the cabin was very great, 
flame soon broke into the berths and through the cabin 
floor, and in a few minutes more blazed up through 
the skylight on deck. All hands were at once 
ordered into the boats, which were astern of the ship. 
It was now about twelve o'clock, only three hours 
from the time the smoke was first discovered. I had 
to let myself down into the boat by a rope, and being 
rather weak it slipped through my hands and took the 
skin off all my fingers, and finding the boat still half 
full of water I set to baling, which made my hands 
smart very painfully. We lay near the ship all the 
afternoon, watching the progress of the flames, which 
soon covered the hinder part of the vessel, and rushed 
up the shrouds and sails in a most magnificent con- 
flagration. Soon afterwards, by the rolling of the 
ship, the masts broke off and fell overboard, the 
decks soon burnt away, the ironwork at the sides 
became red-hot, and last of all the bowsprit, being 
burnt at the base, fell also. No one had thought of 
being hungry till darkness came on, when we had a 
meal of biscuit and raw ham, and then disposed our- 
selves as well as we could for the night, which, you 
may be sure, was by no means a pleasant one. Our 
boats continued very leaky, and we could not cease 
an instant from baling ; there was a considerable 
swell, though the day had been remarkably fine, and 
there were constantly floating around us pieces of the 
burnt wreck, masts, etc, which might have stove in 


our boats had we not kept a constant look-out to 
keep clear of them. We remained near the ship all 
night, in order that we might have the benefit of its 
flames attracting any vessel that might pass within 
sight of it. 

" It now presented a magnificent and awful sight 
as it rolled over, looking like a huge caldron of fire, 
the whole cargo of rubber, etc., forming a liquid 
burning mass at the bottom. In the morning our 
little masts and sails were got up, and we bade adieu 
to the Helen, now burnt down to the water's edge, 
and proceeded with a light east wind towards the 
Bermudas, the nearest land, but which were more 
than seven hundred miles from us. As we were 
nearly in the track of West Indian vessels, we 
expected to fall in with some ship in a few days. 

" I cannot attempt to describe my feelings and 
thoughts during these events. I was surprised to 
find myself very cool and collected. I hardly thought 
it possible we should escape, and I remember thinking 
it almost foolish to save my watch and the little money 
I had at hand. However, after being in the boats 
some days I began to have more hope, and regretted 
not having saved some new shoes, cloth coat and 
trousers, hat, etc., which I might have done with a 
little trouble. My collections, however, were in the 
hold, and were irretrievably lost. And now I began 
to think that almost all the reward of my four years 
of privation and danger was lost. What I had hitherto 
sent home had little more than paid my expenses, and 
what I had with me in the Helen I estimated would 
have realized about ;;^500. But even all this might 
have gone with little regret had not by far the richest 
part of my own private collection gone also. All my 
private collection of insects and birds since I left 

156 MY LIFE 

Para was with me, and comprised hundreds of new 
and beautiful species, which would have rendered (I 
had fondly hoped) my cabinet, as far as regards 
American species, one of the finest in Europe. 
Fancy your regrets had you lost all your Pyrenean 
mosses on your voyage home, or should you now lose 
all your South American collection, and you will have 
some idea of what I sufifer. But besides this, I have 
lost a number of sketches, drawings, notes, and 
observations on natural history, besides the three 
most interesting years of my journal, the whole of 
which, unlike any pecuniary loss, can never be re- 
placed ; so you will see that I have some need of 
philosophic resignation to bear my fate with patience 
and equanimity. 

" Day after day we continued in the boats. The 
winds changed, blowing dead from the point to which 
we wanted to go. We were scorched by the sun, my 
hands, nose, and ears being completely skinned, and 
were drenched continually by the seas or spray. We 
were therefore almost constantly wet, and had no 
comfort and little sleep at night. Our meals con- 
sisted of raw pork and biscuit, with a little preserved 
meat or carrots once a day, which was a great luxury, 
and a short allowance of water, which left us as thirsty 
as before directly after we had drunk it. Ten days 
and ten nights we spent in this manner. We were 
still two hundred miles from Bermuda, when in the 
afternoon a vessel was seen, and by eight in the 
evening we were on board her, much rejoiced to 
have escaped a death on the wide ocean, whence none 
would have come to tell the tale. The ship was the 
Jordesofi, bound for London, and proves to be one of 
the slowest old ships going. With a favourable wind 
and all sail set, she seldom does more than five knots. 


her average being two or three, so that we have had 
a most tedious time of it, and even now cannot calcu- 
late with any certainty as to when we shall arrive. 
Besides this, she was rather short of provisions, and 
as our arrival exactly doubled her crew, we were 
all obliged to be put on strict allowance of bread, 
meat, and water. A little ham and butter of the 
captain's were soon used up, and we have been now 
for some time on the poorest of fare. We have no 
suet, butter, or raisins with which to make * duff,' or 
even molasses, and barely enough sugar to sweeten 
our tea or coffee, which we take with dry, coarse 
biscuit, and for dinner, beef or pork of the very worst 
quality I have ever eaten or even imagined to exist. 
This, repeated day after day without any variation, 
beats even Rio Negro fare, rough though it often was. 
About a week after we were picked up we spoke and 
boarded an outward-bound ship, and got from her 
some biscuits, a few potatoes, and some salt cod, 
which were a great improvement, but did not last 
long. We have also occasionally caught some dolphin 
and a few fish resembling the acarras of the Rio 
Negro ; but for some time now we had seen none, so 
that I am looking forward to the * flesh-pots of Egypt ' 
with as much pleasure as when we were luxuriating 
daily on farinha and * fiel amigo.' ^ While we were in 
the boats we had generally fine weather, though with 
a few days and nights squally and with a heavy sea, 
which made me often tremble for our safety, as we 
heeled over till the water poured in over the boat's 
side. We had almost despaired of seeing any vessel, 
our circle of vision being so limited ; but we had great 

* This was the name given by our kind host, Seilor Henrique, at 
Barra to dried pirarucu, meaning " faithful friend," always at hand 
when other food failed. 

158 MY LIFE 

hopes of reaching Bermuda, though it is doubtful 
if we should have done so, the neighbourhood of 
those islands being noted for sudden squalls and 
hurricanes, and it was the time of year when the 
hurricanes most frequently occur. Having never seen 
a great gale or storm at sea, I had some desire to 
witness the phenomenon, and have now been com- 
pletely gratified. The first we had about a fortnight 
ago. In the morning there was a strong breeze and 
the barometer had fallen nearly half an inch during 
the night and continued sinking, so the captain com- 
menced taking in sail, and while getting in the royals 
and studding-sails, the wind increased so as to split 
the mainsail, fore-topsail, fore-trysail, and jib, and it 
was some hours before they could be got off her, and 
the main-topsail and fore-sail double reefed. We 
then went flying along, the whole ocean a mass of 
boiling foam, the crests of the waves being carried in 
spray over our decks. The sea did not get up 
immediately, but by night it was very rough, the ship 
plunging and rolling most fearfully, the sea pouring 
in a deluge over the top of her bulwarks, and some- 
times up over the cabin skylight. The next morning 
the wind abated, but the ship, which is a very old 
one, took in a deal of water, and the pumps were 
kept going nearly the whole day to keep her dry. 
During this gale the wind went completely round the 
compass, and then settled nearly due east, where it 
pertinaciously continued for twelve days, keeping us 
tacking about, and making less than forty miles a day 
against it. Three days ago we had another gale, 
more severe than the former one — a regular equinoc- 
tial, which lasted two entire days and nights, and split 
one of the newest and strongest sails on the ship. 
The rolling and plunging were fearful, the bowsprit 


going completely under water, and the ship being 
very heavily laden with mahogany, fustic, and other 
heavy woods from Cuba, strained and creaked tre- 
mendously, and leaked to that extent that the pumps 
were obliged to be kept constantly going, and their 
continued click-clack, click-clack all through the night 
was a most disagreeable and nervous sound. One 
day no fire could be made owing to the sea breaking 
continually into the galley, so we had to eat a biscuit 
for our dinner ; and not a moment's rest was to be 
had, as we were obliged to be constantly holding on, 
whether standing, sitting, or lying, to prevent being 
pitched about by the violent plunges and lurches of 
the vessel. The gale, however, has now happily 
passed, and we have a fine breeze from the north- 
west, which is taking us along six or seven knots — 
quicker than we have ever gone yet. Among our 
other disagreeables here we have no fresh water to 
spare for washing, and as I only saved a couple of 
shirts, they are in a state of most uncomfortable 
dirtiness, but I console myself with the thoughts of a 
glorious warm bath when I get on shore. 

^^ October i. Oh, glorious day! Here we are on 
shore at Deal, where the ship is at anchor. Such a 
dinner, with our two captains ! Oh, beef-steaks and 
damson tart, a paradise for hungry sinners. 

" October 5, London. Here I am laid up with 
swelled ankles, my legs not being able to stand work 
after such a long rest in the ship. I cannot write 
now at any length — I have too much to think about. 
We had a narrow escape in the Channel. Many 
vessels were lost in a storm on the night of Sep- 
tember 29, but we escaped. The old ' Iron Duke ' is 

i6o MY LIFE 

dead. The Crystal Palace is being pulled down, and 
is being rebuilt on a larger and improved plan by a 
company. Loddige's collection of plants has been 
bought entire to stock it, and they think by heating 
it in the centre to get a gradation of climates, so as 
to be able to have the plants of different countries, 
tropical or temperate, in one undivided building. 
This is Paxton's plan. 

" How I begin to envy you in that glorious country 
where ' the sun shines for ever unchangeably bright/ 
where farinha abounds, and of bananas and plantains 
there is no lack ! Fifty times since I left Para have 
I vowed, if I once reached England, never to trust 
myself more on the ocean. But good resolutions 
soon fade, and I am already only doubtful whether 
the Andes or the Philippines are to be the scene of 
my next wanderings. However, for six months I am 
a fixture here in London, as I am determined to 
make up for lost time by enjoying myself as much as 
possible for awhile. I am fortunate in having about 
;^200 insured by Mr. Stevens' foresight, so I must be 
contented, though it is very hard to have nothing to 
show of what I took so much pains to procure. 

" I trust you are well and successful. Kind 
remembrances to everybody, everywhere, and parti- 
cularly to the respectable Senhor Joao de Lima of 
Sao Joachim. 

"Your very sincere friend, 

"Alfred R. Wallace." 

Some of the most alarming incidents, to a lands- 
man, are not mentioned either in this letter or in my 
published "Narrative." The captain had given the 
only berths in the cabin to Captain Turner and 
myself, he sleeping on a sofa in fine weather, and on 


a mattress on the floor of the cabin when rough. On 
the worst night of the storm I saw him, to my sur- 
prise, bring down an axe and lay it beside him, and 
on asking what it was for, he replied, " To cut away 
the masts in case we capsize in the night." In the 
middle of the night a great sea smashed our skylight 
and poured in a deluge of water, soaking the poor 
captain, and then slushing from side to side with 
every roll of the ship. Now, I thought, our time is 
come ; and I expected to see the captain rush up on 
deck with his axe. But he only swore a good deal, 
sought out a dry coat and blanket, and then lay down 
on the sofa as if nothing had happened. So I was a 
little reassured. 

Not less alarming was the circumstance of the 
crew coming aft in a body to say that the forecastle 
was uninhabitable as it was constantly wet, and several 
of them brought handfuls of wet rotten wood which 
they could pull out in many places. This happened 
soon after the first gale began ; so the two captains 
and I went to look, and we saw sprays and squirts of 
water coming in at the joints in numerous places, 
soaking almost all the men's berths, while here and 
there we could see the places where they had pulled 
out rotten wood with their fingers. The captain then 
had the sail-room amid-ships cleared out for the men 
to sleep in for the rest of the voyage. 

One day in the height of the storm, when we 
were being flooded with spray and enormous waves 
were coming up behind us, Captain Turner and I were 
sitting on the poop in the driest place we could find, 
and, as a bigger wave than usual rolled under us 
and dashed over our sides, he said quietly to me, " If 
we are pooped by one of those waves we shall go to 
the bottom ; " then added, " We were not very safe in 


i62 MY LIFE 

our two small boats, but I had rather be back in them 
where we were picked up than in this rotten old tub." 
It is, therefore, I think, quite evident that we did 
have a very narrow escape. Yet this unseaworthy 
old ship, which ought to have been condemned years 
before, had actually taken Government stores out to 
Halifax, had there been patched up, and sent to Cuba 
for a cargo of heavy timber, which we were bringing 


{To fact- p. 163. 



On reaching London in the condition described in 
my letter to Dr. Spruce, and my only clothing a suit 
of the thinnest calico, I was met by my kind friend 
and agent, Mr. Samuel Stevens, who took me first to 
the nearest ready-made clothes shop, where I got a 
warm suit, then to his own tailor, where I was measured 
for what clothes I required, and afterwards to a haber- 
dasher's to get a small stock of other necessaries. 
Having at that time no relatives in London, his 
mother, with whom he lived in the south of London — 
I think in Kennington — had invited me to stay with 
her. Here I lived most comfortably for a week, 
enjoying the excellent food and delicacies Mrs. 
Stevens provided for me, which quickly restored me 
to my usual health and vigour. 

As I wished to be with my sister and mother 
during my stay in England, I took a house then 
vacant in Upper Albany Street (No. 44), so that we 
might all live together. While it was getting ready 
I took lodgings next door, as the situation was 
convenient, being close to the Regent's Park and 
Zoological Gardens, and also near the Society's offices 
in Hanover Square, and within easy access to Mr. 
Stevens's office close to the old British Museum. At 
Christmas we were all comfortably settled, and I was 

i64 MY LIFE 

able to begin the work which I had determined to do 
before again leaving England. 

In the small tin box which I had saved from the 
wreck I fortunately had a set of careful pencil draw- 
ings of all the different species of palms I had met 
with, together with notes as to their distribution and 
uses. I had also a large number of drawings of fish, 
as already stated, carefully made to scale, with notes 
of their colours, their dentition, and their fin-rays, 
scales, etc. I had also a folio Portuguese note-book 
containing my diary while on the Rio Negro, and 
some notes and observations made for a map of that 
river and the Uaupes. With these scanty materials, 
helped by the letters I had sent home, I now set to 
work to write an account of my travels, as well as a 
few scientific papers for which I had materials in the 
portion of my collections made in Para, Santarem, 
and the Lower Rio Negro. These I had sent off 
before leaving Barra on my first voyage up the Rio 
Negro, and they had arrived home safely ; but I had 
reserved all my private collections for comparison 
with future discoveries, and though I left these to be 
sent home before starting on my second voyage up 
the Rio Negro, they were never despatched, owing to 
the Custom House authorities at Barra insisting on 
seeing the contents before allowing them to go away. 
I therefore found them at Barra on my way home, 
and they were all lost with the ship. 

As my collections had now made my name well 
known to the authorities of the Zoological and Ento- 
mological Societies, I received a ticket from the 
former, giving me admission to their gardens while I 
remained in England, and I was a welcome visitor 
at the scientific meetings of both societies, which 
I attended very regularly, and thus made the 


acquaintance of most of the London zoologists and 
entomologists. I also went frequently to examine 
the insect and bird collections in the British Museum 
(then in Great Russell Street), and also to the Lin- 
nean Society, and to the Kew Herbarium to consult 
works on botany, in order to name my palms. 

After discussing the matter with some of my 
friends, I determined to publish, at my own expense, 
a small, popular volume on the " Palms of the Amazon 
and Rio Negro," with an account of their uses and 
distribution, and figures of all the species from my 
sketches and specimens of fruits. I arranged with 
Mr. Walter Fitch of Kew, the first botanical artist of 
the day, to draw them on stone, adding some artistic 
touches to give them life and variety, and in a few 
cases some botanical details from species living in 
the gardens. In one of the drawings a large native 
house on the Uaupes is introduced, with some figures 
which, I am sorry to say, are as unlike the natives as 
are the inhabitants of a London slum. I arranged 
with Mr. Van Voorst to publish this small volume, 
and it was not thought advisable to print more than 
250 copies, the sale of which just covered all expenses. 

At the same time I was preparing my " Travels 
on the Amazon and Rio Negro " from the scanty 
materials I had saved, supplemented by the letters I 
had written home. I arranged with Mr. Lovel Reeve 
for its publication on an agreement for " half profits." 
Only 750 copies were printed, and when I returned 
home from the East in 1862, about 250 copies were 
still unsold, and there were consequently no profits to 
divide. We agreed, however, to share the remaining 
copies, and my portion was disposed of by my new 
publisher, Messrs. Macmillan & Co., and brought me 
in a few pounds. 

i66 MY LIFE 

I had brought with me vocabularies of about a 
hundred common words in ten different Indian lan- 
guages, and as the great philologist at that time was 
the late Dr. R. G. Latham, I obtained an introduction 
to him, and he kindly offered to write some " Re- 
marks " upon the vocabularies, and these are published 
in the first edition of my " Travels." 

Dr. Latham was at this time engaged in fitting 
up groups of figures to illustrate the family life and 
habits of the various races of mankind at the new 
Crystal Palace at Sydenham, then just completed, 
and he asked me to meet him there and see whether 
any alterations were required in a group of natives, 
I think, of Guiana. 

I found Dr. Latham among a number of workmen 
in white aprons, several life-size clay models of 
Indians, and a number of their ornaments, weapons, 
and utensils. The head modellers were Italians, and 
Dr. Latham told me he could get no Englishmen to 
do the work, and that these Italians, although clever 
modellers of the human figure in any required atti- 
tude, had all been trained in the schools of classical 
sculpture, and were unable to get away from this 
training. The result was very curious, and often even 
ludicrous, a brown Indian man or girl being given 
the attitudes and expressions of an Apollo or a 
Hercules, a Venus or a Minerva. In those days 
there were no photographs, and the ethnologist had 
to trust to paintings or drawings, usually exaggerated 
or taken from individuals of exceptional beauty or 
ugliness. Under my suggestion alterations were 
made both in the features and pose of one or two 
of the figures just completed, so as to give them a 
little more of the Indian character, and serve as a 
guide in modelling others, in which the same type 


of physiognomy was to be preserved. I went several 
times during the work on the groups of South 
American origin, but though when completed, with 
the real ornaments, clothing, weapons, and domestic 
implements, the groups were fairly characteristic and 
life-like, yet there remained occasionally details of 
attitude or expression which suggested classic Greece 
or Italy rather than the South American savage. 

These ethnological figures, although instructive 
to the student, were never very popular, and soon 
became the subject of contempt and ridicule. One 
reason of this was their arrangement in the open, 
quite close to the passing visitor, with nothing to 
isolate them from altogether incongruous surroundings. 
Another was, that they were not carefully attended 
to, and when I saw them after my return from the 
East, they had a shabby and dilapidated appearance, 
and the figures themselves were more or less dusty, 
which had a most ludicrous effect in what were in- 
tended to represent living men and women, being so 
utterly unlike the clear, glossy, living skins of all 
savage peoples. To be successful and life-like, such 
groups should be each completely isolated in a deep 
recess, with three sides representing houses or huts, 
or the forest, or river-bank, while the open front 
should be enclosed by a single sheet of plate-glass, 
and the group should be seen at a distance of at 
least ten or fifteen feet. In this way, with a carefully 
arranged illumination from above and an artistic 
colouring of the figures and accessories, each group 
might be made to appear as life-like as some of the 
best figures at Madame Tussaud's, or as the grand 
interiors of cathedrals, which were then exhibited at 
the Diorama. In the museum of the future, such 
groups will find their place in due succession to the 

i68 MY LIFE 

groups illustrating the life histories of the other 
mammalia ; but ample space and a very careful 
attention to details must be given in order to ensure 
a successful and attractive representation. 

It was at this time that I first saw Huxley. At 
one of the evening meetings of the Zoological Society 
(in December, 1852) he gave an account of some 
Echinococci found in the liver of a zebra which died 
in the gardens. He did not read the paper, but, 
with the help of diagrams and sketches on the black- 
board, showed us clearly its main points of structure, 
its mode of development, and the strange transfor- 
mations it underwent when the parent worm migrated 
from the intestine to other parts of the body of the 
animal. I was particularly struck with his wonderful 
power of making a difficult and rather complex 
subject perfectly intelligible and extremely interest- 
ing to persons who, like myself, were absolutely 
ignorant of the whole group. Although he was two 
years younger than myself, Huxley had already 
made a considerable reputation as a comparative 
anatomist, was a Fellow of the Royal Society, and 
a few months later was appointed Professor of 
Natural History and Palaeontology at the Royal 
School of Mines. I was amazed, too, at his com- 
plete mastery of the subject, and his great amount 
of technical knowledge of a kind to which I have 
never given any attention, the structure and develop- 
ment of the lower forms of animal life. From that 
time I always looked up to Huxley as being im- 
measurably superior to myself in scientific knowledge, 
and supposed him to be much older than I was. 
Many years afterwards I was surprised to find that 
he was really younger. 


During my constant attendance at the meetings 
of the Zoological and Entomological Societies, and 
visits to the insect and bird departments of the 
British Museum, I had obtained sufficient informa- 
tion to satisfy me that the very finest field for an 
exploring and collecting naturalist was to be found 
in the great Malayan Archipelago, of which just 
sufficient was known to prove its wonderful richness, 
while no part of it, with the one exception of the 
island of Java, has been well explored as regards 
its natural history. Sir James Brooke had recently 
become Rajah of Sarawak, while the numerous 
Dutch settlements in Celebes and the Moluccas 
offered great facilities for a traveller. So far as 
known also, the country was generally healthy, and 
I determined that it would be much better for me 
to go to such a new country than to return to the 
Amazon, where Bates had already been successfully 
collecting for five years, and where I knew there was 
a good bird-collector who had been long at work in 
the upper part of the river towards the Andes. 

As the journey to the East was an expensive one, 
I was advised to try to get a free passage in some 
Government ship. Through my paper on the Rio 
Negro, I had made the acquaintance of Sir Roderick 
Murchison, then President of the Royal Geographical 
Society, and one of the most accessible and kindly 
of men of science. On calling upon him and stating 
my wishes, he at once agreed to make an application 
on my behalf for a passage to some Malayan port, 
and as he was personally known to many members 
of the Government and had great influence with 
them, a passage was promised me on the first ship 
going to those seas. This was, I think, near the end 
of the year 1853, when I had published my two 

170 MY LIFE 

books, and had spent much of my spare time at the 
British Museum, examining the collections, and 
making notes and sketches of the rarer and more 
valuable species of birds, butterflies, and beetles of 
the various Malay islands. 

It was, I believe, in the latter part of January, 1854, 
that I received a notification from the Government 
that a passage had been granted me to Singapore 
in the brig Frolic, shortly sailing for that port, and 
that I was to communicate with the captain — 
Commander Nolloth — as to when I should go on 
board. I think it was about the middle of February 
that I went to Portsmouth with all necessaries for the 
voyage, my heavy baggage having been sent off by 
a merchant ship some time previously. The Frolic 
was anchored at Spithead and I went on board at 
once. I was kindly received by the captain and 
officers and found my quarters very comfortable. 

Sailing orders were expected every day, as the 
ship was quite ready, with the stores she was taking out 
to the East all on board ; but day after day and week 
after week passed, signals were exchanged with the 
admiral, but we seemed no nearer sailing than when 
I came on board. Then at last, one day the captain 
informed me that he had received fresh orders to 
carry stores to the Crimea, where the great war with 
Russia was about to commence. He said I had 
better leave the next morning, and that no doubt the 
Government would provide me a passage in some 
other vessel. So I bade farewell to him and his 
officers, none of whom I ever met again. 

On returning to London, I at once called on Sir 
Roderick Murchison, and through his representations 
I received in a few days a first-class ticket to Singapore 
by the next Peninsular and Oriental steamer, which 


sailed in about a week, so that I did not lose much 
time. The voyage was a very interesting one, as we 
stopped a few hours at Gibraltar, passed within sight 
of the grand Sierra Nevada of Spain, stayed a day 
at Malta, where the town and the tombs of the knights 
were inspected, and then on to Alexandria. Having 
by me a long letter I wrote to my schoolfellow, Mr. 
George Silk, I will here quote from it a few of the 
impressions of my journey as they appeared to me at 
the time they occurred : — 

"Steamer Bcfigal, Red Sea, March 26. 
" Of all the eventful days in my life (so far), my 
first in Alexandria was (in some respects) the most 
exciting. Imagine my feelings when, coming out of 
the hotel (to which we had been conveyed in an 
omnibus) with the intention of taking a quiet stroll 
through the city, I suddenly found myself in the 
midst of a vast crowd of donkeys and their drivers, 
all thoroughly determined to appropriate my person 
to their own use and interest, without in the least 
consulting my inclinations. In vain with rapid strides 
and waving arms I endeavoured to clear a way and 
move forward, arms and legs were seized upon, and 
even the Christian coat-tails were not sacred from 
the profane hands of the Mahometan crowd. One 
would hold together two donkeys by their tails 
whilst I was struggling between them, and another, 
forcing their heads together, hoped to compel me to 
mount one or both of them. One fellow, more im- 
pudent than the rest, I laid flat upon the ground, 
and, sending the little donkey staggering after him, 
I escaped for a moment midst hideous yells and most 
unearthly cries. I now beckoned to a fellow more 
sensible-looking than the rest, and told him that I 

172 MY LIFE 

wished to walk, and would take him as a guide, and 
now hoped that I might be left at peace. But vain 
thought ! I was in the hands of the Philistines, who, 
getting me up against a wall, formed around me an 
impenetrable phalanx of men and brutes, thoroughly 
determined that I should only escape from the spot 
upon the four legs of a donkey. So, bethinking 
myself that donkey-riding was a national institution 
of venerable antiquity, and seeing a fat Yankee 
already mounted, being like myself, hopeless of any 
other means of escape, I seized upon a bridle in 
hopes that I should then be left by the remainder 
of the crowd. But seeing that I was at last going 
to ride, each one was determined that he alone 
should profit by the transaction, and a dozen animals 
were forced suddenly upon me, and a dozen pair of 
hands tried to lift me upon their respective beasts. 
But now my patience was exhausted, so, keeping 
firm hold of the bridle I had first taken with one 
hand, I hit right and left with the other, and calling 
upon my guide to do the same, we succeeded in 
clearing a little space around us. Now, then, behold 
your long-legged friend mounted upon a jackass in 
the streets of Alexandria ; a boy behind, holding by 
his tail and whipping him up ; Charles, who had been 
lost sight of in the crowd, upon another ; and my 
guide upon a third ; and off we go among a crowd 
of Jews and Greeks, Turks and Arabs, and veiled 
women and yelling donkey-boys, to see the city. 
We saw the bazaars, and the slave market (where I 
was again nearly pulled to pieces for ' backsheesh '), 
the mosques with their graceful minarets, and then 
the pasha's new palace, the interior of which is 
most gorgeous. We passed lots of Turkish soldiers, 
walking in comfortable irregularity ; and after the 


consciousness of being dreadful guys for two crowded 
hours, returned to the hotel, whence we are to start 
for the canal boats. You may think this little 
narrative is exaggerated, but it is not so. The 
pertinacity, vigour, and screams of the Alexandrian 
donkey-drivers cannot be exaggerated. On our way 
to the boats we passed Pompey's Pillar ; for a day 
we were rowed in small boats on a canal, then on 
the Nile in barges, with a panorama of mud villages, 
palm-trees, camels, and irrigating wheels turned by 
buffaloes, — a perfectly flat country, beautifully green 
with crops of corn and lentils ; endless boats with 
immense triangular sails. Then the Pyramids came 
in sight, looking huge and solemn ; then a hand- 
some castellated bridge for the Alexandria and Cairo 
railway ; and then Cairo — Grand Cairo ! the city of 
romance, which we reached just before sunset. We 
took a guide and walked in the city, very picturesque 
and very dirty. Then to a quiet English hotel, where 
a Mussulman waiter, rejoicing in the name of Ali- 
baba, gave us a splendid tea, brown bread and fresh 
butter. One or two French and English travellers 
were the only guests, and I could hardly realize my 
situation. I longed for you to enjoy it with me. 
Thackeray's 'First Day in the East' is admirable. 
Read it again, and you will understand just how I 
think and feel. 

"Next morning at seven we started for Suez in 
small four-horsed two-wheeled omnibuses, carrying 
six passengers each. Horses were changed every five 
miles, and we had a meal every three hours at very 
comfortable stations. The desert is undulating, 
mostly covered with a coarse, volcanic-looking gravel. 
The road is excellent. The skeletons of camels — 
hundreds of them — lay all along the road ; vultures, 

174 MY LIFE 

sand-grouse, and sand-larks were occasionally seen. 
We frequently saw the mirage, like distant trees and 
water. Near the middle station the pasha has a 
hunting-lodge — a perfect palace. The Indian and 
Australian mails, about six hundred boxes, as well 
as all the parcels, goods, and passengers' luggage, 
were brought by endless trains of camels, which we 
passed on the way. At the eating-places I took a little 
stroll, gathering some of the curious highly odoriferous 
plants that grew here and there in the hollows, which 
I dried in my pocket-books, and I also found a few 
land-shells. We enjoyed the ride exceedingly, and 
reached Suez about midnight. It is a miserable 
little town, and the bazaar is small, dark, and dirty. 
There is said to be no water within ten miles. The 
next afternoon we went on board our ship, a splendid 
vessel with large and comfortable cabins, and every- 
thing very superior to the Etixine. Adieu." 

I have given this description of my journey from 
Alexandria to Suez, over the route established by 
Lieutenant Waghorn, which was superseded a few 
years later by the railway, and afterwards by the 
canal, because few persons now living will remember 
it, or know that it ever existed. Of the rest of our 
journey I have no record. We stayed a day at 
desolate, volcanic Aden, and thence sailed across to 
Galle, with its groves of cocoa-nut palms, and crowds 
of natives offering for sale the precious stones of the 
country ; thence across to Pulo Penang, with its 
picturesque mountain, its spice-trees, and its waterfall, 
and on down the Straits of Malacca, with its richly 
wooded shores, to our destination, Singapore, where I 
was to begin the eight years of wandering throughout 
the Malay Archipelago, which constituted the central 
and controlling incident of my life. 



My wanderings and adventures in the far East have 
been recorded in my book " The Malay Archipelago." 
I will therefore give here but a brief outline with a few 
extracts from my letters and references to subjects of 
special interest. 

I remained at Singapore for several months 
collecting insects and birds in the forests around. 
In a letter home I give a short account of my daily 
life at this time : — " I will tell you how my day is 
now occupied. Get up at half-past five, bath, and 
coffee. Sit down to arrange and put away my insects 
of the day before, and set them in a safe place to dry. 
Charles mends our insect-nets, fills our pin-cushions, 
and gets ready for the day. Breakfast at eight ; out 
to the jungle at nine. We have to walk about a 
quarter mile up a steep hill to reach it, and arrive 
dripping with perspiration. Then we wander about 
in the delightful shade along paths made by the 
Chinese wood-cutters till two or three in the afternoon, 
generally returning with fifty or sixty beetles, some 
very rare or beautiful, and perhaps a few butterflies. 
Change clothes and sit down to kill and pin insects, 
Charles doing the flies, wasps, and bugs ; I do not 
trust him yet with beetles. Dinner at four, then at 

176 MY LIFE 

work again till six : coffee. Then read or talk, or, if 
insects very numerous, work again till eight or nine. 
Then to bed." 

Charles was a boy of sixteen whom I had brought 
with me from London as he wished to become a 
collector. He remained with me about a year and 
a half and eventually got employment on some of the 
plantations near Singapore. 

I next made an expedition to Malacca which 
I describe in one of my letters as follows : — " I have 
now just returned to Singapore after two months' 
hard work. At Malacca I had a strong touch of 
fever, with the old ' Rio Negro ' symptoms, but the 
Government doctor made me take large doses of 
quinine every day for a week, and so killed it, and in 
less than a fortnight I was quite well, and off to the 
jungle again. I never took half enough quinine in 
America to cure me. 

" Malacca is a pretty place. Insects are not very 
abundant there, still, by perseverance, I got a good 
number, and many rare ones. Of birds, too, I made 
a good collection. I went to the celebrated Mount 
Ophir, and ascended to the top, sleeping under a rock. 
The walk there was hard work, thirty miles through 
jungle in a succession of mud-holes, and swarming 
with leeches, which crawled all over us, and sucked 
when and where they pleased. We lived a week at 
the foot of the mountain, in a Httle hut built by our 
men, near a beautiful rocky stream. I got some fine 
new butterflies there, and hundreds of other new or 
rare insects. Huge centipedes and scorpions, some 
nearly a foot long, were common, but we none of us 
got bitten or stung. We only had rice, and a little fish 
and tea, but came home quite well. The mountain 
is over four thousand feet high. Near the top are 


beautiful ferns and pitcher-plants, of which I made a 
small collection. Elephants and rhinoceroses, as well 
as tigers, are abundant there, but we had our usual 
bad luck in seeing only their tracks. On returning to 
Malacca I found the accumulation of two or three 
posts — a dozen letters, and about fifty newspapers. 
... I am glad to be safe in Singapore with my 
collections, as from here they can be insured. I have 
now a fortnight's work to arrange, examine, and pack 
them, and four months hence there will be work for 
Mr. Stevens.^ 

" Sir James Brooke is here. I have called on him. 
He received me most cordially, and offered me every 
assistance at Sarawak. I shall go there next, as I 
shall have pleasant society at Sarawak, and shall get 
on in Malay, which is very easy ; but I have had no 
practice yet, though I can ask for most common 

I reached Sarawak early in November, and 
remained in Borneo fourteen months, seeing a good 
deal of the country. The first four months was the 
wet season, during which I made journeys up and 
down the Sarawak river, but obtained very scanty 
collections. In March I went to the Sadong river, 
where coal mines were being opened by an English 
mining engineer, Mr. Coulson, a Yorkshireman, and I 
stayed there nearly nine months, it being the best 
locality for beetles I found during my twelve years' 
tropical collecting, and very good for other groups. 

It was also in this place that I obtained numerous 
skins and skeletons of the orang-utan, as fully described 
in my " Malay Archipelago." 

* They were sent by sailing ship round the Cape of Good Hope, 
the overland route being too costly for goods. 


178 MY LIFE 

In another letter referring to the Dyaks, I say : — 
" The old men here relate with pride how many 
' heads ' they took in their youth ; and though they 
all acknowledge the goodness of the present rajah, 
yet they think that if they were allowed to take a few 
heads, as of old, they would have better crops. The 
more I see of uncivilized people, the better I think of 
human nature on the whole, and the essential differ- 
ences between civilized and savage man seem to 
disappear. Here we are, two Europeans, surrounded 
by a population of Chinese, Malays, and Dyaks. The 
Chinese are generally considered, and with some 
amount of truth, to be thieves, liars, and reckless of 
human life, and these Chinese are coolies of the 
lowest and least educated class, though they can all 
read and write. The Malays are invariably described 
as being barbarous and bloodthirsty ; and the Dyaks 
have only recently ceased to think head-taking a 
necessity of their existence. We are two days' 
journey from Sarawak, where, though the government 
is nominally European, it only exists with the consent 
and by the support of the native population. Yet I 
can safely say that in any part of Europe where the 
same opportunities for crime and disturbance existed, 
things would not go so smoothly as they do here. 
We sleep with open doors, and go about constantly 
unarmed ; one or two petty robberies and a little 
fighting have occurred among the Chinese, but the 
great majority of them are quiet, honest, decent sort 
of people." 

In my next letter, a month later, I gave the 
following account of an interesting episode : — 

" I must now tell you of the addition to my house- 
hold of an orphan baby, a curious little half-nigger 
baby, which I have nursed now more than a month. 


I will tell you presently how I came to get it, but 
must first relate my inventive skill as a nurse. The 
little innocent was not weaned, and I had nothing 
proper to feed it with, so was obliged to give it rice- 
water. I got a large-mouthed bottle, making two 
holes in the cork, through one of which I inserted a 
large quill so that the baby could suck. I fitted up 
a box for a cradle with a mat for it to lie upon, which 
I had washed and changed every day. I feed it four 
times a day, and wash it and brush its hair every day, 
which it likes very much, only crying when it is 
hungry or dirty. In about a week I gave it the rice- 
water a little thicker, and always sweetened it to 
make it nice. I am afraid you would call it an ugly 
baby, for it has a dark brown skin and red hair, a 
very large mouth, but very pretty little hands and 
feet. It has now cut its two lower front teeth, and 
the uppers are coming. At first it would not sleep 
alone at night, but cried very much ; so I made it a 
pillow of an old stocking, which it likes to hug, and 
now sleeps very soundly. It has powerful lungs, and 
sometimes screams tremendously, so I hope it will 

"But I must now tell you how I came to take 
charge of it. Don't be alarmed ; I was the cause of 
its mother's death. It happened as follows : — I was 
out shooting in the jungle and saw something up a 
tree which I thought was a large monkey or orang- 
utan, so I fired at it, and down fell this little baby — in 
its mother's arms. What she did up in the tree of 
course I can't imagine, but as she ran about the 
branches quite easily, I presume she was a wild 
* woman of the woods ; ' so I have preserved her skin 
and skeleton, and am trying to bring up her only 
daughter, and hope some day to introduce her to 

l8o MY LIFE 

fashionable society at the Zoological Gardens. When 
its poor mother fell mortally wounded, the baby was 
plunged head over ears in a swamp about the con- 
sistence of pea-soup, and when I got it out looked 
very pitiful. It clung to me very hard when I carried 
it home, and having got its little hands unawares into 
my beard, it clutched so tight that I had great difficulty 
in extricating myself Its mother, poor creature, had 
very long hair, and while she was running about the 
trees like a mad woman, the little baby had to hold 
fast to prevent itself from falling, which accounts for 
the remarkable strength of its little fingers and toes, 
which catch hold of anything with the firmness of a 
vice. About a week ago I bought a little monkey 
with a long tail, and as the baby was very lonely 
while we were out in the daytime, I put the little 
monkey into the cradle to keep it warm. Perhaps 
you will say that this was not proper. ' How could 
you do such a thing ? ' But, I assure you, the baby 
likes it exceedingly, and they are excellent friends. 
When the monkey wants to run away, as he often 
does, the baby clutches him by the tail or ears and 
drags him back ; and if the monkey does succeed in 
escaping, screams violently till he is brought back 
again. Of course, baby cannot walk yet, but I let it 
crawl about on the floor to exercise its limbs ; but it 
is the most wonderful baby I ever saw, and has such 
strength in its arms that it will catch hold of my 
trousers as I sit at work, and hang under my legs for 
a quarter of an hour at a time without being the least 
tired, all the time trying to suck, thinking, no doubt, 
it has got hold of its poor dear mother. When it 
finds no milk is to be had, there comes another 
scream, and I have to put it back in its cradle and 
give it 'Toby' — the little monkey — to hug, which 


quiets it immediately. From this short account you 
will see that my baby is no common baby, and I can 
safely say, what so many have said before with much 
less truth, ' There never was such a baby as my baby,' 
and I am sure nobody ever had such a dear little duck 
of a darling of a little brown hairy baby before." 

In a letter dated Christmas Day, 1855, I gave my 
impressions of the Dyaks, and of Sir James Brooke, 
as follows : — 

" I have now lived a month in a Dyak's house, 
and spent a day or two in several others, and I have 
been very much pleased with them. They are a very 
kind, simple, hospitable people, and I do no.t wonder 
at the great interest Sir James Brooke takes in them. 
They are more communicative and more cheerful than 
the American Indians, and it is therefore more agree- 
able to live with them. In moral character they are 
far superior to either the Malays or the Chinese, for 
though head-taking was long a custom among them, 
it was only as a trophy of war. In their own villages 
crimes are very rare. Ever since Sir James Brooke 
has been rajah, more than twelve years, there has only 
been one case of murder in a Dyak tribe, and that was 
committed by a stranger who had been adopted into 
the tribe. One wet day I produced a piece of string 
to show them how to play ' cat's cradle,' and was 
quite astonished to find that they knew it much 
better than I did, and could make all sorts of new 
figures I had never seen. They were also very 
clever at tricks with string on their fingers, which 
seemed to be a favourite amusement. Many of the 
remoter tribes think the rajah cannot be a man. 
They ask all sorts of curious questions about him — 
Whether he is not as old as the mountains ; whether 

i82 MY LIFE 

he cannot bring the dead to life ; and I have no 
doubt, for many years after his death, he will be held 
to be a deity and expected to come back again. 

" I have now seen a good deal of Sir James, and 
the more I see of him the more I admire him. With 
the highest talents for government he combines in a 
high degree goodness of heart and gentleness of 
manner. At the same time, he has so much self- 
confidence and determination that he has put down 
with the greatest ease the conspiracies of one or two 
of the Malay chiefs against him. It is a unique case 
in the history of the world for a private English 
gentleman to rule over two conflicting races — a 
superior and an inferior — with their own consent, 
without any means of coercion, but depending solely 
upon them both for protection and support, while at 
the same time he introduces some of the best customs 
of civilization, and checks all crimes and barbarous 
practices that before prevailed. Under his govern- 
ment ' running-a-muck,' so frequent in other Malay 
countries, has never taken place, and in a population 
of about 30,000 Malays, almost all of whom carry 
their kris, and were accustomed to revenge an insult 
with a stab, murders only occur once in several years. 
The people are never taxed except with their own 
consent, and in the manner most congenial to them, 
while almost the whole of the rajah's private fortune 
has been spent in the improvement of the country or 
for its benefit. Yet this is the man who has been 
accused in England of wholesale murder and butchery 
of unoffending tribes to secure his own power ! " 

In my next letter (from Singapore in February, 
1856) I say — "I have now left Sarawak, where I 
began to feel quite at home, and may perhaps never 
return to it again, but I shall always look back with 


pleasure to my residence there and to my acquaint- 
ance with Sir James Brooke, who is a gentleman and 
a nobleman in the truest and best sense of those words." 

While in Sarawak I wrote an article which formed 
my first contribution to the question of the origin of 
species. I sent it to The Annals and Magazine of 
Natural History, in which it appeared in the following 
September (1855). ^^^ title was " On the Law which 
has regulated the Introduction of New Species," which 
law was briefly stated (at the end) as follows : " Every 
species has come into existence coi^icident both in space 
and time with a pre-existing closely-allied species T 
This clearly pointed to some kind of evolution. It 
suggested the when and the zvhere of its occurrence, 
and that it could only be through natural generation, 
as was also suggested in the " Vestiges " ; but the 
how was still a secret only to be penetrated some 
years later. 

Soon after this article appeared, Mr. Stevens, my 
agent, wrote me that he had heard several naturalists 
express regret that I was " theorizing," when what we 
had to do was to collect more facts. After this, I 
had in a letter to Darwin expressed surprise that no 
notice appeared to have been taken of my paper, to 
which he replied that both Sir Charles Lyell and 
Mr. Edward Blyth, two very good men, specially 
called his attention to it. I was, however, rewarded 
later, when in Huxley's chapter, "On the Reception 
of the Origin of Species," contributed to the "Life 
and Letters," he referred to this paper as — " his 
powerful essay," adding — " On reading it afresh I 
have been astonished to recollect how small was the 
impression it made" (vol. ii. p. 185). The article is 
reprinted in my " Natural Selection and Tropical 

i84 MY LIFE 

In a letter to Bates, dated January 4, 1858, written 
on board the Dutch steamer which took me from 
Amboyna to Ternate, I wrote — " To persons who 
have not thought much on the subject I fear my 
paper on the ' Succession of Species ' will not appear 
so clear as it does to you. That paper is, of course, 
merely the announcement of the theory, not its 
development. I have prepared the plan and written 
portions of a work embracing the whole subject, and 
have endeavoured to prove in detail what I have as 
yet only indicated. It was the promulgation of 
Forbes's theory of * polarity ' which led me to write 
and publish, for I was annoyed to see such an ideal 
absurdity put forth, when such a simple hypothesis 
will explain all the facts. I have been much gratified 
by a letter from Darwin, in which he says that he 
agrees with * almost every word ' of my paper. He 
is now preparing his great work on ' Species and 
Varieties,' for which he has been collecting materials 
twenty years. He may save me the trouble of 
writing more on my hypothesis, by proving that there 
is no difference in nature between the origin of species 
and of varieties ; or he may give me trouble by 
arriving at another conclusion ; but, at all events, his 
facts will be given for me to work upon. Your 
collections and my own will furnish most valuable 
material to illustrate and prove the universal applic- 
ability of the hypothesis. The connection between 
the succession of affinities and the geographical dis- 
tribution of a group, worked out species by species, 
has never yet been shown as we shall be able to 
show it. 

" In this archipelago there are two distinct faunas 
rigidly circumscribed, which differ as much as do 
those of Africa and South America, and more than 


those of Europe and North America, yet there is 
nothing on the map or on the face of the islands to 
mark their limits. The boundary line passes between 
islands closer together than others belonging to the 
same group. I believe the western part to be a 
separated portion of continental Asia, while the 
eastern is a fragmentary prolongation of a former 
west Pacific continent. In mammalia and birds the 
distinction is marked by genera, families, and even 
orders confined to one region ; in insects by a number 
of genera, and little groups of peculiar species, the 
families of insects having generally a very wide or 
universal distribution." 

This letter proves that at this time I had not the 
least idea of the nature of Darwin's proposed work, 
nor of the definite conclusions he had arrived at, nor 
had I myself any expectation of a complete solution 
of the great problem to which my paper was merely 
the prelude. Yet less than two months later that 
solution flashed upon me, and to a large extent marked 
out a dififerent line of work from that which I had up 
to this time anticipated. 

