RECORD: Darwin C. R. 1892. [Letters to H. W. Bates, 1860-1863]. In E. C. Clodd, Memoir on H. W. Bates, naturalist on the River Amazons. London, pp. xxx-lxii.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe 4.2022. RN1

NOTE: See record in the Freeman Bibliographical Database, enter its Identifier here.

"Bates, Henry Walter, 1825-92. Traveller and naturalist. Biography: G. Woodcock 1969; H.P. Moon 1977. 1861 Married Sarah Ann Mason. 3 sons, 2 daughters. 1861 CD sent B 3d edn of Origin. CCD9. 1863 CD was most impressed by Naturalist on the river Amazons, "the best work on natural travels ever published in England". B published an altered quotation from an 1840s letter by Wallace to incorrectly suggest the two had gone to the Amazon, not just to be collectors, but to "solve the problem of the origin of species", see John van Wyhe, A delicate adjustment: Wallace and Bates on the Amazon and "the problem of the origin of species". Jrnl. of the Hist. of Bio. (2014). 1863 Review of Amazons book, in Nat. Hist. Rev., 3: pp. 385-9, is not by CD, although it is attributed to CD in early printings of Everyman edn of the book and from there by British Museum printed catalogue. 1863 Review of B's paper on insect fauna of the Amazon valley, which discusses Batesian mimicry, Trans. Lin. Soc. of London, 23: pp. 495-566, in Nat. Hist. Rev., 3: pp. 219-24 is by CD. (Shorter publications, F1725) 1864-92 Assistant Secretary to Royal Geographical Society. 1871 FLS 1881 FRS. 1892. [Advice to B.] in: Anon. Obituary: Proc. of the Roy. Geogr. Soc. 14 (4): 245-57, pl. I, p. 251. F2162. 1862 Apr. 18 and 21 visited CD.
Murray, John [II], 1808-92. Publisher of 50 Albemarle Street, London. CD's main publisher. 1845 M bought copyright of the 2d edn of Journal from Colburn, for inclusion in his Home and Colonial Library, for £150. 1859 CD and M were on personal terms from the first publication of Origin, 1859. 1877 Published Scepticism in geology and the reasons for it as Verifier a pseudonym of M. Verifier casts doubts on the principle of "causes now in action" as adopted by Lyell and CD et al. 1882 M was on "Personal Friends invited" list for CD's funeral. M published 1st and subsequent editions of ten of CD's books, as well as: 1875 2d edn of Climbing plants (F836). 1879 Erasmus Darwin (F1319). 1869 F. Müller, Facts and arguments for Darwin. 1887 Life and letters (F1452). 1903 More letters, 2 vols. (F1548). 1915 Emma Darwin (F1553). Recollections of CD in "Darwin and his publisher John Murray." Science progress in the twentieth century 3 (1909): 537-542 and John Murray III, 1919, p. 18, both in Darwin Online.
Ridge, The, House at Hartfield, near Tunbridge Wells, Sussex, on border of Ashdown Forest. Quarter of a mile from Hartfield Grove, home of Charles Langton. 1849-68 Home of Sarah Elizabeth Wedgwood [II]." (Paul van Helvert & John van Wyhe, Darwin: A Companion, 2021)

[page] xxx

As the subjoined letters show, Bates, not being, as Darwin said, of "the mob of naturalists without souls," [Darwin to Bates 20 November [1862]] did not stop at classification, but passed on to the consideration of larger questions to which it and other evidence pointed. […]

[page] xxxii


This new aspect of the matter deeply interested Darwin. In his chapter on "Geographical Distribution" in the Origin of Species, he had explained the presence of north tern per ate forms, chiefly plants, in the highlands of the southern hemisphere, as due "to a lowering of temperature during glacial epochs, which allowed these forms to migrate across the intervening tropical lowlands." But, as Mr. Wallace points out, any such change within the epoch of existing species is almost inconceivable, the wind-carriage, and, in far lesser degree, the bird-carriage, of seeds explaining the distribution without assuming the agency of vast physical changes. †

The following correspondence deals with this question:—

"DOWN, BROMLEY, KENT, March 26th, 1861.

(Have you received copy of new edition of Origin?)


"I have read your papers with extreme interest, and I have carefully read every word of them. They seem to me to be far richer in facts on variation, and especially on the distribution of varieties and sub-species, than anything which I have read. Hereafter I shall re-read them, and hope in my future work to profit by them and make use of them. The amount of variation has much surprised me. The analogous variation of distinct species in the same regions strikes me as particularly curious. The greater variability of female sex is new to me. Your Guiana case seems in some degree analogous, as far as plants are concerned, with the modern plains of La Plata, which seem to have been colonised from the north; but the species have been hardly modified. I have been particularly struck with your remarks on the glacial period. You seem to me to have put the case with admirable clearness and with crushing force. I am quite staggered with the blow, and do not know what to think. Of late several facts have turned up, leading me to believe more firmly that the glacial period did affect the equatorial regions, but I can make no answer to your arguments, and am completely in a cleft stick. By an odd chance I had only a few days ago been discussing the subject, in relation to plants, with Dr. Hooker, who believes to a certain extent; but strongly urged the little apparent extinction in equatorial regions. I stated in a letter, some days ago, to him that the

† Cf. Darwinism, pp. 371-3.

