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TO HIS BROTHER-IN-LAW, THOMAS SIMS
Singapore. [Probably about March, 1856.]
Dear Thomas,— ... You and Fanny talk of my coming back for a trifling sore as if I was within an omnibus ride of Conduit St. I am now perfectly well, and only waiting to go eastward. The far east is to me what the far west is to the Americans. They both meet in California, where I hope to arrive some day. I quite enjoy being a few days at Singapore now. The scene is at once so familiar and strange. The half-naked Chinese coolies, the neat shopkeepers, the clean, fat, old, long-tailed merchants, all as busy and full of business as any Londoners. Then the handsome Klings, who always ask double what they take, and with whom it is most amusing to bargain. The crowd of boatmen at the ferry, a dozer begging and disputing for a farthing fare, the Americans, the Malays, and the Portuguese make up a scene doubly interesting to me now that I know something about them and can talk to them in the general language of the place. The streets of Singapore on a fine day are as crowded and busy as Tottenham Court Road, and from the variety of nations and occupations far more interesting. I am more convinced than ever that no one can appreciate a new country in a short visit. After two years in the country I only now begin to understand Singapore and to marvel at the life and bustle, the varied occupations, and strange population, on a spot which so short a time ago was an uninhabited jungle....—Yours affectionately,
ALFRED R. WALLACE.
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TO HIS SISTER, MRS. SIMS
Singapore. April 21, 1856.
My dear Fanny,—I believe I wrote to you last mail, and have now little to say except that I am still a prisoner in Singapore and unable to get away to my land of promise, Macassar, with whose celebrated oil you are doubtless acquainted. I have been spending three weeks with my old friend the French missionary, going daily into the jungle, and fasting on Fridays on omelet and vegetables, a most wholesome custom which I think the Protestants were wrong to leave off. I have been reading Huc’s travels in China in French, and talking with a French missionary just arrived from Tonquin. I have thus obtained a great deal of information about these countries and about the extent of the Catholic missions in them, which is astonishing. How is it that they do their work so much more thoroughly than the Protestant missionaries? In Cochin China, Tonquin, and China, where all Christian missionaries are obliged to live in secret and are subject to persecution, expulsion, and often death, yet every province, even those farthest in the interior of China, have their regular establishment of missionaries constantly kept up by fresh supplies who are taught