skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Henry Walter Bates   6 January 1862

King St Leicester

6 Jany 1862

My Dear Sir

I have now finished the rough draught of 5 chapters of my book & send you by this post the 2nd for perusal according to your kind offer to do so. I do not know how I shall repay you for all this.1

Your suggestions on 1st chapter shall be all carried out.2 Your good opinion has delighted my Father & Brother as well as myself.3 The recommendation to alter the arrangement 〈    〉 putting the historical sketch last is just the kind of correction that I feel most to need.4 As to your statement that the argument on the effects of climate on dress is original & you are certainly too generous:5 I find there is something to the same effect in your “Journal”, (popular ed. p 381)6 as my notions were suggested whilst on the Amazons the two conclusions have been derived independently & therefore my remarks will be interesting; but I must quote your passage in a note.7

〈    〉 loose statement of the rocks being cretacean is der〈ived〉 from Mr Wallace’s book;8 No 〈fossil〉 was found & therefore it is useless to employ the word. I shall feel obliged to introduce a little Geology—so much as I observed which contributes to explain the latest changes & therefore connects itself with Geograph. Distribution of the Fauna. I must consult some Geologist before I do it.— One of my little theories is that part of the Delta of the Amazons was land probably an island whilst most of the Alluvial plain was under water; & that the Amazon waters have broken through it. I shall be careful however not to advance too much in the book.

As to explaining the “We” 〈you〉r remark shows me that there must 〈be so〉mething very abrupt & unsatisfactory in my commencement! I will add a straight forward preface 〈e〉xplaining the object of journey of Mr 〈W〉allace & self &c &c.—or would you incorporate the explanation in the text of 1st chapter.9

Please criticize this 2nd chapter without reserve. I am not satisfied with the arrangement of the matter nor with the argument on the text of Burmeister’s remarks.10 But I know you will be candid with me as before.

Yours sincerely | H W Bates

C. Darwin esq.


Bates was writing an account of his travels in the Amazon region, undertaken between 1848 and 1859. CD had encouraged Bates to publish an account and had offered to read the ‘1st Chapter or two’ of the manuscript; he repeated his offer to read a second chapter after reading the first in December 1861 (see Correspondence vol. 9, letters to H. W. Bates, 4 April [1861], 25 September [1861], 3 December [1861], and 15 December [1861]). The naturalist on the River Amazons was published in 1863.
Having read the first manuscript chapter of Bates 1863, CD made suggestions as to how it might be improved (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to H. W. Bates, 15 December [1861]). His main point was that Bates should give the vernacular as well as the scientific names of any British animals mentioned.
Bates’s younger brother, Frederick, had been a keen entomologist since childhood. Their father, Henry Bates, was a hosiery manufacturer in Leicester.
CD suggested that Bates place his historical description of the town of Pará, Brazil, at the end of the first chapter (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to H. W. Bates, 15 December [1861]).
See Correspondence vol. 9, letter to H. W. Bates, 15 December [1861] and n. 2. In his first chapter, Bates argued against the widespread belief that the birds and insects of the tropics were generally larger and more beautiful than those in temperate zones. From this, and from the fact that it is usually only the males of a species that display ‘brilliant dress’, he concluded that, contrary to popular opinion, climate had ‘little or no direct influence in the matter’ (Bates 1863, 1: 18–23).
Bates refers to the second edition of Journal of researches, which was issued as part of John Murray’s Colonial and Home Library series. The passage Bates cites (p. 381) discusses the generally dull coloration of the birds, plants, and insects of the Galápagos islands compared with the brilliantly coloured products of other equatorial regions. CD concluded that: the usual gaudy colouring of the intertropical productions, is not related either to the heat or light of those zones, but to some other cause, perhaps to the conditions of existence being generally favourable to life.
Bates referred to CD’s conclusions (see n. 6, above) in Bates 1863, 1: 21.
CD had remarked in his letter to H. W. Bates, 15 December [1861] (Correspondence vol. 9) that without good evidence Bates should avoid identifying rocks as ‘Cretaceous’. In Wallace 1853, pp. 420–1, Alfred Russel Wallace discussed his difficulties in elucidating the geology of the Amazon valley, stating: ‘It is remarkable that I was never able to find any fossil remains whatever … We are thus unable to assign the geological age to which any of the various beds of rock belong’. Later in the text, however, Wallace stated (p. 425): ‘The neighbourhood of Pará consists entirely of a coarse iron sandstone, which is probably a continuation of the rocks observed by Mr. Gardner at Maranham and in the Province of Piauhy, and which he considered to belong to the chalk formation’.
See Correspondence vol. 9, letter to H. W. Bates, 15 December [1861]. Bates explained in a preface to The naturalist on the River Amazons (Bates 1863, 1: iii–vi) that the expedition to the river had begun as a joint undertaking with Wallace, ‘for the purpose of exploring the Natural History of its banks’. They had intended, he continued, to ‘gather facts, as Mr. Wallace expressed it …, “towards solving the problem of the origin of species,” a subject on which we had conversed and corresponded much together.’
Bates contrasted his positive response to the sense of the ‘vastness of nature’ and the ‘insignificance’ of man, induced by the enormous animal and plant diversity of the tropical forest, with the experience of the German zoologist Karl Hermann Konrad Burmeister, who found the ‘restless selfishness’ of the forest vegetation painful (Bates 1863, 1: 53). Bates gave no citation, but the reference is probably to Burmeister 1853, p. 127.


Sends CD ch. 2 of his book [The naturalist on the river Amazons] for suggestions, having accepted CD’s recommendations concerning ch. 1.

Effects of climate on dress in ch. 1 similar to, but independent of, notions expressed by CD in his Journal of researches [p. 381].

On geology, book deals with distribution and theory of deltas of the Amazon.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henry Walter Bates
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 160.1: 64
Physical description
4pp damaged

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3377,” accessed on 27 June 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10