[page] xxxiii

tropics of South America seem to have suffered less than the Old World. There are many perplexing points; temperate plants seem to have migrated far more than animals. Possibly species may have been formed more rapidly within tropics than one would have expected. I freely confess that you have confounded me, but I cannot yet give up my belief that the glacial period did to a certain extent affect the tropics. . . . You will, I think, be glad to hear that I now often hear of naturalists accepting my views more or less fully; but some are curiously cautious in running risk of any small odium in expressing their belief. With cordial thanks and respect, believe me

"Yours sincerely,


[page] xxxv


But for Darwin's persistent urgency, it is probable that the delightful narrative of Bates's Wanderjahre would not have been written. The following letters —notably that from Bates given on p. lxiii. —go to prove this, and, moreover, are of interest as showing how high an estimate of Bates was formed by Darwin even before their personal intercourse began.

Charles Darwin to H. W. Bates.



"I have been unwell, so have delayed thanking you for your admirable letter.* I hope you will not think me presumptuous in saying how much I have been struck with your varied knowledge, and with the decisive manner in which you bring it to bear on each point —a rare and most high quality, as far as my experience goes. I cannot hope you will find time to publish largely; before the Linnean Society you might bring boldly out your views on species. "Have you ever thought of publishing your travels and working in them the less abstruse parts of your natural history? You must also have seen a

*The absence of this and other letters from Bates to which reference is made, is due, as Mr. Francis Darwin informs me, to Mr. Darwin having destroyed all his correspondence dated prior to 1862.

[page] xxxvi

good deal of the natives. I know well it would be quite unreasonable to ask for any further information from you; but I will just mention that I am now, and shall be for a long time, writing on domestic varieties of all animals. Any facts would be useful; especially any showing that savages take any care in breeding their animals; or in rejecting the bad and preserving the good. I have already collected much on this head, but am greedy for facts. You will at once see their bearing on variation under domestication. . . . Hardly anything in your letter has pleased me more than about sexual selection. In my larger MS. (and indeed in Origin with respect to tuft of hairs on breast of cock turkey) I have guarded myself against going too far; but I did not at all know that male and female butterflies haunted rather different sites. If I had to cut up myself in a review, I would have quizzed Sexual Selection; therefore, though I am fully convinced that it is largely true, you may imagine how pleased I am at what you say in your belief. This part of your letter is to me a quintessence of richness. The fact about butterflies attracted by coloured sepals is another good fact-worth its weight in gold. It would have delighted the heart of old Christian C. Sprengel [1750-1816], now many years in his grave. "I am glad to hear that you have specially attended to 'mimetic' analogies-a most curious subject. I hope you will publish on it. I have for a long time wished to know whether what Dr. Collingwood asserts is true, that the most striking cases generally occur between insects inhabiting the same country.

"Yours most truly obliged,


"DOWN, September 25th, 1860.

"Your letter, like every one that I have received from you, has been a mine of wealth, and has interested me greatly. But first for the more important point, viz., your Book of Travels, and I heartily rejoice that you intend publishing. I should think that you could not have a more respectable or pleasanter publisher than Mr. Van Voorst. At the same time I apprehend there can be no doubt that Murray has much greater power of getting large distribution. Murray has the character of being a very liberal paymaster, and I am sure I have found him most liberal and pleasant to deal with ....I rejoice I went to him with the Origin. By the way, here is a case in point! Colburn did not value my Journal of Researches, and would never, I am sure, have published a second edition. I took it from him and sold it to Murray, and it has long and great sale up to present day. If you should decide on Mr. Murray, and if you would so like, I shall be most happy to write to him, and can most truly tell him how much I appreciate the force of intellect and knowledge and style of your letters to me." (Then follows advice as to striking out superfluous words, already extracted from this letter, and printed in Darwin's Life, vol. ii., p. 380.) "What a capital paper yours will be on mimetic resemblances. You will make quite a new subject of it .... What wonderful cases yours seem to be.

''Yours sincerely,


[page] xxxvii

In January 1861 Bates married a young lady for whom he had kept a tender place in his heart during his long absence —Miss Sarah Ann Mason, of Leicester, by whom he had three sons and two daughters. Darwin writes to congratulate him and to hope that he "may succeed, for the sake of science, in getting fixed near London." Meanwhile, he  was hard at work over his book, writing and re-writing the earlier chapters —some of them being recast three and four times before his severe judgment was satisfied. "What takes me one day to write takes five to alter," he says in one of his letters. Darwin, who generously spared time to read the manuscript, writes under date January 13th, 1861:—

"I have been very bad for a fortnight, and could not read your MS. before to-day and yesterday. It is, in my opinion, excellent-style perfect, description first-rate (I quite enjoyed rambling in forests), and good dashes of original reflexions .... I feel assured that your book will be a permanently good one, and that your friends will always feel a satisfaction at its publication. I will write when you like to Murray.''


