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Book Review: Dear Sir - Sixty-nine years of Alfred Russel Wallace Letters to the Editor

Posted by David Penney on

An excellent four-page review of our recent title Dear Sir - Sixty-nine years of Alfred Russel Wallace Letters to the editor (edited by Charles H. Smith and Kelsey Patterson) has just been published in the latest volume of the Entomologist's Gazette (2015, vol. 66: 295-298). Following are some snippets taken from the review:

"This fascinating book throws up many interesting, quirky, occasionally funny, insights into the life of a man who was the ‘Sir David Attenborough’ of his day."

"This book, edited by Smith & Patterson, adds to the sum of knowledge and understanding of Wallace in a unique way … it is almost a Nineteenth/early Twentieth Century ‘Twitter feed’ or ‘Facebook history’ of the varied interests of a most eclectic man. It is almost as if the editors have ‘hacked’ Wallace’s social media accounts and collected his thoughts and feelings on a variety of #hashtagged issues."

"For a largely self-taught man, the breadth of knowledge and understanding he showed across so many disciplines was an impressive achievement. No aspect of science, mathematics, society or politics is seemingly left without comment. Some of the issues are as pertinent today as they were 110 years ago."

"Rather than organising the letters into a strict chronology, something that is quite usual in such collections, the editors have split the book into thematic sections. There are helpful introductions to the sections that set the scene and inform the reader. For those who need a quick refresher on Wallace’s life, there is a succinct overview in the book’s introduction. The editors also have an aim for this book, which I think they have fulfilled. They wanted to give ‘a deeper sense of the man’. If you want to know what Wallace really thought about Land Nationalisation, Spiritualism, Women’s suffrage (he was a supporter), or just about anything else, somewhere there is a letter that will reveal Wallace the man, the humanitarian, the staunch socialist, the ‘working class’ hero."

"I wonder what Wallace would have made of the avenues of communication that we have today. If he were alive, I would like to think he would relish the opportunities that the Internet provides. I could see him as an active user of Facebook, Twitter and other social media, as well as being a blogger, still inveterate letter writer and celebrity naturalist. I, for one, would certainly click ‘follow’ for him on Twitter and invite him to be a friend on Facebook. While we cannot access his views and thoughts through live social media, this collection of letters to the editors more than fills the void. I heartily recommend it as a window into the ‘other’ life of an early XX Century celebrity naturalist."

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....and don't forget to check out our other Wallace titles:



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