Circumstances prevented my watching the first episode (of two) of ‘Bill Bailey’s Jungle Hero’ on BBC 2 last night, though I hope to catch up. Bill Bailey (for our international readership) is a British comedian, and his ‘Jungle Hero’ is Alfred Russel Wallace.
The publicity for the programme was predicated on the assumption that nobody knows who Alfred Russel Wallace was – to which one can only respond that some people clearly don’t keep up with the Cambridge Library Collection! Moreover, many of the televised and filmed Darwin biographies have rightly had as a crux of their narrative the letter from Wallace to Darwin that drove him to make public the theory that he had been mulling over for more than twenty years. At least two versions that I have seen have J.D. Hooker and T.H. Huxley as Darwin’s good and bad angel respectively, the latter urging him to grab the primacy of discovery by not mentioning Wallace’s similar hypothesis. In fact, when Hooker and Sir Charles Lyell presented Darwin’s theory to the Linnean Society in 1858, Wallace was given equal billing.
I suspect that if Wallace has dropped somewhat out of sight in the history of evolution, it may be because of his later views on spiritualism, which were an embarrassment to early twentieth-century scientific rationalism?
Anyway, here is a list of Wallace’s works in CLC, including the travel narratives, his works on spiritualism and social activism, and his autobiography. 2013 is the centenary of his death: in spite of severe illnesses, fire, shipwreck and the loss of all his specimens, and difficult financial circumstances, he lived to be ninety, and had two more books under contract when he died.
A Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro, with an Account of the Native Tribes, and Observations on the Climate, Geology, and Natural History of the Amazon (1853)
The Malay Archipelago (2-volume set, 1869)
The Geographical Distribution of Animals (2-volume set, 1876)
Island Life (1880)
The Wonderful Century (1898)
My Life (2-volume set, 1905)