A new discovery: Alfred Russel Wallace's Brazilian fiancée!

Read on if you want to know an interesting fact about Wallace's personal life which no biographer has yet discovered! The Wallace Correspondence Project is currently hard at work on volume 1 of Wallace's correspondence which will contain all early letters to and from him up until March 1862 when he returned from the 'Malay Archipelago'. Whilst reading through a letter sent by his brother John in California to his mother in England in June 1851, I was astonished to see the following: "The account of Alfred's intended marriage is certainly news & may perhaps in some measure account for his not writing to me, all his spare time being now occupied with other thoughts. However I am glad the has found some one in that distant land to be a helpmate & companion to him, I cannot say so much of myself as I have seen none yet in my wanderings who can compare with 'the merry maids of England so beautiful and fair'". Wallace was in Brazil at this time - and he never mentions this romance in his book about his Amazonian travels or elsewhere. In fact he never indicates that he had much interest in women - something which led an American author, William Bryant, to write a book about how Wallace was homosexual [see https://www.amazon.co.uk/BIRDS-PARADISE-Alfred-Russel-Wallace/dp/0595380417].

So, who might Wallace's fiancée have been? Well, in 1850 Wallace spent 2 months (?March-April) living in a house on an estate at Manaquery [= Manaquiri] on the Solimões River. In his book "Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro" he writes "..here resided Senhor Brandão and his daughter, whom I had met at Barra...he had now only just returned to live on his estate with one unmarried daughter, and of course had plenty to do to get things a little in order. His wife being dead, he did not feel the pleasure he had formerly done in improving his place, and it is, I think, not improbable that, after having lived here a few years, he will get so used to it that he will think it quite unnecessary to go to the expense of rebuilding his house. Still it seemed rather strange to see a nicely-dressed young lady sitting on a mat on a very mountainous mud-floor, and with half-a-dozen Indian girls around her engaged in making lace and in needlework...I staid here nearly two months, enjoying a regular country life, and getting together a tolerable collection of birds and insects." The timing would be about right for this to have been the lady Wallace was planning to marry, and it is perhaps not a coincidence that he only used the word "unmarried" once in his book and that applied to her.. Also, he was clearly very impressed by her father. He writes:

Senhor José Antonio Brandão [= Antônio José Brandão] had come over from Portugal when very young, and had married early and settled, with the intention of spending his life here. Very singularly for a Portuguese, he entirely devoted himself to agriculture. He built himself a country house at Manaquery, on a lake near the main river, brought Indians from a distance to settle with him, cleared the forest, planted orange, tamarind, mango, and many other fruit-bearing trees, made pleasant avenues, gardens, and pastures, stocked them well with cattle, sheep, pigs, and poultry, and set himself down to the full enjoyment of a country life. But about twenty years ago, while his family were yet young, disturbances and revolutions broke out, and he, as well as all natives of Portugal, though he had signed the constitution of the Empire, and was in heart a true Brazilian, became an object of dislike and suspicion to many of the more violent of the revolutionists. A tribe of Indians who resided near him, and to whom he had shown constant kindness, were incited to burn down his house and destroy his property. This they did effectually, rooting up his fruit-trees, burning his crops, killing his cattle and his servants, and his wife and family only escaped from their murderous arrows by timely flight to the forest. During the long years of anarchy and confusion which followed, he was appointed a magistrate in Barra, and was unable to look after his estate. His wife died, his children married, and he of course felt then little interest in restoring things to their former state.

He is a remarkably intelligent man, fond of reading, but without books, and with a most tenacious memory. He has taught himself French, which he now reads with ease, and through it he has got much information, though of course rather tinged with French prejudice. He has several huge quarto volumes of Ecclesiastical History, and is quite learned in all the details of the Councils, and in the history of the Reformation. He can tell you, from an old work on geography, without maps, the length and breadth of every country in Europe, and the main particulars respecting it. He is about seventy years of age, thirsting for information, and has never seen a map! Think of this, ye who roll in intellectual luxury. In this land of mechanics' institutions and cheap literature few have an idea of the real pursuit of knowledge under difficulties,—of the longing thirst for information which there is no fountain to satisfy. In his conversation there was something racy and refreshing: such an absence of information, but such a fertility of ideas. He had read the Bible in Portuguese, as a forbidden book, though the priests make no very great objection to it here; and it was something new to hear a man's opinions of it who had first read it at a mature age, and solely from a desire for information. The idea had not entered his mind that it was all inspired, so he made objections to all parts which he thought incredible, or which appeared to him to be capable of a simple explanation; and, as might have been expected, he found of his own accord confirmation of the doctrines of the religion in which he had been brought up from childhood.

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