I am delighted to hear that you spend so much time out of doors and in your garden; for with your wonderful power of observation you will see much which no one else has seen. From Newman’s old book (I forget the 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 anyone 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 wearisome to me. I heard lately from Miss Buckley in relation to Lyell’s Life, and she mentioned that you were thinking of Switzerland, which I should think and hope you will enjoy much.
I see that you are going to write on the most difficult political question, the Land. Something ought to be done—but what is to rule? 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,
* * * * *
Wallace’s last letter to Darwin was written in October, 1881:
Nutwood Cottage, Frith Hill, Godalming. October 18, 1881.
My dear Darwin,—I have delayed writing to thank you for your book on Worms till I had been able to read it, which I have now done with great pleasure and profit, since it has cleared up many obscure points as to the apparent sinking or burying of objects on the surface and the universal covering up of old buildings. I have hitherto looked upon them chiefly from the gardener’s point of view—as a nuisance, but I shall tolerate their presence in the view of their utility and importance. A friend here to whom I am going to lend your book tells me that an agriculturist who had been in West Australia, near Swan River, told him many years ago of the hopelessness of farming there, illustrating the poverty and dryness of the soil by saying, “There are no worms in the ground.”
I do not see that you refer to the formation of leaf-mould by the mere decay of leaves, etc. In favourable places many inches or even feet of this is formed—I presume without the agency of worms. If so, would it not take part in the formation of all mould? and also the decay of the roots of grasses and of all annual plants, or do you suppose that all these are devoured by worms? In reading the book I have not noticed a single erratum.
I enclose you a copy of two letters to the Mark Lane Express, written at the request of the editor, and which will show you the direction in which I am now working, and in which I hope to do a little good.—Believe me yours very faithfully,
ALFRED R. WALLACE.