II.—The Complete Extant Correspondence between Wallace and Darwin
“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 senses rivals. I believe I can say this of myself with truth, and I am absolutely sure that it is true of you.”—DARWIN to Wallace.
“To have thus inspired
and retained this friendly feeling,
notwithstanding our many differences of opinion, I feel to be one
of the greatest honours of my life.”—WALLACE to Darwin.
“I think the way he [Wallace] carries on controversy is perfectly beautiful, and in future histories of science the Wallace-Darwin episode will form one of the few bright points among rival claimants.”—ERASMUS DARWIN to his niece, Henrietta Darwin, 1871.
The first eight letters from Darwin to Wallace were found amongst the latter’s papers, carefully preserved in an envelope on the outside of which he had written the words reproduced on the next page. Neither Wallace’s part of this correspondence, nor the original MS. of his essay “On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type,” which he sent to Darwin from Ternate, has been discovered. But these eight letters from Darwin explain themselves and reveal the inner story of the independent discovery of the theory of Natural Selection.
With respect to the letters which follow the first eight, both sides of the correspondence, with few exceptions, have been brought together. Some of the letters have already appeared in “The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin” and “More Letters,” others in “My Life,” by A.R. Wallace, whilst many have not before been published.
Some of these letters, in themselves, have little more than ephemeral interest, and parts of other letters could have been eliminated, from the point of view of lightening this volume and of economising the reader’s attention. But I decided, with the fullest approval of the Wallace and Darwin families, that the letters of these illustrious correspondents should be here presented as a whole, without mutilation.
[Illustration: FACSIMILE OF INSCRIPTION BY WALLACE ON THE ENVELOPE IN WHICH HE KEPT THE FIRST EIGHT LETTERS HE RECEIVED FROM DARWIN.]
Many of the notes of explanation to the Wallace letters have been gathered from his own writings, and are mainly in his own words, and in such cases the reader has the advantage of perusing letters annotated by their author, while most of the notes to the Darwin letters are by Sir F. Darwin.
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C. DARWIN to A.R. WALLACE
Down, Bromley, Kent, May 1, 1857.