A DELICATE ARRANGEMENT: The Strange Case of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace by Arnold C. Brackman

A DELICATE ARRANGEMENT: The Strange Case of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A crude argument in behalf of Wallace--who has no need of extravagant praise. Writing in the vernacular of All the President's Men, reporter Brackman accuses Darwin and his eminent supporters, botanist Hooker and geologist Lyell, of ""conspiracy"" and ""coverup"" in establishing Darwin's priority as the originator of the theory of evolution by natural selection. Had it not been for two letters (yclept the ""Sarawak"" and ""Ternate"" letters) penned by Wallace to Darwin from the Malay archipelago, Brackman maintains, Darwin would never have solved the problem of the origin, much less the diversity, of species. There follows endless minutiae on dates and shipping routes and frankings of letters, to ascertain when they arrived, the names of Darwin's servants, why the letters are missing, who conspired with whom on a joint presentation of Darwin's notes and Wallace's ""Ternate"" letter at a Linnean Society meeting, and so on. Since Brackman can only argue by innuendo and insinuation, the argument seems shallow at best. And beside the point. No scholar disputed Wallace's place in history or even his primacy in original thinking. But can anyone seriously dethrone Darwin from a position of preeminence? The 19th century was clearly a time of intellectual foment with ideas of evolution very much in the air; it ill becomes 20th century scholarship to waste time on who should get the credit. What does reward the reader is the biography Brackman provides of Wallace, clearly a remarkable fellow--an intrepid explorer, a brilliant and modest man. If nothing else, the curious reader will want to look into Wallace's autobiography itself.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1980
Publisher: Times Books