I finished the letter after my arrival at Tern ate 
(January 25, 1858), and made the following observa- 
tion : " If you go to the Andes I think you will be 
disappointed, at least in the number of species^ 
especially of Coleoptera. My experience here is that 
the low grounds are mitch the most productive, though 
the mountains generally produce a few striking and 
brilliant species." This rather hasty generalization 
is, I am inclined still to think, a correct one, at all 
events as regards the individual collector. I doubt if 
there is any mountain station in the world where so 
many species of butterflies can be collected within 
a walk as at Para, or more beetles than at my station 

1 86 MY LIFE 

in Borneo and Bates's at Ega. Yet it may be the 
case that many areas of about a hundred miles square 
in the Andes and in the Himalayas actually contain 
a larger number of species than any similar area in 
the lowlands of the Amazon or of Borneo. In other 
parts of this letter I refer to the work I hoped to do 
myself in describing, cataloguing, and working out 
the distribution of my insects. I had in fact been 
qitten by the passion for species and their description, 
and if neither Darwin nor myself had hit upon 
" Natural Selection," I might have spent the best 
years of my life in this comparatively profitless work. 
But the new ideas swept all this away. I have for 
the most part left others to describe my discoveries, 
and have devoted myself to the great generalizations 
which the laborious work of species-describers had 
rendered possible. In this letter to Bates I enclosed 
a memorandum of my estimate of the number of 
distinct species of insects I had collected up to the 
time of writing — three years and a half, nearly one 
year of which had been lost in journeys, illnesses, and 
various delays. The totals were as follows : — 








Bees, wasps, etc. 




Bugs, cicadas, etc. 


Locusts, etc. 


Dragonflies, etc. 


Earwigs, etc 


Total 8540 species of Insects. 

Having been unable to find a vessel direct to 
Macassar, I took passage to Lombok, whence I was 


assured I should easily reach my destination. By 
this delay, which seemed to me at the time a mis- 
fortune, I was enabled to make some very interesting 
collections in Bali and Lombok, two islands which I 
should otherwise never have seen. I was thus enabled 
to determine the exact boundary between two of 
the primary zoological regions, the Oriental and the 
Australian, and also to see the only existing remnant 
of the Hindu race and religion, and of the old civiliza- 
tion which had erected the wonderful ruined temples 
in Java centuries before the Mohammedan invasion 
of the archipelago. 

After two months and a half in Lombok, I found 
a passage to Macassar, which I reached the beginning 
of September, and lived there nearly three months, 
when I left for the Aru Islands in a native prau. The 
country around Macassar greatly disappointed me, as 
it was perfectly flat and all cultivated as rice fields, 
the only sign of woods being the palm and fruit trees 
in the suburbs of Macassar and others marking the 
sites of native villages. I had letters to a Dutch 
merchant who spoke English as well as Malay and 
the Bugis language of Celebes, and who was quite 
friendly with the native rajah of the adjacent territory. 
Through his good offices I was enabled to stay at a 
native village about eight miles inland, where there 
were some patches of forest, and where I at once 
obtained some of the rare birds and insects peculiar 
to Celebes. After about a month I returned to 
Macassar, and found that I could obtain a passage to 
the celebrated Aru Islands, where at least two species 
of birds of paradise are found, and which had never 
been visited by an English collector. This was a 
piece of good fortune I had not expected, and it was 
especially so because the next six months would be 

i88 MY LIFE 

wet in Celebes, while it would be the dry season in 
the Aru Islands. This journey was the most success- 
ful of any that I undertook, and as it is fully described 
in my book and no letters referring to it have been 
preserved, I shall say no more about it here. 

The illustration opposite is from a photograph of 
a native house in the island of Wokan, which was 
given me by the late Professor Moseley of the 
Challenger expedition. It so closely resembles the 
hut in which I lived for a fortnight, and where I 
obtained my first King bird of paradise, that I feel 
sure it must be the same, especially as I saw no other 
like it. 






After returning to Macassar, where I spent three 
months collecting, I visited Amboyna, staying there a 
month, and arrived at Ternate, January 8, 1858. 

It was while waiting at Ternate in order to get 
ready for my next journey, and to decide where I 
should go, that the idea already referred to occurred 
to me. It has been shown how, for the preceding 
eight or nine years, the great problem of the origin of 
species had been continually pondered over, and how 
my varied observations and study had been made use 
of to lay down the foundation for its full discussion 
and elucidation. My paper written at Sarawak ren- 
dered it certain to my mind that the change had 
taken place by natural succession and descent — one 
species becoming changed either slowly or rapidly 
into another. But the exact process of the change 
and the causes which led to it were absolutely un- 
known and appeared almost inconceivable. The great 
difficulty was to understand how, if one species was 
gradually changed into another, there continued to be 
so many quite distinct species, so many which differed 
from their nearest allies by slight yet perfectly definite 
and constant characters. 

At the time in question I was suffering from a 

190 MY LIFE 

sharp attack of intermittent fever, and every day 
during the cold and succeeding hot fits had to lie 
down for several hours, during which time I had 
nothing to do but to think over any subjects then 
particularly interesting me. One day something 
brought to my recollection Malthus's " Principles of 
Population," which I had read about twelve years 
before. I thought of his clear exposition of "the 
positive checks to increase " — disease, accidents, war, 
and famine — which keep down the population of 
savage races to so much lower an average than that 
of more civilized peoples. It then occurred to me 
that these causes or their equivalents are continually 
acting in the case of animals also ; and as animals 
usually breed much more rapidly than does mankind, 
the destruction every year from these causes must be 
enormous in order to keep down the numbers of 
each species, since they evidently do not increase 
regularly from year to year, as otherwise the world 
would long ago have been densely crowded with 
those that breed most quickly. Vaguely thinking 
over the enormous and constant destruction which 
this implied, it occurred to me to ask the question. 
Why do some die and some live .'' And the answer 
was clearly, that on the whole the best fitted live. 
From the effects of disease the most healthy escaped ; 
from enemies, the strongest, the swiftest, or the most 
cunning ; from famine, the best hunters or those with 
the best digestion ; and so on. Then it suddenly 
flashed upon me that this self-acting process would 
necessarily improve the race, because in every genera- 
tion the inferior would inevitably be killed off and the 
superior would remain — that is, the fittest would sur- 
vive. Then at once I seemed to see the whole effect 
of this, that when changes of land and sea, or of 


climate, or of food-supply, or of enemies occurred — and 
we know that such changes have always been taking 
place — in conjunction with the amount of individual 
variation that my experience as a collector had shown 
me to exist, then all the changes necessary for the 
adaptation of the species to the changing conditions 
would be brought about ; and as great changes in the 
environment are always slow, there would be ample 
time for the change to be effected by the survival of 
the best fitted in every generation. In this way each 
part of an animal's organization could be modified 
exactly as required, and in the very process of this 
modification the unmodified would die out, and thus 
the definite characters and the clear isolation of each 
new species would be explained. The more I thought 
over it the more I became convinced that I had at 
length found the long-sought-for law of nature that 
solved the problem of the origin of species. For the 
next hour I thought over the deficiencies in the 
theories of Lamarck and of the author of the " Ves- 
tiges," and I saw that my new theory supplemented 
these views and obviated every important difficulty. 
I waited anxiously for the termination of my fit so 
that I might at once make notes for a paper on the 
subject. The same evening I did this pretty fully, 
and on the two succeeding evenings wrote it out 
carefully in order to send it to Darwin by the next 
post, which would leave in a day or two. 

I wrote a letter to him in which I said that I 
hoped the idea would be as new to him as it was to 
me, and that it would supply the missing factor to 
explain the origin of species. I asked him, if he 
thought it sufficiently important, to show it to Sir 
Charles Lyell, who had thought so highly of my 
former paper. 

192 MY LIFE 

The effect of my paper upon Darwin was at first 
almost paralyzing. He had, as I afterwards learnt, 
hit upon the same idea as my own twenty years 
earlier, and had occupied himself during the whole of 
that long period in study and experiment, and in 
sketching out and partly writing a great work, to 
show how the new principle would serve to explain 
almost all the chief phenomenon and characters of 
living things in their relation to each other. 

So early as 1844 he had shown portions of this 
work to Sir Charles Lyell and Dr. Joseph Hooker, 
who had been greatly struck by it, and who were 
thenceforth his only confidants in the secret of his 
new idea, which from the analogy of the breeder's 
selection of the most suitable animals or plants in 
order to produce new varieties, he termed "natural 
selection." Sir Charles Lyell had frequently urged 
him to publish an outline of his views, saying — " If 
you don't, some one else will hit upon it, and you will 
be forestalled." On receiving my paper he wrote to 
Sir Charles — "Your words have come true with a 
vengeance — that I should be forestalled. I never saw 
a more striking coincidence. ... So all my origin- 
ality, whatever it may amount to, will be smashed, 
though my book, if it will ever have any value, will 
not be deteriorated, as all the labour consists in the 
application of the theory " (" Life and Letters of 
Charles Darwin," ii. p. 116). 

Darwin was naturally much troubled, and did 
not know how to act, declaring in a later letter to 
Sir Charles Lyell — " I would far rather burn my 
whole book, than that he (Wallace) or any other man 
should think that I had behaved in a paltry spirit." 
He therefore left the matter in the hands of his 
two friends, and they determined (on their own 


responsibilit}^) that my essay, together with extracts 
from Darwin's MSS., which they had seen many years 
before, should be read before the Linnean Society 
and pubh'shed in its "Journal." The joint papers 
were read on July i, 1858, Dr. Hooker and Sir 
Charles Lyell being present. After Darwin's death 
the former wrote a short account of this event 
for the "Life and Letters," in which he said: "The 
interest excited was intense, but the subject was too 
novel and too ominous for the old school to enter the 
lists before armouring. After the meeting it was 
talked over with bated breath : Lyell's approval, and 
perhaps in a small way mine, as his lieutenant in the 
affair, rather overawed the Fellows, who would other- 
wise have flown out against the doctrine " (" Life and 
Letters," ii. p. 126). 

Both Darwin and Dr. Hooker wrote to me in the 
most kind and courteous manner, informing me of 
what had been done, of which they hoped I would 
approve. Of course I not only approved, but felt 
that they had given me more honour and credit 
than I deserved, by putting my sudden intuition — 
hastily written and immediately sent off for the 
opinion of Darwin and Lyell — on the same level 
with the prolonged labours of Darwin, who had 
reached the same point twenty years before me, 
and had worked continuously during that long 
period in order that he might be able to present 
the theory to the world with such a body of systema- 
tized facts and arguments as would almost compel 

In a later letter, Darwin wrote that he owed much 
to me and his two friends, adding : " I almost think 
that Lyell would have proved right, and that I should 
never have completed my larger work." I think, 


194 MY LIFE 

therefore, that I may have the satisfaction of knowing 
that by writing my article and sending it to Darwin, 
I was the unconscious means of leading him to con- 
centrate himself on the task of drawing up what he 
termed " an abstract " of the great work he had in 
preparation, but which was really a large and care- 
fully written volume — the celebrated "Origin of 
Species," published in November, 1859. The re- 
mainder of the story of my relations with Darwin 
will be found in later chapters of this book. I will 
now continue the account of my travels. 

During the first months of my residence at 
Ternate I made two visits to different parts of the 
large island of Gilolo, where my hunters obtained a 
number of very fine birds, but owing to the absence 
of good virgin forest and my own ill-health, I obtained 
very few insects. At length, on March 25, I obtained 
a passage to Dorey Harbour, on the north coast of 
New Guinea, in a trading schooner, which left me 
there, and called for me three or four months later to 
bring me back to Ternate. I was the first European 
who had lived alone on this great island ; but partly 
owing to an accident which confined me to the house 
for a month, and partly because the locality was not 
a good one, I did not get the rare species of birds of 
paradise I had expected. I obtained, however, a 
number of new and rare birds and a fine collection of 
insects, though not so many of the larger and finer 
kinds as I expected. The weather had been unusually 
wet, and the place was unhealthy. I had four Malay 
servants with me, three of whom had fever as well as 
myself, and one of my hunters died, and though I 
should have liked to stay longer, we were all weak or 
unwell, and were very glad when the schooner arrived 
and took us back to Ternate. Here wholesome 


food and a comfortable house soon restored us to 
good health, 

I now received letters informing me of the re- 
ception of the paper on " The Tendency of Varieties 
to depart indefinitely from the Original Type," which 
I had sent to Darwin, and in a letter home I thus 
refer to it : "I have received letters from Mr. Darwin 
and Dr. Hooker, two of the most eminent naturalists 
in England, which have highly gratified me. I sent 
Mr. Darwin an essay on a subject upon which he is 
now writing a great work. He showed it to Dr. 
Hooker and Sir Charles Lyell, who thought so highly 
of it that they had it read before the Linnean Society. 
This insures me the acquaintance of these eminent 
men on my return home." 

The next two years were spent principally at 
Ternate, Batchian, Menado in Celebes, and Am- 

In February, i860, I left the last-named place 
with the intention of again visiting the Ke Islands. 
After immense difificulties I reached Coram, about 
fifty miles beyond the east end of Ceram, where I 
purchased a boat and started for Ke ; but after getting 
half-way, the weather was so bad and the winds so 
adverse that I was obliged to return to the Matabello 
Islands, and thence by way of Coram and the north 
coast of Ceram to the great island of Waigiou. This 
was a long and most unfortunate voyage. I found 
there, however, what I chiefly went for — the rare red 
bird of paradise {Paradisea rubra) ; but during the 
three months I lived there, often with very little food, 
I obtained only about seventy species of birds, mostly 
the same as those from New Cuinea, though a few 
species of parrots, pigeons, kingfishers, and other 
birds were new. Insects were never abundant, but by 

196 MY LIFE 

continued perseverance I obtained rather more species 
of both butterflies and beetles than at New Guinea, 
though fewer, I think, of the more showy kinds. 

The voyage from Waigiou back to Tern ate was 
again most tedious and unfortunate, occupying thirty- 
eight days, whereas with reasonably favourable weather 
it should not have required more than ten or twelve. 
Taking my whole voyage in this canoe from Goram 
to Waigiou and Ternate, I thus summarize my account 
of it in my " Malay Archipelago " : " My first crew ran 
away in a body ; two men were lost on a desert island, 
and only recovered a month later after twice sending 
in search of them ; we were ten times run aground on 
coral reefs ; we lost four anchors ; our sails were 
devoured by rats ; our small boat was lost astern ; 
we were thirty-eight days on a voyage which should 
not have taken twelve ; we were many times short of 
food and water ; we had no compass-lamp owing to 
there being not a drop of oil in Waigiou when we 
left ; and, to crown all, during our whole voyage from 
Goram by Ceram to Waigiou, and from Waigiou to 
Ternate, occupying in all seventy-eight days (or only 
twelve days short of three months), all in what was 
supposed to be the favourable season, we had not one 
sijigle day of fair wind. We were always close 
braced up, always struggling against wind, currents, 
and leeway, and in a vessel that would scarcely sail 
nearer than eight points from the wind! Every 
seaman will admit that my first (and last) voyage in 
a boat of my own was a very unfortunate one." 

On again returning to Ternate I wrote the follow- 
ing letter to Bates, giving my opinion of Darwin's 
" Origin of Species," and referring to the subject of 
the geographical distribution of animals in which I 
was much interested : — 


"Ternate, December 24, i860, 

"Dear Bates, 

" Many thanks for your long and interesting 
letter. I have myself suffered much in the same way 
as you describe, and I think more severely. The 
kind of tcsdmm vitcB you mention I also occasionally 
experience here. I impute it to a too monotonous 

" I know not how, or to whom, to express fully 
my admiration of Darwin's book. To Jiim it would 
seem flattery, to others self-praise ; but I do honestly 
believe that with however much patience I had worked 
and experimented on the subject, I could never have 
approacJied the completeness of his book, its vast 
accumulation of evidence, its overwhelming argument, 
and its admirable tone and spirit. I really feel 
thankful that it has not been left to me to give the 
theory to the world. Mr. Darwin has created a new 
science and a new philosophy ; and I believe that 
never has such a complete illustration of a new branch 
of human knowledge been due to the labours and 
researches of a single man. Never have such vast 
masses of widely scattered and hitherto quite uncon- 
nected facts been combined into a system and brought 
to bear upon the establishment of such a grand and 
new and simple philosophy. 

" I am surprised at your joining the north and 
south banks of the lower Amazon into one region. 
Did you not find a sufificiency of distinct species 
at Obydos and Barra to separate them from Villa 
Nova and Santarem ? I am now convinced that 
insects, on the whole, do not give such true indica- 
tions of zoological geography as birds and mammals, 
because, first, they have such immensely greater 
means of dispersal across rivers and seas ; second, 

198 MY LIFE 

because they are so much more influenced by sur- 
rounding circumstances ; and third, because the species 
seem to change more quickly, and therefore disguise 
a comparatively recent identity. Thus the insects 
of adjacent regions, though originally distinct, may 
become rapidly amalgamated, or portions of the same 
region may come to be inhabited by very distinct 
insect-faunas owing to differences of soil, climate, etc. 
This is strikingly shown here, where the insect-fauna 
from Malacca to New Guinea has a very large amount 
of characteristic uniformity, while Australia, from its 
distinct climate and vegetation, shows a wide differ- 
ence. I am inclined to think, therefore, that a pre- 
liminary study of, first, the mammals, and then the 
birds, is indispensable to a correct understanding of 
the geographical and physical changes on which the 
present insect-distribution depends, . . . 

" In a day or two I leave for Timor, where, if I 
am lucky in finding a good locality, I expect some 
fine and interesting insects," 

My last two letters before coming home were 
written in the wilds of Sumatra to Bates and Silk, 

An extract from the letter to Bates will give some 
idea of the difficulty I had in finding good collecting 

" I am here making what I intend to be my last 
collections, but am doing very little in insects, as it 
is the wet season and all seems dead. I find in those 
districts where the seasons are strongly contrasted 
the good collecting time is very limited — only about 
a month or two at the beginning of the dry, and a 
few weeks at the commencement of the rains. It is 
now two years since I have been able to get any 
beetles, owing to bad localities and bad weather, so I 
am becoming disgusted. When I do find a good 


place it is generally very good, but such are dread- 
fully scarce. In Java I had to go forty miles in the 
eastern part and sixty miles in the western to reach 
a bit of forest, and then I got scarcely anything. 
Here I had to come a hundred miles inland, by 
Palembang, and though in the very centre of Eastern 
Sumatra, the forest is only in patches, and it is the 
height of the rains, so I get nothing. A longicorn is 
a rarity, and I suppose I shall not have as many 
species in two months as I have obtained in three or 
four days in a really good locality. I am getting, 
however, some sweet little blue butterflies {Lyccenidcs)^ 
which is the only thing that keeps up my spirits." 

An extract from my letter to Silk will be of more 
interest to most of my readers : " I am here in one of 
the places unknown to the Royal Geographical Society, 
situated in the very centre of East Sumatra, about 
one hundred miles from the sea in three directions. 
It is the height of the wet season, and the rain pours 
down strong and steady, generally all night and half 
the day. Bad times for me, but I walk out regularly 
three or four hours every day, picking up what I can, 
and generally getting some little new or rare or 
beautiful thing to reward me. This is the land of the 
two-horned rhinoceros, the elephant, the tiger, and the 
tapir ; but they all make themselves very scarce, and 
beyond their tracks and their dung, and once hearing 
a rhinoceros bark not far off, I am not aware of their 
existence. This, too, is the very land of monkeys ; 
they swarm about the villages and plantations, long- 
tailed and short-tailed, and with no tail at all, white, 
black, and grey ; they are eternally racing about 
the tree-tops, and gambolling in the most amusing 
manner. The way they jump is amazing. They throw 
themselves recklessly through the air, apparently sure, 

200 MY LIFE 

with one or other of their four hands, to catch hold of 
something. I estimated one jump by a long-tailed 
white monkey at thirty feet horizontal, and sixty feet 
vertical, from a high tree on to a lower one ; he fell 
through, however, so great was his impetus, on to a 
lower branch, and then, without a moment's stop, 
scampered away from tree to tree, evidently quite 
pleased with his own pluck. When I startle a band, 
and one leader takes a leap like this, it is amusing to 
watch the others — some afraid and hesitating on the 
brink till at last they pluck up courage, take a run at 
it, and often roll over in the air with their desperate 
efforts. Then there are the long-armed apes, who 
never walk or run upon the trees, but travel altogether 
by their long arms, swinging themselves from bough 
to bough in the easiest and most graceful manner 

" But I must leave the monkeys and turn to the 
men, who will interest you more, though there is 
nothing very remarkable in them. They are Malays, 
speaking a curious, half-unintelligible Malay dialect — 
Mohammedans, but retaining many pagan customs 
and superstitions. They are very ignorant, very lazy, 
and live almost absolutely on rice alone, thriving 
upon it, however, just as the Irish do, or did, upon 
potatoes. They were a bad lot a few years ago, but 
the Dutch have brought them into order by their 
admirable system of supervision and government. 
By-the-by, I hope you have read Mr. Money's book 
on Java. It is well worth while, and you will see 
that I had come to the same conclusions as to Dutch 
colonial government from what I saw in Menado. 
Nothing is worse and more absurd than the sneering 
prejudiced tone in which almost all English writers 
speak of the Dutch government in the East. It 


never has been worse than ours has been, and it is 
now very much better ; and what is greatly to their 
credit and not generally known, they take nearly the 
same pains to establish order and good government 
in those islands and possessions which are an annual 
loss to them, as in those which yield them a revenue. 
I am convinced that their system is right in principle, 
and ours wrong, though, of course, in the practical 
working there may and must be defects ; and among 
the Dutch themselves, both in Europe and the Indies, 
there is a strong party against the present system, 
but that party consists mostly of merchants and 
planters, who want to get the trade and commerce 
of the country made free, which in my opinion would 
be an act of suicidal madness, and would, moreover, 
seriously injure instead of benefiting the natives. 

" Personally, I do not much like the Dutch out 
here, or the Dutch officials ; but I cannot help bearing 
witness to the excellence of their government of 
native races, gentle yet firm, treating their manners, 
customs, and prejudices with respect, yet introducing 
everywhere European law, order, and industry." 

" Singapore, January 20, 1862. 

" I cannot write more now. I do not know how 
long I shall be here ; perhaps a month. Then, ho ! 
for England ! " 

While waiting at Singapore for the steamer to 
take me home I purchased two living specimens of 
the smaller bird of paradise. They were in a large 
cage, and the price asked was enormous. As they 
had never been seen alive in Europe I at once secured 
them, and had a great deal of trouble with them on my 
journey home, I had first to make an arrangement 

202 MY LIFE 

for a place to stand the large cage on deck. A stock 
of food was required, which consisted chiefly of 
bananas ; but to my surprise I found that they would 
eat cockroaches greedily, and as these abound on 
every ship in the tropics, I hoped to be able to obtain 
a good supply. Every evening I went to the store- 
room in the fore part of the ship, where I was allowed 
to brush the cockroaches into a biscuit tin. 

The journey to Suez offered no particular incident, 
and the birds continued in good health ; as did two 
or three lories I had brought. But with the railway 
journey to Alexandria difficulties began. It was in 
February, and the night was clear and almost frosty. 
The railway officials made difficulties, and it was only 
by representing the rarity and value of the birds that 
I could have the cage placed in a box-truck. When 
we got into the Mediterranean the weather became 
suddenly cold, and worse still, I found that the ship 
was free from cockroaches. As I thought that animal 
food was perhaps necessary to counteract the cold, I 
felt afraid for the safety of my charge, and determined 
to stay a fortnight at Malta in order to reach England 
a little later, and also to lay in a store of the necessary 
food. I accordingly arranged to break my voyage 
there, went to a hotel, and found that I could get 
unlimited cockroaches at a baker's close by. 

At Marseilles I again had trouble, but at last 
succeeded in getting them placed in a guard's van, 
with permission to enter and feed them en route. 
Passing through France it was a sharp frost, but they 
did not seem to suffisr ; and when we reached London 
I was glad to transfer them into the care of Mr. 
Bartlett, who conveyed them to the Zoological 

Thus ended my Malayan travels. 



On reaching London in the spring of 1862 I went 
to live with my brother-in-law, Mr. Thomas Sims, 
who had a photographic business in Westbourne 
Grove. Here, in a large empty room at the top of 
the house, I brought together all the collections which 
I had reserved for myself and which my agent, Mr. 
Stevens, had taken care of for me. I found myself 
surrounded by a quantity of packing-cases and 
store-boxes, the contents of many of which I had not 
seen for five or six years, and to the examination 
and study of which I looked forward with intense 

From my first arrival in the East I had determined 
to keep a complete set of certain groups from every 
island or distinct locality which I visited for my own 
study on my return home, as I felt sure they would 
afford me very valuable materials for working out the 
geographical distribution of animals in the archipelago, 
and also throw light on various other problems. These 
various sets of specimens were sent home regularly 
with the duplicates for sale, but either packed 
separately or so distinctly marked " Private " that 
they could be easily put aside till my return home. 
The groups thus reserved were the birds, butterflies, 

204 MY LIFE 

beetles, and land-shells, and they amounted roughly 
to about three thousand bird skins of about a 
thousand species, and, perhaps, twenty thousand 
beetles and butterflies of about seven thousand 

For the next month I was fully occupied in the 
unpacking and arranging of my collections, whMe I 
usually attended the evening meetings of the Zoo- 
logical, Entomological, and Linnean Societies, where 
I met many old friends and made several new ones, 
and greatly enjoyed the society of people interested 
in the subjects that now had almost become the 
business of my life. 

As soon as I began to study my birds I had to 
pay frequent visits to the bird-room of the British 
Museum, then in charge of Mr. George Robert Gray, 
who had described many of my discoveries as I. sent 
them home, and also to the library of the Zoological 
Society to consult the works of the older ornitholo- 
gists. In this way the time passed rapidly, and I 
became so interested in my various occupations, and 
saw so many opportunities for useful and instructive 
papers on various groups of my birds and insects, that 
I came to the conclusion to devote myself for some 
years to this work, and to put off the writing of a 
book on my travels till I could embody in it all the 
more generally interesting results derived from the 
detailed study of certain portions of my collections. 
This delay turned out very well, as I was thereby 
enabled to make my book not merely the journal 
of a traveller, but also a fairly complete sketch of 
the whole of the great Malayan Archipelago from 
the point of view of the philosophic naturalist. The 
result has been that it long continued to be the 
most popular of my books, and that even now, forty 


years after its publication, its sale is equal to that of 
any of the others. 

During the succeeding five years I continued the 
study of my collections, writing many papers, of which 
more than a dozen related to birds, some being of 
considerable length and involving months of con- 
tinuous study. But I also wrote several on physical 
and zoological geography, six on various questions of 
anthropology, and five or six on special applications 
of the theory of natural selection. I also began 
working at my insect collections, on which I wrote 
four rather elaborate papers. As several of these 
papers discussed matters of considerable interest and 
novelty, I will here give a brief summary of the 
more important of them in the order in which they 
were written. 

The first of these, read in January, 1863, at a 
meeting of the Zoological Society, was on my birds 
from Bouru, and was chiefly important as showing 
that this island was undoubtedly one of the Moluccan 
group, every bird found there which was not widely 
distributed being either identical with or closely allied 
to Moluccan species, while none had special affinities 
with Celebes. It was clear, then, that this island 
formed the most westerly outlier of the Moluccan 

My next paper of importance, read before the 
same society in the following November, was on the 
birds of the chain of islands extending from Lombok 
to the great island of Timor. I gave a list of one 
hundred and eighty-six species of birds, of which 
twenty-nine were altogether new; but the special 
importance of the paper was that it enabled me to 
mark out precisely the boundary line between the 
Indian and Australian zoological regions, and to trace 




• 34 
■ 7 




206 MY LIFE 

the derivation of the rather peculiar fauna of these 
islands, partly from Australia and partly from the 
Moluccas, but with a strong recent migration of 
Javanese species due to the very narrow straits 
separating most of the islands from each other. The 
following table will serve to illustrate this : — 

Species derived from Java 
Species derived from Australia 

This table shows how two streams of immigration 
have entered these islands, the one from Java 
diminishing in intensity as it passed on farther and 
farther to Timor; the other from Australia entering 
Timor and diminishing still more rapidly towards 
Lombok. This indicates, as its geological structure 
shows, that Timor is the older island and that it 
received immigrants from Australia at a period when, 
probably, Lombok and Flores had not come into 
existence or were uninhabitable. 

Two other papers dealt with the parrots and the 
pigeons of the whole archipelago, and are among the 
most important of my studies of geographical dis- 
tribution. That on parrots was written in 1864, and 
read at a meeting of the Zoological Society in June. 

The peculiarities of distribution and coloration in 
two such very diverse groups of birds interested me 
greatly, and I endeavoured to explain them in accord- 
ance with the laws of natural selection. In the paper 
on Pigeons (published in Tke Ibis of October, 1865) 
I suggest that the excessive development of both 
these groups in the Moluccas and the Papuan islands 
has been due primarily to the total absence of arboreal, 
carnivcous, or egg-destroying mammals, especially 
of the whole monkey tribe, which in all other tropical 


forest regions are exceedingly abundant, and are 
very destructive to eggs and young birds. I also 
point out that there are here comparatively few other 
groups of fruit-eating birds like the extensive families 
of chatterers, tanagers, and toucans of America, or 
the barbets, bulbuls, finches, starlings, and many other 
groups of India and Africa, while in all those countries 
monkeys, squirrels, and other arboreal mammals con- 
sume enormous quantities of fruits. It is clear, there- 
fore, that in the Australian region, especially in the 
forest-clad portions of it, both parrots and pigeons 
have fewer enemies and fewer competitors for food 
than in other tropical regions, the result being that 
they have had freer scope for development in various 
directions leading to the production of forms and 
styles of colouring unknown elsewhere. It is also 
very suggestive that the only other country in which 
black pigeons and black parrots are found is Mada- 
gascar, an island where also there are neither monkeys 
nor squirrels, and where arboreal carnivora or fruit- 
eating birds are very scarce. The satisfactory solution 
of these curious facts of distribution gave me very 
great pleasure, and I am not aware that the con- 
clusions I arrived at have been seriously objected to. 

Before I had written these two papers I had 
begun the study of my collection of butterflies, and 
in March, 1864, I read before the Linnean Society 
a rather elaborate paper on "The Malayan Papilionidae, 
as illustrating the Theory of Natural Selection," 

I may state for the information of non-entomo- 
logical readers that the Papilionidae form one of the 
most extensive families of butterflies, and from their 
large size, elegant forms, and splendid colours were 
considered by all the older writers to be the princes 

208 MY LIFE 

of the whole lepidopterous order. In coloration they 
are wonderfully varied. The ground colour is very 
frequently black, on which appear bands, spots, or 
large patches of brilliant colours — pale or golden 
yellow, rich crimsons or gorgeous metallic blues and 
greens, which colours sometimes spread over nearly 
the whole wing surface. Some are thickly speckled 
with golden green dots and adorned with large patches 
of intense metallic green or azure blue, others are 
simply black and white in a great variety of patterns, 
many very striking and beautiful, while others again 
have crimson or golden patches, which when viewed 
at certain angles change to quite different opalescent 
hues, unsurpassed by the rarest gems. 

But it is not this grand development of size and 
colour that constitutes the attraction of these insects 
to the student of evolution, but the fact that they 
exhibit, in a remarkable degree, almost every kind of 
variation, as well as some of the most beautiful 
examples of polymorphism and of mimicry. Besides 
these features, the family presents us with examples 
of differences of size, form, and colour, characteristic 
of certain localities, which are among the most singular 
and mysterious phenomena known to naturalists. A 
short statement of the nature of these phenomena 
will be useful to show the great interest of the subject. 

In all parts of the world there are certain insects 
which, from a disagreeable smell or taste, are rarely 
attacked or devoured by enemies. Such groups are 
said to be " protected," and they almost always have 
distinctive and conspicuous colours. In the Malay 
Archipelago there are several groups of butterflies 
which have this kind of protection ; and one group 
— the Euplseas — is coloured black, with rich blue 
glosses and ornamented with white bands or spots. 


These are excessively abundant, and having few 
enemies they fly slowly. Now there are also several 
different kinds of papilios, which in colour are so 
exactly like these, that when on the wing they cannot 
be distinguished, although they frequent the same 
places and are often found intermingled. Other 
protected butterflies are of paler colours with dark 
stripes, and these are also closely imitated by other 
papilios. Altogether there are about fifteen species 
which thus closely resemble protected butterflies 
externally, although in structure and transformations 
they have no affinity with them. In some cases both 
sexes possess this resemblance, or " mimicry," as it is 
termed, but most frequently it is the female only that 
is thus modified, especially when she lays her eggs 
on low-growing plants ; while the male, whose flight 
is stronger and who can take care of himself, does not 
possess it, and is often so different from his mate as 
to have been considered a distinct species. 

This leads us to the phenomenon of dimorphism 
and polymorphism, in which the females of one species 
present two or three different forms. Several such 
cases occur in the Malay Archipelago, in which there 
are two distinct kinds of females, sometimes even 
three, to a single male, which differs from either of 
them. In one case four females are known to one 
male, though only two of them appear to occur in one 
locality. These have been almost always described 
as distinct species, but observation has now proved 
them to be one, and it has further been noticed that 
each of the females, which are very unlike the male, 
resembles more or less closely some " protected " 
species. It has also been proved by experimental 
breeding that eggs laid by any one of these females 
are capable of producing butterflies of all the different 


210 MY LIFE 

forms, which in the few cases recorded are quite distinct 
from each other, without intermediate gradations. 

This brief outline of the paper will, perhaps, enable 
my readers to understand the intense interest I felt in 
working out all these strange phenomena, and showing 
how they could almost all be explained by that law 
of " Natural Selection " which Darwin had discovered 
many years before, and which I had also been so 
fortunate as to hit upon. 

The series of papers on birds and insects now 
described, together with others on the physical 
geography of the archipelago and its various races 
of man, furnished me with the necessary materials 
for that general sketch of the natural history of the 
islands and of the various interesting problems which 
arise from its study, which has made my "Malay 
Archipelago " the most popular of my books. At the 
same time it opened up so many fields of research as 
to render me indisposed for further technical work in 
the mere description of my collections, which I should 
certainly never have been able to complete. I there- 
fore now began to dispose of various portions of my 
insects to students of special groups, who undertook 
to publish lists of them with descriptions of the new 
species, reserving for myself only a few boxes of 
duplicates to serve as mementoes of the exquisite or 
fantastic organisms which I had procured during my 
eight years' wanderings. 

Having thus prepared the way by these preliminary 
studies, I devoted the larger portion of my time in the 
years 1867 and 1868 to writing my "Malay Archi- 
pelago." I had previously read what works I could 
procure on the islands, and had made numerous 
extracts from the old voyagers on the parts I myself 
was acquainted with. These added much to the 


interest of my own accounts of the manners and 
character of the people, and by means of a tolerably 
full journal and the various papers I had written, I 
had no difficulty in going steadily on with my work. 
As my publishers wished the book to be well illus- 
trated, I had to spend a good deal of time in deciding 
on the plates and getting them drawn, either from 
my own sketches, from photographs, or from actual 
specimens, and having obtained the services of the 
best artists and wood engravers then in London, the 
result was, on the whole, satisfactory. 

The book was published in 1869, but during its 
progress, and while it was slowly passing through the 
press, I wrote several important papers, among which 
was one in the Quarterly Review for April, 1869, on 
" Geological Climates and the Origin of Species," 
which was in large part a review and eulogy of Sir 
Charles Lyell's great work, "The Principles of 
Geology," which greatly pleased him as well as 
Darwin. A considerable part of this article was 
devoted to a discussion of Mr. Croll's explanation of 
the glacial epoch, and, by a combination of his views 
with those of Lyell on the great effect of changed 
distribution of sea and land, or of differences in 
altitude, I showed how we might arrive at a better 
explanation than either view by itself could give us. 
As the article was too long, a good deal of it had to 
be cut out, but it served as the foundation for my 
more detailed examination of the whole question 
when writing my "Island Life," twelve years 

As soon as the proofs of the " Malay Archipelago " 
were out of my hands, I began the preparation of a 
small volume of my scattered articles dealing with 
various aspects of the theory of Natural Selection. 

212 MY LIFE 

Many of these had appeared in little-known periodicals, 
and were now carefully revised, or partially rewritten, 
while two new ones were added. The longest article, 
occupying nearly a quarter of the volume, was one 
which I had written in 1865-6, but which was not 
published (in the Westminster Review) till July, 1867, 
and was entitled "Mimicry, and other Protective 
Resemblances among Animals." In this article I 
endeavoured to give a general account of the whole 
subject of protective resemblance, of which theory, 
what was termed by Bates "mimicry," is a very 
curious special case. I called attention to the wide 
extent of the phenomenon, and showed that it 
pervades animal life from mammals to fishes and 
through every grade of the insect tribes. I pointed 
out that the whole series of phenomena depend upon 
the great principle of the utility of every character, 
upon the need of protection or of concealment by 
almost all animals, and upon the known fact that no 
character is so variable as colour, and that therefore 
concealment has been most easily obtained by colour 

Two other articles which may be just mentioned 
are those entitled " A Theory of Birds' Nests " and 
"The Limits of Natural Selection applied to Man." 
In the first I pointed out the important relation that 
exists between concealed nests and the bright colours 
of female birds, leading to conclusions adverse to 
Mr. Darwin's theory of colours and ornaments in the 
males being the result of female choice. In the 
other (the last in the volume) I apply Darwin's 
principle of natural selection, acting solely by means 
of " utilities," to show that certain physical modifi- 
cations and mental faculties in man could not have 
been acquired through the preservation of useful 


variations, because there is some direct evidence to 
show that they were not and are not useful in the 
ordinary sense, or, as Professor Lloyd Morgan well 
puts it, not of " life-preserving value," while there is 
absolutely no evidence to show that they were so. 
In reply, Darwin appealed to the effects of female 
choice in developing these characteristics, of which, 
however, not a particle of evidence is to be found 
among existing savage races. 

As it was during the ten years of which I have 
now sketched my scientific and literary work that I 
saw most of my various scientific friends and acquaint- 
ances, and it was also in this period that the course of 
my future life and work was mainly determined, I will 
give a short summary of my more personal affairs, 
together with a few recollections of those friends with 
whom I became most familiar. 

In the spring of 1865 I took a small house for 
myself and my mother, in St. Mark's Crescent, 
Regent's Park, quite near the Zoological Gardens, 
and within a pleasant walk across the park of the 
society's library in Hanover Square, where I had to 
go very often to consult books of reference. Here I 
lived five years, having Dr. W. B. Carpenter for a 
near neighbour, and it was while living in this house 
that I saw most of my few scientific friends. 

About this time my dear friend, Dr. Richard 
Spruce, came home from Peru in very weak health, 
and, after staying a short time in London, went to live 
at Hurstpierpoint, in Sussex, in order to be near Mr. 
William Mitten, then the greatest English authority 
on mosses, who had undertaken to describe his great 
collections from South America. 

During the summer and autumn I often went to 
Hurstpierpoint to enjoy the society of my friend, and 

214 MY LIFE 

thus became intimate with Mr. Mitten and his family. 
Mr. Mitten was an enthusiastic botanist and gardener, 
and knew every wild plant in the very rich district 
which surrounds the village, and all his family were 
lovers of wild flowers. I remember my delight, on 
the occasion of my first or second visit there, at seeing 
a vase full of the delicate and fantastic flowers of the 
large butterfly-orchis and the curious fly-orchis, neither 
of which I had ever seen before, and which I was 
surprised to hear were abundant in the woods at the 
foot of the downs. It was an immense delight to me 
to be taken to these woods, and to some fields on the 
downs where the bee-orchis and half a dozen other 
species grew abundantly, with giant cowslips nearly 
two feet high, the dyers' broom, and many other 
interesting plants. The richness of this district may 
be judged by the fact that within a walk more than 
twenty species of orchises have been found. This 
similarity of taste led to a close intimacy, and in the 
spring of the following year I was married to Mr. 
Mitten's eldest daughter, then about eighteen years 

After a week at Windsor we came to live in 
London, and in early autumn went for a month to 
North Wales, staying at Llanberris and Dolgelly. I 
took with me Sir Andrew Ramsay's little book on 
" The Old Glaciers of Switzerland and North Wales," 
and thoroughly enjoyed the fine examples of ice- 
groovings and striations, smoothed rock-surfaces, 
roches viontonnees, moraines, perched blocks, and rock- 
basins, with which the valleys around Snowdon abound. 
Every day revealed some fresh object of interest as 
we climbed among the higher cw7ns of Snowdon ; 
and from what I saw during that first visit the Ice 
Age became almost as much a reality to me as any 


fact of direct observation. Every future tour to 
Scotland, to the lake district, or to Switzerland 
became doubled in interest. I read a good deal of 
the literature of the subject, and have, I believe, 
in my later writings been able to set forth the 
evidence in favour of the glacial origin of lake- 
basins more forcibly than it has ever been done 

In 1867 I spent the month of June in Switzer- 
land with my wife, staying at Champery, opposite 
the beautiful Dent du Midi, where at first we were 
the only visitors in a huge new hotel, but for the 
second week had the company of an English clergy- 
man, his wife, and son. We greatly enjoyed the 
beautiful subalpine flowers then in perfection. 

We then went by Martigny over the St. Bernard, 
reaching the hospice after dark through deep snow, 
and next day walked down to Aosta, a place which 
had been recommended to me by Mr. William 
Mathews, a well-known Alpine climber. It was a 
very hot place, and its chief interest to us was an 
excursion on mules to the Becca de Nona, which took 
us a long day, going, up by the easiest and descending 
the most precipitous road — the latter a mere staircase 
of rock. The last thousand feet of the mountain I 
walked up alone, and was highly delighted with the 
summit and the wonderful scene of fractured rocks, 
ridges, and peaks all around, but more especially with 
the summit itself, hardly so large as that of Snowdon 
and exhibiting far grander precipices and rock-masses, 
all in a state of visible degradation, and showing how 
powerfully the atmospheric forces of denudation are 
in constant action at this altitude — 10,380 feet. 
Hardly less interesting were the charming little alpine 
plants in the patches of turf and the crevices in the 

2i6 MY LIFE 

rocks, among which were two species of the exquisite 
Androsaces, the true gems of the primrose tribe. I 
also one day took a lonely walk up a wild valley 
which terminated in the glacier that descends from 
Mount Emilius ; and on another day we drove up 
the main valley to Villeneuve, and then walked up 
a little way into the Val Savaranches. This is one 
of those large open valleys which have been the 
outlet of a great glacier, and in which the subglacial 
torrent has cut a deep narrow chasm through hard 
rocks at its termination, through which the river now 
empties itself into the main stream of the Dora 
Baltea, This was the first of the kind I had specially 
noticed, though I had seen the Gorge of the Trient 
on my first visit to Switzerland at a time when I had 
barely heard of the glacial epoch. 

Returning over the St. Bernard we went to Inter- 
laken and Grindelwald, saw the glaciers there, and 
then went over the Wengern Alp, staying two days at 
the hotel to see the avalanches and botanize among 
the pastures and moraines. Then down to Lauter- 
brunnen to see the Staubbach, and thence home. 

As I had found that amid the distractions and 
excitement of London, its scientific meetings, dinner 
parties and sight-seeing, I could not settle down to 
work at the more scientific chapters of my " Malay 
Archipelago," I let my house in London for a year, 
from Midsummer, 1867, and went to live with my 
wife's family at Hurstpierpoint. There, in perfect 
quiet, and with beautiful fields and downs around 
me, I was able to work steadily, having all my 
materials already prepared. Returning to London 
in the summer of 1868, I was fully occupied in 
arranging for the illustrations and correcting the 
proofs. The work appeared early in the n6w year, 


{riiblkation of Malay Arcliipelago. 

[To face p. 2 1 7. 


and my volume on " Natural Selection " in the follow- 
ing March. 

I may here state that although the proceeds of 
my eight years' collecting in the East brought me 
in a sufficient income to live quietly as a single man, 
I was always on the look-out for some permanent 
congenial employment which would yet leave time 
for the study of my collections. The possibility of 
ever earning anything substantial either by lecturing 
or by writing never occurred to me. My deficient 
organ of language prevented me from ever becoming 
a good lecturer or having any taste for it, while the 
experience of my first work on "The Amazon" did 
not encourage me to think that I could write anything 
that would much more than pay expenses. The first 
vacancy that occurred was the assistant secretaryship 
of the Royal Geographical Society, for which Bates 
and myself were candidates. Bates had just published 
his "Naturalist on the Amazon," and was, besides, 
much better qualified than myself by his business 
experience and his knowledge of German, which he 
had taught himself when abroad. Besides, the con- 
finement and the London life would, I am sure, have 
soon become uncongenial to me, and would, I feel 
equally certain, have greatly shortened my life. I 
am therefore glad I did not get it, and I do not think 
I felt any disappointment at the time. Becoming 
tired of London and wishing for a country life, I 
took a small house at Barking in 1870, and in 1871 
leased four acres of ground at Grays, including a 
very picturesque well-timbered old chalk-pit, above 
which I built a house having a very fine view across 
to the hills of North Kent and down a reach of the 
Thames to Gravesend. 

2i8 MY LIFE 

Seven years later, in 1878, when Epping Forest had 
been acquired by the Corporation of London, a super- 
intendent was to be appointed to see to its protection 
and improvement while preserving its " natural aspect " 
in accordance with the Act of Parliament which 
restored it to the public. This position would have 
suited me exactly, and if I had obtained it and had 
been allowed to utilize the large extent of open 
unwooded land in the way I suggested in my article 
in the Fortnightly Review ("Epping Forest, and how 
best to deal with it "), an experiment in illustration of 
the geographical distribution of plants would have 
been made which would have been both unique and 
educational, as well as generally interesting. I 
obtained recommendations and testimonials from the 
presidents of all the natural history societies in London, 
from numerous residents near the forest and in 
London, from many eminent men and members of 
Parliament — seventy in all ; but the City merchants 
and tradesmen with whom the appointment lay 
wanted a " practical man " to carry out their own 
ideas, which were to utilize all the open spaces for 
games and sports, to build a large hotel close to Queen 
Elizabeth's hunting lodge, and to encourage excursions 
and school treats, allowing swings, round-abouts, and 
other such amusements. 

My failure to obtain the post at Epping Forest 
was certainly a disappointment to me, but I am 
inclined to think now that even that was really for 
the best, since it left me free to do literary work 
which I should certainly not have done if I had had 
permanent employment so engrossing and interesting 
as that at Epping. In that case I should not have gone 
to lecture in America, and should not have written 
" Darwinism," perhaps none of my later books, and 


very few of the articles contained in my " Studies." 
This body of literary and popular scientific work is, 
perhaps, what I was best fitted to perform, and if so, 
neither I nor my readers have any reason to regret 
my failure to obtain the post of superintendent and 
guardian of Epping Forest. 



