RECORD: Darwin, C. R. [Memorial of A. R. Wallace for a Civil List Pension]. (1880) CUL-DAR91.95-98 Transcribed by John van Wyhe. (Darwin Online,

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed and edited by John van Wyhe 10.2009, checked and corrected against the manuscript by Kees Rookmaaker 1.2010. RN2

NOTE: The context and composition of this memorial to gain a Civil List Pension for A. R. Wallace is described in Ralph Colp Jr. 1992. "I Will Gladly Do My Best": How Charles Darwin obtained a Civil List Pension for Alfred Russel Wallace. Isis 83, no. 1 (March): 3-26.

See these related items also in the Darwin Archive at Cambridge University Library:

Wallace A.R [brief biographical and bibliographical notes by Arabella Buckley] CUL-DAR91.91-94 Text & image

[list of potential signatories for Wallace A.R's pension application] CUL-DAR91.99-100  Image

Editorial symbols used in the transcription:
[some text] 'some text' is an editorial insertion
[some text] 'some text' is the conjectured reading of an ambiguous word or passage
[some text] 'some text' is a description of a word or passage that cannot be transcribed
< > word(s) destroyed
<some text> 'some text' is a description of a destroyed word or passage
Text in small red font is a hyperlink or notes added by the editors.

Reproduced with the permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library and William Huxley Darwin.


[scroll up to see introductory material]


In 1848 Mr Wallace,1 urged by his love for natural history, threw up his business as a land-surveyor & architect & started with Mr Bates to investigate collect specimens in the basin of the Amazons. They He depended for their his support on the sale of the specimens sent home collected & on his return voyage home the ship ship was burnth & he lost his all his later collection. Nevertheless he published in 1854 an account of his voyage expedition & some scientific papers. The disastrous bad loss of his collection led him in 1854 to start for the Malay Archipelago, in different parts of which where he resided on the different islands during 8 years, thus exposing his life to great test risk from malarian fever & other dangers. This expedition has added immensely to our scientific knowledge of that great archipelago, & will be forever remembered for the light which was thus shed on the great subject of the Geographical Distribution of animals. A large part A large portion of his extraordinarily rich collection was purchased by the British Museum. During his stay in this archipelago

1 Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913), naturalist and collector. Darwin drafted this memorial as part of his successful effort to secure a Civil List Pension for Wallace. See Colp 1992.

2 Henry Walter Bates (1825-92), traveller, naturalist and entomologist. Assistant secretary, Royal Geographical Society of London, 1864-92.

3 Wallace 1854.



he sent home many scientific papers for publication & in 1869 he published his work, entitled The Malay Archipelago , two of which were highly remarkable, viz that "On the law which has regulated the introduction of new Species,"1 & that "On the tendency of varieties to depart indefinitely from the original type."2 This latter paper includes the same identical view, which has since been called is now commonly called Natural Selection. In 1869 he published in 2 two volumes his "Malay Archipelago."3 In 1870 his "Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection",4 & in (?) his "Tropical Nature"5 were published. "The Geographical Distribution of Animals"6 the work of between 5 & 6 years, in two large volumes, which cost him between five and six years hard labour, appeared in 1876 & his "Island Life,"7 an equally valuable book in 1880. He has also published altogether 85 separate scientific papers.8

Everyone will, I believe, admit that Mr Wallace's works have added in the most important manner to our knowledge of an great important & difficult subject namely Geographical Distribution. His essays on the colouring of animals show the extraordinary originality of his mind, & have been the parent of numerous essays by other writers naturalists. Some naturalists Many men will

1Wallace 1855. 2Wallace 1858. 3Wallace 1869. 4Wallace 1870. 5Wallace 1878. 6Wallace 1876. 7Wallace 1880.

8 See John van Wyhe ed., Wallace Online.



think that his memoir on "on the tendency of varieties to depart indefinitely from the original type &c" from the type"

is of of equal or greater value even than that of his other works. Nor must be the vast number of new terrestrial animals in all classes of all classes which he discovered in all classes be forgotten.

(On his return home from the Malay Archipelago he endeavoured to obtain some scientific post. He was almost promised by Sir G Grey1 the curatorship of the East London Museum, but lost his this chance by its being the Museum being converted into a picture-gallery.

He failed to obtain the directorship superintendence of Epping Forest, though he was backed by to name almost all the more eminent nat naturalists in England; & he has since tried for other curatorship offices but he failed owing to chiefly on account of his age. His published works have produced, as may be inferred from their titles, but small profit, & some one of the most valuable one no hardly any profit. He realised some few thousand pounds by the sale of his Malay collections, part of which he has lost by disadvantage his investments; & his chief S American collection was burnt. He is part of which he has lost by disadvantage investments

1 Sir George Grey (1812-1898), governor of South Australia and New Zealand.



now 58 years old with a family & he depends on on which he has long had to do; & he has for some time dpended largely for the support of his family on miscellaneous literary work. This he finds very difficult at his present age of 58 & with his health weakened through effects by tropical exposure, The necessity of such work finds very difficult; it has, also, seriously interfered with his scientific work investigations; & will do so for the future in a still greater degree.

This document has been accessed 3789 times

Return to homepage

Citation: John van Wyhe, editor. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (

File last updated 4 May, 2016