To H. W. Bates 3 December 
Down Bromley Kent
My dear Sir
I thank you for your extremely interesting letter, & valuable references,—though God knows when I shall come again to this part of my subject.—1 One cannot of course judge of style when one merely hears a paper, but yours seemed to me very clear & good.—2 Believe me that I estimate its value most highly. Under a general point of view, I am quite convinced (Hooker & Huxley took same view some months ago) that a philosophic view of nature can solely be driven into naturalists by treating special subjects as you have here done.— Under a special point of view I think you have solved one of the most perplexing problems which could be given to solve.3 I am glad to hear from Hooker that Linn. Soc. will give Plates, if you can get drawings; but I suppose they might be drawn on to stone or copper.— Pray excuse me for again saying if ever you want £10 or £20, I shall be pleased to send it, for any aid in Natural History:—4
Do not complain of want of advice during your Travels; I daresay part of your great originality of views may be due to the necessity of self exertion of thought. I can understand that your reception at B. Museum would damp you; they are a very good set of men, but not the sort to appreciate your work.5 In fact I have long thought that too much systematic work of description somehow blunts the faculties. The general public appreciates a good dose of reasoning, or generalisation with new & curious remarks on habits, final causes &c &c, far more than do the regular naturalists.—
I am extremely glad to hear that you have begun your Travels. (I thought your Glacial Letter admirably written);6 I am very busy, but I shall be truly glad to render any aid which I can by reading your 1st Chapter or two. I do not think I shall be able to correct style,—for this reason, that after repeated trials I find I cannot correct my own style till I see the M.S. in type. Some are born with a power of good writing, like Wallace; others like myself & Lyell have to labour very hard & slowly at every sentence. I find it very good plan, when I cannot get a difficult discussion to please me, to fancy that some one comes into the room, & asks me what I am doing; & then try at once & explain to the imaginary person what it is all about.— I have done this for one paragraph to myself several times; & sometimes to Mrs. Darwin, till I see how the subject ought to go.— It is, I think, good to read one’s M.S. aloud.— But style to me is a great difficulty; yet some good judges think I have succeeded, & I say this to encourage you.— What I think I can do will be to tell you whether parts had better be shortened.— It is good I think to dash “in medias res”, & work in later any descriptions of country or any historical details which may be necessary.— Murray likes lots of woodcuts— give some by all means of Ants.— The public appreciate Monkeys,—our poor cousins.— What sexual differences are there in monkeys? Have you kept them tame? if so about their expression.—
I fear that you will hardly read my vile handwriting, but I cannot without killing trouble, write better.—
You shall have my candid opinion on your M.S., but remember it is hard to judge from M.S.—one reads slowly & heavy parts seem much heavier.— A first rate judge thought my Journal very poor; now that it is in print, I happen to know, he likes it.—7 I am sure you will understand why I am so egotistical.—
I was a little disappointed in Wallace’s Book on the Amazon; hardly factsenough.—8 On other hand in Gosse’s books there is not reasoning enough to my taste.—9 Heaven knows whether you will care to read all this scribbling—
M.S. can be sent by Book Post, if marked to be printed.— Had you not better register it?
Many thanks for Wallace’s letter; he rates me much too highly & himself much too lowly.— That was an admirable paper of his in Linn. Journal.—10 But what strikes me most about Mr Wallace is the absence of jealousy towards me: he must have a really good honest & noble disposition.11 A far higher merit than mere intellect.
With cordial good wishes & thanks | Yours sincerely | C. Darwin
I am glad you had pleasant day with Hooker: he is an admirably good man in every sense.12
Thanks HWB for references.
Praises his paper ["Contributions to an insect fauna of the Amazon valley", read before Linnean Society, 21 Nov 1861, Trans. Linn. Soc. Lond. 23 (1862) : 495–566] which solves "one of the most perplexing problems which could be given to solve".
Discusses the difficulties of writing and expresses disappointment at Wallace’s book [Travels on the Amazon (1861)].
- Letter no.
- Darwin, C. R.
- Bates, H. W.
- Sent from
- Source of text
- Cleveland Health Sciences Library (Robert M. Stecher collection)
- Physical description
- geographical distribution
- negative attitude/assessment
- positive attitude/assessment
- scientific fieldwork/fieldtrips
- theory (including philosophy)
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3338,” accessed on 1 October 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-3338