Among the eminent men of science with whom I 
became more or less intimate during the period of 
my residence in London, I give the first place to Sir 
Charles Lyell, not only on account of his great abilities 
and his position as one of the brightest ornaments 
of the nineteenth century, but because I saw more of 
him than of any other man at all approaching him as 
a thinker and leader in the world of science, while 
my correspondence with him was more varied in the 
subjects touched upon, and in some respects of more 
general interest, than my more extensive correspond- 
ence with Darwin. 

I do not remember when I first saw Sir Charles 
Lyell, but I probably met him at some of the evening 
meetings of the scientific societies. I first lunched 
with him in the summer of 1863, and then met, for 
the first time, Lady Lyell and Miss Arabella B. 
Buckley. Miss Buckley had become Sir Charles's 
private secretary early in that year, and she informs 
me that she remembers this visit because Lady Lyell 
gave her impressions of me afterwards — I am afraid 
not very favourable ones, as I was shy, awkward, and 
quite unused to good society. With Sir Charles I 
soon felt at home, owing to his refined and gentle 


manners, his fund of quiet humour, and his intense 
love and extensive knowledge of natural science. 
His great liberality of thought and wide general 
interests were also attractive to me ; and although 
when he had once arrived at a definite conclusion he 
held by it very tenaciously until a considerable body 
of well-ascertained facts could be adduced against it, 
yet he was always willing to listen to the arguments 
of his opponents, and to give them careful and 
repeated consideration. 

In 1867, when a new edition of the "Principles 
of Geology" was in progress, I had much corre- 
spondence and many talks with Sir Charles, chiefly 
on questions relating to distribution and dispersal, in 
which he, like myself, was greatly interested. He 
was by nature so exceedingly cautious and conserva- 
tive, and always gave such great weight to difficulties 
that occurred to himself or that were put forth by 
others, that it was not easy to satisfy him on any 
novel view upon which two opinions existed or were 
possible. We used often to discuss these various 
points, but in any case that seemed to him important 
he usually preferred to write to me, stating his objec- 
tions, sometimes at great length, and asking me to 
give my views. 

In the following year, when I was living at Hurst- 
pierpoint, I wrote a letter to Sir Charles on Darwin's 
new theory of "Pangenesis," a passage from which 
I will quote, because the disproof of it, which I 
thought would not be given, was not long in coming, 
and, with the more satisfactory theory of Weismann, 
led me to change my opinion entirely. I wrote 
(February 20, 1868): "I am reading Darwin's book 
('Animals and Plants under Domestication'), and 
have read the ' Pangenesis ' chapter first, for I could 

222 MY LIFE 

not wait. The hypothesis is sublime in its simplicity 
and the wonderful manner in which it explains the 
most mysterious of the phenomena of life. To me 
it is satisfying in the extreme. I feel I can never 
give it up, unless it be positively disproved, which is 
impossible, or replaced by one which better explains 
the facts, which is highly improbable. Darwin has 
here decidedly gone ahead of Spencer in generaliza- 
tion. I consider it the most wonderful thing he has 
given us, but it will not be generally appreciated." 

This was written when I was fresh from the spell 
of this most ingenious hypothesis. Galton's experi- 
ments on blood transfusion with rabbits first staggered 
me, as it seemed to me to be the very disproof I had 
thought impossible. And later on, when Weismann 
adduced his views on the continuity of the germ- 
plasm, and the consequent non-heredity of acquired 
characters ; and further, when he showed that the 
supposed transmission of such characters, which 
Darwin had accepted and which the hypothesis of 
pangenesis was constructed to account for, was not 
really proved by any evidence whatever ; — I was 
compelled to discard Darwin's view in favour of that 
of Weismann, which is now almost everywhere 
accepted as being the most probable, as well as being 
the most in accordance with all the facts and pheno- 
mena of heredity. 

The subject on which Sir Charles Lyell and 
myself had the longest discussions was that of the 
effects of the glacial period on the distribution of 
plants and animals, and on the origin of lake basins. 

On the question of the ice-origin of Alpine lakes 
I could never get him to accept my extreme views. 
In March, 1869, I received from him a letter of 
thirteen pages, and another of thirty pages, on this 


and allied questions, setting forth the reasons why 
he rejected ice action as having ground out the larger 
lakes, much as he states them in the fourth edition 
of "The Antiquity of Man." At page 361 he says 
that "the gravest objection to the hypothesis of 
glacial erosion on a stupendous scale is afforded by 
the entire absence of lakes of the first magnitude 
in several areas where they ought to exist, if the 
enormous glaciers which once occupied those spaces 
had possessed the deep excavating power ascribed 
to them." He then goes on to adduce numerous 
places where he thinks there ought to have been 
lakes on the glacier theory, which are the same as 
he adduced in letters to myself, and which I answered 
in each case, and sometimes at great length, by 
similar arguments to those I have adduced in vol. i. 
chap. V. of my "Studies, Scientific and Social." If 
any one who is interested in these questions, after 
considering Sir Charles Lyell's difficulties and objec- 
tions in his "Antiquity of Man," will read the above 
chapter, giving special attention to the sections 
headed The Conditions that favour the Production of 
Lakes by Ice-erosion, and the following section on 
Objections of Modern Writers considered, I think he 
will, if he had paid any attention to the phenomena 
in glaciated regions, admit that I show the theory 
of ice-erosion to be the only one that explains all 
the facts. 

In a letter written on April 28, 1869, after refer- 
ring to Darwin's regret at the concluding passages of 
my Quarterly Review article on "Man," which he 
"would have thought written by some one else," I 
add the following summary on my position, perhaps 
more simply and forcibly stated than in any of my 
published works : — 

224 MY LIFE 

"It seems to me that if we once admit the 
necessity of any action beyond ' natural selection ' in 
developing man, we have no reason whatever for 
confining that agency to his brain. On the mere 
doctrine of chances it seems to me in the highest 
degree improbable that so many points of structure, 
all tending to favour his mental development, should 
concur in man alone of all animals. If the erect 
posture, the freedom of the anterior limbs from 
purposes of locomotion, the powerful and opposable 
thumb, the naked skin, the great symmetry of form, 
the perfect organs of speech, and, in his mental 
faculties, calculation of numbers, ideas of symmetry, 
of justice, of abstract reasoning, of the infinite, of a 
future state, and many others, cannot be shown to be 
each and all useftil to man in the very lowest state of 
civilization — how are we to explain their co-existence 
in him alone of the whole series of organized being ? 
Years ago I saw in London a bushman boy and girl, 
and the girl played very nicely on the piano. Blind 
Tom, the half-idiot negro slave, had a ' musical ear ' 
or brain, superior, perhaps, to that of the best living 
musicians. Unless Darwin can show me how this 
latent musical faculty in the lowest races can have 
been developed through survival of the fittest, can 
have been of use to the individual or the race, so as to 
cause those who possessed it in a fractionally greater 
degree than others to win in the struggle for life, 
I must believe that some other power (than natural 
selection) caused that development. It seems to me 
that the onus probaiidi will lie with those who maintain 
that man, body and mind, could have been developed 
from a quadrumanous animal by * natural selection.' " 

In a letter to Darwin, written a week later 
and printed in the "Life, Letters, and Journals," 


Sir Charles quotes the preceding argument entire, 
and goes on to express his general agreement 
with it. 

He then refers to the glacial-lake theory as 
follows : — " As to the scooping out of lake basins by- 
glaciers, I have had a long, amicable, but controversial 
correspondence with Wallace on that subject, and I 
cannot get over (as, indeed, I have admitted in print) 
an intimate connection between the number of lakes 
of modern date and the glaciation of the regions con- 
taining them. But as we do not know how ice can 
scoop out Lago Maggiore to a depth of 2600 feet, of 
which all but 600 is below the level of the sea, getting 
rid of the rock supposed to be worn away as if it was 
salt that had melted, I feel that it is a dangerous 
causation to admit in explanation of every cavity 
which we have to account for, including Lake 

This passage shows, I think, that he was some- 
what staggered by my arguments, but could not take 
so great a step without further consideration and 
examination of the evidence. I feel sure, therefore, 
that if he had had before him the numerous facts 
since made known, of erratic blocks carried by the ice 
to heights far above their place of origin in North 
America, and even in our own islands, as described at 
p. 75 and p. 90 of my " Studies " (vol. i.), with evidence 
of such action now occurring in Greenland (p. 91), of 
the Moel Tryfan beds having been forced up by the 
glacier that filled the Irish sea, he would have seen, I 
feel sure, that his objections were all answered by 
actual phenomena, and that the gradual erosion of 
Lago Maggiore was far within the powers of such 
enormous accumulations of ice as must have existed 
over its site. 


226 MY LIFE 

During the ten years 1863-72, I saw a good deal 
of Sir Charles. If he had any special subject on 
which he wished for information, he would sometimes 
walk across the park to St. Mark's Crescent for an 
hour's conversation ; at other times he would ask me 
to lunch with him, either to meet some interesting 
visitor or for friendly talk. After my marriage my 
wife and I occasionally dined with him or went to 
his evening receptions. These latter were very 
interesting, both because they were not over- 
crowded and on account of the number of scientific 
and other men of eminence to be met there. Among 
these were Professor Tyndall, Sir Charles Wheatstone, 
Sir Charles Bunbury, Mr. Lecky, and a great many 
others. The Duke of Argyll was frequently there, 
and although we criticized each other's theories rather 
strongly, he was always very friendly, and we generally 
had some minutes' conversation whenever I met him. 
Miss Buckley (now Mrs. Fisher) was a very constant 
guest, and would point out to me the various celebrities 
who happened to be present, and thus began a cordial 
friendship which has continued unbroken, and has 
been a mutual pleasure and advantage. I therefore 
look back upon my friendship with Sir Charles Lyell 
with unalloyed satisfaction as one of the most in- 
structive and enjoyable episodes in my life-experience. 

Soon after I returned home, in the summer of 
1862, Mr. Darwin invited me to come to Down for a 
night, where I had the great pleasure of seeing him 
in his quiet home, and in the midst of his family. A 
year or two later I spent a week-end with him in 
company with Bates, Jenner Weir, and a few other 
naturalists ; but my most frequent interviews with 
him were when he spent a few weeks with his brother. 
Dr. Erasmus Darwin, in Queen Anne Street, which 


he usually did every year when he was well enough, 
in order to see his friends and collect information for 
his various works. On these occasions I usually 
lunched with him and his brother, and sometimes one 
other visitor, and had a little talk on some of the 
matters specially interesting him. He also some- 
times called on me in St. Mark's Crescent for a quiet 
talk or to see some of my collections. 

My first letter from him dealing with scientific 
matters was in August, 1862, and our correspondence 
was very extensive during the period occupied in 
writing or correcting his earlier books on evolution, 
down to the publication of " The Expression of the 
Emotions in Man and Animals," in 1872, and after- 
wards, at longer intervals, to within less than a year 
of his death. A considerable selection of our corre- 
spondence has been published in the "Life and 
Letters" (1887), and especially in "More Letters" 
(1903) ; while several of the more interesting of these 
were contained in the one-volume life, entitled 
"Charles Darwin," which appeared in 1892. As 
many of my readers, however, may not have these 
works to refer to, I will here give a few of his letters 
to myself which have not yet been published, and 
also occasional extracts from some that have already 
appeared, in order to make clear the nature of our 

On February 23, 1867, he wrote to me asking if 
I could solve a difificulty for him. He says : " On 
Monday evening I called on Bates, and put a difficulty 
before him which he could not answer, and, as on 
some former similar occasion, his first suggestion was, 
* You had better ask Wallace.' My difficulty is, Why 
are caterpillars sometimes so beautifully and artistic- 
ally coloured ? Seeing that many are coloured to 

228 MY LIFE 

escape dangers, I can hardly attribute their bright 
colour in other cases to mere physical conditions. 
Bates says the most gaudy caterpillar he ever saw in 
Amazonia was conspicuous at the distance of yards, 
from its black and red colours, whilst feeding on 
large, green leaves. If any one objected to male 
butterflies having been made beautiful by sexual 
selection, and asked why they should not have been 
made beautiful as well as their caterpillars, what 
would you answer ? I could not answer, but should 
maintain my ground. Will you think over this, and 
some time, either by letter or when we meet, tell me 
what you think ? " 

On reading this letter, I almost at once saw what 
seemed to be a very easy and probable explanation 
of the facts. I had then just been preparing for 
publication (in the Westminster Review) my rather 
elaborate paper on "Mimicry and Protective Colour- 
ing," and the numerous cases in which specially 
showy and slow-flying butterflies were known to have 
a peculiar odour and taste which protected them from 
the attacks of insect-eating birds and other animals, 
led me at once to suppose that the gaudily coloured 
caterpillars must have a similar protection. I had 
just ascertained from Mr. Jenner Weir that one of 
our common white moths {Spilosoma menthrasti) 
would not be eaten by most of the small birds in his 
aviary, nor by young turkeys. Now, as a white moth 
is as conspicuous in the diisk as a coloured caterpillar 
in the daylight^ this case seemed to me so much on 
a par with the other that I felt almost sure my 
explanation would turn out correct. I at once wrote 
to Mr. Darwin to this effect, and his reply, dated 
February 26, is as follows : — 


" My dear Wallace, 

" Bates was quite right ; you are the man 
to apply to in a difficulty. I never heard anything 
more ingenious than your suggestion, and I hope you 
may be able to prove it true. That is a splendid fact 
about the white moths ; it warms one's very blood to 
see a theory thus almost proved to be true." 

I then mentioned the subject at a meeting of the 
Entomological Society ; and in the following year 
experiments were made by two gentlemen which 
proved clearly that while green or brown caterpillars 
were greedily eaten by all insect-eating birds, those 
which were gaudily coloured or were hairy, and 
usually exposed themselves on the plants on which 
they fed in the daytime, were rejected by almost 
all the birds and usually by lizards as well. The 
principle of " warning coloration," as it is termed, is 
now generally admitted as being widely prevalent in 

In the year 1870 Mr. A. W. Bennett read a paper 
before Section D of the British Association at Liver- 
pool, entitled " The Theory of Natural Selection from 
a Mathematical Point of View," and this paper was 
printed in full in Nature of November 10, 1870. To 
this I replied on November 17, and my reply so 
pleased Mr. Darwin that he at once wrote to me as 
follows : — 

" Down, November 22. 

"My dear Wallace, 

" I must ease myself by writing a few words 
to say how much I and all in this house admire your 
article in Nature. You are certainly an unparalleled 
master in lucidly stating a case and in arguing. 

230 MY LIFE 

Nothing ever was better done than your argument 
about the term Origin of Species, and about much 
being gained if we know nothing about precise cause 
of each variation." 

At the end of the letter he says something about 
the progress of his great work, " The Descent of 

" I have finished ist vol. and am half-way through 
proofs of 2nd vol. of my confounded book, which half 
kills me by fatigue, and which I fear will quite kill 
me in your good estimation. 

" If you have leisure, I should much like a little 
news of you and your doings and your family, 
" Ever yours very sincerely, 

"Ch. Darwin." 

The above remark, " kill me in your good estima- 
tion," refers to his views on the mental and moral 
nature of man being very different from mine, this 
being the first important question as to which our 
views had diverged. But I never had the slightest 
feeling of the kind he supposed, looking upon the 
difference as one which did not at all affect our 
general agreement, and also as being one on which 
no one could dogmatize, there being much to be said 
on both sides. The last paragraph shows the extreme 
interest he took in the personal affairs of all his 

Soon after the " Descent of Man " appeared, I 
wrote to Darwin, giving my impressions of the first 
volume, to which he replied (January 30, 1871). This 
letter is given in the "Life and Letters" (iii. p. 134), 
but I will quote two short passages expressing his 
kind feelings towards myself. He begins, "Your 
note has given me very great pleasure, chiefly because 


I was so anxious not to treat you with the least dis- 
respect, and it is so difficult to speak fairly when 
differing from any one. If I had offended you, it would 
have grieved me more than you will readily believe." 
And the conclusion is, " Forgive me for scribbling at 
such length. You have put me quite in good spirits ; 
I did so dread having been unintentionally unfair 
towards your views. I hope earnestly the second 
volume will escape as well. I care now very little 
what others say. As for our not agreeing, really, in 
such complex subjects, it is almost impossible for two 
men who arrive independently at their conclusions to 
agree fully ; it would be unnatural for them to do so." 

Again, on July 12, he writes : " I feel very doubt- 
ful how far I shall succeed in answering Mivart. It 
is so difficult to answer objections to doubtful points 
and make the discussion readable. The worst of it 
is, that I cannot possibly hunt through all my refer- 
ences for isolated points — it would take me three 
weeks of intolerably hard work, I wish I had your 
power of arguing clearly. At present I feel sick of 
everything, and if I could occupy my time and forget 
my daily discomforts, or rather miseries, I would never 
publish another word. But I shall cheer up, I dare 
say, soon, having only just got over a bad attack. 
Farewell. God knows why I bother you about 

" I can say nothing more about missing links than 
I have said. I should rely much on pre-Silurian 
times ; but then comes Sir W. Thomson like an 
odious spectre. Farewell." 

This last remark refers to the limitation of the 
earth's age by physicists, so as not to leave time 
enough for the evolution of organisms. 

During this latter period of his life I had but 

232 MY LIFE 

little correspondence with him, as I had no knowledge 
whatever of the subjects he was then working on. 
But he still continued to write to me occasionally, 
either referring kindly to my own work or sending 
me facts or suggestions which he thought would be 
of interest to me. I will here give only some extracts 
from a few of the latest of the letters I received from 

On November 3, 1880, he wrote me the following 
very kind letter upon my " Island Life," on which I 
had asked for his criticism : — 

" I have now read your book, and it has interested 
me deeply. It is quite excellent, and seems to me 
the best book which you have ever published ; but 
this may be merely because I have read it last As I 
went on I made a few notes, chiefly where I differed 
slightly from you ; but God knows whether they are 
worth your reading. You will be disappointed with 
many of them ; but it will show that I had the will, 
though I did not know the way to do what you 

" I have said nothing on the infinitely many 
passages and views, which I admired and which were 
new to me. My notes are badly expressed, but I 
thought that you would excuse my taking any pains 
with my style. I wish my confounded handwriting 
was better. I had a note the other day from Hooker, 
and I can see that he is much pleased with the 

With this came seven foolscap pages of notes, 
many giving facts from his extensive reading which 
I had not seen. 

In another letter, two months later, he recurs to 
the same subject. 


" Down, January 2, 1881. 

"My dear Wallace, 

" The case which you give is a very striking 
one, and I had overlooked it in Natiire ; ^ but I remain 
as great a heretic as ever. Any supposition seems to 
me more probable than that the seeds of plants should 
have been blown from the mountains of Abyssinia, or 
other central mountains of Africa, to the mountains of 
Madagascar. It seems to me almost infinitely more 
probable that Madagascar extended far to the south 
during the glacial period, and that the S. hemisphere 
was, according to Croll, then more temperate ; and 
that the whole of Africa was then peopled with some 
temperate forms, which crossed chiefly by agency of 
birds and sea-currents, and some few by the wind, 
from the shores of Africa to Madagascar subsequently 
ascending to the mountains. 

" How lamentable it is that two men should take 
such widely different views, with the same facts before 
them ; but this seems to be almost regularly our case, 
and much do I regret it. I am fairly well, but always 
feel half dead with fatigue. I heard but an indifferent 
account of your health some time ago, but trust that 
you are now somewhat stronger. 

" Believe me, my dear Wallace, 
" Yours very sincerely, 

"Ch. Darwin." 

It is really quite pathetic how much he felt 
difference of opinion from his friends. I, of course, 
should have liked to be able to convert him to my 
views, but I did not feel it so much as he seemed to 

* Nature, December 9, 1880. The substance of this article by Mr. 
Baker, of Kew, is given in " More Letters," vol. iii. p. 25, in a foot- 

234 MY LIFE 

do. In letters to Sir Joseph Hooker (in February 
and August, 1881) he again states his view as against 
mine very strongly ("More Letters," iii. pp. 25 and 
27) ; and this, so far as I know, is the last reference 
he made to the subject. The last letter I received 
from him was entirely on literary and political subjects, 
and, as usual, very kind and friendly. As it makes 
no reference to our controversies, and touches on 
questions never introduced before in our correspond- 
ence, I think it will be interesting to give it entire. 

"Down, July 12, 188 1. 

"My dear Wallace, 

" I have been heartily glad to get your note 
and hear some news of you. I will certainly order 
* Progress and Poverty,' for the subject is a most 
interesting one. But I read many years ago some 
books on political economy, and they produced a 
disastrous effect on my mind, viz., utterly to distrust 
my own judgment on the subject, and to doubt much 
every one else's judgment ! So I feel pretty sure that 
Mr. George's book will only make my mind worse 
confounded than it is at present. I also have just 
finished a book which has interested me greatly, but 
whether it would interest any one else I know not. 
It is the * Creed of Science,' by W. Graham, A.M. 
Who or what he is I know not, but he discusses many 
great subjects, such as the existence of God, im- 
mortality, the moral sense, the progress of society, 
etc. I think some of his propositions rest on very 
uncertain foundations, and I could get no clear idea 
of his notions about God. Notwithstanding this and 
other blemishes, the book has interested me extremely. 
Perhaps I have been to some extent deluded, as he 
manifestly ranks too high what I have done. 


" I am delighted to hear that you spend so much 
time out-of-doors and in your garden. From New- 
man's old book (I forget title) about the country near 
Godalming, it must be charming. 

" We have just returned home after spending five 
weeks on Ullswater. The scenery is quite charming, 
but I cannot walk, and everything tires me, even 
seeing scenery, talking with any one, or reading 
much. What I shall do with my few remaining 
years of life I can hardly tell. I have everything to 
make me happy and contented, but life has become 
very wearysome to me. I heard lately from Miss 
Buckley in relation to Lyell's Life, and she men- 
tioned that you were thinking of Switzerland, which 
I should think and hope that you would enjoy 

" I see that you are going to write on the most 
difficult political question, the land. Something ought 
to be done, but what is the rub. I hope that you will 
(not) turn renegade to natural history ; but I suppose 
that politics are very tempting. 

" With all good wishes for yourself and family, 
" Believe me, my dear Wallace, 

"Yours very sincerely, 

"Charles Darwin." 

This letter is, to me, perhaps the most interesting 
I ever received from Darwin, since it shows that it 
was only the engrossing interests of his scientific and 
literary work, performed under the drawback of almost 
constant ill-health, that prevented him from taking a 
more active part in the discussion of those social and 
political questions that so deeply affect the lives and 
happiness of the great bulk of the people. It is a 
great satisfaction that his last letter to me, written 

236 MY LIFE 

within nine months of his death, and terminating a 
correspondence which had extended over a quarter of 
a century, should be so cordial, so sympathetic, and 

In 1870 he had written to me, "I hope it is a 
satisfaction to you to reflect — and very few things in 
my life have been more satisfactory to me — that we 
have never felt any jealousy towards each other, 
though in some sense rivals. I believe I can say 
this of myself with truth, and I am absolutely sure 
that it is true of you." This friendly feeling was 
retained by him to the last, and to have thus inspired 
and retained it, notwithstanding our many differences 
of opinion, I feel to be one of the greatest honours of 
my life. 

In conclusion, it may interest my readers if I give 
briefly the four chief points on which I differed from 
Darwin. They are as follows : — 

(i) Darwin held that man had been developed 
physically and intellectually by continuous modifica- 
tion under natural selection from some ancestral form, 
whilst I, though agreeing with him with regard to 
man's physical form, believed that some agency other 
than natural selection, and analogous to that which 
first produced organic life, had brought into being 
his moral and intellectual qualities. 

(2) Darwin believed that in the case of certain 
animals the males had obtained their bright colours 
or other ornaments by selection through female 
choice. I, on the other hand, believed that natural 
selection had operated independently on the two 
sexes, and each had acquired coloration or form 
according to its need for protection. The females, 
being often more exposed to danger than the males 
(as in the case of sitting birds), had acquired more 


subdued coloration whilst the males had remained 
bright and comparatively conspicuous, 

(3) Darwin thought that the arctic plants found on 
isolated mountain tops within the tropics could only 
be explained by the spreading of the arctic flora over 
the tropics during the glacial period. From a study 
of the floras of oceanic islands, I had come to the 
conclusion that the mountain flora had been derived 
by aerial transmission of seeds either by birds or by 

(4) Darwin always believed in the inheritance of 
acquired characteristics, such as the results of use or 
disuse of organs, and the effects of climate, food, etc., 
on the individual. I also accepted this theory at first, 
but when I had studied Mr. Galton's experiments and 
Dr. Weismann's theory of the continuity of the germ- 
plasm I had to change my views. The latter theory 
really simplifies and strengthens the fundamental 
doctrine of natural selection. 

It will thus appear that none of my differences of 
opinion from Darwin imply any real divergence as to 
the overwhelming importance of the great principle of 
natural selection, while in several directions I believe 
that I have extended and strengthened it. The 
principle of "utility," which is one of its chief 
foundation-stones, I have always advocated unre- 
servedly ; while in extending this principle to almost 
every kind and degree of coloration, and in maintain- 
ing the power of natural selection to increase the in- 
fertility of hybrid unions, I have considerably extended 
its range. Hence it is that some of my critics declare 
that I am more Darwinian than Darwin himself, and 
in this, I admit, they are not far wrong. 

When Darwin died in 188 1 I was honoured by an 
invitation to his funeral in Westminster Abbey, as one 

238 MY LIFE 

of the pall-bearers, along with nine of his most distin- 
guished friends or admirers, among whom was J. 
Russell Lowell, as the representative of American 
science and literature. Among the many obituary- 
notices of Darwin, that by Huxley (in NaUire, of April 
27) is one of the shortest, most discriminating, and 
most beautiful. It is published also in the second 
volume of his "Collected Essays." For those who 
have not read this true and charming estimate of his 
friend, I may quote one passage : " One could not 
converse with Darwin without being reminded of 
Socrates. There was the same desire to find some 
one wiser than himself; the same belief in the 
sovereignty of reason ; the same ready humour ; the 
same sympathetic interest in all the ways and works 
of men. But instead of turning away from the 
problems of nature as wholly insoluble, our modern 
philosopher devoted his whole life to attacking them 
in the spirit of Heraclitus and Democritus, with results 
which are as the substance of which their speculations 
were anticipatory shadows." 



Soon after my return home, in 1862, Bates and I, 
having both read " First Principles " and been im- 
mensely impressed by it, went together to call on 
Herbert Spencer, I think by appointment. Our 
thoughts were full of the great unsolved problem of 
the origin of life — a problem which Darwin's " Origin 
of Species" left in as much obscurity as ever — and 
we looked to Spencer as the one man living who 
could give us some clue to it. His wonderful exposi- 
tion of the fundamental laws and conditions, actions 
and interactions of the material universe seemed to 
penetrate so deeply into that " nature of things " 
after which the early philosophers searched in vain, 
and whose blind gropings are so finely expressed in 
the grand poem of Lucretius, that we both hoped he 
could throw some light on that great problem of 
problems. He was very pleasant, spoke appreciatively 
of what we had both done for the practical exposition 
of evolution, and hoped we would continue to work 
at the subject. But when we ventured to touch upon 
the great problem, and whether he had arrived at 
even one of the first steps towards its solution, our 
hopes were dashed at once. That, he said, was too 
fundamental a problem to even think of solving at 

240 MY LIFE 

present. We did not yet know enough of matter in 
its essential constitution nor of the various forces of 
nature ; and all he could say was that everything 
pointed to life having been a development out of 
matter — a phase of that continuous process of evolu- 
tion by which the whole universe had been brought 
to its present condition. So we had to wait and work 
contentedly at minor problems. And now, after 
forty years, though Spencer and Darwin and Weis- 
mann have thrown floods of light on the phenomena 
of life, its essential nature and its origin remain as 
great a mystery as ever. Whatever light we do 
possess is from a source which Spencer and Darwin 
neglected or ignored. 

The first letter I received from Spencer was when 
I sent him my paper on " The Origin of Human 
Races under the Law of Natural Selection." He said 
that he had read it with great interest, and added. 
" Its leading idea is, I think, undoubtedly true," con- 
cluding with a hope that I would pursue the inquiry. 

Soon afterwards he invited me to dine with him 
in Bayswater, where he lived for many years in a 
boarding-house with rather a commonplace set of 
people ; and I visited him there several times. 

In 1872, in my presidential address to the Ento- 
mological Society, I endeavoured to expound Herbert 
Spencer's theory of the origin of insects, on the view 
that they are fundamentally compound animals, each 
segment representing one of the original independent 
organisms. On sending him a copy of the address, 
he wrote to me as follows : " It is gratifying to me to 
find that your extended knowledge does not lead 
you to scepticism respecting the speculation of mine 
which you quote, but rather enables you to cite 
further facts in justification of it. Possibly your 


exposition will lead some of those, in whose lines of 
investigation the question lies, to give deliberate 
attention to it," 

In 1874, when writing "The Principles of Soci- 
ology," Herbert Spencer asked me to look over the 
proofs of the first six chapters, and give him the 
benefit of my criticisms, " alike as naturalist, anthro- 
pologist, and traveller." I found very little indeed 
requiring emendation, but I sent him a couple of 
pages of notes with suggestions on points of detail, 
which, I believe, were of some use to him. 

During the year 1881 I had several letters from 
him, dealing with subjects of general interest. In 
consequence of an article I wrote on " How to 
Nationalize the Land," especially showing how to 
avoid the supposed insuperable objection of State 
management, a " Land Nationalization Society " was 
formed, of which I was chosen president. As I had 
been induced to study the question by Herbert 
Spencer's early volume on " Social Statics," I sent 
him a copy of our programme and asked if he would 
join us. His reply is very instructive, as showing 
how nearly he agreed with us at that time, and also 
how slight were the difificulties he suggested as the 
most important. 

The letter is as follows : — 

" 38, Queen's Gardens, Bayswater, W., 
"April 25, 1881. 

"Dear Mr. Wallace, 

"As you may suppose, I fully sympathize in 
the general aims of your proposed Land Nationaliza- 
tion Society ; but for sundry reasons I hesitate to 
commit myself, at the present stage of the question, 
to a programme so definite as that which you send 


242 MY LIFE 

me. It seems to me that before formulating the idea 
in a specific shape, it is needful to generate a body 
of public opinion on the general issue, and that it 
must be some time before there can be produced 
such recognition of the general principle involved as 
is needful before definite plans can be set forth to 
any purpose. 

" It seems to me that the thing to be done at 
present is to arouse public attention to (i) the abstract 
inequity of the present condition of things ; (2) to 
show that even now there is in our law a tacit denial 
of absolute private ownership, since the State reserves 
the power of resuming possession of land on making 
compensation ; (3) that this tacitly admitted owner- 
ship ought to be overtly asserted ; (4) and that having 
been overtly asserted, the landowner should be dis- 
tinctly placed in the position of a tenant of the State 
on something like the terms proposed in your scheme : 
namely, that while the land itself should be regarded 
as public property, such value as has been given to 
it should vest in the existing so-called owner. 

" The question is surrounded with such difficulties 
that I fear anything like a specific scheme for resump- 
tion by the State will tend, by the objections made, 
to prevent recognition of a general truth which might 
otherwise be admitted. For example, in definitely 
making the proposed distinction between ' inherent 
value as dependent on natural conditions, etc.,' and 
the 'increased value given by the owner,' there is 
raised the questions — How are the two to be dis- 
tinguished ? How far back are we to go in taking 
account of the labour and money expended in giving 
fertility ? In respect of newly enclosed tracts, some 
estimation may be made ; but in respect of the 
greater part, long reduced to cultivation, I do not 


see how the valuations, differing in all cases, are to 
be made. 

*' I name this as one point ; and there are many- 
others in respect of which I do not see my way. It 
appears to me that at present we are far off from the 
time at which action may advantageously be taken. 
" Truly yours, 

" Herbert Spencer." 

The last three letters I received from Herbert 
Spencer were in 1894 and 1895, all on the subject of 
what he termed "the absurdity of Lord Salisbury's 
representation of the process of natural selection " in 
his British Association address at Oxford, wishing 
me to write to the Times, pointing out his errors, 
which were influencing many persons and writers in 
the press, and suggesting certain points I should 
especially deal with. He concluded, " It behoves you 
of all men to take up the gauntlet he has thus thrown 
down." I replied, declining the task, on the ground 
that I did not think Lord Salisbury's influence in a 
matter of science of much importance, and that I 
thought my time better employed in writing such 
articles on social and political, as well as general 
scientific questions which then interested me. To 
this he replied that he did not at all agree with me, 
and that "articles in the papers show that Lord 
Salisbury's argument is received with triumph, and 
unless it is disposed of, it will lead to a public reaction 
against the doctrine of evolution at large." 

As I still declined to go into this controversy, 
having dealt with the whole matter in my " Dar- 
winism," and still being sceptical as to any great 
effects being produced by the address in question, he 
wrote me a month later as follows : " As I cannot 

244 MY LIFE 

get you to deal with Lord Salisbury, I have decided 
to do it myself, having been finally exasperated into 
doing it by this honour paid to his address in France 
— the presentation of a translation to the French 
Academy. The impression produced upon some 
millions of people in England cannot be allowed to 
be thus further confirmed without protest." He then 
asked me for some references, which I sent him, and 
his criticism of Lord Salisbury duly appeared, and 
was thoroughly well done, so that I had no reason to 
regret not having undertaken it myself. This was 
the latest letter I received from him ; but during his 
last illness my wife, being in Brighton, called to make 
inquiries after his health, and left our cards, and I 
received a kindly expressed card in reply, written by 
his amanuensis, but signed with his own initials. It 
is dated November 28, 1903, ten days before his 

Among his intimate friends, Herbert Spencer was 
always interesting from the often unexpected way in 
which he would apply the principles of evolution to 
the commonest topics of conversation, and he was 
always ready to take part in any social amusement. 
He once or twice honoured me by coming to informal 
meetings of friends at my little house in St. Mark's 
Crescent, and I also met him at Sir John Lubbock's 
very pleasant week-end visits, and also at Huxley's, 
in St. John's Wood. Once I remember dining in- 
formally with Huxley, the only other guests being 
Tyndall and Herbert Spencer. The latter appeared 
in a dress-coat, whereupon Huxley and Tyndall 
chaffed him, as setting a bad example, and of being 
untrue to his principles, quoting his Essay on 
" Manners and Fashion," but all with the most good- 
humoured banter. Spencer took it in good part, and 


defended himself well, declaring that the coat was a 
relic of his early unregenerate days, and where could 
he wear it out if not at the houses of his best friends ? 
" Besides," he concluded, " you will please to observe 
that I am true to principle in that I do not wear a 
white tie ! " 

Those who are acquainted only with the volumes 
of Herbert Spencer's " Synthetic Philosophy " can 
have no idea of the lightness, the energy, and the 
bright satire of some of his more popular writings. 
Such are many of his earlier Essays, and in his 
volume on "The Study of Sociology" we find 
abundant examples of these qualities. 

With the remainder of my scientific friends I had, 
for the most part, only social intercourse, with no 
correspondence of general interest. Those I saw 
most of during my residence in London, and with 
whom I became most intimate, were Huxley, Tyndall, 
Sir John Lubbock, Dr. W. B. Carpenter, Sir William 
Crookes, Sir Joseph Hooker, Mr. Francis Galton, 
Professor Alfred Newton, Dr. P. L. Sclater, Mr. St. 
George Mivart, Sir William Flower, Sir Norman 
Lockyer, Professor R. Meldola, and many others 
whose names are only known to specialists. All these 
I met very frequently at scientific meetings, or at 
some of their houses at which I was occasionally a 
guest. To all of them I have been more or less 
indebted for valuable information or useful suggestions 
in the course of my work, and to these I must also 
add Professor E. B. Poulton, of Oxford ; F. W. H. 
Myers, Professors W. F. Barrett and Percival Wright, 
of Dublin, with Professors Patrick Geddes, of Edin- 
burgh, and J. A. Thomson, of Aberdeen. For the 
last quarter of a century I have lived so completely 
in the country tha.t I have ceased to have personal* 

246 MY LIFE 

intercourse with most of them ; and of those still 
among us, I can only say here that I hope and believe 
they all continue to be my very good friends. I may 
have to refer to some of them again, in connection 
with special conditions of my life. Here I will only 
give a few indications as to my personal relations 
with some of them. 

Of all those I have mentioned I became, I think, 
most intimate with Huxley. At an early date after 
my return home he asked me to his house in 
Marlborough Place, where I soon became very 
friendly with his children, then all quite young, 
all very animated, and not at all shy. Mrs. Huxley 
was also exceedingly kind and pleasant, and the 
whole domestic tone of the house was such as to 
make me quite at my ease, which happens to me 
with only a few persons. I used often to go there on 
Sunday afternoons, or to spend the evening, while I 
was several times asked to dine to meet persons of 
similar pursuits to my own. 

I often called in at Jermyn Street if I had any 
question to ask Huxley, and he was always ready to 
give me all the information in his power ; while I am 
pretty sure I owe partly, if not largely, to his influence 
the grant of the royal medal of the Royal Society, 
and perhaps also of the Darwin medal. Once only 
there was a partial disturbance of our friendly relations, 
of the exact cause of which I have no record or 
recollection. I had published some paper in which, 
I believe, I had stated some view which he had 
originated without mentioning his name, and in such 
a way as to leave the impression that I put it forth 
as original. This I had no notion of doing ; but I 
think it was an idea which had become so familiar to 
me that I had quite forgotten who originated it. I 


fancy some one must have called Huxley's attention 
to it, and when I next met him, I think just as he 
was leaving Jermyn Street to go home, he was much 
put out, and said something intimating that after 
what I had said in this paper, he wondered at my 
speaking to him again. I forget what more was said, 
but on going home I looked at the article, and found 
that I had used some expression that might be in- 
terpreted as a slight to him. I immediately wrote a 
letter of explanation and regret, and I here give his 
reply, which greatly relieved me, and our relations at 
once resumed their usual friendly character. 

"My dear Wallace, 

" Very many thanks for your kind letter. 
" I am exceedingly callous to the proceedings of 
my enemies, but (I suppose by way of compensation) 
I am very sensitive to thpse of valued friends, and I 
certainly felt rather sore when I read your paper. 
But I dare say I should have 'consumed my own 
smoke ' in that matter as I do in most, if I had not 
been very tired, very hungry, very cold, and conse- 
quently very irritable, when I met you yesterday. 
Pray forgive me if I was too plain spoken, 
" And believe me, as always, 

" Yours very faithfully, 

"T. H. Huxley. 

"Jermyn Street, February 14, 1870." 

Although Huxley was as kind and genial a friend 
and companion as Darwin himself, and I was quite at 
ease with him in his family circle, or in after-dinner 
talk with a few of his intimates, and although he was 
two years younger than myself, yet I never got over a 
feeling of awe and inferiority when discussing with 

248 MY LIFE 

him any problem in evolution or allied subjects — an 
inferiority which I did not feel either with Darwin or 
Sir Charles Lyell. This was due, I think, to the fact 
that an enormous amount of Huxley's knowledge was 
of a kind of which I possessed only an irreducible 
minimum, and in which I often felt my deficiency. 
In the general anatomy and physiology of the whole 
animal kingdom, living and extinct, Huxley was 
a master, the equal — perhaps the superior — of the 
greatest authorities on these subjects in the scientific 
world ; whereas I had never had an hour's instruction 
in either of them, had never seen a dissection of any 
kind, and never had any inclination to practise the art 
myself. Whenever I had to touch upon these subjects, 
or to use them to enforce my arguments, I had to get 
both my facts and my arguments at second hand, and 
appeal to authority both for facts and conclusions from 
them. And because I was thus ignorant, and because 
I had a positive distaste for all forms of anatomical 
and physiological experiment, I perhaps over- 
estimated this branch of knowledge and looked up to 
those who possessed it in a pre-eminent degree as 
altogether above myself. 

With Darwin and Lyell, on the other hand, 
although both possessed stores of knowledge far 
beyond my own, yet I did possess some knowledge 
of the same kind, and felt myself in a position to 
make use of their facts and those of all other students 
in the same fields of research quite as well as the 
majority of those who had observed and recorded them. 
I had, however, very early in life noticed, that men 
with immense knowledge did not always know how to 
draw just conclusions from that knowledge, and that 
I myself was quite able to detect their errors of 
reasoning-. I have never hesitated to differ from 


Lyell, Darwin, and even Spencer, and, so far as I can 
judge, in all the cases in which I have so differed, the 
weight of scientific opinion is gradually turning in 
my direction. In reasoning power upon the general 
phenomena of nature or of society, I feel able to hold 
my own with them ; my inferiority consists in my 
limited knowledge, and perhaps also in my smaller 
power of concentration for long periods of time. 

With Huxley also I felt quite on an equality when 
dealing with problems arising out of facts equally 
well known to both of us ; but wherever the structure 
or functions of animals were concerned, he had the 
command of a body of facts so extensive and so 
complex that no one who had not devoted years to 
their practical study could safely attempt to make 
use of them. I therefore never ventured to infringe 
in any way on his special departments of study, 
though I occasionally make use of some of the results 
which he so lucidly explained. 

Among the more prominent naturalists, one of 
my chief friends, and the one whose society I most 
enjoyed, was Professor St. George Mivart, who for 
some years lived not far from us in London. He 
was a rather singular compound mentally, inasmuch 
as he was a sincere but thoroughly liberal Catholic, 
and an anti-Darwinian evolutionist. But his friendly 
geniality, his refined manners, his interesting conver- 
sation and fund of anecdote of the most varied kind, 
rendered him a charming companion. His most 
intimate friends seemed to be priests, one or two of 
whom were almost always among the guests, and 
often the only ones, when I dined with him. And 
they, too, were excellent company, full of humour 
and anecdote of the most varied kind, though also 
ready for serious talk or discussion ; but in either 

250 MY LIFE 

case, with none of the reserve or somewhat rigid 
decorum of the majority of our clergy. 

Mivart was a very severe and often an unfair critic 
of Darwin, and I never concealed my opinion that he 
was not justified in going so far as he did. I also 
criticized some of his own writings, but he took it 
all very good-naturedly, and we always remained 
excellent friends. Besides natural history we had 
other tastes in common. He enjoyed country life, 
and for some time had a small country house in the 
wilds of Sussex, about midway between Forest Row 
and Hayward's Heath, where we sometimes spent a 
few days. He was also greatly interested in psychical 
research and spiritualistic phenomena ; but this I 
shall refer to again when I come to my own experi- 
ences and inquiries on this intensely interesting 

About a year or two after I had returned home, 
Sir James Brooke had also returned to England, and 
had retired to a small estate at the foot of Dartmoor, 
where he lived in a comfortable cottage-farmhouse 
amid the wild scenery in which he delighted, I had 
met him once or twice in London, and, I think in the 
summer of 1863 or 1864, he invited me to spend a 
week with him in Devonshire, to meet his former 
private secretary and my old friend in Sarawak, Mr. 
(now Sir Spencer) St. John. We had a very pleasant 
time, strolling about the district or taking rides over 
Dartmoor ; while at meals we had old-time events to 
talk over, with discussions of all kinds of political and 
social problems in the evening. At the same time 
Lady Burdett-Coutts, with her friend Mrs. Brown, 
were staying near, and often drove over and took us 
all for some more distant excursions. 

This meeting and my friendship with Sir James 


Brooke led to my receiving several invitations to dine 
in Stratton Street, where my friend George Silk was 
also a frequent guest ; but my unfortunate habit of 
speaking my thoughts too plainly broke off the 
acquaintance. The rajah's nephew, Captain Brooke, 
who had been formerly designated as Sir James's 
successor under the Malay title of Tuan Muda (young 
lord), had done or written something (I forget what) 
to which Sir James objected, and a disagreement 
ensued, which resulted in the captain being deposed 
from the heirship, and his younger brother Charles, 
the present rajah, being nominated instead. As I was 
equally friendly and intimate with both parties and 
heard both sides, I thought the captain had been 
rather hardly treated, and one day, when the subject 
was mentioned at Stratton Street, I ventured to say 
so. This evidently displeased Lady Burdett-Coutts, 
and I was never invited again — a matter which did 
not at all disturb me, as the people I met there were 
not very interesting to me. When Sir James Brooke 
heard of my indiscretion, he wrote to me very kindly, 
saying that he knew that I was the captain's friend 
and had a perfect right to take his part, and that my 
doing so did not in the least offend him and would 
make no difference in our relations, and I continued 
to receive friendly letters from him till he went to 
Borneo for the last time, in 1866. Soon after his 
return he died at his Devonshire home, in June, 1868. 
I have given my estimate of his character and of 
his beneficent work at Sarawak in my " Malay 

Among the dearest of my friends, the one towards 
whom I felt more like a brother than to any other 
person, was Dr. Richard Spruce, one of the most 
cultivated and charming of men, as well as one of the 

252 MY LIFE 

most enthusiastic and observing of botanists. As he 
lived in Yorkshire after 1867, I only saw him at 
rather long intervals, but I generally took the oppor- 
tunity of lecture engagements in the north to pay 
him a few days' visit. Our correspondence also 
was scanty, as he was a great invalid and could 
not write much, and I only preserved such letters 
as touched upon subjects connected with my own 

One of the most interesting, amusing, and eccentric 
men I became acquainted with during my residence 
in London, and with whom I soon became quite 
intimate, was Dr. T. Purland, a dentist, living in 
Mortimer Street, Cavendish Square. He was a 
stout, dark, middle-aged man, with somewhat Jewish 
features, and of immense energy and vitality — one of 
those men whose words pour out in a torrent, and 
who have always something wise or witty to say. 
He had been a great coin-collector, and had many 
anecdotes to tell of rarities hit upon accidentally. 
He had an unbounded admiration for Greek coins 
as works of art, and would dilate upon their beauties 
as compared with the poor and inartistic works of 
our day. He was something of an Egyptologist, and 
had many odds and ends of antiquities, including 
teeth from mummies and dentists' instruments found 
in the old tombs and sarcophagi. He was a widower 
with three growing-up children, and had been obliged 
to part with all the more valuable parts of his collec- 
tion to educate them. 

