To H. W. Bates 20 November 1
Down Bromley Kent
I have just finished after several reads your Paper.2 In my opinion it is one of the most remarkable & admirable papers I ever read in my life. The mimetic cases are truly marvellous & you connect excellently a host of analogous facts. The illustrations are beautiful & 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;3 no doubt this would have put the engraver4 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 whole subject in the Origin, for I shd. have made a precious mess of it.5 You have most clearly stated & 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 & reasoning on variation & on the segregation of complete & semi-complete species is not really more, or at least as valuable a part.—6 I never conceived the process 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.7
Then again what a host of curious miscellaneous observations there are,—as on related sexual & individual variability you give; these will some day, if I live, be a treasure to me.—8
With respect to mimetic resemblance 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 & deception?9
I have one serious criticism to make & that is about title of paper; I cannot but think that you ought to have called prominent attention in it to the mimetic resemblances.—10 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, & I cordially congratulate you on your first great work. You will find, I shd. think, that Wallace will fully appreciate it.—11
How gets on your Book?—12 Keep your spirits up. A Book is no light labour. I have been better lately & working hard; but my health is very indifferent. How is your health?
Believe me Dear Bates | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin
Excuse my poor M.S. paper.—
Just finished HWB’s paper ["Contributions to an insect fauna of the Amazon valley", Trans. Linn. Soc. Lond. 23 (1862): 495–566], one of the most remarkable he has ever read. Found mimetic cases and connection of facts marvellous. Finds equally important the facts on variation and segregation of complete and semi-complete species. Questions whether insect mimicry is not due to small size and defencelessness. Criticises title of paper. Mentions that Wallace will appreciate it.
- Letter no.
- Charles Robert Darwin
- Henry Walter Bates
- Sent from
- Source of text
- Cleveland Health Sciences Library (Robert M. Stecher collection)
- Physical description