Originally published in a shortened form on the Wallace Fund website.
The Australian Museum based in Sydney has put electronic copies of two letters from AR Wallace to the highly respected conchologist, Charles Hedley, on their website.
The letters, one from July and the other from October 1892, are in response to letters and papers that Charles Hedley delivered to Wallace at his home in Parkstone, Dorset.
|One of the letters between Wallace and Hedley talking about Wallace’s work ‘Island Life’|
The reference in the later letter of October 1892 regarding the enclosure on the Placostylus (a type of air-breathing land snail) as well as the debate surrounding the ‘land-connection’ between New Zealand and Australia makes it highly likely that the enclosure was Hedley’s ‘The Range of Placostylus; a study in ancient geography’ as Hedley refers to Wallace’s Island Life work and the fact that ‘Australia and New Zealand were formerly connected by a bridge of dry land’ within it (pp. 336-7). Wallace also references his The Geographical Distribution of Animals (1876) within the letter. ‘In the second of these letters,’ explained Vanessa Finney, the Manager of Archives and Records at the Museum on their blog, ‘Wallace hotly disputes Hedley’s theory of the range and distribution of [Placostylus].’
In this letter Wallace also mentions the orchids Hedley encountered and expressed a desire to have some samples of the plant as he was ‘pretty interested’ in this field. He certainly was, and even built an Orchid House at his home in Parkstone, Dorset in the mid-1890s. Unfortunately, the constant attention and intense heat required for these delicate flowers were too much for him and he had to give them up. However, he never lost his passion for these superb flora.
- ‘The Land Molluscan Fauna of British New Guinea’, Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales, vol. 2 (1891), pp. 384-392
- ‘The Range of Placostylus; a study in ancient geography’, Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales, vol. 7 (1893), pp. 335-339. [pdf document]
- ‘On the Relation of the Fauna and Flora of Australia to Those of New Zealand’, Natural Science, vol. 3 (1893), pp. 187-191.
- ‘An Enumeration of the Janellidae’, Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand, vol. 25 (1892), pp. 156-162 [pdf document]