He was a very powerful mesmerist, and helped, 
with Dr. Elliotson and others, in establishing the 
mesmeric hospital then in existence, and could succeed 
in sending patients into the mesmeric trance when 
other operators failed. He was one of the few meo 

^^^ 0..^y^ / 

Uh/i7cA '^ 

[To face p. 25: 

/m^ Cc^i •Wr ^ /^ '^^^ X^^ryuYC^ 

^ 1' ' w i mn i i I II !' » * 


[7;<>^.'/. 253. 



at that ,time who had been up in a balloon (with 
Green, the celebrated aeronaut, I think), and one 
evening at our house in St. Mark's Crescent, when 
Huxley and Tyndall were present, he made some 
remarks which interested Tyndall, who thereupon 
asked him many questions as to his sensations, the 
general appearance of the earth, clouds, etc., to all of 
which Dr. Purland replied with such promptitude and 
intelligence that all our friends were soon gathered 
round to hear the discussion, which went on a long 

I possess about a dozen of his letters — replies to 
invitations, remarks on reading my early books, or 
other matters — all so amusing and so well illustrating 
the character and individuality of the man that I will 
now print some of them, and give a few in facsimile 
to show his style of caricature illustration. 

The letter opposite was, I think, the first I had 
from him, and I only give it to illustrate two of his 
peculiarities — his gastronomical taste indicated by 
" Beer Month" for October, and the "piece of plate" 
represented by half a beautiful little print in blue of 
an old willow-pattern plate pasted in opposite the 

The next letter is in answer to an invitation to 
tea. He had been reading my " Malay Archipelago," 
and the reference on the envelope (here reproduced) 
is to the description of the king bird of paradise. 
The letter itself is in hieroglyphic form, intimating 
that he had other engagements, indicating himself 
by his large nose and scrap-book under his arm. 

The next I shall give is an account of the sad 
results of reading one of my books aloud. The 
heading is a pseudonym for his operating room. 

254 MY LIFE 

" Fang Castle, June, 1870, 

" Therm, jyl. 

"Thanks worthy Signor for the entertainment 
afforded by your Boke on Natural Selection. But 
good as ' Natural Selection ' is, or maybe : I like 
Mutual Selection much better ; and to my thinking 
it is of much more importance : ex. gr. mutual selec- 
tion is this — A Lady asks me to become her husband 
I ax her to become my wife — that's Mutual Selection 
— aint it 'Natural'.? The question of the 'fittest' 
is a subsequent affair : as is the Creation by birth, 
etc., etc. 

" But the pleasure was sadly and suddenly inter- 
rupted : I was reading aloud, and got on pretty well 
through p. 90-91. At 92 Jaws ached terribly! but at 
p. 94 and 5, even vulcanite could not stand it ; and 
to my horror my upper set of teeth gave way with a 
crash ! divided between the right lateral and the 
canine. I was helpless ; and but for an old piece in 
reserve, my enjoyment of a succulent Roast Pig 
would have been entirely destroyed : it cost me dear 
— quite the value of a collection : I must give up 
reading scientific {?) names aloud. 

" I picked up a good specimen of Lignum ambulans 
for a shilling a week ago : and it now forms a promi- 
nent feature in our surgery, We are promised a 
Phyllium in a few days : and a Kallima paralekta. 
The Rosa Canina is a puzzle at present : I never saw 
a Red Canine tooth ! Speaking of teeth — Huxley 
in his Physiology says Bicuspids never have more 
than two fangs — He knows nothing about it. I have 
them with three — Molars with 4, 5, and 6 ! In my 
lecture case, now before me, there are several : they 
are not as common as dirt or earwigs in the country ! 
but they often turn up. 

77 ■<■*■< * *M*-*'^'xLsZI 


[Zo/fla-/. 255. 


" I begin the second reading to-night — not aloud 
— ok no ! 

" With our best Salaam to the Lady, I remain 
" Thine in amity, 

"Theodosius Purland." 

The last I have was an anecdote of animal sagacity, 
a subject then being discussed in the papers, and of 
which he had given me some examples. I give a 
print of it, as it is a good example of his caricature 
drawing and of one of his fantastic signatures. 

Our pleasant intimacy came to an end in a most 
absurd manner. Dr. Purland was, as I have said, a 
powerful and enthusiastic mesmerist, and had given 
his services for many surgical operations. Just as 
the opposition of the chiefs of the medical profes- 
sion was dying away, and they were beginning to 
acknowledge the great value of the mesmeric sleep 
in alleviating pain and greatly facilitating serious 
operations, the discovery of anaesthetics offered a 
rival, which, though much more dangerous, was more 
certain and more easily applied in emergencies, and 
this led to the discontinuance of the use of mesmerism 
as a remedial agent. This naturally disgusted Dr. 
Purland, who, with the whole energy of his character, 
hated chloroform, ether, and nitrous-oxide gas, and 
would have nothing to do with them in his profession. 
Besides, he despised any one who could not bear the 
pain of tooth-drawing, and would turn away any patient 
who required the gas to be administered. A year 
or two after the date of his last letter I had occasion 
to approach him in his professional capacity. Entirely 
forgetting his objections, which, in fact, I had hardly 
believed to be real, after making an appointment I 
asked him to get a doctor to administer.nitrous-oxide, 

256 MY LIFE 

as I could not stand the pain of three or four extrac- 
tions in succession. This thoroughly enraged him. 
He wrote me a most violent letter, saying he could 
not continue to be the friend of a man who could ask 
him to do such a thing, and gave me the name of an 
acquaintance of his who had no such scruples and 
whose work was thoroughly good. And that was the 
last communication I ever had from Dr. Purland. 

I will conclude this chapter with a few words 
about those meetings of the British Association at 
which I was present. In 1862 I was invited by my 
kind friend, Professor Alfred Newton, to be his guest 
at Magdalen College during the meeting, in company 
with a party of scientific friends, chiefly ornithologists. 
This was my first visit both to Cambridge and to the 
Association, and under such pleasant conditions I 
thoroughly enjoyed both. Besides the number of 
eminent men of science I had the opportunity of 
hearing or seeing, I had the pleasure of spending an 
evening with Charles Kingsley in his own house, and 
enjoying his stimulating conversation. There was 
also a slight recrudescence of the evolution controversy 
in the rather painful dispute between Professor Richard 
Owen and Huxley, supported by Flower, on certain 
alleged differences between the brains of man and 

I so much enjoyed the meeting, both in its 
scientific and social aspects, that I attended the next 
eleven meetings, and generally took part in some of 
the discussions, besides occasionally reading short 
papers. One of the most enjoyable meetings socially 
was that at Exeter, where I and a large party of 
scientific men were hospitably entertained at a country 
mansion eight or ten miles from the city, into which 
we were driven and brought back every day. Among 


the guests there was Professor Rankin, who entertained 
us by singing some of his own descriptive or witty 
compositions, especially the " Song of the Engine 
Driver," and that inimitable Irish descriptive song on 
"The City of Mullingar." On this occasion there 
appeared one of the most humorous parodies of the 
work of' the Association that has ever been written, 
called " Exeter Change for British Lions." It was in 
the form of a small magazine, giving reports of the 
meetings, with absurd papers, witty verses, and clever 
parodies of the leading members, all worthy of Hood 
himself in his most humorous vein. 

I was also honoured by being admitted to the 
fraternity of the " Red Lions," who fed together 
during each meeting of the Association and expressed 
applause by gentle roars and wagging of (coat) tails. 
On these occasions all kinds of jokes were permissible, 
and speeches were made and songs sung by the 
scientific humourists assembled. At Edinburgh, in 
1 87 1, Lord Neaves, a well-known wit and song-writer, 
was a guest, and gave us some of his own com- 
positions, especially that on " The Origin of Species 
a la Darwin" — which he recited standing up and 
with very fine humour. The following verses are 
samples : — 

" A very tall Pig with a very long nose 
Sends forth a proboscis right down to his toes, 
And then by the name of an Elephant goes, 

Which Nobody can Deny ! 

" An Ape with a pliable thumb and big brain, 
When the gift of the gab he had managed to gain. 
As Lord of Creation established his reign, 

Which Nobody can Deny ! " 

And so on for twelve verses, amid encouraging roars 
and great final tail-wagging. 


258 MY LIFE 

At Glasgow, in 1876, I was President of the 
Biological Section, and our meeting was rendered 
rather lively by the announcement of a paper by Pro- 
fessor W. F. Barrett on experiments in thought- 
reading. The reading of this was opposed by Dr. W. 
B. Carpenter and others, but as it had been accepted 
by the section, it was read. Then followed a rather 
heated discussion ; but there were several supporters 
of the paper, among whom was Lord Rayleigh, and 
the public evidently took the greatest interest in the 
subject, the hall being crowded. After having studied 
the matter some years longer, Professor Barrett, with 
the assistance of the late Frederick Myers, Professor 
Sidgwick, Edmund Gurney, and a few other friends, 
founded the Society for Psychical Research, which 
has collected a very large amount of evidence and is 
still actively at work. 

My wife and I were entertained at Glasgow by Mr. 
and Mrs. Mirlees, and at one of their dinner-parties we 
enjoyed thecompany of William Pengelly, of Torquay, 
the well-known explorer of Kent's Cavern, whose 
acquaintance I had made some years before while 
spending a few days at Torquay with my friend and 
publisher, Mr. A. Macmillan. He sat on one side of 
our hostess, and my wife and I on the other, and 
during the whole dinner he kept up such a flow of 
amusing and witty conversation that the entire party 
(a large one) looked at us with envy. He was cer- 
tainly among the most genial and witty men I have 
ever met, and could make even dry scientific subjects 
attractive by his humorous way of narrating them. 

After this year I felt that I had pretty well 
exhausted the interests of the Association meetings, 
and preferred to take my autumn holiday, with my 
wife and two children, either by the sea or among the 


mountains, where we could quietly enjoy the beauties 
of nature in aspects somewhat new to us ; the only 
exception I afterwards made being the jubilee meet- 
ing at York, and even here the chief attractions were 
the beautiful Alpine gardens of Mr. Backhouse, the 
excursion to Rievaulx Abbey, and a visit afterwards 
to my friend Dr. Spruce in his retirement at Welburn, 
near Castle Howard. 



In March, 1870, I took an old cottage at Barking, 
where I was still almost in London. Though Barking 
was a miserable village, surrounded by marshes and 
ugly factories, there were yet some pleasant walks 
along the Thames and among the meadows, while 
within a quarter of a mile of us was a well-preserved 
tumulus close to an old farmhouse. Here, too, we 
had some very pleasant neighbours. Sir Antonis 
Brady at Stratford, whom I had often visited with my 
friend Silk, and who had a fine collection of fossils 
from the gravels of the district ; Mr. C. M. Ingleby, 
the Shakespearean commentator, who was interested 
in spiritualism ; and more especially Colonel Hope, 
V.C., who was living at Parsloes, an old manor house 
within an easy walk, and with whose amiable and 
intellectual family we spent many pleasant Sunday 

In the following year I found near the village of 
Grays, on the Thames, twenty miles from London, a 
picturesque old chalk-pit which had been disused so 
long that a number of large elms and a few other 
trees had grown up in its less precipitous portions. 
The chalk here was capped by about twenty feet of 



Thanet sand and pleistocene gravel, and from the 
fields at the top there was a beautiful view over Erith 
to the Kent hills and down a reach of the Thames to 
Gravesend, forming a most attractive site for a house 
After some difficulty I obtained a lease for ninety- 
nine years of four acres, comprising the pit itself, an 
acre of the field on the plateau above, and about an 
equal amount of undulating cultivable ground between 
the pit and the lane which gave access to it. I had 
to pay seven pounds an acre rent, as the owner could 
not sell it, and though I thought it very dear, as so 
much of it was unproductive, the site was so pictur- 
esque, and had such capabilities of improvement, that 
I thought it would be a fair investment. 

As there was a deep bed of rough gravel on my 
ground and there were large cement works at Grays, 
I thought it would be economical to build of concrete, 
and I found an architect of experience, who made 
the plans and specifications, while I myself saw that 
the gravel was properly washed. In order to obtain 
water in ample quantity for building and also for 
garden and other purposes, I had a well sunk about 
a hundred feet into a water-bearing stratum of the 
chalk, and purchased a small iron windmill with a 
two-inch force pump to obtain the water. I made 
two small concrete ponds in the garden — one close 
to the windmill — and a large tank at the top of a low 
tower to supply house water. My friend Geach, the 
mining engineer whom I had met in Timor and 
Singapore, was now at home, and took an immense 
interest in my work. He helped me to find the 
windmill — the only one that we could discover in any 
of the engineering shops in London — and the well 
being completed, he and I, with the assistance of my 
gardener, did all the work of fitting the pump at the 

262 MY LIFE 

bottom of the well with connecting-rods and guides 
up to the windmill, which also we erected and set to 
work ourselves. As the windmill had no regulating 
apparatus, and, when the wind became strong, re- 
volved far too rapidly, and even bent the connecting- 
rod, I attached to the ends of the iron vanes pieces 
of plate iron about a foot square, fixed at right angles 
to the line of motion. These acted as brakes as soon 
as the revolution became moderately rapid, but had 
little effect when it was slow ; and the arrangement 
worked very well. 

We got into the house in March, 1872, and I 
began to take that pleasure in gardening, and especi- 
ally in growing uncommon and interesting as well as 
beautiful plants, which in various places, under many 
difficulties and with mingled failures and successes, 
has been a delight and solace to me ever since. 

At this time I was somewhat doubtful in what 
particular direction to work, as I found that I could 
not now feel sufficient interest in any branch of 
systematic zoology to devote myself to the minute 
study required for the classification and description 
of any important portion of my collections. There 
were many other men who could do that better than 
I could, while my special tastes led me to some 
work which involved a good deal of reasoning and 
generalization. It was, I think, my two friends. 
Professor A. Newton and Dr. Sclater, who urged me 
to undertake a general review of the geographical 
distribution of animals, and after a little discussion 
of the subject I came to the conclusion that I might 
perhaps be able to do it ; although, if I had been 
aware of the difficulties of the task, I should probably 
not have undertaken it. 

As this was the largest and perhaps the most 



important scientific work I have done, I may perhaps 
be allowed here to say a few words as to its design 
and execution. I had already, in several of my 
papers and articles, explained my general views of 
the purport and scope of geographical distribution as 
a distinct branch of biological science. I had accepted 
and supported Dr. P. L. Sclater's division of the 
earth's surface into six great zoological regions, 
founded upon a detailed examination of the distribu- 
tion of birds, but equally applicable to mammalia, 
reptiles, and several other great divisions, and best 
serving to illustrate and explain the diversities and 
apparent contradictions in the distribution of all land 
animals ; and I may now add that the additional 
facts accumulated, and the various divisions suggested 
during the thirty years that have since elapsed, have 
not in the least altered my opinions on this matter. 

In whatever work I have done I have always 
aimed at systematic arrangement and uniformity of 
treatment throughout. But here the immense extent 
of the subject, the overwhelming mass of detail, and 
above all the excessive diversities in the amount of 
knowledge of the different classes of animals, rendered 
it quite impossible to treat all alike. My preliminary 
studies had already satisfied me that it was quite 
useless to attempt to found any conclusions on those 
groups which were comparatively little known, either 
as regards the proportion of species collected and 
described, or as regards their systematic classification. 
It was also clear that as the present distribution of 
animals is necessarily due to their past distribution, 
the greatest importance must be given to those groups 
whose fossil remains in the more recent strata are 
the most abundant and the best known. These 
considerations led me to limit my work in its detailed 

264 MY LIFE 

systematic groundwork, and study of the principles 
and laws of distribution, to the mammalia and birds, 
and to apply the principles thus arrived at to an 
explanation of the distribution of other groups, such 
as reptiles, fresh-water fishes, land and fresh-water 
shells, and the best-known insect orders. The work, 
entitled " The Geographical Distribution of Animals," 
was published in 1876, in two thick volumes, and it 
occupied a good deal of my time during the four 
years I lived at Grays. 

No one is more aware than myself of the defects 
of the work, a considerable portion of which are due 
to the fact that it was written a quarter of a century 
too soon — at a time when both zoological and palaeon- 
tological discovery were advancing with great rapidity, 
while new and improved classifications of some of 
the great classes and orders were in constant pro- 
gress. But though many of the details given in these 
volumes would now require alteration, there is no 
reason to believe that the great features of the work 
and general principles established by it will require 
any important modification. Its most severe critics 
are our American cousins, who, possessing a " region " 
of their own, have been able to explore it very 
rapidly ; while from several references made to it, I 
think it is appreciated on the European continent 
more than it is in our own country. 

While this work was in progress I wrote a con- 
siderable number of reviews and articles, published 
my book on " Miracles and Modern Spiritualism," 
and wrote the articles " Acclimatization " for the 
" Encyclopaedia Britannica." 

In 1876 I sold the house at Grays and removed to 
Dorking, where we lived for two years. But finding 

^^^^^w^ ^jilH 





1 mmK^M ~y^ 



^■fe'. .v^ VL^gggjijIjil^H 






[Toface />. 265. 


the climate relaxing, we moved next to Croydon, 
chiefly in order to send our children first to a kinder- 
garten, and then to a high school, and remained there 
till May, 1881. 

During this period, besides my usual reviews and 
articles, I prepared my address as president of the 
Biological Section of the British Association at 
Glasgow, wrote the article on " Distribution — 
Zoology" for the " Encyclopsedia Britannica," and 
prepared a volume on " Tropical Nature," which was 
published in 1878. In this work I gave a general 
sketch of the climate, vegetation, and animal life of the 
equatorial zone of the tropics from my own obser- 
vations in both hemispheres. 

As soon as we were settled at Croydon, I began 
to work at a volume which had been suggested to 
me by the necessary limitations of my " Geographical 
Distribution of Animals." In that work I had, in the 
first place, dealt with the larger groups, coming down 
to families and genera, but taking no account of the 
various problems raised by the distribution of par- 
ticular species. In the next place, I had taken little 
account of the various islands of the globe, except as 
forming subregions or parts of subregions. But I had 
long seen the great interest and importance of these, 
and especially of Darwin's great discovery of the two 
classes into which they are naturally divided — oceanic 
and continental islands. I had already given lectures 
on this subject, and had become aware of the great 
interest attaching to them, and the great light they 
threw upon the means of dispersal of animals 
and plants, as well as upon the past changes, both 
physical and biological, of the earth's surface. In 
the third place, the means of dispersal and coloni- 
zation of animals is so connected with, and often 

266 MY LIFE 

dependent on, that of plants, that a consideration 
of the latter is essential to any broad views as to the 
distribution of life upon the earth, while they throw 
unexpected light upon these exceptional means of 
dispersal which, because they are exceptional, are 
often of paramount importance in leading to the 
production of new species and in thus determining 
the nature of insular floras and faunas. 

Having no knowledge of scientific botany, it 
needed some courage, or, as some may think, pre- 
sumption, to deal with this aspect of the problem ; 
but, on the other hand, I had long been excessively 
fond of plants, and was always interested in their dis- 
tribution. The subject, too, was easier to deal with, 
on account of the much more complete knowledge 
of the detailed distribution of plants than of animals, 
and also because their classification was in a more 
advanced and stable condition. Again, some of the 
most interesting of the islands of the globe had been 
carefully studied botanically by such eminent 
botanists as Sir Joseph Hooker, for the Galapagos, 
New Zealand, Tasmania, and the Antarctic islands ; 
Mr. H. C. Watson for the Azores ; Mr. J. G. Baker 
for Mauritius and other Mascarene islands ; while 
there were floras by competent botanists of the Sand- 
wich Islands, Bermuda, and St. Helena. With such 
excellent material, and with the further assistance 
of Sir Joseph Hooker's invaluable essays on the 
relations of the southern and northern floras, I felt 
that my work would be mainly of a statistical nature, 
as interpreted by those general principles of organic 
evolution which were my especial study. 

But I also found it necessary to deal with a totally 
distinct branch of science — recent changes of climate 
as dependent on changes of the earth's surface, 


including the causes and effects of the glacial epoch, 
since these were among the most powerful agents in 
causing the dispersal of all kinds of organisms, and 
thus bringing about the actual distribution that now 
prevails. This led me to a careful study of Mr. 
James Croll's remarkable works on the subject of the 
astronomical causes of glacial and interglacial periods, 
and I had much correspondence with him on difficult 
points of his theory. While differing on certain 
details, I adopted the main features of his theory, 
combining with it the effects of changes in height 
and extent of land which form an important adjunct 
to the meteorological agents. To this subject I 
devoted two of my longest and most argumentative 
chapters, introducing many considerations not before 
taken account of, and leading, I still think, to a more 
satisfactory explanation of the causes that actually 
brought about the glacial epoch than any which have 
since been put forth. 

Besides this partially new theory of the causes of 
glacial epochs, the work contained a fuller statement 
of the various kinds of evidence proving that the 
great oceanic basins are permanent features of the 
earth's surface, than had before been given ; also a 
discussion of the mode of estimating the duration of 
geological periods, and some considerations leading 
to the conclusion that organic change is now less 
rapid than the average, and therefore that less time 
is required for this change than has hitherto been 
thought necessary. I was also, I believe, the first to 
point out the great differences between the more 
ancient continental islands and those of more recent 
origin, with the interesting conclusions as to geo- 
graphical changes afforded by both ; while the most 
important novelty is the theory by which I explained 

268 MY LIFE 

the occurrence of northern groups of plants in all 
parts of the southern hemisphere — a phenomenon 
which Sir Joseph Hooker had pointed out, but had 
then no means of explaining. 

This volume, on " Island Life," involved much 
detailed work as regards the species of plants and 
animals, information on which points I had to obtain 
from numerous specialists, involving a great amount 
of correspondence ; while it was illustrated by a large 
number of maps and diagrams, most of which were 
drawn by myself. The preparation and writing this 
book occupied me for about three years, and it was 
published in 1880. It has gone through three 
editions, which have involved a large amount of 
corrections and additions ; and it is a work which 
seems to have opened up a new world of interesting 
fact and theory to a large number of readers, from 
several of whom I have received letters expressing 
the delight and instruction it has given them. 

In 1878 I wrote a volume on Australasia for 
Stanford's " Compendium of Geography and Travel," 
in which I gave a fuller account than usual of the 
physical geography, the natural history, and the 
geology of Australia. In a later edition of this work, 
in 1893, I gave a much fuller account of the natives 
of Australia, and adduced evidence for the theory 
that they are really a primitive type of the great 
Caucasian family of mankind, and are by no means 
so low in intellect as has been usually believed. This 
view seems now to be generally accepted. 

In 1 881 a society was formed for advocating the 
nationalization of the land, of which I was elected 
president, and in 1882 I published a volume, entitled 
** Land Nationalization : its Necessity and its Aims." 
Some account of this movement will be given in a 


future chapter. Its publication brought me letters of 
sympathy and general agreement from Sir David 
Wedderburn, M.P., Lord Mount-Temple, and many 
other friends and correspondents. 

In this year, on June 29, the Dublin University 
gave me the honorary degree of LL.D. I will here 
give the very short but flattering Latin speech of the 
public orator in introducing me, with a translation by 
my friend Mr. Comerford Casey — 

"Introduco quoque Alfredum RusSEL WAL- 
LACE, Darwinii aemulum, immo Darwinium alterum. 
Neque hunc neque ilium variae eluserunt species 
atque ora ferarum. Darwinius nempe lauri foetus 
auricomos decerpsit primus. Sed quid querimur ? 

"' Primo avulso non deficit alter 

Aureus, et simili frondescit virga metallo.' " 

" I introduce also Alfred Russel Wallace, the 
friendly rival of Darwin, indeed, a second Darwin. 
Equally familiar to both are the different species and 
varieties of animals. Darwin, indeed was the first 
to pluck the golden laurel-branch. Yet through this 
did Wallace suffer no eclipse ; for as Virgil sang — 

" ' One branch removed, another was to hand : 
Another, bright and golden as the first.' " 

In the year 1881 I removed to Godalming, where 
I had built a small cottage near the water-tower and 
at about the same level as the Charterhouse School. 
We had been partly induced to come here to be near 
my very old friend Mr. Charles Hay ward, whom I 
had first known during my residence at Neath about 
forty years before. He was living with his nephew, 
the late C. F. Hayward, a well-known architect, whose 
children were about the same age as my own, We 

2/0 MY LIFE 

found here some very pleasant friends among the 
masters at Charterhouse School, as well as among 
residents who had come to the place for its general 
educational advantages or for the charm of its rural 
scenery. We had here about half an acre of ground 
with oak trees and hazel bushes (from which I named 
our place " Nutwood Cottage "), and during the eight 
years we lived there I thoroughly enjoyed making a 
new garden, in which, and a small greenhouse, I 
cultivated at one time or other more than a thousand 
species of plants. The soil was a deep bed of the 
Lower Greensand formation, with a thin surface layer of 
leaf-mould, and it was very favourable to many kinds 
of bulbous plants as well as half-hardy shrubs, several 
of which grew there more freely and flowered better 
than in any of my other gardens. 

In 1884 Messrs. Pears offered a prize of ;^IC)0 for 
the best essay on "The Depression of Trade," and 
Professor Leone Levi had agreed to be one of the 
judges. As I had been for some time disgusted with 
the utter nonsense of many of the articles on the 
subject in the press, while what seemed to me the 
essential and fundamental causes were never so much 
as referred to, I determined to compete, though with- 
out any expectation of success. The essay was sent 
in some time during the summer of 1885, and in July 
I received a letter from Professor Leone Levi, in 
which he writes : " My colleague and myself were 
greatly pleased with the essay bearing a motto from 
Goldsmith. We, however, did not see our way to 
recommend it for the prize, especially on account of 
disagreement as to the remedies suggested. But, the 
essay having great merit, we thought it proper to open 
the envelope in order to correspond with the author." 


He then asked me if I would allow the first part 
of my essay, upon " Conditions and Causes," to be 
printed with the other essays. 

As my proposed remedies were the logical con- 
clusion from the " Conditions and Causes," which I 
had detailed, and of which the validity seemed to be 
admitted, I of course declined this offer, and Messrs. 
Macmillan agreed to publish it under the title, " Bad 
Times : An Essay on the Present Depression of 
Trade, tracing it to its Sources in enormous Foreign 
Loans, excessive War Expenditure, the Increase of 
Speculation and of Millionaires, and the Depopulation 
of the Rural Districts ; with Suggested Remedies." 

This little book was widely noticed, but most of 
the reviewers adverted to the fact that I was an 
advocate of land-nationalization, and therefore that 
my proposed remedies were unsound. But a few were 
more open-minded, and the Newcastle Chronicle 
declared it to be " the weightiest contribution to the 
subject made in recent times." 




Towards the close of the year 1885 I received an 
invitation from the Lowell Institute of Boston, U.S.A., 
to deliver a course of lectures in the autumn and 
winter of 1886. After some consideration I accepted 
this, and began their preparation, taking for my 
subject those portions of the theory of evolution with 
which I was most familiar. At this time I had made 
the acquaintance of the Rev. J. G. Wood, the well- 
known writer of many popular works on natural 
history. He had been twice on lecturing tours to 
America, and gave me some useful information, 
besides recommending an agent he had employed 
and who had arranged lectures for him at various 
schools and colleges. I had already lectured in many 
English towns on the permanence of the great oceans, 
on oceanic and continental islands, and on various 
problems of geographical distribution. To these sub- 
jects I now added one on " The Darwinian Theory," 
illustrated by a set of original diagrams of variation. 
I also wrote three lectures on the " Colours of 
Animals (and Plants)," dwelling especially on pro- 
tective colours, warning colours, and mimicry, and for 
these I had to obtain a series of lantern slides coloured 


from nature, so as to exhibit the most striking 
examples of these curious and beautiful phenomena. 

I left London on October 9 in a rather slow 
steamer, in order to have a cabin to myself at a 
moderate price, and landed at New York on the 
23rd, after a cold and disagreeable passage. 

My tour in America lasted about ten months, and 
extended from New York, Boston, and Washington 
to San Francisco, and back to Montreal and Quebec. 
I visited and lectured at many of the great cities, and 
met many well-known and intellectual people, includ- 
ing amongst others Oliver Wendell Holmes, James 
Russell Lowell, and Edward Waldo Emerson, son 
of the philosopher. I also had the opportunity o " 
seeing some of the finest scenery and most interesting 
objects in North America. 

Whilst in California I once more had the pleasure 
of meeting my brother John and his wife, neither of 
whom I had seen for nearly forty years. 

As American cities have been so frequently 
described, I will here only give an account of a few 
of the interesting sights or natural objects which most 
impressed me, with some remarks on my general 
impression of the country and people. 

The first excursion I made in America was a trip 
up the Hudson River to West Point, passing the 
celebrated " Palisades " — a continuous row of cHfifs 
about two hundred feet high, and extending for 
nearly twenty miles on the south bank of the river. 
They look exactly like a huge fence of enormous 
split trees, placed vertically, side by side, but are 
really basaltic columns like those at the Giant's 
Causeway, crowning a slope of fallen rock. In places 
the well-wooded country was very beautiful, with the 
autumnal tints of bright red, purple, and yellow, 


274 MY LIFE 

though we were a little late to see them in perfection. 
Where we landed, I was delighted to see wild vines 
clambering over the trees, as well as the Virginia 
creeper, and there were also sumachs and other 
characteristic American plants. The situation of the 
great American Military College is splendid, on an 
elevated promontory in a bend of the Hudson, sur- 
rounded by rugged wooded hills, and with magnificent 
views up and down the river. 

In March, 1887, on my way back from Toronto 
(where I had been to lecture) to Washington, I spent 
four days at Niagara, living at the old hotel on the 
Canadian side, in a room that looked out on the great 
fall, and where its continuous musical roar soothed 
me to sleep. It was a hard frost, and the American 
falls had great ice-mounds below them, and ranges 
of gigantic icicles near the margins. At night the 
sound was like that of a strong, steady wind at sea, 
but even more like the roar of the London streets 
heard from the middle of Hyde Park. When in bed 
a constant vibration was felt. I spent my whole time 
wandering about the falls, above and below, on the 
Canadian and the American sides, roaming over Goat 
Island and the Three Sisters Islands far in the rapids 
above the Horse-shoe Fall, which are almost as 
impressive as the fall itself. The small Luna Island 
dividing the American falls was a lovely sight ; the 
arbor-vitae trees {Thuya Americana), with which it is 
covered, young and old, some torn and jagged, but 
all to the smallest twigs coated with glistening ice 
from the frozen spray, looked like groves of gigantic 
tree corals, forming the most magnificent and fairy- 
like scene I have ever beheld. All the islands are 
rocky and picturesque, the trees draped with wild 
vines and Virginia creepers, and afford a sample of 



the original American forest vegetation of very great 
interest. During these four days I was almost 
entirely alone, and was glad to be so, I was never 
tired of the ever-changing aspects of this grand illus- 
tration of natural forces engaged in modelling the 
earth's surface. Usually the centre of the great falls, 
where the depth and force of the water are greatest, 
is hidden by the great column of spray which rises 
to the height of four hundred or five hundred feet ; 
but occasionally the wind drifts it aside, and allows 
the great central gulf of falling water to be seen 
nearly from top to bottom — a most impressive sight. 

Before I left Washington, Judge Hoi man, with 
whose family I sat at meals, took me one morning to 
call upon the President, Mr. Cleveland. The judge 
told him I was going to visit California, and that 
turned the conversation on wine, raisins, etc., which 
did not at all interest me. There was no ceremony 
whatever, but, of course, I had nothing special to say 
to him, and he had nothing special to say to me, the 
result being that we were both rather bored, and glad 
to get it over as soon as we could. I then went to 
see the White House, some of the reception-rooms of 
which were very fine ; but there was a great absence 
of works of art, the only paintings I saw being 
portraits of Washington and his wife. 

Washington itself is a fine and even picturesque city, 
owing to its designer having departed from the rigid 
rectangularity of most American cities by the addition 
of a number of broad diagonal avenues crossing the 
rectangles at different angles, and varying from one 
to four miles long. The broadest of these are one 
hundred and sixty feet wide, planted with two double 
avenues of trees, and with wide grassy spaces between 
the houses and the pavements. Wherever these 

276 ' MY LIFE 

diagonal avenues intersect the principal streets, there 
are quadrangular open spaces forming gardens or 
small parks, planted with shrubs and trees, and with 
numerous seats. 

When I left Washington for Cincinnati I broke my 
journey to visit the caves at Louray, which had been 
discovered about ten years before. I and a few other 
visitors walked through the best parts (which are lit 
up with electric lights) for about two hours, through a 
variety of passages, galleries, and halls, some reaching 
a hundred feet in height, some having streams or 
pools of water, and some chasms of unknown depth, 
such as most limestone caves possess. Everywhere 
there are stalactites of the most varied forms, and 
often of the most wonderful beauty. Usually they 
form pillars as of some strange architecture, sometimes 
they hang down like gigantic icicles, one of these over 
sixty feet long being with its dripping apex only a 
few inches from the floor. In some places the 
stalactites resemble cascades, in others organs, and 
several are like statues, and have received appropriate 
names. Many of them are most curiously ribbed ; 
others, again, have branches growing out of them at 
right angles a few inches long — a most puzzling 
phenomenon. There is a Moorish tent, in which fine 
white drapery hangs in front of a cave, a ballroom 
beautifully ornamented with snow-white stalactitic 
curtains, etc. Some of these, when struck, give out 
musical notes, and a tune can be played on them. 
A photograph of the Moorish tent and the curious 
pillars near it is here reproduced. The curtain is like 
alabaster, and when a lamp is held behind it, the 
effect is most beautiful. In many places there are 
stalagmitic floors, beneath which is clay filled with 
bones of bats, etc., and at one spot human bones are 


\_Toface p. 276. 


embedded in the floor under a chasm opening above. 
The print of an Indian mocassin is also shown petrified 
by the stalagmite. Rats and mice are found with very 
large eyes ; and there are some blind insects and 
centipedes, as in the Mammoth Cave. Several miles 
of caverns and passages have already been explored, 
but other wonders may still be hidden in its deeper 

From Cincinnati I continued my journey west- 
ward, paying short visits to Kansas City, Denver, and 
Salt Lake City, and then on to San Francisco, where 
I met my brother John. 

A few days after my arrival in San Francisco I 
was taken for a drive by a friend, Dr. Gibbons, into 
the foothills to see the remains of the Redwood forest 
that once covered them, but which had all been 
ruthlessly destroyed to supply timber for the city and 
towns around. We wound about among the hills 
and valleys, all perfectly dry, till we reached a 
height of fifteen hundred feet, where many clumps of 
young redwoods were seen, and, stopping at one of 
these, Dr. Gibbons took me inside a circle of young 
trees from twenty to thirty feet high, and showed me 
that they all grew on the outer edge of the huge 
charred trunk of an old tree that had been burnt down. 
This stump was thirty-four feet in diameter, or quite 
as large as the very largest of the more celebrated 
Big Trees, the Sequoia gigantea. The doctor had 
searched all over these hills, and this was the largest 
stump he had found, though there were numbers 
between twenty and thirty feet. The tree derives 
its botanical name, sempervirens (ever-growing) from 
the peculiar habit of producing young trees from the 
burnt or decayed roots of the old trees. These 
enormous trees, being too large to cut down, were 

2/8 MY LIFE 

burnt till sufficiently weakened to fall, and this par- 
ticular tree had been so burnt about forty years 

While staying with my brother in Stockton, Cal., 
I went with him and his daughter to spend a few 
days in the Yosemite Valley. The journey there — 
two hours by rail and two days by coach — was very 
interesting, but often terribly dusty. The first day 
we were driving for nine hours in the foothills, among 
old mining camps with their ruined sheds and 
reservoirs and great gravel-heaps, now being gradually 
overgrown by young pines and shrubs. Here and 
there we passed through bits of forest with tall pines 
and shrubby undergrowth, but generally the country 
was bare of fine trees, scraggy, but burnt up, and the 
roads insufferably dusty. At 9 p.m. we reached 
Priest's (two thousand five hundred feet elevation), 
where we had supper, bed, and breakfast. 

Next day was much more enjoyable. The road 
was wonderfully varied, always going up or down, 
diving into deep wooded valleys with clear and rapid 
streams, then up the slope, winding round spurs, 
crossing ridges, and down again into valleys, but 
always mounting higher and higher. And as we got 
deeper into the sierra, the vegetation continually 
changed, the pines became finer both in form, size, 
and beauty. At about three thousand feet we first 
saw the beautiful Douglas fir, and the cedar {Libocedrtis 
decurrens), both common in our gardens ; then still 
higher there were silver firs and the fine Picea nobilis, 
as well as a few of the Big Trees {Sequoia gigantea), 
the road being cut right through the middle of one of 
these (at about five thousand eight hundred feet). 
From the summit we descended towards the valley, 
and then down a steep zigzag road, with the beautiful 


Bridal Veil Fall opposite, and the grand precipice of 
El Capitan before us, then into the valley itself with 
its rushing river, to the hotel in the dusk. 

As both hotel and excursions were here very- 
costly, we only stayed two clear days, and went one 
"excursion " to the Nevada Fall, the grandest, if not 
the most beautiful, in the valley. My brother and 
niece rode up, but I walked to enjoy the scenery, and 
especially the flowers and ferns and the fine glaciated 
rocks of the higher valley. The rest of my time I 
spent roaming about the valley itself and some of its 
lower precipices, looking after its flowers, and ponder- 
ing over its strange, wild, majestic beauty and the 
mode of its formation. On the latter point I have 
given my views in an article on " Inaccessible Valleys," 
reprinted in my " Studies." The hotel dining-room 
looks out upon the Yosemite Falls, which, seen one 
behind the other, have the appearance of a single 
broken cascade of more than two thousand five 
hundred feet. I walked up about a thousand feet to 
get a nearer view of the upper fall, which, in its ever- 
changing vapour-streams and water-rockets, is won- 
derfully beautiful. To enjoy this valley and its 
surroundings in perfection, a small party should come 
with baggage-mules and tents, as early in the season 
as possible, when the falls are at their grandest and 
the flowers in their spring beauty, and when, by 
camping at different stations in the valley and in the 
mountains and valleys around it, all its wonderful 
scenes of grandeur and beauty could be explored and 
enjoyed. It is one of the regrets of my American 
tour that I was unable to do this. 

On our way back I turned off at the foot of the 
hills to visit the Calaveras Grove of big trees which 
my brother and niece had seen before, and I had to 

28o MY LIFE 

sleep on the way. I stayed three days, examining 
and measuring the trees, collecting flowers, and walk- 
ing one day to the much larger south grove six miles 
off, where there are said to be over a thousand full- 
grown trees. The walk was very interesting, over hill 
and valley, through forest all the way, except one 
small clearing. At a small rocky stream I found the 
large Saxifraga pdtata growing in crevices of rocks 
just under water, and I passed numbers of fine 
examples of all the chief pines, firs, and cypresses. 
At the grove there were numbers of very fine trees, 
but none quite so large as the largest in the Calaveras 
Grove, Many of them have names. "Agassiz" is 
thirty-three feet wide at base, and has an enormous 
hole burnt in it eighteen feet wide and the same 
depth, and extending upwards ninety feet like a large 
cavern; yet the tree is in vigorous growth. The 
Sequoias are here thickly scattered among other pines 
and firs, sometimes singly, sometimes in groups of 
five or six together. There are many twin trees 
growing as a single stem up to twenty or thirty feet, 
and then dividing. But the chief feature of this 
grove is the abundance of trees to be seen in every 
direction, of large or moderate size, and with clean, 
straight stems showing the brilliant orange-brown tint 
and silky or plush-like glossy surface, characteristic 
of the bark of this noble tree when in full health and 
vigorous growth. In no forest that I am acquainted 
with is there any tree with so beautiful a bark or with 
one so thick and elastic. 

In the chapter on " Flowers and Forests of the 
Far West " (in my " Studies "), I have given a 
summary of the chief facts known about these trees, 
with particulars of their dimensions and probable age. 
I need not, therefore, repeat these particulars here. 


But of all the natural wonders I saw in America, 
nothing impressed me so much as these glorious 
trees. As with Niagara, their majesty grows upon 
one by living among them. The forests of which 
they form a part contain a number of the finest coni- 
fers in the world — trees that in Europe or in any 
other Northern forest would take the very first rank. 
These grand pines are often from two hundred to two 
hundred and fifty feet high, and seven or eight feet in 
diameter at five feet above the ground, where they 
spread out to about ten feet. Looked at alone, these, 
are noble trees, and there is every gradation of size 
up to these. But the Sequoias take a sudden leap, 
the average full-grown trees being twice this diameter, 
and the largest three times the diameter of these 
largest pines ; so that when they were first found the 
accounts of the discoveries were disbelieved. My 
brother told me an interesting story of this discovery. 
The early miners used to keep a hunter in each camp 
to procure game for them, venison, and especially 
bear's meat, being highly esteemed. These men used 
to search the forests for ten or twenty miles round 
the camps while hunting. The hunter of the highest 
camp on the Stanislaus river came home one evening, 
and after supper told them of a big tree he had 
found that beat all he had ever seen before. It had 
three times as big a trunk as any tree within ten 
miles round. Of course they all laughed at him, told 
him they were not fools : they knew what trees were 
as well as he did ; and so on. Then he offered to 
show it them, but none would go ; they would not 
tramp ten or twelve miles to be made fools of. So 
the hunter had to bide his time. A week or two 
afterwards he came home one Saturday night with a 
small bag of game ; but he excused himself by saying 

282 MY LIFE 

that he had got the finest and fattest bear he had 
ever killed, and as next day was Sunday he thought 
that six or eight of them would come with him and 
bring the meat home. 

The next morning a large party started early, and 
after a long walk the hunter brought them suddenly 
up to the big tree, and, clapping his hand on it, said, 
" Here's my fat bear. When I called it a tree, you 
wouldn't believe me. Who's the fool now ? " This 
was the great pavilion tree of the Calaveras Grove, 
twenty-six feet in diameter at five feet from the 
ground — over eighty feet in circumference, so that it 
would require fourteen tall men with arms out- 
stretched to go round it. This tree was afterwards 
cut down by boring into the trunk at six feet from the 
ground with long pump-augers from each side, so as 
to meet in the centre. The first fourteen feet was 
then cut into sections, and one supplied to each of 
the older States. The rest remains as it fell, and can 
be walked on to a distance of about two hundred and 
ten feet from the stump, and here it is still six feet in 
diameter. To examine this wonderful wreck of the 
grandest tree then living on our globe is most 
impressive. The rings on the stump of this tree have 
been very carefully counted by Professor Bradley, of 
the University of California, and were found to be 
1240, which no doubt gives the age of the tree very 
accurately, as the winters are here severe, and the 
season of growth very well marked. 

On my return journey I crossed the Rocky 
Mountains by the Denver and Rio Grande Railway, 
passing- through some of the wildest and most 
magnificent country. In places there were precipices 
about a thousand feet high, side canons like narrow 
slits or winding majestic ravines, often with vertical 


walls, and the river roaring and raging in a tumultuous 
flood close alongside of us. 

I broke my journey at Denver, where I made an 
excursion to Gray's Peak, one of the highest in the 
range. I also paid a visit to the celebrated " Garden 
of the Gods" with its fantastic weather-worn and 
brilliantly coloured rocks. 

I next went on to Chicago, where I spent only a 
few hours while waiting for my train to Montreal and 
Quebec whence I set sail for England. 

Before closing this brief account of my tour in 
America, it may be interesting to record my general 
impressions as to the country and people. In my 
journal I find this note : " During more than ten 
months in America, taking every opportunity of 
exploring woods and forests, plains and mountains, 
deserts and gardens, between the Atlantic and 
Pacific coasts, and extending over ten degrees of 
latitude, I never once saw either a humming-bird or a 
rattlesnake, or even any living snake of any kind. In 
many places I was told that humming-birds were 
usually common in their gardens, but they hadn't 
seen any this year ! This was my luck. And as to 
the rattlesnakes, I was always on the look out in 
likely places, and there are plenty still, but they are 
local. I was told of a considerable tract of land not far 
from Niagara which is so infested with them that it 
is absolutely useless. The reason is that it is very 
rocky, with so many large masses lying about over- 
grown with shrubs and briars as to afford them 
unlimited hiding-places, and the labour of thoroughly 
clearing it would be more costly than the land would 
be worth." 

The general impression left upon my mind as to 1 
the country itself is the almost total absence of that 

284 MY LIFE 

simple rural beauty which has resulted, in our own 
country and in some other parts of Europe, from the 
very gradual occupation of the land as it was required 
to supply food for the inhabitants, together with our 
mild winters allowing of continuous cultivation, and 
the use in building of local materials adapted to the 
purposes required by handwork, instead of those 
fashioned by machinery. This slow development of 
agriculture and of settlement has produced almost 
every feature which renders our country picturesque 
or beautiful : the narrow winding lanes, following the 
contours of the ground ; the ever-varying size of the 
enclosures, and their naturally curved boundaries ; 
the ditch and bank and the surmounting hedgerow, 
with its rows of elm, ash or oak, giving variety and 
sylvan beauty to the surroundings of almost every 
village or hamlet, most of which go back to Saxon 
times ; the farms or cottages built of brick, or stone, 
or clay, or of rude but strong oak framework filled in 
with clay or lath and roughcast, and with thatched or 
tiled roofs, varying according to the natural conditions, 
and in all showing the slight curves and irregularities 
due to the materials used and the hand of the 
worker ; — the whole, worn and coloured by age and 
surrounded by nature's grandest adornment of self- 
sown trees in hedgerow or pasture, combine together 
to produce that charming and indescribable effect we 
term picturesque. And when we add to these the 
numerous footpaths which enable us to escape the 
dust of high-roads and to enjoy the glory of wild 
flowers which the innumerable hedgerows and moist 
ditches have preserved for us, the breezy downs, the 
gorse-clad commons and the heath-clad moors still 
unenclosed, we are, in some favoured districts at least, 
still able thoroughly to enjoy all the varied aspects of 


beauty which our country affords us, but which are, 
alas ! under the combined influences of capitalism and 
landlordism, fast disappearing. 

