Reference code(s): GB 0060 WP
Held at: Natural History Museum
Title: WALLACE, Alfred Russel: Family Papers
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 18 series
Name of creator(s): Wallace | Alfred Russel | 1823-1913 | traveller and naturalist
Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) traveller and naturalist, independently of but at the same time as, Charles Darwin, identified Natural Selection as the key to evolutionary change.
Alfred Russel Wallace was born on January 8th, 1823, near the town of Usk in Monmouthshire, to Thomas Vere Wallace (died May 1843) and Mary Anne Wallace (née Greenell; died 15 November 1868). The family moved to Hertford, Essex, in about 1826. Their father, originally a gentleman of independent means and a non-practicing solicitor, lost money in unsuccessful financial speculation and took up a series of low-paid jobs, and the family moved several times for economic reasons.
When Mrs Greenell, Mary Wallace's stepmother, died in 1826, the family moved to her home-town, Hertford, in Essex. Here ARW met another child, George Silk, who became a lifelong friend and correspondent. The Wallaces lived first in a house in Andrews Street, next at an address in Old Cross, a short distance away.
Other members of the family included Aunt Wilson, Mary Anne Wallace's sister, wife of Thomas Wilson, lawyer, who in 1826 lived in Dulwich. Thomas Wilson was controlling trustee of a Greenell family legacy which paid for, among other things, John Wallace's board, and held money in trust for the other Wallace children. When Thomas Wilson was declared bankrupt in 1834, the legacy became involved and the Wallace's income was drastically reduced.
ARW was educated at Hertford Grammar School and then Hertford School where in his final year he was a pupil-teacher. In 1837, aged 14, he went to London where he stayed with his brother John (an apprentice builder) and became an apprentice surveyor as pupil to his brother William. His parents moved to Rawdon Cottage, Hoddesdon, in the same year.
ARW began collecting insect specimens found during his surveying trips, and became increasingly interested in natural history. In 1848 he went with fellow enthusiast H W Bates to the Amazon on a collecting expedition, hoping to make a living as a collector of natural history specimens. His brother Herbert (usually known by his second name, Edward) subsequently joined him, but died of Yellow Fever in 1851. ARW returned to England in 1851, losing his journals and collection of specimens when the ship in which he was sailing caught fire and sank.
Still hoping to make a living as a collector and naturalist, ARW sailed for Malaysia in 1854 with a young assistant, Charles Allen. He spent eight years in the Malay Archipelago, collecting birds and insects and studying and writing on the local flora, fauna and people. It was here that he began writing scientific papers, formed his ideas on the natural selection and geographical distribution of species, and began corresponding with Charles Darwin.
At a meeting of the Linnean Society on July 1st, 1858, Wallace's paper "On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type", written in early 1858 while he was at Ternate in the Moluccas, was presented jointly with an unpublished essay of 1844 on the subject by Darwin.
ARW returned to England in 1862, and subsequently published widely on a variety of scientific and other subjects, and gave public lectures. He travelled to America and Canada for a lecture tour in 1886-1887. He was member of a number of scientific societies, was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1892 and was awarded the Order of Merit by the King in 1908.
ARW married Annie Mitten, the daughter of pharmacist and bryologist William Mitten, in about 1866. They had three children, Herbert Spencer, (1867-1874), William Greenell (born 1871) and Violet, (born 1869).
ARW died at home in Broadstone, Dorset, on 8 November, 1913.
Scope and content/abstract:
Alfred Russel Wallace family papers, -2000, including personal and related family papers, correspondence, accounts of expenditure, publisher's proofs, reprints, photographs, certificates, pamphlets, press-cuttings, lecture notes and obituaries. The correspondence includes letters from Richard Spruce, and letters written by Wallace to his family from Canada, c 1886-1887, to his son William c 1889-1911, to his daughter Violet, to Herbert Walter Bates, and to the Clarion newspaper. Siblings with whom he corresponded or who mentioned in these papers include older brothers William G [George] (died c 1845), John (c 1819-1895) older sisters Eliza (died 1832) and Frances (Fanny, Mrs Thomas Sims; died 1893) and younger brother Herbert Edward. (c 1829-1851).
ACCESS AND USE
Language/scripts of material: English
System of arrangement:
Arranged in sections as follows:
WP1 Correspondence c 1838-1913
WP2 Biographical Material and Portraits c. 1850?-1916
WP2/6 Papers re James Marchant's "Letters and Memoirs . . ."  c 1913-1916
WP3 Diaries, Notebooks and Sketchbooks c 1846-1893 and undated
WP4 Houses and architecture, papers re c 1871-1912
WP5 Land Nationalisation Society, papers re: c 1881-1901
WP6 Papers re Publications: Books by Alfred Russel Wallace c 1869?-1913
WP7 Papers re Publications: Short works by Alfred Russel Wallace with some related papers c 1853-1913
WP8 Spruce, Richard, papers; and annotated print and papers re edition of "Notes of a Botanist" c 1866?-1908
WP9 Lectures, Papers re: c 1863?-1909
WP10 Physiography examinations, papers re: c 1870-1897
WP11 Darwin Centenary, papers re: c 1908-1909
WP12 Short works by authors other than Wallace c 1790-1914
WP13 Hampden , J, papers re (Flat Earth controversy) c 1871-1886
WP14 Press Cuttings c 1885-1910
WP15 Mitten, William, Papers c 1853-1907 
WP16 Wallace, William Greenell, and Wallace, Violet Isabel, papers c 1913-1951
WP17 Miscellaneous Photographs and other images c. 1850?-1913? and undated
WP18 Miscellanea c. 1810? -2000? and undated
Conditions governing access:
By appointment with the Archivist, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to the Museum Archivist, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD.
Conditions governing reproduction:
At the Archivist's discretion. Photocopying service available. Digital photography (without flash) permitted for research purposes on completion of a photography permit form.
Immediate source of acquisition:
Purchased from the Wallace family.
Some of the books and MSS in the collection relate to specimens held in the Museum's collections. The acquisition also augments the Museum's existing Wallace holdings; for instance the new material reveals Wallace's post-publication thought and reaction to the work of others, notably Darwin.
Archivist's note: Entry copied from the Natural History Museum online catalogue by Sarah Drewery.
References: Raby, Peter (London 2002) Alfred Russel Wallace: A Life. Charles H Smith (Website: The Alfred Russel Wallace Page; URL www.wku.edu/~smithch/home.htm ). Shermer, Michael (Oxford 2002) In Darwin's Shadow: The Life and Science of Alfred Russel Wallace.
Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.
Date(s) of descriptions: Nov 2008