By George Beccaloni
When I set up the Wallace Memorial Fund in 1999 I had no idea that an organisation with the same name had previously existed (it was also known as the Memorial Committee). It was formed shortly after Wallace's death by his friends Ralph Meldola, Edward B. Poulton and James Marchant with the purpose of raising money to pay for the following memorials: a medallion featuring Wallace for Westminster Abbey; a portrait of him; and statue of him for The Natural History Museum, London. In the event, only the medallion and the portrait were actually produced - the last was presented to the Museum free of charge by the artist Mr J. W. Beaufort.
Leaflets sent out by the Fund to potential donors can be read here (originals in the Hope Library, Oxford): Leaflet 1 page 1, Leaflet 1 page 2, Leaflet 1 page 3, Leaflet 1 page 4, Leaflet 2 page 1, Leaflet 2 page 2, Leaflet 2 page 3, Leaflet 2 page 4.
The background to this project is documented by Marchant in his 1916 book Alfred Russel Wallace; Letters and Reminiscences:
"Soon after Wallace's death a Committee was formed (with Prof. Poulton as Chairman and Prof. Meldola as Treasurer) to erect a memorial, and the following petition was sent to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey :
We, the undersigned, earnestly desiring a suitable national memorial to the late Alfred Russel Wallace, and believing that no position would be so appropriate as Westminster Abbey, the burial-place of his illustrious fellow-worker Charles Darwin, petition the Right Reverend the Dean and Chapter for permission to place a medallion in Westminster Abbey. We further guarantee, if the medallion be accepted, to pay the Abbey fees of £200.
ARCH. GEIKIE JOHN W. JUDD
WILLIAM CROOKES OLIVER J. LODGE
A. B. KEMPE E. B. POULTON
E. RAY LANKESTER A. STRAHAN
D. H. SCOTT H. H. TURNER
D. PRAIN J. LARMOR
A. E. SHIPLEY W. RAMSAY
RAPHAEL MELDOLA SILVANUS P. THOMPSON
P. A. MACMAHON JOHN PERRY
To which the Dean replied:
The Deanery, Westminster, S.W. December 2, 1913.
Dear Mr. Marchant, - I have pleasure in informing you that I presented your petition at our Chapter meeting this morning, and a glad and unanimous assent was accorded to it.
I should be glad later on to be informed as to the artist you are employing ; and probably it would be as well for him and you and some members of the Royal Society to meet me and the Chapter and confer together upon the most suitable and artistic arrangement or rearrangement of the medallions of the great men of science of the nineteenth century.
Nothing could have been more satisfactory or impressive than the document with which you furnished me this morning. I hope to get it specially framed.-Yours sincerely,
HERBERT E. RYLE.
Mr. Bruce-Joy, who had made an excellent medallion of Dr. Wallace during his lifetime, accepted the commission to fashion the medallion for Westminster Abbey, and it was unveiled, by a happy but undesigned coincidence, on All Souls' Day, November 1, 1915, together with medallions to the memory of Sir Joseph Hooker and Lord Lister."
This circular white marble medallion of Wallace features a side profile of his head and Albert Bruce-Joy based it on a medallion he had previously made of Wallace in life. It is sited in Westminster Abbey in the North Aisle of the Choir, between those of Charles Darwin and Joseph Lister. The painting of Wallace by Beaufort was presented to the Natural History Museum, London in 1923.
|The Westminster Abbey medallion|
|The oil painting in the Natural History Museum, London|