But in America, except in a few parts of the north- 
eastern States, none of these favourable conditions 
have prevailed. Over by far the greater part of the 
country there has been no natural development of 
lanes and tracks and roads as they were needed for 
communication between villages and towns that had 
grown up in places best adapted for early settlement ; 
but the whole country has been marked out into 
sections and quarter-sections (of a mile, and a quarter 
of a mile square), with a right of way of a certain 
width along each section-line to give access to every 
quarter-section of one hundred and sixty acres, to one 
of which, under the homestead law, every citizen had, 
or was supposed to have, a right of cultivation and 
possession. Hence, in all the newer States there are 
no roads or paths whatever beyond the limits of the 
townships, and the only lines of communication for 
foot or horsemen or vehicles of any kind are along 
these rectangular section-lines, often going up and 
down hill, over bog or stream, and almost always 
compelling the traveller to go a much greater distance 
than the form of the surface rendered necessary. 

Then again, owing to the necessity for rapidly and 
securely fencing in these quarter-sections, and to the 
fact that the greater part of the States first settled were 
largely forest-clad, it became the custom to build 
rough, strong fences of split-trees, which utilized the 
timber as it was cut and involved no expenditure of 
cash by the settler. To avoid the labour of putting 
posts in the ground the fence was at first usually 
built of rails or logs laid zigzag on each other to the 
height required, so as to be self-supporting, the upper 

286 MY LIFE 

pairs only being fastened together by a spike through 
them, the waste of material in such a fence being 
compensated by the reduction of the labour, since the 
timber itself was often looked upon as a nuisance to 
be got rid of before cultivation was possible. This 
fact of timber being in the way of cultivation and of 
no use till cut down, led to the very general clearing 
away of all the trees from about the house, so that it is 
a comparatively rare thing, except in the eastern 
towns and villages, to find any old trees that have 
been left standing for shade or for beauty. 

For these and for similar causes acting through 
the greater part of North America, there results a 
monotonous and unnatural ruggedness, a want of 
harmony between man and nature, the absence of all 
those softening effects of human labour and human 
occupation carried on for generation after generation 
in the same simple way, and in its slow and gradual 
utilization of natural forces allowing the renovating 
agency of vegetable and animal life to conceal all 
harshness of colour or form, and clothe the whole 
landscape in a garment of perennial beauty. 

Over the larger part of America everything is raw 
and bare and ugly, with the same kind of ugliness 
with which we also are defacing our land and destroy- 
ing its rural beauty. The ugliness of new rows of 
cottages built to let to the poor, the ugliness of the 
mean streets of our towns, the ugliness of our " black 
countries " and our polluted streams. Both countries 
are creating ugliness, both are destroying beauty ; but 
in America it is done on a larger scale and with a 
more hideous monotony. The more refined among 
the Americans see this themselves as clearly as we 
see it. One of them has said, "A whole huge con- 
tinent has been so touched by human hands that, 


over a large part of its surface it has been reduced 
to a state of unkempt, sordid ugliness ; and it can 
be brought back into a state of beauty only by 
further touches of the same hands more intelligently 
applied." ^ 

Turning now from the land to the people, what 
can we say of our American cousins as a race and as 
a nation ? The great thing to keep in mind is, that 
they are, largely and primarily, of the same blood and 
of the same nature as ourselves, with characters and 
habits formed in part by the evil traditions inherited 
from us, in part by the influence of the new environ- 
ment to which they have been exposed. Just as we 
owe our good and bad qualities to the intermixture and 
struggle of somewhat dissimilar peoples, so do they. 
Briton and Roman, Saxon and Dane, Norsemen and 
Norman-French, Scotch and Irish Celts — all have 
intermingled in various proportions, and helped to 
create that energetic amalgam known the world over 
as Englishmen. So North America has been largely 
settled by the English, partly by Dutch, French, 
and Spanish, whose territories were soon absorbed 
by conquest or purchase ; while, during the last 
century, a continuous stream of immigrants — Ger- 
mans, Irish, Highland and Lowland Scotch, Scandi- 
navians, Italians, Russians — has flowed in, and is 
slowly but surely becoming amalgamated into one 
great Anglo-American people. 

Most of the evil influences under which the 
United States have grown to their present condition 
of leaders in civilization, and a great power among 
the nations of the world, they received from us. We 
gave them the example of religious intolerance and 

» The Century, June, 1887. 

288 MY LIFE 

priestly rule, which they have now happily thrown off 
more completely than we have done. We gave them 
slavery, both white and black — a curse from the effects 
of which they still suffer, and out of which a wholly 
satisfactory escape seems as remote as ever. But 
even more insidious and more widespread in its evil 
results than both of these, we gave them our bad and 
iniquitous feudal land system ; first by enormous 
grants from the Crown to individuals or to com- 
panies, but also — what has produced even worse 
effects — the ingrained belief that land — the first 
essential of life, the source of all things necessary 
or useful to mankind, by labour upon which all wealth 
arises — may yet, justly and equitably, be owned by 
individuals, be monopolized by capitalists or by 
companies, leaving the great bulk of the people as 
absolutely dependent on these monopolists for per- 
mission to work and to live as ever were the negro 
slaves of the South before emancipation. 

The result of acting upon this false conception is, 
that the Government has already parted with the 
whole of the accessible and cultivable land, and 
though large areas still remain for any citizen who 
will settle upon it, by the mere payment of very 
moderate fees, this privilege is absolutely worthless 
to those who most want it — the very poor. And 
throughout the western half of the Union one sees 
everywhere the strange anomaly of building lots in 
small remote towns, surrounded by thousands of 
uncultivated acres (and perhaps ten years before sold 
for eight or ten shillings an acre), now selling at the 
rate of from ;^iooo to ;^20,ooo an acre ! It is not an 
uncommon thing for town lots in new places to double 
their value in a month, while a fourfold increase in a 
year is quite common. Hence land speculation has 


become a vast organized business over all the Western 
States, and is considered to be a proper and natural 
mode of getting rich. It is what the Stock Exchange 
is to the great cities. And this wealth, thus gained by 
individuals, initiates that process which culminates in 
railroad and mining kings, in oil and beef trusts, and 
in the thousand millionaires and multi-millionaires 
whose vast accumulated incomes are, every penny of 
them, paid by the toiling workers, including the five 
million of farmers whose lives of constan toil only 
result for the most part in a bare livelihood, while the 
railroad magnates and corn speculators absorb the 
larger portion of the produce of their labour. 

What a terrible object-lesson is this as to the 
fundamental wrong in modern societies which leads 
to such a result ! Here is a country more than 
twenty-five times the area of the British Islands, 
with a vast extent of fertile soil, grand navigable 
waterways, enormous forests, a superabounding 
wealth of minerals — everything necessary for the 
support of a population twenty-five times that of 
ours — about fifteen hundred millions — which has yet, 
in little more than a century, destroyed nearly all 
its forests, is rapidly exhausting its marvellous 
stores of natural oil and gas, as well as those of the 
precious metals ; and as the result of all this reck- 
less exploiting of nature's accumulated treasures 
has brought about overcrowded cities reeking with 
disease and vice, and a population which, though 
only one-half greater than our own, exhibits all the 
pitiable phenomena of women and children working 
long hours in factories and workshops, garrets and 
cellars, for a wage which will not give them the 
essentials of mere healthy animal existence ; while 
about the same proportion of its workers, as with 


290 MY LIFE 

us, endure lives of excessive labour for a bare 
livelihood, or constitute that crying disgrace of 
modern civilization — willing men seeking in vain for 
honest work, and forming a great army of the 

What a demonstration is this of the utter folly 
and stupidity of those blind leaders of the blind who 
impute all the evils of our social system, all our 
poverty and starvation, to over-population ! Ireland, 
with half the population of fifty years ago, is still 
poor to the verge of famine, and is therefore still 
over-peopled. And for England and Scotland as 
well, the cry is still " Emigrate ! emigrate ! We are 
over-peopled ! " But what of America, with twenty- 
five times as much land as we have, and with even 
greater natural resources, and with a population 
even more ingenious, more energetic, and more 
hard-working than ours } Are they over-populated 
with only twenty people to the square mile ? There 
is only one rational solution of this terrible problem. 
The system that allows the land and the minerals, 
the means of communication, and all other public 
services, to be monopolized for the aggrandisement of 
the few — for the creation of millionaires — necessarily 
leads to the poverty, the degradation, the misery of 
the many. 

There never has been, in the whole history of the 
human race, a people with such grand opportunities 
for establishing a society and a nation in which the 
products of the general labour should be so dis- 
tributed as to produce general well-being. It wanted 
but a recognition of the fundamental principle of 
"equality of opportunity," tacitly implied in the 
Declaration of Independence. It wanted but such 
social arrangements as would ensure to every child 


the best nurture, the best training of all its faculties, 
and the fullest opportunity for utilizing those faculties 
for its own happiness and for the common benefit. 
Not only equality before the law, but equality of 
opportunity, is the great fundamental principle of 
social justice. This is the teaching of Herbert 
Spencer, but he did not carry it out to its logical 
consequence — the inequity, and therefore the social 
immorality of wealth-inheritance. To secure equality 
of opportunity there must be no inequality of initial 
wealth. To allow one child to be born a millionaire 
and another a pauper is a crime against humanity, 
and, for those who believe in a deity, a crime against 

It is the misfortune of the Americans that they 
had such a vast continent to occupy. Had it ended at 
the line of the Mississippi, agricultural development 
might have gone on more slowly and naturally, from 
east to west, as increase of population required. So 
again, if they had had another century for development 
before railways were invented, expansion would neces- 
sarily have gone on more slowly, the need for good 
roads would have shown that the rectangular system 
of dividing up new lands was a mistake, and some of 
that charm of rural scenery which we possess would 
probably have arisen. 

But with the conditions that actually existed we 
can hardly wonder at the result. A nation formed 
by emigrants from several of the most energetic and 
intellectual nations of the old world, for the most 
part driven from their homes by religious persecution 
or political oppression, including from the very first all 
ranks and conditions of life — farmers and mechanics, 
traders and manufacturers, students and teachers, 

1 I have discussed this subject in my " Studies," vol. ii. chap, xxviii. 

292 MY LIFE 

rich and poor — the very circumstances which drove 
them to emigrate led to a natural selection of the most 
energetic, the most independent, in many respects the 
best of their several nations. Such a people, further 
tried and hardened by two centuries of struggle 
against the forces of nature and a savage population, 
and finally by a war of emancipation from the tyranny 
of the mother country, would almost necessarily 
develop both the virtues, the prejudices, and even the 
vices of the parent stock in an exceptionally high 
degree. Hence, when the march of invention and of 
science (to which they contributed their share) gave 
them the steamship and the railroad ; when California 
gave them gold and Nevada silver, with the prospect 
of wealth to the lucky beyond the dreams of avarice ; 
when the great prairies of the West gave them illimit- 
able acres of marvellously fertile soil ; — it is not 
surprising that these conditions with such a people 
should have resulted in that mad race for wealth in 
which they have beaten the record, and have pro- 
duced a greater number of multi-millionaires than 
all the rest of the world combined, with the disastrous 
results already briefly indicated. 

But this is only one side of the American cha- 
racter. Everywhere there are indications of a deep 
love of nature, a devotion to science and to literature 
fully proportionate to that of the older countries ; 
while in inventiveness and in the applications of 
science to human needs they have long been in the 
first rank. But what is more important, there is also 
rapidly developing among them a full recognition of 
the failings of our common social system, and a deter- 
mination to remedy it. As in Germany, in France, 
and in England, the socialists are becoming a power 
in America. They already influence public opinion. 


and will soon influence the legislatures. The glaring 
fact is now being widely recognized that with them, 
as with all the old nations of Europe, an increase in 
wealth and in command over the powers of nature 
such as the world has never before seen, has not 
added to the true well-being of any part of society. 
It is also indisputable that, as regards the enormous 
masses of the labouring and industrial population, it 
has greatly increased the numbers of those whose 
lives are "below the margin of poverty," while, as 
John Stuart Mill declared many years ago, it has not 
reduced the labour of any human being. 

An American (Mr. Bellamy) gave us the books 
that first opened the eyes of great numbers of 
educated readers to the practicability, the simplicity, 
and the beauty of Socialism. It is to America that 
the world looks to lead the way towards a just and 
peaceful modification of the social organism, based 
upon a recognition of the principle of Equality of 
Opportunity, and by means of the Organization of 
the Labour of all for the Equal Good of all. 



After my return from America in August, 1887, the 
remainder of the year was occupied at home in 
overtaking my correspondence, looking after my 
garden, and making up for lost time in scientific and 
literary reading, and in considering what work I 
should next occupy myself with. Many of my corre- 
spondents, as well as persons I met in America, told 
me that they could not understand Darwin's " Origin 
of Species," but they did understand my lecture 
on " Darwinism " ; and it therefore occurred to me 
that a popular exposition of the subject might be 
useful, not only as enabling the general reader to 
understand Darwin, but also to serve as an answer 
to the many articles and books professing to disprove 
the theory of natural selection. During the whole of 
the year 1888 I was engaged in writing this book, 
which, though largely following the lines of Darwin's 
work, contained a great many new features, and 
dealt especially with those parts of the subject which 
had been most generally misunderstood. 

The spring of 1889 was occupied in passing it 
through the press, and it was published in May, while 
a few corrections were made for a second edition in 
the following October. During this time, however, 


I gave several of my American lectures in various 
parts of the country — at Newcastle and Darlington in 
the spring of 1888 ; in the autumn at Altrincham and 
Darwen ; and in 1889 at Newcastle, York, Darlington, 
and Liverpool. 

In the autumn of this year the University of 
Oxford did me the honour of giving me the 
honorary degree of D.C.L., which I went to receive 
in November, when I enjoyed the hospitality of my 
friend Professor E. B. Poulton. 

While residing at Godalming, I made the acquain- 
tance of William Allingham and his wife — the poet 
and the artist — who then lived at Witley — I think it 
was about the year 1886 or 1887. Mr. Allingham 
told me that Tennyson wished to see me, and would 
be glad if I would come some day and lunch with 
him. A day was fixed, and I accompanied Mr. 
Allingham to the beautifully situated house on Black- 
down, near Haslemere, where the poet lived during 
the summer. Lord Tennyson did not appear till 
luncheon was on the table, but in the mean time we 
had seen Lady Tennyson and her son and daughter- 
in-law, and been shown round the grounds. After 
luncheon we four men retired to the study, with 
its three great windows looking south-east over the 
grand expanse of the finely wooded Weald. Here 
Tennyson lit his pipe, and we sat round the fire and 
soon got on the subject of spiritualism, which was 
evidently what he had wished to talk to me about. I 
told him some of my experiences, and replied to 
some of his difficulties — the usual difficulties of those 
who, though inclined to believe, have seen nothing, 
and find the phenomena as described so different 
from what they think they ought to be. He was 
evidently greatly impressed by the evidence, and 

296 MY LIFE 

wished to see something. I gave him the names of 
one or two mediums whom I believed to be quite 
trustworthy, but whether he ever had any sittings 
with them I did not hear. 

Then we talked a little about the tropics and of 
the scenery of the Eastern islands ; and, taking down 
a volume he read, in his fine, deep, chanting voice, 
his description of Enoch Arden's island — 

" The mountain wooded to the peak, the lawns 
And winding glades high up like ways to heaven, 
The slender coco's drooping crown of plumes, 
The lightning flash of insect or of bird, 
The lustre of the long convolvuluses 
That coiled around the stately stems, and ran 
Ev'n to the limit of the land, the glows 
And glories of the broad belt of the world, — 
All these he saw ; but what he fain had seen 
He could not see, the kindly human face, 
Nor ever hear a kindly voice, but heard 
The myriad shriek of wheeling ocean fowl. 
The league-long roller thundering on the beach. 
The moving whisper of huge trees that branch'd 
And blossom'd to the zenith, or the sweep 
Of some precipitous rivulet to the wave. 
As down the shore he ranged, or all day long 
Sat often in the seaward-gazing gorge, 
A shipwreck'd sailor waiting for a sail : 
No sail from day to day, but every day 
The sunrise broken into scarlet shafts 
Among the palms and ferns and precipices ; 
The blaze upon the waters to the east ; 
The blaze upon his island overhead ; 
The blaze upon the waters to the west ; 
Then the great stars that globed themselves in heaven. 
The hoUower-bellowing ocean, and again 
The scarlet shafts of sunrise — but no sail." 

Then he closed the book and asked me if that 
description was in any way untrue to nature. I told 
him that so far as I knew from the islands I had seen 
on the western borders of the Pacific, it gave a 
strikingly true general description of the vegetation 


and the aspects of nature among those islands, at 
which he seemed pleased. Of course, it avoids much 
detail, but the amount of detail it gives is correct, and 
it is just about as much as a rather superior sailor 
would observe and remember. 

We then bade him good-bye, went downstairs 
and had tea with the ladies, and walked back to 
Haslemere station. I was much pleased to have met 
and had friendly converse with the most thoughtful, 
refined, broad-minded, and harmonious of our poets 
of the nineteenth century. 

Finding my house at Godalming in an unsatis- 
factory situation, with a view almost confined to the 
small garden, the south sun shut off by a house and 
by several oak trees, while exposed to north and east 
winds, and wishing for a generally milder climate, I 
spent some weeks in exploring the country between 
Godalming and Portsmouth, and then westward to 
Bournemouth and Poole. We were directed by some 
friends to Parkstone as a very pretty and sheltered 
place, and here we found a small house to be let, 
which suited us tolerably well, with the option of 
purchase at a moderate price. The place attracted 
us because we saw abundance of great bushes of the 
evergreen purple veronicas, which must have been a 
dozen or twenty years old, and also large specimens 
of eucalyptus ; while we were told that there had been 
no skating there for twenty years. We accordingly 
took the house, and purchased it in the following 
year; and by adding later a new kitchen and bed- 
room, and enlarging the drawing-room, converted it 
from a cramped, though very pretty cottage, into a 
convenient, though still small house. The garden on 
the south side was in a hollow on the level of the 
basement, while on the north it was from ten to 

298 MY LIFE 

thirty feet higher, there being on the east a high 
bank, with oak trees and pines, producing a very 
pretty effect. This bank, as well as the lower part 
of the garden, was peat or peaty sand, and as I knew 
this was good for rhododendrons and heaths, I was 
much pleased to be able to grow these plants. I did 
not then know, however, that this peaty soil was quite 
unsuited to a great many other plants, and only learnt 
this by the long experience which every gardener has 
to go through. 

It was in the early part of my residence at Park- 
stone that I received a visit from the great French 
Geographer, Elisee Reclus, who had, I think, come to 
England to receive the gold medal of the Royal 
Geographical Society. He was a rather small and 
very delicate-looking man, highly intellectual, but very 
quiet in speech and manner. I really did not know 
that it was he with whose name I had been familiar 
for twenty years as the greatest of geographers, think- 
ing it must have been his father or elder brother; and I 
was surprised when, on asking him, he said that it was 
himself. However, we did not talk of geography during 
the afternoon we spent together, but of Anarchism, of 
which he was one of the most convinced advocates, and 
I was very anxious to ascertain his exact views, which 
I found were really not very different from my own. 
We agreed that almost all social evils — all poverty, 
misery, and crime — were the creation of governments 
and of bad social systems ; and that under a law of 
absolute justice, involving equality of opportunity and 
the best training for all, each local community would 
organize itself for mutual aid, and no great central 
governments would be needed, except as they grew 
up from the voluntary association of their parts for 
general and national purposes. 


During the first half of my residence at Parkstone 
(1889-96), I did not write any new books, having, as 
I thought, said all that I had to say on the great 
subjects that chiefly interested me ; but I contributed 
a number of articles to reviews, wrote many notices of 
books, with letters to Nature on various matters of 
scientific interest. A short account of the more 
important of these will show that I was not altogether 
inactive as regards literary work. 

In the spring of 1890 I lectured at Sheffield and 
at Liverpool, and have since declined all invitations 
to lecture, partly from disinclination and considerations 
of health, but also because I believed that I could do 
more good with my pen than with my voice. During 
the year I prepared a new edition of my " Malay 
Archipelago," bringing the parts dealing with natural 
history up to date. 

In the same year I contributed to the Fortnightly 
Review an article on " Human Selection," which is, I 
consider, though very short, the most important con- 
tribution I have made to the science of sociology and 
the cause of human progress. The article v/as written 
with two objects in view. The first and most im- 
portant was to show that the various proposals of 
Grant Allen, Mr. Francis Galton, and some American 
writers, to attempt the direct improvement of the 
human race by forms of artificial elimination and 
selection, are both unscientific and unnecessary ; I 
also wished to show that the great bugbear of the 
opponents of social reform — too rapid increase of 
population — is entirely imaginary, and that the very 
same agencies which, under improved social con- 
ditions, will bring about a real and effective selection 
of the physically, mentally, and morally best, will also 
tend towards a diminution of the rate of increase of 

300 MY LIFE 

the population. The facts and arguments I adduce 
are, I believe, conclusive against the two classes of 
writers here referred to. 

A year later I contributed a paper to the Boston 
Arena, dealing more especially with the laws of 
heredity and the influence of education as determin- 
ing human progress, showing that such progress is at 
present very slow, and is due almost entirely to one 
mode of action of natural selection, which still elimi- 
nates some of the most unfit. And I pointed out that 
a more real and effective progress will only be made 
when the social environment is so greatly improved 
as to give to women a real choice in marriage, and 
thus lead both to the more rapid elimination of the 
lower, and more rapid increase of the higher types of 

Other articles were, " A Representative House of 
Lords," in the Contemporary Review (June), and "A 
Suggestion to Sabbath-Keepers," in the Nineteenth 
Centtiry (October), both which articles attracted notice 
in the Press. I also wrote a paper criticizing the Rev. 
George Henslow's view as to the origin of irregular 
flowers, and of spines and prickles, in Natural Science 
(September), the three articles being included in my 
" Studies." I also reviewed James Hutchinson 
Stirling's " Darwinianism " in Nat2cre (February 8), 
and Mr. Benjamin Kidd's " Social Evolution " in the 
same paper (April 12), as well as an anonymous 
volume, entitled "Nature's Method in the Evolution 
of Life," by a writer who suggests vague theories, less 
intelligible even than those of Lucretius, as a substitute 
for the luminous work of Darwin. 

In the next year (1895) I wrote an important 
article on " The Method of Organic Evolution " 
{Fortnightly Review, February-March), which was 


chiefly devoted to showing that the views of Mr. 
Francis Galton, and of Mr. Bateson in his book on 
" Discontinuous Variations," are erroneous ; and that 
such variations, which are usually termed "sports," 
and in extreme cases " monstrosities," do not indicate 
the method of evolution. 

Another article (in the October issue of the same 
Review) on " The Expressiveness of Speech " develops 
a new principle in the origin of language, and brought 
me a holograph (and partly unintelligible) letter from 
Mr. Gladstone, expressing his concurrence with it 

In July, 1895, I went with my friend and father-in- 
law Mr. William Mitten, for a short botanizing tour in 
Switzerland. We walked a good deal of the time, 
and I thus had a further opportunity of examining 
glacial phenomena. We went to Lucerne, whence 
we ascended the Stanzerhorn by the electric railway, 
and found a very interesting flora on the summit. 
Then to the head of the lake, and to Gceschenen, 
whence we walked to Andermatt ; then over the 
Furca pass to the Rhone glacier, staying two days 
at the hotel ; then over the Grimsel pass, where we 
greatly enjoyed both the flowers and the wonderful 
indications of glacial action, especially on the slope 
down to and around the Hotel Grimsel, where we 
stayed the night. The valley down to Meiringen was 
excessively interesting, being ice-worn everywhere. 
We stayed an hour at the fine Handeck cascade, and 
then, with the help of a chaise, into which two ladies 
hospitably received us, got on to Meiringen. Here 
we stayed two days, exploring the gorge of the Aar 
and the wonderful rock-barrier of the Kirchet, visited 
the Reichenbach falls, and had an excursion to Brunig, 
where, in some hilly beech woods, we were greatly 
pleased to find the beautiful CephalantJiere rubra in 

302 MY LIFE 

fair numbers and in full flower. We then went on 
to Lauterbrunnen and the Wengern Alp, where we 
stayed two days, botanizing chiefly among the woods 
and slopes near the Trummelthel. We were, however, 
so dreadfully persecuted by swarms of blood-sucking 
flies, which filled the air and covered us in thousands, 
piercing through our thin clothing, that we returned 
home some days earlier than we had intended. 

In 1896 I wrote an article on " The Gorge of the 
Aar and its Teachings," as serving to enforce my 
papers on the " Ice Age and its Work" three years 
before. But my most important scientific essay this 
year was a paper I read to the Linnaean Society on 
"The Problem of Utility." My purpose was to en- 
force the view that all specific and generic characters 
must be (or once have been) useful to their possessor, 
or, owing to the complex laws of growth, be correlated 
with useful characters. It was necessary to discuss 
this point, because Mr. Romanes had unreservedly 
denied it, and Professor Mivart, the Rev. Mr. Henslow, 
Mr. Bateson, and others, had taken the same view. I 
endeavoured to show that the problem is a funda- 
mental one, that utility is the basic principle of 
natural selection, and that without natural selection 
it has not been shown how specific characters can 
arise. By specific is, of course, meant characters 
which, either separately or in combination, distinguish 
each species from all others, and which are found in 
all, or in the great bulk, of the individuals composing 
the species ; and I have shown that it is for want of 
clear thinking and accurate reasoning on the entire 
process of species formation that the idea of useless 
specific characters has arisen (see " Studies," vol. i.). 

During this summer I was invited by Dr. H. S. 
Lunn to go with him and his party to Davos for a 


week, early in September, and to give them a lecture 
on Scientific Progress in the Nineteenth Century. 
As I had never been in this part of Switzerland, I 
accepted the invitation, and had a very pleasant time. 
My companion on the first part of the journey was 
Mr. Le Gallienne, and at Basle we were joined by 
Dr. and Mrs. Lunn and others. At Davos we were 
a large party in one of the best hotels, and our special 
party, who sat together at meals, included the Rev. 
Hugh Price Hughes and the Rev. H. R. Haweis, 
both talented and witty men, whose presence was 
enough to render almost any party a brilliant success. 
Mr. Price Hughes, was, I think, without exception, 
the most witty man and one of the best companions 
I ever met. At breakfast and dinner he was espe- 
cially amusing and brilliant, ranging from pure 
chaff with his old friend Dr. Lunn to genial wit and 
admirably narrated anecdotes. He often literally 
kept the table in a roar of laughter. But this was 
only one side of his character. He was a Christian 
and a humanitarian in the best sense of the words. I 
saw a good deal of him in private, and we often 
walked out together, at which times we discussed the 
more serious social problems of the day ; and he 
gave me details of his rescue work in London which 
were in the highest degree instructive, showing that 
even those who are considered to be the most de- 
graded and irreclaimable can be reached through 
their affections. Their degradation has usually been 
brought about by society, and has been intensified 
into hate and despair by the utterly unsympa- 
thetic and cruel treatment of our workhouses and 

Dr. Lunn arranged for his party some amusement 
for several evenings in each week, either a concert, 

304 MY LIFE 

lecture, or conversazione. Mr. Le Gallienne gave a 
very interesting lecture on "English Minor Poets," 
reading selections from their works to illustrate their 

My own lecture was mainly devoted to a sketch 
of the chief great advances of science during the 
century, but I added to it a kind of set-off in dis- 
coveries which had been rejected and errors which 
had been upheld, referring to phrenology as one of 
the first class, and vaccination as one of the second. 
There were, of course, in such a place as Davos, many 
doctors among the audience, and they signified their 
disapproval in the usual way ; but I assured them 
that some of them would certainly live to see the 
time when the whole medical profession would 
acknowledge vaccination to be a great delusion. 

Although Davos has no grand alpine scenery 
immediately around it, there are many delightful 
walks through woods full of flowers and ferns, alpine 
meadows with gentians and primulas, and stony 
passes from which the snow had just retreated. On 
the Strela pass, about eight thousand feet, I found 
some charming little alpines I had not seen before, 
among them the very dwarf Viola alpina, growing 
among stones, the leaves hardly visible and the com- 
paratively large flat flowers of a very deep blue-purple, 
with a large orange-yellow eye. 

On leaving Davos, I made my way across to 
Adelboden, where my wife and daughter, with some 
friends, were staying. This is surrounded with fine 
alpine peaks and snow-fields, and though the weather 
was unsettled we spent a pleasant week here — 
probably the last visit I shall make to ever-delightful 
Switzerland — the sanatorium and alpine garden of 
overworked Encrlishmen. 


From this time onwards I did not write many 
articles or reviews, the more important being " The 
Problem of Instinct," in 1897, in which I gave an 
attempted solution of bird migration, though the 
article was really a review of Professor Lloyd- 
Morgan's " Habit and Instinct ; " an article on the 
question whether "White Men can work in the 
Tropics," which most English writers declare to be 
impossible without thinking it necessary to adduce 
evidence, but which, I affirm, is proved by experience 
to be quite easy. Both these are reprinted in my 
" Studies," as is also a short essay on " The Causes 
of War and the Remedies," written for V Humanity 
Noiivelle. I also wrote letters to the Daily Chronicle 
on America, Cuba, and the Philippines ; and a pro- 
test against the Transvaal War in the Manchester 

In the year 1900 I wrote an article for the New 
York Journal on " Social Evolution in the Twentieth 
Century — An Anticipation," for which I received a 
very complimentary letter from the editor. During 
the next two years I was engaged in preparing new 
editions of my books on " Darwinism " and " Island 
Life," and I also wrote several letters on political and 
social subjects, such as an "Appreciation of the Past 
Century " (in 1901, in the Morning Leader), and (in 
1903) an article on "Anticipations and Hopes for the 
Immediate Future," which was written for a German 
paper (the Berliner Local Anzeiger), but which was 
too plain-spoken for the editor to publish, and which 
I accordingly sent to the Clarion. 

In 1904 I wrote a short letter on the " Inefficiency 
of Strikes " for the Labour Annual, and a rather long 
one to the Clarion, suggesting a policy for socialists 
in opposition to continued military expenditure as 


3o6 MY LIFE 

advocated by Robert Blatchford ; but this was, I fear, 
too much advanced even for the readers of this very- 
advanced paper, since no one came forward in my 
support. I feel sure, however, that there are many 
who, when it is clearly put before them, will approve 
of the policy I have sketched out, since it is merely 
one of justice and consideration for nations as well as 
for individuals — of adopting the same rules of right 
and wrong in the one case as in the other. 

About the year 1899 our house at Parkstone 
became no longer suitable owing to the fact that 
building had been going on all around us and what 
had been open country when we came there had 
become streets of villas, and in every direction we 
had to walk a mile or more to get into any open 
country. I therefore began to search about various 
parts of the southern counties for a suitable house, 
and after almost giving up the attempt in despair, we 
accidentally found a spot within four miles of our 
Parkstone home and about half a mile from a station, 
with such a charming distant view and pleasant 
surroundings that we determined, if we could get two 
or three acres at a moderate price, to build a small 
house upon it. 

After a rather long negotiation I obtained three 
acres of land, partly wood, at the end of the year 
1901 ; sold my cottage at Godalming at a fair price, 
began at once making a new garden and shrubbery, 
decided on plans, and began building early in the 
new year. The main charm of the site was a small 
neglected orchard with old much-gnarled apple, pear, 
and plum trees, in a little grassy hollow sloping to 
the south-east, with a view over moors and fields 
towards Poole harbour, beyond which were the 
Purbeck hills to the right, and a glimpse of the open 

5 ^ 

o -g 

Q ^ 

J — 


sea to the left. In the foreground were clumps of 
gorse and broom, with some old picturesque trees, 
while the orchard was sheltered on both sides by 
patches of woodland. The house was nearly finished 
in about a year, and we got into it at Christmas, 
1902, when we decided to call it Old Orchard. 

Being so near to our former house, I was able to 
bring all our choicer plants to the new ground, and 
there was, fortunately, a sale of the whole stock of a 
small nursery near Poole in the winter, at which I 
bought about a thousand shrubs and trees at very low 
prices, which enabled us at once to plant some 
shrubberies and flower borders, and thus to secure 
something like a well-stocked garden by the time we 
got into the house. Since that time it has been an 
ever-increasing pleasure, and I have been able to 
satisfy my craving for enjoying new forms of plant- 
life every year, partly by raising numbers of seeds of 
hardy and greenhouse plants, always trying some 
of the latter in sheltered places out-of-doors, and 
partly by exchanges or by gifts from friends, so that 
every year I have the great pleasure of watching 
the opening of some of nature's gems which were 
altogether new to me, or of others which increase 
year by year in beauty. In one end of my greenhouse 
I have a large warmed tank in which I grow blue, 
pink, and yellow water-lilies, which flower the greater 
part of the year, as well as a few other beautiful or 
curious aquatic plants, while the back wall of the 
house is covered with choice climbers. 

In this hasty sketch of my occupations and literary 
work during the last nine years, I have purposely 
omitted the more important portion of the latter, 
because the circumstances that led me on to 

308 MY LIFE 

undertake three separate works, involving a consider- 
able amount of labour, were very curious, and to me 
very suggestive, and I will now give a connected 
account of them. 

When in 1896 I was invited by Dr. Lunn to give 
a lecture to his friends at Davos, I firmly believed 
that my scientific and literary work was concluded. 
I had been for some years in weak health, and had 
no expectation of living much longer. Shortly after 
returning from America I had a very severe attack 
of asthma in 1890, and a year or two after it recurred 
and became chronic, together with violent palpitations 
on the least sudden exertion, and frequent colds 
almost invariably followed by bronchitis. Any attempt 
at continuous work was therefore very far from my 
thoughts, though at times I was able to do a fair 
amount of writing. 

But the very next year I obtained relief (and up 
to the present time an almost complete cure) in an 
altogether accidental way, if there are any " accidents " 
in our lives. Mr. A. Bruce-Joy, the well-known 
sculptor (a perfect stranger to me), had called on me 
to complete the modelling of a medallion which he 
had begun from photographs, and I apologized for 
not looking well, as I was then suffering from one 
of my frequent spells of asthma, which often pre- 
vented me from getting any sleep at night. He 
thereupon told me that if I would follow his directions 
I could soon cure myself. Of course, I was altogether 
incredulous ; but when he told me that he had him- 
self been cured of a complication of allied diseases — 
gout, rheumatism, and bronchitis — of many years' 
standing, which no English doctors were able even to 
alleviate, by an American physician, Dr. Salisbury ; 
that it was effected solely by a change of diet not 


founded on theory or empirical treatment, but the 
result of thirty years' experiment on the effects of 
various articles of food upon men and animals, by 
the only scientific method of studying each food 
separately and exclusively, I determined to try it. 
The result was, that in a week I felt much better, in 
a month I felt quite well, and during the ten years 
that have elapsed no attack of asthma or of severe 
palpitation has recurred, and I have been able to do 
my literary work as well as before I became subject 
to the malady. 

I may say that I have long been, and am still, in 
prmciple, a vegetarian, and believe that, for many 
reasons, it will certainly be the diet of the future. 
But for want of adequate knowledge, and even more 
from the deficiencies of ordinary vegetable cookery, it 
often produces bad effects. Dr. Salisbury proved by 
experiment that it was the consumption of too much 
starch foods that produces the set of diseases which 
he especially cures ; and that when these diseases 
have become chronic, the only cure is the almost 
complete abstention from starchy substances, especially 
potatoes, bread, and most watery vegetables, and, in 
place of them, to substitute the most easily digestible 
well-cooked meat, with fruits and nuts in moderation, 
and eggs, milk, etc., whenever they can be digested. 
Great sufferers find immediate relief from an exclusive 
diet of the lean of beef. I myself live upon well- 
cooked beef with a fair proportion of fat (which I can 
digest easily), a very small proportion of bread or 
vegetables, fruit, eggs, and light milk puddings. The 
curious thing is that most English doctors declare 
that a meat diet is to be avoided in all these diseases, 
and many order complete abstinence from meat, but, 
so far as I can learn, on no really scientific grounds. 

310 MY LIFE 

Dr. Salisbury, however, has experimentally proved 
that this class of ailments is due to malnutrition, and 
that this malnutrition is most frequently caused by 
the consumption of too much starch food at all meals, 
which overloads the stomach and prevents proper 
digestion and assimilation. My case and that of Mr. 
Bruce-Joy certainly show that Dr. Salisbury has 
found, for the first time in the history of medicine, a 
(^^,yg — not merely an alleviation — for these painful and 
distressing maladies. This personal detail as to my 
health is, I think, of general interest in view of the 
large number of sufferers who are pronounced in- 
curable by English doctors, and it was here an 
essential preliminary to the facts I have now to 
relate, which would probably not have occurred as 
they did had my health not been so strikingly 

The lecture which I gave at Davos on the science 
of the nineteenth century (a subject suggested by Dr. 
Lunn) led me to think that an instructive and popular 
book might be made of the subject, as I found there 
were so many interesting points I could not treat 
adequately or even refer to in a lecture. I therefore 
devoted most of my spare time during the next year 
to getting together materials and writing the volume, 
which I finished in the spring of 1898, and it was 
published in June under the title of " The Wonderful 
Century." At the request of my publishers I pre- 
pared from it a School Reader, with a considerable 
number of illustrations, which was published in 1901. 
This suggested the idea of a much enlarged and 
illustrated edition of the original work, which was, as 
regards many of the more important sciences and arts, 
a mere outline sketch. Almost all the year 1902 and 
part of 1903 was occupied in getting together materials 


for this new work, as it really was, and it was not 
published till the autumn of the latter year. 

But while I was writing three new chapters on the 
wonderful astronomical progress of the latter half of 
the century, the startling fact was impressed upon me 
that we were situated very nearly at the centre of the 
entire stellar universe. This fact, though it had been 
noted by many of the greatest astronomical writers, 
together with many others that led to the conclusion 
that our universe was finite, and that we could almost, 
if not quite, see to its very limits, were seldom com- 
mented on as more than isolated phenomena — 
curiosities, as it were, of star distribution — but of no 
special significance. To me, however, it seemed that 
they probably had a meaning ; and when I further 
came to examine the numerous facts which led to the 
conclusion that no other planet in the solar system 
than our earth was habitable, there flashed upon me 
the idea that it was only near the centre of this vast 
material universe that conditions prevailed rendering 
the development of life, culminating in man, possible. 
I did not, however, dwell upon this idea, but merely 
suggested it in a single paragraph on pp. 329-330 of 
my work, and I might probably never have pursued 
the subject further but for another circumstance which 
kept my attention fixed upon it. 

While I was still hard at work upon this book, the 
London agent of the New York Independent wrote to 
ask me to write them an article on any scientific 
subject I chose. I at first declined, having no subject 
which I thought suitable, and not wishing to interrupt 
my work. But when he urged me again, and told me 
to name my own fee, the idea struck me that these 
astronomical facts, with the conclusion to which they 
seemed to me to point, might form a very interesting. 

312 MY LIFE 

and even novel and attractive article. As the subject 
was fresh in my mind, and I had the authorities at 
hand, it did not take me very long to sketch out and 
write a paper of the required length, which appeared 
simultaneously in the Independent and in the Fort- 
nightly Review, and, to my great surprise, created 
quite a sensation ; and, still more to my surprise, a 
considerable amount of antagonism and rather con- 
temptuous criticism by astronomers and physicists, to 
which I replied in a subsequent article. 

But as soon as my agent, Mr. Curtis Brown, read 
the MSS. he suggested that I should write a volume 
on the subject, which he was sure would be very 
attractive and popular, and for which he undertook to 
make arrangements both in England and America, 
and secure me liberal terms. After a little con- 
sideration I thought I could do so, and terms were 
arranged for the book before the article itself was 
published. This enabled me to get together all the 
necessary materials and to begin work at once, and 
after six months of the stiffest reading and study 
I ever undertook, the book, " Man's Place in the 
Universe," was completed in September, and pub- 
lished in November of the same year. In November 
of 1904 a cheaper edition was published, with an 
additional chapter in an Appendix. This chapter 
contained an entirely new argument, founded on the 
theory of organic evolution, which I had not time to 
introduce into the first edition. This argument is 
itself so powerful that, when compounded with the 
arguments founded on astronomical, physical, and 
physiological phenomena, it renders the improbability 
of there having been two independent developments 
of organic life, each culminating in man, so great as 
to be absolutely inconceivable. 


The success of this volume, and the entirely new 
circle of readers it brought me, caused my publishers 
to urge me to write my autobiography, which I should 
otherwise have not written at all, or only on a very 
much smaller scale for the information of my family 
as to my early life. 

It seems to me a very suggestive fact that my 
literary work during the last ten years should have 
been so completely determined by two circumstances 
which must be considered, in the ordinary sense of the 
term, and in relation to my own volition, matters of 
chance. If Dr. Lunn had not invited me to Davos, 
and if he had suggested " Darwinism " or any other 
of my special subjects instead of the " Science of the 
Nineteenth Century," I should not have written my 
" Wonderful Century ; " I should not have had my 
attention so specially directed to great astronomical 
problems ; I should not, when asked for an article, 
have chosen the subject of our sun's central position ; 
and I should certainly never have undertaken such a 
piece of work as my book on "Man's Place in the 
Universe," or the present autobiography. And 
further, without the accident of a perfect stranger 
calling upon me for reasons of his own, and that 
stranger happening to be a man who had been so 
marvellously cured by Dr. Salisbury as to induce me 
to adopt the same treatment, with similar results, I 
should never have had the energy required to under- 
take the two later and more important works. Of 
course, it may be that these are only examples of 
those " happy chances " which are not uncommon in 
men's lives ; but, on the other hand, it may be true 
that, "there's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough- 
hew them as we will ; " and those who have reason to 

314 MY LIFE 

know that spiritual beings can and do influence our 
thoughts and actions, will see in such directive incidents 
as these examples of such influence. 

This concludes the narrative of " My Life " up to 
the date of its publication in the autumn of 1905. It 
will therefore be well to give here a short statement 
of what has occurred to me in the three succeeding 

Ever since my friend Dr. R. Spruce died, in 
December, 1893, I had intended (with his executor's 
cordial assent) to edit so much of his journals and 
correspondence as related to his fourteen years of 
travel and residence in South America. But as time 
passed on each year found me so fully occupied — as 
here narrated — that I felt quite unable to undertake 
so arduous a piece of work. But when the corrected 
proofs of " My Life " were out of my hands, and I had 
no other large work in immediate prospect, I deter- 
mined to begin it, especially as Spruce's old friends, 
Sir Clements Markham and Sir Joseph Hooker, both 
thought it ought to be done, and that I was the only 
person who could do it. 

I therefore determined to begin it, and having 
found that Macmillan and Co. were willing to publish 
it, I obtained all the material — several boxes full of 
journals, note-books, letters, plant catalogues and 
descriptions, maps, and numerous partially finished 
sketches and drawings — from his executor, Mr. 
Matthew B. Slater, of Malton, Yorkshire, and also 
made arrangements to have all Spruce's letters to Sir 
William Hooker and George Bentham, Esq., which 
were preserved at the Kew Herbarium, carefully 

A large part of the journals and note-books 
were written in very minute script, often full of Latin 


names and abbreviations — a kind of hieroglyphics, as 
he himself termed them, which could hardly be fully 
utilized by any one but the writer of them. The 
whole would, I estimate, have given material enough 
to fill six or eight large volumes, and had he himself 
been able to devote some years of good health to the 
task, I have little doubt he would have produced a 
work which would have ranked among the classical 
records of travel and exploration. 

All this I had to sort out, piece together, and 
condense into a connected narrative, occupying two 
volumes of moderate bulk ; and to arrange for the 
requisite maps, and for such illustrations as could be 
obtained to render the work attractive. This has 
been, though often tedious, on the whole a labour of 
love for over two years. It is now going through 
the press, and I hope will be published very soon 
after the present volume. 

Soon after I had begun this laborious piece of 
work, I was left sole executor to my dear friend 
(and father-in-law) Mr. William Mitten, who died in 
July, 1906, at the ripe age of 8y. This involved me 
in the usual legal formalities and added to my already 
large correspondence, thus, to some extent, impeding 
my literary work. But I still continued to write 
articles on subjects that specially interested me. 
Towards the end of the same year I wrote an article 
on " A New House of Lords," showing how the upper 
chamber could become elective, and thus fulfil its true 
functions of a consultative and regulative body, while 
being generally in harmony with the best thought 
and opinion of the time. A second article, entitled 
** Personal Suffrage," laid down the principles on 
which a truly democratic but simple elective system 

3i6 MY LIFE 

might be adopted for the House of Commons. These 
appeared in the Fortnightly Review in the early 
months of 1907. 

A little later I was asked to write one of the 
introductory chapters for " Harmsworth's History 
of the World," which I did under the title, " How 
Life became Possible on the Earth." In this chapter 
I gave a popular statement of those numerous and 
complex conditions and adaptations, which I had 
shown, in my work on " Man's Place in the Universe," 
to be the essential preliminary to the slow develop- 
ment of organic life, and which do not exist in their 
exact combination on any other planet. 

A little earlier I had written (at request) a 
rather lengthy article on " Evolution and Character," 
intended to form part of a series of booklets on 
various aspects and applications of the doctrine of 
evolution. This series did not appear, and my 
article was published in the Fortnightly Review of 
January, 1908. The subject was treated in a some- 
what novel way, and excited much discussion and 
criticism, as well as high appreciation from several 
unknown correspondents. 