[page] xlv

Charles Darwin to H. W. Bates.

"DOWN, BROMLEY, KENT, November 20th, 1862.


''I have just finished, after several reads, your paper. In my opinion it is one of the most remarkable and admirable papers I ever read in my life. The mimetic cases are truly marvellous, and you connect excellently a host of analogous facts. The illustrations are beautiful, and seem very well chosen; but it would have saved the reader not a little trouble if the name of each had been engraved below each separate figure; no doubt this would have put the engraver into fits, as it would have destroyed beauty of plate. I am not at all surprised at such a paper having consumed much time. I rejoice that I passed over the whole subject in the Origin, for I should have made a precious mess of it. You have most clearly stated and solved a wonderful problem. No doubt, with most people, this will be the cream of the paper; but I am not sure that all your facts and reasoning on varieties and the segregation of complete and semi-complete species is not really more, or at least as valuable a part. I never conceived the forces nearly so clearly before: one feels present at the creation of new forms.* I wish, however, you had enlarged a little more on the pairing of similar varieties; a rather more numerous body of facts seems here wanted.

"Then again, what a host of curious miscellaneous observations there are, as on related sexual and individual variability you give; these will some day, if I live, be a treasure to me. "With respect to mimetic resemblances being so common with insects: do you not think it may be connected with their small size? They cannot defend themselves; they cannot escape by flight, at least from birds; therefore they escape by trickery and deception. I have one serious criticism to make, and that is about title of paper. I cannot but think that you ought to have called prominent attention in it to the mimetic resemblances. Your paper is too good to be largely appreciated by the mob of naturalists without souls, but rely on it, that it will have lasting value, and I cordially congratulate you on your first great work. You will find, I should think, that Wallace will fully appreciate it. How gets on your book? Keep your spirits up. A book is no light labour. I have been better lately and working hard, but my health is very indifferent. How is your health?

"Believe me, dear Bates,

"Yours very sincerely,



* In his review of the paper, Darwin says: "It is hardly an exaggeration to say that whilst reading and reflecting on the various facts given in this Memoir, we feel to be as near witnesses, as we can ever hope to be, of the creation of a new species on this earth."

[page] xlviii


The letters which survive do not indicate the precise date when Bates first met Darwin and Hooker. But it may be gathered from the Preface to the Travels and from the more familiar terms of address which result from personal intercourse that he made their acquaintance in 1861. In a note contributed by Sir Joseph Hooker to the "Reminiscences of Bates" which appeared in the Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, April 1892 [Obituary of Bates], he says:—

''I first had the pleasure of seeing him-and to see him was to know him, for a more translucent character I never encountered-at Mr. Darwin's, at Down, very shortly after his return from the Amazons. We there spent several days together, and I can remark none more enjoyable. There was such a fascination in his manner and character, and such a boyish, hearty enjoyment of his return to his native country, and all that it contained, from Shakespeare to Punch, and from Darwin to the merest bug-hunter (so long as the work was honest). Darwin's appreciation of him was whole-hearted and all-round, and Bates's first visit to Down was marked with a white stone in his host's memory, as in mine, and often recurred to by us. I have over and over again compared and contrasted these two friends, and always, if I may be so presumptuous as to record it, to the advantage of both."*


* L.c., p. 249.

[page] lxii

[…] Perhaps, next to Darwin's renewed encomiums on the book, the highest tribute was that paid by the distinguished naturalist, John Gould. He had long desired to sec the Great King of Waters, and when he met Bates after the appearance of the book, his first greeting was: "Bates, I have read your book: I have seen the Amazons!"

Darwin wrote as follows:-



"You will have received before this the note which I addressed to Leicester after finishing vol. i., and you will have received copies of my little review of your paper. By the way, I heard yesterday from Asa Gray that his article on same is delayed till next number in Silliman' s Journal. I have now finished vol. ii., and my opinion remains the same-that you have written a truly admirable work, with capital original remarks, first rate descriptions, and the whole in a style which could not be improved. My family are now reading the book and admire it extremely, and as my wife remarks, it has so strong an air of truthfulness. I had a letter from a person the other day, unknown to you, full of praise of the book. I do hope it may get extensively heard of and circulated, but to a certain extent things, I think, always depend on chance. I suppose the clicking noise of surprise made by the Indians is that which end of tongue applied to palate of mouth and suddenly withdrawn makes?

"I have not written since receiving your note of April 20th, in which you confide in me and tell me your prospects. I heartily wish they were better, and especially more certain; but with your abilities and power of writing it will be strange if you cannot add what little you require for your income.

"What a grand ending you give to your book, contrasting civilisation and wild life! I quite regret that I have finished it. Every evening it was a real treat to me to have my half-hour in the grand Amazonian forest, and picture to myself your vivid descriptions. There are heaps of facts of value to me in a natural history point of view. It is a great misfortune that you were prevented giving the discussion on species, but you will, I hope, be able to give your views and facts somewhere else. Once again I congratulate you, and believe me,

"Yours very sincerely,

''C. DARWIN.''

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