Early in 1907 I obtained a copy of Professor 
Percival Lowell's new and popular work, " Mars and 
its Canals," in which, even more confidently than 
before, he put forth his views as to the planet being 
inhabited by beings of at least the same grade of 
intelligence as ourselves, and that the strange " lines," 
forming a kind of network over its surface, really 
indicated irrigation canals, artificially constructed to 
render its deserts habitable. This whole idea seemed 
to me so entirely opposed to the teachings of physical 
and biological science, though very attractive to the 
public who had no means of weighing the evidence 


against it, and were influenced by the great reputation 
of the author and his extremely positive assertions, 
that I determined to write a reply, which occupied 
me for several months, and involved a large amount 
of labour in order to avoid errors or misconceptions. 
It was published by Macmillan and Co., in a small 
volume at the end of 1907, under the title, " Is Mars 
Habitable ? " This question is answered by a decided 
negative, while much evidence is adduced showing 
that the strange markings, misnamed "Canals," can 
be sufficiently explained by an appeal to purely 
physical causes. 

Early in the present year the discussion in 
Parliament of the Unemployed Workmen Bill 
seemed to show such a general misconception of 
what was required, as well as complete ignorance 
of experiments and methods which had been fully 
explained many years before, that I felt impelled 
to write an article pointing out the fundamental 
principles on which any effective remedial action 
must be based, and developing to some extent the 
detailed measures required to carry them out success- 
fully. My proposals were founded on those of Mr. 
Herbert V. Mills, in his remarkable work, " Poverty 
and the State," published about twenty years ago, 
but which was overshadowed by General Booth's 
ineffective scheme, for which large sums of money 
were subscribed, while the far better plan of Mr. 
Mills was neglected. My article appeared in the 
June and July issues of the new Socialist Review, 
where I thought it might appeal most directly to 
those I wished especially to influence — the Labour 
party in the House of Commons. 

This, with a few short articles and letters in 

3i8 MY LIFE 

English or American periodicals — discussing, among 
other subjects, the best mode of nationalizing rail- 
ways, both in America and England — completes the 
record of my literary work up to the publication of 
the present volume. 

Although I have now completed the narrative of 
my literary and home life, there are a number of 
special subjects, which, for the sake of clearness, I 
have either wholly omitted, or only just mentioned, 
but which have either formed important episodes in 
my life, or have brought me into communication or 
friendly intercourse with a number of interesting 
people, and which therefore require to be narrated 
consecutively in separate chapters. These will now 
follow, and will, I think, be not the least interesting 
or instructive portions of my work. 



Soon after I returned from the Amazon (about 1853), 
I read Herbert Spencer's " Social Statics," a work for 
which I had a great admiration, and which seemed to 
me so important in relation to political and social 
reform, that I thought of inviting a few friends to 
read and discuss it at weekly meetings. This fell 
through for want of support, but the whole work, and 
more especially the chapter on "The Right to the 
Use of the Earth," made a permanent impression 
on me, and ultimately led to my becoming, almost 
against my will, President of the Land Nationalization 
Society, which has now been over a quarter of a 
century in existence. In connection with this move- 
ment, I have made the acquaintance of a considerable 
number of persons of more or less eminence. 

The publication of my "Malay Archipelago" in 
1869, procured me the acquaintance of John Stuart 
Mill, who on reading the concluding pages, in which I 
condemn our " civilization " as but a form of " bar- 
barism," and refer, among other examples, to our 
permitting private property in land, wrote to me 
from Avignon on May 19, 1870, enclosing the pro- 
gramme of his proposed Land Tenure Reform Asso- 
ciation, and asking me to become a member of the 
General Committee. Its object was to claim the 

320 MY LIFE 

future " unearned increment " of land values for 
the State, to which purpose it was to be strictly 
limited. I accepted the offer, but proposed a new 
clause, giving the State power of resuming possession 
of any land on payment of its net value at the time, 
because, as I pointed out, the greatest evil was the 
monopoly of land, not the money lost by the com- 
munity. This he himself supported, but suggested 
giving not the current value only, but something 
additional as compensation ; and I think the clause 
was drawn on these lines. 

The last letter I had from Mill was in April, 1871, 
when a great public meeting of the Association was 
to be held on May 3, as to which he said, " It would 
be very useful to the Association, and a great pleasure 
to myself, if you would consent to be one of the 
speakers at the meeting. There is the more reason 
why you should do so, as you are the author of one 
very valuable article of the programme. Were you 
to explain and defend that article, it would be a 
service which no one is so well qualified to render as 
yourself." I had then recently visited the stone 
circles and bridges of Dartmoor, and also Stonehenge, 
and urged the importance of preserving them. At 
that time there would probably have been no question 
of paying more than the actual selling value of the 
land, and we should have been spared the disgrace of 
having our grandest ancient monument, after centuries 
of neglect and deterioration, claimed to be private 
property, and having an exorbitant price demanded 
for it. But Mill's death soon afterwards put an end 
to the Association, and we had to wait many years for 
the present very imperfect legislation on the subject. 

The question of land nationaUzation continued at 


intervals to occupy my mind, but having become 
strongly impressed by the teachings of Spencer, Mill, 
and other writers as to the necessity for restricting 
rather than extending State agency, and by their 
constant reference to the inevitable jobbery and 
favouritism that would result from placing the 
management of the whole land of the country in the 
hands of the executive, I did not attempt to write 
further upon the subject. But when the topic of 
Irish landlordism became very prominent in the year 
1879-80, an idea occurred to me which seemed to 
entirely obviate all the practical difficulties which 
were constantly adduced as insuperable, and I at once 
took the opportunity of the controversy on the question 
to set forth my views in some detail. I did this 
especially because the Irish Land League proposed 
that the Government should buy out the Irish land- 
lords, and convert their existing tenants into peasant- 
proprietors, who were to redeem their holdings by 
payments extending over thirty-five years. This 
seemed to me to be unsound in principle, and entirely 
useless except as a temporary expedient, since it 
would leave the whole land of Ireland in the posses- 
sion of a privileged class, and would thus disinherit 
all the rest of the population from their native soil. 

In my essay I based my whole argument upon a 
great principle of equity as regards the right of 
succession to landed property, a principle which I 
have since further extended to all property.^ But 
the suggestion which rendered land nationalization 
practicable was, that while, under certain conditions 
stated, all land would gradually revert to the State, 
what is termed in Ireland the tenant-right, and in 
England the improvements, or increased value given 

* See my " Studies, Scientific and Social," vol. ii. chap, xxviii. 


322 MY LIFE 

to the land by the owner or his predecessors, such as 
buildings, drains, plantations, etc., would remain his 
property, and be paid for by the new state-tenants at 
a fair valuation. The selling value of land was thus 
divided into two parts : the inherent value or 
ground-rent value, which is quite independent of any 
expenditure by owners, but is due solely to nature 
and society ; and the improvements, which are due 
solely to expenditure by the owners or occupiers, and 
which are essentially temporary in nature. My ex- 
perience in surveying and land-valuation assured me 
that these two values can be easily separated. It 
follows that land as owned by the State would need 
no " management " whatever, the rent being merely a 
ground-rent, which could be collected just as the 
house-tax and the land-tax are collected, the state- 
tenant being left as completely free as is the " free- 
holder " now (who is in law a state-tenant), or as are 
the holders of perpetual feus in Scotland. 

This article appeared in the Contemporary Revieiv 
of November, 1880, and it immediately attracted the 
attention of Mr. A. C. Swinton, Dr. G. B. Clark, 
Mr. Roland Estcourt, and a few others, who had 
long been seeking a mode of applying Herbert 
Spencer's great principle of the inequity of private 
property in land, and who found it in the suggestions 
and principles I had laid down. They accordingly 
communicated with me ; several meetings were held 
at the invitation of Mr. Swinton, who was the initiator 
of the movement, and after much discussion as to 
a definite programme, the " Land Nationalization 
Society " was formed, and, much against my wishes, 
I was chosen to be its president. 

Our Society being established, it seemed necessary 
to prepare something in the form of a handbook or 


introduction to the great problem of the land ; and I 
accordingly devoted my attention to the subject, study- 
ing voluminous reports on agriculture, on Irish famines, 
on Highland crofters, and numbers of special treatises 
dealing with the various aspects of this vast and far- 
reaching question. My book was published in March, 
1882, under the title "Land Nationalization: its 
Necessity and its Aims," and gave, in a compact 
form, the only general account of the evils of our 
land system as it exists in England, Ireland, and 
Scotland ; a comparison with other countries or places 
in which a better system prevails, together with a 
solution of the problem of how to replace it by the 
only just system, without any confiscation of property 
or injury to any living individual. The book has had 
a large circulation, and, in a revised edition, is still 
on sale ; and, together with numerous tracts issued by 
the Society, has done much to educate public opinion 
on this most vital of all political or social questions. 

As, however, it was quite certain that it would 
take a very long time before even the first steps 
towards land nationalization would be taken, I took 
every opportunity of advocating such other funda- 
mental reforms as seemed to me demanded by equity 
and to be essential to social well-being. One of the 
earliest was on the subject of interest, about which 
there was much difference of opinion among advanced 
thinkers. A discussion having arisen in The Christian 
Socialist, I developed my views at some length in an 
article which appeared in the issue of March, 1884. 

Soon after our society was started, Henry George, 
author of that remarkable work, " Progress and 
Poverty," came to England, and I had the pleasure 
of making his acquaintance. He spoke at several of 
our meetings and elsewhere in London, as well as in 

324 MY LIFE 

various parts of England and Ireland. He was a very 
impressive speaker, and always held his audience. 

Among the most esteemed of the friends I owed 
to " Land Nationalization " were two eminent Scotch- 
men, both poets, and both ardent lovers of justice 
and humanity — Professor J. Stuart Blackie and 
Charles Mackay. The former wrote to me in July, 
1882, saying that he had just finished the "careful 
study " of my " Land Nationalization," and that he 
was "happy to find it so much in accordance with 
my oldest and most mature speculations, and — what 
is of more importance — observations on the subject." 
He sent me a copy of his small volume, " Altavona," 
with a chapter on the " Sutherland Clearances," and 
he concluded, "As to your remedies for the gigantic 
evils which our present system of land laws entails, 
they recommend themselves strongly to every con- 
sistent thinker." 

Both he and I suffered some inconvenience from 
having mentioned the name of the agent who carried 
out the terrible Sutherland evictions in the first two 
decades of the nineteenth century, as it is given in all 
the early narratives, as well as in the report of the 
trial of the agent for arson and murder, when, of 
course, he was acquitted. His sons were at that time 
alive, and protested against the publication. Both 
our publishers were frightened. Professor Blackie 
withdrew his book, and published a second edition 
much cut down. I placed mine in the hands of a 
new publisher, and I promised that in a new edition 
I would omit the name of the agent, but refused to 
make any alterations in the statements of facts. 

Three years later (in December, 1885), when I 
was lecturing in Edinburgh, I had the great pleasure 
of meeting Professor Blackie. I was staying with 


the late Mr. Robert Cox, at whose house the pro- 
fessor was an intimate. He called soon after I 
arrived, and on hearing my name, he cordially em- 
braced me (in the continental fashion) as one with 
whom he was in complete sympathy, and then threw 
himself upon the rug to talk to Mrs. Cox. After- 
wards I had a long conversation with him on all the 
subjects that interested us most, and was delighted 
with his geniality no less than with his intense 
human sympathy, especially in the case of the cruelly 
disinherited Highlanders. 

Although I had for many years been a great 
admirer of Charles Mackay's Songs and Poems, and 
was living quite near him while we were at Dorking, 
from August, 1876, to March, 1878, I did not make 
his acquaintance till some years afterwards, as, owing 
to my constitutional shyness, I do not think I ever 
made the first overtures to any man, or even called 
upon any one without some previous correspondence 
or introduction. But several years later I sent him a 
copy of my " Land Nationalization " (I think pro- 
bably on the suggestion of some one who knew him), 
with a letter, begging his acceptance of it. This 
brought me three letters in rapid succession — one 
acknowledging it, saying he had been very ill for six 
months, but adding that he had been an adherent of 
our cause for forty years, and referring me to his 
poem, " Lament of Cona for the Unpeopling of the 

In the following year he removed to London for 
good medical attendance, and wrote me a very flatter- 
ing letter after reading my "Malay Archipelago." 
The next year (1886) I was able to call on him, 
when in London for a day, at his apartments in 

326 MY LIFE 

Longridge Road, South Kensington, when we had a 
long talk, and he afterwards wrote to me as "My 
dear friend and philosopher." On the occasion of 
this visit he introduced me to his step-daughter, Miss 
Marie Corelli, a very pleasant young lady, whose 
future eminence as a writer I did not divine. 

Notwithstanding the scanty means of the majority 
of the founders and members, the Land Nationaliza- 
tion Society has struggled on for more than a quarter 
of a century. Its lecturers and its yellow vans have 
pervaded the country, and it has effected the great 
work of convincing the highest and best organized 
among the manual workers, as represented by their 
Trades Unions, that the abolition of land monopoly, 
which is the necessary result of its private ownership, 
is at the very root of all social reform. Hence the 
future is with them and us, and though the capitalists 
and the official Liberals are still against us, we wait 
patiently, and continue to educate the masses in the 
certainty of a future and not distant success. 

For about ten years after I first publicly advo- 
cated land nationalization I was inclined to think 
that no further fundamental reforms were possible or 
necessary. Although I had, since my earliest youth, 
looked to some form of socialistic organization of 
society, especially in the form advocated by Robert 
Owen, as the ideal of the future, I was yet so much 
influenced by the individualistic teachings of Mill 
and Spencer, and the loudly proclaimed dogma, that 
without the constant spur of individual competition 
men would inevitably become idle and fall back into 
universal poverty, that I did not bestow much atten- 
tion upon the subject, having, in fact, as much literary 
work on hand as I could manage. But at length, in 
1889, my views were changed once for all, and I have 


ever since been absolutely convinced, not only that 
socialism is thoroughly practicable, but that it is the 
only form of society worthy of civilized beings, and 
that it alone can secure for mankind continuous 
mental and moral advancement, together with that 
true happiness which arises from the full exercise of 
all their faculties for the purpose of satisfying all their 
rational needs, desires, and aspirations. 

The book that thus changed my outlook on this 
question was Bellamy's " Looking Backward," a work 
that in a few years had gone through seventeen 
editions in America, but had only just been repub- 
lished in England. On a first reading I was cap- 
tivated by the wonderfully realistic style of the work, 
the extreme ingenuity of the conception, the absorb- 
ing interest of the story, and the logical power with 
which the possibility of such a state of society as that 
depicted was argued and its desirability enforced. 
Every sneer, every objection, every argument I had 
ever read against socialism was here met and shown 
to be absolutely trivial or altogether baseless, while 
the inevitable results of such a social state in giving 
to every human being the necessaries, the comforts, 
the harmless luxuries, and the highest refinements 
and social enjoyments of life were made equally clear. 

From this time I declared myself a socialist, and 
I made the first scientific application of my conviction 
in my article on "Human Selection" in the Fort- 
nightly Review (September, 1890). This article called 
forth several expressions of approval, which I highly 
value. It forms the last chapter of vol. i. of my 
" Studies, Scientific and Social." 

I now read many other books on socialism, but 
that which Impressed me as being the most complete 
and thoroughly reasoned exposition, both of the 

328 MY LIFE 

philosophy and the constructive methods of socialism, 
was Bellamy's later work, "Equality," which com- 
paratively few, even of English socialists, are ac- 
quainted with. The book is a sequel to " Looking 
Backward," and contains more than twice the matter. 
It shows, systematically, how our existing system of 
competition and individual profit — capitalism and 
enormous private wealth — directly lead to overwork, 
poverty, starvation, and crime ; that it is necessarily 
wasteful in production and cruelly unjust in distribu- 
tion ; that it fosters every kind of adulteration in 
manufacture, and almost necessitates lying in trade ; 
that it involves the virtual slavery of the bulk of the 
population, and checks or destroys any real progress 
of the race. 

Many good people to-day who are almost horror- 
struck at hearing that any one they know is a 
socialist, would be still more amazed if they knew 
how many of the very salt of the earth belong (or did 
belong) to this despised and much-dreaded body of 
thinkers. Grant Allen, one of the most intellectual 
and many-sided men of our time, was one of us ; so 
is Sir Oliver Lodge, one of our foremost students of 
physical science ; and Professor Karl Pearson, a 
great mathematical evolutionist. Among the clergy 
we have the Revs. John Clifford, R. C. Fillingham, 
and many others among the Christian socialists, who 
are as much socialists as any of us. Among men of 
university training or of high literary ability we have 
H. M. Hyndman, Edward Carpenter, J. A. Hobson, 
Sydney Webb, Hubert Bland, H. S. Salt, J. C. 
Kenworthy, Morrison-Davidson, and many others. 
Of poets there are Gerald Massey and Sir Lewis 
Morris. The Labour members of Parliament are 
almost all socialists ; while Margaret Macmillan, the 


Countess of Warwick, and many less-known women 
are earnest workers for the cause. 

I may conclude this subject with the answer I 
recently gave to the question, "Why am I a 
Socialist ? " I am a socialist because I believe that 
the highest law for mankind is justice. I therefore 
take for my motto, " Fiat Justitia Ruat Ccelum ; " 
and my definition of socialism is, " The use by every 
one of his faculties for the common good, and the 
voluntary organization of labour for the equal benefit 
of all." That is absolute social justice ; that is ideal 
socialism. It is, therefore, the guiding star for all 
true social reform. 

The Vaccination Question. 

I will here say a few words about another subject 
in which I take a great interest, and upon which I 
have ventured to express views contrary to those held 
by the orthodox authorities. 

I was brought up to believe that vaccination was 
a scientific procedure, and that Jenner was one of 
the great benefactors of mankind. I was vaccinated 
in infancy, and before going to the Amazon I was 
persuaded to be vaccinated again. My children were 
duly vaccinated, and I never had the slightest doubt 
of the value of the operation — taking everything on 
trust without any inquiry whatever — till about 1875-80, 
when I first heard that there were anti-vaccinators, 
and read some articles on the subject. These did not 
much impress me, as I could not believe so many 
eminent men could be mistaken on such an important 
matter. But a little later I met Mr. William Tebb, 
and through him was introduced to some of the more 
important statistical facts bearing upon the subject. 

330 MY LIFE 

Some of these I was able to test by reference to the 
original authorities, and also to the various Reports 
of the Registrar-General, Dr. Farr's evidence as to 
the diminution of small-pox before Jenner's time, and 
the extraordinary misstatements of the supporters of 
vaccination. Mr. Tebb supplied me with a good deal 
of anti-vaccination literature, especially with " Pierce's 
Vital Statistics," the tables in which satisfied me that 
the claims for vaccination were enormously exagger- 
ated, if not altogether fallacious. I also now learnt 
for the first time that vaccination itself produced a 
disease, which was often injurious to health and some- 
times fatal to life, and I also found to my astonishment 
that even Herbert Spencer had long ago pointed out 
that the first compulsory Vaccination Act had led to 
an increase of small-pox. I then began to study the 
Reports of the Registrar-General myself, and to draw 
out curves of small-pox mortahty, and of other zymotic 
diseases (the only way of showing the general course 
of a disease as well as its annual inequalities), and 
then found that the course of the former disease 
ran so generally parallel to that of the latter as to 
disprove altogether any special protective effect of 

As I could find no short and clear statement of 
the main statistical facts adverse to vaccination, I 
wrote a short pamphlet of thirty-eight pages, entitled 
" Forty-five Years of Registration Statistics, proving 
Vaccination to be both Useless and Dangerous." 
This was published in 1885 at Mr. W. Tebb's 
expense, and it had the efifect of convincing many 
persons, among whom were some of my personal 

A few years later, when the Royal Commission on 
Vaccination was appointed, I was invited to become 


a member of it, but declined, as I could not give up 
the necessary time, but chiefly because I thought I 
could do more good as a witness. I accordingly pre- 
pared a number of large diagrams, and stated the argu- 
ments drawn from them, and in the year 1890 gave my 
evidence during part of three days. As about half 
the Commissioners were doctors, most of the others 
gave way to them. I told them, at the beginning of 
my evidence, that I knew nothing of medicine, but 
that, following the principle laid down by Sir John 
Simon and Dr. Guy, that "the evidence for the 
benefits of vaccination must now be statistical," I was 
prepared to show the bearing of the best statistics 
only. Yet they insisted on putting medical argu- 
ments and alleged medical facts to me, asking me 
how I explained this, how I accounted for that ; and 
though I stated again and again that there were 
plenty of medical witnesses who would deal with 
those points, they continually recurred to them ; and 
when I said I had no answer to give, not having 
inquired into those alleged facts, they seemed to think 
they had got the best of it. Yet they were so ignorant 
of statistics and statistical methods that one great 
doctor held out a diagram, showing the same facts as 
one of mine, and asked me almost triumphantly how 
it was that mine was so different. After comparing 
the two diagrams for a few moments I replied that 
they were drawn on different scales, but that with 
that exception I could see no substantial difference 
between them. The other diagram was on a greatly 
exaggerated vertical scale, so that the line showing 
each year's death-rate went up and down with 
tremendous peaks and chasms, while mine approxi- 
mated more to a very irregular curve. But my 
questioner could not see this simple point ; and later 

332 MY LIFE 

he recurred to it a second time, and asked me if I 
really meant to tell them that those two diagrams 
were both accurate, and when I said again that 
though on different scales both represented the same 
facts, he looked up at the ceiling with an air which 
plainly said, "If you will say that you will say 
anything ! " 

The Commission lingered on for six years, and 
did not issue its final report till 1896, while the 
evidence, statistics, and diagrams occupied numerous 
bulky blue-books. The most valuable parts of it 
were the appendices, containing the tables and 
diagrams presented by the chief witnesses, together 
with a large number of official tables and statistics, 
both of our own and foreign countries, affording a 
mass of material never before brought together. 
This enabled me to present the general statistical 
argument more completely and forcibly than I had 
done before, and I devoted several months of very 
hard work to doing this, and brought it out in 
pamphlet form in January, 1898, in order that a copy 
might be sent to every member of the House of 
Commons before the new Vaccination Act came up 
for discussion. This was done by the National 
Anti- Vaccination League, and I wrote to the half- 
dozen members I knew personally, begging them to 
give one evening to its careful perusal. But so far 
as any of their speeches showed, not one of the six 
hundred and seventy members gave even that 
amount of their time to obtain information on a 
subject involving the health, life, and personal free- 
dom of their constituents. Yet I know that in no 
work I have written have I presented so clear and 
so conclusive a demonstration of the fallacy of a 
popular belief as is given in this work, which was 


entitled " Vaccination a Delusion : Its Penal Enforce- 
ment a Crime, proved by the Official Evidence in 
the Reports of the Royal Commission." This was 
included in the second part of my " Wonderful 
Century," published in June, 1898, and was also 
published separately in the pamphlet form, as it 
continues to be ; and I feel sure that the time is 
not far distant when this will be held to be one of 
the most important and most truly scientific of my 



I HAVE already described my first introduction to 
mesmerism at Leicester, how I found that I had 
considerable mesmeric power myself, and could pro- 
duce all the chief phenomena on some of my patients ; 
while I also satisfied myself that the almost universal 
opposition and misrepresentations of the medical pro- 
fession were founded upon a combination of ignorance 
and prejudice. 

During my eight years' travel in the East I heard 
occasionally, through the newspapers, of the strange 
doings of the spiritualists in America and England, 
some of which seemed to me too wild and outre to be 
anything but the ravings of madmen. Others, how- 
ever, appeared to be so well authenticated that I 
could not at all understand them, but concluded, as 
most people do at first, that such things must be 
either imposture or delusion. How I became first 
acquainted with the phenomena and the effect they 
produced upon me are fully described in the " Notes 
of Personal Evidence," in my book on " Miracles and 
Modern Spiritualism," to which I refer my readers. 
I will only state here that I was so fortunate as to 
witness the simpler phenomena, such as rapping and 
tapping sounds and slight movements of a table in a 
friend's house, with no one present but his family and 


myself, and we were able to test the facts so thoroughly 
as to demonstrate that they were not produced by the 
physical action of any one of us. Afterwards, in my 
own house, similar phenomena were obtained scores 
of times, and I was able to apply tests which showed 
that they were not caused by any one present. A 
few years later I formed one of the committee of the 
Dialectical Society, and again witnessed, under test 
conditions, similar phenomena in great variety, and 
in these three cases, it must be remembered, no paid 
mediums were present, and every means that could 
be suggested of excluding trickery or the direct 
actions of any one present were resorted to. 

At a later period I paid frequent visits, always 
with some one or more of my friends as sceptical and 
as earnest in search after fact as myself, to two of the 
best public mediums for physical phenomena I have 
ever met with — Mrs, Marshall and her daughter-in- 
law. We here made whatever investigations we 
pleased, and tried all kinds of tests. We always sat 
in full daylight in a well-lighted room, and obtained 
a variety of phenomena of a very startling kind, as 
narrated in the book referred to. During the latter 
part of my residence in London (1865-70) I had 
numerous opportunities of seeing phenomena with 
other mediums in various private houses in London. 
These were sometimes with private, sometimes with 
paid mediums, but always under such conditions as 
to render any kind of collusion or imposture altogether 
out of the question. During this time I was in fre- 
quent communication with Sir William Crookes, Mr. 
Cromwell Varley, Serjeant Cox, Mr. Hensleigh 
Wedgwood, and many other friends, who were either 
interested in or were actively investigating the sub- 
ject ; and through the kindness of several of them I 

336 MY LIFE 

had many opportunities of witnessing some of the 
more extraordinary of the phenomena under the most 
favourable conditions. At a much later period, when 
I visited America, I made the acquaintance of some 
of the most eminent spiritualists in Boston and 
Washington, and had many opportunities of seeing 
phenomena and obtaining tests of a different kind 
from any that I had seen in England ; and some of 
these I may refer to later on. 

When I had obtained in my own house the phe- 
nomena described in my " Notes of Personal Evi- 
dence," I felt sure that if any of my scientific friends 
could witness them they would be satisfied that they 
were not due to trickery, and were worthy of careful 
examination. I therefore endeavoured to persuade 
Dr. W. B. Carpenter, Professor Tyndall, and Mr. G. 
H. Lewes to attend seances and investigate the subject 
for themselves, but each was too incredulous to give 
the matter serious attention. 

In 1866 I wrote a pamphlet, entitled " The Scien- 
tific Aspect of the Supernatural," which I distributed 
amongst my friends. After reading it, Huxley wrote 
that he " could not get up any interest in the subject." 
Tyndall read it "with deep disappointment," and he 
deplored my willingness to accept data unworthy of 
my attention. 

I received many letters referring to this pamphlet, 
both satisfactory and otherwise, but perhaps the most 
interesting was that from Robert Chambers, which I 
here give — 

" St. Andrews, February lo, 1867. 

"Dear Sir, 

" I have received your letter of the 6th inst., 
and your little volume. It gratifies me much to 


receive a friendly communication from the Mr. 
Wallace of my friend Darwin's * Origin of Species/ 
and my gratification is greatly heightened on finding 
that he is one of the few men of science who admit 
the verity of the phenomena of spiritualism. I have 
for many years known that these phenomena are real, 
as distinguished from impostures ; and it is not of 
yesterday that I concluded they were calculated to 
explain much that has been doubtful in the past, and 
when fully accepted, revolutionize the whole frame of 
human opinion on many important matters. 


*' How provoking it has often appeared to me that 
it seems so impossible, with such a man, for instance, 
as Huxley, to obtain a moment's patience for this 
subject — so infinitely transcending all those of 
physical science in the potential results ! 

" My idea is that the term ' supernatural ' is a 
gross mistake. We have only to enlarge our concep- 
tions of the natural, and all will be right. 
" I am, dear sir, 

" Yours very sincerely, 
" Robert Chambers." 

In the latter part of the year, while attending the 
meeting of the British Association at Dundee, I 
visited St. Andrews, and after a geological excursion 
under the guidance of Sir A. Geikie, and a collation 
with the university authorities, at which Robert 
Chambers was present, I had the great pleasure of 
an hour's conversation with him in his own house. 

During the years 1870-80 I had many opportuni- 
ties of witnessing interesting phenomena in the houses 
of various friends, some of which I have not made 
public. Early in 1874 I was invited by John Morley, 


338 MY LIFE 

then editor of the Fortnightly Review, to write an 
article on " Spiritualism " for that periodical. Much 
public interest had been excited by the publication 
of the Report of the Committee of the Dialectical 
Society, and especially by Mr. Crookes's experiments 
with Mr. Home, and the refusal of the Royal Society 
to see these experiments repeated. I therefore ac- 
cepted the task, and my article appeared in May and 
June under the title, " A Defence of Modern Spiri- 
tualism." At the end of the same year I included 
this article, together with my former small book, 
" The Scientific Aspects of the Supernatural," and a 
paper I had read before the Dialectical Society in 
1 87 1, answering the arguments of Hume, Lecky, and 
other writers against miracles, in a volume which has 
had a very considerable sale, and has led many 
persons to investigate the subject and to become 
convinced of the reality of the phenomena. 

The publication of my book in 1874, not only 
brought me an extensive correspondence on the 
subject, but led to my being invited to take part in 
many interesting stances, and making the acquaintance 
of spiritualists both at home and abroad. As what I 
witnessed was often very remarkable, and forms a sort 
of supplement to the " Notes of Personal Evidence " 
given in my book, and also because these phenomena 
have had a very important influence both on my 
character and my opinions, it will be necessary here 
to give a brief outline of them. 

I attended a series of sittings with Miss Kate 
Cook, the sister of the Miss Florence Cook with 
whom Sir William Crookes obtained such very striking 
results. The general features of these stances were 
very similar, though there was great variety in details. 
They took place in the rooms of Signor Randi, a 


miniature-painter, living in Montague Place, W., in 
a large reception-room, across one corner of which a 
curtain was hung and a chair placed inside for the 
medium. There were generally six or seven persons 
present. Miss Cook and her mother came from North 
London. Miss C. was always dressed in black, with 
lace collar, she wore laced-up boots, and had earrings 
in her ears. In a few minutes after she had entered 
the cabinet, the curtains would be drawn apart and a 
white-robed female figure would appear, and some- 
times come out and stand close in front of the curtain. 
One after another she would beckon to us to come 
up. We then talked together, the form in whispers ; 
I could look closely into her face, examine the features 
and hair, touch her hands, and might even touch and 
examine her ears closely, which were not bored for 
earrings. The figure had bare feet, was somewhat 
taller than Miss Cook, and, though there was a general 
resemblance, was quite distinct in features, figure, and 
hair. After half an hour or more this figure would 
retire, close the curtains, and sometimes within a few 
seconds would say, "Come and look." We then 
opened the curtains, turned up the lamp, and Miss 
Cook was found in a trance in the chair, her black 
dress, laced-boots, etc., in the most perfect order as 
when she arrived, while the full-grown white-robed 
figure had totally disappeared. 

Mr. Robert Chambers introduced me to a wealthy 
Scotch lady. Miss Douglas, living in South Audley 
Street, and at her house I attended many siances, and 
met Mr. Hensleigh Wedgwood, and several other 
London spiritualists. On one occasion Home was 
the medium and Mr. (now Sir William) Crookes was 
present. As I was the only one of the company who 
had not witnessed any of the remarkable phenomena 

340 MY LIFE 

that occurred in his presence, I was invited to go under 
the table while an accordion was playing, held in 
Home's hand, his other hand being on the table. 
The room was well lighted, and I distinctly saw 
Home's hand holding the instrument, which moved 
up and down and played a tune without any visible 
cause. On stating this, he said, " Now I will take 
away my hand " — which he did ; but the instrument 
went on playing, and I saw a detached hand holding 
it while Home's two hands were seen above the table 
by all present. This was one of the ordinary pheno- 
mena, and thousands of persons have witnessed it ; 
and when we consider that Home's siances almost 
always took place in private houses at which he was a 
guest, and with people absolutely above suspicion of 
collusion with an impostor, and also either in the day- 
time or in a fully illuminated room, it will be admitted 
that no form of legerdemain will explain what occurred. 
Perhaps the most interesting of these seances were a 
series with Mr. Haxby, a young man engaged in the 
post-office, and a remarkable medium for materiali- 
zations. He was a small man, and sat in Miss 
Douglas's small drawing-room on the first floor 
separated by curtains from a larger one, where the 
visitors sat in a subdued light. After a few minutes, 
from between the curtains would appear a tall and 
stately East Indian figure in white robes, a rich waist- 
band, sandals, and large turban, snowy white, and 
disposed with perfect elegance. Sometimes this figure 
would walk round the room outside the circle, would 
lift up a large and very heavy musical box, which he 
would wind up and then swing round his head with 
one hand. He would often come to each of us in 
succession, bow, and allow us to feel his hands and 
examine his robes. We asked him to stand against 


the door-post and marked his height, and on one 
occasion Mr. Hensleigh Wedgwood brought with him 
a shoe-maker's measuring-rule, and at our request, 
Abdullah, as he gave his name, took off a sandal, 
placed his foot on a chair, and allowed it to be 
accurately measured with the sliding-rule. After the 
siance Mr. Haxby removed his boot and had his foot 
measured by the same rule, when that of the figure 
was found to be full one inch and a quarter the longer, 
while in height it was about half a foot taller. A 
minute or two after Abdullah had retired into the 
small room, Haxby was found in a trance in his chair, 
while no trace of the white-robed stranger was to be 
seen. The door and window of the back room were 
securely fastened, and often secured with gummed 
paper, which was found intact. 

On another occasion I was present in a private 
house when a very similar figure appeared with the 
medium Eglinton before a large party of spiritualists 
and inquirers. In this case the conditions were even 
more stringent and the result absolutely conclusive. 
A corner of the room had a curtain hung across it, 
enclosing a space just large enough to hold a chair for 
the medium. I and others examined this corner and 
found the walls solid and the carpet nailed down. The 
medium on arrival came at once into the room, and 
after a short period of introductions seated himself in 
the corner. There was a lighted gas-chandelier in the 
room, which was turned down so as just to permit 
us to see each other. The figure, beautifully robed, 
passed round the room, allowed himself to be touched, 
his robes, hands, and feet examined closely by all 
present — I think sixteen or eighteen persons. Every 
one was delighted, but to make the stance a test one, 
several of the medium's friends begged him to allow 

342 MY LIFE 

himself to be searched so that the result might be 
published. After some difficulty he was persuaded, 
and four persons were appointed to make the exami- 
nation. Immediately two of these led him into a 
bedroom, while I and a friend who had come with me 
closely examined the chair, floor, and walls, and were 
able to declare that nothing so large as a glove had 
been left. We then joined the other two in the bed- 
room, and as Eglinton took off his clothes each article 
was passed through our hanjds, down to underclothing 
and socks, so that we could positively declare that not 
a single article besides his own clothes were found 
upon him. The result was published in the Spiritualist 
newspaper, certified by the names of all present. 

Yet one more case of materialization may be given, 
because it was even more remarkable in some respects 
than any which have been here recorded. A Mr. 
Monck, a Nonconformist clergyman, was a remarkable 
medium, and in order to be able to examine the phe- 
nomena carefully, and to preserve the medium from 
the injury often caused by repeated miscellaneous 
stances, four gentlemen secured his exclusive services 
for a year, hiring apartments for him on a first floor 
in Bloomsbury, and paying him a moderate salary. 
Mr. Hensleigh Wedgwood and Mr. Stainton Moses 
were two of these, and they invited me to see the 
phenomena that occurred. It was a bright summer 
afternoon, and everything happened in the full light 
of day. After a little conversation, Monck, who was 
dressed in the usual clerical black, appeared to go into 
a trance ; then stood up a few feet in front of us, and 
after a little while pointed to his side, saying, " Look." 
We saw there a faint white patch on his coat on the 
left side. This grew brighter, then seemed to flicker, 
and extend both upwards and downwards, till very 


gradually it formed a cloudy pillar extending from his 
shoulder to his feet and close to his body. Then he 
shifted himself a little sideways, the cloudy figure 
standing still, but appearing joined to him by a 
cloudy band at the height at which it had first begun 
to form. Then, after a few minutes more, Monck again 
said "Look," and passed his hand through the con- 
necting band, severing it. He and the figure then 
moved away from each other till they were about five 
or six feet apart. The figure had now assumed the 
appearance of a thickly draped female form, with 
arms and hands just visible. Monck looked towards 
it and again said to us " Look," and then clapped his 
hands. On which the figure put out her hands, 
clapped them as he had done, and we all distinctly 
heard her clap following his, but fainter. The figure 
then moved slowly back to him, grew fainter and 
shorter, and was apparently absorbed into his body 
as it had grown OLt of it. 

Of course, sucl. a narration as this, to those who 
know nothing of the phenomena that gradually lead 
up to it, seems mere midsummer madness. But to 
those who have for years obtained positive knowledge 
of a great variety o" facts equally strange, this is only 
the culminating point of a long series of phenomena, 
all antecedently incedible to the people who talk so 
confidently of the laws of nature. 

Now that the wiole series of similar phenomena 
have been co-ordinated, and to some extent rendered 
intelligible, by Myers's great work on " Human 
Personality," it is ;o be hoped that even students 
of physical science will no longer class all those 
who have either wtnessed such phenomena or ex- 
pressed their belie" in them, as insane or idioti- 
cally credulous, wi;hout even attempting to show 

344 MY LIFE 

how, under similar conditions, such effects can be 

During my lecturing tour in the United States in 
1886-87, I stayed some time in three of the centres 
of American spiritualism — Boston, Washington, and 
San Francisco, and made the acquaintance of many 
American spiritualists and inquirers, with whom I 
attended many remarkable seances. At Boston I met 
the Rev. Minot J. Savage, whose latest work, "Can 
Telepathy Explain ? " contains such a collection of 
personal experiences as have fallen tc the lot of few 
inquirers ; Mr. F. J. Garrison, a soi of the great 
abolitionist ; Mr. E. A. Brackett, a scufptor, and author 
of a remarkable book on " Materialized Apparitions " ; 
Dr. Nichols, author of "Whence, Where, and Whither"; 
Professor James, of Harvard, and sereral others. 

I attended several seances at the house of Mrs. 
Ross, a very good medium for materializations, in 
the company of one or more of my friends. I will 
state what occurred on one of these occasions. The 
seance took place in a front downstairs room of a 
small private house, opening by sliding doors into a 
back room, and by an ordinary door into the passage. 
The cabinet was formed by cloth curtains across the 
corner of the room from the fireplace to the sliding 
door. One side of this was an oiter wall, the other 
the wall of the back room, where tlere was a cupboard 
containing a quantity of china. I was invited to 
examine, and did so thoroughly— front room, floor, 
back room, rooms below in basenent, occupied by a 
heating apparatus ; and I am postive there were no 
means of communication other 1han the doors for 
even the smallest child. Then the sliding doors were 
closed, fastened with sticking-pkster, and privately 
marked with pencil. The ten visitors formed a semi- 


circle opposite the cabinet, and I sat with my back 
close to the passage door and opposite the curtain at 
a distance of about ten feet. A red-shaded lamp was 
in the furthest corner behind the visitors, which 
enabled me to see the time by my watch and the out- 
lines of every one in the room ; and as it was behind 
me the space between myself and the cabinet was 
very fairly lighted. Under these circumstances the 
appearances were as follows : — 

(i) A female figure in white came out between 
the curtains with Mrs. Ross in black, and also a male 
figure, all to some distance in front of the cabinet. 
This was apparently to demonstrate, once for all, that, 
whatever they were, the figures were not Mrs. Ross 
in disguise. 

(2) After these had retired three female figures 
appeared together, in white robes and of different 
heights. These came two or three feet in front of the 

(3) A male figure came out, recognized by a 
gentleman present as his son. 

(4) A tall Indian figure came out in white 
moccassins ; he danced and spoke ; he also shook 
hands with me and others, a large, strong, rough 

(5) A female figure with a baby stood close to 
the entrance of the cabinet. I went up (on invitation), 
felt the baby's face, nose, and hair, and kissed it — 
apparently a real, soft-skinned, living baby. Other 
ladies and gentlemen agreed. 

Directly the seance was over the gas was lighted, 
and I again examined the bare walls of the cabinet, 
the curtains, and the door, all being just as before, 
and affording no room or place for disposing of the 
baby alone, far less of the other figures. 

346 MY LIFE 

At another special seance for friends of Dr. Nichols 
and Mr. Brackett, with Professor James and myself — 
nine in all, under the same conditions as before, 
eight or nine different figures came, including a tall 
Indian chief in war-paint and feathers, a little girl 
who talked and played with Miss Brackett, and a very 
pretty and perfectly developed girl, " Bertha," Mr. 
Brackett's niece, who has appeared to him with 
various mediums for two years, and is as well known 
to him as any near relative in earth-life. She speaks 
distinctly, which these figures rarely do, and Mr. 
Brackett has often seen her develop gradually from a 
cloudy mass, and almost instantly vanish away. But 
what specially interested me was, that two of the 
figures beckoned to me to come up to the cabinet. 
One was a beautifully draped female figure, who took 
my hand, looked at me smilingly, and on my appear- 
ing doubtful, said in a whisper that she had often 
met me at Miss Kate Cook's seances in London. 
She then let me feel her ears, as I had done before 
to prove she was not the medium. I then saw that 
she closely resembled the figure with whom I had 
often talked and joked at Signor Randi's, a fact 
known to no one in America. 

The other figure was an old gentleman with 
white hair and beard, and in evening-dress. He took 
my hand, bowed, and looked pleased, as one meeting 
an old friend. Considering who was likely to come, 
I thought of my father and of Darwin, but there was 
not enough likeness to either. Then at length I 
recognized the likeness to a photograph I had of my 
cousin Algernon Wilson, whom I had not seen since 
we were children, but had long corresponded with, 
as he was an enthusiastic entomologist, living in 
Adelaide, where he had died not long before. Then 


I looked pleased and said, " Is it Algernon ? " at 
which he nodded earnestly, seemed very much pleased, 
shook my hand vigorously, and patted my face and 
head with his other hand. 

These two recognitions were to me very striking, 
because they were both so private and personal to 
myself, and could not possibly have been known to 
the medium or even to any of my friends present. 

In Washington, where I resided several months, 
I made the acquaintance of Professor Elliot Coues, 
General Lippitt, Mr. D. Lyman, Senator and Mrs. 
Stanford, Mr. T. A. Bland the Indians' friend, and 
Mrs. Beecher Hooker, all thorough spiritualists, as 
well as many others unknown to fame. With the 
three former gentlemen I attended many seances of a 
very remarkable public medium, Mr. P. L. O. A. 
Keeler, and both witnessed phenomena and obtained 
tests of a very interesting kind. The medium was 
a young man of the clerk or tradesman class, with 
only the common school education, and with no 
appearance of American smartness. The arrange- 
ment of his seances was peculiar. The corner of a 
good-sized room had a black curtain across it on a 
stretched cord about five feet from the ground. 
Inside was a small table on which were a tambourine 
and hand-bell. Any one, before the seances began 
or afterwards, could examine this enclosed space, the 
curtain, the floor, and the walls. I did so myself, the 
room being fully lighted, and was quite satisfied that 
there was absolutely nothing but what appeared at 
first sight, and no arrangements whatever for ingress 
or egress but under the curtain into the room. The 
curtain, too, was entire from end to end, a matter 
of importance in regard to certain phenomena that 
occurred. Three chairs were placed close in front of 

348 MY LIFE 

this curtain on which sat the medium and two persons 
from the audience. Another black curtain was passed 
in front of them across their chests so as to enclose 
their bodies in a dark chamber, while their heads and 
the arms of the outer sitter were free. The medium's 
two hands were placed on the hands and wrist of the 
sitter next him. 

The stance began with purely physical phenomena. 
The tambourine was rattled and played on, then a 
hand appeared above the curtain, and a stick was 
given to it which it seized. Then the tambourine was 
lifted high on this stick and whirled round with great 
rapidity, the bell being rung at the same time. All 
the time the medium sat quiet and impassive, and 
the person next him certified to his two hands being 
on his or hers. On one occasion a lady, a friend of 
Professor Elliott Coues and a woman of unusual 
ability and character, was the sitter, and certified at 
all critical times during the whole seance that the 
medium's hands were felt by her. After these and 
many other things were performed, the hand would 
appear above the curtain, the fingers moving excitedly. 
This was the signal for a pencil and a pad of note- 
paper (as commonly used in America) ; then rapid 
writing was heard, a slip of paper torn off and thrown 
over the curtain, sometimes two or three in rapid 
succession, and in the direction of certain sitters. 
The director of the stance picked them up, read the 
name signed, and asked if any one knew it, and when 
claimed it was handed to him. In this way a dozen 
or more of the chance visitors received messages 
which were always intelligible to them and often 
strikingly appropriate. I will give some of the 
messages I thus received myself. 

On my second visit a very sceptical friend went 


with us, and seeing the writing-pad on the piano 
marked several of the sheets with his initials. The 
medium was very angry and said it would spoil the 
seance. However, he was calmed by his friends. 
When it came to the writing the pad was given to me 
over the top of the curtain to hold. I held it just 
above the medium's shoulder, when a hand and 
pencil came through the curtain, and wrote on the 
pad as I held it. It is a bold scrawl and hard to 
read, but the first words seem to be, " Friends were 
here to write, but only this one could. ... A. W." 
Another evening, with the same medium, I received 
a paper with this message, "I am William Martin, 
and I come for Mr. William Wallace, who could not 
write this time after all. He wishes to say to you 
that you shall be sustained by coming results in the 
position you have taken in the Ross case. It was a 
most foul misrepresentation." 

This, and other writing I had afterwards, are to 
me striking tests in the name William Martin. I 
never knew him, but he was an early friend of my 
brother who was for some time with Martin's father 
to learn practical building, the latter being then 
engaged in erecting King's College. When I was 
with my brother learning surveying, etc., he used 
often to speak of his friend Martin, but for the last 
forty-five years I had never thought of the name and 
was greatly surprised when it appeared. About a 
month later I had the following message from the 
elder Martin, written in a different hand : — 

" Mr. Wallace, 

" Your father was an esteemed friend, and 
I like to come to you for his sake. We are often 
together. How strange it seems to us here that the 

350 MY LIFE 

masses can so long exist in ignorance. Console your- 
self with the thought that though ignorance, super- 
stition and bigotry have withheld from you the just 
rewards to which your keen enlightenment and noble 
sacrifices so fully entitle you, the end is not yet, and 
a mighty change is about to take place to put you 
where you belong. 

"William Martin." 

I have no evidence that this Mr. Martin was a 
friend of my father, but the fact that my brother 
William was with him as stated (which must have 
been a favour), renders it probable. On the same 
evening there was a number of messages to about a 
dozen people all in different handwritings, several of 
which were recognized. My friend General Lippitt 
had a most beautiful message which he allowed me 
to copy, as it was a wonderful test and greatly sur- 
prised and delighted him. His first wife had died 
twenty-seven years before in California. She was an 
English lady and he was greatly attached to her. 
This is the message : — 

"Darling Francis, 

" I come now to greet you from the high 
spheres to which I have ascended. Do you recall the 
past ? Do you remember this day .-' This day I used 
to look forward to and mention with such pride ? 
This, my darling, is my birthday anniversary. Do 
you not remember ? Oh how happy shall we be 
when reunited in a world where we shall see as we 
are seen and know as we are known. 

" Elizabeth Lippitt." 

General Lippitt told me it was his first wife's 


birthday, that he had not recollected it that day, 
and that no one in Washington knew the fact but 

A German gentleman who was present had a 
message given him, which was not only written, 
as he declared, in excellent German, but was very 
characteristic of the friend from whom it purported 
to come. 

On this evening most wonderful physical mani- 
festations occurred. A stick was pushed out through 
the curtain. Two watches were handed to me through 
the curtain, and were claimed by the two persons who 
sat by the medium. The small tambourine, about 
ten inches diameter, was pushed through the curtain 
and fell on the floor. These objects came through 
different parts of the curtain, but left no holes as 
could be seen at the time, and was proved by a close 
examination afterwards. More marvellous still (if 
that be possible), a waistcoat was handed to me over 
the curtain, which proved to be the medium's, though 
his coat was left on and his hands had been held by 
his companion all the time ; also about a score lof 
people were looking on all the time in a well-lighted 
room. These things seem impossible, but they are, 
nevertheless, facts. 

At San Francisco my time was short, and my 
experiences were limited to a slate-writing stance of a 
striking and very satisfactory nature. I went with 
my brother John who had lived in California nearly 
forty years, and who, the day before, had bought a 
folding-slate bound with list to shut noiselessly. The 
seance was in the morning of a bright sunny day, and 
we sat at a small table close to a window. Mr. Owen, 
the editor of the Golden Gate, with a friend (a 
physician), accompanied us ; but they sat a little way 

352 MY LIFE 

from the table, looking on. The medium, Mr. Fred 
Evans, was quite a young man, whose remarkable 
gift had been developed under Mr. Owen's guidance. 

From a pile of small slates on a side-table four 
were taken at a time, cleaned with a damp sponge, 
and handed to us to examine, then laid in pairs on 
the table. All our hands were then placed over them 
till the signal was given, and on ourselves opening 
them writing was found on both slates. Two other 
pairs were then similarly placed on the table, on one 
of which the medium drew two diagonal pencil lines, 
and on that slate writing was produced in five 
different colours — deep blue, red, light green-blue, 
pale red-lilac, deep lilac, and these could be seen all 
superposed upon the pencil cross-lines. My brother's 
folding-slate was then placed upon the floor a foot or 
two away from the table, and after we had conversed 
for a few minutes, keeping it in sight, it was found to 
be written on both the inner sides. It then occurred 
to me to ask the medium whether writing could be 
produced on paper placed between slates. After 
a moment's pause, as if asking the question of his 
guides, he told me to take a paper pad, tear off six 
pieces, and place them all between a pair of slates. 
This I did, and we placed our hands over them as 
before, and in a few minutes, on opening them, we 
found six portraits in a peculiar kind of crayon 

I will now describe the writings and drawings we 
obtained, which are now before me. The first was a 
letter filling the slate in small, clear, and delicate 
writing, of which I will quote the concluding portion : 
" I wish I could describe to you my spirit home. But 
I cannot find words suitable in your earthly language 
to give it the expression it deserves. But you will 


know all when you join me in the spirit world. . . . 
Your loving sister, Elizabeth Wallace. Herbert is 

Here are two family names given, the first being 
one which no one else present could have known, as 
she died when we were both schoolboys. The opening 
and concluding parts of the letter show that it was 
addressed specially to myself. The next was ad- 
dressed to my brother, referring to me as "brother 
Alf," and is signed " P. Wallace." This we cannot 
understand, as we have no relative with that initial, 
except a cousin, Percy Wilson. It is, I think, not 
improbable that in transferring the message through 
the medium, and perhaps through a spirit-scribe (as 
is often said to be the case), the surname was mis- 
understood owing to the latter supposing that the 
communicant was a brother. 

The next slate contains a message signed "Judge 
Edmonds," addressed to myself and Mr. Owen, on 
the general subject of spirit manifestations. It is 
written very distinctly in a flowing hand. 

The next is the slate written in five colours, and 
signed "John Gray," one of the well-known early 
advocates of spiritualism in America. It is also on 
the general subject of spirit-return. Then comes a 
slate containing a portrait and signature of " Jno. 
Pierpont," one of the pioneers of spiritualism, and 
around the margin three messages in different hand- 
writings. One is from Stanley St. Clair, the spirit- 
artist, who says he has produced the portrait for me, 
at the request of the medium. The others are short 
messages from Elizabeth Wallace and R. Wallace, 
the latter perhaps one of the unknown Scotch uncles 
of my father, the other beginning, "God bless you, 
my boys," is probably from our paternal grandmother, 

2 A 

354 MY LIFE 

who is buried at Laleham. The last is my brother's 
folding-slate, containing on one side a short farewell 
from "John Gray," the signature being written three 
times in different styles and tints ; the other side is a 
message signed, " Your father, T. V. Wallace." This, 
again, was a test, as no one present would have been 
able to give my father's unusual initials correctly, 
and as he was accustomed to sign his name. 

The six portraits on paper with the lips tinted are 
those of Jno. Pierpont (signed) ; Benjamin Rush (an 
early spiritualist, signed) ; Robt. Hare, M.D., whose 
works I had quoted (signed) ; D. D. Home, the cele- 
brated medium who had died the year before — a 
likeness easily recognized ; a girl (signed " The Spirit 
of Mary Wallace "), probably my sister who had died 
the year before I was born, when eight years old ; 
and a lady, who was recognized as Mrs. Breed, a 
medium of San Francisco. These are all rather rude 
outlines, in somewhat irregular and interrupted dashes, 
but they are all lifelike, and considering that they 
must have been precipitated on the six surfaces while 
in contact with each other between the slates, as 
placed by myself, are exceedingly curious. The 
whole of these seven plates and six papers were 
produced so rapidly that the stance occupied less than 
an hour, and with such simple and complete openness, 
under the eyes of four observers, as to constitute 
absolutely test conditions, although without any of 
the usual paraphernalia of tests which were here quite 
unnecessary. A statement to this effect was pub- 
lished, with an account of the seance^ signed by all 

During the last fifteen years I have not seen much 
of spiritualistic phenomena ; but those who have read 


the account of my early investigations in my book on 
the subject, and add to them all that I have indicated 
here, will see that I have reached my present stand- 
point by a long series of experiences under such varied 
and peculiar conditions as to render unbelief impos- 
sible. As Dr. W. B. Carpenter well remarked many 
years ago, people can only believe new and extra- 
ordinary facts if there is a place for them in their 
existing " fabric of thought." The majority of people 
to-day have been brought up in the belief that 
miracles, ghosts, and the whole series of strange 
phenomena here described cannot exist ; that they 
are contrary to the laws of nature ; that they are the 
superstitions of a bygone age ; and that therefore 
they are necessarily either impostures or delusions. 
There is no place in the fabric of their thought into 
which such facts can be fitted. When I first began 
this inquiry it was the same with myself. The facts 
did not fit into my then existing fabric of thought. 
All my preconceptions, all my knowledge, all my 
belief in the supremacy of science and of natural law 
were against the possibility of such phenomena. And 
even when, one by one, the facts were forced upon me 
without possibility of escape from them, still, as Sir 
David Brewster declared after being at first astounded 
by the phenomena he saw with Mr. Home, "spirit 
was the last thing I could give in to." Every other 
possible solution was tried and rejected. Unknown 
laws of nature were found to be of no avail when 
there was always an unknown intelligence behind the 
phenomena — an intelligence that showed a human 
character and individuality, and an individuality which 
almost invariably claimed to be that of some person 
who had lived on earth, and who, in many cases, was 
able to prove his or her identity. Thus, little by 

356 MY LIFE 

little, a place was made in my fabric of thought, 
first for all such well-attested facts, and then, but 
more slowly, for the spiritualistic interpretation of 

Unfortunately, at the present day most inquirers 
begin at the wrong end. They want to see, and 
sometimes do see the most wonderful phenomena 
first, and being utterly unable to accept them as facts 
denounce them as impostures, as did Tyndall and 
G. H. Lewes, or declare, as did Huxley, that such 
phenomena do not interest them. Many people 
think that when I and others publish accounts of such 
phenomena, we wish or require our readers to believe 
them on oiir testimony. But that is not the case. 
Neither I nor any other well-instructed spiritualist 
expects anything of the kind. We write not to 
convince, but to excite to inquiry. We ask our 
readers not for belief, but for doubt of their own 
infallibility on this question ; we ask for inquiry and 
patient experiment before hastily concluding that we 
are, all of us, mere dupes and idiots as regards a 
subject to which we have devoted our best mental 
faculties and powers of observation for many years. 



Up to the age of twenty-one I do not think I ever 
had a sovereign of my own. I then received a small 
sum, perhaps about ;^50, the remnant of a legacy 
from my grandfather, John Greenell. This enabled 
me to get a fair outfit of clothes, and to keep myself 
till I got the appointment at the Leicester school. 
While living at Neath as a surveyor I did little more 
than earn my living, except during the six months of 
the railway mania, when I was able to save about 
;^ioo. This enabled me to go to Para with Bates, 
and during the four years on the Amazon my collec- 
tions just paid all expenses, but those I was bringing 
home with me would probably have sold for ;;C20o. 
My agent, Mr. Stevens, had fortunately insured them 
for ;^I50, which enabled me to live a year in London, 
and get a good outfit and a sufficient cash balance 
for my Malayan journey. 

My eight years in the Malay Archipelago were 
successful, financially, beyond my expectations. 
Celebes, the Moluccas, the Aru Islands, and New 
Guinea were, for English museums and private col- 
lections, an almost unknown territory. A large pro- 
portion of my insects and birds were either wholly 
new or of extreme rarity in England ; and as many 

358 MY LIFE 

of them were of large size and of great beauty, they 
brought very high prices. My agent had invested 
the proceeds from time to time in Indian guaranteed 
railway stock, and a year after my return I found 
myself in possession of about ^300 a year. Besides 
this, I still possessed the whole series of private col- 
lections, including large numbers of new or very rare 
species, which, after I had made what use of them 
was needed for my work, produced an amount which 
in the same securities would have produced about 
;i^200 a year more. 

But I never reached that comfortable position. 
Owing to my never before having had more than 
enough to supply my immediate wants, I was wholly 
ignorant of the numerous snares and pitfalls that 
beset the ignorant investor, and I unfortunately came 
under the influence of two or three men who, quite 
unintentionally, led me into trouble. Soon after I 
came home I made the acquaintance of Mr. R., who 
held a good appointment under Government, and 
had, besides, the expectation of a moderate fortune 
on the death of an uncle. I soon became intimate 
with him, and we were for some years joint investi- 
gators of spiritualistic phenomena. He was, like 
myself at that time, an agnostic, well educated, and 
of a more positive character than myself. He had 
for some years saved part of his income, and invested 
it in various foreign securities at low prices, selling 
out when they rose in value, and in this way he 
assured me he had in a few years doubled the 
amount he had saved. He studied price-lists and 
foreign news, and assured me that it was quite easy, 
with a little care and judgment, to increase your 
capital in this way. He quite laughed at the idea 
of allowing several thousand pounds to lay idle, as he 


termed it, in Indian securities, and so imbued me with 
an idea of his great knowledge of the money market, 
that I was persuaded to sell out some of my bonds 
and debentures and buy others that he recommended, 
which brought in a higher interest, and which he 
believed would soon rise considerably in value. This 
change went on slowly with various success for several 
years, till at last I had investments in various 
English, American, and foreign railways, whose fluc- 
tuations in value I was quite unable to comprehend, 
and I began to find, when too late, that almost all my 
changes of investment brought me loss instead of 
profit ; and later on, when the great depression of 
trade of 1875-85 occurred, the loss was so great as to 
be almost ruin. 

In 1 866 one of my oldest friends became secretary 
to a small body of speculators, who had offices in 
Pall Mall, and who, among other things, were buying 
slate quarry properties, and forming companies to 
work them. 

I was persuaded to take shares, and to be a 
director of these companies, without any knowledge 
of the business, or any idea how much capital would 
be required. The quarries were started, machinery 
purchased, call after call made, with the result in both 
cases that, after four or five years of struggle, the 
capital required and the working expenses were so 
great that the companies had to be wound up, and I 
was the loser of about a thousand pounds. 

While this was going on a still more unfortunate 
influence became active. My old friend in Timor 
and Singapore, Mr. Frederick Geach, the mining 
engineer, came home from the East, and we became 
very intimate, and saw a good deal of each other. 
He was a Cornishman, and familiar with tin, lead, 

36o MY LIFE 

and copper mining all his life, and he had the most 
unbounded confidence in good English mines as an 
investment. He had shares in some of the lead- 
mines of Shropshire and Montgomeryshire, and we 
went for a walking tour in that beautiful country, 
visited the mines, went down the shafts by endless 
perpendicular ladders, and examined the veins and 
workings with the manager, who had great confidence 
in its value, and was a large shareholder. " Here," 
said Geach, " you can see the vein of lead ore. It is 
very valuable, and extends to an unknown depth. 
This is not a probability, it is a certainty." And so 
I was persuaded to buy shares in lead-mines, and 
gradually had a large portion of my capital invested 
in them. About 1870 the price of lead began to fall, 
and has continued to fall ever since. The result of 
all this was that by 1880 a large part of the money 
I had earned at the risk of health and life was 
irrecoverably lost. 

While these continued misfortunes were in pro- 
gress I was involved in two other annoyances, 
causing anxiety and worry for years, as well as a very 
large money loss. The first was with a dishonest 
builder, who contracted to build my house at Grays, 
and who was paid every month according to the 
proportion of the work done. One day, when the 
house was little more than half finished, he did not 
appear to pay his men, and as they would not con- 
tinue to work without their money I paid them. He 
did not appear the next week, and sent no excuse, so 
the architect gave him notice that I should complete 
the building myself, and that, according to the agree- 
ment, he would be responsible for any cost beyond 
the contract price. After a few weeks he appeared, 
and wanted to go on, but that we declined. The 


house cost me somewhat more than the contract price, 
and when it was finished I sent him word he could 
have his ladders, scaffold-poles, boards, etc., though, 
according to the agreement, they were to be my 
property on his failure to finish the building. 

I soon found, however, that he had not paid for a 
large portion of the materials, and bills kept coming 
in for months afterwards for bricks, timber, stone, 
iron-work, etc., etc. The merchants who had trusted 
him found that he had no effects whatever, as he lived 
as a lodger with his father ; and from all I heard, was 
accustomed to take contracts in different places round 
London, and by not paying for any materials that he 
could get on credit, made a handsome profit. But 
the height of his impudence was to come. About 
five years after the house was finished, I received a 
demand through a lawyer for (I think) between £800 
and ;^900 damages for not allowing this man to finish 
the house ! I wrote, refusing to pay a penny. Then 
came a notice of an action at law ; and I was obliged 
to put it in a lawyer's hands. All the usual prelimi- 
naries of interrogatories, affidavits, statements of claim, 
replies, objections^ etc., etc., were gone through, and 
on every point argued we were successful, with costs, 
which we never got. The case was lengthened out 
for two or three years, and then ceased, the result 
being that I had to pay about ;^ioo law costs for 
what was merely an attempt to extort money. That 
was my experience of English law, which leaves the 
honest man in the power of the dishonest one, mulcts 
the former in heavy expenses, and is thus the very 
antithesis oi justice. 

The next matter was a much more serious one, 
and cost me fifteen years of continued worry, litiga- 
tion, and persecution, with the final loss of several 

362 MY LIFE 

hundred pounds. And it was all brought upon me 
by my ignorance and my own fault — ignorance of the 
fact so well shown by the late Professor de Morgan 
— that " paradoxers," as he termed them, can never 
be convinced, and my fault in consenting to get 
money by any kind of wager. It constitutes, there- 
fore, the most regrettable incident in my life. As 
many inaccurate accounts have been published, I will 
now state the facts, as briefly as possible, from docu- 
ments still in my possession. 

In Scientific Opinion of January 12, 1870, Mr. 
John Hampden (a relative of Bishop Hampden) 
challenged scientific men to prove the convexity of 
the surface of any inland water, offering to stake 
;^500 on the result. It contained the following words : 
" He will acknowledge that he has forfeited his 
deposit if his opponent can exhibit, to the satisfaction 
of any intelligent referee, a convex railway, river, 
canal, or lake." Before accepting this challenge I 
showed it to Sir Charles Lyell, and asked him whether 
he thought I might accept it. He replied, " Certainly. 
It may stop these foolish people to have it plainly 
shown them." I therefore wrote accepting the offer, 
proposing Bala lake, in North Wales, for the experi- 
ment, and Mr. J. H. Walsh, editor of the Field, or 
any other suitable person, as referee. Mr. Hampden 
proposed the Old Bedford canal in Norfolk, which, 
near Downham Market, has a stretch of six miles 
quite straight between two bridges. He also pro- 
posed a Mr. William Carpenter (a journeyman 
printer, who had written a book upholding the "flat 
earth " theory) as his referee ; and as Mr. Walsh 
could not stay away from London more that one 
day, which was foggy, I chose Mr. Coulcher, a sur- 
geon and amateur astronomer, of Downham Market, 


to act on my behalf, Mr. Walsh being the umpire 
and referee. 

The experiment finally agreed upon was as follows : 
The iron parapet of Welney bridge was thirteen feet 
three inches above the water of the canal. The Old 
Bedford bridge, about six miles off, was of brick and 
somewhat higher. On this bridge I fixed a large 
sheet of white calico, six feet long and three feet 
deep, with a thick black band along the centre, the 
lower edge of which was the same height from the 
water as the parapet of Welney bridge ; so that 
the centre of it would be as high as the line of sight 
of the large six-inch telescope I had brought with me. 
At the central point, about three miles from each 
bridge, I fixed up a long pole with two red discs on 
it, the upper one having its centre the same height 
above the water as the centre of the black band and 
of the telescope, while the second disc was four feet 
lower down. It is evident that if the surface of the 
water is a perfectly straight line for the six miles, then 
the three objects — the telescope, the top disc, and the 
black band — being all exactly the same height above 
the water, the disc would be seen in the telescope 
projected upon the black band ; whereas, if the six- 
mile surface of the water is convexly curved, then the 
top disc would appear to be decidedly higher than 
the black band, the amount due to the known size of 
the earth being five feet eight inches, which amount 
will be reduced a little by refraction to perhaps about 
five feet. 

The following diagrams illustrate the experiment 
made. The curved line in Fig. i, and the straight 
line in Fig. 2, show the surface of the canal on the 
two theories of a round or a flat earth. A and C are 
the two bridges six miles apart, while B is the pole 



midway with two discs on it, the upper disc, the 
telescope at A, and the black line on the bridge at C, 
being all exactly the same height above the water. 
If the surface of the water is truly flat, then on looking 
at the mark C with the telescope A, the top disc B 
will cover that mark. But if the surface of the water 
is curved, then the upper disc will appear above the 
black mark, and if the disc is more than four feet 
above the line joining the telescope and the black 

^^ it. 

mark, then the lower disc will also appear above the 
black mark. Before the experiment was made a 
diagram similar to this was submitted to Mr. Hampden, 
his referee Mr. Carpenter, and Mr. Walsh, and all 
three agreed that it showed clearly what should be 
seen in the two cases, while the former declared their 
firm belief that Fig. 2 showed what zvoiUd be seen. 

When the pole was set up and the mark put upon 
the bridge, Mr. Carpenter accompanied me, and saw 
that their heights above the water were the same as 
that of the telescope resting on the parapet of the 
bridge. What was seen in the large telescope was 



sketched by Mr. Coulcher and signed by Mr. Carpenter 
as correct, and is shown in the following diagram 
which was reproduced in the Field newspaper (March 
26, 1870), and also in a pamphlet by Carpenter him- 
self. But he declared that this proved nothing, 
because the telescope was not levelled, and because it 
had no cross-hair ! 

At his request to have a spirit-level in order to 
show if there was any " fall " of the surface of water, 

" Signed by Mr, Carpenter."— Z)r. Coulcher' s Report. '^Signed I " 

I had been to King's Lynn and borrowed a good 
Troughton's level from a surveyor there. This I now 
set up on the bridge at exactly the same height 
above the water as the other telescope, and having 
levelled it very accurately and called Mr. Carpenter 
to see that the bubble was truly central and that the 
least movement of the screws elevating or depressing 
it would cause the bubble to move away, I adjusted 
the focus on to the distant bridge, showing also the 
central staff and its two discs. 

Mr. Coulcher looked at it, and then Mr. Carpenter, 



and the moment the latter did he said, " Beautiful ! 
Beautiful! " and on Mr. Hampden asking him if it 
was all right, he replied that it was perfect, and that 
it showed the three points in "a perfect straight 
line ; " " as level as possible ! " And he actually 
jumped for joy. Then I asked Mr. Coulcher and Mr. 
Carpenter both to make sketches, which they did. 
We then fixed a calico flag on the parapet to make 

The "Bedford Level" Survey. — Sketches by the 
Two Referees. 

Copied from the Fielci for March 26, 1870. 

These two views, as seen by means of the inverting telescope, are exact 
representations of the sketches taken by Mr. Hampden's Referee, 
and attested by Dr. Coulcher as being correct in both cases : first, 
from Welney Bridge ; and secondly, from the Old Bedford Bridge. 

it more visible, and drove back with the instruments 
to Old Bedford bridge, where I set up the level 
again at the proper height above the water, and 
again asked both the referees to make sketches 
of what was seen in the level-telescope. This they 
did. Mr. Carpenter's was rather more accurately 
drawn, and Mr. Coulcher signed them as being correct, 
and both are reproduced here. 

The view in the large telescope and in the level- 
telescope both told exactly the same thing, and, 


moreover, proved that the curvature was very nearly 
of the amount calculated from the known dimensions 
of the earth. Mr. Hampden declined to look through 
either telescope, saying he trusted to Mr. Carpenter ; 
while the latter declared positively that they had won, 
and that we knew it ; that the fact that the distant 
signal appeared below the middle one as far as the 
middle one did below the cross-hair, proved that the 
three were in a straight line, and that the earth was 
flat, and he rejected the view in the large telescope 
as proving nothing for the reasons already stated. 

At first Mr. Hampden refused to appoint an 
umpire, because my referee, Mr. Coulcher, refused to 
discuss the question with Mr. Carpenter ; but after a 
few days he agreed that Mr. Walsh should be the 
umpire, after receiving the reports of the two referees. 
He had, in fact, unbounded confidence in what Mr. 
Carpenter told him, and firmly believed that the 
experiments had demonstrated the flat earth, and 
that no honest man could think otherwise. 

But Mr, Walsh decided without any hesitation 
that I had proved what I undertook to prove. He 
published the whole of the particulars with the reports 
of the referees and their sketches in the Field of 
March 18 and 26, while a considerable correspondence 
and discussion went on for some weeks later. At 
Mr. Hampden's request he allowed Mr. Carpenter 
to send in a long argument to show that the experi- 
ments were all in Mr. Hampden's favour, and having 
considered them, he wrote to Mr. Hampden that he 
should hand me the stakes on a certain day if he had 
no other reason to adduce why he should not do so. 
Thereupon Mr. Hampden wrote to him demanding 
his money hack on the ground that the decision was 
unjust, and ought to have been given in his favour. 

368 MY LIFE 

In thus writing to Hampden and receiving his 
demand for his deposit to be returned, Mr. Walsh 
made a great mistake, which had serious consequences 
for me. The law declares that all wagers are null 
and void, and that money lost by betting is not 
recoverable at law. But the judges have decided 
that when a wager is given against him by the umpire, 
the loser can claim his money back from the stake- 
holder if the latter has not already paid it away to 
the winner. Hence, if a loser immediately claims his 
money from the stake-holder, the law will enforce the 
former's claim on the ground that it is Jiis money, 
and the fact that he has lost it in a quite fair wager 
is beyond the cognizance of the law. Neither I nor 
Mr. Walsh knew of this, although he had decided 
and paid many wagers ; but this resulted in my 
having to pay the money back five years later, as 
will be presently described. 

I will now briefly state what were Hampden's 
proceedings for the next fifteen or sixteen years. 
He first began abusing Mr. Walsh in letters, post- 
cards, leaflets, and pamphlets, as a liar, thief, and 
swindler. Then he began upon me with even more 
virulence, writing to the presidents and secretaries of 
all the societies to which I belonged, and to any of 
my friends whose addresses he could obtain. One 
of his favourite statements in these letters was, " Do 
you know that Mr. A. R. Wallace is allowing him- 
self to be posted all over England as a cheat and 
a swindler ? " But he soon took more violent 
measures, and sent the following letter to my wife : — 

"Mrs. Wallace, 

" Madam — If your infernal thief of a husband 
is brought home some day on a hurdle, with every 


bone in his head smashed to pulp, you will know the 
reason. Do you tell him from me he is a lying 
infernal thief, and as sure as his name is Wallace he 
never dies in his bed. 

"You must be a miserable wretch to be obliged 
to live with a convicted felon. Do not think or let 
him think I have done with him. 

"John Hampden." 

For this I brought him up before a police 
magistrate, and he was bound over to keep the peace 
for three months, suffering a week's imprisonment 
before he could find the necessary sureties. But as 
soon as the three months were up, he began again 
with more abuse than ever, distributing tracts and 
writing to small local papers all over England. I 
now began to receive letters from friends, and also 
from perfect strangers, asking me if I knew what was 
said about me everywhere. I will give a summary of 
the steps I was obliged to take with the results, or 
rather absence of results, that followed. 

In 1 87 1, Mr. Walsh prosecuted Hampden for 
libel. He was convicted at the Old Bailey, and 
bound over to keep the peace for one year. 

In January, 1871, I brought an action for libel 
in order to give Hampden the opportunity of justi- 
fying, if he could, his language towards me. He 
did not defend the action, but suffered judgment 
to go by default, and the jury gave me a verdict 
with ^600 damages. But whatever property he had 
had been transferred to his son-in-law (a solicitor), 
so I could not get a penny, and had to pay the 
costs of the suit which, though undefended, were 

In October, 1872, I prosecuted him at the Old 

2 B 

370 MY LIFE 

Bailey for further libels. He was respited on publicly 
apologizing in several newspapers. 

Some months afterwards, however, he began 
again with equally foul libels, and I had him brought 
up under his recognizances, when he was sentenced 
to two months' imprisonment in Newgate. 

But within a year he began again as violently as 
ever, and on March 6, 1875, he was indicted at 
Chelmsford Assizes for fresh libels, and on proof 
of his previous convictions and apologies, he was 
sentenced to one year's imprisonment and to keep 
the peace, under heavy recognizances and sureties, 
for two years more. (A full report is given in the 
Chelmsford Chronicle, March 12, 1875.) 

Through the interest of his friends, however, he 
was liberated in about six months ; and thereupon, 
in January, 1876, he brought an action against Mr. 
Walsh to recover his deposit of ;^500, and this action 
he won, on the grounds already stated ; and as I had 
signed an indemnity to Mr. Walsh, I had to pay back 
the money, and also pay dl the costs of the action, 
about ;^200 more. But as I had a judgment for £6%^ 
damages and costs in my libel suit against Hampden, 
I transferred this claim to Mr. Walsh as a set-off 
against the amount due by him. Hampden, however, 
had already made himself a bankrupt to prevent this 
claim being enforced, and had assigned all his actual 
or future assets to his son-in-law. 

There were now legal difficulties on both sides. 
I was advised that the bankruptcy was fraudulent, 
and could be annulled ; but to attempt this would be 
costly, and the result uncertain. On the other hand, 
it was doubtful whether my claim against Hampden 
would not be treated as an ordinary creditor's claim in 
the bankruptcy. There was, therefore, a consultation 


of the solicitors, and a voluntary arrangement was 
arrived at. I was to pay all the costs of the suit 
and ;{^I20, amounting to £2^7 ; while £\\q still 
remained nominally due to me from Hampden. 

These terms were formally agreed to by Hampden 
and his son-in-law, and were duly carried out. Of 
course I had also to pay Mr. Walsh's costs in the 
action and my own lawyer's bill for the settlement, as 
well as those of the action for libel, and the various 
criminal prosecutions of Hampden I had been 
compelled to undertake. 

About this time he printed one thousand copies 
of a two-page leaflet, and sent them to almost every 
one in my neighbourhood whose address he could 
obtain, including most of the masters of Charterhouse 
School, and the residents as well as the tradesmen of 
Godalming, It was full of — " scientific villainy and 
roguery," — " cheat, swindler, and impostor." — " My 
specific charge against Mr. A. R. Wallace is that he 
obtained possession of a cheque for £\oQ)0 by fraud 
and falsehood of a party who had no authority to 
dispose of it." To save trouble, I drew up a short 
circular stating the main facts already given here for 
the information of those who had received Hampden's 
absurdly false libels, and thereafter took no further 
notice of him. 

He continued to circulate his postcards and tracts, 
and to write to all manner of people, challenging 
them to prove that the earth was not flat, for several 
years after. The last of his efforts which I have 
preserved is an eight-page tract, which he distributed 
at the Royal Geographical Society's Exhibition of 
Geographical Appliances, in December, 1885, in 
which he attacks all geographical teaching in his 
usual style, and declares that " at the present moment 

372 MY LIFE 

they are cowering beneath the inquiring gaze of one 
single truth-seeker, John Hampden, the well-known 
champion of the Mosaic cosmogony, as against the 
infidel theories and superstitions of the pagan mystics, 
who is, at the end of fifteen years' conflict, still holding 
his ground against all the professional authorities of 
England and America ; and the single fact that during 
the whole of that time, no one but a degraded swindler 
has dared to make a fraudulent attempt to support 
the globular theory, is ample and overwhelming proofs 
of the worthless character of modern elementary 
geography." And this man was educated at Oxford 
University ! Seldom has so much boldness of assertion 
and force of invective been combined with such gross 
ignorance. And to this day a society exists to uphold 
the views of Hampden, Carpenter, and their teacher, 
" Parallax ! " 

The two law suits, the four prosecutions for libel, 
the payments and costs of the settlement, amounted 
to considerably more than the ;^500 I received from 
Hampden, besides which I bore all the costs of the 
week's experiments, and between fifteen and twenty 
years of continued persecution — a tolerably severe 
punishment for what I did not at the time recognize 
as an ethical lapse. 

There is one other small money matter which I 
wish to put on record here, because, though it involves 
only the small sum of sixpence, it affords an example 
of official meanness, and what really amounts to petty 
larceny, which can hardly be surpassed. In 1865 the 
British Museum purchased from me some specimen 
(I think a skeleton) for which they agreed to pay 
£S' Two years later I received the following printed 
form : — 


" Principal Librarian and Secretary's Office. 

" British Museum, W.C, June 24, 1867. 

" Sir, 

" If you will send your own stamped 
receipt to this Office, you will be paid the amount 
due to you by the Trustees of the British Museum, 
£S OS. od. 

" I am, sir, 

" Your very obedient Servant, 

"Thomas Butler, 

"Assist. Secretary. 
"Mr. A. R.Wallace." 

I, of course, complied with the request and sent 
the stamped receipt, and by return of post had the 
following written communication : — 

" Mr. Butler begs to transmit the enclosed P.O. 
order for £4. igs. 6d. to Mr. Wallace, and the amount 
of it, with the cost of the order (6d.), makes up the 
sum due by the Trustees to Mr. Wallace. 

" British Museum, June 25, 1867." 

This amazing little dodge (for I can call it nothing 
else) completely staggered me. I was at first inclined 
to return the P.O. order, or to write asking for the 6d., 
and if necessary summon Mr. Butler (or the Trustees) 
to a County Court for the 6d. due. But I was busy, 
and did not want to enter upon what I felt sure would 
be a long correspondence and endless trouble and 
expense. I therefore determined to keep the two 
incriminating documents, and some day print them. 
The day has now come ; and it may be interesting to 
learn whether this preposterous and utterly dishonest 
method of paying part of an admitted debt, after 

374 MY LIFE 

obtaining a receipt for the whole, continues to be 
practised in this or any other public institution. 

It was while these troubles in the Hampden affair 
were at their thickest that my earnings invested in 
railways and mines continued depreciating so con- 
stantly as to be a source of great anxiety to me, and 
every effort to extricate myself by seeking better 
investments only made matters worse. It was at this 
time that the endeavour to get the Epping Forest 
appointment failed, and had it not been for the 
kindness of a relative, Miss Roberts, of Epsom, a 
cousin of my mother's, with whose family I had been 
intimate from my boyhood, I should have been in 
absolute want. She had intended to leave me ;^iooo 
in her will, but instead of doing so transferred it to 
me at once, and as it was in an excellent security, 
and brought me in from £^o to £6^ a year, it was 
most welcome. I had sold my house at Grays fairly 
well, and in 1880 bought a piece of land and built a 
cottage at Godalming, so that I had a home of my 
own ; but I had now to depend almost entirely on 
the little my books brought me in, together with a 
few lectures, reviews, and other articles. I had just 
finished writing my " Island Life," and had no idea 
that I should ever write another important book, and 
I therefore saw no way of increasing my income, 
which was then barely sufficient to support my family 
and educate my two children in the most economical 
way. From this ever-increasing anxiety I was relieved 
through the grant of a Civil Service Pension of ;^200, 
which came upon me as a very joyful surprise. My 
most intimate and confidential friend at this time was 
Mrs. Fisher (then Miss Buckley), and to her alone I 
mentioned my great losses, and my anxiety as to any 


sure source of income. Shortly afterwards she was 
visiting Darwin, and mentioned it to him, and he 
thought that a pension might be granted me in 
recognition of my scientific work. Huxley most 
kindly assisted in drawing up the necessary memorial 
to the Prime Minister, Mr. Gladstone, to whom 
Darwin wrote personally. He promptly assented, 
and the next year, 1881, the first payment was made. 
Other of my scientific friends, I believe, signed the 
memorial, but it is especially to the three named that 
I owe this very great relief from anxiety for the 
remainder of my life. 

I have already stated that what at the time 
appeared to be the great misfortune of the loss of 
about half of my whole Amazonian collections by the 
burning of the ship in which I was coming home, was 
in all probability a blessing in disguise, since it led 
me to visit the comparatively unknown Malay Archi- 
pelago, and, perhaps, also supplied the conditions 
which led me to think out independently the theory 
of natural selection. In like manner I am now 
inclined to see in the almost total loss of the money 
value of my rich collections, another of those curious 
indications that our misfortunes are often useful, or 
even necessary for bringing out our latent powers. I 
am, and have always been, constitutionally lazy, with- 
out any of that fiery energy and intense power of 
work possessed by such men as Huxley and Charles 
Kingsley. When I once begin any work in which I 
am interested, I can go steadily on with it till it is 
finished, but I need some definite impulse to set me 
going, and require a good deal of time for reflection 
while the work is being done. Every important book 
I have undertaken has been due to an impulse or a 

376 MY LIFE 

suggestion from without. I spent five years in quiet 
enjoyment of my collections, in attending scientific 
meetings, and in working cut a few problems, before 
I began to write my " Malay Archipelago," and it 
was due to the repeated suggestions of my friends 
that I wrote my " Geographical Distribution of 

But if the entire proceeds of my Malayan collec- 
tions had been well invested, and I had obtained a 
secure income of ^^^400 or .^500 a year, I think it 
probable that I should not have written another book, 
but should have gone to live further in the country, 
enjoyed my garden and greenhouse (as I always have 
done), and limited my work to a few lectures and 
review articles, but to a much less extent than I 
actually have done. It was the necessity of earning 
money, owing to my diminishing income, that caused 
me to accept invitations to lecture, which I always 
disliked ; and the same reason caused me to seek out 
subjects for scientific or social articles which, without 
that necessity, would never have been written. Under 
such conditions as here supposed, my dislike to 
lecturing would probably have increased, and I should 
never have ventured on my lecturing tour in America, 
in which case I should not have written " Darwinism," 
and, I firmly believe, should not have enjoyed such 
good health as I am now doing. Then, too, I should 
probably not have accepted Dr. Lunn's invitation to 
lecture at Davos, and my two later books would never 
have come into existence. If, therefore, my books 
and essays have been of any use to the world — and 
though I cannot quite understand it, scores of people 
have written to me telling me so — then the losses and 
the struggles I have had to go through have been a 
necessary discipline calculated to bring into action 


whatever faculties I possess. I may be allowed here 
to give an extract from one of these letters on my 
literary work, nearly the last I received from my 
lamented friend F. W. H. Myers. He writes 
(April 12, 1898):— 

" I am glad to take this opportunity of telling you 
something about my relation to one of your books. 
I write now from bed, having had severe influenzic 
pneumonia, now going off. For some days my tempe- 
rature was 105°, and I was very restless at night — ■ 
anxious to read, but in too sensitive and fastidious 
a state to tolerate almost any book. I found that 
almost the only book which I could read was your 
' Malay Archipelago.' Of course I had read it before. 
In spite of my complete ignorance of natural history 
there was a certain uniqueness of charm about the 
book, both moral and literary, which made it deeply 
congenial in those trying hours. You have had few 
less instructed readers ; but very few can have dwelt 
on that simple, manly record with a more profound 

Other people, quite strangers, have also told me 
that they have read it over and over again, and always 
take it with them on a journey. This is the kind of 
thing I cannot understand. It is true, if I open it 
myself I can read a chapter with pleasure ; but, then, 
to me it recalls incidents and feelings almost forgotten, 
and renews the delights of my wanderings in the 
wilderness and of my intense interest in the wonderful 
and beautiful forms of plant, bird, and insect life I 
was continually meeting with. Others have written 
in almost equally laudatory terms of my books on 
*' Land Nationalization " and on " Spiritualism," which 
have introduced them to new spheres of thought ; 
while others, again, have been equally pleased with 

3/8 MY LIFE 

parts of my " Wonderful Century " and " Man's Place 
in the Universe." I am thus forced to the conclusion 
that my books have served to instruct and to give 
pleasure to a good many readers, and that it is 
therefore just possible that my life may have been 
prolonged, and its conditions modified so as to afford 
the required impulse and the amount of time for me 
to write them. 



I HAVE already given an estimate of my character 
when I came of age. I will now make a few further 
remarks upon it as modified by my changed views of 
life, owing to my becoming convinced of the reality 
of a spirit world and a future state of existence. 

Up to middle age, and especially during the first 
decade after my return from the East, I was so much 
disinclined to the society of uncongenial and common- 
place people that my natural reserve and coldness of 
manner often amounted, I am afraid, to rudeness. I 
found it impossible, as I have done all my life, to 
make conversation with such people, or even to reply 
politely to their trivial remarks. I therefore often 
appeared gloomy when I was merely bored. I found 
it impossible, as some one had said, to tolerate fools 
gladly ; while, owing to my deficient language-faculty, 
talking without having anything to say, and merely 
for poHteness or to pass the time, was most difficult 
and disagreeable. Hence I was thought to be proud 
or conceited. But later on, as I came to see the 
baneful influence of our wrong system of education 
and of society, I began to realize that people who 
could talk of nothing but the trivial amusements of 
an empty mind were the victims of these social 

38o MY LIFE 

errors, and were often in themselves quite estimable 

Later on, when the teachings of spiritualism com- 
bined with those of phrenology led me to the conclusion 
that there were no absolutely bad men or women, 
that is, none who, by a rational and sympathetic 
training, and a social system which gave to all abso- 
lute equality of opportunity, might not become useful, 
contented and happy members of society, I became 
much more tolerant. I learnt also to distrust all first 
impressions ; for I repeatedly came to enjoy the 
society of people whose appearance or manner had at 
first repelled me, and even in the most apparently 
trivial-minded was able to find some common ground 
of interest or occupation. I feel myself that my 
character has continuously improved, and that this is 
owing chiefly to the teaching of spiritualism, that we 
are in every act and thought of our lives here building 
up a character which will largely determine our happi- 
ness or misery hereafter ; and also, that we obtain 
the greatest happiness ourselves by doing all we can 
to make those around us happy. 

As I have referred in various parts of this volume 
to ideas, or suggestions, or solutions of biological 
problems, which I have been the first to put forth, it 
may be convenient if I here give a brief account of 
the more important of them, some of which have, I 
think, been almost entirely overlooked. 

I. The first and perhaps the most important of 
these is my independent discovery of the theory of 
natural selection in 1858, in my paper on " The 
Tendency of Varieties to depart indefinitely from the 
Original Type." This is reprinted in my " Natural 


Selection and Tropical Nature ; " and it has been 
so fully recognized by Darwin himself and by 
naturalists generally that I need say no more about 
it here. 

2. In 1864 I published an article on "The De- 
velopment of Human Races under the Law of 
Natural Selection," the most original and important 
part of which was that in which I showed that so soon 
as man's intellect and physical structure led him to 
use fire, to make tools, to grow food, to domesticate 
animals, to use clothing, to build houses, the action 
of natural selection was diverted from his body to his 
mind, and thenceforth his physical form remained 
stable while his mental faculties improved. This 
paper was greatly admired by Mr. Darwin and several 
other men of science, who declared it to be entirely 
new to them ; but owing to its having been published 
in one of my less popular works, " Contributions to 
the Theory of Natural Selection," it seems to be 
comparatively little known. Consequently, it still 
continues to be asserted or suggested that because we 
have been developed physically from some lower 
form, so in the future we shall be further developed 
into a being as different from our present form as we 
are different from the orang or the gorilla. My paper 
shows why this will not be ; %vhy the form and 
structure of our body is permanent, and that it is 
really the highest type now possible on the earth. 
The fact that we have not improved physically over 

the ancient Greeks, and that most savage races 

even some of the lowest in material civilization 

possess the human form in its fullest symmetry and 
perfection, affords evidence that my theory is the 
true one. 

382 MY LIFE 

3. In 1867 I gave a provisional solution of the 
cause of the gay, and even gaudy colours of many 
caterpillars, which was asked for by Darwin, and 
which experiment soon proved to be correct. This is 
fully described in my " Natural Selection and Tropical 
Nature," pp. 82-86. The principle established in 
this case has been since found to be widely applicable 
throughout the animal kingdom. 

4. In 1868 I wrote a paper on "A Theory of 
Birds' Nests," the chief purport of which was to point 
out and establish a connection between the colours of 
female birds and the mode of nidification which had 
not been before noticed. This led to the formulation 
of the following law, which has been very widely 
accepted by ornithologists : When both sexes of birds 
are conspicuously coloured, the nest conceals the sitting 
bird ; but when the male is conspicuously coloured and 
the nest is open to view, the female is plainly coloured 
and inconspicuous. No less than fifteen whole families 
of birds and a number of the genera of other families 
belong to the first class, of brightly coloured birds 
with sexes alike, and they all build in holes or make 
domed nests. Most of these are tropical, but the 
woodpeckers and kingfishers are European. In the 
second class, however brilliant the male may be, if 
the nest is open to view, the female is always plainly 
coloured, sometimes so much so as to be hardly recog- 
nizable as the same species. This is especially the 
case in such birds as the brilliant South American 
chatterers and the Eastern pheasants and paradise 
birds. This law is of especial value, as showing the 
exceptional need of protection of female birds as well 
as butterflies, and the remarkable way in which the 
colours of both classes of animals have become 


modified in accordance with this necessity. This 
paper forms chapter vi. of my " Natural Selection and 
Tropical Nature." 

5. In the great subject of the origin, use, and 
purport of the colours of animals, there are several 
branches which, I believe, I was the first to call 
special attention to. The most important of these 
was the establishment of the class of what I termed 
" Recognition colours," which are of importance in 
affording means for the young to find their parents, 
the sexes each other, and strayed individuals of 
returning to the group or flock to which they belong. 
But perhaps even more important is the use of these 
special markings or colours during the process of the 
development of new species adapted to slightly 
different conditions, by checking intercrossing between 
them while in process of development. It thus 
affords an explanation of the almost universal rule, 
that closely allied species differ in colour or marking 
even when the external structural differences are 
exceedingly slight or quite undiscoverable. The 
same principle also explains the general symmetry 
in the markings of animals in a state of nature, while 
under domestication it often disappears : difference of 
colour or marking on the two sides would render 
recognition difficult. This principle was first stated 
in my article on "The Colours of Animals and 
Sexual Selection " (in " Natural Selection and Tropical 
Nature," 1878) and more fully developed in "Dar- 
winism." I am now inclined to think that it accounts 
for more of the variety and beauty in the animal 
world than any other cause yet discovered. 

I may here add that I believe I was first to give 
adequate reasons for the rejection of Darwin's theory 

384 MY LIFE 

of brilliant male coloration or marking being due to 
female choice. 

6. The general permanence of oceanic and con- 
tinental areas was first taught by Professor J. D. 
Dana, the eminent American geologist, and again by 
Darwin in his " Origin of Species " ; but I am, I 
believe, the only writer who has brought forward 
a number of other considerations, geographical and 
physical, which, with those of previous writers, 
establish the proposition on almost incontrovertible 
grounds. My exposition of the subject is given in 
"Island Life" (chap, vi.), while some additional 
arguments are given in my " Studies " (vol. i. chap. ii.). 
The doctrine may be considered as the only solid 
basis for any general study of the geographical dis- 
tribution of animals, and it is for this reason that I 
have made it the subject of my careful consideration. 

7. In discussing the causes of glacial epochs I 
have adopted the general views of Mr. James Croll as 
to the astronomical causes, but have combined them 
with geographical changes, and have shown how the 
latter, even though small in amount, might produce 
very important results. In particular I have laid 
stress on the properties of air and water in equalizing 
temperature over the earth, while snow and ice, by 
their immobility, produce cumulative effects ; and thus 
a lowering of temperature of a few degrees may lead 
to a country being ice-clad which before was ice-free. 
This is a vital point which is the very essence of 
the problem of glaciation ; yet it has been altogether 
neglected in the various mathematical or physical 
theories which have recently been put forward. My 
own discussion of the problem in chapter viii. of 


" Island Life " has never, so far as I know, been con- 
troverted, and I still think it constitutes the most 
complete explanation of the phenomenon yet given. 

8. In 1880 I published my " Island Life," and the 
last chapter but one is "On the Arctic Element in 
South Temperate Floras," in which I gave a solution 
of the very remarkable phenomena described by Sir 
Joseph Hooker in his " Introductory Essay on the 
Flora of Australia." My explanation is founded on 
known facts as to the dispersal and distribution of 
plants, and does not require those enormous changes 
in the climate of tropical lowlands during the glacial 
period on which Darwin founded his explanation, and 
which, I believe, no biologist well acquainted either 
with the fauna or the flora of the equatorial zone has 
found it possible to accept. 

9. In 1 88 1 I put forth the first idea of mouth- 
gesture as a factor in the origin of language, in a 
review of E. P. Tylor's "Anthropology," and in 1895 
I extended it into an article in the Fortnightly 
Reviezv, and reprinted it with a few further corrections 
in my " Studies," under the title, " The Expressive- 
ness of Speech or Mouth-Gesture as a Factor in the 
Origin of Language." In it I have developed a 
completely new principle in the theory of the origin 
of language by showing that every motion of the 
jaws, Hps, and tongue, together with inward or out- 
ward breathing, and especially the mute or liquid 
consonants at the end of words serving to indicate 
abrupt or continuous motion, have corresponding 
meanings in so many cases as to show a fundamental 
connection. I thus enormously extend the principle 
of onomatopoeia, in the origin of vocal language. As 

2 C 

386 MY LIFE 

I have been unable to find any reference to this 
important factor in the origin of language, and as no 
competent writer has pointed out any fallacy in it, I 
think I am justified in supposing it to be new and 
important. Mr. Gladstone informed me that there 
were many thousands of illustrations of my ideas in 

10. In 1890 I published in the Fortnightly Review 
an article on " Human Selection," and in 1892 (in the 
Boston Arena) one on " Human Progress, Past and 
Future." These deal with different aspects of the 
same great problem — the gradual improvement of 
the race by natural process ; and they were also 
written partly for the purpose of opposing the various 
artificial processes of selection advocated by several 
English and American writers. I showed that the 
only method of advance for us, as for the lower 
animals, is in some form of natural selection, and that 
the only mode of natural selection that can act alike 
on physical, mental, and moral qualities will come 
into play under a social system which gives equal 
opportunities of culture, training, leisure, and happiness 
to every individual. This extension of the principle 
of natural selection as it acts in the animal world 
generally is, I believe, quite new, and is by far the 
most important of the new ideas I have given to the 

11. In an article on "The Glacial Erosion of Lake 
Basins" (in the FortJiightly Revieiv, December, 1893), 
I brought together the whole of the evidence bearing 
upon the question, and adduced a completely new 
argument for this mode of origin of the valley lakes 
of glaciated countries. This is founded on their 


surface and bottom contours, both of which are shown 
to be such as would necessarily arise from ice-action, 
while they would not arise from the other alleged 
mode of origin — unequal elevation or subsidence. 

12. In a new edition of "Stanford's Compendium, 
Australasia," vol. i., when describing the physical and 
mental characteristics of the Australian aborigines, I 
stated my belief that they were really a low and 
perhaps primitive type of the Caucasian race. I 
further developed the subject in my " Studies," and 
illustrated it by photographs of Australians and 
Ainos, of the Veddahs of Ceylon, and of the Khmers 
of Cambodia — all outlying members of the same great 
human race. This, I think, is an important simplifi- 
cation in the classification of the races of man. 

Bees' cells. — But besides these more important 
scientific principles or ideas, there are a few minor 
ones which are of sufficient interest to be briefly men- 
tioned. In the article on the " Bees' Cell " in the 
"Annals and Magazine of Natural History," I called 
attention to a circumstance that had been, I think, 
unnoticed by all previous writers. An immense deal 
of ingenuity and of mathematical skill had been 
expended in showing that the two layers of hexagonal 
cells, with basal dividing-plates inclined at a particular 
angle, gave the greatest economy of space and of 
material possible ; and the instinct of the bees in 
building such a comb to contain their store of honey 
was held to show that it was a divinely bestowed 
special faculty. But all these writers omitted to take 
into account one fact, which shows their whole argu- 
ment to be fallacious. This is, that the combs are 
suspended vertically, and that when full of honey the 

388 MY LIFE 

upper rows of cells have to support at least ten times 
as much weight as the lowest rows. But there is no 
corresponding difference in the thickness of the walls 
of the cells ; so that, as the upper rows are strong 
enough, the lower must be quite unnecessarily strong, 
and there is thus a great waste of wax. The whole 
conception of a supernatural faculty for the purpose 
of economizing wax is thus shown to be fallacious. 
Darwin's explanation entirely obviates this difficulty, 
since it depends on the bees possessing intelligence 
enough to reduce all the cellwalls to a nearly uniform 
thickness, being that which is sufficient under all 
circumstances to support the weight of the whole 
mass of comb and honey. 

In an article on " The Problem of Instinct " in my 
" Studies " (vol. i. chap, xxii.), I have supplemented 
the usual theory as to zvhy birds migrate, by another 
as to how they migrate, and trace it wholly to experi- 
ence, the young birds following the old ones ; but an 
enormous proportion of the young fail to make the 
outward or the homeward journey safely. 

In 1894 I wrote an article for the Nineteenth 
Century on the question of the proper observance of 
Sunday, which I have reprinted in my " Studies " 
under the title, " A Counsel of Perfection for Sabba- 
tarians." In this short article I define clearly, I 
think for the first time, what the " work " so strictly 
and impressively forbidden really is, and then show 
how utterly inconsistent are the great majority of 
Sabbatarians, who themselves break the command- 
ment both in letter and spirit, while they loudly 
condemn others for acts which are not forbidden by 
it. I also show how the commandment can be and 
should be strictly kept by all who believe it to be a 
Divine command, and point out the good results 


which would follow such a mode of obeying it. That 
the idea was new and its reasoning unanswerable may 
be perhaps inferred from the fact that no reply, so far 
as I know, was made to it ; while a well-known writer 
was so impressed by it that he made his own bed the 
following Sunday in accordance with its suggestions. 



Having devoted some space to an account of my 
various experiences in connection with modern 
spiritualism, which have, however, been far less ex- 
traordinary than those of many of my friends, I may 
not improperly conclude this record of my life and 
experience with a statement of a few of the pre- 
dictions which I have received at different times, and 
which have been to some extent fulfilled. 

In 1870 and the following years several communi- 
cations in automatic writing were received through a 
member of my family purporting to be from my 
brother William, with whom I had lived so many 
years. In some of these he referred to my dis- 
appointments in obtaining employment and to my 
money losses, always urging me not to trouble myself 
about my affairs, which would certainly improve ; but 
I was not to be in a hurry. These messages never 
contained any proofs of identity, and I did not there- 
fore feel much interest in them, and their ultimate 
fulfilment, though in quite unexpected ways, cannot be 
considered to be of any great importance. 

Some years later, when we were living at Dorking, 
my little boy, then five years old, became very 
delicate, and seemed pining away without any per- 
ceptible ailment. At that time I was being treated 


myself for a chronic complaint by an American 
medium, in whom I had much confidence ; and one 
day, when in his usual trance, he told me, without 
any inquiry on my part, that the boy was in danger, 
and that if we wished to save him we must leave 
Dorking, go to a more bracing place, and let him be 
out-of-doors as much as possible and "have the smell 
of the earth." I then noticed that we were all rather 
languid without knowing why, and therefore removed 
in the spring to Croydon, where we all felt stronger, 
and the boy at once began to get better, and has had 
fair health ever since. 

Some time afterwards I accompanied a lady friend 
of mine to have a siance with the same medium, she 
being quite unknown to him. Among many other 
interesting things, he told us that something would 
happen before very long which would cause us to see 
less of each other, but would not affect our friendship. 
We neither of us could guess what that could be, but 
a year or two later the lady married a very old friend, a 
widower, whose wife at the time of the prediction was, 
I think, alive, while he was living in a distant colony 
without any expressed intention of coming home. 
After the marriage they went to live in Devonshire, 
and for some years we only met at very long intervals. 
These two cases seem to me to be genuine clairvoyance 
or prediction. 

But much more important than the preceding are 
certain predictions which were made to me in April, 
1896, and which have been fulfilled during the 
succeeding eight years. At that time I was living at 
Parkstone in rather poor health and subject to chronic 
asthma, with palpitations and frequent bronchitis, 
from which I never expected to recover. I had given 
up lecturing, and had no expectation of ever writing 

392 MY LIFE 

another book, neither had I the least idea of leaving 
the house I was living in, which I had purchased and 
enlarged a few years before. It was under these cir- 
cumstances that a medium I had visited once in 

London, Madame G , was staying with friends at 

Wimborne, and came to see me, and offered to give 
me a siance. One of her controls, an old Scotch 
physician, advised me about my health, told me to 
eat fish, and assured me that I was not coming to 
their side for some years yet, as I had a good deal of 
work to do here. The other control, named " Sun- 
shine," an Indian girl, who seemed to be able to get 
information from many sources, was very positive in 
her statements. She said, "You won't live here 
always. You will come out of this hole. You will 
come more into the world, and do something public 
for spiritualism." I replied, " You are quite wrong. I 
shall never leave this house now, and I shall not 
appear in public again." But she insisted that she 
was right, and said, " You will see ; and when it comes 
to pass, remember what I told you." She then said, 
" Fanny [my sister] sends her love. She loved you 
more than any one in the world." This I knew to be 
true, though during her life I did not so fully realize 
it. Then Sunshine gave me her parting words, speak- 
ing slowly and distinctly: "The third chapter of your 
life, and your book, is to come. It can be expressed 
as Satisfaction, Retrospection, and Work," These 
three words were spoken very impressively, and I 
wrote them at once in a small note-book with capital 
letters, though I had no notion whatever of what they 
could refer to, and no belief that they would be in any 
way fulfilled. 

Yet two months later the first step in the fulfil- 
ment was taken though Dr. Lunn's invitation to give 


a lecture at Davos, and my acceptance of it, due 
mainly to the temptation of a week in Switzerland 
free of cost and with a pleasant party. As already 
described, this lecture was the starting-point of all my 
subsequent work. The very next year brought me 
renewed health and strength to do the work, as 
already mentioned. Another year passed, and I 
received a pressing invitation to take the chair and 
give a short address at the International Congress of 
Spiritualists in 1898, which I felt myself unable to 
refuse, and thus, as I had been told I should, I " did 
something public for spiritualism." Yet another 
year, and a great desire for life more in the country 
than at Parkstone (where we were being surrounded 
by new building operations) led me to join some 
friends in trying to find a locality for a kind of home- 
colony of congenial persons ; and though the plan 
was never carried out, it led ultimately to my finding 
the site on which to build my present house, and thus 
" get out of that hole," as I had been told by Sunshine 
that I should do. And now, looking back upon the 
eight years of renewed health I have enjoyed, and 
with constant interesting work, how can this be better 
described than as " the third chapter of my life ;" while 
"Man's Place in the Universe" — a totally new subject 
for me — may well be termed the "third chapter of 
my book," that is, of my literary work. Again, this 
wholesome activity of body and mind, the obtaining a 
beautiful site where I am surrounded by grass and 
woodland, and have a splendid view over moor and 
water to distant hills and the open sea, with abund- 
ance of pure air and sunshine, the building of a com- 
fortable house in one of the choicest spots in the 
whole district — surely all this was well foretold in the 
one word " Satisfaction." What has chiefly occupied 

394 MY LIFE 

me in this house — an Autobiography extending over 
three-quarters of a century— is admirably described 
by the word " Retrospection," And the whole of this 
process has involved, or been the result of, continuous 
and pleasurable " Work." 

I will only add here that during the whole of this 
" third chapter of my life " I had entirely forgotten the 
particular words of the prediction which I had noted 
down at the time, and was greatly surprised, on refer- 
ring to them again for the purpose of this chapter, to 
find how curiously they fitted the subsequent events. 
Of course it may be said that every one who reaches my 
age enjoys " retrospection," but that kind of general 
looking back to the past is very different from the 
detailed Retrospection I have had to make in search- 
ing out the many long- forgotten incidents and details 
of my varied life, as here recorded ; and the Work this 
has involved, and the Satisfaction I have had in 
writing it, seem fully to justify the solemn emphasis 
with which the prediction was made. 

Thus far I had written in " My Life," the proofs of 
which passed out of my hands in September, 1905, 
and I never contemplated that anything more would 
happen to me which would add force and complete- 
ness to the fulfilment above recorded. But two things 
of that nature have happened, both totally unexpected, 
and in themselves very unlikely, and in neither case 
was my action in any degree influenced by the 
thought that they did serve to fulfil more exactly 
what had been predicted. So much was this the case 
that this point of view did not occur to me till I 
came to read again the last pages of " My Life " for 
the purposes of this edition. 

I will first mention, however, that the whole period 


between the publication of the first edition and the 
completion of the second, has to me been again a 
long retrospection of what may be termed the best 
and most active part of my life, in the lengthy pre- 
paration of Spruce's " Notes of a Botanist." This 
period extends from 1849, when I first met him 
at Para, to the date of his death in 1893. While 
studying his Journals and letters I recalled, and to 
some extent visualized, places and persons in South 
America long forgotten, as well as the pleasant 
talks and communications I had with him after his 
return to England. Four years instead of one have 
thus been occupied in a long course of agreeable 

Far more important than this, however, is a 
circumstance that happened only last year. Early in 
the spring of last year I was asked by Archdeacon 
Colley to help him by appearing as a witness in a civil 
action between himself and Maskelyne, the celebrated 
conjuror, respecting phenomena occurring with a 
medium. Dr. Monck. The Archdeacon had challenged 
Maskelyne to reproduce the phenomena of materiali- 
zation, as described by him in a lecture delivered at 
Weymouth during the Church Congress, in October, 
1905, and agreed to forfeit ;^iooo if he did so. It 
happened that I was the only person in England who 
had witnessed similar phenomena with Monck, as de- 
scribed in chapter XXL, and it was thought that if I saw 
Maskelyne's imitation I could say how far it was a 
reproduction of what I had seen with Monck, and what 
Mr. Colley described. At first I positively refused to 
go up to London and expose myself to cross-exami- 
nation in Court, in order to save the Archdeacon from 
the consequences of his own too impulsive challenge. 
But repeated and most earnest letters from him, and 

396 MY LIFE 

the statement that his solicitor and counsel both 
thought the case might go against him without the 
evidence which I alone could give ; and further, that in 
that case the cause of spiritualism would be greatly 
damaged, at length prevailed, and I consented to go. 
I found Maskelyne's performance to be a ludicrous 
parody of the actual materialization as both I and 
Archdeacon Colley described it, and explained in 
Court the exact difference between them, pointing out 
that all the essential features of the one were omitted 
in the other, and that, while the actual phenomena 
were totally inexplicable by normal causes, Maske- 
lyne's imitation could deceive no one at all familiar 
with such performances. The result of the trial was 
that the Archdeacon won his cause, and the contempt 
and ridicule thrown by the opposing counsel on the 
alleged phenomena were to some extent neutralized 
by my positive evidence. 

During the whole of this event, and the succeeding 
discussion in the Press, or in my correspondence, I 
never once thought of any connection with the 
prediction. But on reading it again now, I see that 
it fulfils the conditions far more exactly than did my 
attendance at the International Congress of Spiritua- 
lists. For the prediction was — " You will come out 
of this hole. You will come more into the world, 
and do something public for spiritualism." In 1898 I 
had not " come out of the hole," and attending a con- 
gress of spiritualists was hardly " doing something 
public." But giving evidence in a Court of Justice, 
which was more or less reported all over the kingdom 
and the world, and which was believed to have saved 
the reputation of spiritualism on that occasion, was 
certainly " doing something public " for the cause, and 
something quite unanticipated by myself or any one 


for me. But in this very year another event has 
occurred even less anticipated by myself, and which 
again accords with the prediction. 

In February, 1908, the Linnean Society decided 
to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the reading of 
the joint Essays of Darwin and myself on July i, 
1858, by a Jubilee Celebration and the presentation 
of a medal with our two portraits to persons con- 
nected with the event ; and the Council invited me 
to attend, to give a short address, and to receive one 
of the medals. 

This wholly unexpected and very unusual honour 
was in due course conferred upon me in the presence 
of many of the most eminent naturalists, British and 
Foreign. Here, then, was yet another " coming more 
into the world," which I thought I had taken my 
leave of — the world of Science ; and it was an 
occasion of publicity that could hardly be exceeded, 
since the record of it would be carried by the Press 
throughout the whole extent of the civilized world. 
Here was surely " Satisfaction " for any man, however 
greedy of praise he might be. For myself, I can only 
say that I would have been fully content with a lower 
place than that accorded me, and feel that I attained 
to the honour more from the accident of my having 
lived to see the Celebration, than from any idea that 
I could have the slightest claim to be placed on 
anything approaching a level with Darwin. 

With this celebration, and the publication of this 
volume, I close my Memoirs. I now wish my readers, 
who have so far followed the record of my life-history, 
a hearty Farewell. 



Aar, the gorge of, 301 

Abyssinia, plants of, in Mada- 
gascar, 233 

"Acclimatization," article on, 

Aden, 174 

Adelboden, 304 

Africa, plants of, in Madagascar, 


Agassiz, Louis, on glaciers, 7 1 
" Age of Bronze, The," 63 
Alexandria, described, 171 
Allen, Grant, A. R. Wallace on, 

299 ; socialist, 328 
AUingham, William, and Tenny- 
son, 295 
" Altavona," by Professor Blackie, 

Altringham, lecture at, 295 
Amazon, travels on, 143-162 
Amboyna, 189-195 
America, tour in, 272-293 
Andermatt, walk to, 301 
Animals, distribution of, 262 
Animals, colours of, 272 
"Animals and Plants under 

Domestication," 221 
"Anticipations of the Future," 305 
" Antiquity of Man," by Lyell, 223 
"Appreciation of Past Century," 

by A. R. Wallace, 305 
Arctic Plants in Tropics, 237, 385 
Arena, The, article in, 300 
Argyll, Duke of, 226 
Article on law of introduction of 

new species, 183 
Aru Islands, 187, 188 

Astronomy, interest in, 101-102 
Australia, birds of, 205-206 


Backhouse, Mr., gardens of, 259 
" Bad Times," by A. R. Wallace, 

Bali, 1S7 
Barking, A. R. Wallace lives at, 

Barra, Brazil, 146 
Barrett,Professor, 245 ; on thought- 
reading, 258 ; founds Psychical 

Research Society, 258 
Bartholomew's "Architecture," 

Barton-in-the-Clay, surveying at, 

Batchian, 195 
Bates, Henry, A. R. Wallace 

meets, 127 ; correspondence 

with, 143, 184, 197 ; goes with 

A. R. Wallace to Brazil, 144; 

refers Darwin to A. R. Wallace, 

Bateson, Mr., 301, 302 
Bay of Biscay, storm in, 145 
Beacons, the, Brecknockshire, 86, 

88, 90, 138 
Beane river at Hertford, 22 
Beau Brummell, 5 
Becca de Nona, excursion to, 215 
Bedfordshire, surveying in, 5^-73 
Bees' cells, A. R. Wallace on, 3S7 
Beetles, abundance of, at certain 

localities, while others are very 

poor, 185, 186, 199 



Bellamy, E., 293 ; " Looking 
Backward," by, 327; "Equa- 
lity," by, 328 

Bengeo, 23 

Bennett, A. W., reply to his 
criticism of natural selection, 

Biological Section of B. A., A. R, 
Wallace, president, 25S, 265 

Birds, A. R. Wallace writes 
about, 205-207, 388 

Birmingham, first railway to, 69 

Blackie, Professor, 324 

Blatchford, Robert, 306 

Borneo, 177 

Borrow, George, quoted, 86, 93 

Boston, spiritualism in, 344 

Botany, A. R. Wallace studies, 
61, 104, 107 

Brackett, Mr, E. A., spiritualist, 

Bradgate Park, rambles in, 128 
Bradley, Professor, on age of big 

trees of California, 282 
Brady, Sir Antonio, 260 
Brecknockshire, surveying in, 87 
British Association, 229, 256 
British Museum, its business 

methods, 372 
Brooke, Captain, 351 
Brooke, Charles, 251 
Brooke, Sir J., 177, 181, 250 
Brown, Mrs., and Lady Burdett- 

Coutts, 250 
Brown, Mr. Curtis, 312 
Bruce-Joy, Mr. A., 308 
Brunig, excursion to, 301 
Bryn-coch, 95, 96 
Buckland, Dr., and the ice-age, 71 
Buckley, Miss A., 220, 235, 374 
Bunbury, Sir Charles, 226 
Burdett-Coutts, Lady, 250 
Burney, Fanny, "Evelina," by, 40 
Butterflies, 150, 186, 207 
Byron, Lord, laudatory poem on, 


Cadoxton, surveying at, 94 
Cairo, A. R. Wallace visits, 173 

Calaveras Grove, big trees, 279- 

California, J. Wallace goes to, 9 ; 

A. R. Wallace visits, 277 
Cambridge, British Association 

at, 256 
Carpenter, Edward, as socialist, 

Carpenter, Dr. W. B., 258, 336 
Carpenter, William, 362-367 
Carroll, Lewis, books of, 117 
Casey, Mr. Comerford, transla- 
tion of Latin speech by, 269 
"Causes of War," article by 

A. R. Wallace, 305 
"Caterpillars and Birds," 229 
Caterpillars, colouring of, 227, 

228, 382 
Celebes, A. R. Wallace at, 1S7, 

Ceram, 195, 196 
Chambers, Dr. Robert, letter to 

A. R. Wallace, 336 
Champery, A. R. Wallace visits, 


Charles Allen, 172, 176 
Clarion, The, letter to, from A. R. 

Wallace, 305 
Clark, Dr. G. B., and Land 

Nationalization, 322 
Cleveland, President, A. R. 

Wallace meets, 275 
Clifford, Rev. J., socialist, 328 
Clydach River, 96 
"Colours of Animals," by A. R. 

Wallace, 383 
Columbia College, Georgia, F. 

Wallace goes to, 8 
Combe, George, 125 
" Compendium of Geography," 

Australasia, by A. R. Wallace, 

"Constitution of Man," by 

Combe, 125 
Constitutional, The, 63 
Contemporary Review, The, articles 

by A. R. Wallace, 300, 322 
Cook, Miss, medium, 338 
Corelli, Miss M., A. R. Wallace 

meets, 326 
Coulcher, Mr., 362-367 
Coulson, Mr., at Sarawak, 177 



Cox, Mrs, Robert, 325 

Cox, Serjeant, 335 

"Creed of Science," by Graham, 

Darwin on, 234 
Croll, J., 211, 233, 267 
Crookes, Sir W., 338-339 
Croydon, A. R. Wallace lives at, 

Crutvvell, C. H., schoolmaster, 

Crynant at a village beer-shop, 96 
Crystal Palace, helps Dr, Latham 

at, 166 
Cuba, Article on, by A. R. 

"Wallace, 305 
Cubitt, Mr., builder, 9 


Daily Chronicle, The, article by 

A. R. Wallace, 305 
Dana, Professor J. D., 384 
Darlington, lecture at, 295 
Dartmoor, A. R. Wallace on 

preserving, 320 
Darwen, lecture at, 295 
Darwin, C, 191-194, 226-238 ; 
correspondence with, 183, 192, 
227-235 ; on caterpillars, 227, 
228 ; and A. R. Wallace, 
differences of opinion, 229 ; and 
A. R. Wallace's pension, 375 
Darwin, Dr. Erasmus, 226 
"Darwinism," lecture on, 272 
"Darwinism," by A. R, Wallace, 

218, 294 
Davos, at, with Dr. Lunn, 302- 

" Defence of Spiritualism," by 
A. R. Wallace, 338 

Defoe, Daniel, " The Great 
Plague," by, 40 

Dent du Midi, 215 

"Descent of Man," A. R. Wal- 
lace's opinion of, 230 

" Development of Human Races," 
by A. R. Wallace, 381 

Devynock in Usk vale, 91 

Dialectical Society, 335 

" Diary of a Physician," 40 

Dilke, Elizabeth, 2 

Dinas rock, Vale of Neath, 136 
" Distribution of Animals, Geo- 
graphical," 262 
Distribution of Plants, 268 
Dorey, 194 
Dorking, A. R. Wallace lives at, 

Doubleday, Mr. E., 145 
Douglas, Miss, spiritualist, 339 
Dringarth, upper Neath valley, 

Drumau mountain, 135 
Dublin University degree, 269 
Dunstable, 68 
Dyaks, 1 78- 1 81 


Edwards, W. H., " Voyage up 

Amazon," 145 
Ega rich in insects, 186 
Eglinton, Mr., medium, 341 
" Elements of Botany," Lindley's, 

" Encyclopedia Britannica," arti- 
cles if or, 264, 265 
Entomological Society, 204, 240 
Epping Forest, article on, 218 
" Equality," by E. Bellamy, 328 
Estcourt, R., an early land- 

nationalizer, 322 
Evans, Frederick, medium, 352 
"Evelina," by F. Burney, 40 
Exeter, meeting of B. A., 256 
"Exeter Change for British 

Lions," 257 
"Expression of Emotions," by 
Darwin, 227 

"Faerie Queenc," Spenser's, 40 
Fielding's "Tom Jones," 40 
Fillingham, Rev. R. C, socialist, 

"First Principles," by H. Spencer, 

Fitch, Walter, artist, 165 
Flower, Sir W., 245 
Forbes, Prof. E., 184 

2 D 



Forests of S. America, 149 
Forests of California, 277-2S2 
Forttiightly Review, the, articles 

in, 21S, 299, 300, 301, 312 
Forty-five years' Vaccination 

Statistics, 330 
Frolic gunboat, a month on board, 



Gallienne, Mr. Le, 303-304 
Galton disproves pangenesis, 

Games, 32 

Garden of the Gods, 283 
Garrison, F, J., at Boston, 344 
Geach, F., at Grays, 261 ; in 

Timor, 359, 360 
Geographical distribution, 184- 

185, 197, 205, 262-264 
" Geographical distribution of 

Animals," 264 
Geological Climates, 211 
Geology, 59, 71, 88, 89, 90 
George, Henry, on the land- 
problem, 323 
Gibbons, Dr., in California, 277 
Glacial epoch, 71, 214, 215, 222, 

233. 384 
Gladstone, W. E., Letter from, 

Glamorganshire, residence in, 87, 

Glasgow, B.A. meeting at, 258 
Godalming, 269 
Goram, 195 

Gorge of the Aar, 301, 302 
Gothic architecture, 99 
Government of natives, 182, 200 
Graham, W., Darwin on, 234 
Grand Junction Canal, 69 
Gravity, specific, 68, 69 
Gray, G. R., 204 
Gray, John, message from, 353 
Grays, 217, 260-264 
Gray's Peak, 283 
Greenell, John, 4 
Greenell, Rebecca, 6 
Grove, Calaveras, 279 
Guia, on the Rio Negro, 148 


" Hall of Science," 45 

Hall, Spencer, on mesmerism, 124 

Hampden, John, 362-372 

Hannay and Dietrichsen's Alma- 
nac, 10 1 

Hanworth, 2 

Handeck cascade, 301 

Hare, Robert, portrait of, 354 

Harmsworth's History, 316 

Hartham, 23 

Haweis, Rev. H. R. , 303 

Haxby, Mr., medium, 340 

Hayward, C. F., 269 

Hayward, Charles, 269 

Health, bad, 308-310 

Henslow, Rev., criticism of, 302 

Herbarium, my S. Wales, 103 

Hertford, 6, 20 

Hertford Mill, 22 

Hertford Grammar School, 26 

Higgins, Mr. H. H., 65, 66 

Higham Gobion, first survey of, 58 

Hill, Rev. Abraham, 122 

Hirwain, 137 

History at school, 30 

History, Harmsworth's, 316 

Hobson, J. A., a socialist, 328 

Hoddesdon, 6, 39 

Holmes, O, W., 273 

Holman, Judge, 275 

Holyhead coach road, 68 

Home, D. D., medium, 338-340 ; 
portrait of, 354 

Hooker, Mrs. Beecher, 347 

Hooker, Sir J., 192, 193, 195 

Hope, Col., V.C., 260 

Horn's Mill, Hertford, 23 

House at Grays, 261 

House of Lords, article on, 300, 315 

Hudson River, 273 

Hughes, H. Price, 303 

" Human Personality," by Myers, 

Human Race, development of, 381 
"Human Selection," article on, 

299, 327 

Human Selection, 386 

Humboldt's " Personal Narra- 
tive," 123 

Humming-birds, 283 



Hurstpierpoint, 213, 216 
Huxley, letter from, 247 
Huxley on A. R. Wallace's article, 

Huxley, T. H., 168, 238, 246, 

247, 249 ; on Spiritualism, 336 
Hyndman, H. M., socialist, 328 

Ice-age, the, 71, 214, 215, 222, 

233, 384 
Ideas, new, 3S0 
111 health, 308-3 lo 
Illness, 26, 77 
Inaccessible valleys, 279 
Inclosure Act, 80-85 
Income from collections, 35S 
Independejit, The, article in, 312 
Ingleby, C. M., acquaintance 

with, 260 
Insect pests, 97 
"Island Life," by A. R. Wallace, 

232, 265-268 
" Instinct, problem of," 305 ; how 

birds migrate, 388 
" Is Mars Habitable ? " 317 

James, Professor, at seances with, 

James Wallace, 2 
Java and Sumatra, 199 
Jenner, 329 

Journey to London from Usk, 20 
Journey to the East, 169, 174 
Journey to Para, 145 
Juaurite, Rio Uaupes, 147 
Jubilee, Darwin-Wallace, 397 


Keeler, P. L. O. A., medium, 347 

Ke Islands, 195 

Kenworthy, J. C, a socialist, 32S 

Khmers of Cambodia, 387 

Kingsley, Charles, 256 

Kington, 78, 87, 94 

Kirchet, the rock barrier at, 301 

Labour Annual, article in, 305 

Lakes, origin of, 222, 223-225 

Lake basins, erosion of, 386 

Laleham, 2 

Lampreys, 14 

Land Nationalization, 85, 241, 

319-326 ; Spencer on, 242 
" Land Nationalization," 268 ; 

by A. R. Wallace, 323 
Land Nationalization Society, 

Land question, 79-S5 ; article on, 

321, 322 
Land Tenure Reform Association 

and J. S. Mill, 319 
Language, origin of, 385 
Languages, native, 166 
Latham, Dr. R. G., 166 
Latin, learning at school, 29-31 
"Law of Introduction of New 

Species," 183 
Lead mines, investments in, 359 
Lecture Tour in America, 272-293 
Legal troubles, 361-372 
Leicester, 121 

Leicester Collegiate School, 122 
Letters to G. Silk, 21, 74, 171, 

Levi, Professor Leone, 270 
Lewes, G, H., and Spiritualism, 

Libels by Hampden, 368-371 
Lindley's Botany, 103 
Linnean Society, papers for, 207 ; 

paper for, 302 
Linnean Society Celebration, 397 
Lippitt, General, 347, 350 
Literary eftbrts, first, 107- 114 
Literary work, 165, 205, 262, 269, 

299. 301. 305> 306, 310, 313 
Literature, Welsh, 93 
Litigation, 361-372 
Liverpool, lectures at, 295, 299 
Llanbadock, near Usk, 14 
Llanbister, Radnorshire, 78 
Llandrindod Wells, 79 
Llantwit, Glamorganshire, 133 
Llia River, 92 

Lodge, Sir O., a socialist, 328 
Lombok, 186-187, 206 



London, early life in, 43-4$ ; life 
in, 163-170, 203-216 

"Looking Backward," by Bel- 
lamy, 327 

Loss of collections, 155 

Louray Caves, 276 

Lowell Institute, Boston, 272 

Lowell J. Russell, 238, 273 

Lowell, Professor P., on Mars, 316 

Lubbock, Sir John, 244 

Lung-disease, 77-78 

Lunn, Dr., lecture for, 302, 303 

Lyell's Geology, 71, 88 

Lyell, Sir C, 183, 192, 193, 211, 
220-226, 362 ; letters to, 221, 

Lyman, D., a spiritualist, 347 


Macassar, 186, 187, 1S9 
Mackay, Charles, 324-326 
Macmillan, A., 258 
Macmillan, Margaret, 328 
Meiringen, visit to, 301 
Maescar, survey of, 91 
Maen Llia, 92 
Malacca, 176 
Malay Archipelago, journey to, 

169-174, 202, 210, 216 
Malays, the, 200 

Malthus's " Population," 123, 190 
Manchester Guardia?i, letter to, on 

war, 305 
Man, development of, 236 ; 

Natural Selection and, 212 
"Man's Place in the Universe," 

Marriage of A. R. Wallace, 214 
" Mars, Is it habitable ? " 316 
Martin, Mr., a London builder, 8 
Martin, William, 349 
Massey, Gerald, a spiritualist, 328 
Matabello Islands, 195 
Mathews, Mr., 68, 72-73 
Mechanics, I-ondon, 44 
Mechanics' Institute, Neath, 135 
Medal, Darwin- Wallace, 397 
Medals, 246 

Memory, peculiarity of, 16 
Menado, Celebes, 195 

Mental nature, 115, 118 
Mesmerism, 124-127, 129, 334 
Migration of Birds, 305, 388 
Mill, John Stuart, 319-321 
Mill, oil cake, 23 
Mimicry, 208, 212, 228 
Mirlees, Mr. and Mrs., 258 
" Miracles and Modern Spiri- 
tualism," 264, 334 
Mitten, William, 213, 214, 301, 


Mivart, Professor St, G., 249, 302 
Models of natives, 166, 167 
Monck, Mr., medium, 342, 343 
Money matters, 357, 378 
Monitor, R. Owen's silent, 54 
Monkeys, 199 

Morgan, Professor Lloyd, 213, 30$ 
Morley, John, 337 
Morrison-Davidson, a socialist, 

Morris, Sir L., socialist poems, 

Moseley, Professor, 188 
Mount-Temple, Lord, 269 
Mouth-gesture, 385 
Murchison, Sir R., 169, 170 
Museum, British, business me- 
thods, 372 
Mutton, G. Borrow on Welsh, 86 
Myers's "Human Personality," 


Natives, government of, 182, 200 ; 
models of, at the Crystal Palace, 
166, 167; Sarawak, 178 

Natural selection, 207, 211, 217, 
224, 300 

Neath, Vale of, 94, 131 ; scenery 

of, 13s, 136 
Neaves, Lord, humorous verses 

of, 257 
Nests, theory of birds', 212, 382 
New Guinea, collecting in, 194 
New ideas, 380 
Nevada Fall, the, 279 
Newcastle, lecture in, 295 
New Lanark, 45 
New Radnor, 75 



Newton, Professor A., 256, 262 

Niagara, 274 

Nineteenth Cetituiy, articles in, 

Nolloth, Commander, 170 
Nutwood Cottage, built for A. R. 

Wallace, 270 


Oceans, permanence of, 384 

Oilcake mill, Hertford, 23 

" Old Orchard " House, 307 

Old Red Sandstone, 89 

Ophir Mount, 176 

Orang-utan, 177, 17S-180 

Ordnance survey, 59-61 

Origin of life, 239 

Origin of species, 144, 183-185, 
189-194, 211 

Osgood, Samuel, a mining sur- 
veyor, 96-98 

Owen, Mr,, editor of Golden Gate, 

Owen, Robert, 45, 46 ; social 

philosophy, 47, 48 
Owen, Robert Dale, 46 
Oxford, degree of D.C.L. given 

by the University of, 295 

Pain, in childhood, not severe, 19 

Palembang, 199 

Palisades of the Hudson river, 

" Palms of the Amazon," 165 

PapilionidK, paper on the Mala- 
yan, 207 

Pangenesis, 221 

Para, arrival at, 146 

Paradise, birds of, 1S8, 195, 201, 

Parkstone, residence at, 297-306 

Parrots and pigeons, papers on, 

Pears, Messrs., prize essay, 270 

Pearson, Professor Karl, 328 

Pension, civil list, 374 

Permanence of Oceans, 384 

" Personal Evidence of Spirit 
Phenomena, Notes of," 334, 336 

Personal characteristics, 115-118 

" Personal suffrage," 315 

Photography, a suggestion, 112 

Phrenology, 17, 125, 140-142 

Pierpont, Jno., portrait' of, 353 

Pigeons of the Malay Archipelago, 

Plants, Arctic, in temperate 
regions, 385 

Playloft, at Hertford, 35 

Political and moral views of 
Robert Owen, 47 

Polymorphism, in Malayan butter- 
flies, 209 

Porth-yr-Ogof, 137-139 

Portraits, spirit, 353, 354 

Poulton, Professor E. B., 295 

Predictions fulfilled, 390 

Price, Mr., Neath Abbey, 96 

Principles of Sociology, 241 

Problem of Instinct, 388 

Protective colouring, 208, 209 ; 
colouration, 228, 229 

Proving the earth round, 362-372 

Psychical research, 124 

Purland, Dr. T., 252, 256 j letters 
from, 254 

Quakers' Meeting, 41 
Quarterly Revieiv, article in, 211 


Radnorshire, surveying in, 74-79 
Railway carriages, early, 72 
Railway, London and Birming- 
ham, 69, 72 
Railway speculation, 132 
Railways, nationalization of, 318 
Ramage, Dr., cures my lungs, 77 
Randi, Signor, seances with, 339 
Reading, miscellaneous, 39 
Reasoning power, 115 
Reception of my works, 377 
Reclus, Elisee, 298 
" Red Lions," fraternity of, 257 



Red-wood forest, 277 
Reflections on misfortunes, 375 
Regent's Park, house near, 213 
Religious doubts, 45, 46, 119 
Religion of my parents, 41, 119 
Reminiscences of Amazon, 149 
Rescue after ship burnt, 1 56 
Rhayader, illness at, 76 
Rhone Glacier, 301 
Rio Negro, 147 
Roberts, Miss, gift from, 374 
Roman road, 137 
Ross, Mrs., medium, 344, 345 
Royal Commission on Vaccina- 
tion, 330-332 
Rumball, J. Q., phrenologist, 142 

Sabbath-keepers, suggestions to, 

Sabbatarians, article for, 3SS 

St. Albans, Duke of, father of 
A. R. Wallace named after, 3 

St. Clair Stanley, spirit artist, 353 

St. Mark's Crescent, residence in, 

Salisbury, Dr., asthma-cure, 309 

Salisbury, Lord, on natural selec- 
tion, 243 

Salt, H. S., a socialist, 328 

"Sandford and Merton," im- 
pressed by, 15 

San Francisco, big trees near, 277 ; 
seances at, 351-356 

Santarem, visit to, 146 

Sarawak, natives of, 178 ; orang- 
utans and beetles, 177 

"Sarn Helen," old Roman road, 


Savage, Minot J., and spiritualism, 

Savages, meeting with, 150 
"Saving the Face," as evidence 

of Eastern civilization, 34 
Scenery of Vale of Neath, 135 
School life at Hertford, 26 
School meals, 31 ; work, 29 
Science, interest in, 101-120 
"Scientific Aspect of the Super- 
natural," 336 

Scientific friends, 245 

Scientific Opinion, Hampden's 

challenge in, 362 
Scientific papers, 205 
Scientific progress, lecture on, 303- 

Sclater, Dr., suggests book on 

geographical distribution, 262 
Stances in America, 343-356 ; in 

London, 335-343 
Senni Bridge, life at, 91, 92 
Sequoia gigantea, 277, 281 
Sexual selection, 236 
Sheffield, lecture in, 299 
Shipwreck, 152-159 
Silent monitor, R. Owen's, 54 
Silk, George, letters to, 21, 74, 171, 

Silsoe and Wray Park, 67 
Sims, Mr., lodge with, at Neath, 


Singapore, life at, 175 

Sketches while at Leicester school, 

Slate quarries, bad investment in, 

359 . 
Slate- writing under test conditions, 


Slater, Mr, M. B., Dr. Spruce's 
executor, 314 

Sleigh, Frances, a possible rela- 
tive, 2 

Smoking, experiences of, 59, 79 

Snowdon, the ancient glaciers of, 


"Social Evolution," article on, 


Socialism, founder of, 57 
Socialism, America and, 293 ; 

conversion to, 327-329 
Socialist Review, article in, 317 
Soulbury, an old-world village, 69 
Species, origin of, 189-194 
Speculations, disastrous, 358-360 
Spencer, Herbert, first interview 

with, 239 ; correspondence with, 

Spirit messages, 390, 392 
Spiritualism, experiences in, 334' 

"Spiritualism," article on, by 

A. R. Wallace, 338 



Spruce, Dr, R., I first meet at 
Para, 146; letter to, 151 ; 213, 
251 ; editing journals of, 314 

Standing stone in Glamorganshire, 


Stanford's " Geography and 

Travel," 268 
Stanford, Senator, a spiritualist, 

Stanner Rocks, near Kington, 74 
Stanzerhorn, visit to the, 301 
Stevens, Mr, Samuel, my agent 

while abroad, 160, 163, 177, 1S3 
Stockton, California, stay at, 278 
Stone, standing, in Vale of Neath, 

" Strikes, Inefficiency of," 305 
"Studies, Scientific and Social," 

by A. R. Wallace, 305, 327 
Suez, in omnibus to, 173-174 
"Succession of Species," 183, 184 
Sumatra, a letter from, 198 
Sunday observance, article on, 

Supernatural, scientific aspect of 

the, 336 
Survey, Ordnance, interest of, 

Surveying, experiences of, 58, 74 
Surveying in Bedfordshire, 58-73 ; 

Radnorshire, 74-79 ; in Gla- 
morganshire, 87 
Survival of the fittest, 190 
Sutherland evictions, the story of 

the, 324, 325 
Swimming, no success in, 22, 95 
Swinton, A. C, and Land 

Nationalization, 322 
Switzerland, visit to, in 1867, 215 
Switzerland, tours in, 301, 302, 304 

Tebb, William, introduces me to 

anti-vaccination, 329 
Telescope, attempt to make a, loi 
Tennyson, Lord, and spiritualism, 

Ternate, residence at, 189, 194 ; 

disastrous voyage from Waigiou 

to, 196 

Thomson, Sir W., "an odious 

spectre " to Darwin, 231 
Timor, paper on birds of, 206 
Toys, advantages of home-made, 

Travels on Amazon and Rio Negro, 

146, 165 
Trees, big, of California, 277, 281 
" Tropical Nature," 265 
"Tropics, White men in," 305 
Tumuli on roadside near Steven- 
age, 64 
Turning-points in life, 105, 130 
Turvey, an incident at, 69 
Tyndall, Professor, refuses to in- 
vestigate spiritualism, 336 


Uaupes River, exploration of, 147, 

Underground river in the Vale of 

Neath, 137, 139 
Unemployed problem, the, 317 
" Universe, Man's Place in," by 

A. R. Wallace, 312 
Usk, my birth-place, 6, 13 ; 

revisited, 18 
Utility, the problem of, 302 

"Vaccination a Delusion," by 

A. R. Wallace, 333 
Vaccination, lecture on, 304 ; 

question, the, 329 ; Royal 

Commission on, 330-332 ; 

statistics, 330 
Val Savaranches, 216 
Varied knowledge, lecture on, 

Varley, Cromwell, a spiritualist, 

Veddahs of Ceylon, 387 
Verses by Lord Neaves, 257 
" Vestiges of Creation," 143 
Voyage home from the Amazon, 

Voyage to Para, 145 
" Voyage up the Amazon, A," 145 




Wallace, T. V., message from, 353 
Waghorn, Lie\it., established 

omnibus line to Suez, 174 
Waigiou Island, visit to, 195, 196 ; 

voyage to, 196 
Wales, North, a month in, 214 
Wallace, Cragie-, family, 4 
Wallace, A. R., marries, 214 
Wallace, Elizabeth, message from, 

Wallace, Fanny, 3, 8 
Wallace, Herbert, 9, 146, 147 
Wallace, James, 2 
Wallace, John, 3, 43, 44, 273, 277 
Wallace, Mary, spirit-portrait of, 


Wallace, R., message from, 353 

Wallace, William, 2, 3, 349 ; 
dies, 129 

Wallace, T. V., A, R, Wallace's 
father, 4, 10 ; dies, 1 14 ; mes- 
sage from, 354 

Wallace's early childhood, 1 3-25 

Wallace's sisters, 10 

Walsh, J. H., 362 

" War in Transvaal," protest 
against, 305 

" War, causes of, &c.," 305 

Warwick, Countess of, a socialist, 


Washington City, residence at, 


Washington, siances at, 347-351 
Webb, Sidney, a socialist, 328 
Webster, Mr., John Wallace ap- 
prenticed to, 9, 43 
Wedderburn, Sir D., 269 
Wedgwood, Hensleigh, a spiri- 
tualist, 335, 339, 341 
Weir, Jenner, 226, 228 
Weismann, on heredity, 222 
Westminster Review, article in, 

West Point, on the Hudson, 273, 

White House, visit to, 275 
" Wild Wales," George Borrow 

on, 86, 93 
Wilson, Algernon, spirit form of, 

Wilson, Rev. Percy, i 
Windmills/A. R. Wallace erects, 

at Grays, 261-262 
Wokan, in the Aru Islands, 188 
" Wonderful Century," by 

A. R. Wallace, 310 
Wood, Rev. J. G., 272 
Workshop, Mr, Webster's, in 
London, 44 

York, lecture at, 295 
Yosemite Falls, the, 279 
Yosemite Valley, the, 278